Oh What the Hell…

Today’s essay has nothing whatsoever to do with the illustration above.  Why should it?  The beauty of WinnieToons is very simple:  I can say anything I want, because almost no one reads or follows it, so there are very few people to offend, sway or otherwise impact.  Most of the feedback I receive is from spam/scammers trying to find-out if I’m naive enough to fall for one of their schemes allowing them to empty my bank-account. 

(What bank account…?)

Sometimes I get as many as 12 to 15 hits a day — some with comments.  Aside from approved friends, all but one or two of these comments are in Chinese or filled with characters that look either Greek or Russian.  My favorite comments are written in colorful pigeon-English using hilarious garblings of the language — frequently with repetitive phrases I’ve seen in previous entries.  Of course I’m expected to believe I’m hearing from a variety of “interested” readers.

Example:

> Do Tear Webmuster Person:  Design you do xlempry is example of good type. This is much informitve data which for I have been looking. Keep work good up.  I forward look to next post on this most important of topics which of you have deep subject knolege. <

This enlightening entry was ‘copy and pasted’ from ‘Tanya’ at russian.cialis@umustbafool.uk – if you attempt to send the ‘Tanya’s’ of the world an answer via email (which I once did for shits and giggles) the address line reads “No Reply.”

The human race exhausts me.

I was going to kill-off this blog a couple weeks ago, but as I remain unemployed and have nothing better to do, when I’m not scrambling — I’ve kept it limping along.  Truth to tell, there was a great hue and cry on Facebook when I announced I was ending WinnieToons.  People would miss my colorful photoshop collage-cartoons that sometimes take hours, earn me nothing and offer a 15 second chuckle to my “following” — who are folks I actually do love.  But no one reads these days — or almost no one.  Even I don’t read.  Well that’s not entirely true.  I don’t have time to read.  I’m too busy attempting to stave-off my ultimate demise and financial drowning.  My day is spent dealing with lawyers and fighting to get my next gasp of air while the world tosses humiliating Styrofoam cups of water onto my sinking head.  I’m too busy attempting to breathe.  Besides, who can read when the pages are soggy from being submerged by an underwater mortgage?

The conclusive proof that there are too many greedy people in the world is exemplified by the dramatic up-tick in blithering, entitled assholes clamoring for more than they deserve while hard work is rewarded with a pat on the head followed by a slap in the face.

I got a message from an old boyfriend the other day.  I can’t answer for whether I’ve been a good lover/boyfriend during my multiple attempts over the years, but I’ve certainly been a generous one.  Back when I was dating the aforementioned boyfriend, I literally painted the asshole’s house – for free – inside and out.  I gave him lots of artwork (also for free) to fill his bare walls — and I saw him through one of the most difficult periods of his life.  That said, I have no idea what I actually saw in him, and got very little by way of return.  I was aware of this while we were going out, but I was on the rebound.  He was another case of bar-light/bad-sight — good from far and far from good.  I’ve always had a much easier time getting into relationships than getting out of them.  Did I mention I built the shutters for his house and hung his 2nd story flower boxes?  Of course at no charge.  I also faux-finished his living room – for the low, low price of FOR FREE.

Looking back, he is, and always has been, one tight-fisted cheap-assed son-of-a-bitch with a generally bitter, mean-spirited attitude toward life and everyone around him.  He’s the kind of guy who mistreats waters in restaurants, letting you know exactly how you’re going to be treated if you make the mistake of allowing him into your life.  Mistreating waiters is always the first clue you’d better run for the hills, or you’re going to become the “help.”  Part of this is my own fault, because I’m the one who allows shit like that to happen to me in the first place…  I give too much.  I’m too generous.  It’s my nature.  But it wouldn’t matter who he was with, his life’s motto is: “What is his is his and what is yours is his.”  He’s hardly unique, I’ve encountered any number of idiots just like him — only difference is, he was the least rewarding of the bunch.  The only memorable thing I ever got from him was crabs – twice.  I have terrible taste in men.  Either that, or all the good ones are taken…

So, as I was saying, I got a message from this self-absorbed old boyfriend who’d contacted me during his busy day of wasting air, food and water from the space he takes-up — YEARS after we’d stopped seeing each other and drifted apart as social friends.  Out of the blue, he wanted me to paint a forgery for his living room wall — AND he expected a “deal” on the work.  He didn’t want something challenging or worth-doing like ‘The Raft of the Medusa’ – he hasn’t got that much imagination.  He’s merely another one of a string of no-talent movie buffs who LIVE vicariously for Oscar night.  Over the years I’ve had the misfortune of dating a couple of these drama-queens.  He’s fond of “theater” too, but I wouldn’t exactly call him a thespian, he’s not quite butch enough.  He’s an imperious blank stare – an audience attendee and self-appointed critic of all things he, himself is entirely incapable of doing.  To quote Gloria Swanson from Sunset Boulevard, he’s one of “those little people sitting out there in the dark.”  So he want’s a forgery.  I’m not into dishonest forgeries.  I’ll paint a reproduction, but I’ll give it a contemporary signature and date.

For convenience-sake, I’ll give him a name, let’s call this ex-boyfriend ‘Chuck’ — like second-rate ground mystery meat.  Chuck had torn a page out of a catalog from China — one of those ‘starving artist sale’ catalogs.  He’d taken a liking to a perfectly awful abstract painting – technically-speaking it was a ‘non-objective’ but who cares – it’s all the same.  It cost $250 retail including shipping and handling.  The catalog description said “Each work of art is hand-painted so there may be some variation from what is pictured on the page.”  Yeah, hand-painted in China by carefully selected political dissidents who for whatever reason were deemed unsuitable for assembling iPhones in forced labor camps – but weren’t yet ready to be dipped in epoxy as “subjects” for the traveling Chinese rip-off of the ‘Body Works’ exhibit.  Of COURSE these ‘original’ paintings vary slightly from one to the next — it’s only natural — like every time you wipe your ass on a sheet of toilet paper you get a slightly different Rorschach-test.  Check it out sometime.  Think of it as ‘semi-creative chaos theory.’

Any way, he says to me, about the aforementioned piece of factory-painted crap from China — “I was going to buy this painting from the catalog, but I thought I’d give you a call so I could give the money to someone who really needed the cash.”  Up-Chuck always had such a thoughtful, sensitive way with words.  He wanted to award me a cheapskate commission to do a knock-off what was — in point of fact — itself a 2nd rate knock-off.  AND match the $250 price including 1 week turn-around time.  Since there isn’t a lot of freelance work these days, I (begrudgingly) agreed — but ONLY on the condition that I was NOT willing to have my signature on it.  When I asked him for a $125 deposit, which is standard business practice (50% up-front with the balance upon completion) he completely freaked-out on me saying: “I was very hesitant about contacting you to do this project in the first place, because I KNEW you were going to try and nickle and dime me.”  Can someone explain to me how dividing-up a prearranged (unreasonably low price) into 2 equal payments adds-up to “nickle and dimeing” someone?  Apparently I was supposed to buy a set of 40″ x 50″ heavy-duty stretchers, canvas and art supplies out of pocket and then hope I wasn’t going get stuck with a piece of shit that looks just like the crap they hang in 2nd rate discount furniture stores — or worse — cheap motels.  So he emails me back saying “Oh just forget it” adding “at lease MY life [meaning HIS] isn’t a mess.”

He couldn’t be more wrong.  He’s an uninteresting, soulless, bitter, selfish, mean-spirited premature-ejaculater with a sunken chest.  Before blocking his email address, unfriending him on Facebook and deleting his number from my cell-phone, I emailed him back letting him know it was an awful painting typical of pedestrian taste and I would be embarrassed to paint it let alone display anything like it in my home.  I also told him to “get lost.”  Nothing beats the wonderful world of freelancing in the arts.

I wish I’d been the one to take the photo below, instead I downloaded it from Up-Chuck’s profile page on ManHunt.  If it looks a little feminine, that’s only because he’s slightly less than a man.  There, now I feel a world better, having gotten it off my barrel chest.  OK, it’s a saggier barrel chest than it once was, but I still have a barrel chest — and my creative dignity intact.  I’ll have to remember to tell that to the utility company.  The dignity part, not the barrel chest.

One More Bruised Valentine in the Fruit Basket

Before I launch into a diatribe about love and lust, Happy Valentine’s Day to anyone brave enough to read this post all the way to the end…  I assure you no further mention will be made of Rick Santorum aside from expressing my satisfaction that his name has been used in the prologue of a gay love story I’m just about to write…

My love-life got off on the wrong footing decades ago and it’s been a series of slip and falls ever since.  Emotionally I’ve become older than my years which is not to say I’ve missed anything — I’ve merely compacted the maximum number of romantic mishaps into a much shorter time-span than the general population.  As gay men go, I’m not a major contender for slut of the century — but if all my old boyfriends were to join hands and close-in tight, they could circle City Hall three rows deep.  That’s nothing by gay standards. We’re a people who tend to be — well — “social…”

There’s a big question about romance I’ve finally had answered:  What is the last thing any gay man sees before finding true love and happiness?

Answer: ME.

Lately it’s occurred to me how the vast majority of my friends are ex-boyfriends, lovers or one-night-stands — all of whom have since settled down with life-partners who seem to suit them perfectly.  In most cases I’m the guy they dated right before finding the right man.  It seems I’m a bellwether for what not to settle-for when old paramours go comparison-shopping for a lover.  The gay lifestyle is very youth-oriented, and I’m acutely aware that my shelf-life is well past it’s expiration date.  As I write this, all I need to do is count the age-spots on the back of my hands to know I’m no longer what you’d call a “sexy daddy” or even “aged beef” — I’m hardtack — but that wasn’t always the case.

After a series of appalling choices in partners (I pick ‘em handsome, which isn’t necessarily the best criteria) I unwittingly found myself living a ‘Roman Spring’ due the the devilishness of an old friend.  Some years back, my friend Joe Bowman offered to take me to lunch for my 54th birthday.  I looked great for 54.  No one would have guessed my age, I looked about 40 but I wasn’t taking advantage of the borrowed time by enjoying my prolonged youthfulness.  I’d confined myself to a self-imposed state of celibacy.  My relationship history was enough to make anyone swear off love.  When Joe arrived to take me to lunch, he’d forgotten his wallet – classic Joe.  Joe’s a professional photographer and legendary scatterbrain.  I’m an old hand at facing disappointment, so I prepared my own birthday lunch while Joe went upstairs to check his email.  He came-downstairs with a smug, self-satisfied grin on his face.  I assumed he’d scored a date for later in the day.  It wasn’t until several weeks later that I learned Joe had placed a photo of me he’d taken — a photo my own mother carried in her wallet — and posted it on ManHunt.  He’d secretly created a sex-profile featuring ME on a gay hook-up site.  He assigned me the intentionally antiquated ‘screen name’ of ‘Sha-Na-Na-Na-Hey-Hey.’  Unbeknownst to me, my face was out there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week making me look like the most desperate whore in town.  When I found out about it, I was NOT amused.  I viewed it as a practical joke that had backfired.  It took weeks for me to successfully hack into the page and to try to take it down.  Joe had forgotten to write-down the password he’d concocted — more than likely he’d slurred a key, and he couldn’t begin to recall which email address he’d used.  I could view the profile as an online “guest” but I couldn’t access the account.  The site host wouldn’t allow me remove the profile unless I could prove who I was by supplying information Joe, himself had forgotten or misplaced and in short, was unable to supply.  So there I was for all to see featured as the meat-special of the month.

When I finally did hack-into the profile, after weeks of failed attempts — I discovered I had over 40 messages.  Ever the polite imbecile, I decided to answer those messages and tell everyone I had been posted on the site as a joke.  But when I opened the first few messages and saw them, they were ripe with photos of gorgeous guys I’d seen around town who I’d never thought would be interested in ME…  I became an over-night internet sex-addict.  My bedroom turned into a revolving door.  Although I’d lived through the sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s and survived the AIDS epidemic of the 80’s and 90’s — I’d never actually sewn my wild oats.  I’d been a cautious observer, a late bloomer but never a full participant.  I changed my screen name to the more suitable CyberSpaceTraveler and marketed myself as a ‘top’ — noting a severe deficit of tops in the Philadelphia gay scene which is a virtual riot of bottom-bumpers, giving me a competitive edge.  But none of these adventures led to love — only sex — and usually with men who turned out to be married and living a double life — or partnered gay men looking for variety outside of their relationship.  Make no mistake, pigs are men.

I’d wasted hours on end pursuing a clever and funny guy who’s screen name was ‘BodyMan9x6.’  It was intriguing how he only featured an enticing body-shot of his torso cropped at the shoulders to just below his hip bone — but what grabbed me was his clever wit.  I’ve always considered ‘smart’ to be sexy.  His face shots were all locked and he insisted on keeping them that way while feeding me a constant lure of seductive comments ripe with double entendre.  After while, I gave-up and tore myself away from the computer long enough to go grocery shopping.  I chose the shortest checkout line so as to get back to my hypnotic pursuit of cyber-sex.  I have an uncanny grocery store karma that generally begins with me choosing the last shopping cart with square wheels and a mind of it’s own — and ends by my selecting the check-out line stalled to a halt by an interminable price-check.  At least it affords me time to read-up on Hollywood scandals and learn which celebrities are rumored to be pregnant out of wedlock by what handsome leading men.  The guy in line in front of me turned around and said “Why do I always pick the line that never moves?”  I went stupid at the sight of him.  He was tall, lean and clearly well muscled even though it was mid-February and he was wearing khakis and a heavy bomber-jacket.

I wasn’t expecting to be inline behind the Belvedere Apollo, though admittedly I’d chosen that particular line in large part to check-out his cute, round butt.  He had a broad, open smile, twinkly eyes and classically symmetrical features.  I’m rarely at a loss for words, but I stammered, doing my best to strike-up an awkward conversation about celebrity gossip and how the rich and famous were always getting pregnant out of wedlock.  “Don’t movie stars know enough to practice safe-sex?” I stuttered, trying to prolong his attention.  “No,” he said “the beautiful people are different from the rest of us.”  I wondered if he realized he was one of the beautiful people…  The line finally started to move — and as he paid for his groceries, turned toward me and said “See you around” — meanwhile I kicked myself for not getting his name.

Back home I put away my groceries and walked the dog in record time so I could return to my fruitless obsession of finding quick and easy no-name sex.  ‘BodyMan9x6′ was back online and feeding me more clever, tantalizing come-ons.  All of the sudden he was offline — he’d disappeared so I had only to assume he’d bagged better ‘game.’  I settled for my 2nd choice, and the next day the pattern began all over again.  At the time, I worked at home as a freelance designer, and the internet was clearly getting in the way of my concentration.  Headless mystery man – a.k.a. ‘BodyMan9x6′ had gotten very bold, and started calling me by my first and last name, which I hadn’t listed – nor would he tell me how he’d gotten a hold of that information.  He was playing cat and mouse.  I got paranoid that he might be someone I already knew who was goofing on me.  Maybe the photo wasn’t even him?  He could have gotten it off an internet porn site, who knows?  I made-up my mind to pay less attention to him — which in turn made him pay all the more attention to me.

Our online conversations got more and more perplexing — almost eerie.  Not only did he know my first and last name, he knew the names of some of my neighbors as well as which house I lived-in.  “Everybody knows who you are,” he wrote online.  “Your house is that wild over-decorated place that’s been featured on TV and in the newspapers — I’ve seen your artwork too.”  He reminded me, as large a city as Philadelphia is, it’s really a small town in so many ways.  He’s right — it is indeed.

After the game had gone on for a couple weeks, my telephone rang one day at about noon.  I still had a listed landline back then.  A man’s voice on the other end of the phone said, “I’m going on a cruise in a couple weeks, and I’m in the changing rooms at Strawbridge & Clothier trying on a lime-green spandex Speedo. Do you wanna come watch me try it on and let me know what you think?”

“Who is this?” I asked.  “BodyMan9x6″ he replied.  While strongly tempted, I’m not a danger-queen who wants to have sex or exhibit myself in public places.  I declined.  “I’m on a client deadline” I told him.  “I really have to get a project done and delivered by 4 this afternoon.”

“Fine,” he said “Then I’ll bring the bathing suit to you and you can give me your opinion.”

“Sure you will, and I’ll believe it when it happens.”  I hung-up and went back to work.  Fifteen minutes later the doorbell rang.  I went downstairs to see if the courier had arrived early worried because my client project was far from ready.  I opened the door, and there stood the breathtaking man from the grocery store check-out line.  “Hi Bill, I’m Derek” he said, letting himself-in.  He was wearing a nicely tailored business suit and topcoat that made him look like a European runway model.  He took off his coat and laid it across a chair.  Then he removed his jacket and tie.  I stood dumbstruck with obvious stirrings, transfixed and immobile.  He kicked off his shoes pulled off his socks and slowly undid one button at a time on his crisply pressed shirt.  His ripped torso looked exactly like his photos online — they weren’t stolen from the internet — they were his.  When he undid his belt, I had to lean against the wall to keep from falling-over, as he stepped out of his trousers, exposing a lime-green Speedo that very few men could get away with wearing.  He was one of those men…

“What do you think?” he asked, giving me a 360 degree view.  He was breathtaking.  I could barely speak at first. It was as if my throat had gone dry and nothing would come out when I spoke.  Somehow I said, “You look amazing.”

“Amazing good?” he asked, “or amazing bad?” — “Amazing perfect…” was all I could utter.  He peeled off the bathing suit and approaching me, he put it over my head so it hung around my neck like a dickie, and took my face into his hands and gave me a long, unforgettable kiss I still recall to this day.  “I’m glad you like it,” he said “I’ll be back to claim it later, until then, you’ve got something to look forward to.”  Stepping away he put his clothes back-on.  “I’ll see you after work, shall we say 5:30?”  All I could do was nod.  He tucked his 9×6 back into his trousers and was fully dressed and out the door before I’d completely processed what had just happened.

I was inert for the remainder of the day.  I hardly remember finishing my client project, or handing it over to the courier but I do remember keeping the bathing suit around my neck all day long waiting for someone other than me to take it off.

Derek and I became lunch buddies.  He worked near my house and would stop by every couple days for a regular lube-job and a pipe-cleaning.  I may have been the top, but a good bottom always has the upper hand.  I was at his beck and call.  Sometimes it was just quick and dirty sex.  Sometimes if his boss was out of town, he’d linger a while and stay for lunch.  I was starting to feel something more than the dictates of our unspoken ground-rules — and suspected he felt something too.  That said, I know what an afternoon-delight means…  It means he’s taken.  Claimed.  And the only way I’d ever win him would be to steal him.

Over time I learned he was in a long-term relationship with a guy he’d been with since college.  They owned a home together.  Their families had become socially intertwined.  He felt something for me, but it was increasingly obvious he wasn’t going to extricate himself easily — if he intended to at all.  After making love he would tell me about his partner, who STILL after 16 years together, was intimidated by Derek’s good looks and the way other men lusted after him.  The 2 of them had stopped making love, but they’d not stopped loving each other.  Derek satisfied his needs outside the relationship and left the matter unspoken with his partner.  It became more difficult to make love with Derek now that I knew of another man of 16 years — a man named Dennis.  “Derek and Dennis” — “Dennis and Derek” — it sounded so right.  I actually started to identify with Dennis.  I’d been in Dennis’ position more than once.  I’d had my share of lovers who were far better looking than me.  It can become intimidating — demoralizing.  It’s belittling to have your ego crushed while watching other men openly flirt with your partner as if you’re invisible and can be brushed aside.  I recalled a lover where I’d regularly done our laundry and fished-out business cards or little torn slips of paper with hand-written telephone numbers out of all his pockets.  I’d never let-on that I knew.  I’m sure Dennis did the same thing.  I’d put the papers with my ex-lovers belongings as if they’d been there all along — I never read the names — and I left the subject unmentioned.

I can’t help being who I am, and while fighting mixed-emotions, I started to guide Derek back to Dennis.  I told him they needed to try couples counseling again.  Derek had to stop playing online and confront his partner’s pain if he really loved the man.  If Derek felt invested in his relationship with Dennis, then there would never be a proper place for me that I could comfortably accept.  We stopped seeing each other, and I took to working through lunch.  Once in a while Derek would call, and I’d weaken followed by a periodic isolated afternoon ‘delight’ I’d regret later in the day.

After not hearing from him for a while, Derek called me, agitated and obviously  in a panic.  He needed to talk to me right away.  I assumed Dennis had somehow learned about of me — or some other man — from the many of whom Derek obviously had his pick.  He came to my door with the color drained from his face.  He was having a health scare.  He didn’t feel well.  There was a spot on his leg that worried him.  We had always played safe, but I had no idea what he did outside of my sight.  I know people at the AIDS clinic where I’d occasionally volunteered, and made an emergency appointment for him to get an STD screening.  I went with him and waited in the lobby while he had blood drawn and spoke with a doctor.  He never told me his results and I never asked… But immediately after the appointment we went back to my house and without a word spoken made love again, safely, more sincerely and passionately than ever before.  I told him I loved him, and he told me he knew that.

He did not volunteer reciprocation.

Occasionally I see Derek on the street.  Sometimes we nod or say a quick ‘hello.’  The past is the past.  I run into them as a couple every once and again at parties — maybe a little small talk as if no history existed between us.  As it’s been said before, Philadelphia is really a gigantic small town.  Derek looks perfectly healthy to me, but his looks have faded — changed over time — and I suspect to his own relief.  He’s older, probably wiser.  But he is not now, nor was he ever, mine.

When a Voice is Silenced

I decided to go the orchestra last night rather than watching the Grammy Awards.  Like everyone else, I was deeply saddened by the death of Whitney Houston.  She had been so beautiful and gifted — and her decline beyond painful to observe.  I didn’t think I could take watching what would inevitably be performances in a room filled in memoriam.  To be truthful, I didn’t want to watch it by myself at home alone.  I wanted to be around people.

What was I thinking?

For years I’ve wondered why it’s always me who winds-up sitting next to the chatterbox in the theater?  As the dumbing-down of civilization progresses, more and more people seem blithely unaware when watching a film or live performance, that they are NOT in their own living-rooms in front of the TV set.  Generally I react with a benign but unmistakable glare in the direction of the noisy offender.  Next I try a gentle “shhhh” which progresses to the word “hush” until everyone is telling everyone to shut-up and eventually I get-up, go to the management, and have the offender removed from the theater.  I’m brutal that way.  By that time my theater experience is ruined and the moment is gone.  Sensible people don’t come to a theater to hear some stranger’s gossip update with the orchestra providing Prokofiev as a background soundtrack.  It’s a pretty simple concept: Keep quiet and sit still when you’re in the theater.  Is that so difficult to grasp?

Invariably there are folks who forget to turn-off their cellphones in spite of the opening announcements and THEN with indifference take incoming phone calls all the same.  Even worse are people who’ve turned-off their ring-tones but still think it’s acceptable to endlessly send and receive text messages.  Your eye is pulled to a light source other than what’s on the stage or screen, and again the moment is lost due to distraction.

I no longer play the piano – it’s been so many years and broken fingers ago that I wouldn’t know where to begin – but when a musician sits down in front of a piano I am there to hear the performance.  Be it strings, wind-instruments or the human voice – we owe the person on stage our undivided attention.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a dance troupe or a stage play, we are obliged to grant the performers and the people around us our silence until the artists are finished.  Then, and only then, is it our turn to make noise — hopefully applause.

We live in what’s increasingly becoming a rude and discordant world.  And with that thought in mind, it never ceases to amaze me how an orchestra or a small quartet can put aside all human differences and fill the air with the sound of beauty.  It’s the rare witnessing of people working together in harmony for a common purpose.  Sometimes the musical magic builds to a crescendo that lasts only a moment — but when it reaches that point it moves the heart — and nothing touches more deeply.  If I need to vent tears caught within my heart, music is my answer.  I highly recommend Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio for Strings’ for a good all-purpose cry.

I left the orchestra last night and got home just in time to switch-on the TV and witness Jennifer Hudson give an astonishing performance filled with grace and respect for the late Whitney Houston.  To me, the primary appeal of the ballad ‘I Will Always Love You’ is the moment when the melody modulates into another key signature — it’s that moment when the heart strings are touched.  I have tremendous admiration for Ms. Hudson’s performance in accomplishing a tribute void of imitation and without the vanity of making the song her own.  And by doing-so truly earned the right to claim a piece of that song forever.  I wondered how she held herself together with the layers of her own recent personal loss while honoring the passing of a mentor?  Ms. Hudson lifted her arms in a gentle gesture to the audience to quell the sound of their appreciation and astonishment at her accomplished a cappella…  As the piano then joined her, Ms Hudson was telling a room full of people saddened by loss — everyone pulling for her to succeed — to merely listen and allow her to perform.  And perform she did, lending respect to a memory that deserved our silence and undivided attention.

The world does feel a little emptier when we loose a talent like Whitney Houston — and at once we are richer for remembering who and what we have known, appreciated and lost.  Music itself is fleeting, evaporating into the air we breathe.  The world has a way of renewing itself with new artists who come along while others pass.  Death and renewal are the only constants in life.  Memories remain and new hopes are born within other young talent.  It brings to mind a poem I wrote for a struggling young musician…

 

The Hopeful Musician

The musician composes music playing solely in his ear,

Beating tempo for an orchestra that isn’t really there.

Striking chords on a guitar made from the finest, thinnest air,

He conducts with a chopstick, if you listen you will hear.

 

I Will Always Love You – Jennifer Hudson’s tribute to Whitney Houston

 

To Abort or Not to Abort…

I don’t normally talk about birth control, it isn’t a subject that’s generally on the radar screen of a gay man – although I am fully pro-choice.  Gay men (at least those with a healthy sense of survival) are decidedly pro-condom.  The very existence of the survivors of my generation are as a direct result of condom use.  It only takes one slip-up for a person to seroconvert and once that’s happened, there’s no turning-back to a negative-status.  I lived through the early days of the AIDS epidemic where the only time I got to see my friends was either at their hospital bed, laid-out for a viewing or in the receiving line at a funeral.  Living through a period like that changes a person’s perceptions on sex and the exchange of bodily fluids.  For women, semen is a fluid with at least 3 or more possible consequences, pregnancy, STD exposure — or both.  But the ‘pious’ of the political world have seized on all aspects of sexual-responsibility to demonize it as a wedge issue for anyone gullible enough to buy into their propaganda.

FOX New’s Nasty Misinformation Department once again diminished itself last week when conservative pundit, Cal Thomas referred to MSNBC’s Rachael Maddow as being “The strongest argument for contraception.”  He has since apologized, and Rachael herself was gracious in accepting his apology.  In my opinion, a world without Rachael Maddow would be like Bedford Falls without George Bailey.  Ms. Maddow (as opposed to Mr. Thomas) is a Rhodes Scholar, not to mention the voice of intelligence and reason — 2 qualities that always make the FOX crowd cringe.  Cal Thomas’ thoughtless gaff once again exposed the rampant hypocrisy of FOX News where such a cold comment could be uttered, even in jest.  Not to mention it was a pure contradiction to his stand on the issue.

Recently the Susan G. Komen foundation split-open at the seams over the subject of abortion funding for Planned Parenthood.  This prompted the usual rantings from Rick Santorum on abortion which plays well to his base…ahhh…instincts.   Santorum and other neo-conservatives made false statements about there being a “War being waged on the Catholic Church.”  There’s not a war on the Catholic Church – there’s a backlash against archaic mythology, and if Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and the Catholic Church want to identify themselves with archaic-backward thinking, let them own-up to it.  Meanwhile it would be wise for Catholics to recall how flat they once defended the world as being — imprisoning Galileo for sharing the audacity of truth — then look historically at how well that played-out for them…

Anyone who was paying attention learned a lot over the last couple of weeks – for instance – only 3% of all functions performed by Planned Parenthood are abortions.  The remaining 97% are women’s health-screenings for vital concerns like breast cancer through mammograms and other preventative cancer tests — often supplied to America’s poorest and most underprivileged women — in turn saving taxpayers money.  Taking a stand against Planned Parenthood is tantamount to admitting to a sorrowful misinterpretation of the organization’s mission: Women’s health and contraception so as to avoid disease and unwanted pregnancies before abortion or illness become an issue.  (By the way further saving taxpayer dollars.)  I don’t actually care that much about the taxpayer money component — but conservatives claim to.

The most pressing problem in the world today is over-population.  No one in their right mind thinks of abortion as a viable large-scale ‘birth control method.’  Abortion is a very personal and painful decision that belongs solely to the woman in who’s body that seed has been planted.  There’s statistical evidence that crime per capita decreased proportionally to the rate of abortions performed since Roe v Wade went into effect.  Dysfunctional homes filled with unwanted, unloved, improperly supervised children make for miserable lives that often grow-up to become adults who perform acts of desperation and ruin — leaving in their wake more and more unwanted offspring.  But that is only part of the story.  We are rapidly becoming an over-populated planet where food and water riots are already happening in poorer nations.  Does the Catholic Church prefer to take-up the mantle of mass-genocide, war, plague, starvation and street murder as the humane answer to over-population?

I certainly hope not.

The answer is to gain cooperation within all nations to provide contraception — because people are going to have sex no matter what…  The challenge is to impress on less advanced cultures the vital human health value in halting the spread of disease and unwanted pregnancies.  Invariably religion will stand in the way, be it Catholic or Muslim.  Face it, most people on this earth were born as a result of recreational sex without a moment of forethought going into the life that resulted.

Teens, obviously, no matter how you may caution them will always experiment with sex.  There’s a notably higher number of teen pregnancies among Christian families preaching abstinence than among better-educated families less concerned with religious mores.  Take the Palin clan for instance:  First Bristol gets knocked-up during Sarah Palin’s vice-presidential run.  Bristol then makes a bundle of money speaking at Christian “teen abstinence” conferences.  3 years later, Bristol’s younger brother goes and gets a neighborhood girl pregnant.  How’s that abstinence thang workin’ out for ‘ya, Sarah?

The burgeoning novelty of such an overwhelming desire as the youthful sex-drive will always lead to a certain number of teenage pregnancies.  What happens to those girls?  They find themselves traumatized, with their lives completely thrown off course — generally without the assistance of a father to help share the burden and the responsibility.  Some give-up the child for adoption, which in turn haunts them forever.  Others fail to realize their own life’s dreams in deference to raising a child.  How sad is it for a child to be left to raise a child?  Or desert that child to the care of an aging grandparent?  These are preventable human tragedies.

Having an abortion is not an easy choice.  Ask me – believe it or not, I know.  Before I came-out as gay, back in my college days, I got my girlfriend pregnant.  She had an abortion.  I’d be untruthful to say it didn’t bother me, or that I’ve never thought about it since.  I have.  Initially I wanted her to keep the baby, but I was 19 going-on 20 with a completely unrealistic worldview.  She did not want the baby. My mother who was anti-abortion at the time — insisted on lending me money to send to my girlfriend and pay for the abortion — which took place only a month or so after abortion was implemented as legal.  My mother didn’t want to discuss it ever again, because things like that simply didn’t happen in OUR family.  I did pay my mother back.  I didn’t like my role in that drama — but the brunt of the real trauma was borne by my former girlfriend who in addition to physical and emotional pain, was harassed with hateful, threatening phone-calls from people — who through whatever means — procured her name and contact information.  She was told “It would be God’s will if she were killed.”  She was barraged with a relentless campaign of hate mail and telephone calls from the so-called religious “right.”  From that point on, I lost all sympathy for the anti-abortion movement.  Curious how so many of those same people cling dearly to their guns, and justify murdering the living…  Facts are, the ‘Right to Life’ movement does not appeal to a particularly bright bunch.

The world now boasts a population of SEVEN BILLION people and counting…  A projected TEN BILLION by 2020.  The soul of decency itself dictates by common sense that a family should only plan on having as many children as they can afford to comfortably house, feed, clothe and educate.  Family planning is the way to slow-down population growth and lead to happier, healthier families.  Rationally speaking, it’s the anti-contraception/anti-abortion people who are the cruel, primitive thinkers.  The human race — whether we like it or not — are the collective stewards of this earth — and the first thing we must do to insure our future is to curb the exponential growth in our numbers.  Killing people after they’re already alive — conscious — lost in a world falling short of basic human necessities — robbed of purposeful lives — is a far greater form of mass cruelty — and dare I say it — sin.

In closing, the sheer brilliance of Barack Obama was demonstrated this week when he managed to broker a deal that was satisfactory to both the Catholic hierarchy AND Planned Parenthood.  Obama devised a method where mandated healthcare can still be provided to female employees of Catholic organizations while not denying comprehensive women’s health care to those individuals who may or may not themselves BE Catholic.  Those services will be paid-for in full by the insurer with a government copay.  No alleged ‘blood’ on the Church’s hands.  It’s time to clear this particular wedge-issue off the table — snatch it away from the jaws of conservative diversionary tactics and start concentrating on the things that really matter:  A healthy population enjoying a healthy economy — well educated — competitive in today’s world — contributing toward a collective healthy future — unburdened by mythology, falsehoods and shame.

KOCH BROTHERS Fund the Long Island Ice TEA Party SuperPAC

Famous financial decorative fruit-basket moguls, Charles and David Koch have just delivered a gift-basket to the Long Island Ice Tea SuperPAC Committee, devoted to giving a financial boost to the Duck D. Duck for President Campaign (and fan-club of fanatics.)  Duck D. Duck and campaign manager Winifred P. Jumpingbean expressed mock-surprise when learning of the gift, but refused to comment so as to remain in compliance with the ‘Corporations United’ ruling who’s guidelines insist on opaque transactions excluding the largest number of citizens in favor of corporate interests — as God intended.  During Corporations United, the land’s highest court (in every sense of the word “high”) deemed corporations to be people, and people to be inconsequential.

Regular followers of this blog will notice Winnie and Duck are conspicuously absent from this post.  There’s a good reason for that — Winnie and Duck are in a smoke-filled back room busily uncorking a $225,000 bottle 1787 Chateau Margaux while snacking on Ritz Crackers topped with Russian Beluga triple-zero Caviar Malossol.  Everything’s better on a Ritz.  Winnie has seen to it dog-walker and professional pooper-scooper, Gay Beihl will administer the Long Island Ice Tea SuperPAC funds so that avian-conservative candidate, Duck D. Duck can keep her distance from the money trail — which has not prevented Ms. Duck from ordering the entire spring collection from Manolo Blahnik and phoning-in some advance bids on the Elizabeth Taylor Jewelry Auction at Christie’s.  If a candidate is going to ‘court’ the precious 1% voter, then she’s going to have to blend-in with the rich and the vapid.

After purchasing a private jet, a fleet of limousines and hiring the past 3 years worth of Playgirl centerfolds as Duck’s exclusive body-guards, it was rumored that Gay Beihl will not be allowed to use a small portion of that money to fix the roof or the plumbing in his tiny, collapsing center-city Philadelphia townhouse, as that would be a misuse of funds.  Instead, the remaining money will be used to purchase members of congress while the mid-winter half-off sale is still in progress.

All ‘Charles & David’ gift baskets come with a sentimental pair of rotten apples guaranteed not to have fallen far from the tree.  It’s the special ‘touches’ that make their gift baskets so precious – well that, and the cash to misuse at will.

- Dissociated Press, 2/9/2012

Santorum Takes a Trifecta

Rick Santorum isn’t the brightest bulb in the pack, but he is persistent — unqualified, but persistent.  This is a GOP field where neocons would run a lawn jockey if they thought it would be a better alternative to Mitt Romney.  They may be right…  The only Republican voters showing enthusiasm about their prospective candidates are the extremists.  This is why you see them all trying to ‘out-extreme’ each other with ridiculous  assertions from colonizing the moon to government control of your own body.  However, the GOP’s most potent tool is to quietly avoid correcting any untruthful myths about the president.  Their constituency wants to believe in lies.  Santorum demonstrated the success of that lack of ethic by not correcting the crazy little old lady who still thinks Barack Obama wasn’t born in America and says the Obama presidency is not legitimate.  He dodged the old racist lady’s comment by saying he was ‘doing his level best to unseat him.’  Not word-one about correcting what he knows to be a falsehood — he displayed none of McCain’s integrity when faced with the same situation — and why should he do otherwise if lies and misinformation work to his advantage?  Rick Santorum isn’t a sweet country boy like ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.’  Santorum has a radical agenda primarily focused on monitoring what other people do with their own groins in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

You have to be crazy-radical to get any attention in the 2012 Republican presidential horse-race — and Rick Santorum took a Trifecta on Tuesday by winning the GOP primaries in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado in a clean-sweep.  Granted all three of those primaries are mostly beauty pageants that don’t add-up to much more than a rejection of both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

For anyone longing for the bad old days when President Bush only ever opened his mouth to change feet — then Rick Santorum is your guy.  Santorum can actually out-gaff Mitt Romney, he’s just avoided doing so lately in any large public and embarrassing way — YET — but he will.  So for now while Mitt Romney tries to tell heartwarming stories about how his father could take a mouth-full of three-penny nails and spit ‘em out as quarters, Rick Santorum is hawking sincerity.  Not that Rick makes a lick of sense, it’s just that his delivery is SO ‘heartwarming.’  If by any sort of miracle Santorum were to become the Republican presidential candidate, the 2012 debates opposite Barack Obama will be side-splitting must-see-TV.  (Picture Obama as Bugs Bunny running circles around Elmer Fudd.)  Actually that’s pretty much what the GOP has to look forward to regardless who they prop-up on the ticket.  The 2012 hopefuls are a choice of ‘loser takes all’ – except for the White House.  They don’t really have a horse in the race — and the less the GOP says about race, the better.

- Dissociated Press, 2/8/2012

The Reversal of Prop 8 and Other No-Brainers

When Californians voted for Proposition 8 to ban all gay marriage in their state, that slice of evil was accomplished by a mother-lode of outside monies supplied primarily by the Mormon Church.  The Mormon Church has funded and organized any number of deliberate campaigns of prejudice.  California’s State Supreme Court today struck-down Prop 8 as unconstitutional.  Duh…  When are neocons going to grasp how the happiness of others and the life choices they make have NO IMPACT WHATSOEVER on the institution of marriage or the family? — Well aside from the hissy-fits conservatives orchestrate all by themselves out of irrational fear.

An interesting study was released several weeks ago where anonymous, yet willing individuals were selected at random, followed, tested, and questioned about their personal opinions and reactions.  Each individual was assigned a number (no names were used) and those same individuals were later tested for intelligence quota.  What the research psychologists at Brock University in Ontario found, was there’s a particularly high incidence of low IQ’s among conservative thinking people, as well as people with racist and homophobic attitudes.  This comes as no surprise to me – I’ve suspected that to be true all along.  Earlier studies additionally illustrated a relationship between prejudice and inferior education – another no-brainer…

Curiously enough, the Los Angeles Times reported a survey in 2010 revealing atheists and agnostics possess a great deal more knowledge about religion and the bible than regular church-goers professing blind faith in God.  The challenge for those of us who’s IQ’s exceed our individual collection of fingers and toes, is to show a little patience — educate those who have the aptitude to learn — and stop rewarding power to the blatantly stupid.  Take for instance the clown-car full of GOP hope-fools and their embarrassing coterie of tea-bagging followers…  let them merrily drive off a cliff in a fruitless search for the past.

What we need is a national attitude of tolerance – easier said than done when Bible-belter’s mistrust the educated while being magnetically drawn to psychotic leaders, faith-healers and other snake-oil politicians.  Faith can be a wonderful thing and very helpful to a great many people — but faith which has never been doubted or tested is no faith at all – it’s a brainless cult-following.  That’s why faith and politics don’t and shouldn’t mix – try telling that to conservatives…

None of this is particularly new thinking – only difference is now it’s scientifically proven.  In 1866, English philosopher John Stuart Mill was quoted as saying,I never meant to say conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally conservative.”

- Dissociated Press, 2/7/2012

This Past Week in Review – Thumbs Down

Anyone who ever doubted the world had gone crazy needed only to witness the past week to be assured otherwise.  Susan B. Komen came lose at her foundations — a Mormon accepted an endorsement from a casino-clam wearing a toupee — and Madonna modeled fashions from Planet Zavnar like she was Newt Gingrich’s first colonist on the moon.  Most un-importantly, Queen Elizabeth the Second celebrated 60 years on the throne.  Perhaps she’s not getting enough fiber…?

Mitt Romney is nuking the Newt in a lukewarm showing of conservative voters. The GOP is experiencing an enthusiasm-gap about Mitt Romney or ANY of the comedians running for the Republican presidential candidacy.  In an act of desperation, Tea-baggers are limply backing Mitt, the straight-man with all the ill-gotten cash, while the party itself bares the brunt of the joke.  Republican talking-points are rapidly losing credence as the economy improves, unemployment goes down and Obama’s numbers are rising.  Perhaps the American people aren’t as stupid as the GOP looks?  Especially as facts come to light about how much of our deficit has been drawn in large part by the previous administration borrowing against Social Security, and Medicare, not to mention selling debt to foreign powers like China.  Entitlement programs didn’t cause the recession, Bush-crooks did.  Our entitlement programs are only in trouble because they’ve been ransacked, mostly during the Bush misinformation – I mean ‘administration.’  In keeping with that same spirit, Republicans are offering-up Mitt Romney as Ransacker in Chief.  Raiding and ruining healthy financial entities is a subject where Mitt Romney has extensive experience.  Want to further delay the economic recovery?  Vote Romney this coming November.

Romney’s now famous “misspeak” where he let it slip how he really doesn’t care about the poor, “because the poor have a safety-net” — proves he’s either unaware of how badly that net is in need of darning — or he’s referring to the suicide-nets China builds around the slave-labor towers where our iPhones are produced.  Come to think of it, the Republicans ARE trying to bust the unions who serve as the primary buffer-zone between the abuses of the wealthy ruling class and the abyss of abject poverty.  Maybe Mitt really DOES want to bring jobs back to America – only this time using the labor-model that’s working SO well in China…

But why dwell on important issues?  Some pop-star with a 5 day career on day 6 gave the finger to the camera during Madonna’s Superbowl halftime extravaganza.  It was this year’s version of the “wardrobe malfunction.”  With all the excitement of the Superbowl (A.K.A Bread & Circus diversions) no one payed much attention to world news.  Come to think of it, no one ever pays much attention to the news.  The Superbowl even eclipsed Betty Windsor’s 60th year perched on the throne — will someone PLEASE get that woman some Metamucil…?  Back to useless diversions – I don’t like football.  It’s the modern-day descendent of violent Colosseum “blood-sports.”  Gigantic men crash into each other during a one hour game broken-up into four 15 minute “quarters” making the whole boring mess last three or more hours including commercials.  Our modern-day gladiators at least don’t get a thumbs-down death, and they are paid gigantic salaries so they can retire early with traumatic brain injuries and Parkinson’s disease.  I suppose it’s progress of a sort…  People cheer, new TV commercials are aired, and everyone eats buckets of junk food.  I suppose it’s fine if you like that sort of thing.  Best of all, Michael Vick didn’t get to play in the Superbowl this year (again.)  It seems like such a shame to deny him his rightful traumatic brain injury he so richly deserves…  Good thing that can happen even without the satisfaction of him making-it all the way to the Superbowl.  And so it goes…

- Disassociated Press, 2/6/2012

A Change of Heart

Winnie and Duck are right.  I have no filters, which I hope is part of my charm.  Since I lack a filtration system – (in every sense of the words) – I might as well level with anyone who reads this blog and explain my erratic actions.  The last few years have not been easy – not just for me, but for a lot of us.  99% of us to be precise.

I’ve decided to take a brief sabbatical from WinnieToons – maybe a week or two – maybe more or less.  It depends on a lot of factors.  I have been on a steroid treatment for a colon disorder.  If you’ve never had a colon disorder, please accept my sincere wishes that you never do.  I have lymphocystic (sp) colitis, which is the destruction of the lining of the colon.  I got this disorder from taking Alieve and other over-the-counter pain killers to dull the pain of a torn rotator cuff resulting from working a physically strenuous job.  I am now on Medicaid and renewal of my medicine was declined.  The meds are $1600 a month.  I was thrown into a severe and sudden steroid withdraw.  Steroids change your personality – especially when you’re first taking them, and then again when you go off them.  In short the pharmaceutical industry creates treatments for illnesses that trigger a litany of horrible side-effects that are often worse than the ills they portend to relieve – while raking-in obscene profits at the sufferer’s expense (of course.)

This withdraw combined with my daily dose of disappointing news and disheartening  let-downs ganged-up on me compounding everything to a point where I became overwhelmingly depressed.  I need to take some time to do everything from clean-house and lick wounds to ponder where I belong in this world.

WinnieToons will return once I get enough of my challenges behind me, that I can regain my sense of humor, which I sorely miss.  I hope you understand, and will come back again once I feel like laughing.

- Beihl, Winnie & Duck