Showing My Age

I just caught myself saying “Looks like we’re on the same wavelength” to a man who is easily young enough to be my son. My god, am I establishing myself as an old fart or what? Hey Grampa, that’s a ham radio metaphor! That is ancient technology!

Obviously I should have said “Looks like we’re on the same page”.

Random Thought on Looking at the News of the World This Morning

We all seem to be born with an instinctive hunger for an understandable view of the world.

The reality is that the universe is complicated beyond our fathoming and we don’t know very much about anything, and that’s scary. So out of the infinitely complicated raw data of our existence, we distill stories about the world that seem to make things understandable and make us feel less small and helpless and stupid.

Some of us have very simple stories that are a very poor fit for the universe, and some of us have very complicated stories that are a better fit, but I feel pretty sure that if we could perceive the grand scheme of things in its entirely, all these stories we have would be clearly seen as massively pathetic approximations of reality, and the difference between my worldview and the worldview of the most narrow-minded fundamentalist would from that cosmic viewpoint be seen as one of degree only, and an incredibly trivial one at that.

As we get older, though, some of us do get better at facing up to the fact that we really are small and helpless and stupid, and accepting that and learning to make the most of our lives anyway, and at realizing that the stories we make up in our heads are nothing more than that. And others of us seem to get more and more frightened and cling more and more to their stories.

My Poor Head

I was hit with the fourth bad headache in under a week last night. Ugh ugh ugh ugh. I can’t remember having this many so close together since those awful first months after the surgery over twelve years ago. But apparently there was a thunderstorm in the Bay Area (though not in my part of it) last night, which is the kind of weather that often seems to coincide with my bad headaches. Hopefully things will change for the better soon.


From Greg’s account of Tad’s last day:

Later our friend Carl who I had texted to come to the house quickly told me that — while I was conferring with the nurse in the living room Tad —despite all of the heaving, the nausea, the unbearable pain, the difficulty speaking— looked at him and with gestures and words said: “I (pointing to his chest) am OK (making the OK gesture with his fingers) to die (moving his hand across his adam’s apple). How is Greg?”

I find it hard to put into words quite why that paragraph hits me the way it does, but it captures Tad’s spirit very vividly for me somehow. I can so very easily see Tad doing that, and it makes me choke up and smile at the same time.

Rest in Peace, Tad

My friend Tad died at noon today in the arms of his partner Greg. Blessings on your journey, my friend. Now at long last your suffering is done and you can sleep well and deeply. I’ll miss you, and yet I feel very sure that I haven’t seen the last of you. Your heart was as gentle and unstoppable as an underground spring, and your sweet, loving spirit lives in everyone whose life you touched.

Weekend Update: Listener Puzzle and Harry Potter 7

I finished this week’s Listener puzzle, “OZ and WR” by Theod, on Friday evening. There’s a Playfair cipher involved in this one: Four answers must be encrypted before being entered, and you don’t know what the keyword for the cipher is, so you have to crack the cipher by comparing the answers for these four clues with what you can get of their encrypted versions from the crossing letters in the grid.

Until you’ve cracked the cipher, then, these four words must be solved without any help from crossing letters. I left these four to work on later after I’d solved the rest.

It didn’t take me all that long to fill the rest of the grid, but I could only figure out two of the four Playfair entries. I figured that that wasn’t going to be nearly enough information to crack the cipher, and that I’d be stuck until I could solve at least one of the other two. But when I finally took a crack at the cipher with the information I had, I was surprised to find that it was enough to give me what were almost certainly the first, fifth, and sixth letters of the keyword and an additional three-letter sequence that was likely to be somewhere in it. That was plenty, and the keyword and the rest of the puzzle fell quickly after that.

Dave and I watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 at home Saturday night and then saw Part 2 in a theater Sunday night. It’s a beautiful pair of movies — one gorgeously shot scene after another, terrific acting all around — but as with all the other movies in the series, I was rarely swept up in it. The story is full of exciting sequences, but it also rambles a lot and contains a lot of derivative and predictable elements. I especially kept being reminded of this or that plot element or scene from The Lord of the Rings, both the book and the movie. Characters are thin and mostly defined by their quirks — one apiece for the minor characters, two or three for the major ones — and though many of these quirks are surprising and whimsical, once you know what they are, there’s no more surprise left and you can see well in advance how they will respond to each new situation that arises.

I’m sure the series is magical if you come to it at the right age and without having read or seen a lot of similar stories already, but I am so not in that group.

Tastes So Good — and Less Lethal for You, Too!

It’s a sad thing to realize that I have come to the point where I am actually delighted when I learn that some food or drink I’m thinking about buying is made with real sugar and not Splenda or high fructose corn syrup or some such crap. I mean, we all know that sugar is bad for us, it’s poison that we all know we should eat less of, and yet my reaction nowadays to seeing genuine honest-to-God sugar in the ingredient list of something is to brighten up. “Oh, goody, this contains the real poison and not that nasty, artificial poison! Maybe I should get two!” Then I catch myself and wonder what the fuck am I thinking.

Fourth of July weekend

I spent Fourth of July weekend at a gathering for gay and bisexual men up in Lake County. I slept in a tent for four nights, hiked, swam, meditated, wrote (though not as much as I should have), wandered around, caught up with a lot of old friends (though not as many as I wish I had), made a few new friends, took part in rituals that were beautiful or silly or sometimes both at once (though I skipped the really messy one), ate terrific meals, helped Burt in the kitchen preparing a couple of those meals, danced around a bonfire until I was exhausted, continued dancing beyond that point until I was in a meditative state and my mind was blank, and other fun stuff.

There’s almost always a talent/no-talent show at these gatherings, but this one was especially elaborate and memorable, with an odd, rambling story about a teenaged girl searching for her absent father running through it and loosely (very loosely) tying the various acts together. Some standouts for me were my old friend Michael playing guitar and singing (his voice sounded stronger and more secure than ever), my new friend Eric singing what I assume is a number from some musical I don’t know (I didn’t think all that much of the number itself, but Eric’s performance of it was a showstopper), Naveed reading from a book of sexual advice (I don’t know how to convey what was funny about it, but it was absurd and very funny), and the finale of the show, in which the girl meets a giant papier-mâché caterpillar and — well, no, I don’t know how to describe that, either, but it was also very funny. Kudos to Aaron for tying all the pieces together with such, um, flair.

My contribution was an early scene from my work in progress, the as-yet-unnamed rewrite of Magic Flute, with myself as Papageno and my friend Paul as Tamino. I sang Papageno’s entrance song and we read the scene that follows on it. It went over very well, and afterward one of the men told me that German is his native tongue, that he likes Flute very much, that he doesn’t care much for productions that move an opera to a new setting just for the sake of being different, that he bristled at the new words when the scene started, and that by the end of it he was won over because he could see that it wasn’t going to be Flute with a few cosmetic changes but a fully thought-out and independent story. As that is exactly what I hope to get across in this work, that was very gratifying to hear.

Another high point was the commitment ceremony that my friends Greg and Tad held. They wanted to hold it at the gathering because it was here that they met five years ago. It was especially poignant because Tad has been battling leukemia for about a year now; it’s in remission now, but of course that could change at any time. But then, so it could for any of us. The doctor who first diagnosed Tad’s illness was another regular at the gatherings, much loved by all of us and a wonderful fit and healthy guy, and he died unexpectedly of a heart attack a few months ago, and he was fondly remembered by a lot of us during the ceremony. Tad has been through a lot of pain, and he looked happy but very tired during the ceremony. It was beautiful to see our motley community gathered to witness their commitment to each other and their exchange of vows and rings.

It brought up some poignant memories, too, of my time in New York City in the late 1980s caring for my dear friend David Sherblom as he grew sicker with AIDS. I think it would have meant a lot to me to have had so many friends around us being so supportive of our love for each other. Instead, many of my friends back then advised me not to get so involved, to protect myself and let David’s family take care of him. I’ve mostly gotten over it now but the lack of support pissed me off no end at the time.

Another wonderful thing: There was an art show one afternoon, and I had greatly admired one painting in particular by my friend George, but could not possibly afford to buy it. When the show was over, George gave me the painting, saying that he wanted me to be the one to have it. Oh, man. George is a terrific artist and a lovely, quirky, big-hearted man. It’s a wonderful, whimsical, lively painting and I am already enjoying living with it and looking at it, both for its own sake and for the associations it has for me.

Time Off!

I don’t have to be back at work again for a week and a half! Took a long hot bath this morning when ordinarily I’d be on BART commuting to work. Then went back to bed! Now I’m up again and getting back to work on the Magic Flute project (still no official name). It would be a Very Good Thing if I could have a good first draft of about half the first act done by the time I go back to work. (Well, back to my paying work.)