Monthly Archives: December 2011

Moment of Zen: Champagne and A Bubble Bath

This is how I would love to ring in the New Year tonight.
Have fun and be safe in whatever you do tonight!!

Top 10 Gay New Year’s Resolutions

Start the New Year with a promise or resolution that will guarantee a better 2012. Here are the top New Year’s resolutions for gay men.

1. Journal/Blog
Don’t go down the bitter highway. Release all of your baggage from the previous year by blogging or journaling. If you’re dear to the old school like I am, grab a decorative notebook and write your thoughts freestyle every day. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling. This journal is for you. For the tech kings, create a personal blog.

2. No More Drama
Must gay and drama go hand-in-hand? This New Year, gays around the world are making a pact to eliminate the nasty rumors, lost friendships and petty arguments that spice up our everyday lives. Try a new approach for the New Year: forgiveness. A more peaceful life can lead to better health by releasing any internalized anger and resentment. Give others room to make mistakes and trust in the positive aspects of your relationships.

3. Mentor LGBT Youth
Why let your life lessons go to waste when you can help guide a young LGBT adult? There are more out pop culture figures than ever, but nothing beats an in-person role model. Career guidance to life coaching, there are many ways you can help LGBT youth. Start by volunteering for a youth group at your local gay community center.

4. Fight for Gay Rights
Even if you’re not the flag waving type, there is still an opportunity to help further gay equality. Here are 10 ways you can support gay rights.

5. Get Tested
The anxiety of getting an HIV test and the fear of a life-changing result is overwhelming, but the freedom that comes along with knowing your status is worth the tension. Why leave your health up to chance? Understand HIV/AIDS and read the top reasons to get an HIV test.

6. Come Out to Yourself
Coming out is a process that unfolds at your own pace. This may be the year for you to be free! The first step to understanding your sexuality is self-reflection. Don’t skip this important step on your way out of the closet. Get to know yourself this New Year and create the life you desire. Follow these steps to coming out.

7. Shed Bad Influences
Bad influences come in many forms: drug and alcohol addiction, sex addiction or even that cute guy who tells you he can’t have sex while wearing a condom. You don’t have to be a victim. Besides, doing drugs and barebacking is so last year! Create a brand new you in a brand new year by kicking an old habit and knowing your boundaries. Recognize your own addictions and test your safe sex practices.

8. Actually Workout at the Gym
While some vow they will finally get a gym membership this upcoming year, other veteran gym bunnies resolve that they will actually work out at the gym instead of cruising boys and talking to their friends. Lift a bar bell or two and work on that V. Just make sure you do it for you and not because you want to join the parade of shirtless guys at the club. Also, read about gay men and Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

9. Volunteer
Volunteering is not only fun; it’s an opportunity for you to give back to something greater than yourself. You can also meet other gay people with similar interests. There are many gay organizations that need your help.

You don’t need a special talent to volunteer, just your dedication. Call your local gay community center and offer your assistance with some of their programs. Or choose a gay organization that best fits your interests.

10. Stop Smoking
Do you know, back in my smoking days I couldn’t even dance without a cigarette in hand? Somehow I thought the weight of the stick was essential to certain moves. This silly excuse is one of many smokers give to justify their drag addiction (cigarette drag, that is). But, did you know gay men are at higher risk for lung cancer? This year, break the habit, reduce your smoky laundry bill and try that dance spin without a fag (cigarette, that is).

Some of these I am already doing, some I need to do, and some I want to do more of.  The fact is, the number one thing on my list of New Year’s Resolutions is to finish my dissertation, defend it, and graduate with my PhD.  I swear this will be the year.

What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

Backed by the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, the Canadian-born vocalist Diana Krall fills up the tempo of the song with holiday cheer. Her sound so intimate that you might swear the sexy singer is crooning exclusively for you at midnight on Christmas Eve. Krall excels with an approach mastered long ago: elegant delivery that gives extra polish to a very familiar global favorite. This segment takes you through a Diane Krall performance of “What Are You Doing New Years Eve”. Credits:
I happen to love Diana Krall.  I could listen to her husky, sensuous voice all day.  I guess this post is a bit of a short cut for me, but I have been getting ready for a trip to New Orleans today and will be gone until Saturday.  Don’t worry, I have scheduled posts for the time that I will be gone, as I don’t really know if I would have the time to post while I am in New Orleans.

So as the song says:

Maybe it’s much too early in the game
Ah, but I thought I’d ask you just the same
What are you doing New Year’s
New Year’s Eve?

I will be driving back from New Orleans some time on New Year’s Eve, so I will probably get home and ring in the New Year by myself.  I have a bottle of champagne just waiting for me when I get back.  I’d love to hear what you guys are doing for New Year’s Eve.  Anything exciting?

Meditations on the Fall and Winter Holidays

Meditations on the Fall and Winter Holidays
by Charles Reznikoff
New Year's

The solid houses in the mist
are thin as tissue paper;
the water laps slowly at the rocks;
and the ducks from the north are here
at rest on the grey ripples.

The company in which we went
so free of care, so carelessly,
has scattered. Good-bye,
to you who lie behind in graves,
to you who galloped proudly off!
Pockets and heart are empty.

This is the autumn and our harvest--
such as it is, such as it is--
the beginnings of the end, bare trees and barren ground;
but for us only the beginning:
let the wild goat's horn and the silver
trumpet sound!

Reason upon reason
to be thankful:
for the fruit of the earth,
for the fruit of the tree,
for the light of the fire,
and to have come to this season.

The work of our hearts is dust
to be blown about in the winds
by the God of our dead in the dust
but our Lord delighting in life
(let the wild goat's horn
and the silver trumpet sound!)
our God Who imprisons in coffin and grave
and unbinds the bound.

You have loved us greatly and given us
Your laws
for an inheritance,
Your sabbaths, holidays, and seasons of gladness,
distinguishing Israel
from other nations--
distinguishing us
above the shoals of men.
And yet why should we be remembered--
if at all--only for peace, if grief
is also for all? Our hopes,
if they blossom, if they blossom at all, the petals
and fruit fall.

You have given us the strength
to serve You,
but we may serve or not
as we please;
not for peace nor for prosperity,
not even for length of life, have we merited
remembrance; remember us
as the servants
You have inherited.

Day of Atonement

The great Giver has ended His disposing;
the long day
is over and the gates are closing.
How badly all that has been read
was read by us,
how poorly all that should be said.

All wickedness shall go in smoke.
It must, it must!
The just shall see and be glad.
The sentence is sweet and sustaining;
for we, I suppose, are the just;
and we, the remaining.

If only I could write with four pens between five fingers
and with each pen a different sentence at the same time--
but the rabbis say it is a lost art, a lost art.
I well believe it. And at that of the first twenty sins that we confess,
five are by speech alone;
little wonder that I must ask the Lord to bless
the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart.

Now, as from the dead, I revisit the earth and delight
in the sky, and hear again
the noise of the city and see
earth's marvelous creatures--men.
Out of nothing I became a being,
and from a being I shall be
nothing--but until then
I rejoice, a mote in Your world,
a spark in Your seeing.

Feast of Booths

This was a season of our fathers' joy:
not only when they gathered grapes and the fruit of trees
in Israel, but when, locked in the dark and stony streets,
they held--symbols of a life from which they were banished
but to which they would surely return--
the branches of palm trees and of willows, the twigs of the myrtle,
and the bright odorous citrons.

This was the grove of palms with its deep well
in the stony ghetto in the blaze of noon;
this the living stream lined with willows;
and this the thick-leaved myrtles and trees heavy with fruit
in the barren ghetto--a garden
where the unjustly hated were justly safe at last.

In booths this week of holiday
as those who gathered grapes in Israel lived
and also to remember we were cared for
in the wilderness--
I remember how frail my present dwelling is
even if of stones and steel.

I know this is the season of our joy:
we have completed the readings of the Law
and we begin again;
but I remember how slowly I have learnt, how little,
how fast the year went by, the years--how few.


The swollen dead fish float on the water;
the dead birds lie in the dust trampled to feathers;
the lights have been out a long time and the quick gentle hands that lit them --
rosy in the yellow tapers' glow--
have long ago become merely nails and little bones,
and of the mouths that said the blessing and the minds that thought it
only teeth are left and skulls, shards of skulls.
By all means, then, let us have psalms
and days of dedication anew to the old causes.

Penniless, penniless, I have come with less and still less
to this place of my need and the lack of this hour.
That was a comforting word the prophet spoke:
Not by might nor by power but by My spirit, said the Lord;
comforting, indeed, for those who have neither might nor power--
for a blade of grass, for a reed.

The miracle, of course, was not that the oil for the sacred light--
in a little cruse--lasted as long as they say;
but that the courage of the Maccabees lasted to this day:
let that nourish my flickering spirit.

Go swiftly in your chariot, my fellow Jew,
you who are blessed with horses;
and I will follow as best I can afoot,
bringing with me perhaps a word or two.
Speak your learned and witty discourses
and I will utter my word or two--
not by might not by power
but by Your Spirit, Lord.

Charles Reznikoff Photo: courtesy of New Directions
Charles Reznikoff
On August 31, 1894, Charles Reznikoff was born in Brooklyn, New York. His parents, Russian Jewish immigrants, had fled the pogroms that followed the assassination of Alexander II, and during Reznikoff's childhood many of his relatives joined the family in the United States. Reznikoff was a precocious student, graduating from grammar school when he was eleven, three years ahead of his class. At the age of sixteen, he went to study journalism at the University of Missouri, but he abandoned this endeavor after a year to pursue a degree in law, which he earned from New York University in 1915. He was admitted to the Bar of the State of New York in 1916, but he practiced law only briefly, "because I wanted to use whatever mental energy I had for my writing."
Reznikoff's first book of poetry, Rhythms, was privately published in 1918. He took a series of writing and editing jobs to support himself, working on the editorial staffs of the American Law Book Company and, beginning in 1955, the Jewish Frontier. In 1930, Reznikoff married Marie Syrkin, who later became a distinguished professor at Brandeis University. Throughout the 1930s, Reznikoff gained recognition as one of the principal proponents of Objectivism, along with Louis Zukofsky, George Oppen, and Carl Rakosi. The group of poets established the Objectivist Press, which published three of Reznikoff's books. His work enjoyed little commercial success, however, and much of it continued to be self-published.
The most comprehensive edition of Reznikoff's work is Poems 1918-1975: The Complete Poems of Charles Reznikoff (Black Sparrow Press, 1989). His other books of poetry include Holocaust (1975) and Testimony (1965), which are his most celebrated works, as well as Going To and Fro and Walking Up and Down (1941),Jerusalem the Golden (1934), Poems (1920), and Rhythms (1918). He also published several prose works and a number of plays. After his death, a novel entitled The Manner Music was discovered by his patron, John Martin, and published posthumously in 1976, with an introduction by Robert Creeley.
Apart from his foray in the south and a year spent as a Hollywood screenwriter in the 1930s, Reznikoff was a lifelong resident of New York City. He died on January 22, 1976.

Twin Boys, One Transgender, Become Brother and Sister

Twin Boys, One Transgender, Become Brother and Sister

Identical 14-year-old twins, Nicole and Jonas Maines, started out life as Wyatt and Jonas. Nicole is transgender.

As early as age 4, Wyatt Maines asked his mother, “When do I get to be a girl?” And he told his father he hated his penis.

Wyatt always liked girl’s clothes and movies, while his twin brother Jonas played with traditional boy toys.

Born identical twins, the siblings share the same DNA, but their gender identification took divergent paths. Now, at age 14, they are brother and sister, as Wyatt’s transition to Nicole is well under way.

Nicole is 5-feet, 1-inch tall and 100 pounds; her twin brother is 5-feet, 6-inches and weighs 115 pounds — and they are best friends.

Their story — marked by tearful emotions, bullying at their first school and eventually a lawsuit and a move to a different town — was chronicled in the Boston Globe.

Their parents, Wayne and Kelly Maines, said they brought their transgender daughter into the spotlight in the hopes that their story might shed light on the struggle of others.

“We sat down with our kids at the breakfast table when they were 9 and talked about fear, hate, evil and freedom of speech before sending them to school,” their father, Wayne Maines, 52, wrote in an email to

“I was very angry and sad to have to talk to our small children in this manner,” he said. “We also told them to keep their heads-up, be proud and take care of each other and their friends. I am very proud of them both because they have not forgotten that lesson and they continue to help others whenever it is safe to do so.”

Maines, who is director of safety and environmental management at the University of Maine in Orono, said his “biggest concern” was the safety of his son and daughter after the Globe ran its front-page story.

A hunter and a political conservative, Maines told the newspaper that he at first had trouble calling Nicole by the name she adopted in fourth grade: “I was grieving,” he said. “I was losing a son.”

But Nicole said, “The thought of being a boy makes me cringe.”

“It is important for people to understand some of the challenges we and other families are dealing with at home, at work and in our communities,” Maines wrote, declining to do a full interview.

“We need to watch for a little while to see how this recent step out in the world impacts their safety and ability to function normally at their new school,” he said.

He has warned his daughter since she began speaking out before advocacy groups and even at the Maine State House, to watch her back.

A report by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force paints a bleak picture of life as a transgender person in the United States. The 2011 survey, “Injustice at Every Turn,” found that discrimination is pervasive in “nearly every system and institution.”

Transgender youth, in particular, are at disproportionate risk for depression, suicide, substance abuse, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, according to the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University.

And unlike in the Maines twins, many children do not get the vital support of their own parents and end up homeless.

ABC’s “20/20” recently profiled homeless teens, including 13-year-old June, of Portland, Ore., who is transgender. She faced bullying from her brothers and said she feels like an outsider in her own home.

“They don’t meet the family’s expectation of how a boy or girl should behave,” said Family Acceptance Project Director Caitlin Ryan, a clinical social worker. “They see them as disobedient or disrespectful or willful. To punish a child or force them to wear clothes that feel wrong for them and make them feel humiliated damages their self-worth.”

Ryan said there is a “dearth of information” for parents on how to deal with a child who is gender nonconformist.

While Nicole has been sure about her gender since she was a toddler, her parents faced enormous confusion, wondering if their son had a feminine side, was gay or, as it turns out, was a female trapped in a male body, according to the Globe.

Even their pediatrician wouldn’t address the issue with them.

She excelled in middle school, serving as vice-president in the fifth grade, but one day a bully called her “faggot” and told his guardian that Nicole was using the boys’ room. The school required her to use the staff bathroom, then assigned an adult to follow her daily routine so she wouldn’t be further bullied. Jonas was teased as well.

The Maineses got the backing of the Maine Human Rights Commission, which agreed that Nicole had been discriminated against, according to the Globe. They joined the family in a lawsuit against the Orono School District, which is now pending.

The Boston legal organization Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) is representing the family, which says the stigma got so bad after they took legal action that they had to move to a more diverse and open-minded town in southern Maine.

“It’s the first time they’ve gone to school since this story has come out and the family is understandably cautious of the kinds of reactions they might get based on past experiences,” GLAD spokeswoman Carisa Cunningham told

But Nicole has been sure from the start: “I’ve always known I was a girl,” she told the Globe. “I think what I am aiming for is to undergo surgery to get a physical female body that matches up to my image of myself.”

Her mother, Kelly Maines, who is 50 and works in law enforcement, went online to learn more and came across the Gender Management Service at Children’s Hospital in Boston, founded in 2007 by endocrinologist Dr. Normal Spack and urologist Dr. David Diamond, the first of its kind in the Western hemisphere.

The clinic serves children with disorders of sexual development and physical deformities, as well as those with gender identity issues with a team of geneticists, urologists, endocrinologists and mental health specialists.

At about 12, Nicole was given puberty blockers to stop the development of secondary sexual characteristics like male body hair, which can later make sex reassignment surgery more painful and expensive.

Later in adolescence, she will begin estrogen treatment and continue on testosterone suppressers until she is 18 — old enough for surgery.

After the testes are surgically removed, there will be no need for the hormone blockers. But the entire procedure will render Nicole infertile, which is why she continues counseling to help her make a final decision.

The majority of all children who express the belief that they are the wrong gender, will enter puberty and go on to identify with their biological gender, according to Spack.

“Of all little kids who are gender variant, 20 percent will stick with it,” he said. “Over 80 percent will accept looking like Jonas and would push talk about cutting off [their penis.]”

That is why doctors wait for children like Nicole to show the first sign of puberty before giving them blockers and the treatments are reversible.

But giving a prepubescent child hormones of the opposite sex has permanent effects like halting their development, closing up growth plates. Using puberty blockers “buys us time, so they can extend the diagnostic phase,” Spack said.

Spack said GeMS has sent a half dozen children all the way to sex change surgery from male to female. Using estrogen in combination with testosterone blockers allows them to develop curves and grow “normal” size breasts without implants.

Surgery is also sophisticated. “They have learned to use tissue to form the vagina and some surgery is so incredible even gynecologists have been a bit fooled.”

Sensation tissue can also be preserved so male to female patients can experience orgasm. Even fertility may one day be resolved, he said.

“Nicole has a hopeful future,” said Spack. “The field is growing faster than I am getting old. Who knows about the future of reproductive endocrinology.”

The fact that Nicole and her brother are identical twins gives scientists a window into the causes of transgenderism. Though Nicole is the first in this clinic, twins like the Maines ones are not unknown.

“Obviously everything isn’t DNA,” said Spack. “Parents tell you identical twins are different. But what this means in terms of transgenderism altogether, we are in a primitive state of understanding this.”

Several neurological studies from Europe show brain differences in transgender people, suggesting they may be “wired” differently. Spack said that he has noticed that about 10 percent of his patients display “something in the autistic spectrum, very mild, like Asperger’s [syndrome].”

As for Nicole, Spack said her strong voice helped the family support her and eventually seek help. She has even been able to attend a summer camp for transgender children — Camp Arunu’ Tiq.

“She needed to push the envelope,” said Spack, who now only consults on her case every few months. “I have this phenomenal image of her. I saw Nicole and other kids who had seemed reticent in my office playing the piano and doing dance numbers, just like at any other camp.”

Spack, who once yearned to deliver babies, said he gets a special thrill working with transgender children like Nicole.

“It’s sort of like being a midwife to a person who has the courage to give birth to themselves,” he said.

Post Holiday Rest

Too bad Santa didn’t bring me a man to share my bed with, but we can’t have everything. I hope that all of you had a wonderful holiday, and that you are able to get some rest today.

Tradition #3: Merry Christmas

Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Don we now our gay apparel,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Troll the ancient Yule tide carol,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

I hope that you all have a very Merry Christmas (or a Happy Hanukkah for some of you).  I will be attending church this morning and then helping my mother get ready for Christmas Dinner. The holidays are a wonderful time, though they can be quite stressful.  When the times get stressful, I just remember the true meaning of Christmas.  Though the story of Christ’s birth is in both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, I have always loved Luke’s version best.  It has long been a tradition in our family to read Luke Chapter 2 together as a family.

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Luke Chapter 2: 1-25

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
([And] this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
And when they had seen [it], they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
And all they that heard [it] wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things, and pondered [them] in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present [him] to the Lord;
(As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)
And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name [was] Simeon; and the same man [was] just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

Tradition #2: Christmas Eve

I have to admit, that Christmas Eve in my household growing up was never an especially fun time.  We did not go to to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (unless Sunday fell on one of these days) because as members of the church of Christ, it is not considered a religious holiday, since there is no mention of an actual date for Christmas in the New Testament.  We rarely even sang Christmas songs; the only exceptions being when I used to lead the singing.  The only thing that signified Christmas in our church was the poinsettias that were placed in the church.

The reason for Christmas Even not being especially fun was because we had to go to my maternal grandparent’s house for Christmas Eve, and then as soon as we opened gifts we had to go to my paternal grandmother’s family Christmas party.  My father was always ill-tempered because we would always arrive late to the second party and he blamed it all on my mother.  This made for a really uncomfortable ride between the two parties.  My father hates being late, and sees another Christmas party as not a good excuse.  My father could be a real jackass at times, and every Christmas Eve we had to hear him bitch and complain.  Then as soon as we got home from the second party, it was off to bed, so that “Santa Claus” could come. I always hated trying to fall asleep on Christmas Eve.  Even on a good night, I have never been one to simply lay my head down and go to sleep, and with the anticipation of Christmas morning, Christmas Eve night was never an easy night to go to sleep, but I always did, and never once heard my parents (yes, contrary to yesterday’s post, I knew it was them) putting the presents under the tree.

However, there was one thing that I loved about Christmas Eve. It was the night that Santa Claus would be coming to visit.  I have always loved Clement C. Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas, and so I wanted to share it with you for my Christmas Eve post.

A Visit from St. Nicholas
by Clement Clark Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”

By the way, did you know that A Visit from St. Nicholas was not the only poem that Moore wrote about Santa Claus.  He wrote another one, that I had never read until recently called Old Santeclaus.  I hope that you enjoy it as well.

Old Santeclaus
by Clement Clark Moore

Old Santeclaus with much delight
His reindeer drives this frosty night,
O’er chimney-tops, and tracks of snow,
To bring his yearly gifts to you.

The steady friend of virtuous youth,
The friend of duty, and of truth,
Each Christmas eve he joys to come
Where love and peace have made their home.

Through many houses he has been,
And various beds and stockings seen;
Some, white as snow, and neatly mended,
Others, that seemed for pigs intended.

Where e’er I found good girls or boys,
That hated quarrels, strife and noise,
I left an apple, or a tart,
Or wooden gun, or painted cart.

To some I gave a pretty doll,
To some a peg-top, or a ball;
No crackers, cannons, squibs, or rockets,
To blow their eyes up, or their pockets.

No drums to stun their Mother’s ear,
Nor swords to make their sisters fear;
But pretty books to store their mind
With knowledge of each various kind.

But where I found the children naughty,
In manners rude, in temper haughty,
Thankless to parents, liars, swearers,
Boxers, or cheats, or base tale-bearers,

I left a long, black, birchen rod,
Such as the dread command of God
Directs a Parent’s hand to use

When virtue’s path his sons refuse.

Tradition #1: Santa Claus

A Santa that I can believe in.

As a kid, you invariably get to the age when other kids no longer believe in Santa Claus, and you go and ask your parents if he is real.  I remember doing this when I was about 7 or 8 years old and my mother pulling down a book of Christmas Traditions and reading to my sister and me the story of Virginia O’Hanlon.  To this day, I still love this story, and it was one of our Christmas traditions for my mom to read it to us when we were kids.  It is more about the spirit of Christmas instead of “Is there a Santa Claus?”, but it is beautifully written and my favorite editorial of all-time.  We always have to keep in mind that we should not be “affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.”  Over a hundred years later, Mr. Church’s words still ring true.

Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York’s Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.

“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
“Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
“Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?



VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

Francis Pharcellus Church

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

NOTE:  First of all, if you read this blog you most certainly believe in faeries.  As gay men, we’ve been called faeries for many years. And many times I have seen ” fairies dancing on the lawn” or at least in bars. And if anyone takes offense to my little endnote, well then shame on you.  If we can’t laugh at ourselves, then who the hell can we laugh at.

Family Christmas Traditions

Christmas with the immediate family (Mom, Dad, my sister, and I) in my house was a very special occasion.  Until my sister got married, it always took place on December 23, because we had two family Christmas gatherings on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning was for Santa Claus and breakfast with my grandparents.  Christmas Day was always a day when the family just spent together.  We probably all have certain family holiday traditions.  Over the next three days, I want to tell you about my family’s traditions.  The posts for the 23rd, 24th, and 25th are all about things that my mother read to us as children, generally on the 23rd or the night before.

Our dinner on the 23rd was always a special meal.  My mother used her fine china, crystal, and silverware only once a year, and this was the night.  My mother prepared the meal, which began with shrimp cocktails and salads, then we usually had Cornish game hens, various vegetables, and real yeast rolls.  Dessert was usually a homemade cheesecake.  While my mother prepared the meal, my sister and I were to set the table.  She would get out the Auburn Extension Cookbook which had the diagram above for setting the table, and my sister and I had to have it just perfect.  We always had the meal by candlelight, and when we were finished, we then were able to sit in the living room, which was next to the dining room, and open presents (These were the presents that Santa was not going to bring us; Santa always brought the big stuff).

Since my sister has been married, we have move this tradition to Christmas Night, which seems more appropriate anyway.  So what family traditions do you cherish the memories of?