Monthly Archives: November 2015

A Good Samaritan 

  

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”  Luke 10:29-37 (NRSV)

I think everyone is aware of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s one of the most beloved parables in the Bible. Sadly though, there aren’t enough real Good Samaritans in life. I want to share a story of on particular Good Samaritan. I read this story and cried. She came from such an unlikely place, but she was an angel, a Godsend, and a Good Samaritan to those who needed her, especially when so many others passed them by.

Ruth Coker Burks, the cemetery angel

It’s hard to convince people these days that one lonely person can budge the vast stone wheel of apathy. The truth, though, is the same as it ever was: One pair of willing hands might inspire thousands or millions to push. That’s the way the world is changed: hand by hand.

One person who found the courage to push the wheel is Ruth Coker Burks. Now a grandmother living a quiet life in Rogers, in the mid-1980s Burks took it as a calling to care for people with AIDS at the dawn of the epidemic, when survival from diagnosis to death was sometimes measured in weeks. For about a decade, between 1984 and the mid-1990s and before better HIV drugs and more enlightened medical care for AIDS patients effectively rendered her obsolete, Burks cared for hundreds of dying people, many of them gay men who had been abandoned by their families. She had no medical training, but she took them to their appointments, picked up their medications, helped them fill out forms for assistance, and talked them through their despair. Sometimes she paid for their cremations. She buried over three dozen of them with her own two hands, after their families refused to claim their bodies. For many of those people, she is now the only person who knows the location of their graves.

So much of the history of AIDS in America died with the people who lived it. What is left has often been shoved into the cabinet of Times Best Forgotten. Here, though, is a story from those days. It’s a story about what courage can do.

The red door

It started in 1984, in a hospital hallway.

Burks, now 55, was 25 and a young mother when she went to University Hospital in Little Rock to help care for a friend who had cancer. Her friend eventually went through five surgeries, Burks said, so she spent a lot of time that year parked in hospitals. That’s where she was the day she noticed the door, one with “a big, red bag” over it. It was a patient’s room. “I would watch the nurses draw straws to see who would go in and check on him. It’d be: ‘Best two out of three,’ and then they’d say, ‘Can we draw again?’ ”

She knew what it probably was, even though it was early enough in the epidemic for the disease to be called GRID — gay-related immune deficiency — instead of AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). She had a gay cousin in Hawaii and had asked him about the stories of a gay plague after seeing a report on the news. He’d told her, “That’s just the leather guys in San Francisco. It’s not us. Don’t worry.” Still, in her concern for him, she’d read everything she could find about the disease over the previous months, hoping he was right.
Whether because of curiosity or — as she believes today — some higher power moving her, Burks eventually disregarded the warnings on the red door and snuck into the room. In the bed was a skeletal young man, wasted to less than 100 pounds. He told her he wanted to see his mother before he died.

“I walked out and [the nurses] said, ‘You didn’t go in that room, did you?’ ” Burks recalled. “I said, ‘Well, yeah. He wants his mother.’ They laughed. They said, ‘Honey, his mother’s not coming. He’s been here six weeks. Nobody’s coming. Nobody’s been here, and nobody’s coming.’ ”

Unwilling to take no for an answer, Burks wrangled a number for the young man’s mother out of one of the nurses, then called. She was only able to speak for a moment before the woman on the line hung up on her.

“I called her back,” Burks said. “I said, ‘If you hang up on me again, I will put your son’s obituary in your hometown newspaper and I will list his cause of death.’ Then I had her attention.”

Her son was a sinner, the woman told Burks. She didn’t know what was wrong with him and didn’t care. She wouldn’t come, as he was already dead to her as far as she was concerned. She said she wouldn’t even claim his body when he died. It was a hymn Burks would hear again and again over the next decade: sure judgment and yawning hellfire, abandonment on a platter of scripture. Burks estimates she worked with more than a thousand people dying of AIDS over the course of the years. Of those, she said, only a handful of families didn’t turn their backs on their loved ones. Whether that was because of religious conviction or fear of the virus, Burks still doesn’t know.

Burks hung up the phone, trying to decide what she should tell the dying man. “I didn’t know what to tell him other than, ‘Your mom’s not coming. She won’t even answer the phone,’ ” she said. There was nothing to tell him but the truth.

“I went back in his room,” she said, “and when I walked in, he said, ‘Oh, momma. I knew you’d come,’ and then he lifted his hand. And what was I going to do? What was I going to do? So I took his hand. I said, ‘I’m here, honey. I’m here.’ ”

Burks said it was probably the first time he’d been touched by a person not wearing two pairs of gloves since he arrived at the hospital. She pulled a chair to his bedside, and talked to him, and held his hand. She bathed his face with a cloth, and told him she was there. “I stayed with him for 13 hours while he took his last breath on earth,” she said.

She hasn’t talked much about that day until recently. People always ask her why she wasn’t afraid. “I have no idea,” she said. “The thought of being afraid never occurred to me until after I was already deep into the AIDS crisis. I just asked God, ‘If this is what you want me to do, just please don’t let me or my daughter get it.’ And He didn’t.”

‘Someday, all of this is going to be yours’

Ruth Coker Burks’ family came to Garland County in 1826. She was born in Hot Springs, and was a childhood friend of Bill Clinton’s. While Clinton was in the White House, she said, they wrote back and forth, with Burks filling him in on all the hometown gossip from time to time.
Since at least the late 1880s, Burks’ kin have been buried in Files Cemetery, a half-acre of red dirt on top of a hill above Central Avenue in Hot Springs. Drivers using Files Road as a cut-through to avoid the traffic on Central zip past the graveyard without even seeing it. If you stand in the right spot among the old, mossy tombstones in the winter, you can see a sliver of Lake Hamilton, glimmering like a cut sapphire through a gap in the trees.

When Burks was a girl, she said, her mother got in a final, epic row with Burks’ uncle. To make sure he and his branch of the family tree would never lie in the same dirt as the rest of them, Burks said, her mother quietly bought every available grave space in the cemetery: 262 plots. They visited the cemetery most Sundays after church when she was young, Burks said, and her mother would often sarcastically remark on her holdings, looking out over the cemetery and telling her daughter: “Someday, all of this is going to be yours.”

“I always wondered what I was going to do with a cemetery,” she said. “Who knew there’d come a time when people didn’t want to bury their children?”

Files Cemetery is where Burks buried the ashes of the man she’d seen die, after a second call to his mother confirmed she wanted nothing to do with him, even in death. “No one wanted him,” she said, “and I told him in those long 13 hours that I would take him to my beautiful little cemetery, where my daddy and grandparents were buried, and they would watch out over him.”

Burks had to contract with a funeral home in Pine Bluff for the cremation. It was the closest funeral home she could find that would even touch the body. She said she paid for the cremation out of her savings.

The ashes were returned to her in a cardboard box. She went to a friend at Dryden Pottery in Hot Springs, who gave her a chipped cookie jar for an urn. Then she went to Files Cemetery and used a pair of posthole diggers to excavate a hole in the middle of her father’s grave.

“I knew that Daddy would love that about me,” she said, “and I knew that I would be able to find him if I ever needed to find him.” She put the urn in the hole and covered it over. She prayed over the grave, and it was done.

Over the next few years, as she became one of the go-to people in the state when it came to caring for those dying with AIDS, Burks would bury over 40 people in chipped cookie jars in Files Cemetery. Most of them were gay men whose families would not even claim their ashes.

“My daughter would go with me,” Burks said. “She had a little spade, and I had posthole diggers. I’d dig the hole, and she would help me. I’d bury them and we’d have a do-it-yourself funeral. I couldn’t get a priest or a preacher. No one would even say anything over their graves.”

She believes the number was 43, but she isn’t sure. Somewhere in her attic, in a box, among the dozens of yellowed day planners she calls her Books of the Dead, filled with the appointments, setbacks and medications of people 30 years gone, there is a list of names.

Burks said she always made a last effort to reach out to families before she put the urns in the ground. “I tried every time,” she said. “They hung up on me. They cussed me out. They prayed like I was a demon on the phone and they had to get me off — prayed while they were on the phone. Just crazy. Just ridiculous.”

She learned to say the funerals herself, after being rebuffed by preachers and priests too many times. Even so, she said she never doubted what she was doing. “It never made me question my faith at all,” she said. “I knew that what I was doing was right, and I knew that I was doing what God asked me. It wasn’t a voice from the sky. I knew deep in my soul.”

Elephant

After she cared for the dying man at University Hospital, people started calling, asking for her help. “They just started coming,” she said. “Word got out that there was this kind of wacko woman in Hot Springs who wasn’t afraid. They would tell them, ‘Just go to her. Don’t come to me. Here’s the name and number. Go.’… I was their hospice. Their gay friends were their hospice. Their companions were their hospice.”

Before long, she was getting referrals from rural hospitals all over the state. Financing her work through donations and sometimes her own pocket, she’d take patients to their appointments, help them get assistance when they could no longer work, help them get their medicines, and try to cheer them up when the depression was dark as a pit. She said many pharmacies wouldn’t handle prescriptions for AIDS drugs like AZT, and there was fear among even those who would. Somewhere, she said, she has a large coffee can full of 30 year-old pens. Once pharmacy clerks learned she was working with AIDS patients, she said, many of them would insist she keep the pen after signing a check. “They didn’t want it in their building,” she said. “They would come out with a can of Lysol and spray me out the door.”

She’d soon stockpiled what she called an “underground pharmacy” in her house. “I didn’t have any narcotics, but I had AZT, I had antibiotics,” she said. “People would die and leave me all of their medicines. I kept it because somebody else might not have any.”

Burks said the financial help they gave patients — from burial expenses to medications to rent for those unable to work — couldn’t have happened without the support of the gay clubs around the state, particularly Little Rock’s Discovery. “They would twirl up a drag show on Saturday night and here’d come the money,” she said. “That’s how we’d buy medicine, that’s how we’d pay rent. If it hadn’t been for the drag queens, I don’t know what we would have done.”

Norman Jones is the owner of Discovery. Opened in 1979, the club once served a primarily gay clientele, though now the crowd is often mixed. He’s old enough to remember the fear of the early days of the epidemic. In 1988, Jones helped found the charity group Helping People with AIDS, with which Burks worked. The group is still around, helping those with the disease. “She worked with us for several years there,” Jones said. “She went out and did home visits, and she’d work determining who would qualify for the money.”

Jones said that as AIDS moved into Arkansas, he and the club’s employees decided to do something to help. “The impersonators and the bartenders that worked at the club and I decided that we’d start doing once-a-year benefits to start a fund called Helping People with AIDS,” he said. “We started raising money every year and we still do so today, over 25 years later.” Jones said the money generated by the fund, as well as a percentage of the club’s sales, have helped the AIDS Foundation and other groups assisting those with the disease.

After AIDS came to Arkansas, Jones said, he started to see the changes almost immediately. Even a rumor that someone had HIV could make their friends shun them. “We had so many people who were affected by it when it first hit that it was like, wham!” he said. “It was like you were being thrown up against a brick wall. Everyone said, ‘Don’t touch them. Don’t talk to them.’ ” Even something as slight as losing a few pounds was enough to make people afraid to associate with a person, Jones said. The fear was rampant. “It made everyone feel aware that something was happening out there,” he said. “We didn’t know what was happening, but there was a fear of it.”

Burks’ stories from that time border on nightmarish, with her watching one person after another waste away before her eyes. She would sometimes go to three funerals a day in the early years, including the funerals of many people she’d befriended while fighting the disease. Many of her memories seem to have blurred together into a kind of terrible shade. Others are told with perfect, minute clarity.

There was the man whose family insisted he be baptized in a creek in October, three days before he died, to wash away the sin of being gay; whose mother pressed a spoonful of oatmeal to his lips pleading, “Roger, eat. Please eat, Roger. Please, please, please” until Burks gently took the spoon and bowl from her; who died at 6-foot-6 and 75 pounds; whose aunts came to his parents’ house after the funeral in plastic suits and yellow gloves to double-bag his clothes and scrub everything, even the ceiling fan, with bleach.

She recalled the odd sensation of sitting with dying people while they filled out their own death certificate, because Burks knew she wouldn’t be able to call on their families for the required information. “We’d sit and fill it out together,” she said. “Can you imagine filling out your death certificate before you die? But I didn’t have that information. I wouldn’t have their mother’s maiden name or this, that or the other. So I’d get a pizza and we’d have pizza and fill out the death certificate.”

She remembered the Little Rock man who “had so much fluid on his lungs that he couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t talk, and he would gag when he was trying to talk. His mother, we had called and called and called. … He wanted to talk to his mother and wanted me to try again. I got the answering machine, and I just handed the phone to him. He cried and gagged. It was excruciating listening to him ask his mother if she’d come to the hospital. She never came. The day before the funeral, she called and asked if she could come to the funeral. He’s buried in [Files] cemetery.”

She recalled the mother who called Burks up and demanded to know how much longer it would be before her son died. ” ‘I just want to know, when is he going to die?’ ” Burks recalled the woman asking. “‘We have to get on with our lives, and he’s holding up our lives. We can’t go on with our lives until he dies. He’s ruined our lives, and we don’t want people up here to know [he has AIDS], so how long do you think he’s going to stay here?’ Like it was a punishment to her.

Billy, however, is the one who hit her hardest, and the one she remembers most clearly of all. He was one of the youngest she ever cared for, a female impersonator in his early 20s. He was beautiful, she said, perfect and fine-boned. She still has one of Billy’s dresses in her closet up in Rogers: a tiny, flame-red designer number, intricate as an orchid. It was Billy’s mother, she said, who called up to ask how much longer it would be before they could get on with their lives.

As Billy’s health declined, Burks accompanied him to the mall in Little Rock to quit his job at a store there. Afterward, she said, he wept, Burks holding the frail young man as shoppers streamed around them. “He broke down just sobbing in the middle of the mall,” she said. “I just stood there and held him until he quit sobbing. People were looking and pointing and all that, but I couldn’t care less.”

Once, a few weeks before Billy died — he weighed only 55 pounds, the lightest she ever saw, light as a feather, so light that she was able to lift his body from the bed with just her forearms — Burks had taken Billy to an appointment in Little Rock. Afterward, they were driving around aimlessly, trying to get his spirits up. She often felt like crying in those days, she said, but she couldn’t let herself. She had to be strong for them.

“He was so depressed. It was horrible,” she said. “We were driving by the zoo, and somebody was riding an elephant. He goes: ‘You know, I’ve never ridden an elephant.’ I said: ‘Well, we’ll fix that.’ ” And she turned the car around. Somewhere, in the boxes that hold all her terrible memories, there’s a picture of the two of them up on the back of the elephant, Ruth Coker Burks in her heels and dress, Billy with a rare smile.

Two or more

When it was too much, she said, she’d go fishing. And it wasn’t all terrible. While Burks got to see the worst of people, she said, she was also privileged to see people at their best, caring for their partners and friends with selflessness, dignity and grace. She said that’s why she’s been so happy to see gay marriage legalized all over the country.

“I watched these men take care of their companions, and watch them die,” she said. “I’ve seen them go in and hold them up in the shower. They would hold them while I washed them. They would carry them back to the bed. We would dry them off and put lotion on them. They did that until the very end, knowing that they were going to be that person before long. Now, you tell me that’s not love and devotion? I don’t know a lot of straight people that would do that.”

Sometimes, she would listen to the confessions of the dying. “Whatever they wanted to tell their God, I would help them tell their God,” she said. “I figured, if the religious people weren’t going to do it, someone has to. If God wanted me to do this, then surely I can say: Yes, you’re going to heaven. … The Bible says that if you’re two or more, and you ask God for forgiveness, He will forgive you. There were two of us, so that was the best I could do.”

In all the years she worked with AIDS patients, she said, she never wore gloves unless the patients had broken skin. It was touching them, she believes, that kept those she cared for alive longer than others. By the 1990s, experts in the field were beginning to take note.

“My [HIV] patients lived two years longer than the national average,” Burks said. “They would send people from all over the world to the National Institutes of Health, they would send them to the CDC, and they would send them to me. They sent them to me so they could see what I was doing that helped them live. I think it was because I loved them. They were like my children, even though I was burying people my age.”

Burks helped care for Raymond Harwood, a Hot Springs resident who died in 1994 at age 42. His father, Jim Harwood, said Burks met Raymond through an outreach program sponsored by the local Catholic Church. Jim recalled Burks as a very caring person. “She was absolutely sweet,” Harwood said. “One of the kindest, sweetest people I’ve ever known.”

God, Harwood said, has a hand in everything, so He had a hand in bringing Burks into their lives. Harwood said he was surprised to hear from Burks that some parents abandoned their children when they were diagnosed with AIDS.

“I wasn’t brought up that way,” Harwood said. “Are you going to desert your son? I don’t care what he did. He could have gone out and murdered people. He’s still your son. You may not like what he does, but you love him.”

Back to God

Ruth Coker Burks had a stroke five years ago, early enough in her life that she can’t help but believe that the stress of the bad old days had something to do with it. After the stroke, she had to relearn everything: to talk, to feed herself, to read and write. It’s probably a miracle she’s not buried in Files Cemetery herself.

After better drugs, education, understanding and treatment made her work obsolete, she moved to Florida for several years, where she worked as a funeral director and a fishing guide. When Bill Clinton was elected president, she served as a White House consultant on AIDS education.

A few years ago, she moved to Rogers to be closer to her grandchildren. In 2013, she went to bat for three foster children who were removed from the elementary school at nearby Pea Ridge after administrators heard that one of them might be HIV positive. Burks said she couldn’t believe she was still dealing with the same, knee-jerk fears in the 21st century.

The work she and others did in the 1980s and 1990s has mostly been forgotten, partly because so many of those she knew back then have died. She’s not the only one who did that work, but she’s one of the few who survived. And so she has become the keeper of memory.

She was surprised in recent months when a producer with the oral history project StoryCorps reached out to her, asking her to tell her story on tape. Part of that interview was eventually broadcast on National Public Radio. She talked to the BBC this week, and other requests for interviews keep coming. She honestly seems a little shocked that anyone cares after all these years.

She talks of those days like an old soldier, tears only touching her eyes when she speaks of Billy, or her father’s grave, or how she sometimes wonders if her choice to help AIDS patients as a young woman, and the ostracism that brought, may have kept her from being everything she could have been. Still, she clearly sees those years as the time when she had a mission, maybe even one ordained by a higher power. Too, she said, she loved and believes she was loved by the people whose lives she touched — every one. Even as they were dying, they showed her what bravery is, and brought joy into her life. “They were good days,” she said, “because I was blessed with handing these people back to God.”

She hasn’t been back to Files Cemetery since her stroke. While she made sure it was kept up back when she lived in Hot Springs, it appeared to have been let go a bit when the reporter visited in late December, some of the tombstones pushed over and broken, the snag of a dead oak left to rot among the graves. Even without knowing the story of the place, it might have been downright spooky if not for the constant stream of traffic cruising by at 10 miles an hour over the speed limit.

Before she’s gone, she said, she’d like to see a memorial erected in the cemetery. Something to tell people the story. A plaque. A stone. A listing of the names of the unremembered dead that lie there.

“Someday,” she said, “I’d love to get a monument that says: This is what happened. In 1984, it started. They just kept coming and coming. And they knew they would be remembered, loved and taken care of, and that someone would say a kind word over them when they died.”


Moment of Zen: Boxers or Briefs

  
  
Or, nothing at all?

  
Or, anything goes?

  


Do I Sound Gay?

  
About a year and a half ago, I wrote another post with this same title: Do I Sound Gay? It was about a documentary that had a Kickstarter campaign to get it produced. I’ve wanted to see it since I first read about it. Wednesday night, it came up on my Netflix suggestions so I watched it. David Thorpe made this documentary about his journey to sound more “straight.” He went to a speech therapist, and talked to celebrities and friends about “gay voices.” It was really quite interesting.

I’ve talked about my voice before, and I’ve always been self conscious of it. After watching this documentary, I honestly think that I am less self conscious than I used to be. One of the things that this documentary talks about is what is the so-called “gay voice.” Speech experts said that it is basically made up of five characteristics.

  1. Gay men tend to pronounce their vowels more clearly.
  2. We also send to draw out our vowels longer.
  3. Also, our Ss are longer, often giving us the stereotypical lisp.
  4. We pronounce our Ls longer.
  5. Gay men overarticulating Ps Ts and Ks.

One of the things that many gay men who were considered to have gay voices had speech impediments when they were younger. Some had speech therapy, others like myself did not. Having a lisp or speech impediment caused many gay men to be more precise in their speech. More masculine speech tends to be less articulate. Of course the deepness of someone’s voice also plays a factor in this. Upper class voices are considered more gay, which is a stereotype from the dandies in old movies. Basically, Thorpe came to the realization that sounding educated, cosmopolitan and refines equals the gay voice. 

So, why is the gay voice derided by hetero and homosexual alike? One it is seen as more feminine. Gay men say they want a “man,” if they wanted a woman they’d be straight. Also, those dandies in old movies were either villains or comic relief. They were not characters to be admired. Then you have what Disney did for the gay voice. Disney used the “gay voice” for its male villains. Think of the voices of Captain Hook (Peter Pan), Jafar (Alladin), Prince John (Robin Hood), Professor Ratigan (The Great Mouse Detective), and Scar (The Lion King). Each of these characters is portrayed with what we would often consider the exaggerated stereotypical gay voice. No wonder we hate our own voices.

What I found most interesting is that David Thorpe is a fellow southerner, from Columbia, South Carolina. When he went to the speech therapist, one of the things she tried to do is to remove the last vestiges of his southern accent. I think often gay southerners have it worse because we do draw out our words, we do overarticulate, and we are more precise in our language. And if you think of any southern gentleman in a comedic role, he has the gay voice. I do not want to lose my southern accent, and besides, my accent is much more noticeable than my “gay voice” up here in Vermont.

What did I learn from watching “Do I Sound Gay?” I learned to be proud of who I am and how I sound. I fought hard to get to a place in my life where I wasn’t constantly trying to hide my sexuality. Therefore, if people perceive me as having a gay voice, well, so be it. At this point, fuck them if they can’t accept me the way that I am.


Getting Ready 

  
Right now as I post this, I’m getting ready for work. If either of these guys were helping me, I’d surely be late. Anyway, I had a post I’d planned to write today, but I got engrossed in catching up with How to Get Away with Murder in time for its midseason finale, and I didn’t get it written. When I finished watching that, I went to bed early. Have a great day, and I plan to post what I think will be an interesting post tomorrow, and I hope it will gain a lot of comments. Until then…


Fascinating Picture 

  
While I know nothing about this picture for sure, I am pretty sure of a few things. First, these men are from the early 20th century, most likely close to the time of the First World War. There uniforms are the uniforms that the US Army used between 1902-1926 as their winter service uniforms, at least the darker color of the shirts suggest that it is winter uniform as opposed to the lighter colored summer uniform. By the looks of the pins on their collars, I would say that they are part of a New York National Guard unit, but the picture isn’t clear enough to tell me what units. Furthermore, they seem to be very close to one another, good friends or possibly more, though they could just be brothers. One thing for certain, they were very handsome men, especially the first one on the left.

I do wish I knew the story behind this photograph. What do you think the story is?


Edna St Vincent Millay

 

Edna St. Vincent Millay was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry. She was openly bisexual and had affairs with other women and married men. When she finally married, hers was an open marriage. Her 1920 poetry collection A Few Figs From Thistles drew controversy for its novel exploration of female sexuality. She was one of the earliest and strongest voices for what became known as feminism. One of the recurring themes of her poetry was that men might use her body, but not possess her or have any claim over her. (And perhaps that their desire for her body gave her the upper hand in relationships.)

I, Being Born a Woman, and Distressed
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I, being born a woman, and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body’s weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, this poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn with pity — let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.

Love Is Not All
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Love is not all: It is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain,
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
and rise and sink and rise and sink again.
Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
pinned down by need and moaning for release
or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It may well be. I do not think I would.

Millay is not just another penner of sonnets. Her sonnets sparkle with life and lust amid the foreshadowing of death. She also has an interesting quality of resolve: she seems willing to give herself to men, but not to give herself away. If she is playing games, she is playing them knowingly, and probably understands the rules better than her partners.


Interesting Penis Facts

  

Here are 10 fascinating facts you probably didn’t know about penises. With any luck, they’ll help you to appreciate them even more than you already do.

10. The etymology for the word “penis”

The word “penis” comes from the Latin word for “tail.”

“Penis” was not adopted into the English language until the 17th century. Prior to that, a penis was referred to as a “yard.”

9. The world’s largest penis on record…

The largest erect penis ever to be medically verified measured 13.5 inches long and 6.25 inches in circumference. It belongs to an American bisexual man named Jonah Cardeli Falcon. His penis is 9.5 inches when flaccid and 13.5 inches when erect.

But having the world’s biggest penis isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

“When I meet people they find it hard to look me in the eye, they just see what’s in my trousers,” Falcon has said. “It’s become a real problem.”

8. The average penis size…

Don’t let Jonah Cardeli Falcon make you feel self conscious about the size of your dong. According to the Journal of Sexual Medicine, the average American man’s penis is 5.6 inches long when erect.

That means there’s a whole lot of liars on Grindr, Manhunt and Adam4Adam.

7. Self pleasure

It is estimated by Men’s Health that 1 in 400 men are flexible enough to perform oral sex on themselves. Don’t ask us where this statistic came from.

6. Some babies are born with two penises.

Diphallia, also known as penile duplication, is when a child is born with two penises. It is a rare condition that affects one in every 5-6 million males.

Juan Baptista dos Santos is probably the most famous man to suffer from diphallia. (He also had a third leg.) He was born in Portugal in 1863. Both of his peckers were said to have been fully functional — meaning he could urinate and ejaculate from each.
Juan is said to be have been a man of “animal passion,” who would have sex with both of his penises, finishing with one, then continuing with the other.

Sounds pretty incredible. Just imagine the kind of three-ways he could have.

5. Yes, it’s possible to break your penis.

Penile fractures affect around 200 Americans each year and usually happens during violent intercourse, sexual acrobatics, or aggressive masturbation.

During an erection, the penis becomes engorged with blood. If the penis is bent in a sudden or forceful manner during this time, the trauma can rupture the lining of one of the two cylinders inside the penis, known as the corpus cavernosum. This is usually accompanied by a cracking sound, followed by severe bruising and swelling.

Sounds awful.

4. The brain is not needed to ejaculate.

The order to ejaculate comes from the spinal cord, not the brain. Who knew?

No wonder our timing is always off.

3. The volume, speed and calorie count of cum.

The average man shoots between one and two teaspoons of cum per orgasm. Each wad contains approximately seven calories, and each spurt propels through the air at about 28 MPH. It is believed that the average man will ejaculate around 7,000 times in his life. Clearly that number does not apply to gay men, who exceed that number by the age of 20. Also, it means that the average man ejaculates 13-15 gallons of semen in his life time.

2. Erections.

The average male has 11 erections during the day and anywhere between three and nine during the night. Nighttime erections are called “nocturnal penile tumescence” and usually last between 25 and 35 minutes each.

Erections keep the penis in shape. “It has to be essentially exercised,” says Tobias Kohler, MD, an assistant professor of urology at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.

In other words: masturbate, masturbate, masturbate.

Without regular erections, penile tissue can lose elasticity and even shrink, making the penis as much as 1-2 centimeters shorter.

So, again: masturbate, masturbate, masturbate.

1. Myths debunked.
Contrary to popular belief, you cannot gauge the size of a man’s penis by the size of his feet. A study from the University College Hospitals in London measured the penises and feet of 104 men and found no correlation whatsoever.

You also can’t tell the size of a man’s penis by the size of his fingers or nose, or by what kind of vehicle he drives. There is no scientific data that supports any of these hypotheses.

So stop looking at the feet of guys you meet to figure out who you want to sleep with at the bar. It’s useless.

But size doesn’t matter anyway, right?
Source: http://www.queerty.com/10-fascinating-facts-you-probably-didnt-know-about-penises-20131123

  


Comfort in Times of Tragedy

  

Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. — 1 Thessalonians 5:11

My thoughts and prayers are with those in Paris. Such a senseless tragedy is shocking but becomes more and more frequent in here terror filled times. When a nation faces tragedy, how can it cope? And how do we work through the grief individually when we suddenly lose a loved one? There is hope for the future. You can find comfort and assurance!

We all desire to have a secure, predictable and peaceful world. But when tragedy strikes, we awaken to new realities. The terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday night no doubt shocked all of us. We suddenly realize our world’s—and our own—vulnerability. The Paris attacks killed 129, wounded 352, with 99 people in critical condition.

Most of us have lost loved ones at some time in our lives, whether through tragic accidents, disease or violence. How can we cope with such loss? Those who have lost loved ones need comforting. They need hope and reassurance. As Scripture says: “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). If you know someone who needs reassurance, give comfort. Let that person know you care. Give a hug or place a phone call. Provide help as you are able. When a loved one hurts, we suffer with that loved one. The Apostle Paul wrote that “there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26).

We can identify with those who suffer because we, most likely, have also suffered at one time or another in our own lives. We can empathize with their pain and with their loss. You can help others by giving comfort in times of tragedy. Our tears can demonstrate a deep concern for our friends and the victims of tragedy. God is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. When we share our sorrow with our Father in Heaven, He gives comfort. Several of the Psalms express King David’s sorrow as he shared his intimate feelings in prayer. You, too, can pray using the Psalms. David cried out in prayer to his God: “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; do not be silent at my tears; for I am a stranger with You, a sojourner, as all my fathers were” (Psalm 39:12). God answers prayer. David begins the very next Psalm exclaiming, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1). God will hear our cry as well. Notice this encouraging promise: “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5-6).

When we are honest with our feelings, and share them with God in Heaven, He promises to comfort us. Some of us struggle with the problem of evil in the world. We do not understand how an all-powerful God, who is love, can allow such evil in the world. God’s long-term plan of salvation takes this into account. There is a real devil who is out to destroy all humanity, and he uses human instruments to perpetrate death and destruction. Satan the Devil is out to thwart God’s plan. But he has failed—and will yet utterly fail.

How do you cope with tragedies? Pray with your whole heart. Scripture shows us that we are saved by His life: “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10). We need to seek our Savior with all our heart. In emphasizing the Ten Commandments, the Apostle Paul wrote: “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:10-11).

We need to give comfort to others in time of tragedy. We should contribute to their physical, spiritual and emotional needs. We ought to pray for the victims and their families, because we know our prayers can make a difference. “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Are you praying for the victims of terrorist attacks and other tragedies?

Not only do we comfort others and pray for others, but we ourselves can find comfort and assurance from our Father in Heaven who is called “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). Paul reminds us that we can take comfort in Scripture, and that we should give this comfort to others. The truth of the Bible can bring comfort in times of tragedy. We all need this inspiring, hope-filled truth.


Moment of Zen: Colton Haynes

   
    
    
 
I have probably used more pictures of Colton Haynes on this blog than any other single person. For me, he is close to perfection and these pictures just reinforce that because of his hairy chest. Usually, Colton is shaved smooth but it is so refreshing and hot to see him with some chest hair. Not to mention the fantasies that these pictures of him naked in bed evoke…


Kurt Marshall

  

Fifty years ago today, James Allen Rideout, Jr. was born in Waterville, Maine, about 200 miles away from where I currently live. Eighteen years later, he took on the name Kurt Marshall and began making gay pornographic movies. Marshall was in one of the most stunning and lusted after blondes to ever hit gay porn. In his gay porn career, he only made four movies: Sizing Up, The Other Side of Aspen II, Splash Shots, and Night Fall. Although he appeared in only those four films, the gay porn magazine Unzipped named him one of the top 100 gay porn stars of all time in 2006, author Leigh Rutledge listed him as the ninth most influential gay porn star of all time in 2000, and adult film magazine editor John Erich called him one of the “most beautiful” gay adult film stars of the 1980s. To say that Kurt Marshall was influential in gay porn would be an understatement, but he was a shooting star that burned brightly, and his light only shone for a short time.

You might ask why he was so influential to gay porn. In 1984, at the age of 18, he starred in his first film, Matt Sterling’s Sizing Up. His role was that of a star track and field athlete, which echoed his high school sports experiences. He graduated high school after lettering in swimming and track and field. A historian of gay erotic film called Sizing Up a “superior example of [a] gay porn video which make[s] gay men visible in places where they have mostly been invisible…” He made three films the following year, all for Falcon Studios, the highly influential The Other Side of Aspen II, Splash Shots, and Night Flight. The Other Side of Aspen II was Falcon’s first film which was shot entirely on video. Adult Video News (AVN) later rated the film as the ninth most innovative and influential gay porn film of all time in 2005. His second film, Splash Shots, was credited with making sex around the swimming pool a gay porn cliché.

Marshall was an advocate for gay rights, once telling an interviewer for Stallion Magazine in 1986, “I think to be gay is to be blessed. We have so much freedom, so many choices. This isn’t our moment to party or to think we’re going to stay young forever…maybe it’s our time to find someone to be safe with…to be happy with…” He was never sorry for what his porn career or for who he was, and went on to say, “One can only judge something with one’s own eyes – something’s only bad when it has a bad influence on you. If something turns out good, you can’t look back and think that it was wrong…” Like so many gay men of the 1980s, we all probably wish he could have found “someone to be safe with.”

Sadly Marshall succumbed to the problem that many gay porn actors of the past and today face. Marshall was an admitted drug user, mostly cocaine, which is probably why he was reported to be difficult to work with on shoots. He was sometimes called a “diva” but with those looks, I can understand why. As a gay porn actor of the 1980s and before the use of condoms (though most studios today are also forgoing condoms again, a trend that began long before PrEP). Marshall met the fate of most of the “pre-condom classic” porn actors, he tested positive for HIV in 1986. He came out to his family that same year and entered a drug rehabilitation program. He moved to San Diego, California in 1987, but returned to Los Angeles later that same year, and worked in the construction industry. He died on October 10, 1988, at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. The official cause of death was kidney failure due to substance abuse and AIDS.

I honestly can’t watch a gay porn of the 1970s or 1980s without wondering if those men survived the AIDS epidemic. Most of them did not. Gay porn has once again turned to condomless sex, but many now forgo the classic “money shot” for the far more risky “cream pie” shot. Even with the amount of STD screenings and testing gay porn studios do, the actors are still taking risks, and while PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is being touted as a prevention option for people who are at high risk of getting HIV, it is still not considered 100 percent. I will not be a hypocrite and say that I don’t enjoy watching condomless sex, but I also understand the risks of not using a condom. Many young people don’t. They did not live through the 1980s and 1990s, when nearly everyone knew someone who had died of AIDS. HIV is still a virus; it is still incurable; and it is still deadly. While people may live longer with advances that come with understanding the virus more effectively, the quality of life on HIV medications is still often difficult. I urge my younger readers especially to please use a condom. If you are going to forgo the condom, I hope that you are in a committed relationship and you have both been tested. I want us all to have long healthy, productive, and happy lives.