Author Archives: Joe

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces.

Pic of the Day


O Christmas Tree 🎄

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
How lovely are thy branches…

…or so the song goes. I decided to take the advice of Patrick, VRC-Do You!, and Chris and put up some small Christmas decorations. I got a small artificial tree. I tried a real tree a few years ago. A real tree is just too messy, and Isabella kept trying to eat it. If I could get a tree made out of catnip, she’d leave it alone. She seems to hate catnip. Anyway, I got a three-foot tree that I put on a little table near my dining room window, well it would be the dining room if I ever actually bought a dining room table. By the time I got ready to buy a table and chairs, the pandemic began, and all the secondhand stores were closed. In essence, I decorated my living room and dining room with a few decorations. It’s not much, but I am not going to put too much effort into decorating just for me and Isabella. I did not get a poinsettia; they are poisonous to cats. I could have gotten a fake one, but I’ve never liked them. Back when I taught, one of the parents used to give me a huge poinsettia every Christmas. All they ever did was die and get ugly. So, a few artificial decorations will suffice. I did put a wreath on the door.

By the way, there are four Star Trek elements on and around the tree. Can you spot them in the picture below? I couldn’t resist hanging a few of my Hallmark Star Trek ornaments on the tree. I’ve been collecting them for years, but at the moment, I can’t remember where the others are, or you’d see more on the tree. I think my other ornaments are in Alabama.

While this Christmas will be a bit different, I hope we all have a wonderful holiday season.

Click below to see the answer to the above question.


Pic of the Day


Lullaby

Lullaby
By W. H. Auden – 1907-1973

Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While an abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit’s carnal ecstasy.

Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell,
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost,
All the dreaded cards foretell,
Shall be paid, but from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Not a kiss nor look be lost.

Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of welcome show
Eye and knocking heart may bless,
Find the mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness find you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.

W. H. Auden’s “Lullaby” is an example of a love poem, but there are several things worth noting about it. A lullaby is, of course, a song sung to soothe someone to sleep, especially a baby or young child. Immediately, in that famous opening line (“Lay your sleeping head, my love …”), Auden challenges our expectations of the lullaby: the person he addresses is a lover rather than a child, and he is addressing him while he is already asleep. Auden was a gay man when being gay was still criminalized in Britain, and the person Auden is addressing is another man. When Auden wrote “Lullaby,” he was trying to seduce the composer Benjamin Britten (who was also gay). Auden and Britten collaborated on several projects together, although it seems probable that Auden never managed to effect a partnership with Britten on a romantic plane. 

Whether or not Britten was the intended recipient, Auden challenges some of the conventions of a love poem in “Lullaby.” In that second line, He describes himself as “faithless,” suggesting he is someone who has lost faith in “love” as an idea but is nevertheless committed to living in this moment with his beloved. “Faithless” summons its opposite, “faithful,” which is confirmed when the poet says that both certainty and “fidelity” disappear at “the stroke of midnight.” This line suggests this might only be a casual fling between two lovers, but a fling whose passions are being intensely felt at the moment in time that the poem relates to us.

In the first stanza, Auden addresses his lover as he sleeps with his head on Auden’s arm. Auden knows that beauty is fleeting: time and illness destroy the beauty of youth, and death soon arrives to prove that the young are not young (“the child”) for long. Our life span is soon over. But what matters is the here and now. Auden then addresses someone else, a higher power, and asks that this “living creature” be allowed to remain in his arms until morning. Auden is aware that the “creature” he loves is but a mere mortal. His lover is not perfect but is “guilty’ of man’s sins and moral flaws. However, to him, his lover is beautiful.

In the second stanza, Auden turns to more supernatural and divine ideas of love. The syntax and punctuation are more complex here, but Auden is saying that lovers who lie upon the “slope” or hill of Venus are sent a “grave” vision by the goddess, who is a vision of “universal” love. Auden uses the word “grave” because it is deeply felt and deeply serious. For the poet, love is one of the most essential things in our lives. Even the “hermit,” living alone and cut off from society, is affected by love: the “glaciers” and “rocks” of his stone-cold heart can also be thawed and warmed by love’s power.

In the third stanza, Auden continues to elevate “this night” as significant and filled with meaning for him. Certainty and fidelity are both fleeting and pass like the tolling of a bell. Auden knows that everything that has to be paid will be paid. But what matters is this night, and he wants to set to memory every moment of it. The reference to the “pedantic boring cry” of “fashionable madmen” is not fully understood but is probably, given the poem’s 1930s context, an allusion to Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, and other political leaders. In ‘The poem, “September 1, 1939,” Auden refers to Hitler as a “psychopathic god.” There’s also possibly a recollection of John Donne’s poem “The Sun Rising,” which begins with Donne lying in bed with his lover at the “break of day” and reprimanding the sun as a “saucy pedantic wretch” for shining through the curtains and telling him and his lover they have to get up.

In the final stanza of “Lullaby,” Auden continues the sentiment seen in the previous stanza in which all things must pass. He picks up on three things already explicitly mentioned: the “beauty” of his lover, the “stroke of midnight,” and the “vision” that Venus sends to lovers lying in post-coital bliss on her ancient hill. If morning must come—as he knows it must—Auden asks that it at least be the dawn of a day which offers hope and blessing to the two lovers. The poem is hopeful, but throughout, Auden remains aware of the fragility and impermanence of all human relationships. A person we care for deeply can be taken from us at any moment.


Pic of the Day


My Birthday

I turn 43 today. Having a birthday during a pandemic, especially when there is a surge of cases in your state, means there won’t be any celebrating with friends this year. I won’t be going out for drinks or dinner with friends, but I may go on my own to a restaurant called The Wayside. The restaurant was opened in 1918 and is a legend in central Vermont. Their breakfast is out of this world good, especially the pancakes, even if they do serve it with maple syrup. In my opinion, maple syrup isn’t thick enough to stand up to pancakes. It just makes pancakes soggy. The restaurant also had some pretty good food for lunch and dinner. It’s a roadside diner, but it has good food. Today will be a pretty nasty, rainy weather day, so if I go, I will get up and most likely go for breakfast. We’ll see what my mood is when I wake up.

Honestly, it doesn’t feel like there is much to be celebrating right now. At least Joe Biden won the election, and the Trump administration is beginning to cooperate with the transition. However, we still have about seven weeks until the inauguration, and I am afraid Trump can do a lot of damage (out of spite) between now and then. He’s already done tremendous damage over the last four years. But this is not a political post; this is a birthday post.

I don’t plan to have a cake. I rarely have birthday cake anyway. Last year, I had crème brûlée for dessert. Crème brûlée is my favorite dessert, and I’d rather have it than cake anyway. I could get crème brûlée from J. Morgan’s Steakhouse, but that place is so expensive, even the dessert would cost an arm and a leg. I also don’t even know if they are open for indoor dining. I will probably just stay at home and do a lot of nothing today. However, if I was going to have a cake, the cake below is the one I’d request. It looks yummy, LOL.


Pic of the Day


A Day of Sadness

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

— Revelation 21:4

Today marks five years since I lost a very dear friend in an automobile accident. He died the night before my birthday, and I received the news of his death on the night of my birthday. I was utterly devastated, and it took me a long time to recover from that devastation. He such a beautiful young man and had so much to live for after a hard beginning to life. His boyfriend was planning to propose on Christmas morning, and he was about to go back to graduate school. So much hope and promise were lost when he died. So, I tend to always get a little down especially this time of year. Birthdays should be joyous times, but there hasn’t been much joy in them in the last five years. There have been two exceptions to that rule. For my fortieth birthday, one of my coworkers took me for a weekend trip to Montreal, and we had a great time. Last year, I spent Thanksgiving and my birthday with Susan in Manhattan. She took me to see Chicago on Broadway, and we went to see the Stonewall Inn and the Freedom Tower. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving meal at Il Mulino on 20th Street in Manhattan and ate at the Italian restaurant Coppola’s for my birthday. It was such a wonderful and memorable trip. It had been the first time that I had not been consumed by sadness on my birthday in the years since my friend’s death. Yet, even with those happier times in Montreal and Manhattan, the loss of my friend is still ever-present in my mind, especially this time of year. This year, I am alone and missing him, and his friendship weighs heavily on my mind.

The friendship I speak of was not an ordinary friendship for me. It wasn’t romantic, as he had a very loving boyfriend, but it was a strong bond, a brotherly bond. I could confide in him anything. I don’t think another person on this earth has known me more completely than he did. I have a few wonderful friends that are still around, one in Texas and one in New York, but I guess I hold back on telling them everything for fear of opening my heart that way again to someone I might lose. The only other person I ever loved so deeply and felt so overwhelmed by sadness by losing was my Grandmama. She loved me unconditionally, but I suspect, had she known I was gay, there would have been conditions to her love. There were no such conditions with my friend, and I could be completely open and honest with him. His understanding gave me a self-confidence in myself that I’d never before felt. In 1 Samuel 16:7, God told Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” God was referring to David replacing Saul as King of Israel, but in a similar way, my friend saw not what my family and those around me saw, but he saw me differently. He saw me as I was with all my flaws and faults, yet he still loved me. I never had someone who understood me the way he did, especially one who loved me without conditions. Luke 12:2 says, “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” That is what our friendship was like. I revealed myself completely to him, and that was the first time I had ever done that so completely. I had come out to people, and I occasionally told people my insecurities, but I had never allowed someone to see the real me because of the fear of rejection.

My friend had suffered a troubled life, especially with his family, who rejected him for being gay. They didn’t even want to claim his body when he died, yet they did so to keep his friends from having any real closure with his death. They were mean-spirited and cruel, and it is that kind of hatred that many of us fear. I fear it from my own family. The difference is that my family did not entirely reject me, and they did not nearly beat me to death as his family had done to him. We both had faced a similar rejection, and we held on to each other for comfort. When that was all taken from me because of an automobile accident on an icy road late one night, I did not know how I could continue to live. I wanted to die with him. I had recently moved to Vermont, where I knew no one. I had very few people I could turn to for comfort; Susan was one of the few, and our friendship has grown tremendously since then. But, I’ll be honest, I did not want to go on living. I fell into the deepest depression of my life, and it took years for me to emerge from that depression. If it had not been for Susan, I’d doubt I’d have made it through that period of depression alive, and I will always be thankful to Susan for being there for me when I needed someone the most. As you might be able to tell from this post, I have not fully emerged from that depression. It still haunts me on days like today. I get stronger every year, but it still hurts. I try to remember the good times that we had in our friendship and not dwell on the loss, but on days like today, that is very hard.

Life brings so much tribulation and trouble, but it also brings many blessings and comfort as well. Pain and sorrow are sadly inevitable in this life, and when they happen, it can be the only thing that dominates our thoughts. However, Christians can look beyond suffering and sorrow to the day we rise into Heaven, when “that mortality might be swallowed up of life.” (2 Corinthians 5:4). As the above verse from Revelation says, tears, death, mourning, crying, and pain will be noticeably absent from Heaven. Pain, sorrow, mourning, the passing of friends and loved ones, and dying are all harsh realities of this life, but they will be over once and for all when we reach Heaven. The song “When We All Get to Heaven” has the following refrain:

When we all get to heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!

Revelation 20 tells us that all wrongs will be made right on the Day of Judgment, all sin will be separated, and suffering of all kinds will be gone. It will be the day when good is victorious over evil. We may not understand why we have to endure some of the things in life that cause such heartache and pain, but let us never forget that the promise of eternal life is greater than our limited view. While I don’t want to die anytime soon, I do look forward to the day when I can again see my loved ones who have passed away. I want to see my friend and my beloved Grandmama. While I may be sad this time of year, I just remember that Jesus is there to help us when we are troubled. Whether it is today or tomorrow, He will wipe away the tears from all of our eyes.

The reunion of loved ones who have passed away always reminds me of the following song and offers comfort: 

In the Morning of Joy
Words: Adalyn Evilsizer (1895)
Music: Anthony J. Showalter

When the trumpet shall sound,
And the dead shall arise,
And the splendors immortal
Shall envelop the skies;
When the Angel of Death
Shall no longer destroy,
And the dead shall awaken
In the morning of joy:

In the morning of joy,
In the morning of joy,
We’ll be gathered to glory,
In the morning of joy;
In the morning of joy,
In the morning of joy,
We’ll be gathered to glory,
In the morning of joy.

When the King shall appear
In His beauty on high,
And shall summon His children
To the courts of the sky;
Shall the cause of the Lord
Have been all your employ,
That your soul may be spotless
In the morning of joy?

In the morning of joy,
In the morning of joy,
We’ll be gathered to glory,
In the morning of joy;
In the morning of joy,
In the morning of joy,
We’ll be gathered to glory,
In the morning of joy.

O the bliss of that morn,
When our loved ones we meet!
With the songs of the ransomed
We each other shall greet,
Singing praise to the Lamb,
Thro’ eternity’s years,
With the past all forgotten
With its sorrows and tears.

In the morning of joy,
In the morning of joy,
We’ll be gathered to glory,
In the morning of joy;
In the morning of joy,
In the morning of joy,
We’ll be gathered to glory,
In the morning of joy.


Pic of the Day


Moment of Zen: The Iron Bowl

ROLL TIDE ROLL!

🐘 vs.🐅

I do love a sexy football player.