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.

Busy Week

Over the weekend, I finished a four week online class that I was taking. It took up a lot of my time, but I refused to work on it outside of work hours. It was a class for work, so for four weeks that was mostly what I worked on from my home office.  Now that the class is over, I have to catch up on everything else I’ve needed to do over the past four weeks. So, it’s been a pretty busy week. I’m still behind. I have to work on some outlines for a book proposal; I made a video for a Fourth of July program that the museum will put on our Facebook page Saturday; and I’ve got a thousand other little administrative tasks and emails to read, write, and answer. At least it’s giving me something to do while I work from home. I have been busier working from home than I ever was when I was in the office. There, I spent most of my days trying to figure out what I needed to do next. At home, there are lots of webinars and projects to keep me busy. 

I’m probably busy because of a stupid decision made by my idiot boss. He’s a fairly nice guy, just stupid and being a museum director is way over his head. He wasn’t even very good at his previous job at the museum. When we started working from home, we were told by the administration that we had to keep a log of what we were working on to make sure we were actually working from home. My idiot boss submitted to his boss an hourly work log for us to fill out each day. That was not what his boss had in mind at first. I’m pretty sure the administration just wanted a weekly report of what we did, not a blow-by-blow, hour-by-hour report. He’s such a colossal suck up, and he does all these stupid overly complicated things to impress his superiors. He just needs to man up and concentrate on doing his job and not trying to impress his bosses. No other department is doing hourly work logs. We are the only ones keeping such minute logs, and we have to justify all 40 hours that we work each week.

I love my job, but damn, I could have listed five projects and been done with it. One quarter of the time, I just write down stuff that only took me an hour to do, and I put it down for 2-4 hours. I do this because some things don’t take a full hour to complete and I’m not going to give a minute-by-minute report. I’m not in any hurry to get back to the museum every day. I actually like working from home, and there is almost nothing that I have to do at the office, especially when classes are virtual and we cannot have any public programs. Anyway, I just keep plugging along.


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Wear Your Damn Mask! 😷

Why can’t people just do what they are asked to do? Americans especially always try to buck the system. If they are asked to do something, they just ignore it if it inconveniences them. A lot of Americans have a problem with authority and don’t get me started with that. I saw it every day when I was teaching, and those are the people who are growing up and refusing to follow directions. Their parents never made them, because quite honestly, the parents didn’t want to follow the rules either. Too many people think they are the exception to the rule. Of course, it doesn’t help that we don’t have a president who will set the example. Instead of doing what he should do, the president makes the wearing of masks a political issue. He idiotically believes that those who wear masks are doing it in protest of him. We wear masks because we want to save our lives and the lives of other people. Fuck! It makes me so mad.

The U.S. is “not in total control” of the coronavirus pandemic and daily new cases could surpass 100,000 new infections per day if the outbreak continues on its current trend, White House health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday. Fauci told senators in a hearing held by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee that “I can’t make an accurate prediction but it’s going to be very disturbing,” The number of new cases reported each day in the U.S. is now outpacing that of April, when the virus rocked Washington state and parts of the Northeast, especially the New York City area.

Why can’t Americans (and you know which ones I’m talking about) quit being selfish and wear a fucking mask? 

News Flash: It’s not going to kill you to wear one, but it might kill you or someone you love not to wear one. Get with the fucking program!

P.S. I apologize for the strong language in this post, but I am just so angry about the issue of people not wearing masks.


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A Quick Message

Some of you have emailed me about various things the last few days. I wanted to let you know that I will respond, but I have been very busy in the last few weeks. Also, I am adjusting to my new migraine medicine. My neurologist switched me from Emgality, which was helping a little but not enough, to Aimovig. The problem with switching medicines, is that it takes at least two months to begin to work. Because of that, I have been having increasingly more intense migraines as the new medicine takes effect. I’ve had some days when I’ve actually worked from bed and in a dark room. I’m hoping this will start to change, as I’ve been on Aimovig for over a month now. So please excuse the time it’s taking to email responses. Hopefully, I’ll be able to catch up soon.


The Spider to the Fly

The Spider and the Fly 

A FABLE

by Mary Botham Howitt

I.
“Will you walk into my parlour?” said a spider to a fly;
” ‘Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy.
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I have many pretty things to shew when you are there.”
“Oh no, no!” said the little fly, “to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.”

II.
“I’m sure you must be weary, with soaring up so high,
Will you rest upon my little bed?” said the spider to the fly.
“There are pretty curtains drawn around, the sheets are fine and thin;
And if you like to rest awhile, I’ll snugly tuck you in.”
“Oh no, no!” said the little fly, “for I’ve often heard it said,
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!”

III.
Said the cunning spider to the fly, “Dear friend, what shall I do,
To prove the warm affection I’ve always felt for you?
I have, within my pantry, good store of all that’s nice;
I’m sure you’re very welcome—will you please to take a slice?”
“Oh no, no!” said the little fly, “kind sir, that cannot be,”
I’ve heard what’s in your pantry, and I do not wish to see.”

IV.
“Sweet creature!” said the spider, “you’re witty and you’re wise.
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I have a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,
If you’ll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself.”
“I thank you, gentle sir,” she said, “for what you’re pleased to say,
And bidding you good morning now, I’ll call another day.”

V.
The spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew, the silly fly would soon come back again:
So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner, sly,
And set his table ready, to dine upon the fly.
Then he went out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
“Come hither, hither, pretty fly, with the pearl and silver wing;
Your robes are green and purple—there’s a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead.”

VI.
Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue:—
Thinking only of her crested head, poor foolish thing!—At last
Up jumped the cunning spider, and fiercely held her fast.

VII.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour—but she ne’er came out again!
—And now, dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly, flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart, and ear, and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.

“The Spider and the Fly” is a poem by Mary Howitt (1799–1888), published in 1829. The story tells of a cunning spider who entraps a fly into its web through the use of seduction and manipulation. The poem is a cautionary tale against those who use flattery and charm to disguise their true intentions.

About the Author:

Mary Botham Howitt was a 19th century English author who is best remembered for her famous children’s poem “The Spider and the Fly.”  Her literary output was considerable and, collaborating on many projects with her husband, she had over 180 books to her name.

Besides her large output of fictional work Howitt also wrote factual books such as The Literature and Romance of Northern Europe, published in 1852, and two volumes of a Popular History of the United States in 1859.  Her renown as a writer won her many awards including a civil list pension of £100 per year from April 1879.  

Having converted to Catholicism late in life (she’d been raised a Quaker), she was selected as one of a delegation chosen to meet the Pope on the 10th January 1888.  Unfortunately within three weeks of this great occasion, she was dead. Howitt contracted bronchitis and died in Rome on the 30th January 1888 at the age of 88.  She was remembered as a spreader of “good and innocent literature,” a description that appeared in her Times Obituary.


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Vermont Cuisine?

As a Southerner, I believe the South has the best culinary traditions in America. I know some people will disagree; they’ll say we fry too many things. And that’s true. We do fry just about anything edible. I grew up on my grandmama’s and my mama’s cooking; both were fabulous cooks. I use the past tense because my grandmama passed away, and these days, mama doesn’t cook a whole lot. In fact, when I’m home, I usually do the cooking. But what I cook, I learned from them. Also, I used to watch the Food Network religiously when it was more informative programs and not cooking game shows like it is now.

When I moved to Vermont, what Vermonters call food was a shock. It is often bland and poorly cooked. The fact is, when Vermonters make anything “fancy,” it has at least one of four ingredients in it: maple syrup, apples, cheddar cheese, or kale. I like apples, especially hard apple cider which they make exceptionally well. I also think Vermont cheddar cheese is some of the best you can eat. However, I prefer turnips or collards to kale, and I like thick cane syrup instead of runny maple syrup.

Many restaurants have a dish called “The Vermonter,” and they are all different; each one usually has at least two of the four ingredients mentioned above—if not all four. For me, those ingredients do not necessarily go together. For example, take this Vermonter: raisin bread, sliced ham, Vermont cheddar cheese, apple slices, and apple butter. Sometimes it comes with a side of maple syrup and sometimes people will even put kale on it. 

Yankee pot roast, invented in New England, is supposed to be one of their most famous dishes, but every time I’ve had it, it was tasteless and under-seasoned. Food here is just bland. If you order an open-faced sandwich which should be on toasted bread with warm sliced meat and gravy, you get plain white bread (untoasted) with cold meat and gravy. Why can’t these people cook? It’s so frustrating. Their only good dish, poutine, they stole from Quebec, and trust me, Vermonters can even mess up French fries.

They do have decent Italian restaurants, but that’s because of the large immigration of Italian sculptors who came here to carve the many deposits of granite. However, nearly all other ethnic cuisine is the worst. I can’t find a decent Chinese restaurant, and don’t get me started on what they call Mexican food. Thai food is hit or miss as is Japanese. I hear the Vietnamese restaurants are excellent, but I’ve never liked Vietnamese food. Those are about the only varieties you can get around here.

Vermont did have one attempt at a “Southern” restaurant in Montpelier once. It eventually closed. It was not terrible, but the owner put a Vermont spin on the food. She tried to make it “fancy,” and it failed. Only the small group of Southerners I know who live up here really understood it was not “Southern.” There are few barbecue places, and truthfully, they are often fairly good, even if they use maple syrup in their barbecue sauce instead of brown sugar. Prohibition Pig in Waterbury is probably my favorite restaurant in Vermont. The only problem with Pro Pig is they refuse to take reservations. It is a small restaurant and the wait can be 2-3 hours. Bluebird Barbecue in Burlington is also good, but the one time I ate there, the air conditioning wasn’t working. It was unbearable. The restaurant was featured on “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives,” but they didn’t make barbecue for the show. They made ramen. WTF!

Anyway, that’s my diatribe on Vermont food. Every once in a while, you can find a gem amongst the rhinestones, but it’s rare. You know it’s going to be bad when the state’s emblem for their most famous food product looks like the bottom half of a man peeing into a bucket.


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God Will Give Us Rest

Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls.

—Matthew 11:28-29

Have you ever had a time in your life when you felt overwhelmed by the things of this world? When life seemed so hard and no matter what you did, things just wouldn’t go right? Deep soul weariness: We all experience it, though in different ways and for different reasons.

Sometimes we can point to a significant factor, but often we can’t. Our weariness results from the cumulative, multilayered intersections of life’s complexities, bodily frailties, emotional heartbreaks, and the consequences of sin. During this pandemic, I suspect many people are feeling this way. Some people who have jobs and are working from home long to be back in the office. Then there are the people who have lost their job and worry when they will find another one in the current economy. Others live in fear of contracting COVID-19. Sometimes the despair surpasses understanding. We just know that we are feeling overwhelmed in our lives but have no clear reason.

Because our burdens are not simple, they are not relieved by simplistic platitudes (“Cheer up! Things are bound to turn around!”). But a simple promise can relieve a complex burden, provided we believe that the power behind the promise is complex and strong enough to relieve our heaviness. Let’s take a look at how we can turn to God in times like these. The passage above gives us promise.

The first thing that Jesus says to us is, “Come to Me…” We are allowed to come to God personally; there is nothing between Him and us. We should take our troubles to God as the song “What a Friend We have in Jesus” says:

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful?
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden?
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Second, He is inviting us to come. God wants you, in fact, Jesus wants to save us from our sins and woes so much that He died on the cross to prove it. Jesus didn’t have to come to this earth and die, but God’s love is so great, and He wanted us so much that He chose to come. All of this means: YOU ARE LOVED. Third, God lets us know who needs rest: it is those who labor and are burdened, but what does that mean? In this context, those who labor means those who are striving to do it all on their own and failing. I know that in my life I often try to do many things on my own. Sometimes that works, but sometimes we need help. When we are heavy laden, it is like our spirit, mind, will, and emotions cannot function because there is this weight on us that we try to lift by ourselves. It causes us to feel down, depressed, anxious, all those negative things that we do not want in life.

So, what does God say when we are weary? He will give us rest, and the best thing is He even tells us how, and it is by taking His yoke upon us and learning from Him. What is this yoke? Rest for our souls (our mind, will, and emotions). So, what does God give us rest from? Among many things, God can give us rest from hopelessness, anxiety, and depressions. There was a time in my life when I didn’t really believe this was possible, but God sent caring people into my life and with time, I healed and my faith was restored. I can’t say that everything is perfect now, but the despair I once felt has lifted considerably, and a lot of that had to do with my faith in God and the love of those around me.

God has good plans for our lives, and we can rest knowing that no matter what our life is like now, if we trust God, it will get better, but it may take time. Jeremiah wrote a letter to the Israelites during the Babylonian captivity, a period which lasted nearly a century, and said to them:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

— Jeremiah 29:11-13

Sometimes God doesn’t immediately rescue us from suffering and hardship. Sometimes He may not fix a problem right away, and most of the time it requires patience on our part. The Israelites in exile felt despair, like we all do at times in our lives. These periods of hopelessness, anxiety, and depressions robs us of our ability to enjoy life and not only hurts us mentally but physically as well. That is not God’s will for our lives. God wants us to live a full life and is able to heal our minds as we take those steps of faith to find rest in Him.

So how do we find rest with God? We should do our best to be like Jesus to follow in his footsteps. Remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

—Matthew 5:3-12

This passage of scripture, commonly called the Beatitudes, are the teachings of Jesus in which He instructs us that if we live according to the Beatitudes, we will live a happy Christian life. The Beatitudes fulfill God’s promises made to Abraham and his descendants and describe the rewards that will be ours as loyal followers of Christ. Each beatitude looks at different circumstances of life and how all Christians are blessed through their faith. Through the Beatitudes, Jesus teaches us about virtues and values in life that will result in blessings and rewards. These beatitudes are not singled out for specific peoplethey are blessings applicable to all Christians. 

I hope that this will encourage all of us and give us hope as we face each day knowing that we are called blessed! No matter your current situation, age, job, or family life, if you apply the beatitudes to your life, you will experience a joy and be fulfilled in your life. The Lord “will give you rest.”

I want to leave you with the song “What a Friend We have in Jesus” as sung by the late Holly Dunn. Holly has long been my favorite country music singer. Sadly, she passed away back in 2016. However, she left with us her beautiful voice and her wonderful songs.