Category Archives: Miscellaneous

10 Years

I can’t believe the journey started 10 years ago today when I started my blog, The Closet Professor. During these 10 years, I’ve published 4,437 posts, and had nearly 4 million views and 19,000 comments. 

How my life is different from back then! In July 2010, I had just finished my first-year teaching at a private school in Alabama. I was miserable working in a job that paid little, and with bills that continued to mount. Now, 10 years later, I’m living in Vermont, have a great job as a Museum Curator, hold the academic rank of Assistant Professor, and make a salary more than double what I was making then; plus, I have insurance and retirement. Ten years ago, I couldn’t imagine any of this especially living in Vermont of all places. The only thing I might have thought would happen by 2020 was I would be an Assistant Professor. I had also hoped to have my PhD., but unfortunately, that was not to be. To make a long story short, I had a terrible dissertation advisor, and it went downhill from there.

During these 10 years, I’ve posted almost daily and sometimes with more than one post. The only times I didn’t post were when depression overtook me because of the deaths of loved ones. The best thing about this blog is I’ve made wonderful friends. When times have been the toughest, y’all have been here, and helped me get through so much. If it weren’t for my friends, and I consider all of you who read this a friend, I wouldn’t have kept this blog going all this time. Thank you for these amazing years, and let’s hope for at least another ten!


An Attack on Americans’ Intelligence

The other day, I read an article written by two American gay writers. The article’s title was, “Are Americans the stupidest people in the world?” I’ve actually read these writers’ work before: one is an LGBT young adult novelist and the other was an editor of a former gay news and entertainment website. These two men are a longtime gay couple who decided in 2017 to sell their house in Seattle and travel the world as “digital nomads.” They’ve been moving to a new country every few months and supporting themselves by working remotely.

The opinion piece they wrote has some valid points. I agree that the U.S. response to the pandemic has not lived up to what most of the rest of the world is doing, because many Republican leaders in this country have failed to take the crisis seriously. Also, the supporters of those so-called leaders have acted according to what they see as an example. The public’s health and safety have been made into political issues.  

However, what I take exception to is when they try to lump all Americans and all politicians into the same category. At one point, they write, “The brutal truth is that a lot of Americans have grown selfish, lazy, and entitled. We want everything now, and we don’t want to pay the real cost of things. And we don’t seem to give a damn about people who don’t look and act exactly like us.” These two men left the United States when Trump was elected. Fine, great, go…but, not all of us can do that; being a traveling nomad is expensive. And by leaving, they are running away from the problem and doing nothing but complaining from a distance. The U.S. isn’t perfect, and it never has been, but when someone decides to run from a problem then disparage those trying to make things better, you become part of the problem, not part of the solution.

These guys ran away and say everything is so much better elsewhere. They act like other countries don’t have the same problems with police brutality and racism that the United States does. Bullshit! The United States has one unique character that most other countries don’t have: e pluribus unum. Out of many nationalities, we are one nation. Most countries are more monoethnic than the United States. And the countries these two men say they have been to and seen such a difference happen to be the most monoethnic countries in the world. 

I will admit many Americans since colonial times have believed in American exceptionalism. It’s the whole “City upon a Hill” mentality. The British novelist, Frances Trollope, visited the United States in 1830 and wrote, Domestic Manners of the Americans. The book created a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. Trollope had a caustic view of Americans, and found America strongly lacking in manners and learning. She was appalled by America’s egalitarian middle-class, and by the influence of evangelicalism emerging during the Second Great Awakening. In her book, Trollope said:

A single word indicative of doubt, that anything, or everything, in that country is not the very best in the world, produces an effect which must be seen and felt to be understood. If the citizens of the United States were indeed the devoted patriots they call themselves, they would surely not thus encrust themselves in the hard, dry, stubborn persuasion, that they are the first and best of the human race, that nothing is to be learnt, but what they are able to teach, and that nothing is worth having, which they do not possess.

There is a lot of truth in her writing, but her attitude was influenced by the European view that Americans had no history and were uncouth. There was a prejudice against Americans around the world, and that view went both ways as many Americans felt they were better than the rest of the world.

The trouble with Trollope’s attitude is that this has never been true of all Americans, just as it is not true that all Americans are stupid. It’s only a certain, and very vocal, part of the population who are just plain ignorant. The head ignoramus, sadly, is the President. He has led his followers into nativism, paranoia, anti-intellectualism, conspiracy-mongering, and of course, rank racism. But those same followers already had those issues before Donald Trump. He’s just fueling the fire. These same people are unwilling to sacrifice for the common good, to think of others before themselves, and to endure difficult times.

I don’t like the stay-at-home orders or wearing a facemask when I have to go out. I am not looking forward to going back to work and having to wear a facemask any time I leave my office. However, I know it is for the common good. I am willing to endure the discomfort if it will help slow the pandemic. It’s just something we have to do. So, for people like the two guys who wrote, “Are Americans the stupidest people in the world?” they don’t realize many of us are trying. We are doing our part. We are not selfish, lazy, and entitled.

You know what to do:


Opened Doors

Something interesting happened Wednesday night. Someone left a comment on a post I wrote in 2015 about the song “Good Ole Boys Like Me” by Don Williams. The post had been inspired by a comment made by one of my readers the day before that the song reminded him of me. So naturally, I looked at the post from the day before; it was about the firing of English teacher and speech coach, Matt Eledge who had worked at Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha, Nebraska. Eledge was fired because he is gay and was making plans to marry his partner. 

Little did I know then that 18 days later, I too would be fired from my teaching job. The official reason given was there had been “complaints” about me. No one would tell me who my accusers were or what their complaints were. I have always suspected part of the reason I was fired was because the headmaster and some others suspected I am gay. Later, I found out the headmaster had hired a new football coach. The school needed classes for him to “teach,” and they gave him mine. Supposedly he could teach history. 

Karma is a bitch and came back and bit the headmaster in the ass, though. That football coach was neither a coach nor a teacher. He never won a single game. Also, parents did complain to the headmaster and the school’s board, but not about my role as a teacher; instead, because I had been fired. Several board members also complained to the headmaster about his decision. Even parents I had disagreements with over their children’s behavior respected my teaching skills. Many parents of former students lamented I had been replaced with an awful and lazy teacher who only gave out worksheets and never taught their kids anything. Everyone I heard from said with me, their children had actually learned something. Some of those parents, students, and other teachers still tell me today how much they miss me and what an asset I had been to the school. The saddest part was the drama program I had worked so hard to establish. It died when I was fired.

Things turned out for the best though. I got a new job and moved to Vermont, and my salary is more than double what it had been as a teacher not to mention now having retirement, sick leave, vacation time, plus health, dental, and vision insurance. I never had benefits teaching in Alabama. Technically, we did have sick leave and vacation time, but we weren’t really allowed to use it. I am in a far better place today than I was five years ago.

And if you are wondering what happened to Matt Eledge, he was hired at another school and married his partner, Elliot. He made headlines again last year when his husband’s sister donated an egg for a surrogate, and Matt’s 61-year-old mother was the surrogate giving birth to her first granddaughter.

Religious bigots and homophobes may sometimes close doors on us, but new doors open. Often, we are better for it. I have a good career now. Vermont may not be my ideal location—in many ways it is more rural than where I was in Alabama. But, Montreal is just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from where I live; Boston is only two hours away; and I can easily hop on a train and visit my friend Susan in Manhattan. And there are other advantages, too. I can go to LGBTQ+ events and not worry. Winter Is a Drag Ball in February and Vermont Pride in September are wonderful events. I now know drag queens I consider friends. Often, I go to First Friday, a monthly LGBTQ+ event hosted by my friends. I am freer in Vermont than I ever could have been in Alabama. Now, I just need to find a man.


Where?

I’ve written a fair number of serious posts in the past week or so mainly because a lot of serious events have been happening. I’ve tried to remain silent on politics and just be mostly a lighthearted blog, but I’ve realized I cannot be silent anymore. Today, however, I want to be a little bit lighter, but I need your help. Many of us dream of living someplace other than where we currently are while some people are exactly where they want to be. They cannot imagine living anywhere else. 

I used to think I wanted to live in the mountains until I moved to Vermont. That dream had been to live somewhere in the Great Smokey Mountains. I never dreamed it would be in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Some people want to live on the beach. I’m not one of them although I enjoy visiting there occasionally. If I had to choose a beach, it would be one on the Gulf Coast somewhere along the Florida panhandle between the Alabama-Florida border and Panama City Beach. Unfortunately, it’s just too damn hot down there, and the sand constantly gets stuck in places where sand should never be. Also, that area is known as the “Redneck Riviera;” the politics are far too conservative for me. I love the emerald beaches and sugary white sand, but to visit only.

Another dream was to live in Florence, Italy, but I’ve realized now how tough it is living so far from my family. Instead, I will settle for wishing I could visit Florence, or Italy in general, on a regular basis. I’ve been to Florence twice, and it’s still one of my favorite places. Some people claim it’s too touristy, but I loved it. First, the city is beautiful. The art museums can’t be beat except maybe for some in Rome or in Paris. Second, the food is fantastic and always so fresh. Then there are the streets where you can almost get lost except you can usually see the Duomo from anywhere and can navigate your way back to the cathedral and get your bearings. I loved getting a gelato to cool off then walking into a store and buying a bottle of wine. They give you a glass so you can wander around the city at night enjoying the street performers and various forms of entertainment that are seemingly everywhere. My only issue was I was alone and didn’t have anyone with whom to enjoy my time there.

My one constant dream, though, has been to live in a relatively quiet area of the New Orleans French Quarter. The picture above reminds me of Tennessee Williams sitting on his balcony in the French Quarter watching the people pass by and dreaming of new and entertaining stories to tell. New Orleans has its characters, and the food is to die for—so tasty but also so rich you’d be happy if you died after eating one of their sublime meals. I know New Orleans has its drawbacks. The smell when you first arrive is off-putting, but eventually, you don’t notice it. Then there are the masses of drunk tourists, the rampant crime that is prevalent in the city, and the bright lights and noise of Bourbon Street. But…I love the Gay District that begins at the intersection of Bourbon and St. Ann; Bourbon Pub, Oz, and Good Friends are always so much fun. Also, there is my favorite straight bar, Pat O’Brien’s, where they make one of my favorite drinks, a hurricane. And always, there is the wonderful jazz music wafting down the streets. In many ways, it’s like the easygoing feel of a European city; the culture and history are unique and awe-inspiring. 

Perhaps one day, I could live in New Orleans and travel to Florence during the craziness that is Mardi Gras. That would be ideal. Plus, from New Orleans, I’d be close enough to visit a favorite Florida beach, and at other times, I could drive up to the Great Smokey Mountains. These are my dream places.

So, here is where I want your help: If you could live anywhere in the world and not worry about money or working and just be carefree and enjoy life, where would you go?  Where are your dream places? And why?

I don’t often get a lot of comments, but I know a good number of people visit my blog each day. I would love for you to comment on this post. Maybe you’ve lurked around my blog and not commented for whatever reason. Please comment now. Perhaps you comment regularly then by all means please comment now. Or this could be your first time here so why not comment now? I really love getting to know my readers, so tell me, where would you love to live?


No Time

I ended up talking on the phone most of last night with one friend and then another. In the midst of all of that another friend was texting me. I was just a busy little social butterfly last night, and when I finally got a chance to settle down and write my post, it was past time for bed. I’ll try to have more of a “real” post tomorrow.
By the way, don’t think that I am complaining about being on the phone with my friends. I love all of them dearly and would never take for granted a chance to talk to them because honestly, you never know what tomorrow will bring.

A Little Mad Sometimes

There is so much happening right now. Very little of it is good. Cities are burning as people protest the senseless death of another black man killed by the police. A pandemic is still raging, though in some places it’s getting better while in other places it’s getting worse. And our president, instead of doing anything productive, is feuding with Twitter. Good for Twitter for doing something about his insane and damaging tweets, but they need to do more. It’s been a longtime coming.

The only bright spot seems to be that NASA was able to send American astronauts into space in an American made rocket. That’s been a longtime coming too. NASA hasn’t sent astronauts into space on an American spacecraft since 2011 when they retired the space shuttle program.

That being said, with all the terrible things going on in America, a quote, which is probably not that appropriate to the situation, popped into my head. It’s from the 1960 movie Psycho in which Norman Bates says, “ She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?”


Last Vacation Day

I’m using my last vacation day today. The new fiscal year starts on Monday, June 1, and we have to take our vacation time before then or lose it. I had seven days left at the start of the month, so along with Memorial Day, I have been able to be off work every Monday and Friday of May. Honestly, it didn’t do me much good since there is nowhere to go and nothing to do during the quarantine. I have enjoyed not having to come up with work to document and do on my off days. I sort of wish I could have gone on vacation somewhere or at least gone home to Alabama for a little bit of that time, but that wasn’t in the cards. Besides, Alabama is going crazy right now with reopening, and Central Alabama where my family lives is a bit of a hotspot for the spread of the virus. So, it’s better that I stay home in Vermont.
Therefore, I’ll spend today with Isabella. I can tell she likes me being home, because she always wants to be near me and keep an eye on me. She is a little slow to follow me though. It’s funny, if I’m in a room any length of time, she comes in the room too and takes a nap; when I leave and go into another room, she eventually comes in there about ten minutes later and again goes to sleep. However, she’s a bit of a light sleeper. She literally always has one eye on me if I move. So, she knows when I go into another room, and it seems to be just a delayed reaction when she follows me. Although it could be that she’s just lazy and wants to make sure I’m going to stay in the other room long enough to make it worth her while to follow me. Cats can be such funny little creatures. Yesterday afternoon, she decided a little after two o’clock that it was time for me to quit work, and she laid down so I couldn’t use the mouse for my computer. She can make it hard to work at times, but I had developed a headache anyway, so I took her advice and took a nap for the rest of my workday.


Recreation

I think we’ve all seen pictures and videos in the news of events over the past weekend like the beginning of the summer party at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, dubbed the”Zero Ducks Given Pool Party” or crowds at beaches all over the South showing willful disregard for social distancing. Here in Vermont people are mostly following guidelines for social distancing and wearing masks when they can’t social distance.

In Vermont, we’ve had some hot weather the past few days with high temperatures in the 90s, so naturally people want to get out and about. We’ve been warned though not to get into the waters of Lake Champlain or the many quarries, lakes, and rivers around Vermont, not just to continue our social distancing, but because the water temperature has not risen above 50 degrees. The National Weather Service issued a special weather statement reminding everyone that the waters were still too cold to enjoy, and that with temperatures below 50 degrees, hyperthermia sets in within a few minutes.

So as much as I too would like to visit one of the gay beaches in Vermont or go canoeing or better yet tubing down one of Vermont’s lazy rivers, I will stay at home. Truthfully, when the weather warms up, I prefer to take a few days and head up to the Gay Village in Montreal, but that too is out of the question because the border remains closed.

I doubt I will ever understand the people who refuse to wear masks and say stupid things like: “If I get sick, I get sick,” “If it’s my time to die, it’s my time to die,” or “God will protect me.” How does the Ancient Greek proverb go? “God helps those who helps themselves.” There’s a fine line between trust and irresponsibility that I admit is sometimes hard to see, but the truth is these people are being selfish. Wearing masks is more about protecting others than it is about protecting yourself. Remember to always follow the Golden Rule: Do to others what you want them to do to you. This is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophet. — Matthew 7:12


The Importance of Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates men and women who died while in military service to the United States. First enacted to honor Union and Confederate soldiers following the American Civil War, it was extended after World War I to honor Americans who have died in all wars. It began separately in the North and South as a ritual of remembrance after the Civil War. By the early 20th century, Memorial Day was an occasion for more general expressions of memory, as ordinary people visited the graves of their deceased relatives, whether they had served in the military or not. From its origins as a holiday on May 30 each year as Decoration Day, it began to be called Memorial Day in the early 20th century, but the name was not officially changed to Memorial Day until 1967. It became a national holiday occurring each year on the last Monday in May with the enactment of the 1968 Uniform Monday Holiday Act that took effect in 1971.

 

Memorial Day often marks the start of the summer vacation season with Labor Day its end. I had hoped this year peoplewouldn’t take this weekend to celebrate the beginning of Summer, but I know many did so by taking vacations. My own sister took her family to the beach this weekend. If at anytime in our nation’s history we should stay home and honor those who perished fighting for freedom, it is now. We should be voluntarily giving up our freedoms for the safety of those around us. Those men and women who fought and died in war for our freedoms did not die so that people could be careless in a time of national emergency and gather in crowds to possibly spread a deadly disease.

 

For the last quarter-century of his life, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii carried on a lonely fight to restore Memorial Day to its proper focus as a time for honoring Americans who have lost their lives in service to our country. Inouye lamented that “in our effort to accommodate many Americans by making the last Monday in May, Memorial Day, we have lost sight of the significance of this day to our nation. Instead of using Memorial Day as a time to honor and reflect on the sacrifices made by Americans in combat, many Americans use the day as a celebration of the beginning of summer.” To rectify this state of affairs, Inouye in 1989 sponsored a Senate bill to restore Memorial Day to May 30. He reintroduced the measure in every single Congress thereafter as long as he lived. For the lastdecade of his life, the legislative effort to restore Memorial Day to its traditional date was a solo mission, stubbornly carried on by the decorated World War II veteran. His struggle to restore the meaning of Memorial Day is particularly important this year as we are facing this pandemic.

 

I read an article yesterday about the crisis facing Montgomery, Alabama, with the spread of COVID-19 and the fact that they have run out of ICU beds. Dr. David Thrasher, Director of Respiratory Therapy at Jackson Hospital in Montgomery pointed out that “The seasonal flu’s mortality is 0.1 percent. Today’s mortality on confirmed cases [of COVID-19] is six percent in the United States and 4 percent in Alabama. When it’s all said and done and a vaccine occurs and we are all vaccinated, or the virus burns out, I predict the overall mortality will be like 1.3 to 2 percent. That’s what the experts are saying. But that’s a lot of death. That’s 100 times more lethal than the seasonal flu.”People need to take this into account as they claim their right to go and do when they can potentially be spreading a deadly disease than can be spread asymptotically. We know many people have COVID-19 without showing symptoms, but but by not staying home or at least social distancing and wearing masks in public they are potentially spreading the disease to people who will show symptoms and may die from the disease they caught from someone who didn’t even know they had it.


A Day Off

Today is the beginning of a four-day weekend for me. So, I’m basically going to take the day off completely. Besides, I’ve written a lot already this week.