Radio host Bernard Meltzer said, “A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.” I consider my readers my friends. I have corresponded with some of you through email, some I have met in real life, and others, like Susan, became great friends that I talk to regularly. Many of you have stuck with me in my journey for many years. Some only recently found my blog, but none of that matters because I consider you all friends. I would hope that most of you think of me as a “good egg” even if I am “slightly cracked.” I am not perfect, and I never will be. None of us are perfect, but all we can do is try our best.
My favorite philosopher is the transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson. His 1841 essay “Self-Reliance” has been my personal philosophy for many years. The essay contains the most comprehensive statement of one of Emerson’s recurrent themes: the need for each individual to avoid conformity and false consistency and follow his or her instincts and ideas. We are all unique, and we need to accept our uniqueness. Even with our individuality, we are always searching for others like us, and this blog has become a community of people who care, and I am thankful for each of you. Emerson said, “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
Your words of encouragement after yesterday’s post have meant more to me than you can imagine. Some of them even brought me to tears because I realized just how much some of you genuinely care about me, and for that, I am forever grateful. John F. Kennedy once said, “We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” You all make a difference in my life. I have been through many trials and tribulations in my life, but I have also had some triumphs. My readers have been with me through thick and thin, and I appreciate your support.
I don’t have much to say today. A lot is going on in the news. There was a tornado in Fultondale, Alabama. Senator Patrick Leahy was hospitalized last night, but apparently, he was released a short time later. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Fultondale and with Senator Leahy. There are other things I could write about, but as I was writing this last night, I just wasn’t up to writing much. Every once in a while, I just need to take a day off.
Neighbors of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are saying that the president’s daughter and her husband instructed their Secret Service detail not to use any of the six bathrooms in their home. Seriously, they have six bathrooms in their home, and they couldn’t set aside just one for the men and women there to protect them. Does this sound familiar to anyone? It reminded me of a particular movie I saw a few years ago: The Help.
In the movie The Help, the character Hilly, an elitist white supremacist woman, tries to get a law passed to forbid white families from letting their domestic servants use the bathroom inside the house. Hilly insists that everyone install separate bathrooms for their “help.” Minny, Hilly’s black maid, is fired for using the guest bathroom and is rendered unemployable due to Hilly’s lies. Minny gets her revenge for the injustice. Minny committed what she calls a “terrible awful.” After her termination, Minny brought Hilly her famous chocolate pie, but after Hilly had finished two slices, Minny revealed that she baked her own shit into the pie. If you haven’t seen the movie, I am sorry that I gave this part away, but I wanted to make a point. Maybe someone will serve the Kushners one of Minny’s famous “chocolate” pies.
The fact that there are people who are as elitist as the Kushners is so infuriating. The Kushners have six bathrooms in their home, yet they wouldn’t allow the men and women who are sworn to give their lives to protect them to use just one of those bathrooms. Furthermore, this elitism came at a cost to the U.S. taxpayers. Since September 2017, the federal government has spent $3,000 a month — more than $100,000 to date — to rent a basement studio, with a bathroom, from a Kushner family neighbor for the Secret Service to use.
I despise elitism. I especially hate academic elitism, something I have been the victim of many times. I don’t care what college or university you graduated from. It is what a person makes of their education that means more. Just because someone went to Harvard, Princeton, Yale, or Penn doesn’t make them intelligent, especially when you are too stupid to understand that your candidate lost the election. These same idiots continued their false claims when no fraud was found even after every judge and election official in the country declared the election free and fair. You are either stupid or a liar if you can’t see what has been proven over and over again. In recent days, I have heard numerous times that Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are “very smart men” because they went to an Ivy League school. George W. Bush went to an Ivy League school. I never heard even his most ardent supporters, hell I never even heard his family, say that Bush was a “very smart man” because he attended an Ivy League school, let alone any other reason.
I think the whole college admission scandal that Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin got caught up in showed us that just because someone went to an elite school, it does not mean they had the smarts to attend. It just proved that they had the money to get admitted and enough money to make sure they made the right grades. When I graduated high school, I got accepted to every college to which I applied. Some were the most elite colleges of the South, but my family did not have the money to pay for those colleges. I could have applied to other colleges. I have no doubt I would have been admitted to any college I applied to, but I did not have the money for the application fees for many of these colleges, and because of my parents’ very modest middle-class incomes, I did not qualify for assistance. The only scholarship at a major university I received was because a family friend called in a favor, but I did not take that scholarship because the person who was convinced to give me the scholarship could only guarantee it for one year, and he was retiring. There was no guarantee I’d get the scholarship the next year, and there would be no one to turn to for help (back then, this university only gave scholarships through their alumni association, so you were at their mercy). I chose to attend a smaller college that gave full scholarships to all high school valedictorians in Alabama, and I was my small high school’s valedictorian.
I learned a very valuable lesson from attending that small college. After undergrad, I went to a graduate school with one of the top three military history programs in the country. It also had an excellent and well-respected civil rights history program. We had students from some of the most prestigious colleges in the country in our program. What I realized was that I had gotten a far better education at my small state college that always seemed to be fighting for every penny of funding they could than elite schools with multimillion-dollar endowments. I had made the most of the opportunities I had. I took advantage of every opportunity to increase my attractiveness on the job market. Yet, I struggled financially for years, trying to find a decent job. Eventually, I had to move back in with my parents in Alabama and take whatever job I could get. Being a 7th-12th grade social studies and English teacher took up all of my free time, and eventually, the funding for my Ph.D. ran out before I could finish my dissertation.
Through a series of unfortunate events, I found myself jobless after I had basically sacrificed everything for my job as a teacher. I had always dreamed of being a teacher. I loved teaching, but teaching the children of white supremacists at a small private school in Alabama took its toll on me. My health suffered, and I lost my job. The school hired a football coach to replace me and did not renew my contract. They gave me absolutely no notice. They never even hinted that my job was in jeopardy. I found myself jobless and penniless. Thankfully, the people who read this blog helped me out and sustained me until I found my current job thanks to those marketable skills I had worked so hard to add to my resume. Ten years ago, I would have never believed that I would now be a museum curator and a professor at one of America’s oldest colleges.
I know I have gotten off on a tangent and onto my soapbox about my own struggles against elitism, but the point I am trying to make is that I worked my ass off to get where I am. People in the outgoing presidential administration got everything handed to them, and they have given nothing back to society. The Kushners took their entitled and elitist attitudes and refused to allow the people who were there to save their lives the right to use just one of their six bathrooms. Thankfully, not all wealthy people are like this. There are plenty of wealthy people out there who either believe in Andrew Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth, or they just believe in helping those in need because it is the human thing to do. For those people, I am grateful. I am thankful that there are good people out there who are not selfish and elitist. I know that I will never be counted as one of the wealthy, but I believe in helping those around me whenever I can and in whatever way I can.
Last night, I had an idea for a post, but it wasn’t fully formed yet. I still need to work through what I want to say, but hopefully, it will be interesting when/if I get it written (sometimes I think I have a great idea, but then when I delve into it more, I change my mind). I really don’t have much to say today otherwise, and I just wasn’t in the mood to write a substantive post for today. So, this one will be short and sweet.
Tonight is the National Championship Game in college football. Alabama (12-0) will be playing Ohio State (7-0) in Miami at Hard Rock Stadium. Hopefully, this game will give Nick Saban a record seventh title win. Ohio State won their last National Championship in 2014, when they beat Alabama for the first time in the four previous meetings of the two schools.
I am not making any New Year’s resolutions this year. As I wrote yesterday, “As 2020 ends and 2021 begins, I think we would be better off realizing that there is hope for a better future. Too often, we make careless resolutions that are never kept, and so one year blends into the next with little change.” In the past, I have resolved to lose weight, work out more, and be more organized. This past year, I have lost weight, which I am proud of, but I haven’t worked out more.
For one thing, there are no regular gyms in the area. We have a Planet Fitness and a Snap Fitness, but neither are particularly close. They are both in another town. When I was in graduate school, I used to enjoy working out. I had someone I regularly worked out with, and even when we didn’t go together, I liked going. To be truthful, it wasn’t as much about working out. I liked being able to use the locker room and the sauna. Usually, there weren’t many guys in the locker room, and rarely did anyone use the open showers but opted for the showers stalls with curtains. There were often guys in the sauna, most wore a towel, but others did not, especially the international students. This was the university’s fitness center, so when there were guys in the locker room, they were all about my age or a few years younger, but they were all over eighteen. Faculty had their own locker room. There was always eye candy inside and outside the locker room, so I got to work out and check out other guys. It was fun. I don’t work out at our university fitness center because the cadets at our school are very fit and handsome, and I’d just feel out of place. Plus, it’s not a very attractive gym because it is in the basement of one of the buildings. I miss getting the chance to see hot guys in the locker room. It proved to be a good motivation.
So while I’d like to work out more and lose more weight, I will probably just do my best to get more organized. I may have become slightly more organized this past year, but not by much. The most organizing I have done was downloading an app called “AnyList” to collect recipes and make shopping lists. I have the app linked to my laptop, iPad, and iPhone, and I can add recipes from the internet that I want to save and create recipes of my own. It also allows me to choose a recipe and add the ingredients to a shopping list. It also has a feature for meal plans, which I don’t use as often. I also downloaded another app called “Glucose – Blood Sugar Tracker” to keep up with my morning blood sugar readings. You can keep track of numerous health-related things in this app, but I mostly use it for my blood sugar, weight, and blood pressure. It also allows me to save to a spreadsheet these readings. Since I downloaded this app, I have gotten much better at keeping up with my blood sugar and weight, and to a lesser extent, my blood pressure.
So, while I am not making any resolutions this year, I am hoping to accomplish a few things I want to do to better my life. I hope 2021 is a better year for all of us.
I had to go into the museum yesterday to give a virtual tour of the current exhibit. While I was there, I had an idea for what I wanted to write about in today’s post. Then I got distracted, as I often when I am at the museum, and when I finally had time to sit down and write my post for today, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I wanted to write about. It was completely lost. It’s like when you walk into a room, and thou think, “Why the hell did I come in here?” Last night as I wrote this, I thought, “What the hell was I going to write about?” Just like when you forget what you walked into a room for, sometimes it comes back to you, then other times it’s lost in the ether. I still don’t know what I wanted to write about. Maybe it will come to me today, and I can write about it for tomorrow’s post, but for now, I just don’t know what it was.
By the way, I added an answer key to yesterday’s post question about if any of you could spot the Star Trek ornaments. I don’t think anyone could see them, or if they did, they didn’t comment. So, I added an answer key.
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.
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.
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, but this year, it is different. Almost all of the usual parties and plans have been called off because of the coronavirus pandemic. Halloween is mostly just a no-go this year. The pandemic is putting a damper on a holiday known for trick-or-treating children and festivities for adults. Vermont is allowing some socially distanced events for kids, but what we generally enjoy as adults have all been canceled. This year, there are no haunted houses, although there are some haunted trails with distancing restrictions and even haunted carwashes. For many in the LGBTQ+ community, the pandemic means missing out on their most beloved holiday, a celebration that for generations offered a chance to dress however we please and to be whomever we want. Usually in Vermont, there are a half dozen or so parties, costume contests, and drag shows at bars and restaurants across the state, though most are in Burlington.
For generations, Halloween has been closely intertwined with LGBTQ+ culture. Halloween might seem like a silly, over-commercialized day that exists for the sole purpose of encouraging us to buy things (sound familiar?). But for LGBTQ+ people, it can be a lifeline – a rare moment where we can express ourselves freely and subvert norms that restrict us for the rest of the year. Long before Pride parades were embraced by mainstream society, Halloween was the time of year when those in the LGBTQ community could freely express themselves with less fear of harassment. In the 1960s, in places such as New York and San Francisco, the gay community threw massive parties and street parades. At a time when many states still had laws prohibiting cross-dressing, it was the only day you could wear drag and not be arrested. Before gay people became more accepted, people in gay communities needed to be invisible to be safe, but you needed to be visible to other gay people at the same time. A public Halloween party in New York, San Francisco, or New Orleans would be the perfect place for gay people to dress up and meet other people.
Probably the first time I saw large numbers of gay people was when I went to New Orleans one Halloween with my parents to see a Saints football game. This was long before I came out, but gay people were everywhere and in fabulous costumes. With its history of voodoo, stories of ghosts and vampires, and beautiful above-ground cemeteries, New Orleans becomes one giant city-wide Halloween party. I remember sitting in a restaurant one night on that trip, and a woman (possibly a man) rode by on a horse with nothing on but a long blonde wig. Later, when we went to Pat O’Brien’s Piano Bar, there were many gay couples having fun like the rest of us, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. It was an eye-opening experience for me.
I think Halloween often is a favorite holiday for many gay people, not because it allows us to put on fabulous costumes, but because it allows us to be more ourselves. In the LGBTQ+ community, Halloween gives us a chance to come out of respective shells and try out something beyond our current comfort zones. For many LGBTQ+ people like me, we grew up having to wear a mask, and to many of us, every day was Halloween until we opened our closet doors. We are highly trained at hiding our true selves, so the celebration of costume and disguise is a natural combination. For today’s generation, “queer” is hardly the horrifying condemnation and accusation that it once was. However, queer has been reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community, and this explanation may no longer carry much weight. Still, many in our community welcome the chance to express ourselves in ways that society usually deems lewd, weird, or inappropriate. Halloween is one holiday that praises all the frights and fetishes that we are told to cover up.
The main reason Halloween is a national LGBTQ+ holiday is the fact that being gay or trans is an extension of expressing who you want to be, in spite of who fears it. Gay people are often wary of visually expressing their sexuality or dressing too flamboyantly on a day-to-day basis. Regardless of how liberal the community we live in may be, the global reality is that being any part of the LGBTQ+ community is still considered a perversion, a subversion, and even an abomination. Some of us may rarely have to address this reality, living in progressive hubs where LGBTQ+ may not be the norm, but it isn’t shocking or looked down upon. Others know all too well that a disturbingly large number of people in the U.S. still think our “lifestyle” is to blame for all that’s wrong with the world. Living in Alabama and Mississippi most of my life, I know full well what that feels like. You constantly have to put on that mask to be accepted by others and even to get a job or participate fully in the community. People may gossip about your perceived sexuality, but as long as you don’t confirm it for them, they will often overlook and ignore it. However, those same people who may ignore us will still exclude us from most things.
Being LGBTQ+ isn’t a fetish. But for many, especially those who are still closeted, it is a fantasy. For those who are out, facing the fear of exploring our fantasies, which in turn become reality, can almost be second nature. When Halloween comes around, many of us on the LGBTQ+ spectrum aren’t afraid to revel in our proclivities, whether they are ghoulish, garish, or slutty as hell, because, in the eyes of the judgmental peanut gallery, we already represent those things every day. But Halloween is the one time of year when everyone is allowed to be whoever they want to be. Even boring straight people put on outlandish costumes and “go queer” for a night to take a walk on the wild side. Those who feel they have to be in a closet the rest of the time can bust out in all their glory on Halloween. And anyone questioning their current identity has the chance to try another out in public without fear of reprisal. When dawn breaks, some of those folks will have to turn back into pumpkins while we fairy godmothers get to keep being fabulous.
Many LGBTQ+ people spend their youth suppressing their sexuality and trying to fit in with the crowd. While our friends were experimenting with embodying their sexualities openly, we were often left behind, trying to maintain a façade of normality. While Christmas and Thanksgiving can be challenging and awkward for LGBTQ+ people, particularly those who don’t feel like they can be their authentic selves around their families, Halloween is more easily spent with a self-assembled LGBTQ+ family. Dousing yourself in glitter with friends is certainly easier than pretending you’re someone you are not to keep peace in your family. Yet this is not to say that Halloween is universally popular among LGBTQ+ people. Not all gay people have fond memories of Halloween. To some, it was and is the nightmare before Christmas.
At some point in our lives as LGBTQ+ individuals, we realize that we will always be a freak to some, whether they have confirmation that we are gay or not. Regardless of how good we are at donning costumes, we eventually figure out that changing ourselves into someone else is impossible. We might as well relish in our freakdom and celebrate Halloween as the one time of year onlookers creep closer to our side of the line. If we show those ghouls a good time, you never know who might realize they are also part of the LGBTQ+ community. *
* I’ll never forget the time I was in Thibodaux, Louisiana, visiting my best friend. She and I always put on the best Halloween parties. We had been out to the bars in town dressed in our costumes. (I was a Scotsman in a kilt—fun was had by all with that costume.) On our way home, we shared a taxi with some fraternity boys from the local university. One of these guys was in drag, and I have to say, he did a damn good job at it. He was beautiful, as I am sure he was out of drag as well. I always wondered if he was one of those gay boys who took the opportunity to put on drag in public for the first time and used Halloween as an excuse, or if he was just that secure in his masculinity that he could wear a dress. He didn’t appear to be doing it to be derogatory to gay men or drag performers. So, I always wondered if he ever came out or if he just went back to being a straight, everyday frat boy the next day.
When I was young, I had a fascination with panda bears. I had several stuffed pandas that I loved. It’s funny looking back that I collected teddy bears that I often slept with at night as a child. I had one named Andy Panda and one named Sandy Panda. I don’t remember the names of the others, but Sandy was always my favorite. Whenever I was feeling down, Sandy was always there to cheer me up. She and my cat Calico never failed to be my faithful companions when I was sick or scared. Calico was an actual real cat and the sweetest animal I have ever known. When it comes to my cats, Victoria and I had a special bond, but she could be mean to other people. She tried to kill my grandmama’s chihuahua one time. Isabella is a one-person cat who is more persistent than any cat I’ve ever had. She does not understand the words “No” or “Move,” and she can be very temperamental at times. She is also a murderess and torturer when she finds a mouse. I won’t even describe some of the horrors I woke to occasionally in my old apartment.
Pandas, though, were a fascination of mine growing up. I wanted so badly to go to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and see Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, two giant pandas given to the United States as gifts by the government of China following President Richard Nixon’s visit in 1972. Sadly, Ling-Ling died suddenly from heart failure in 1992, and Hsing-Hsing died in 1999 due to painful kidney failure. I didn’t get to visit Washington until three years ago when I went for work, and I got to see very little of the city. I wouldn’t see my first panda in real life until sometime around 2012 when I got the chance to see the Giant Pandas at Zoo Atlanta. Even as a grown man in my thirties, I was so excited to get to see real pandas. It’s the only time I have ever seen live pandas, but it was a memorable experience.
Did any of you have a stuffed animal that loved? What brought you comfort when you were sick or scared as a child? To be honest, I wish I still had Sandy sometimes. I loved that bear.