Admitting Your Own Mistakes

Image result for mistakes quotes

This is a tough one :p

This will be a short blog. Not because I haven’t made mistakes, in fact, I’ve made many mistakes. The reason this blog will be brief, is that I am working on being more positive. Weeks and weeks of lockdown can send you down a dark rabbit hole and I’m choosing an upward path.

Objectivity is way more challenging than most of us care to admit. For me, everything is always personal. The former president signs an executive order to ban immigrants from several Middle East countries and I take it personally. It’s not terribly healthy, but I recognize the mantra, “It’s not about me,” is worth repeating often . . . very often.

Big Mistakes Versus Tiny Ones

I often say regrets are a waste of time; therefore, rehashing bad decisions would be futile; except in at least one circumstance: if you can learn from your mistake.

For example, and I’ll avoid a personal recounting for a change, you purchase oysters and put them in the refrigerator. You plan on opening the oysters that evening, but something comes up and you tell yourself you’ll shuck them the next day. Life happens and the next day comes and goes. On the third day you remember the oysters sitting in the refrigerator. You think about the $26 you spent on them and you wonder how long they sat in the fish market stall before you bought them. You ponder their freshness for another 30 seconds and then you say, “Oh, heck, I’m sure they’re fine, I’m going to have Harry shuck them.” That night you and Harry end up with food poisoning that almost sends you to hospital. I think it’s safe to say that you will never make that mistake again. And who the hell is Harry?

Big Mistakes

For me, the biggest mistake one could make would involve badly hurting another person. There are so many examples of this: having an affair, killing someone (accidentally or on purpose), pinning a crime on an innocent person, driving drunk and paralyzing someone for life, and more.

Hard to fix a big mistake, in fact, in many cases impossible. You end up having to live with the mistake and live with yourself. So why do we make big mistakes? No easy answer here; however, there is something we can do to preempt big mistakes:

  • NEVER drink and drive
  • When you get so angry you want to use your physical power against someone, walk away
  • Play the worst case scenario game and if the outcome is dire, don’t go with that plan, choose another
  • Ask friends for their advice
  • Write a pros and cons list (my favorite past time)
  • Use protection prior to sex with someone you don’t know very well

Small Mistakes

Small mistakes are quite different. We make small mistakes nearly everyday. Beating yourself or someone else up over a small mistake, is a waste of good energy (as are regrets). Instead, why not apologize to someone or use it as a teachable moment. No major damage was done and a lesson might be learned. Repeating bad behavior is inexcusable.

45 Forgive Yourself Quotes | Self Forgiveness Quotes images – FunZumo
Sure, easy for you to say

A mistake I made this week: I walked into the dog park in my neighborhood with Paco. Please keep in mind that I have been going there with him for seven months and there has never been an issue. I asked the two people in the park if it’s okay to take Paco off-leash. We were all three wearing a mask and the two individuals were fairly far away from the entrance. I believed I had been given the go ahead. Unbeknown to me, one of the two women, is tried to tell me that she didn’t believe our dogs would get along. I didn’t comprehend this until Paco charged her dog and attacked him. The owner screamed and lifted her dog off the ground with his leash. Paco grabbed his tail and he was literally swinging off the dog’s tail. I pried Paco off and tried to grab him, but he was angry and rabid. I held the woman’s dog high in the air so that Paco could not harm him and she managed to put Paco on his leash. I learned that this poor woman has heart problems.

I anguished over this mishap for several days. I have since learned that you cannot not expect a neutered male (Paco) to play with or interact with a non-neutered male (her dog). Lesson learned and I hope it never happens again; it was extremely scary and could have ended in the spilling of blood or even the death of her beloved pet.

Side note: There was an unneutered male dog at the park yesterday and his owner assured me that there would not be a problem. She was right, Paco played beautifully and happily with this dog. She told me that it is not the neuter factor, but a scent that dogs give off. It is this uncertainty that concerns me. Is there a clear cause and effect answer?

Recommend an excellent podcast, Obama and The Boss

Question of the Week:

I’m getting some great feedback on and off-line and I want to let you know how much I appreciate it.

Have you done something in the past that haunts you? Is it time to let it go?

The End. Period.

Photo by Markus Spiske

Is there someone else? When did it start? I should have known you’d cheat, you bastard; who is he? How did I not see it. I didn’t want to see it, I was blindsided . . . or so I thought. The truth is, there were weeks and weeks of deafening exchanges, changes in patterns, and forced smiles. Back then I thought I was the cat’s pajamas, the guy who could pick and choose. Why would anyone walk away from a guy who can cook?

In total, we broke-up nine torturous times. Each time I swore to the gods that I would never go back. How many times can you smash your head against the wall before you realize it may cause permanent damage?

When you force a conversation, please talk to me, tell me what you’re feeling, tell me what’s wrong, and this is what he tells you:

“I don’t know.”

You don’t know? I ask.

“I don’t know.”

Time to walk away, except for some reason you will never fully understand, you stay. You stay and allow yourself a daily dose of torture; sometimes two or three doses. That’s called low self-esteem and it’s time to build it back up, but not there, not with him. It took a good deal of heartache and losing a couple of friends, before I had finally had enough. I was fortunate that the tipping point arrived before I’d hit rock bottom. I know too many people who stay and regret it years later. Sound familiar?

Side note: When someone says, “I don’t know why I treat you so badly,” it’s because they are afraid of saying the one thing that might make you say, “Fuck you, get out and don’t come back.” As hard as we might try, we cannot change people.

—————————————————————————

What’s Your Story

Many of us have ended relationships. For some, it’s as easy as snapping your fingers; for others, it feels more like passing a kidney stone. For me, I’d have to say it depends on who it is and the circumstances.

We never really know what another person is thinking or feeling. They can tell us or we can guess; however, the truth can be elusive or distorted. Here’s what I mean:

You’re dating an individual who may have very few faults or imperfections. If you’re like me, the tiniest issues reveal themselves very early on. You find yourself tormented by the idea of ending the relationship because you might not see it going anywhere. Sabotage is alive and well in my world. Communication is essential, without it, you have a wobbly foundation. With a solid foundation, you can address nearly any issue. Still, some problems are insurmountable and if your eyes are wide open, you’ll see it.

The Kinds of Endings You Might Contemplate:

Love Relationships — I am the last person to comment on ending love relationships. There are only two things that I know for certain: 1) Sex after a break-up will not make you feel better or help you get over him, and 2) Until you decide it’s over, it will not truly be over. If your gut tells you it’s not working, listen to your gut.

Friendships — Ending a friendship, long or short, is not easy. However, not unlike a love relationship, once a friendship becomes toxic or unpleasant, it’s time to consider cutting your losses. In the end, it’s about what you think of yourself. If you value your self-worth and quality of life, walking away from a friendship — as difficult as it might be — may be the best thing you can do. I think this rule applies to any friendship, long or short.

Many of us view the end of a friendship as failure; for some of us, failure is not an option. So we remain and allow it to slowly rot bits and pieces of our core. I had a 25 year friendship that ended about 10 years ago. I contacted this former friend on her birthday a few years back and she was very angry; she hadn’t let go of the bitterness that tore us apart. I realized that nothing and changed. In some ways that revelation can be a good thing, it helps gives you closure and affirmation. We reach out to one another on our birthdays now, that’s about all the contact either of us can tolerate. Not going to lie, every once in a while I find myself missing this person, but then I recall why it went south and I am relieved that I called it quits when I did. At the end of the day, your integrity is all that matters; and your sanity, that matters as well.

There are those who believe that when you end something it’s best not to revisit it. I’ve had situations when I can’t recall why it ended in the first place and some people do evolve, don’t they?

Business Partnerships — I have a friend that hated his business partner. It got so bad he’d drink himself to sleep at night. If have to ask yourself if it’s worth the pain and suffering, your answer is right there in front of you. Talk to anyone who ended a business relationship that was poisonous; nine out of ten times they’ll tell you they bounced back and came back stronger. When you take care of yourself, you not only fix the problem at hand, but you also end up mending a lot of other broken parts happening simultaneously. Your courage and strength carries over to all other aspects of your life.

Family — This is kind of break-up has hit close to home recently and it is still somewhat raw. If I write about it, I’ll get a bit of backlash and it’s not worth it. I will say that as difficult as it might be to walk away, there are situations that are so distressing, remaining in touch can do physical and emotional harm. In the end, your choice should be to protect yourself. Exhaust every avenue to fix what is broken before you say goodbye. The harder you know you have tried, the less you will regret your decision.

If you don’t end up sad and hurt by the loss, you are either uncaring or way too guarded. Having an open and loving heart has its pitfalls, but I’d rather be sad and hurt than live through life feeling nothing. Or even worse, being angry all the time.

Employment — This break-up variety is every bit as onerous as any other. You add money and fear of failure to this equation and you have quite a lot to consider. One of the things I did that I found helpful, was to make a list of the pros and cons. I also played the worst case scenario game, which I always find helpful. When you’re going through the hardship, you’re thinking I will never survive if this ended. In truth, we always survive. On the other side of abuse and unappreciative supervisors/owners is something better. Remember there is only one direction you can go when things get that bad. If you’re dreading going to the office or meeting with your boss, that’s a pretty clear sign that it’s time to move on. When my doctor prescribed Xanax so that I could sit in the same room with my ex-boss, I knew it was time to go. Don’t let it get to that point.

Image result for a quote for when it's time to quit a job

One of my favorite ending a relationship quotes:

“I thought I was strong, holding on to you, but I was stronger when I was letting you go.”

Cuba postponed to April 22. I will hopefully get to finally go. Back to the States to see friends and family in May (we’ll see). I’m accustomed to the uncertainty.

I’m still in lockdown here in Portugal. The police are out checking for face masks, ID, and for those who might be illegally leaving their municipality. I’m not sure how much more surreal this whole experience could be. It seems like there may be a light at the end of this tunnel — stay strong and healthy.

Question of the Week:

Do you have a successful break-up story to share or advice you might like to convey?

Why Winning Might Not Be So Important

Just about everyone I know is living through relationship difficulties during this divisive time in our country’s history. In my house any conversation was fair game at the dinner table. We fought over politics, race, religion, and just about anything you can imagine. In the end, there was so much love between us, it never got in the way. Maybe that’s why despite our political differences, I am still very close to several of my family members.

Our homes are not always reflective of the rest of the world. When I was a young and I attended dinner parties, it was made clear that certain topics were taboo. My guess is that the host did not want to deal with yelling and screaming at the table, people possibly walking out, and even worse, some people never coming back. People are often hellbent on winning arguments. We’ve all been to at least one of these epic dinners.

For many of us, it’s all about winning. It’s one of those things some of us were taught growing up: “Winning is everything.”

“Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning next.”

George Steinbrenner


“The person that said winning isn’t everything, never won anything.”

Mia Hamm

It’s Okay Not to Win (here comes the list):

  • When you’re having an argument with your boss
  • when you’re playing sports with your child
  • when you’re playing for a charitable organization and it’s more to do with making a donation
  • when make-up sex is on the horizon
  • when you have a disagreement with someone who care about
  • when you may never see the person you disagree with again
  • when getting to a win will cause health issues
  • when winning means losing your integrity
  • when you would have to lie in order to win
  • when winning means losing a friend
  • when winning means cheating
  • when losing means keeping your humility

I have this little voice in my head that tells me: winning comes at a cost and that thought stops me from doing many things — good, bad, I’m not sure.

When Winning is Fun

Winning is fun when you’re enjoying yourself; when it’s not life and death or having to go to prison for the win. I love winning a game of cards. I love when my party wins an election. I love winning at the blackjack table. I love winning a bet. I love winning a scratch-off lottery ticket. I love winning board games. I love winning a big Supreme Court Case (eg., gay marriage). I love when winning is followed by a celebration. It’s true, I love winning.

A Personal Story (I apologize if you’ve heard it)

When I worked for Dorothy Hamilton, owner of the French Culinary Institute, we used to enjoy playing Scrabble; obviously not at work.

Dorothy invited me to her Connecticut estate for the weekend. We sat by a warm fire for several hours playing Scrabble. I was a better player, but I held back because I knew how much Dorothy liked to win. Although I am very competitive, there are times when winning must be less important. About halfway through the game she misspelled a word. I looked at it and thought it best not to challenge her.

It was getting late and we had plans to go out to dinner. Dorothy excused herself to change for dinner. She told me that a friend of hers would be joining us and to answer the door when she arrived. A few minutes later the doorbell rang and when I went to the door, it was the actress Christine Baranski. She was gorgeous and gracious; it took every ounce of restraint not to gush. I welcomed Christine into Dorothy’s home. She asked me where Dorothy was and walked over to the fireplace where our Scrabble board was set-up.

Christine Baranski - Wikipedia

“Playing Scrabble?” She uttered.

“We are,” I replied.

“Well, one of you spelled a word wrong.” Christine pointed at the board and sucked her teeth.

I told her that I knew that it was misspelled; however, I requested that she keep it between us. She asked me why and I told her that I didn’t notice it until it was too late and besides, “I work for Dorothy.”

Dorothy called Christine’s name from upstairs and runs down to greet her. It didn’t take long for her to confront Dorothy.

“Dorothy, you spelled a word wrong and Chris is afraid of you.”

I kept my mouth shut and Dorothy looked at me and said,”Why didn’t you challenge me?”

I lied and told her that I didn’t realize it was misspelled while we were playing. I’m fairly certain she didn’t believe me and she teased me about it for a long time. About a year later we were at a Manhattan restaurant and she brought it up.

“Are you afraid of me?”

“Yes,” I said, “you can be intimidating and besides, you’re my boss.”

I promise you she said the following:

“It’s okay with me if I intimidate you.”

I believe that sums her up. I stand by my decision to sometimes allow Dorothy to win.

By the way, Christine Baranski was charming, funny and great company. I believe she kept Dorothy honest and that was a good thing for the rest of us. (A tragic car accident took Dorothy a few years ago.)

An aside: Joan Rivers joined us at our table at the restaurant that night. I loved Joan Rivers, so that was a huge thrill. I just have to say, in person Joan’s plastic surgery made her pretty scary to look at — her face like a porcelain doll; the rest of her old and wrinkled.

__________________________________________________________________________

Travel

I am booked on a trip to Cuba beginning February 18; five days in Varadero and four days in Havana. I’m not sure the trip will actually be a go, but it’s insured, so I’m not too concerned. It will require that I take the COVID-19 test a minimum of three times, but I think it’s a small price to pay. I’ve been trying to get to Cuba for quite awhile. Now that I have a Portuguese visa, I am able to go. “If not now, then when?”

Planned Trips: Toulouse in April, the United States in May, Lyon in June, Bristol in July (rescheduled from March), a Mediterranean cruise in October, and five Asian countries in January 2022 (rescheduled from January 2021). Sometimes I choose to fly to places that I can get to on one plane from Faro. I’ve been to Toulouse and fell in love with this city — the UK is easy to get to from here and never disappoints. Asia is elusive. For some reason it is taking me ages to get to this part of the world. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that maybe I’m just not ready. I do love a carrot and I know it will happen soon enough.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Requires Your Participation

From now on I will end each blog with a question. Your responses will help initiate future blog topics.

This week’s question:

What is one thing that weighs heavily on your mind these days?

Feel free to mention more than one thing if you like. Send it privately if you’d prefer.

__________________________________________________

COVID-19

I woke with a bad headache today. Of course I believe I may have the virus. Don’t dare read a list of symptoms. Very early on, perhaps last February, a friend of mine said, “Before this is over, half the world will get it.” I thought to myself, how ridiculous! Now I believe she may have been right.

Gay Life in New York City in the 80s & 90s

Photo by FransA on Pexels.com

I asked and you told me: this blog request comes from a good friend. Patrick asked me to write about being gay in NYC in the 80s and 90s and so here goes.

Some people crawl out of the closet, some burst out, others start with a toe; I did it out of desperation. I have regrets, who doesn’t. This post will be more about what life was like for a gay man in NYC during the time of AIDS and paradoxically a good deal of sexual freedom. I should state up front that what I am writing is my very subjective perspective on what life was like during this time in my personal gay history. I’m going to begin by making a confession:

I apologize for holding back some of what I experienced and witnessed. Although I have been honest in my blogs, I firmly believe that some aspects of one’s life are meant to be kept to oneself. These truths about my past are not shameful, criminal, or up for debate; these truths are my truth. What I choose to share is my business and should be respected.

New York City

NYC has always been a place for decadence and tolerance. I feel fortunate to have been raised in such a place. Having done my undergraduate studies and master’s degree in the south, I returned hyper-aware of my newfound freedom. Like a kid in a candy store, I overindulged. Being who I am, I was also fairly reserved. We’re all very complicated and I am no exception. Just a few stories about the gay 80s and 90s from my perspective:

Wigstock on the Christopher Street Pier

This will not be a history lesson; therefore, I cannot tell you how Wigstock started or why it came to be. It is a dragfest. I believe it still exists, however no longer at the Christopher Street Pier. Lady Bunny, the past MC, always wears a very big blond wig and I believe she is one of the founders. She’s a rather large drag queen with a funny voice. She was and is self-deprecating and playfully cruel to just about everyone. I loved her then and I love her now.

The Christopher Street Pier was known for being a hangout for gays, drug addicts, and the people of NYC who live on the fringe. I was drawn to the place, but only during daylight when I felt safe. Wigstock allowed you to go to the Pier and express yourself openly, no matter who you were. Wigstock usually took place in the hot, humid summer, rendering all homosexuals and their allies, shirtless; often showing off defined torsos. I’m a shameless voyeur; therefore, I never missed it.

One particular year stands out: I was in my 20s, in fairly good shape, and super curious. I’ve heard that men give off some sort of scent when they’re in heat; I must have reeked. I assume this what happens when you quash your sexuality for a long time. I had overalls that I dared not wear because farmers were frowned upon in the big city. What possessed me to darn them for this event I do not know. Not only did I put them on, but I wore them commando; nothing underneath. My memory on this is weak, however, I do believe I had been dating someone who gave me some lame excuse for not being able to attend. Truth be known, he preferred his freedom over a date with me that day. He once casually informed me that he could not be with me 24/7. Had I known better, I would have dumped him then and there.

So there I was at Wigstock in a sea of sexually charged gay men, feeling resentful and vulnerable; I wanted revenge. What better way to get back at that jerk than to attract a far more fetching suitor. I arrived at Wigstock unfashionably early — not uncommon for me. I believe there may have been some sort of leather festival the same day. I wouldn’t swear by it because I tend to mix-up my gay events. No matter, I do recall lots of men in chaps showing off my favorite body part. There has hardly been an exposed derriere I have not admired.

This one fella caught my attention about an hour after I had arrived. He was young and fetching and I felt bold in my revealing overalls. I introduced myself to him after a few minutes of shameless flirting. He was friendly enough, but also somewhat aloof; typical gay man in New York City — you could say hello, perhaps even share a few moments of intimacy, but beyond a first name and country of residence, you dare not get too close.

Knowing he could quickly disappear into the crowd, I suggested we go to my place. He agreed; however, making it clear, 30 minutes tops was about all he could spare. This was a tenuous hook-up at best. As we walked on Christopher Street I noticed his eyes and thoughts were elsewhere. I stopped and asked him if he was certain that he wanted to do this. He hesitated for a few seconds, hence I knew this wasn’t meant to be. I made an excuse about forgetting my roommate would be home and he shrugged. Disgusted with him, gay men in general, and the whole fucking world, I went home. I dare say, this sort of thing happened to me repeatedly.

Out at New York University

Two situations of significance occurred while I was studying and working at NYU. I was a full-time Resident Manager in the 90s and I was completely open about my sexuality. At the time I was dating and enjoying NYC gay life.

The Associate Director of my department was gay. He pretty much had a stick up his ass and not many people liked him. I mostly avoided him and hoped that he would avoid me. At the end of resident assistant training, we would have a celebratory party with skits from each residence hall, eating and non-alcoholic beverages. The staff from my building were mostly film or theater majors; very creative and very bold. We planned a skit where I would play a female role. I honestly never felt comfortable in drag; I thought I was way too masculine to pull it off. I agreed to do it if I could wear a colorful wig and no makeup. We performed, got lost of laughs and that was that. The next day I was summoned to the Associate Director’s office (I’m not using his name because I believe he died a tragic death a few years ago). He was angry about my performance. He said it was one thing for undergraduates to behave this way, but completely inappropriate for a professional to perform in drag. I stayed very quiet for fear of saying something I would regret.

When I asked him if we were done, he said, “How can I help you find another job.”

I will never forget those words because they cut through me like a sharp knife. I had never been asked to leave a job in my life (since then I have one other time). I got up from my chair and walked out. He never brought it up again and I remained employed for Residence Life at NYU until I decided to move on. I think he was jealous of my legs.

The second situation was harder for me to swallow. After six years of doctoral study, it was time to complete my dissertation. My study looked at tolerance and exposure to homosexuals. My random sample were a percentage of freshman undergraduates from each school at NYU. I had to write to the school Deans in order to get permission to send out a questionnaire to their students. Every school except the Stern School of Business agreed to the study. I was devastated by this decision and went before my dissertation committee with the news. Apparently, the Stern School was concerned that their students might be offended by my survey. My committee was angered and disheartened, however, not surprised. They approved the student sample without the students from Stern. The whole ordeal just made me more determined to succeed and prove to the Stern School that none of the students (over 300) involved were offended by my questions. At the end of my study I was happy to report that there had not been a single complaint about the survey. In the end I failed to prove that exposure to homosexuality made one more tolerant. My committee agreed that had I been able to track students throughout their undergraduate studies, I would have proven that the longer one is exposed to homosexual individuals and a gay lifestyle, the more tolerant that individual would be. I learned that working on a dissertation is more about learning how to do research than proving your hypotheses.

Hard to believe we are talking about the 90s in New York City. Young people today have no idea what life was like just a short time ago. Just as I have no idea what it was like before my time. In some parts of the world, there is still little or no tolerance; this makes me sad and angry.

The Bar and Club Scene

First let me say there were lots of choices. Depending on where you were in the city, you could choose a fairly close gay bar or club. Many of the bars had a drag night or several drag nights. I always found the crowd to be friendlier when drag shows were scheduled — perhaps it loosened people up. There was one very large and contemporary bar near Union Square that stood out among the rest; they had a large stage where they featured beautifully sculpted men showering. I imagine that they sold a higher volume of cocktail when these shows were going on.

These places notoriously had back rooms where gay men were known to have fun. AIDS changed all that for gay men. Unsafe sex was killing thousands of New Yorkers and had to be prohibited in public places. I had moved back to NYC during the height of the devastating effect of AIDS. I witnessed a robust bar and club scene practically come to a halt. As AZT and protease inhibitors were introduced, the scene slowly re-emerged, however, it was and never will be what it was in the 60s and 70s — I will not comment on morality or blame, perhaps another blog.

The NYC Population in General

New Yorkers are a very unique and special sub-population of the world. I think it has a lot to do with cramming 8.5 million people from all over the world into a tiny space. If you did not or do not develop a certain amount of tolerance for different cultures, you were and are most certainly not at home in NYC. That doesn’t mean that homophobia did not exist in the 80s and 90s. There were certain parts of the city that were considered unsafe for gay people. There were reported gay bashings where gay people were killed or seriously injured. I was careful; going to and from a nightclub in the wee hours of the morning, could be scary. I never carried more money than I needed and the only jewelry I usually wore was a cheap watch.

To be honest, most of the time I felt very safe and somewhat invisible. New Yorkers were busy people going about their daily lives. I don’t think they paid much attention to me; my sexuality, where I was going or what I was doing. I never before felt that kind of anonymity and freedom in the south and I certainly do not feel that way now in Portugal. New York City draws people from all over the world; people who want to be themselves, without fear of ridicule or persecution. That is how it was then and that is how it is now. There is no city anywhere like it. I was born a New Yorker and I will die a New Yorker. Most of my fellow New Yorkers feel the same way.

I did quite a bit of volunteer work to help the LGBT population further the cause and gain the rights that we justly deserved; however, I was not an activist. I have no regrets about this, we all choose our own paths. Because I was immersed in the world of academics, I personally knew scholars, literary giants, speakers, and journalists who were activists and moved the needle for gay rights in this country. For this, I am grateful to have lived during this time and I feel fortunate to have resided in New York City.

Articles

High Jinks and Hard Knocks: New York in the 70s, 80s, & 90s: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2018/feb/27/new-york-70s-80s-and-90s-carrie-boretz-in-pictures

The Queer History of NYC

New York Narratives: How NYC’s LGBT Scene Changed One Queens Native’s Life

One of the writers/scholars I was happy to know and work with (on Amazon):

Has the Gay Movement Failed?

by Martin Duberman | Jun 8, 2018


Andrea Dworkin: The Feminist as Revolutionary

by Martin Duberman | Sep 8, 2020


Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community

by Martin Duberman | Mar 13, 2009


Stonewall: The Definitive Story of the LGBTQ Rights Uprising that Changed America

by Martin Duberman | Jun 4, 2019


The Rest of It: Hustlers, Cocaine, Depression, and Then Some, 1976–1988

by Martin Duberman | Mar 6, 2018

I was also privileged to know and spend time with Larry Kramer, whose work is much more difficult to digest.

Laurence David Kramer was an American playwright, author, film producer, public health advocate, and LGBT rights activist. He began his career rewriting scripts while working for Columbia Pictures, which led him to London where he worked with United Artists. Wikipedia. Born: June 25, 1935, Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States Died: May 27, 2020, Manhattan, New York, United States. SpouseWilliam David Webster (m. 2013–2020). MoviesThe Normal HeartHow to Survive a Plague.

The Normal Heart changed how I viewed the world and gay culture.


Just Fantasy

Let’s Play a Game, Shall We?

It is the end of 2020 and the start of a new year. I seldom allow my imagination to take over; it’s a control issue. Considering my sudden willingness to play this little game with myself, I thought I’d see where it goes and I’m hoping you’ll join me:

A Little Background Information

I’m 61 years old, single, gay, living abroad, Ph.D.in Higher Ed. Admin., sort of retired (I blog), childless, divorced (married to a woman for five years), mostly male, 6′ tall, 195 pounds, healthy, and well-traveled. I share these facts more as a reminder to myself. If I am to play this game, it’s important that I am acutely familiar with myself. I know, get to the darned fantasy.

Fantasy defined:

1.the faculty or activity of imagining impossible or improbable things (Google dictionary).

This exercise is more about stretching the mind without too much concern for where it might take me — it is fantasy after all. There are all sorts of restraints and rules we impose upon ourselves; for today at least, I am ignoring all of them.

The Fantasy

Set-up

I am healthier than I was at age 60, 50, 40 even. My mind is sharp. Although not religious, I am spiritual. I do believe we possess a soul. My conscience guides me. Human beings are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for, and so, I allow myself to dream big. My strength and determination are powerful traits I consider personal commodities. I am loving. I am sentimental. I feel tremendous disappointment. I am often angry. I am not superior. I am not always honest with myself and others — that’s about love and self-preservation. Laziness has prevented me from realizing my potential accumulative intelligence. I am silly at times. I am often humorless. I am overly cautious to the point of suffocation. I get in my own way. My perceived flaws are my obstacles. In other words, I am human.

For the purpose of this exercise, only my strengths, skills, and positivity, prevail.

Plunging Right In

Sorry this took so long, many powerful inner voices urging me not to go further. Here goes:

The year is 2021 and I am standing at a river’s edge in a beautiful French city. The clouds are white and fluffy, the sun is shining, it is warm, but not hot. There is little to no humidity. A slight, pleasant breeze makes the leaves flutter and drowns out the sound of cars and dogs barking.

I took this photo in Toulouse, 2019

My mind is free of all thoughts, save for admiration for the beauty I am witnessing. My breathing is slow and purposeful and I feel very much alive.

A man approaches. He is smiling; you know the ear-to-ear smile that is real and conveys common sense wisdom. He looks straight into my eyes and says, “Bon jour.” He radiates maturity, yet he seems young at heart. I don’t know why I trust him, but I do.

I smile back and say, “Good morning.”

“You are American,” he remarks without judgment.

“I am. Is that a bad thing?”

He laughs and tells me his name, “I’m Peter.”

“Not Pierre?” I’m schoolboy nervous and I sound silly. “I’m Chris.”

He subtly lets me know that he is trying to make me more comfortable. We chat for a bit. Each of us trying hard not to seem too eager or stupid (me). Peter is in his late 40s, about four inches shorter than me, thick salt & pepper hair, fit, and handsome; not classically handsome, but confident, impeccably groomed handsome. I am smitten and I cannot hide it.

Pierre asks me if he can walk with me for a bit. I suddenly have no plans for my immediate future and I boldly respond, “Yes, please.”

There are two things I notice immediately: the first is that he always waits for me to finish a sentence; he is a great listener, and second, he sees me. I try my best to be just as courteous and present. After about 30 minutes of getting to know one another better, Pierre asks me if I’d like to join him for a coffee at nearby café. He is taking the lead, I like that. He tells me that this particular café has the best croissants in all of Toulouse. And now I know that he understands the importance of excellent food. Pierre chooses a table on the end, a bit removed from the rest; I like that too. He is soft spoken, but his English is good and I understand him perfectly. I am no longer nervous. I am also not self-conscious or cautious. I feel comfortable and content.

I decide that I need to somehow let him know that I do not want this day to end just yet. I ask him to join me for dinner at a restaurant known for its Bouillabaisse. Of course he knows the restaurant and agrees. Before we part, he asks me if I would join him for a pre-dinner cocktail at 6:00 p.m. I’m thinking something must be wrong because that’s early for a Frenchman.

He sees the quizzical look on my face and laughs, “I know that’s early, but I’m usually in bed by 10:00 p.m.”

This seems too good to be true. I don’t tell him that 10:00 p.m. is also my bedtime, instead I say, “Perfect.”

Saying goodbye to Pierre is strange. I feel as if I’d known him my entire life. Perhaps that’s what happens when you meet your soulmate. Perhaps I dreamt of him a thousand times. Perhaps it was written that at this time, on this date, our paths would cross. We both very naturally go in for a hug and hold each other longer than customary. We agree on the bar and Pierre tells me how much he is looking forward to it. I just smile and nod.

As I’m walking away from Pierre I have this feeling of complete security. There are no doubts that his intentions are good and that he will show up. I know the next few hours will feel like an eternity, but I am giddy with anticipation. I decide to indulge in an afternoon of pampering; I want my skin to glow and I want to smell fresh and clean. I feel younger than my years. I also feel taller and leaner. Of course I know that these things are not true, but I don’t really care.

I wear a crisp white shirt and navy trousers. I have my black shoes shined, I shave as closely as possible, and I imagine all sorts of possibilities. Feelings that are foreign wash over me and it feels right.

When I walk into the bar Pierre is sitting there waiting. He takes my breath away. He is happy to see me and says so. He orders two Belvedere martinis with olives. I don’t even second guess how he knows what I drink. We toast our chance meeting. He leans in to say something. The power of his whisper almost knocks me off my barstool.

“You’re making me crazy,” he says.

Before he can move away I take in his scent. He is not wearing cologne, but he has a fresh scent with a hint of jasmine. Pierre asks a lot of questions; they are not probing or offensive. More than anything he is interested in my hopes and dreams for the future. He takes in everything I say, nods and smiles. When I try to ask him questions, he tells me that we will get to him later. He quest to know me is insatiable.

We slowly walk to the restaurant where we will be dining. He frequently points out architecture and everyday things I might not have noticed. At one point he grabs hold of my hand and comments on them.

“Big strong hands, I like that.”

I thank him and offer him the other hand as well. He laughs and accepts my offer. I’m tempted to ask him if he’d prefer to skip dinner and go straight to my hotel room. But don’t go with my impulse, instead, I tell him that I am excited to dine with him. I want to watch him, see how he orders,drinks and eats. I am thrilled that he seems to love food and drink as much as I do. I can tell that I can learn from Pierre and I want to learn.

After dinner Pierre tells me that my restaurant choice was excellent and thanks me for one of the most delightful evenings he’s had in a long time. He asks me if he can pick me up in front of my hotel in the morning. I wonder out loud what he is proposing and he suggests that I wait and see. I am surprised that I am not disappointed about parting until morning. I retire to my hotel room feeling excited with anticipation; anticipation about morning, about the future.

Come morning I am standing on the sidewalk expecting him to walk up to me. Moments later a Mercedes convertible, pulls up in front of me. It is classic navy blue with tan leather seats. He pats the seat beside him and I smile and jump in. I am youthful and dizzy with excitement. He drives off and tells me that he slept better than he had in years; I say the same. Pierre seems to know what I want, when I want it. He speaks and listens. He occasionally gently lays a hand on my thigh. Nothing matters save for this moment.

We come to a field covered in lavender. There are mountains all around us and I no idea where I am. He tells me the name of this small town; it is his birthplace. He reaches in to the back seat of the Mercedes and pulls out a covered basket and a blanket. He lays the blanket on a patch of lavender and motions for me to join him. “Pierre, are you courting me?” He just smiles and opens the basket. He covers the blanket with all of my favorite French delicacies. The night before he got me to share my favorites without my noticing.

While we devour lunch, Pierre tells me that he’s never met anyone like me and that he wants to know everything about me. I tell him I feel the same way about him. He occasionally goes from being very attentive and serious to revealing his more humorous side. His stories tell me more about who he is. Pierre is open; he has clearly seen and done enough to know the ways of the world. There is a soft, unjaded presence that I find refreshing and rare. The more I see of him, the more I want him. We occasionally reach out for one another, it is tender and sweet.

Pierre clears off the blanket and rests his head on my chest. He says nothing for a long time and I relish the silence. Words are not always necessary, volumes are shared without them.

Our second day is coming to an end; I propose a way for us to spend more time together. As I am getting out of Pierre’s car, I suggest we fly to The Maldives. He agrees, however, he has one stipulation: we are to purchase one way tickets.

The following morning when we arrive at the airport, Pierre lets me know that there is something he’d like to say:

“Christopher, I haven’t known you very long, but I know that I have waited a long time for us. Let’s enjoy our time. We can decide today, that today is all that matters, and that tomorrow will present itself to us tomorrow.”

I squeeze his hand and reach over to kiss his sweet and tender lips. It is our first kiss, the first of many.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

I know this fantasy is very cliché, but it is my fantasy after all. I have learned so much about what I want and who I am from this exercise. I don’t know where or when I heard the following, but I believe it can be manifested:

“If you can see it, you can have it.” I can see it.

By the way, when he pulls up in a car, it doesn’t have to be a Mercedes. Play along, create your fantasy.

Happy New Year. Let’s make 2021 phenomenal.

Realistic Fantasy, Or Fantastic Reality?

I reach to grasp, my hands pass through.
The words evade, they are but smoke.
Thought has escaped, it is far gone,
My witless mind can work no more.

Past is slowly slipping away,
Future melts into the present.
I cannot know what this may mean
For reason wanes as does my mind.

Reality fades, disappears,
As fantasy takes brutal hold
Of weakened state, then recreates
The world which I will know no more.

Colors replace the sordid grays
That stood so long in des’prate hope
This day would come, to whisk away
The mind which held me prisoner.

Anne Rhitak

I Thought it Was the Scotch She Wanted

17 years old, naive and eager to please. Pimping myself out on the streets of Brooklyn for tips and a piece of pie.

Before you judge me, read my story. I claimed to be 18 years old, but I’m pretty certain Mr. Park knew I was lying. Back in the 70s you could sell and drink liquor at age 18. Back in the 70s there were a lot of things I could do that I cannot do now. I wasn’t quite 18, but I would be soon enough and I wanted the job badly. I altered my baptismal certificate by changing 1959 to 1958. Desperate measures . . . I was moving out of the house and I would have rent and college tuition to pay. Mr. Park said he’d give me a chance to prove myself; however, he’d made it clear that one slip-up and it was over. I’m certain he was fully aware of my actual age.

One would think that my mother’s all night poker games in the basement and the endless parade of drag queens and alcoholics, would have made me a jaded teenager, but in fact, I was quite naive; dense even. Bensonhurst was far enough away from Manhattan, that what went on globally was clearly not happening in Brooklyn. The only thing driving me at the time, was the desire to get out of Brooklyn.

The neighborhood liquor store was across the street from the subway station and although not hidden, it was somehow safe territory for the local alcoholics. The Park’s were Korean, very friendly, and way smarter than the rest of us. I recall Mrs. Park schooling her husband on how to talk to customers. I pretended not to understand, but I was intrigued by their culture and language and at times, I felt more a part of their family than my own. And to be truly honest, the meals they brought me were delicious.

My job was to stock the shelves and make deliveries. Having delivered groceries in the neighborhood for two years, I knew the streets and the people fairly well. I was the kid from that huge family on Marlborough Road. I was polite, shy, and fortunate to have inherited my father’s charm. In early days, I kept my head down and my mouth shut. I was surprised to learn how many customers wanted booze delivered to their door. I imagine some people didn’t want to be seen going in and out of the liquor store on a regular basis and others just didn’t want to carry the bottles home. Still others I came to learn, were clearly shit-faced when I arrived with their refill. I would imagine some started the evening thinking they’d just have a shot and ended up clearing out their liquor cabinet. I encountered a good deal of binge drinking and abuse, not me, the alcohol.

There were a few characters I delivered to several times a week and others, nightly. The only day we were closed, was Sunday. Trust me, if it wasn’t against the law in New York State to sell from a liquor store on Sunday, we would have been open. Thinking back, it didn’t make sense that you could open a bar and not a liquor store. There was this one customer, I’ll call him Mr. Taylor, Mr. Taylor ordered a bottle of Smirnoff vodka every night of the week. He was very quiet and always tipped me 50 cents (often a 50 cent piece). I suspect he was a raging alcoholic and afraid that if he ordered more than one bottle, he’d drink it all. I’m not judging, but that’s a lot of vodka. I worked at the liquor store for several years and Mr. Taylor seldom if ever, missed a delivery. Then there was Miss Greene. Miss Greene opened the door wide enough to stick her hand out, grab the vodka, pass me two dimes and then close the door. The stench from her apartment always made me a bit dizzy. After a year of delivering to Miss Greene on a regular basis, she offered me money to do her a monumental favor. More about that later.

There were these two very friendly men who lived in the same apartment, but they were never there at the same time. One of the two flirted with me quite a bit and once even answered the door wrapped in a bath towel. I looked up, but avoided direct eye contact. He was a big tipper, his partner was not. I always hoped the flirty one would be there to accept delivery, unfortunately it was mostly the bad tipper who usually showed up at the door. There was clearly either trouble in paradise or they had an open relationship, I’ll never know the truth.

I had dozens of regulars, but I think it was the Flannagan’s I most enjoyed. Very few customers invited me in. With most, niceties and a quick handoff was the norm. The Flanagan’s were different. This Irish couple considered me part of the family. There was usually a snack offered up and always a sweet kiss from Mrs. Flanagan. They were in their sixties, always laughing and carrying on and genuinely interested in my day. I knew they drank a lot because I kept inventory. They loved scotch, but oddly only Mr. Flanagan smelled of alcohol; Mrs. Flanagan smelled sweet (over 40 years ago and I can almost recall her scent). Mrs. Flanagan always answered the door. Mr. Flanagan was usually in his Easyboy. I remember seeing him fairly bruised-up a few times; he’d clearly fallen, inebriated and broken most of the time. Sometimes there was a third person, usually a man, usually drunk. I would be introduced as “the son.” Keep in mind this all took place in the matter of minutes, I had always other deliveries to make. I knew when they’d cashed their social security check because my tip was always doubled.

As months went by it became clear to me that Mrs. Flanagan was developing quite a crush; her lips often lingered on my cheek and her hands sometimes wandered to my chest. I would squirm away from her clutches thinking it was all very innocent; however, there was one time when she went too far. On this particular delivery, Mrs. Flanagan was more pissed than usual. It might have been during the Christmas holidays, as if she needed an excuse to imbibe. She came around her kitchen table and moved toward me. I backed myself up against the wall and put my hands up in front of me. She pushed herself on me quickly and before I could stop her, her tongue worked its way into my mouth. Mr. Flanagan warned her to back off, but she persisted. I did not say a word, pushed her off of me and ran out, this time without a tip.

I waited days for the Flanagan’s to place an order. I didn’t feel threatened by Mrs. Flanagan because I was clearly stronger and I knew I could resist her advances. I did feel guilty. I thought that perhaps I had led her to believe that I wanted her affection. When the door opened, it was Mr. Flanagan standing there with cash in hand. He said hello and quickly passed it to me. I started to reach into my pocket to give him change and he replied, “Keep it,” he then closed the door in my face. I didn’t see or hear Mrs. Flanagan that day. The tip was five and change; way larger than usual. Future deliveries to the Flanagan’s were mostly transactional. Mrs. Flanagan usually came to the door; kisses and invitations to enter were a thing of the past. I was both relieved and saddened by the state of affairs. I guess that $5 tip was guilt money.

I would often return from a delivery later than usual and the Parks would want to know why it took so long. Mrs. Park especially loved gossip and she’d try to squeeze information about our customers out of me. I made it a game. I’d be cagey at first, tease her a bit, let some time go by, perhaps a couple of deliveries, and then when I’d see she was about to explode from anticipation, I’d share a bit; perhaps what a customers apartment was like or who answered the door, Mrs. Park was jealous that I got to see a small part of their lives. I never did tell the Parks about Mrs. Flanagan, that was my secret, never to be told — until now that is.

I never did learn the first names of most of my customers. I guess an invisible wall existed between them and me. I supplied them their poison and they were grateful, but protective; grateful for my service, but protective of their privacy. So I rode my delivery bicycle through pounding rain, freezing wind, and heavy snow and they rewarded me handsomely. I made enough money part-time to pay rent and utilities, buy groceries, and save for tuition. Of all the events that shaped my experience for those couple of years, the time I spent with Miss Greene outside of her apartment was the most memorable.

Miss Greene suffered from severe agoraphobia. The idea of leaving her apartment terrified her and made her a prisoner in her own home. When she asked me to take her to the bank I had no idea that she was struggling with this affliction; nor did I know what I was in for. She offered me $20 which was surprising because she was a terrible tipper. I picked her up after school, eager to get the deed done.

I must admit I was pretty cavalier about the whole thing. I honestly thought it would all be over in 30 minutes and I’d be picking out a new sweatshirt at Korvettes. When I got to her door it was slightly ajar, which was never the case. She had on make-up which I found shocking, and a long heavy overcoat; it was early June and fairly warm. She asked for my arm and told me that she had called car service. When she grabbed my arm, I noticed her nails were long and dirty. I had to remind myself that I had a good tip coming. Miss Greene was shaking from head to toe, her lips quivered, and her nails were tearing at my skin. The walk down the two flights of stairs took over 20 minutes and at times, I was fairly certain she was going to collapse. I was strong, but I feared she’d fall and I wouldn’t be able to pick her up. When we got to the front door of the building she began to gently weep. I offered words of encouragement. I honestly wasn’t sure we could pull this off, in fact, I was certain we’d fail.

The car service driver noticed our struggle and came toward us to offer a hand. Miss Greene clutched onto me even harder and wouldn’t look at the driver. I winked at him and he seemed to understand. He asked me if Miss Greene was my grandmother and I told him that she was — I believe at that moment, she could have been my grandmother. We made it into the car. Miss Greene remained quiet and stared down at her feet. I cannot describe my feelings as all this was going down. I was filled with dread, fear, and pride. I worried for her; her fear was visceral and she seemed so tiny. The pride I was feeling had to do with the trust she had in me. I was only 18 years old, but on that day I was a man.

From start to finish, it took two hours to get the task done. The bank manager agreed to allow us to remain in the bank after closing. Everyone around us seemed to understand her pain. Up until that point in my life, I’m not sure I had witnessed that kind of empathy. The day did not get easier for Miss Greene. When we got to her door she was drenched in sweat and clearly spent. I lowered her onto her sofa, repulsed by the horrible smell in her apartment. Her sister peeked out of the bedroom door and retreated when I saw her. Miss Greene thanked me and gave me $40. It was the largest tip I ever received from one of my customers. I tried to refuse it, but it was important to her that I take it. I knew that I would never be the same. My arm remained black and blue for a week, but my pity for Miss Greene stayed with me a good deal longer. I kept my deed secret for a long time, never sharing what I had done with the Parks. When I arrived late for work that afternoon, I lied and said that I was held up at school. I felt no guilt, only sadness. Miss Greene continued to order vodka and increased her tip from 20 cents to a quarter. Her demeanor never changed and she never mentioned our afternoon at the bank. I have thought of her often since that day. I imagine her liver must have failed her at some point. I wondered which one of them went first, her or her sister, perhaps mercifully they died at the same time. I also wonder how many Miss Greenes wake up a prisoner in their own homes each day. My problems seem so small in comparison.

When I see a young person working, I imagine they might be learning the kind of life lessons I learned working for the Parks. I think, good for them, and I’m grateful for having had the experience. Life lessons are plentiful when we’re young and naive.

The truth is, Mrs. Flanagan wanted the scotch and I just happened to be there that day.

Living Abroad — Reblog w/Updates

A bit about “my truth” as well.

I bought this authentic Gabbeh (Turkey) rug on the Facebook Marketplace this week. I made a little adventure out of retrieving it. It’s a funny thing about a rug, I think you have to live with it awhile to learn to appreciate it. Paco liked it right from the start. It’s the green that has me concerned; fortunately it’s a muted green. Dark grey/charcoal would have been better, but I don’t think those colors were used 60 years ago. My Portuguese tutor looked at it Tuesday and she said, “It’s really old.” I do realize that I’m giving this rug too much attention.

Repeat after me: I like my new/used rug, I like my new/used rug . . .

Reblog w/updates:

Counting My Blessings

I cannot imagine what it must have been like to live overseas 20 or more years ago.  Staying in touch with loved ones back home must have been very expensive and difficult. Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, and other forms of social media have made communicating and keeping up with friends fairly easy. Meeting friends through expat sites and Meetup groups is also a terrific and easy way to connect — sometimes too easy (update).

When you’ve been around the block a few times, you become more discerning. Picking and choosing who I spend my time with and how I spend my time has been of greater importance since moving abroad. It’s easy to regress back to my old ways; I have to remind myself that “my truth” is ultimately all that matters. As your truth should be all that matters to you. I needed a constant reminder, so a few years ago I stopped into a tattoo shop in Soho (Manhattan) and asked for this:

IMG_1749.jpg
Forearm tattoo — TRUTH (Chinese)

Last year I had a palm tree tattooed on my ankle. It was done to mark my new life in Portugal.

It’s been proven to slow down the aging process

img_1686.jpg
I fell in love with this piece last week. It was hanging on the wall at Carla’s Curve in Mexilhoeria Grande.  I know it’s for sale; I am determined to make it mine.

Update: when I went back to buy this piece I noticed it was damaged so I didn’t get it. However, I did buy two others that are in the first photo above (over the sofa). The artist lives in Lisbon. I never get tired of them.

The decision to relocate abroad was an opportunity to take stock of how I was living my life; the food I am eating, the amount of alcohol I am drinking, and how I am spending my time. The mind, body and spirit; holistic approach to living, seems like a better way to live in the present and think about the future. A philosophy that would be difficult to argue; especially in my own mind.

What role does social media play in my life?

I love social media. I enjoy keeping up with friends near and far, I enjoy the posted photos, I like how upbeat most of the postings are, and I even enjoy the occasional not-so-positive back and forth disagreements. That being said, I think some people take it a bit too far. I have learned rather than getting all pissy about it, I have several options:

  1. I can just quickly skim through postings and ignore the stuff that doesn’t speak to me.
  2. I can follow certain people on Facebook. This is different from unfriending, which I have also done on occasion. I have to admit that it is a very empowering exercise.
  3. I can stay away from social media for a few days and take a breather.
  4. I can counter with overwhelmingly positive posts and impart guilt on others.
  5. I can include my thoughts in my very subjective, highly personal blog.

Eating and Drinking Out

I found a wonderful coffee shop in the Faro Mercado Municipal. Most of her coffees come from Brazil; in fact I believe the owner is Brazilian. I’m enjoying learning a little bit more about her and her shop each time I stop by. There is nothing better than doing a little fish and fresh vegetable shopping and then spending time at her counter sipping a cortado. I have been waiting for my bean grinder to be released from Customs and I’m pleased to say I was able to have my coffee beans from home, ground here. More on this place to come (click for Mercado info).

Image result
A cortado is a Spanish-origin general term for a beverage consisting of espresso mixed with a roughly equal amount of warm milk to reduce the acidity (Wikipedia)

One of the things I have always loved about Europe is that you can visit a small town and find fantastic food prepared by creative chefs. Carla’s Curve (A Curva) in Mexihoeria Grande is just that kind of place. Carla came out of the kitchen to describe what she had purchased that day and how she intended to prepare it. I did not take pictures of the food because sometimes I feel that it’s better to just be in the moment and fully enjoy everything that comes your way. Carla’s clams were prepared in olive oil with white wine, garlic and parsley and they were so fresh the simple ingredients did not over power the clams; incredible. Then I had beef ribs in a delicious barbecue sauce. I have not been very impressed with the beef since I arrived here, so I was anxious to try Carla’s ribs . . . they were tender and flavorful. People all around me were expressing their satisfaction and raving about Carla; she’s a warm, animated individual. It was a truly wonderful local dining experience and I cannot wait to return. The restaurant is literally located on a huge curve as you meander down the hill. The next time I will take pictures of the food.

img_1689-e1526711089810.jpg
Carla, owner and chef at A Curva in Mexihoeria Grande in the Algarve.

New Stuff

There have been a couple of semi-lockdowns in the Algarve; mostly weekends. I have decided it is best to stick around Faro for a few months. I don’t want to expose myself to COVID-19 and I think it would be best to stay away from places that have a high rate of infection.

Faro has a new Italian restaurant and I’m becoming a regular. Forno Nero, excellent pizza and good pasta. Still need Thai, Korean, and BBQ. We have BBQ restaurants, but they’re not the same as our North Carolina or Texas BBQ in the U.S. I guess seeking out the food I love gives me a good reason to travel.

I’m focusing on learning Portuguese, making some home improvements, reading more, experimenting with some new dishes, and spending more time with Paco. He had a most unfortunate haircut in October, but his hair is fortunately growing back. How can you not love that face?

Paco, 2 years old, 4.5 kilos, & 100% love

No doubt I miss the States; I miss friends and family, I miss the smell of fall and the changing of the leaves, I miss the food, and I miss the familiarity of it all. I know all this would be true COVID-19 or not. It’s holiday time and it’s all very strange. I also know that what I have discovered in Portugal is very special and extremely beautiful in so many ways. I cannot take it for granted and I will not spend my days lamenting about what I had back home. Yes, Brooklyn will always be my home.

I’ve made some great friends since I arrived here. Also happy to report that a close friend from New York City purchased an apartment in Faro. She won’t be here full time, but she’ll be here a lot and that is making me very happy.

Finally, one of the owners of my croquet club in Tavira, Portugal has been in hospital for a few weeks now. He contracted the COVID-19 virus and became very ill pretty quickly. Unfortunately, he is not likely to survive. My thoughts are with his wife, family and friends. Anyone who still believes the virus is a hoax and that governments all over the world are overreacting, is a risk to the rest of us who would like to remain healthy. Please wear a mask when asked to do so, wash your hands frequently, and remain socially distant. Thank you.

Infidelity Is Not For A Child’s Eyes

Adults can be terribly stupid, reckless, and naive; that’s fine as long as they’re not hurting anyone but themselves. Unfortunately, supposed grown ups sneak around deceiving one another without giving much thought to what children see and hear. The damage that is done, cannot be undone.

My Story

Our bedrooms were across the hall from one another, with a shared bath a few feet between us. I liked being near my parents room when they were laughing and loving, but I didn’t get to hear that very often. Instead, I fell asleep to biting words and hostile resentment. I wondered then as I wonder now, if they truly believed their closed door kept the bitterness inside.

I must admit, as a child, I mostly placed blame on my mother. She was always in control, she set the tone and made it clear that it was her house. Considering seven children slept not far from one another, her house was always fairly quiet from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m.(the young ones were put to bed at 7:00 p.m.). That was until my father came home from work. As a restaurant worker, he kept late hours. I was never up to see him come in; I wasn’t asleep mind you. I would hear my mother verbally attack him as soon as he walked through the door. I’ve blocked out most of the vile things I recall hearing her say — it was mainly about leaving her alone to deal with us. He was a man of few words, English was his second language and he couldn’t always find words to express himself.

Physical and verbal abuse took place in my parent’s bedroom for the first eight years of my life (I’ve blogged about this in the past), but it was the final months that caused the most damage. I woke up one night to the sound of a man’s voice that was not my father’s. I laid awake quietly listening. It was masculine, but inaudible; from my mother I heard whispers and quiet laughter. I shivered in my bed and waited. My mother finally left her bedroom with a towel wrapped around her body. For some time, I heard only the sound of water running in the bathroom. The water stopped and a man I didn’t know, also wrapped in a towel, left the bedroom to join her. I was confused. I was fully aware that something bad was happening, however, I was powerless to act on it.

The same deception was repeated several nights a week. I told no one for fear of revealing a secret I wasn’t meant to know. I tried to push my mother’s cheating out of my mind, but it haunted me day and night. My mind wandered in the classroom and I became distant from my brothers and sisters. At night I went to bed, made myself as small as I could and mostly wept. My mother didn’t notice the change in my disposition; she was far too busy having an affair. An affair I wish I hadn’t witnessed first hand.

Over 50 years later I am still not sure how my father found out about my mother and Frank. It was messy for all of us for a time, but my mother and father eventually divorced and she married Frank. I never revealed to my mother what I saw during those painful months. However, I did confront my mother and Frank before they were married; I told them that I’d seen them kissing where the both worked. After all, I never did actually see them being intimate, it was circumstantial evidence that proved their guilt. They denied any intimacy, claiming they were only friends; more lies. I hated this man for exposing me to their disgusting deceitful behavior and I hated my mother for being a part of it.

When you’re eight years old and your innocence has been peeled away, you feel emotions you are unable to identify. I no longer trusted the people I loved the most. My father was abusive and neglectful, but I felt sorry for him. In my eyes he was a victim. Did my father’s physical abuse lead to my mother’s deception? Did he push my mother to the point of lying to herself and her children. It always seemed to be my mother who created the chaos and deceit. As far as I knew at the time, no one else in my immediate family knew of the affair. My oldest sister later told me that she had an idea that it was happening. She and my mother had a strained relationship; she hated her for valid reasons I won’t go into here.

Years of therapy revealed hidden anger and pain that stemmed from what I had seen and heard. I know now that extramarital affairs are common and that children often know that something deceitful is taking place, even if they were not exposed to the actual act. I wonder if mothers and fathers consider what a child might be going through when they engage in such deception? I don’t believe they do. They delude themselves with lies and pat themselves on the back for being discreet.

I won’t go into all the ways that my mother’s affair has impacted my life. I have made apologies to those whose lives I have hurt as a result of my own dysfunction and mistrust. The good news is that I am learning to trust again. I am learning how to forgive. I am learning about the power of a nurturing love. I am learning how a parent is obligated to protect a child’s innocence, not take it away. I am still learning why I have pushed away anyone who has tried to love me deeply and unconditionally. I also know that I can be quite righteous and annoyingly vocal. The work is difficult, but it must be done.

I have chosen to live alone as I work through these deeply rooted issues. The absence of drama at this point in my life is an absolute necessity. Keeping the noise volume low, allows for a more rapid repair.

It should be noted, I do not write to elicit pity, I write to enlighten those who may not know the pain they are causing or the hurt they are inflicting on their children.

Resources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/surviving-infidelity/201305/should-the-children-know-youve-had-affair

Children of Infidelity . . .

https://www.gosmartlife.com/surviving-infidelity/talking-to-your-children-when-youre-on-the-rebound-from-infidelity

I’m happy to see researchers and specialists are writing about this topic. I’m still not certain most parents recognize the damage infidelity causes.

Location this week:

I was away from home for few days in the Eastern Algarve this week. Not very concerned about COVID-19 because there are no tourists in the Algarve right now. I like to think I’m doing my part by supporting the Portuguese hospitality industry. If you’re looking for a beautiful, reasonable, quiet sanctuary, I recommend this place:

Espargosa Monte de Baixo & Art https://www.espargosamontedebaixo.com/en-us in Castro Marim, Algarve, Portugal

It’s The Little Things

I flood my mind with conundrums, so that I don’t have time to think about what really matters:

Life Sometimes Deals You An Impossible Hand

A friend sent me the above text this week and at first I read it and thought oh, that’s poignant. Then I spent the next few days thinking about Sherman’s words. I often contemplate projects that I have not completed, however, I am fairly certain I am finished with them (e.g., becoming an accountant in my twenties or trying to be hetersexual early on in my life — more difficult than the former).

Then there are projects that I believe I have completed, but as life often dictates, I cannot finish. One of many examples is my teeth. I pine over a tooth that I lost and I go to the dentist for an expensive, but necessary, implant. After much discomfort, a great deal of money, and many office visits, I get a new tooth. I walk away satisfied and feeling complete; however, I am far from finished. A few months will go by and I’ll either have implant problems or another tooth becomes problematic. I am never finished dealing with my teeth. Unfortunately, teeth issues will persist throughout my life. I feel better when I recall that both my parents had a mouth full of dentures.

A Set Of Dentures In A Glass Of Water On A White Background Stock Photo,  Picture And Royalty Free Image. Image 26352319.
What I had to see everyday in our only bathroom growing up

As I have said before, I am an avid list maker. The satisfaction I get from being able to check a project off as completed is greater than I can or should admit. However, the number of times I thought something was done and done and it wasn’t, is too many times. You get to sit and just enjoy and admire your completed deck only to see paint peel during the next rain. You finally save enough to buy the latest iphone and then you drop it three days after removing the packaging. You tie the knot and smile lovingly at your new husband only to have him spend the day in his underwear on the sofa (the last not my story). We seldom completely finish anything.

Mba Completion Quotes, Quotations & Sayings 2020

Completed Projects

There have been a few instances in my life when I felt that I had completely finished something. Sometimes this knowledge give me a feeling of satisfaction and gratitude and other times, it leaves me feeling blue. I have to stop and tell myself that these mixed emotions are to be expected.

There is a danger in convincing yourself that you are done with something and then having it resurface or even worse, having it thrown in your face. It has become apparent to me as I grow older, that being prepared for any outcome is helpful for peace of mind — the worst case scenario. I’m learning to take a deep breath before I react; sometimes I’m more successful than others. The power and ability to forgive, is all yours.

Why Finishing Something Matters

How many times have you silently said, “I’m finished with you?” Self-preservation is a gift not all of have embraced. Walking away from anything toxic is a good thing, but not always easy to do. If someone does something terribly egregious to us or to humanity, they do not deserve our love.

Another thing that seems to be difficult for many people, is allowing others to finish their sentences. I often wonder if people who are poor listeners have any clue about how rude it can be to cut people off. We’ve become terrible listeners and one of the reasons for this is that so few people are willing to confront the culprits. Every so often I get very angry with someone for constantly cutting me off before I finish a thought. I say something like, please let me finish, but it doesn’t stop them from doing it over and over again. The old, “I was so excited I couldn’t help myself,” just doesn’t work for me anymore. Let’s try to be courteous people. It shows respect and caring when we listen. Good listeners go far in life; mostly because it’s such a rare asset.

Finishing matters because a sense of accomplishment feels good.

On to the Next Thing . . .

I’m going to keep making lists and dreaming up new projects until the day I die. It provides purpose and hope.

Here are some of the things I have finished, but not completed:

  • learning how to speak Spanish. Funny thing is, as I learn Portuguese, the Spanish resurfaces.
  • traveling to all 50 states in the U.S. (there are some states I have decided to stay away from)
  • cooking organ meats
  • a novel I started 25 years ago (trust me you wouldn’t want to read it)
  • I started learning how to paint landscapes years ago and decided I’d never complete a painting . . . I haven’t and I won’t
  • musical instruments have forever been spared my lips and fingers
  • I started reading the classics 20 years ago and stopped six months in
  • I once started the process for finding a surrogate mother for a child I never fathered
  • I did Rogaine for awhile
  • tried mushrooms — not shiitakes
  • collected antique furniture (thank God that’s over)
  • I ran marathons for a few years and ruined my right knee; stupid man
  • I lived in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Maine (although I do miss the lobster)

The list goes on . . .

What’s Next in Travel

I was scheduled to travel to Stockholm in a couple of weeks, but due to COVID-19 the airlines and hotels have cancelled my plans. If Berlin opens back up to travellers in December, I will go there for a few days. As always, I will be cautious and careful. I was scheduled to be on a Crystal cruise to four Asian countries on January 6, 2021; that cruise has been cancelled. I have booked myself on an Asian cruise in January of 2022 — this one will be longer and it starts in Hong Kong. COVID-19 has taught me patience . . . oh *shush.

*shush: verb 1.tell or signal (someone) to be silent.”she shushed him with a wave”

Missing in Italy

Sometimes I shake my head wondering: did this really happen?

Advanced Italian Cuisine
Alma, an Italian Cooking School outside of Parma, Italy
Education Fee's

I’ve waited for quite awhile to tell this story. It’s a rather sensitive matter, therefore, I will use almost all fictitious names to protect those involved. There are people in this story who were supportive, sympathetic, and brave and then there are the rest. I should start by saying that the entire matter was surreal for me. As I went through the motions and experienced it, I felt as though I was on the set of a movie shoot; none of it seemed real, and all of it bizarre. What I know for certain, is that it happened and it changed me.

Searching for a Needle in an Italian Haystack

It was an ordinary day at The International Culinary Center (ICC) in New York City when I received the call. At the time, I was School Director and Dean of Student Affairs. The year was the early 2000s. I had worked with others to create an Italian cooking training program in Italy. Students would start their training at ICC and then travel to Alma in Colorno, Italy for the final six weeks of their training. I had traveled to Colorno (by way of Milan) several times. Our relationship with the staff in Italy was solid and the student experience was exceptional. I was proud to be a part of a very unique cooking school experience. Most of the students were in the 20s and 30s; very mature and focused.

We did several rotations a year and enrollment was better than expected. I was the administrator-in-charge of the program; however, there were over ten faculty and staff members doing the real work of executing the experience. The cost of the complete course was close to $50,000 and because part of it was overseas, there were many moving parts. My father was born in Italy; in many ways, it felt as if I had come full-circle in my Italian heritage. While I worked with others to create the program, I learned a lot about regional Italian cooking, its rich history, and I got to try every dish taught. In addition, I was a proud judge during finals in Italy on several occasions.

Francesca (her real name) was my contact person at Alma. What we were about to experience created a bond and lifelong friendship born out of a terrifying situation. Francesca’s call about one of our students in Italy, continues to make me anxious all these years later. There are deeply felt emotions that are never lost and never leave us.

“Chris, I need to tell you something, but I don’t want you to worry too much.”

My body tensed and I stayed quiet and I listened.

“One of your ICA (at that time we called the program Italian Culinary Academy) students has disappeared.”

Francesca was not an alarmist and she took care of nearly any incident on the Alma campus, so I knew this was serious. Sal was gone for two days and no one had heard from him. His passport and toothbrush were still in his room and there appeared to be no foul play. Administrators at both schools agreed that he had probably met a girl and he was with her on a sun drenched beach. Sal’s friends and classmates didn’t believe that was the case and this caused great concern. Apparently, there were witnesses to an argument outside of a bar the night before he’d gone missing; in fact, the last time Sal was seen. The argument was between Sal and several locals. Some students speculated that the argument was over a Russian girl from the bar, but no one was certain. Francesca and I agreed that Sal’s parents should be informed. She was also going to call the Colorno carabinieri (local police).

I quickly booked a flight to Milan, packed a small bag, and headed for JFK. Alma had a car pick me up in Milan and I attempted to rest my eyes and calm my brain on the 2.5 hour drive to Colorno. It had been 16 hours since hearing from Francesca and by this time, I imagined all sorts of horrible scenarios. Growing up in Brooklyn during the 60s and 70s made me tough, street smart, and terribly jaded. Film and murder mysteries didn’t help.

Riccardo (head of the school) and Francesca met me at the school when I arrived. There was no news from Sal and everyone was thinking the worst. Sal’s parents were on their way from the States and Francesca was arranging their accommodations. Jet lag was helping make a bad situation untenable; my thoughts toggling between despair about what might have happened to Sal and dread concerning meeting his parents. A living nightmare and nowhere to hide.

Francesca drove me to the police station for a conversation regarding next steps. I sat with several carabinieri officers asking every question I could think of. Francesca was interpreting for me and I could tell she was exhausted and worried. The carabinieri would not confirm or deny a street argument or that there might have been a Russian girl involved.

After hours at the police station and talking with students, I headed for my hotel room to close my eyes. Francesca agreed to contact me with any news.

There was one particular bar not far from the school that was popular with the American students attending Alma. Colorno is a very small town and everyone knows everyone. There were rumors among the students a number of Russian woman were available for hire and that Sal might have owed money to one of the handlers of these woman. Administrators at Alma seemed genuinely surprised to hear that prostitution was taking place under their noses. My mind took me to dark place; imagining Sal buried six feet underground somewhere outside of Colorno.

Sal’s parents arrived the evening of my first day, however, they did not show up on campus until the following morning. By then, I had slept a few hours and I was more prepared to meet with them. Alma was very sympathetic to their anxiety and did everything possible to make them comfortable. Looking back, I was actually quite surprised by their calm and decorum. They too spent time with the local police. They also took several students close to Sal for lunch and tried to better understand where he might be.

At some point at the end of our first full day, we all met to discuss what we might do next — parents intentionally left out. Alma seemed reluctant to contact the press, for fear the school’s reputation might be harmed. I believe we were secretly hoping Sal would turn up on campus behaving as if he’d done nothing wrong.

As time passed, the street argument became more of a factor; all involved were called in and questioned by the police. The carabinieri were convinced that there was no there there. I started to feel as if there might be a cover-up and Sal’s parents were skeptical as well. Although his parents and I were in communication throughout the day during early days of the incident, I felt fairly distant from them; detached. They were understandably frustrated, tired, and concerned.

On the fourth day, none of us believed Sal would just reappear. If he had run away with a girl or decided to bail from the program, he would have taken his passport at the very least. We were all fairly certain foul play of some sort had taken place. The Italian state police were brought in after Alma’s administration began to feel as if the local police were not doing enough. Word got out to the press and just about every local and regional news outlet was covering the disappearance. When word got out that an American student was missing and there was speculation that the Russian mafia might have been involved, a search party was dispatched and the rivers and lakes in the area were dredged. I silently hoped Sal would call us to say that he’d see the reports of his disappearance and wanted to let us know that he was fine and that he was sorry for all of the trouble he’d caused. That didn’t happen, but all I had was hope.

I wasn’t sleeping very well and couldn’t help thinking that this would probably be the last class studying at Alma. One incident, completely unrelated to the cooking experience could threaten the viability of a program we worked on for two years. The pubic relations machine at both schools was working hard to highlight how positive the Alma experience was and that this was an unfortunate one-off situation. Sal’s parents were angry that the Italian police and government were not doing more to locate their son; we were mindful that they alone could potentially raise enough concern to shut us down.

His parents decided that a trip to the American Embassy in Milan might help get the Italian government to take this more seriously. I regretfully volunteered to drive them to the embassy. They sat together in the back seat; Sal’s father consoling his mother most of the way to Milan. Over two hours in a vehicle with someone crying hysterically is not easy for the person at the wheel. I didn’t say much for fear of saying the wrong thing. I tried my best to be supportive and reassuring. I didn’t think the people at the embassy would help, but it wasn’t my son who was missing.

When we got to the embassy it was a well-guarded fortress. I dropped them off as close as I could get to the entrance and parked the car. Just as I arrived they were being escorted in. The guards told me that only the parents would be allowed. I called for Sal’s father and he walked over and apologized. He knew that I would be staying in Milan that night and flying back to the States the next morning. It had been a full week since Sal had gone missing and there was nothing more I could do in Italy. Sal’s father agreed to call me if they needed anything and we said our goodbyes. I felt very sorry for Sal’s parents and I was exhausted.

I recall making a call to Gary, ICA’s president, that afternoon and becoming emotional on the phone. The fear of learning that a dead body was found was becoming more and more real. Gary, as always, was extremely supportive and grateful. He and the rest of the staff at ICC were hoping for the best. He asked me to remain calm and to get home safely. The administration at Alma was also very supportive and assured me that they would do everything possible to find Sal. I flew back to the States the next morning.

Time passed and still no word from Sal. His parents stayed in Italy for a couple of weeks and then returned home when hope of finding him had diminished. They became angry, resentful, and blamed both schools for gross negligence. They claimed that we had placed their son in an unsafe environment. Sal’s brother publicly posted a scathing letter, claiming the school was completely negligent. Threats of a lawsuit were being bandied about. The students in Italy had gone on with their studies hoping to complete the program. I had all but given up hope.

Graduation at Alma was scheduled a few weeks out; I knew it would be best for be to return and attend. When I arrived on campus, the students, whom I had stayed in contact with, greeted me warmly. They all assured me that the ICC was not to blame for Sal’s disappearance. We all wondered if this great mystery would ever be solved. I met with the local and state police for an update — there was none. Still much speculation that there was foul play, however, the guilty party or parties, had not revealed themselves. I returned to New York having lost quite a few pounds and feeling like I’d let a lot of people down.

Thanksgiving came and went. Each day brought less talk of Sal’s whereabouts. My emotions had gone from remorse to sadness to anger; acceptance was not within reach. Then, out of nowhere, shorty before Christmas, a call from Francesca in Italy, Sal had been located. He had joined the French Foreign Legion. Apparently, when you join, you leave behind the material world and those you once cared about; some join to escape their lives. Sal somehow managed to slip a note with his parents telephone Number to an Asian guy who was leaving the Legion and had agreed to make a call. It was the best Christmas gift of my life.

There are several takeaways from this life event that are forever etched in my brain. First, Sal’s family never apologized for their treatment of the two schools. They blamed us for Sal’s disappearance for months and when he turned up, not one of them came forward to acknowledge they were unfair and had hurt several good people. Lastly, when Sal left the French Foreign Legion he did not contact me to explain himself, apologize or thank me or the ICC for trying to find him. Oddly, I didn’t care. It bothered others at the school and it made several people in my life angry, but I had something far more important to me, I had peace-of-mind and Christmas that unfortunate year.

Disclaimer: This incident occurred over ten years ago, therefore, I cannot swear by every detail outlined in my accounting of the story. Due to the seriousness of the situation and my own personal involvement, I can only vouch for my own recollection of what took place.

Flag of legion.svg
The French Foreign Legion Emblem