That’s My Job

May 7, 2009

I’ve written before about my “mental soundtrack.”  Songs get stuck in my mind, sometimes for trivial things.  Sometimes they get stuck for momentous things in my life, and the lives of those I love.

When I was going back and forth to San Antonio so often in 2007 when my mother was sick, she’d always thank me for coming and helping.  I’d hem and haw as grown children do When Mom Says Thank You From A Hospital Bed, but often, that last year of her life, I used to think about the words in a Conway Twitty song, and I’d hum it to myself:

That’s my job
That’s what I do
Everything I do is because of you
To keep you here with me
That’s my job, you see

I’ve done this for years, actually.  Not just the mental soundtrack thing, but the “job.”  I’m the one who fixes what’s broken, who takes care of the one who hurts, who lends a listening and non-judgmental ear.  That’s my job.

These last few months I’ve been doing it more intensely than ever for Freddie.  He’s weak, unsteady, can’t stand for more than a couple moments without getting dizzy.  The other night he fell.  Walking across a big parking lot is pretty much out of the question.

We went to the doctor today, resulting in a scheduled hospitalization next week for tests, leading to who knows what.  Another one under the belt, maybe to result in “answers” or treatment, maybe more referrals and tests, or maybe palliative and adaptive measures.  Who knows what.

My money’s on Thyroid, like the name of a quarter-horse, but really, who knows what.

I’ve known all of our years together that times like this do come, but I never know where or when.  There was the day Freddie fell off the ladder at the San Diego house, and the next several months confined to an upstairs room.  There was the night in Galveston his blood glucose went down to 27 and I woke up to hear him moaning.  There were the countless hundred-mile round trips to the Houston-based doctors, and to the Houston pharmacies required by bureaucratic necessity.  And then our last move, with me preparing the house to sell while he was hospitalized again.  And here we are, today, not knowing, but still, always, knowing.

That’s my job.

That’s what I do.


Not That Innocent

March 23, 2009

Britney Spears is my lens for viewing the financial crisis.

Bursting onto the scene in the 1990s through the Mickey Mouse Club and then “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” her train-wreck life of the last decade is a metaphor for What We Did to the economy. A promising young star turned tabloid fodder: Trashy. Vulgar. Ostentatious. And of course, her signature song in the middle of this, like a bad portfolio of mortgages and derivatives, was “Toxic”.

Oops, she did it again. How many Enron’s and WorldCom’s was it supposed to take before we learned that, just as Britney had no panties, our financial emperor also had no clothes? They’re not that innocent.

And we — awash in credit card debt and unneeded consumer goods masquerading as necessities — are also victims of our own and each other’s excess.

For Britney, recovery meant conservatorship.  It meant long multiple stints in rehab under close supervision before she could be allowed to make her own decisions again, and before she could start to heal.  The recovery, the rehab, and yes the supervision for Wall Street and the rest of us is just beginning.

If it’s a sign of hope, Britney now is on a sellout concert tour.  Her number 1 album “Circus” has had two number 1 singles, so far. If she can come back from the edge of the pit, we can too.

Carry on, Britney.  Grow up, live a better and more responsible life, and take care of your kids.  Isn’t that what we all have to do for those who’ll come after us?


Peak Azaleas

March 17, 2009
Azaleas In The Front Yard On Saint Patrick's Day, 2009

Azaleas In The Front Yard On Saint Patrick's Day, 2009

The azaleas have been blooming sporadically for the last six weeks or more. Today, warm and sunny after last week’s rain, they’re at peak bloom.


CMT Crossroads – Def Leppard and Taylor Swift : “Photograph” and “Picture to Burn”

February 25, 2009

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “CMT : Videos : Taylor Swift : CMT Cro…“, posted with vodpod

We saw this last night on Palladia. Quite amazing to see little Taylor rockin’ out.


Changeling’s Journey

February 18, 2009

I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood lately.  How did the child prefigure the man?

I was supposed to have been what they call a “gifted child.”  I remember, when I was young, hearing my mother say, “You’re a [fill-in-the-surname], you’re smarter than most people.”  It’s interesting that usually she filled the blank with her maiden name, not her family name.  I’m not sure what that says about her opinion of my father, but she always believed that her children were the brightest and smartest and most likely to succeed of anybody.

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Bronksi Beat: Smalltown Boy

February 18, 2009

Featured on JMG today.  I remember when this Smalltown Boy came out in 1985.  How sad it was, how lonely, how perfectly it captured the sense of growing up gay in a particular place and time.  I bought the album, bought the follow-up, bought the Communards’ album, too, which featured Bronski lead singer Jimmy Somerville.

Listening to it now takes me back, and I can feel it all.  I feel chills.


For Bonnie

February 14, 2009

Freddie’s sister Bonnie passed away sometime late this week.  We’re not sure exactly when.  She had had leukemia.  Although she had been in remission a few years, she got sick again in December and had to start chemotherapy again at the end of last year.  Her daughter found Bonnie yesterday evening at her apartment when she stopped by to take her grocery shopping.  There was nothing to be done.

Hers was a difficult life and troubled.  I don’t know too many details, but I remember Bonnie well.  She left a strong impression wherever she went.

Bonnie lived with us for several months in San Diego shortly after her initial leukemia diagnosis.  When she had gotten out of the hospital, she had no place to live and little money, so we offered to bring her out to California from Florida, her home at the time.  After a few rocky months she took a trip back to the family home in Indiana for her son’s graduation, and she decided not to come back.

Bonnie had a complicated relationship with faith.  Her ex-husband was a fundamentalist minister, but he treated her very poorly and with cruelty.  She left him, and left her children, too.  Later she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, later still with borderline personality disorder.  She believed in God; she was angry at churches, angrier still at church people.  I can still hear asking about the leukemia, about the emotional disorders — “Why?  Why?  I’ll never be normal!  Why?”

There could be no answer, except reassuring noises and the help to help her do as well as she could.  Sometimes “as well as she could” was very well:  Bonnie dearly loved her children and never stopped trying to make up for leaving them.  Sometimes, however, it was very poorly, with a string of angrily broken relationships, bounced checks, abrupt life changes, and more.

I wanted to dedicate a song for Bonnie.  I don’t know if she would like it or not, but it’s from her tradition.  She would either love it or hate it, strongly.

I searched for the Happy Goodmans, specifically looking for Vestal.  She’s always been a favorite for both Freddie and me.  Perhaps Vestal satisfies that atavistic diva-love that many gay men have, even though she’s in a gospel miliue.  Wave those white hankies…  The higher the hair, the closer to God…  I can imagine Bonnie laughing at that.  Anyhow, Vestal Goodman and George Jones, Angel Band:


For Nadya

February 13, 2009

The latest from my mental soundtrack: “God of my want…”

She wanted “more,” but fourteen?


Meanwhile, Back At The Dinner Table

February 12, 2009

The Cronicle today reported that consumers are adjusting to the recession in surprising ways.  Sales of hamburger are up at the grocery stores, but so are sales of prime beef.  It appears that those who bought steak before at HEB and Kroger are now buying hamburger, while those who ate at steakhouses are buying their fabulous steaks at the supermarket to cook at home.  Restaurant receipts are down sharply.

On my daily travels I even heard a radio advertisement for Central Market, HEB’s gourmet boutique.  For non-Texans, it’s a high-concept high-end high-priced gourmet store.  You need to choose from among 63 different kinds of pepper?  Central Market can probably accomodate you.  Their private-label and much of their assortment is also sold at my neighborhood HEB-Plus, of course, but the market demographic couldn’t be more different.

As for my, I defected to Wal-Mart on my way home from the Post Office.  Hamburger, at $2.57/pound, was about 40 cents less expensive there.  It’s tuna casserole tonight — really! — with the 92-cent pasta.

Forget about those free-range chicken eggs I wrote about a few months back.  Forget about the special Amish noodles.  These days I just want to have a filling meal at a price that doesn’t empty my wallet.


Justice With Attitude

February 4, 2009

The Chronicle reports today that Judge John Paul Barnich, the first openly gay man to become a city court judge in Texas, has just passed away.  Having left Texas in 1984 and not moving back until 2002, I had never heard of Barnich.  He sounds like a tremendous guy:

Barnich, friends and associates recalled Tuesday, was an empathetic man with a wry sense of humor. Increasingly hobbled by his illness, Barnich sometimes admitted to friends, “Well, I guess my days of dancing with the Bolshoi are over.”

“He was a round, jolly-looking fellow with long white hair and beard,” Kirkland said. “Occasionally he would look at defendants from the bench and say, ‘Who do you think I am, Santa Claus?’ ” Defendants invariably would be taken aback because of the resemblance, Kirkland said.

When questioned during a City Council hearing to confirm his appointment about how a gay judge would differ from a heterosexual judge, he responded that he would upgrade the courtroom’s sound system in order to play show tunes. On the occasion of his pet iguana’s fifth birthday, he gave the reptile a party featuring a mariachi band, said his longtime friend Jennifer Rantz.

Barnich was also a past chairman of the board for AIDS Foundation Houston.