Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday Morning

A cold, sunny, Saturday morning, this last day of January 2009 was waiting for me one this first day of the last day of my life. For the second consecutive week Bill and I would not have breakfast at Zorba’s restaurant in Rehoboth Beach. Johnnie (our regular waitress) no doubt is wondering what happen to the two old gay geezers who stop in every Saturday morning. The cook won’t be frying scrapple for me or Bill’s egg sandwich with a double order of mayonnaise. No, Week Two continues of this “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” game that Bill likes to play. The first time I saw that Edward Albee play I knew I recognized the plot line. “Something is familiar about this story” I thought to myself. It was only when I found out that Edward Albee “straightened out the play” that I recognized the gay relationship the play was based on and the sometimes twisted and cruel turns it takes which, is in reality two people who care very much for one another. I care very much for Bill and if this is what it takes, so be it.

Even though Bill and I wouldn’t be doing our weekly breakfast at Zorba’s, I thought I would get out anyway. I had some old food in the refrigerator that I had to get rid of. The parking lot of Wal-Mart in Rehoboth always has a contingent of sea gulls hanging around the back of the fast food junk palaces; patiently awaiting any leftovers that Chi-Chi’s, Friendly’s or Wendy’s throw in their dumpsters located behind them. As soon as my red Subaru rolled to a stop behind Wendy’s dumpster, the sea gulls screeched and flocked around my car. Quick! I threw out the food and got out of there fast before one of them left a Thank You deposit on my newly washed and waxed car. No good deed go unpunished in this world.

Then it was off to Giant. Giant is the closest supermarket that Rehoboth Beach has to Wegmans. While it has a long way to go to equal Wegmans, it’s not bad. The store is clean, offers a wide variety of products, and has a high percentage of gay shoppers. Who knows? Maybe I could “accidentally” meet someone who would help me out of my loneliness. Unlikely, but it is possible. At my age, I don’t want to meet someone young because they would only be looking for a sugar daddy. Been there, done that. That’s a dead end street which only causes a lot of angst. I’m not looking for a sexual encounter (are you kidding?) My hormone level left years ago. I’m not interested in any of that activity.

It would be nice to meet someone who has similar interests as I do. All the years I’ve been coming down here and living here for the past two years, I have yet to meet anyone who likes genealogy or taking digital pictures. I’ve given up. It’s sort of like playing the Powerball. I’ve played it for years. The most I’ve ever won is $7.00 (big whoop) While I know it is very unlikely that I will ever win more than $7.00, I keep playing because there is that slight chance that I may win the big prize. I'll even take the $200,000. After taxes I could still pay off my mortgage. However, I’m not pinning all of my hopes on winning but I do like to stay in the game. There is always that chance. You gotta have hope. It’s the same with getting out there and mixing it up. You just never know.

On the way home I stopped at the inn where I work. Last Thursday I was talking to a guest from Australia. She said she wanted to get some black beans to take back home because she couldn’t get black beans in Australia. I had a can of Black Bean Progresso soup. I dropped the can off at the front desk with Blare and asked her to give it to the guest from Australia.

It is not even 10 o'clock yet this morning, but I feel that I have had a worthwhile day. I fed the seagulls and gave Mrs. Stewart her black beans. Mission accomplished. I can have another day on this earth. The beat goes on.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Ted Haggard

Remember the old TV show “That Was the Week That Was?” That’s what this past week felt like. I feel like I’ve been through the wringer. Of course I continue to still have technical problems with my computers and accessories. I won’t even go into all of that. The one thing I will say is that I will NEVER buy another Dell computer for a Microsoft operation system, I don’t care what kind of fancy name they give to it. The last time I got a new Dell it had the Windows ME (Millennium) operating system. I eventually gave that computer away because I couldn’t turn it off and Dell lied about their premium support. I gave the computer to my friend Bob who had to install Windows 95 to get it to operate. I read this morning where Microsoft is going to try and peddle a new operating system called Windows 7. Oh yeah. Hold your breath when I buy that system.

We had the whole range of weather this week. Monday and Tuesday, snow, rain and ice. Pretty. I stayed out of that mess until the rain melted the snow on Wednesday at which time I made a run for the grocery store in the fog. I was out just long enough to cover the sides of my red car with road salt. Yesterday I made another run to Milton to get a laser wash to get rid of the salt. I now have my shiny red car again, albeit with 110,000 miles on it. I felt so good yesterday I took the Grand Tour through the hinterlands. I drove through Milton to Rt. 5, then down Rt. 9, to Rt. 24, then onto Rt. 1 Rehoboth Beach. It was good to get out of the house and drive around the flatlands down here to clear my head.

Yesterday I went to work. The economy is affecting everything, including the number of guests at the hotel where I work in Lewes. We’re offering generous discounts to lure the guests in but there aren’t too many takers. We have some long term guests in the hotel and a few passers through but none of the usual guests who come into town to enjoy the fine restaurants and take advantage of the outlet shopping on Rt. 1 in Rehoboth Beach. Those days are gone, for now anyway. I'm hoping they come back this spring and summer. We're all hoping.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I saw a good movie from Netflix this week. It was called “Big Eden.” It was about a gay guy and his unrequited love interest but more than that. It was about family, all kinds. What really made this film interesting was the total lack of homophobia in the small town to which he returned. Perhaps that’s why they titled it “Big Eden.” It might just have been a fairytale (no pun intended.)

Bill still isn’t talking. Of course this is very stressful to me as well as it is to him. The heaviness hangs over the house. Not much “family” here this week. However, this too will pass.

Last night on “Larry King Live”, I watched Ted Haggard try to explain away his fall from grace from his church. Mr. Haggard seems like a fine man but he should come to terms with reality. He’s still justifying his actions as a test from God. Perhaps. He says his wife has accepted him as has his children. I say whatever works for you Ted, go for it. One thing he doesn’t have to do is apologize for having normal, natural feelings for members of his own sex. As long as he denies these natural feelings, he will be in misery. I could see the sadness in his eyes as he was listening to clips that Larry King was playing from his accusers. How sad. I’m sure that Mr. Haggard loves his wife and five children but he will always be conflicted his whole life with his sexual conflict. That’s what I liked about the movie “Big Eden.” The townsfolk were not conflicted or repelled by the main characters’ homosexuality. They took it as normal, which it is. To all the arguments about homosexuality; is it normal or is it against God’s will my answer has always been, “God made me this way and God doesn’t make mistakes.” Amen.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

From Darkness to Light

Two days ago the snows came through the little edge of Delaware where I live. Usually we miss the big snows. I call my Mother and feel pretty smug when she tells me of the latest snowfall of 3, 4, 5 and more inches of snow, usually topped with a sleeting rain which brings down the power cords and takes out their electricity. That doesn’t happen down here where my house is located, two miles from the Delaware Bay. The coastal air evaporates the half inch of snow that does cover the ground around her from time to time. Tuesday was different. This time we had the sleeting rain to form a icy crust on the snow. No feeling smug this time when talking to Mom. I looked outside and knew I wouldn’t be going anywhere in my car. I hunkered down inside my castle.

Yesterday I awoke to a misty rain. I looked out the window and fog was rising from the ground. The warm temperatures and the rain were causing the half inch of snow to that had covered the ground the day before to melt into smoky fog. Now was the time to make a run for it to the store to get my bananas and my lottery tickets. Driving down Route 1 to Milton was like driving through a cloud, the fog was that heavy. By the time I finished shopping and got into my Subaru Forester, most of the fog had dissipated.

I retuned home to my quiet and sad house. Bill was still holed up in his bedroom. He will come out when he’s ready. I’ve found from past experience I can’t rush him. The rains picked up. All the snow was gone now. The rain heavy clouds interfered with my satellite signal in receiving MSNBC. What would I do without my daily dose of Keith and Rachel?

This was a good time to watch my Netflix rental movie. Usually I watch my movies on the weekend but I needed a respite from the heaviness in this house caused by Bill’s problem. The movie was “Big Eden.” It was a gay love story of unrequited love. Now there’s a new subject. Well, it was a pleasant surprise. At first I was baffled by the actor who played the main character. He wasn’t your typical Hollywood, shaved chest, hunk and a half. No, he was Ayre Gross, a nerdy, physically unattractive New York artist. Oh yes, just my dreamboat without a doubt. He leaves his privileged cocoon in New York for the big sky of Montana to help his grandfather who had a stroke. Returning home he finds that his high school crush now has two children! Oh yes, this looks interesting. But the plot takes an unconventional turn. I won’t give away the story to ruin it for any of the readers of this blog who want to see the movie but I will say I was pleasantly surprised by the ending.

One just never knows where love will turn up. The important message to me is that we are all entitled to love and we all are worthwhile. There may be bumps and detours on our Life’s Journey, but in the end for those of us fortunate enough to love and be loved, it’s worth it. Love is more than a mutual sexual attraction of one person to another, whatever their sex may be. True love is the love of one’s neighbors, friends and family. Many times that love is there for the taking but we don’t see it because of the barriers we have erected around ourselves to protect us from pain.

Gray skies, snow and rain have prevailed the past two days in my little corner of the world. The sun has reappeared today. I’m going out for a ride. I am thankful that I have another day on this earth. Each day is a gift.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Losing a Friend Part II

It was in 2001 when I first noticed that Bob might have a problem. I had given him a new computer and he was having a problem opening e-mails with attachments. Several times during my previous visits I sat with him and showed him the steps to open his e-mail, click on the “Download” button, and then click on the “Open” button. Yet, each time I visited Bob he told me he didn’t know how to download a file attachment (usually a picture.) For about the umpteenth time I sat with him at his computer again and told him to write down the three steps as I would show him again. I went through the steps, looking at Bob each time I went to the next step. It was then I had one of those moments that you see in the TV commercial for Alzheimer’s medicine. I knew. Looking at Bob all I saw was his gaping mouth and his eyes which showed that he wasn’t registering what I was showing him. His face was a blank slate. Nothing I was saying was sinking in. He couldn’t connect the dots.

Over the past few years prior to this moment I had noticed little signs like this. We used to joke about it as one of the “benefits” of getting older. Things that we used to take for granted like remembering where we put our glasses or car keys, we would forget. I know myself that I have to have a set routine or else I will misplace things. But I noticed that Bob’s forgetfulness was soon outpacing even my lapses of memory. Bob became so concerned that he brought the issue of his fear of dementia or Alzheimer’s to the attention of his caregiver at the Veterans Administration. He was told that as long as he was remembering that he was forgetting “not to worry, he didn’t have a problem.” So we both dismissed our forgetfulness as an inevitable consequence of getting old.

However, there was one thing nagging in my mind. I remember reading some years ago a woman’s account of her mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s disease. She said at first she would dismiss her mother’s forgetfulness as signs of her getting older. She and her family would make excuses for her mother’s sometimes bizarre behavior. But, as time went on, her mother’s forgetfulness and sometimes unusual behavior became harder to ignore. Perhaps the telltale sign was her mother’s retreat into silence. Of course there were the usual “good days” and “bad days.” Some days her mother would be her old self. Then on other days her mother would sit on the sidelines with a vacant look on her face, mouth hanging agape. That is what is happening to my friend Bob now. He sits with the vacant look, his mouth hanging agape.

More and more of those telltale “moments” were happening now. Bob has lived in Delaware since 1976. This past summer I called him to ask how long he has lived in Delaware. He said “Three years.” I said “Three years?” He said “Yes.” I said “You’re kidding! Three years?” He said “Yes.” He wasn’t kidding. I hung up the phone. A few minutes later he called back. He said “Did I say I lived here three years?” I said “Yes.” He said “I’ve lived here longer than that.” I asked “How long?” He said “Longer than that.” I asked again, “When did you move here?” He said “It was longer than three years.” End of conversation. This is when I knew he had a problem. He had no idea of how long he has lived in Delaware.

For the last several years I noticed that during our long phone conversations, I was doing most of the talking. That’s not unusual for me (as those who know me will knowingly attest), but our phone conversations were increasingly becoming one sided. At times I would ask Bob if he was still on the line. We used to have animated conversations on the phone. We would get into all kinds of discussions. Not any more. I felt like I was doing a solo reading. I dismissed this as my fault for dominating the conversation. It wasn’t too long though before my partner Bill made a comment about his phone conversations with Bob. Bill didn’t call Bob near as much as I did but he would occasionally call Bob to chat. Bill told me that he sometimes wondered if Bob was even on the line. I said to Bill, “Have you noticed that too? It seems like he isn’t there.” Now I know I can dominate a conversation but this was ridiculous. I was calling my long time friend to basically have a one sided conversation. Gradually, I stopped calling. My long time confidant was fading away.

Another sign of Bob’s failure of memory was his inability to keep a date. For years Bob and his partner Jim, and another friend had what they called the “Old Fart’s Night Out.” This was to get their friend Bart, a grumpy 86 year old closeted gay man out at least one night of the week. Bob and Jim would stop by Bart’s place and pick him up for their weekly outing. They would alternate between three places; Cracker Barrel, Bob Evans Restaurant or the Rehoboth Diner. I enjoyed these outings but wasn’t able to go out with them every Wednesday night until I moved down here. Once I moved to Delaware, I made arrangements to meet them at the designated restaurant for that week. It wasn’t too long before we encountered a problem. I would ask Bob where we were meeting, since Bob was driving Jim and Bart. Bob would say “we will meet at the Rehoboth Diner at 6 PM.” I would go to the Rehoboth Diner at the agreed upon time and wait for them. And I would wait. And wait. Six o’clock. I would wait another 15 minutes. Six fifteen. Still no Bob. Six thirty. No Bob. Where did they go? I thought I got my directions wrong. I would call Bob on his cell phone but he has told me he doesn’t know how to turn it on. The obvious question is why does he have it? He says “Jim knows how to turn it on.” When Bob and the crew didn’t appear at the Rehoboth Diner I decided to check Cracker Barrel. Yep, there they were, sitting at a table in Cracker Barrel. I dismissed this as a misunderstanding on my part on where we were to meet.

Now that I was living in Delaware, I could meet them every week. It quickly became obvious that Bob couldn’t remember where he told me we were going to meet. Sometimes he and the crew would be at the agreed upon place at six, more often than not he wouldn’t be there. After few more times of running up and down Rt. 1 wondering where they were eating, I decided that if they didn’t show up I would just go home. Then something else interesting happened. Bob would never call and ask “Where were you?” I let it go a week then I called the next week and asked “Where are we meeting this week?” I also asked where did they eat the previous week. He told me but never asked where I was. Now I’m thinking maybe they don’t want me along. Both Jim and Bart are none too fond of me for different reasons. Jim is a very insecure person who feels threatened by my friendship with Bob. Bart hates anyone who doesn’t subscribe to his Kool-Aid drinking Far Right views. You disagree with him when he's spouting off, and he will shout you down even if it is in public. He's not a pleasant person to be around. After several months of missed connections, I decided that it was time to discontinue my membership in the “Old Farts Night Out” club.

The accumulation of forgetfulness and unusual behavior from Bob was becoming too much to ignore. The time the three of us (Bill, me and Bob) went to the VA for our flue shots. Bob wanders off. The time the three of us went shopping at the Wal-Mart in Georgetown, Bob wanders off without saying a word. The time I was helping Bob research a missing CD. I gave him the address of the Comptroller of the Currency to write a letter. He couldn’t get the name right, kept saying “Currency Controller, Calculator of the Controller, Controller of the Dollar” and other versions of Comptroller of the Currency. I eventually wrote the letter for him. I asked him to sign it and mail it out. A few weeks later I asked him if he heard anything. He didn’t remember the letter. This particular episode had many more factors involved which I won’t go into here. I went with him to Wachovia Bank to help him recover his CD. I gave him the address of the Unclaimed Funds for the state of Pennsylvania (he had deposited his CD at PNB Bank in Philadelphia.) It was like pushing rope. I explain all this to him and I got the same vacant stare and hanging open mouth when I was showing him how to open an attachment on his e-mail. His brain wasn’t able to connect the dots. The lost, vacant stare. The slack jaw. No more the Bob that I used to know. Animated, joking, smiling, laughing. That Bob was gone.

I feel as if I’m losing a friend. I am losing a friend. The best analogy I can think of is an astronaut who is taking a space walk. He (or she) is tethered to the spaceship with a line. That line gets lose and the astronaut is slowly slipping out into the great void of space. We can see that astronaut but we can’t reach him. We extend our hand but his hand is out of reach, slipping slowly but surely further out of reach. We watch helplessly as the image of the astronaut gets smaller and smaller as he drifts farther out into space. Eventually the astronaut is gone, swallowed by the endless expanse of the universe. I’m losing my friend. He is slowly slipping away.

During the past several years I have lost friends. Some have moved on with their lives and not kept in touch. Others have become ill and died. This is the first friend I am losing to dementia. It is sad and I don’t know what to do. A part of me is hoping Bob will call me one day and say it was all a big practical joke. The Old Bob would do something like that. However, my heart tells me that the Old Bob is gone. He’s been replaced by this person with the vacant stare and slack jaw. The Old Bob that I knew is in there somewhere and I don’t know how to reach him. I fear that I have lost my friend.

To be continued.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Losing a Friend Part I

On this day, forty nine years ago, I joined the United States Army. January 27th, 1960 was also the day my future best friend, Big Bob, was drafted in the Army. We didn’t meet that day. I was on a train from Downingtown, PA to Philadelphia, where I would switch over to a Trailways bus that would deposit me at Ft. Dix, New Jersey to begin basic training. Bob was headed to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina on a troop train for his basic training. We wouldn’t meet until March when we both arrived at Ft. Devens, Massachusetts for Army Security Agency schooling.

I don’t remember the exact moment we met at Ft. Devens, but we became best friends almost immediately. We were both from the same area of Pennsylvania thus sharing weekend rides to our homes in the suburbs of Philadelphia. We probably met the first time on one of those rides.

For the six months that we went to Army Security Agency schooling at Ft. Devens, we spent almost every spare minute together. Ironically, after I left the Army in 1963 I came out about my sexual orientation and discovered that Bob was also gay. He never suspected I was gay nor did I ever give a thought to Bob’s sexual orientation. Our friendship was not based on sexual attraction (contrary to what many straight people think, not all gay men are attracted to all men) but on a commonality of interests and enjoying each other’s company.

After schooling ended Bob and I went out separate ways. I was assigned to Ft. Meade, Maryland and Bob was assigned to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. We kept in touch the next two years by mail.

A few months after I got out of the service in January 1963, I came out to my family and friends. I made the decision that I didn’t want to live my life as a lie (as I did when I was in the Army working at the National Security Agency with a top secret clearance that I could lose at any time if my sexual orientation became known.) To my great surprise, and to Bob’s, we both became aware of each other’s true sexual identity.

From the years since 1963, Bob and I continued our best friend relationship. When I met Bill in July of 1964 (my life partner since then and the one who isn’t speaking to me now), it was Bob who I confided in. Bob met Bill and the three of us have been close friends over the years.

Ironically, Bob is the reason I’m living in Delaware now. Over the years when Bill has had one of his episodes of not speaking to me, I would take off and visit Bob at his home in the woods outside Georgetown, Delaware. Usually, by the time I got home Bill would be over his funk. I came down to this area of Delaware so many times over the years that I came to look upon it as my second home. When taxes forced me out of my home in Pennsylvania, Delaware was at the top of my list for a new home. Thus it was with great joy that I moved to Delaware in the summer of 2006. Little did I know at that time it was the beginning of the loss of my close friendship with Bob.

To be continued.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Another Gray Day

Here we are at Monday and another gray day in January. Oh how I long for the sunny days of spring and summer. Last year we had many good sunny days. Actually there were too many sunny days. We had a drought which wasn’t good for the local farmers growing corn and soybeans.

Looking out the window now I see snowflakes! The snowflakes fall gently to the ground. They are beautiful. However, I hope we miss the big snow storm again like we have so far this winter. Pennsylvania needs this snow a lot more than we do here in Slower Lower with our wind swept coastal plains that don’t hold snow more than a day. Please!

This morning I opened an e-mail from a friend of mine showing his two beautiful Shetland collies romping in his Cranberry Township (near Pittsburgh) back yard. Well, they like it! I’m happy for them. I would rather look at pictures of people and animals in the snow that experience it myself. As they say, “Been there, done that!” His dogs are lovely though.

Yesterday my cousin called to tell me that her mother (and my aunt) is in the hospital with pneumonia. I was hoping to get up to Pennsylvania and take my Mother to visit her older sister before something like this happened. My aunt turned 90 years old March 18th of last year. I will always remember the one summer I spent at her home with my Uncle George and my cousins Elaine and George, Jr. They lived near the Capital Bakery. My fondest memory of that summer was the smell of baking bread and my Aunt Jeanette’s invasion of Japanese beetles on her rose bushes. I have a special fondness for my Aunt Jeanette as well as her older sister Grace. Both of them looked like my Mother and had similar personalities. It was like I had three Mothers. Their brother and my Uncle George, was also special to me. My grandfather did something right in raising such wonderful, exceptional people. I would like to think that the best part of me I inherited from my Hadfield relatives.

It’s back to work today after a sad weekend here. Bill is still holed up in his room, refusing to come out. No matter how many times this never gets easier.

Last night I thought I would watch one of my movies that I rented from Netflix. The movie was “A Love To Hide.” This was perhaps the worst movie to watch during these sad times. I got as far as the stone quarry scene and I couldn’t take anymore. Not that the movie wasn’t well done (it was, despite some uneven spots) and had an important message. It was and did. The problem I have is watching violence. Sure, this was “just a movie” and the violence wasn’t really happening but I knew that it DID HAPPEN. I can’t take it. I literally cannot watch it. I will faint. I guess I’m a certified pussy. The movie goes back today. I’ll have to check my Netflix que. I need a Will Ferrell comedy. I need to rent a movie so incredibly stupid that it will take my mind off of these gray days and all the other woes in this country and world. I know, “Dumb and Dumber.” That will do the trick.

Stay warm.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Bills

Three of my best friends are named Bill. There is Bill K., my partner of 45 years and “best friend” (even though he’s not speaking to me now because of a near accident we almost had a couple of days ago.)

Another Bill, is my long time friend (since grade school), Bill B. We became close when we played in the marching band (he the bass drum and me the Sousaphone.) Either Bill or I would save a seat for each other on the band bus for the away football games. After graduation Bill B. and I gradually grew apart and didn’t become close again until we met at our 25th class reunion.

The third Bill, is Bill P. I met Bill P. when I began working at Girard Bank in Philadelphia in 1965. In a few years he was my boss for the next 20 years until I left the bank in a corporate reorganization. Bill P. and I went out to lunch almost every day when we worked together.

Over the years I’ve remained in contact with both Bill B. from my childhood and Bill P. from my workplace. I lived with with Bill K., so he was the one constant. Both Bill B. and Bill P. have met Bill K. They all like one another. However, Bill B. and Bill P. have never met one another. Yesterday morning I corrected that life history anomaly.

I stay in contact with both other Bill’s through e-mail and by phone. Bill B. lives in Downingtown, Pennsylvania and Bill P. lives near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Yesterday I called Bill K. on the phone. I wanted to tease him about the outcome of the presidential election. Both Bill P. and Bill B. are on the opposite end of the political spectrum from me. They’re conservative Republicans and I am a liberal Democrat. Even so, we’re good friends. Birds of a feather or something like that. Anyway, while talking to Bill P. I thought “Why not have a three-way phone conversation and call Bill B. so I could introduce these two good friends of mine from different phases of my life?” I called Bill B. His wife told me he was in the shower. I asked her if she could call him to the phone dripping wet and all that (employing a little friendly humor which I don’t think she appreciated.) She advised me to call in about 10 minutes.

I continued to talk to Bill P. (as good friends we never run out of things to talk about), until the 10 minutes were up. I called Bill B. with Bill P. on the line. Bill B. came on the line and I asked him if he would like to meet my other “Bill” friend. He said “Sure!” I hit the Flash button on my phone and thus connected the two separate parts of my life that were heretofore unconnected. As I knew it would happen, both Bill’s got along fine. Both are football fans (Bill P. the Steelers and Bill B. the Eagles). Our three way conversation continued for about 15 minutes until Bill B. had to leave to attend Saturday morning chores.

I’ve often thought about the different friends that I’ve made in the different phases of my life and would it be nice if they knew one another. With the two Bill’s yesterday, it is amazing how similar they are in their personalities. Both are witty have a wicked dry sense of humor. Both are very private (unlike me.) Both are smart as a whip and very hard workers. Both married well and have wonderful wives (who I also like a lot.) Both have raised children who love and adore them and remain close to them even in their adulthood. I’m glad I was able to finally complete the circle yesterday and introduce them to one another, even if it was only over the phone.

Over the years I’ve often wondered what we had in common. They’re straight, I’m gay. Their conservative, I’m liberal. They have a four year college degree and I have a two year associate’s degree. They have children, I don’t. Perhaps the main thing we have in common is our realistic view on life and its absurdities. Even though we’re looking at life through opposite ends of the political spectrum, we can still mock the hypocrisy and phoniness that we see all about us. Perhaps our friendship is defined by that factor that defines all true friendships and that is the fact that they accept me as I am; flaws and all as I do them.

Have we had our differences over the years? Absolutely! But our friendship has always remained intact. And the reason for that is I like these guys. They both have a heart of gold and I will always treasure their friendship. If I should die tomorrow, I will go to my grave knowing that I was fortunate in having lifelong friends such as these two Bills.

Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have other good friends. I read or heard somewhere that one can consider themselves lucky if they go through life with good friends that they can count on one hand. I’m very lucky. I can count my good friends on two hands. In a future posting I’ll tell the story of my friends Larry, Stuart, Don, Bob, Bob, Bob and Bob. Yes, there are a lot of Bob’s.

Lately, I’ve spiced up my list of friends with a Wayne, Doug and Harvey. I have had an interesting life. It would make a good mini-series. Actually, we all have interesting lives. I’m fortunate that I am at the age now (some of my friends didn’t make it – Sal, Alice, and Ron) that I can look back and reflect. For that I am thankful. It's been a good journey.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Silent Treatment

I'm getting the silent treatment now from Bill. That was a close call yesterday. It was stupid of me on my part to even listen to his suggestion to pass on the right. This too will pass.

To occupy my mind with something else today, I worked printing address labels to send postcards out to my classmates for our 50th class reunion. It was an all afternoon job. I worked with the mail merge feature of Word. I've done this before but I don't know how I did it. This time I even used the wizard and I still don't know how I did it. Good old Microsoft, God forbid that they would make something intuitive. After about four hours I got the labels printed. I'll send them off to my classmate Carole to send out.

We had a nice day yesterday but the cold has descended upon us again. This morning I saw a new Jacqui Lawson card that featured a tropical island with warm summer breezes. I sent it out to all my friends to remind them that better days are coming.

Hope you all like the picture I've posted to this blog. Weren't you all enthralled by Aretha's big gray bow at the inauguration? Apparently the Bushes were too.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Dodged a Bullet

Every now and then we get a winter day like today. After weeks of single degree temperatures, the thermometer reached the low 50's. Today was a treat. Sunny skies, low winds, mild temperature. Even the birds knew today was special. A flock of sparrows visited my backyard this morning, checking out the accommodations. It was nice to see these harbingers of spring.

Today was a day for a walk. It’s been months since I took this simple refreshing pleasure. I took advantage of this opportunity and walked in the development behind my house. Hundreds of honking snow geese passed over me in the skies above my head. A couple of buzzards, gliding on their long black wing spans, punctured the white sea of snow geese. A gentle breeze caressed my face. I took the long way through the development, finishing my walk about 45 minutes later.

Refreshed after my walk I decided this was a good day to wash my car. This was a good time to get the winter gunk off of it. I asked Bill if he wanted to accompany me. Bill and I drove to the car wash in Milton. Bill sat in the car while I lathered up my car. After rinsing the car, I drove it around to the back of the car wash to dry it off. This was the first glitch in the day. I forgot to put my bucket with sponges and drying clothes in it.

I drove out of the car wash with my dripping wet car to the nearby gas station to get some gas. I’ve never used the gas station in Milton because it is one of these old style gas stations which are hard to get into and charge too much for gas. The second glitch happened. While at the light waiting for the car in front of me to make a left hand turn Bill insisted that I pass the car on the right to get through the intersection. I was hesitant to because I’m not comfortable passing on the right. Well, I was right in this instance because as I passing the stopped car on the right, I almost had a collision with a car coming in the opposite direction that was making a left hand turn through the intersection. I dodge a bullet this time. The oncoming car slammed on their horn, letting me know I almost was the cause of an accident. I immediately said to Bill “I knew I should have done that!” This is the problem driving with Bill. For years I wouldn’t drive with him as a passenger in my car because he is a hopeless backseat driver. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve said “Do you want to drive the car? You’re going to cause me to have an accident!” I shouldn’t have listened to him this time but I wanted to avoid an argument. I blame myself.

I have another friend who likes to give directions while I’m driving. I think it’s a personality thing. I don’t know if it is their arrogance and superiority complex or their contempt of me. Maybe they're just trying to help me. However, I doubt it. It seems no matter what I do when I have this kind of person as a passenger, they feel a need to give directions. Whatever the root cause of this kind of personality, it is very dangerous to drive with someone like this as a passenger. I find that driving with a person that has this need to control you’re either defending your driving or giving in to their scolds just to shut them up. Either way, it makes for a dangerous situation. The only solution I can see is to completely ignore them. It’s interesting but if I dared to give them directions, they would have a fit.

Bill’s upset now and won’t be speaking to me for awhile. We’ve been through this before. Even after 45 years, there are bumps in the road. He’ll get over it. We’ve been down this road before. I’m just thankful we didn’t have an accident. Thank you God.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Cold Days of Winter

January and February are my least favorite months of the year. One of my goals in retirement was to have enough money that I could move to warmer climes during this time of year. I also wanted to have an in ground pool. The pool I can do without. However, I haven’t given up on my goal of leaving the cold northern winters.

Two good friends of mine depart today for a cruise in the Caribbean. While that sounds romantic and luxurious, I don’t want to go through the hassle of taking a plane to the ship departure point in Florida. It would take me at least a week to recover from the stress of modern day travel. I haven’t taken a plane since 9/11 and I don’t intend to while taking off one’s shoes is a requirement to fly as a passenger in a plane.

Other friends and relatives have winter snug boxes in Florida. My cousin Jack and his wife are already ensconced in their North Port Myers Florida abode. Friends Sandy and Bob, Evie and Barb, and Jack and Judy are all enjoying the warm tropical nights of the Sunshine State. A very good friend of mine, Stuart, didn't take any chances of catching a winter chill. He lives in Ft. Lauderdale year round. But there is a price to pay. Stuart misses the change in seasons. He laments that he doesn’t see those colorful harbingers of Spring, the tulips

My winter stays in the north aren’t as bad as they were when I lived in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, the first snow usually hit the ground around Thanksgiving. Throughout December and early January more snow would fall. Some year (like this year), one would also get the freezing rain. Freezing rain looks pretty on the trees and bushes but isn’t so good for the electric power. Nor is black ice good for traveling the winding roads of hilly Pennsylvania. The good thing about living on the coastal plain of southern Delaware is that when we do get snow it doesn’t last for more than a day. What we do get in abundance down here are the strong winds. At the end of the year we had wind gusts up to 50 mph. Those winds will cut right through you and make you wish you were sipping a pina colada on a sandy beach in Florida.

My solution is to stay in my house as much as I can. My house has a lot of windows which takes advantage of the passive solar heat. My bedroom is ideally located to capture the warmth of the daytime sun. Like my brother John who lives in Greenville, South Carolina who manages the heat and humidity of the southern summers by darting between his air-conditioned house, car and church (where he works.) I manage the cold by darting between my house, car and hotel (where I work.)

One good thing about living in southern Delaware that I take comfort in is that the winters don’t last as long as they did when I lived in Pennsylvania. Where I live now, spring arrives when it is supposed to arrive. In just a little over a month the first daffodils will push their way through the cold earth to be greeted with appreciative smiles from all of us who stuck it out this winter in Delaware. That day can't come soon enough. It's cold out there!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Day Is Here

The day is here. Our country begins anew. Watch the inauguration today and try not to get choked up. What a wonderful day. Finally, we are all one.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Charles Schulz Philosophy

A friend sent this to me this morning. It is well worth reading and pondering. The premise is absolutely true with me. I cannot remember the famous award winners. However, I can remember those who made a difference in my life. And that includes the person who sent this list to me. Thank you Diane.

The Charles Schulz Philosophy:

The following is the philosophy of Charles Schulz, the creator of the 'Peanuts' comic strip. You don't have to actually answer the questions. Just ponder on them. Just read the e-mail straight through, and you'll get the point.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do? The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners. Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special!
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

Easier? The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials... the most money... or the most awards. They simply are the ones who care the most! "Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia !" "Be Yourself, Everyone Else Is Taken!"

To quote that great philosopher Judy Garland:

"Be the first rate version of yourself, not the second rate version of someone else."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Free At Last!

The last week or so, I have experienced periodic feelings of euphoria. Butterflies would invade my stomach. I thought, "What is this? Am I finally going to with the Powerball Lottery?" But, I check my Powerball tickets twice a week (Thursdays and Sundays) and alas, I am no closer now to winning than I was three years ago when I purchased my first ticket.

Then, it was a day or two ago I realized what was causing my feeling of euphoria. This feeling was much like the feeling I used to experience as a kid right before Christmas. "What was Santa going to bring ME?" But this was much more than the feeling in anticipation of Christmas. Much bigger. Then I realized. George W. Bush will soon be gone from our lives. GONE! Hard to believe. The nightmare of the past eight years is finally coming to an end. Somehow our country has survived, barely. It is finally going to be over. Bush's smirking presence, his cluelessness, his arrogance, his stupidity, will be gone. GONE! IT'S OVER!

Bush is even put his ranch in Crawford up for sale. This is the same ranch he used as a prop during the past eight years that he was just a "Good ole Texas boy." He's moving into a house that he hasn't even seen in Houston. Talk about lack of curiosity. He left the selection of the house up to his wife Laura. Reportedly Bush is working on his library and his memoirs. Now there is an oxymoron if there ever was one. A George W. Bush library. The George W. Bush memoirs. After eight years of lies who would buy a book of lies? His base? Perhaps.

Some of my conservative friends have told me that they are going to give Barack Obama "a chance." Notice the unwitting arrogance of such a statement. They say they will "wait and see" how he does. This attitude truly baffles me because I don't see how we could have done much worse than the past eight years under the grand therapy session of George W. Bush trying to prove to his father that he wasn't a loser and wastrel. If nothing else remember this about George W. Bush, he was our first president who had a criminal conviction (DUI.)

Below is a response I left on my friend Lar's blog. Lar had posted a thoughtful and invocative piece on the direction that our country may be going under our new president, Barack Obama.


That was a thoughtful and heartfelt posting Lar. It was invocative and hopeful. Today we are at the threshold of a new dawn. The last eight years have been the worst in our nation's history. Our country was led by an incompetent enabled by a coterie of criminals and self aggrandizers to the brink of financial and moral collapse. The only good thing that can be said of George W. Bush, is that his monumental failure as a leader has cleared the path for Barack Obama to the presidency. Just as Herbert Hoover lead to Franklin D. Roosevelt; Jimmy Carter lead to Ronald Reagan; and Richard Nixon lead to Bill Clinton. George W. Bush has cleared the path for the resurrection of our country by the election of Barack Obama.

From an administration that caused untold destruction to America's moral standing in the world by condoning torture, repealing the right of habeas corpus, and eavesdropping on American citizens, ignoring death and destruction during one of the worst natural disasters in our country's history; our country now is only a few days away from resurrecting its rightful place as the moral leader of the world.

I thank God that this country has proved itself strong enough to withstand the assault on our country's Christian-Judaeo constitutional foundations by Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld and the rest of the criminal co-conspirators the Republican administration of the past eight years.

The heavy yoke of bi-partisanship and of pitting segments of our society against one another just so the "base" would continue to support the criminals of the Bush Administration and put them back in power so they could continue raping our country with their grossly unfair tax cuts for the rich only, will soon be lifted from our backs.

It will be a pleasure to see the future leader of our country without wincing in embarrassment at his latest struggle with the English language and his frat boy smirking arrogance. It will be with pleasure to see the future leader of our country visit groups around country of all people instead of the captive audiences of military academies and bases. It will be a pleasure to see all the citizens of our country (not just white conservatives) surround him, genuinely smiling and happy to be in his presence. It will be a pleasure to respect our new leader instead of making excuses for him and blaming someone else for his failures. It will be a pleasure to see George W. Bush go away.

I am so happy over this prospect that I have butterflies in my stomach from the anticipation of Inauguration Day, January 20th. The day this country goes forward into a new era with pride and dignity. I thank God for producing such a man as Barack Obama. I thank God that the majority of voters have seen through the lies and deceptions of the past eight years and voted Barack Obama as our next president and leader of our country. My heart is overflowing with hope and love for our country and all of its citizens. The New Day is here. To quote Martin Luther King:

"Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."
-- "I Have a Dream" speech, August 28, 1963

Friday, January 16, 2009


At 5:42 am this morning, I awoke to the sound stopping on my Holmes ionizer air filtration machine. Quiet. I knew immediately what this meant, the power is out. I use the Holmes ionizer air filter as white noise to help me sleep. Now that the power was out, I was wide awake. It was just as well because I had a dental appointment in Dover at 9 am. With the power outage, I’m just getting up earlier than I had planned to. Oh joy.

The New Year continues to greet me with a series of frustrations to try my patience. I’m losing it. Yesterday I got my DIRECTV fixed so I could receive my satellite television. Another little fire put out. But then when I went to work I noticed that my wrist watch had stopped. Oh why not? The battery was dead. I took the watch off because all I would do would look at it as if it was still keeping time. So I went to work, looking at a bare wrist. Down here in Slower Lower (Sussex County, Delaware), one doesn’t walk into a jewelry shop and buy a watch battery and ask them to change it. That’s a service that isn’t done in Slower Lower. I know. I’ve tried only to be met with a curt “We don’t do that!” Since I was traveling back to civilization this morning (Dover), I would get it done there (which I did.)

I forget to mention that yesterday (Wednesday), I was awakened by the sound of the trash truck. Our trash can was in the garage. Of course it should have been out by the mailbox so my new trash hauler (Moore) could pick it up. Our previous trash hauler, Waste Management, picked up the trash later in the morning so Bill didn’t put out our can until 8 or 9. Apparently, Moore gets started earlier. I quickly threw on some clothes and rushed to the garage. I pushed the automatic door opener and, sure enough, the Moore trash behemoth was several house up Whitehall Drive, picking up my neighbor’s can. I wheeled out my can and parked it at the edge of my driveway, hoping they would see me and take pity. They weren’t in the pitying mood yesterday morning. After loudly dropping my neighbor’s giant green plastic trash can (everyone wake up!), their truck pulled away and drove off into the morning light of Whitehall Drive. Yes, I would be keeping my trash for another week. Somewhere in the bottom of that can is a rotten potato. Ever smell a rotten potato? The dark brown spot on a rotten potato quickly liquefies and turns into an all enveloping permeating smell the likes of which is hard to describe. Not as bad as a skunk but not a smell you would want lingering on your clothes and house. I’m hoping I get a break on that potato. I don’t need to smell that for the next week until the trash men come back next Wednesday. Oh yes, we will take out the trash early next week. We don’t need a big learning curve on this one.

So the power was out this morning. What a wonderful start for the new day. This brought back memories of when we used to live in Pennsylvania. We lived on 7 acres of wooded land in East Brandywine Township. Our power went out on the average of twice a month. We had a whole routine. Usually a strong wind would take out the power. The area we lived had so many trees and invariably a strong wind would break off a dead branch that would take the power out. Sometimes the outages would only be for a few hours and sometimes a day. On once occasion, it was out for a week. This was another reason I moved to Delaware and away from trees. I never did get used to living with all those power outages. Since we have lived in Delaware (November 2006), this is only the third outage. None of them have been longer than a few hours. This one I think was caused by a deterioration of the phone line. As Bill and I drove out of our development this morning for my 9 am Dental appointment in Dover, we saw the electric company trucks repairing the line. Interesting, the repairman for DIRECTV was in yesterday repairing corroded connections on our satellite hookup and today the electric company was repairing a corroded electric line. Even more irony, my dental appointment was to take out my upper left bridge and the one tooth holding it to be replaced by a partial denture. I don’t know, it seems like everything is falling apart this year, including me.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


My DIRECTV is fixed! Juan, the DIRECTV repairman arrived at the appointed time. Juan was the original DIRECTV technician who setup my system. I was glad to see him. I knew I was in capable hands.

He had no problem with my request to remove his shoes before he went through my house. I know I'm fussy to the inth degree but I really don't want people walking through my house with their shoes on. Who knows what those shoes have walked on?

Juan quickly diagnosed the problem as one of corroded contacts on the outside lines. It took him about two hours to replace the contacts. Now I have my MSNBC back (and CNN and TCM.)

Juan and his family used to live in this development. The three of us (Bill) discussed what has transpired since he moved. It was good to see him again. It was also good to have a professional, knowledgeable and friendly service person take care of my problem.

This is a short posting because I have to go to work early today. Blare (who I'm relieving) has to leave early for a doctor's appointment. Today will be a long day at work for me but I am comfortable knowing that when I come home tonight I can watch Keith and Rachel.

Now I have another problem, my Adobe Flash Player isn't working on my Gateway computer. I can't blame this problem on Vista. Who knows what happened here? I get a message telling me I don't have the latest version of Adobe Flash Player and I need to download it. I download it and nothing happens. So what else is new? O la de da.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Don't Ask, Don' Tell

The news is out, Barack Obama is going to overturn the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military. Thank God. Robert Gibbs, Obama’s press secretary stated that Obama will request that the policy be discontinued.

This is ironic because I am just finishing the book, “Major Conflict” by Jeffrey McGowan, a retired U. S. Army major. Major McGowan hid is sexuality during his ten years in the Army. Reading his book brought back so many painful memories for me. I also served in the U.S. Army. My tour of duty was January 27, 1960 through January 26th, 1963. I was stationed at Ft. George G. Meade, Maryland. I worked at the National Security Agency. I had a top secret security clearance. If there was even a hint of my homosexuality, I would have been cashiered out of the Army immediately. Back when I was in the Army, all it took was an accusation and you would lose your clearance. If you lost your clearance, the Army Security Agency gave you a Section 8 discharge. While it wasn’t a dishonorable discharge, it wasn’t the type of discharge you would want on your record for the rest of your life.

Another irony, before I joined the Army, I didn’t know another gay person. Like many closeted gays of my generation, I thought I was the “only one” in the world. Remember, I grew up in the Fifties, when the only thing on TV was Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Of course I was aware of perverts who hung around men’s room. I knew I wasn’t one of those. I also knew I wasn’t Milton Berle in drag. I just thought I was “different.” So it came as a surprise that some of the first gay guys I met were in the Army. No, there were no sexual encounters. That didn’t happen. As friendships developed, our common sexual identity just sort of came out. There was never one dramatic moment when my friend Ron or Sal said “Oh! You’re gay too?” That never happened. I had many friends when I was in the Army. Gay and straight. We were all soldiers and we behaved as soldiers. We were all in the same boat. When you're on the front line with bullets whizzing above your head, no one is going to ask you if you're straight or gay. While I know there are homophobes in the Army, I believe most of the fear of gays comes from those outside the Army.

Ron and Sal were my best friends during my 2 ½ years at Ft. Meade. We had a wonderful camaraderie. I cannot imagine how my time at Ft. Meade without their friendship. Ron and Sal are gone now. They would have been surprised and very happy with this news. Unfortunately, Sal was right when he said "I'll never see it in my lifetime. " I wish I could pick up the phone and call Sal now to discuss this good news with him. I can't because Sal died October 17th, 2006. I will have to be content knowing that Sal is looking down from Heaven with that warm smile of his at this turn of events.

Like Jeffrey McGowan, I wanted to serve my country. Except for the pressure of hiding my sexual identity, I enjoyed my three years of duty. I had a great job at NSA. In fact, I could’ve transferred to civilian status after my tour of duty with the Army ended. However, when my enlistment was up, I decided not to reenlist or to transfer over to civilian status. I knew that the Army and the National Security Agency had a policy of firing homosexuals. I couldn’t imagine starting my life living a lie. Sooner or later, I would be found out. I couldn’t and wouldn’t live with that pressure.

Reading “Major Conflict”, all these memories came rushing back to me. The unfairness of losing my security clearance and getting kicked out of the Army just because of my sexual identity. I only had to be accused to lose my security clearance thrown out of the Army with a Section 8. I did not engage in any misbehavior. Ron, Sal and I were just friends. Unlike what many straight people think, gays men aren’t attracted to every man they see just as straight men aren’t attracted to every woman they see.

It’s ironic but the reason stated why a gay person would lose their clearance was because they would be subject to blackmail. This is a Catch-22 because the only reason they would be subject to blackmail is because the Army and NSA had a policy of not hiring gays. Never mind that there has never been on case of a gay person being blackmailed into revealing national secrets, the Army and the National Security Agency clung to their policy against gays.

When January 26th, 1963 rolled around, I left the Army and the National Security Agency. In April of that year I went to my first gay bar in the old steel town of Clairton, Pennsylvania. A little over a year later I met Bill, my life partner of 44 years now. Another irony, Bill was also in the service. He served for a time in the Army, and the balance of his ten years in the service was with the Air Force. Thus it came to pass that two Army vets are now partners for life.

When Clinton came into office, he attempted to lift the ban on gays in the military. Unfortunately, he blinked and backed down to the generals and the outcry from Congress. Clinton should have done what that long time conservative Barry Goldwater advised, remind the generals that he was the commander in chief and if they didn’t like his order, then they should resign.

There will be another outcry this time again. There are those in this country who consider gays as a lesser life form. We are the last minority that it is permissible to discriminate against. However, times have changed. The question is, have they changed enough that the majority of this country now see that allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve benefits not only gays but also benefits the country?


The problems continue. Below is an e-mail that I sent to a friend this morning. I was hoping my next blog posting would be a happy, upbeat blog posting. It was not to be. The past week or so, I’ve noticed that I can’t get some channels on my DirecTV satellite TV. I don’t want to give anyone headaches by going into the boring details like I did with my previous blog postings about my PC troubles with Vista. All I know is that I hate having strangers tramping through my house, with their shoes on (who knows where those shoes have been), checking off their check list of the usual suspects. I know what the problem is with my DirecTV. The satellite dish was knocked off of it’s settings during the 60 mph sustained winds we had at the end of the year.

The last time the DirecTV repairman came out, it was obvious I was his first patient because he kept referring to his manual. He checked all the connections which meant pulling all five of my receivers out of wherever they were accumulating dust. In the end, it was the dish, as it always is. What really blows their mind is when they check my main electrical switch box in the basement. Every repairman (or woman) from Verizon, to the whole house music people (oh yes, I’ve had them in too when that system went on the blink after a lightening strike), to DirecTV is traumatized once they get an eyeful of that Medusa mass of wires. The problem is NEVER there but I can tell that’s where they see an opportunity to dump the problem. It’s always the same thing isn’t it? Point the finger somewhere else.

The sun is streaming through the window to my left as I type yet another complaining blog entry. I apologize to all for my unending negative blog entries for the New Year. Unfortunately, this is my life. And that is what my blog is all about. I’m still looking for that stretch of time that there are no problems and I can complain about being bored because of my uneventful life. That ain’t going to happen.


Now my DirecTV is acting up. I can get two channels on my bedroom TV. Nothing on my TV in the kitchen. It just says “searching for signal.” Bill just found out this morning that he can't get anything on the downstairs TV. I can get MSNBC and CNN on my TV in my office. Yesterday I made the call to DirecTV and the woman made me jump through the usual hoops. Unplugged the TV, reset, check the wires, etc. I think what the problem is that the satellite dish was knocked off its setting with those high winds at the end of the year.

The DirecTV repair guy is coming out tomorrow. The last time the repair guy came out he was looking through his instruction booklet. On the job training. We finally had to have the manager come out and reset the satellite settings on the satellite dish. Fun Times.

Just to top everything off, our new trash guys came out this morning at 6 AM to pick up the trash. Bill still had the trash can in the garage. We get to keep the trash another week. Our previous trash guys (Waste Management) used to come by around noon. This new one is my wake up call in more ways than one. I was still in bed when I heard the grind. Fun times.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

No Regrets, No Complaints

Here we are half way into the first month of the New Year and I think I’m finally getting back on track. I had all good intentions of starting the New Year on a positive note with happy, upbeat blog postings. But alas, my problems with the Vista operating system on my new computer changed all that. I’m not going to revisit those problems again but I will say the whole experience left me a little shaky. The whole idea of getting a new computer was to get a sense of comfort and security that I would lose all my data on my old Gateway computer. Never in a million years did I think I would encounter the level of problems I had with Vista. Those problems still aren’t over. I have yet to load my Palm Pilot information on my new computer. Why? Oh, my old Palm program isn’t compatible with Vista. This is just another “improvement” for “upgrading” to the Vista operating system.

So here I am, sitting at my new computer, listening to my music (which is working now, thank goodness), typing in this entry on my wireless keyboard, using my wireless mouse. I disconnected my wireless printer and now have it plugged into the back of my computer. Interestingly, I now have one less cord running out of the back of my computer. The “wireless” printer had TWO cords running out the back (that makes sense.) So now I’m ready to enjoy what I paid a lot of money for, my new computer. I don’t feel like that is asking a whole lot.

One of the readers of my blog suggested that I write a blog about my life now in cyber world versus a life I would have had 150 years ago in the hills of western North Carolina, from whence my ancestors struggled to make a living. While it sounds all well and nice to be self sufficient as they were, I think I prefer my life today with all its frustrations. While my great-great-great-great grandfather Major Jonathan Tipton (1750-1833) had to worry about getting the crop in and producing enough food for his family of 19 children to carry them through the winter, I only have to worry about how fast is my connection to the Internet. While Jonathan and Keziah Tipton (his 2nd wife – he would have one more before he finished his Life’s Journey) and their children huddled together in their log cabin during the winter trying to stave off the cold winter winds, I’m worried about how much higher my heating bill with Poore’s Propane (an appropriate name for a heating company I would say) is going to go up next month. At least I have the wherewithal to pay the bill. I don’t to worry about bears or snakes invading my home. The only snakes I have to worry about are the two legged kind and there are plenty of them around.

I guess it all boils down to the context. Maybe a lot has to do with what one is used to. If you never had something, chances are you really don’t miss it. Still, I would find it very hard to get used to sleeping on a wooden floor in the winter time with the snow blowing through the cracks in the log house in which Jonathan and his family lived. Even as late as 1926, my uncle Tip (Fieldon Jacob Tipton, Jr.) told me that when he was born on December 31st, 1926, that the midwife had to brush the snowflakes away from him that came in through the spaces in the wooden walls of the cabin in which he was born. Can you imagine?

What is even harder for me to imagine is if my grandparents had not moved their family to Pennsylvania in 1929, where would I be now? I don’t think I would be sitting on a fence plucking a banjo a la Deliverance, but I probably wouldn’t be too far from that scene. I’ve been down those hills in North Carolina and I’m telling you, they haven’t changed all that much from Major Jonathan Tipton’s time. What really boggles my mind though, is what would my life have been like as a gay man? Or, maybe those mountains of North Carolina were like the present day Iran, there were no gays. Then again, maybe not. They probably had big closests back then.

I am extremely thankful to be where I am today. Even with all my frustrations and the roadblocks I encounter in everyday living. My life is infinitely better than my ancestor’s life was back in their day. However, I do wonder what someone reading this blog 150 years from now would think of the way I live today. They would probably think “How could he live under such circumstances?” I manage. Just as my great-great-great-great grandfather Jonathan Tipton managed in his time, I manage in my time. After all, life is all about survival and reaching a quality of life that we can enjoy the short time that we are on this earth. I hope this blog posting survives for the next 150 years so someone in the future will know that this 67 year old, gay white man was happy with his lot in life. I have no regrets and I have no complaints. However, it would be nice if I could string a few days together without encountering some kind of technological problem. Just yesterday I couldn't get TCM (Turner Classic Movies) on my satellite TV. Would would Major Jonathan think?

Friday, January 09, 2009

AOL Installed!

After my angst, AOL 9.1 is finally installed on my new Dell computer. What was the problem? You might have guessed it. It was the Vista operating system that was incompatible with AOL 9.0.

While waiting for Tom (PC Guy) this morning, I search the Internet to see if anyone else was having the same problems. It didn’t take me too long to find out that I wasn’t the only one by a long shot. Back at the beginning of the year there were quite a few postings to a Microsoft forum about other users who could not install AOL 9.0 or AOL 9.1, or even AOL 9.1 VR (Vista Ready) on their computers that had a Vista operating system.

I printed out the postings from that forum and gave it to Tom when he came in this morning. Tom had asked me to call AOL for support but I didn’t because I knew that would be an exercise in futility. Many people on the forum reported that they called the AOL Help line. That’s an oxymoron, AOL Help. Of course AOL was of no help. I even called Smart Computing for help. I’m a long time subscriber so I thought for the first time I would take advantage of their much advertised tech help line for subscribers. That was a waste of time. The guy on the other end of the line blew me off.

The postings on the forum dropped off after March of 2008 so I came to the conclusion that AOL finally figured out how to make their version 9.01 compatible with Vista. Tom and I downloaded the latest version. Right away we noticed that this was going to be a SLOW DOWNLOAD. It was. It took about 2 hours to download. Tom couldn’t wait. He has a life.

Tom fixed my HP Photosmart All-in-One printer problems (I couldn’t’ use the scanner) by uninstalling and reinstalling the software. It now works, for the time being at least. This is about the fourth time this software has been uninstalled and reinstalled.

Tom left the premises. I continued to monitor the SLOW AOL download. If this was downloading to Windows XP, it would only take minutes. But no, this is downloading to an upgraded version of Windows. What has this upgrade done for me? If anyone knows, let me know.

When the download was almost done, I got an error message. My heart dropped. But, there was hope. A button appeared that said “continue?” I said ‘YES!”. It picked up where it left off. This happened three more times. Man oh man. What is it with the upgrades? Don’t they test these things before they put them on the market? Of course they don’t. This is the new business ethic, throw it out on the market and let them work out the kinks. Thank you Mr. Softee.

The download finally completed and the Welcome screen of AOL appeared on my widescreen Dell computer. Nirvana! I love the user interface and icons on AOL. I have one friend who constantly criticizes me for staying with AOL. I know AOL has problems and has no support for its users but it does have the most user friendly Internet portal. It is the one I prefer.

My joy was short lived. I got an error message. Ugh! I turned of the computer, hoping it only needs a reboot. I wait a minute and, with bated breath, I turn the Dell back on. AOL came up! My computer didn’t blow up! It works! Hosanna!

How long this will last, I don’t’ know but I was had AOL up for three hours, catching up. Right now I’m on my old Gateway computer. I have AOL version 9.0 (which I reinstalled myself without any problems.) After dinner, I’ll turn on my Dell. Oh I hope I don’t have any more problems.

What did I learn from this whole episode? I should have listened to those who said Vista sucks. I’ve also learned that the Help lines also suck. What works now is going to forums on the Internet for others who have the same problem. This is the only place where you will find anyone who has the knowledge and can help. There are good people on those forums who are unselfish and willingly help those of use who aren’t techies.

This is something I discovered last week where I work. My boss had just completed two days removing Malware from the office network computers. After finishing he found he couldn’t get the printer to work. He posted the problem in the Google browser and discovered others who had the same problem. Within minutes he received an e-mail from a person in Russia who had the answer. The Russian user sent him an e-mail with instructions how to solve the problem. My boss keyed in the instructions. Immediately the printer began printing.

This episode opened my eyes. Don’t depend on AOL, Dell, Microsoft or Hewlett Packard. They’re too busy laying employees off and outsourcing work to India where they speak heavily accented English. The Help lines will never be effective because there is no money in it for the companies involved. The AOL’s, Dell’s, Microsoft’s, and Hewlett-Packard’s of this world don’t care about their consumer. They only care about making the sale. Their priority is how many stock options and bonuses they can give their executives. Perhaps the greatest failure perpetuated on the American public in recent years is this “upgrade” Vista. Someone please tell me how my life is better because I have Vista on my new computer. Please.

I say put a pie in the face of all those who are responsible for this travesty. Think different. I next time I get a Mac.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Rules for Kids

Lately, I haven't been feeling too good about Mr. Softee (Bill Gates) because of all my computer problems with Vista. Actually, I'm not feeling too good about the PC industry as a whole, and that include Dell computers and Hewlett Packard printers. However, a friend sent this to me this morning. I thought it was worth sharing. In this once instance I agree with the Chief Nerd.

This attributed to Bill Gates but that is incorrect. It is actually the work of Charles Sykes in his book Dumbing Down Our Kids)

Love him or hate him, he sure hits the nail on the head with this! Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.

Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time..

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

Thank a teacher!

Most of all Thank A Veteran for keeping our country free so this can be passed on to someone else.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Vista Frustration

My PC Guy just left. Well, almost all of my problems are fixed. I still cannot access my AOL account on my new Dell computer. The problem is the Vista operating system. The security controls are so tight it won’t even let me, as the administrator, create files to fix the problem. Tom will have to stop back on Friday to complete the job.

According to Tom, all the problems are the result of Vista. When I uninstalled the AOL software, it caused “something” to be reset. Thus, I couldn’t access the enhanced viewer on my web site (used for viewing original documents like census records.) It also caused the previous downloaded version of Adobe Flash Player to disappear. He has that working again. Only in Internet Explorer though. It still doesn’t work through G Mail. Thank you Vista!

BTW, DON’T BUY VISTA! IF YOU SEE IT, RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN IN THE OTHER DIRECTION! BUY IT AND YOU WILL SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES. NIGHTMARES, HEADACHES, FRUSTRATION, AND WASTED TIME. What were they thinking when they devised this “upgrade?” Surely they were not thinking of us, the humble PC user. Geek arrogance reigns supreme.

After three hours, Tom had to leave for an appointment. He will be back on Friday to check my problem with my HP Photosmart All-in-One printer. I can’t blame this problem on Vista. This problem was caused by me when I tried to print a picture yesterday and the printer jammed up. In the process, I forgot that I’m not supposed to print the picture through the HP software but instead use the Windows software. By using the HP software, I changed the printer’s drivers. Now it won’t print. That makes sense doesn’t it?

Notice how the software companies routinely put out their “upgrades” without thoroughly testing them? They take it for granted that the market place (that’s us, the lowly PC user), will work out the bugs in their software. Business arrogance reigns supreme.

My friend Lar responds on my blog, “What a nightmare.” He’s got that right. My friend Jim says there will be a day when everything runs and I can enjoy using my computer and peripheral equipment. I say, that is a day I’m looking forward to. In the meantime, I’m going to spend a good part of the evening and tomorrow morning, updating my genealogy files on Family Tree Maker. That is my relaxation. I need it bad.

BTW, I could not include a picture in this blog posting because I get a message "There were errors during the upload." Since I got this message on both of my computers, I'm assuming it's Blogger that is screwing up now. At least I hope so.

List For PC Guy

Here I await my PC Guy (Tom) to fix various and sundry problems I have with my brand spanking new Dell Inspiron computer. Oh how I rue the day I decided to purchase another Dell but that's another whole story.

Not only do I have problems with my new Dell computer, I'm having problems with my HP Photosmart All-in-One printer. It has a mind of it's own. Sometimes it scans pictures, and sometimes not. This is about the 4th time I'm having Tom look at it. I've lost count the number of times we have installed and uninstalled the HP printer software.

Now I'm having a problem with my AOL mail software. I made the BIG MISTAKE of cleaning out my In Box (a New Year's resolution gone horribly wrong) and I discovered the "Quick Read" feature on my AOL In Box mail wasn't working. I uninstalled and reinstalled the AOL software on both computers; my old Gateway and the new Dell. The AOL software now works on the Gateway (well, sort of) and doesn't work on the Dell (so what else is new? Just another fun feature of Vista I suspect.)

Last night I had a new surprise. Now my music doesn't work on my blog nor on Something to do with 64 bits versus 32 bits. What's that? Then, just to top everything else off, the Enhanced Feature Adobe download won't work for my site. I need that feature to read the census records. Doesn't work folks. Again, I suspect Vista is the culprit here. No wonder businesses don't want to "upgrade" to Vista. IT'S NOT WORTH THE TROUBLE.

My simple question is? Why can't they make computers and printers that work for the average person? I'm not the sharpest blade in the drawer, but I can figure out most things. Not this time. I'm getting overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of just running this damn thing.

Below is my beginning list for Tom when he arrives at 11 am or thereabouts this morning. This is what I seem to spending most of my time doing lately instead of sending out clever e-mails, writing fascinating blog entries, and genealogy research. Something isn't right here.

List for Tom

1) Install AOL software on Dell computer

2) Add back AOL PFC files on Dell computer

3) Add MSN sign on to e-mail on Dell computer.

4) Make small font size on Google and AOL on Dell

5) Check double printer setup and wireless cords on Dell

6) When exiting “Welcome to Dell” from Google, screen hiccups over 70 times and leaves images on desktop

7) How to change short cut icons on Dell desktop

8) Hookup wired keyboard and mouse on Dell computer

9) Music doesn’t play on blog on Dell computer through Google. Can’t use See note for Adobe download 64 bit versus 32 bit.

10) Cannot download Adobe flash player enhanced image viewer on on Dell computer

11) Where is the refresh key on the Dell computer? One the Gateway?

12) HP Photosmart All-in-One printer not scanning – suspect drivers are wrong again since I tried to print through HP instead of Windows

13) Add back AOL PFC files on Gateway computer

14) How do I use flash drive on both computers? Want to back up Palm and genealogy files from Gateway computer – also move photos between computers on flash drive

15) Clean out some old programs no longer used in Gateway computer

Caregiver Update

  Bill with his hospice nurse last week Regular followers of this blog have no doubt noticed that I haven't been posting on a regular ba...