Saturday, July 31, 2010

Time is Running Out

Incoming surf, North Shores, Gordon's Pond, Henlopen State Park July 29, 2010

This morning I received an e-mail from  former classmate Jean who informed me that another classmate of ours is now in hospice care.  Since our 50th class reunion was held last October 17, 2009, this is the third reminder that my generation time on this earth is coming to an end.

Last week I had a visit by a former classmate who recently lost her husband.  She told us that she knew her husband had a terminal illness (gall bladder cancer) but only a few knew at the reunion.

A few months another classmate of mine, Bonnie, died suddenly in her sleep.  I sat behind Bonnie in grade school.  We were both named school monitors at the same time.  Bonnie was my first official date (the Soph Hop when we were 15 years old - my father drove us to the dance much to my embarrassment.)

Bonnie and I lost touch over the years only to reunited at our 35th class reunion at which time we informed each other that we were both gay.  We joked about that date in which my father drove us to dance in his car.  He didn't have a chance to make out.  Likely story.  Anyway, after thirty-five years, we had a good chuckle about it.  It was quite a shock to my system when Bonnie died suddenly in her sleep.  It seems like I just saw her at the reunion (which I did.)

Now I get news that another well liked classmate of mine, Bill J., is in hospice care.  I was told that his cancer has spread to his bones.  We're having a 51st informal class reunion this September.  Jean told me that Bill is looking forward to attending our class get together in September.

My classmate Bill J. (to the left) and me at our 35th class reunion committee meeting 1994

Every day I am reminded of my mortality.  I think back to things that I did fifteen years ago and it doesn't seem that long ago.  I think fifteen years ahead and it is hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that I will be 83 years old.  Even if I am alive, will I be good for anything?  Will I be able to take my morning walks on the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach?  Will I be able to mow my lawn?  Will I be able to take care of myself?

My longtime good friend Bob M. is only five years older than me.  I cannot talk to him anymore on the phone because he falls asleep on the other end of the line.  I can't have him over the house anymore because he almost backed his car into my house.  He fell down the steps (thank goodness he didn't break anything.)  The last time I had him over for dinner, he can't keep food in his mouth.  It's on the table, chair and floor.  His face has that look of a haunted person.  It is the look of the most cruel disease, slowly advancing dementia.  He's not there anymore.  His body is here but his mind isn't.

My friend Bob M. and me 1974 in Provincetown, Mass

My friend Ron H. died in 2005 from AIDS related diseases.  My friend Sal died in 2006, a month before I moved to Delaware (he was to visit me) from lung cancer. My friend and former co-worker Anne Marie died at the young age of 56 from breast cancer this past January.  I remember when she sent me an e-mail telling me that she was informed that she had terminal cancer and said she was "overwhelmed."  I was too.  I didn't know what to say.  Anne Marie always seemed so full of life.  It's hard for me to believe that I have outlived this vibrant woman.

My friend Ron H. 1962 Ft. Meade, MD (in my barracks room)

My friend Sal D. 1962 at Ft. Meade, MD

My friend Anne Marie from work - always a smile

I can't talk to my Mother anymore.  She has dementia and cannot care for herself now.  She is wheelchair bound and living with my brother and his wife in South Carolina.  She is being taking good care of.  We're doing all we can to keep her out of a nursing home.
Mom with my brother and sister-in-law for her trip to South Carolina

When I write my blog postings I try to keep them upbeat and positive.  I am a natural complainer and I am often tempted to write about my various complaints but I don't because who wants to read all that negativity?  Sometimes I can't help myself and I have to let out my pent up frustration.

This past week I have discovered a new pastime which is very relaxing and positive.  I take an early morning run down to Rehoboth Beach and walk a couple of miles on the boardwalk then sit myself on a bench and watch the people.  I love watching life and the activities of other people as long as there aren't too many screaming kids around (I can't take those piercing little girl screams or the whines of little boys.)

Healthy bikers at the Rehoboth Beach bandstand yesterday exercising on stationary bikes

I am fortunate that I live in such a beautiful area of the country.  I've worked hard all my life to get myself to this point in my life.  All those years I commuted to and from my job in Philadelphia.  I quit my job in the city when I was in my fifties because I feared that I would die before I ever got the chance to "live near the water."  I'm living near the water now and I enjoy everyday of by blessed existence here on the Delmarva peninsula.  Sure, there are some downsides.  The summertime traffic is horrendous but I can get around that.  Last summer the mosquitoes were relentless.  This summer the heat and humidity is relentless.  But I can still find those niches that afford me the quality of life that I seek.

One of my favorite blogs, Liberty and Independence, had a posting today about finding our niche in life and making the most of it.  The writer of that blog is a young man (compared to me at least, he's half my age.)  He has discovered the secret of living a life of quality.  Find your niche and live it.  For you never know when it will end.

The jetty at North Shores, Cape Henlopen State Park Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Morning on the Boardwalk

This morning I made another early morning run to the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach.  This is my new routine.  I like it.

I'm surprised that it took me so long to discover this asset right under my nose.

I moved to Delaware three and a half years ago.  Our home is six miles north of Rehoboth Beach.  It was about a year and a half until I visited the boardwalk and that was because my brother John from South Carolina was visiting and wanted to see the beach.

Occasionally since then I made an early morning run on Sunday.  But I didn't consider going down to the board every day because of the crowds.  Especially in the summertime, I stayed as far away as possible.

A few weeks ago I decided to visit the boardwalk for my daily walk.  Usually I take my morning walk in the development behind where we live.  Lately the flies have been very bad.  As soon as I stepped into that development the flies would land on me.  If it wasn't the flies then it was the mosquitoes.  Thus I had to look for a new venue to take my daily walk.

I tried the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach on morning.  The ride down Route 1 wasn't bad.  In fact, it was a straight shot.  Plus the parking is free until 10 am.  Since I get to Rehoboth Beach around 6 am, I didn't have a problem parking.

So I did it one morning.  Then I pushed my luck and did it a second morning.  Then a third.  It works.

I enjoy the walk plus I like to people watch.  My daily walks are a lot more interesting now.  If there is any downside it is the gas I'm using driving six miles down and six miles back.  That's a small price to pay for the enjoyment of taking my daily walk on the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach.  Plus, I have another opportunity to take some more interesting pictures.

This is just another reason why I love my retirement in southern Delaware.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Jeanne's Visit

Judy, Jack, me and Jeanne on my neighbors' hot deck this afternoon

Today, on this hot Sunday we had a mini-class reunion at my humble abode two miles west of the Broadkill River and just east of Route 1.

My former classmate from high school Jeanne Emery Veltro was in town (Lewes) for a wedding yesterday.  Since I came out at my 40th class reunion (ten years ago), Jeanne has wanted to meet my Significant Other (Bill.)  Today was supposed to be the day.  However, Bill was visiting friends and missed her visit.  Maybe next time.

I had a wonderful visit with my former classmate.  I also invited over Judy and her husband Jack, who live in Lewes to join us for lunch.  Judy is also another former classmate.  Jack and Judy generously let me stay at their lovely home in Cape Shores right on the bay back in the winter of 2006 during the building of my present home.  They spent the winter in their Florida home.  In fact Jack was the person responsible for giving me the final push to put a down payment on the lot which is the site of my present home.  Thanks Jack............I think.  Just kidding.  It was one of the best moves I've ever made in my life.

We all had a very pleasant visit.  Jeanne recently lost her husband.  We talked about that.  I think it was a healing experience.  Too many of my classmates are now widows.  It is sad but to be expected at this time of our life.  We are no longer the eager, young graduates that we were in 1959 ready to face a new decade (the Sixties) and the world.  So much has happened in the past fifty years.  The time has gone by so quickly.  Most of us are still working but we're starting to gradually give up the reins.

Jeanne and I in our high school marching band 1959 - I'm in the back on the left with the Sousaphone and Jeanne is seated next to me

I told Jeanne before she left I had to take the Mandatory Ron Picture of the event.  I asked them to follow me over to my delightful neighbors Bob and Barbara.  I called Barbara and asked her to take our picture.  Barbara, being the wonderful neighbor that she is graciously consented.  Great picture Barb!  Thanks.

By the way, note than both Judy and Jeanne are color coordinated in turquoise and white.  Pure coincidence.  At least that's what they told me.

Have a safe trip back home Jeanne.

The Goodbye Hug

The Important Things in Life

The following statement is  from a letter that I received from a friend back in 2003.  I was sorting through some old papers this morning and I thought it would be worthwhile sharing with the readers of my blog.  This is exactly the way I feel and live my life.  My friend knew me well:

Sometimes people come into your life and you know right away that they were meant to be there.  To serve some sort of purpose, teach you a lesson or to help you figure out who you are or who you want to become.

You never know who these people may be - a roommate, a neighbor, a teacher, a co-workers, a friend, a lover, or even a complete stranger - but when you lock eyes with them you know at that very moment they will affect your life in some profound way.

Sometimes things happen to you that may seem horrible, painful and unfair at first.  But in reflection you find that without overcoming those obstacles you would never have fully realized your potential, strength, willpower, or heart.

Illness, injury, love, lost moments of true greatness, and sheer stupidity all occur to test the limits of your soul. Without these small tests, whatever they may be, life would be like a smoothly paved straight flat road to nowhere.  It would be safe and comfortable, but dull and utterly pointless.

The people you meet who affect your life, and the success and downfalls you experience, help to create who you are and who you become.  Even the bad experiences can be learned from.  In fact, they are sometimes the most important ones.

If someone loves you, give love back to them in whatever way you can, not only because they love you, but because in a way, they are teaching you to love and how to open your heart and eyes to things.  

If someone hurts you, betrays you, or breaks your heart, forgive them, for they have help you learn about trust and the importance of being cautious to whom you open your heart.  

Make every day count.  Appreciate every moment and take from those moments everything that you possibly can for you may never be able to experience it again.  

Talk to people that you have never talked to before, and listen to what they have to say.

Let yourself fall in love, break free and set your heights high.  Hold your head up because you have every right to.  Tell yourself you are a great individual and believe in yourself, for if you don't believe in yourself, it will be hard for others to believe in you.  

You can make anything you wish of your life.  Create your own life and then go out an live it with absolutely no regrets. And if you love someone tell them, for your never know what tomorrow may have in store.

Learn a lesson in life each day that you live.  Today is the tomorrow you were worried about yesterday.  Think about it.  Was it worth it?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Early Morning on the Boardwalk

Lifeguard stand early this morning at Rehoboth Beach, DE

This morning I took an early run  (5:30 am) down Rt. 1 to Rehoboth Beach to deliver a birthday present to my friend Wayne (aka "The Cajun.")  I can't keep up with his work schedule (he is a host at a very popular restaurant on the main drag in Rehoboth Beach) so the only way I could give him his present today and avoid the Friday tourist crowd (aka "The Horde") was to drop his present on his doorstep real early in the morning.

While I was in downtown Rehoboth Beach I decided to take advantage of being in this very popular east coast beach town and take a walk on the boardwalk.  One big advantage of arriving early in the morning in Rehoboth Beach is that there is very little traffic and you don't have to feed the meters until 10 am.  Another big advantage of going to Rehoboth this early in the morning is that I had a straight shot down Rt. 1 to Rehoboth Beach, which is six miles from where I live north on the east side of 1 near the Broadkill River.  In fact, I made all the red lights on my cruise down Rt. 1 into Rehoboth this morning.  I can't remember the last time I did that, if ever.

After I dropped off Wayne's birthday gift on his doorstep, I headed for the beach.  On my way to the beach  the thought crossed my mine  that he might step out of his doorway and step on the present I left and lose his balance and go tumbling down his stairs.  He is a bit clumsy around stairs.  Oh well, it is in fate's hands now.

I drove my car off of Wayne's little side street and onto Rehoboth Avenue down to the bandstand.  I decided to park on the road which is Wilmington Avenue.  As I get out of my car and look towards the boardwalk, I see a few hardy souls out for their morning walk.  The sea breeze gently wafting in from the ocean was still somewhat cool.  The humidity hadn't arrived yet.  Stepping on the boardwalk I see the morning sun just beginning to rise over the Atlantic Ocean.  I get out my Canon Powershot A560 camera and take a few iconic pictures for this blog.  I love taking pictures, especially of sunrises and sunsets.  As all dedicated photographers know the early morning and late afternoon light is the best time to capture those heavenly colors of nature.  Pictures taken at high noon don't make it, they always look washed out.

View of Rehoboth Beach from the Boardwalk this morning before the sun was up

After taking a few pictures I start my Morning Walk on the boardwalk.  I was taught this about five years ago by a friend who always took a brisk morning walk on the boardwalk to stay in shape.  He is the same age as I am and is in great shape.  I want to stay in great shape too.  I am in great shape if I don't mind saying so (bragging here.)  I find that walking is the absolute best exercise.

I see people jogging. I can't see all that banging on my joints.  That must take a toll after a while.  In fact, I knew several people who used to jog but quit after they had to have knee replacements.  I'm having enough replaced as it is (teeth.)  I don't need to put any more stress on this one body I have because I want to make it last for a long time.  Besides, these people who jog don't look like they are enjoying themselves.  They look like they're in pain.  And who needs all that sweat.  I sweat enough as it is.

Almost empty boardwalk this morning with two lone joggers

After traversing the length of the boardwalk, I did something I rarely do.  I walked down on the beach.  Yes, I put my Nike sneakers in sand.  I walked right to the shoreline.  There were a few people on the beach.  The usual guy who is operating his metal detector.  Some early couples sitting in the life guard chairs, taking advantage of that high vantage point before the lifeguards arrived for duty.  And the seagulls.  Plenty of seagulls looking for a handout.  I would have brought something with me to feed them but I think it is against the law.  Rehoboth Beach has a LOT of rules and restrictions.  I don't want to run afoul of any of them.  I am a good citizen.

Squatters at the lifeguard station early this morning waiting to greet the sun

I took a few more pictures of the sunrise on the beach then I headed back to my car.  It was starting to get hot and humid.  The sea breeze wasn't helping now that the sun had risen over the horizon.

Me at Rehoboth Beach this morning at sunrise

Time to head back home.  But not before stopping in the Giant supermarket and picking up some fresh, local produce and ice cream sandwiches.  I hear it's going to be another scorcher today.

Fresh produce at Giant this morning

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

E-mail Cleanup

A few days ago I was showing my friend Bob C. how to access his e-mail on his new Mac laptop computer.  I signed in to my e-mail account.  Up pops my AOL account with 749 messages!  Bob says "You have 749 e-mails messages?"  Understandably he was surprised.  Mr. Neat and Organized here (that would me me) has a backlog of 749 e-mail messages.  Yes, it was true.  Guilty as charged.

At one time (I think about a year ago), I was caught up.   But I fell behind again when my almost new (only a year and a half old) Dell computer crashed.  Then, combined with my work schedule at the hotel, springtime and all that involves in backyard work, our trip south and whatever else excuse I can grasp, I fell behind again in keeping my e-mails current.  There is no excuse except that I got lazy.

Well, this morning there are no more excuses.  It is time to clean up my e-mails.

Most of my e-mails are notifications of postings from my Facebook friends or automatic notifications of new recipes.  I used to get a lot of news bulletins but I stopped those because by the time I read them, it was old news.  Then there are the notices of sales at J. C. Penney, Kohls, Yankee Candle and all those other stores I so thoughtlessly gave my e-mail address to when I made a purchase at their place of business.

Time to clean up.  I am being inundated.  I cannot keep up.

Last week I decided it is time for me to write my (now don't laugh) ..........memoirs.  My autobiography.  My Story. The Book.  I find I can't do this with a clear mind until I clear my desk (e-mails) off.  Then I'm ready to plunge in the adventure and journey that was my life of the past 68 years.

This is my Twilight Time.  I'm wrapping it up folks.  I'm getting my thousands of photographs in order (scanning.)  I'm getting all my old letters (the ones that I saved) out of their dusty storage of the past fifty years.  I'm scanning my memory (or what's left of it anyway) for stories and anecdotes for my book.

As the picture on this blog posting indicates, there may be a lot of clutter in my life but I have it all organized....sort of.  Now is the time.  

Monday, July 19, 2010

Last of the Purple Martins

Purple Martin sentries this evening

The Purple Martins are raising their last batch of young and will leave their birdhouse in my backyard in a few weeks.  It always seems like they leave to early but I guess this is necessary for their long trek to their winter home.

I was successful in keeping the sparrows out of my backyard habitat this year.  None raised their young in my backyard.  However, quite a few were raised in my neighbor's backyard.  He doesn't discourage them like I do.

This was the first year in two years that I didn't have any bluebirds raise their young in my backyard.  There was one sparrow who was particularly aggressive.  He killed two swallows who attempted to build nest.  This was the same sparrow who probably discouraged the bluebirds from building their nest in the same bluebird house that they used for the past two years.

A few weeks ago a bluebird pair laid three eggs (they usually lay four eggs) but then they abandoned their nest.  Bill and I think the resident backyard catbird did the discouraging this time.  Lots of turf battles this summer in our little backyard habitat.

Summers wouldn't be complete without all the activity around the Purple Martin house and this summer was no exception.  The Purple Martins are always squawking, getting things sorted out.  Whenever I walked out to the back shed some of them with dive bomb me just as a warning to stay away from their house and young nestlings.  I think they know I won't  bother them but they give me the warning anyway.

Many nights during the evening in summer, before the sun goes down, Bill and I sit out on the back decks and watch the young Purple Martins practice flying.  I can't think of much that is more pleasing than to see these young Purple Martins doing their aerial acrobats and then landing back on the birdhouse where they were born.  They know instinctively that they have to learn to fly for the long flight that they will soon have to make before winter sets in here on the Delmarva peninsula.

View from the bonus room towards the back yard 

Then there comes the day that they are gone.  They all go in the same day.  No lingering.  The silence is so sad.  The only thing Bill and I will hear is the wind and the traffic on Route 1.  Sometimes the catbird hangs around but usually all is quiet in our little backyard habitat once August arrives.

I hear the thunder outside now and I write this.  Now I hear the rain pelting the side of the house.

It's late.  Time prepare myself for bed and put another day to rest as the gentle thunderstorm rolls in.

End of the day July 19 2010 where I live on the Delmarva peninsula

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday on the Boardwalk

Early morning beach chairs awaiting their owners

So what do you do when you feel yourself slipping into sadness?  When you know that the next step is depression.  What do you do to stop that slide?

This is what I do.  I go to the boardwalk.  Fortunately I live only six miles away from Rehoboth Beach and their new cedar boardwalk.  The new boardwalk was built this past year from stimulus funds provided buy the U.S. government.  Thank you very much taxpayers.

Normally I stay as far away as possible from the tourist crammed Rehoboth Beach boardwalk during the season.  I especially stay away from the boardwalk on weekends.  But there is a little known secret only known to most of us year round residents.

If you get up real early in the morning, clean up, have your breakfast you still have time to get to downtown Rehoboth before the parking meters kick in (at 10 am) and the Horde (i. e., summertime tourist crowds) descends on this east coast seaside resort.

I did my usual morning routine this morning then I asked Bill if he would like to go for a ride to Rehoboth. He asked me "When are you leaving?"  I told him "Right now.  I have to get some gas and then I'll drive in. I want to take a walk on the boardwalk to cheer me up and on the way back I want to stop in the Giant store to pick up some hummus for lunch."  Bill said he would go along for the ride but he wasn't going to walk on the boardwalk.  Bill likes to sit in the car and People Watch.  He's alright with that as long as I don't take too long walking on the boardwalk.

My '98 red Forester Subaru (124,000 miles) is waiting for me in the garage.  We pile in.  I make sure I have my camera because I want to take some pictures for this blog posting.

At 8 am, Route 1 is almost empty.  As a friend of mine used to say about Route 1 in the winter "In the dead of winter you could roll a bowling ball down Rt. 1 and not hit a car"  Of course that statement is no longer true because Rt. 1 is busy even in the wintertime now since southern Delaware has been discovered to be the place to retire to.  Low taxes, friendly people, wide open spaces.  Maybe most of the restaurants have a way to go before they equal the quality of Philadelphia or even Provincetown, Mass. restaurants but Lower Slower Delaware (LSD) is a nice place to spend one's retirement years.  And did I mention the abundant sun?  Yes, lots of sun and big sky.

In no time at all we arrived at the 1A turnoff from Route 1 to Rehoboth Avenue, the main drag in Rehoboth Beach.  Now we are encountering more traffic, but still nothing like what Rehoboth Avenue will look like later in the morning.  In fact, as I write this Rehoboth Avenue is probably clogged with beach visitors looking for a parking slot.

I drive all the way to the end of Rehoboth Avenue and make the turn at the bandstand.  A block up on Rehoboth Avenue I find a parking spot.  Since the meters don't become active until 10 am I have an hour and a half to walk the boardwalk.

I get my camera and leave car.  I tell Bill I'll be back before it's feed the meter time.  He says "Don't be too long.  I don't want to roast here."  

The following is a pictorial record of my walk on the boardwalk this morning:

Stimulas funds boardwalk 

An early morning jogger on the boardwalk

Boardwalk activity picks up

Beach umbrellas line up and ready for a day of sunshine

Looking for buried treasure

Boardwalk transportation

Watching the waves

I feel better now.  This is why I moved to Delaware, to be near the beach.  

Have a wonderful day.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Black Dog

The Black Dog is creeping around my door again.  Those of you who have had visits from the Black Dog know whereof I speak.  Those of you who don't, look up Winston Churchill.

It is a Saturday night. For many years I used to always go out on a Saturday night.  I lived in Center City Philadelphia and the Westbury Bar and later the 247 Bar was my watering hole of choice.  The Irish have their pubs, the religious flock have their church functions.  I, as a gay man had gay bars.

When I was 37 years old (31 years ago), I gave up on gay bars.  It was the classic case of looking for love in all the wrong places.  I moved out of the city and into the country on 6.8 acres of wooded hillside land.

My longtime partner and I enjoyed a domestic lifestyle with our three Pomeranian dogs for over twenty five years on that wooded hillside in East Brandywine Township, Chester Country, Pennsylvania.

Then came a time when the ever escalating rise in taxes forced us to move out of Pennsylvania to the more tax friendly state of Delaware.  I always wanted to live near the water so here was my chance.

In April of 2006 built a house in Delaware, just a few miles up the road from the increasingly popular gay resort of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, also known as "Gayberry."

We put our house up for sale in Pennsylvania expecting a quick sale.  It was just the beginning of the housing crises.  We almost faced financial ruin after a combination of me pricing our house too high and unscrupulous buyers seeking to take advantage of our vulnerable position when they found out we had we were paying for two mortgages.

We survived that crises.  It was probably the worst thing I ever faced in my life short of being informed that I had a terminal illness.

During the last four years we have settled in quite nicely in our neighborhood.  We have made friends, mostly straight.  We have made a few gay friends (who we appreciate very much) but most of the gay crowd down here is very clannish.  It's all about who you are and what do you do for a living.  If it is not that then someone is coming on to me (yes, even at my age.)

So, friends are far and few in between.  I have been fortunate in that I have retained some friends from my youth (grade school and high school.)  I value their friendship dearly.

I can usually keep the Black Dog at bay by keeping busy.  I have a lot of interests.  I work part time.  I garden.  I write a blog.  I research my family genealogy.  I read.  I take pictures.  I cook.  But every now and then a great sadness creeps up on me.  Sometimes I can identify the cause of this sadness.  Sometimes I cannot.

It is not a sadness for myself.  It is a sadness for those who have gone out of my life.  For those who have died.  The five Pomeranian dogs we have owned during our time together:  Hamburger, Sparky, Horace, T and Babydoll.  I miss them terribly, especially the last three and especially Horace.  Horace was the one dog in my life who chose me.  We were buddies.

Me and my buddy Horace, near the end

Then there are the people.  I will not mention them at this time but they are many.  Those who I outlived.  I remember something my grandfather once said when he was 86 years old.  He told me "All my friends have died.  I have no friends left."  My grandfather died a year later.  His heart stopped.

I look back over my life's landscape and note with increasing frequency that many of my friends have died.  I'm only 68 years old.  I have close to 20 years to go until I reach my grandfather's age when he made his observation about friends.  I wonder how I will do.  Maybe this is the cause of my visit from the Black Dog tonight.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Beard is Back

The Beard this morning at 8 am (big schnooz and all) 

A few weeks ago a friend of mine suggested that I shave off my beard.  He said it would make me look younger.

I shaved off my beard.  I did not look younger.  I looked every day (and then some) of my 68 years.

The suggestion was made because I have a white beard.  I no longer had the luxurious dark brown beard that I had when I first started to grow a beard in 1972.

1980 - Phillies World Series celebration in center city Philadelphia

Twice before I have shaved off my beard only to be confronted with a face that I did not like.  I could not imagine spending the rest of my days looking at that face in the mirror during my daily shave.  Oh no.  Not that face.  Gravity had taken its toll.  I had a saggy face. I had jowls.

White first began appearing in my beard twenty years ago.  A white whisker here, a white whisker there.  I wasn't alarmed because the "little bit o'gray" gave me a distinguished look.  However, all too soon my whole chin was covered in white whiskers hairs.  My chin had disappeared.

The White Chin appears - 1986

I am fortunate that I have an angular face with high cheekbones.  A well trimmed, dark beard completes my look.  To those of you who think I am too narcissistic, get over it.  I don't apologize for caring about my appearance.  I don't apologize for having a healthy self-esteem.  After having spend the formative years of my youth constantly berated by my father for being "stupid looking", I am thankful that I got away from home at an early age (joined the Army) and came to the realization that I wasn't any "stupider looking" than many of my fellow soldiers.

My Pop 1991 - Tough Love

Self image and self esteem is so important to mental health.  There is that fine line between self esteem and conceit.  I am not conceited.  I know the difference.  I know conceited people.  I know good-looking conceited people and I know not so good-looking conceited people.  I also know people who have a healthy self-esteem.  I notice that those people who have a healthy self-esteem aren't necessarily good-looking in the Hollywood measure but they are very attractive none-the less because of their healthy self-esteem.  I've also noticed that the so called good-looking conceited people aren't so attractive once you get to know them and their conceit.  They are very unattractive.

Having said all that, I look better with a beard.  I look even better when I color my beard.  Now where did I put my Just For Men?

By the way Pop, I'm still "stupid looking" but a cute stupid looking.

November 9, 1976 (my birthday) Stupid looking me with my stupid looking hat

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


The "Perfect" Leave it to Beaver Family of the Fifties

See this family?  It isn't real.  This is the cast of a television show of the Fifties called "Leave it to Beaver." This was pictured as the typical American family.  It is not.

Growing up I watched this show where the dad always arrived at the dinner table (which was always in the dining room) dressed in a suit of a sport coat.  Our family ate at in our kitchen.  We didn't have a dining room in our roach infested, second floor apartment at 120 Washington Avenue in Downingtown, PA.

Our family, my brother Isaac, Mom and me on an outing at the park in the Forties

Our dad (we called him "Pop") wore his dirty T-shirt to the dinner table.  Same with me and my two brothers.  T-shirts.  Sometimes in the summer when it was too hot (no air conditioning in those days - the Fifties) we usually were shirtless.

Barbara Billingsley, the actress who played the mother on this fictional TV series was always dressed in a crinoline puffed up shirt dress.  She always wore pearls.  My Mom wearing pearls?  No way, she was too busy making biscuits to feed her always hungry brood of menfolk.

Watching this show I thought "Someday....someday.....I'll have a family like that."  Well, as everyone of you know (without exception), there is NO FAMILY LIKE THIS ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH.

Bob - my First Love on his wedding day (not to me)

Recently I posted a couple of blogs about my first lover.  Some of his family members read my blog and contacted me.  They very kindly filled me in on information about my first love's life after we parted company in early 1964.  Bob, my first love's name, was a married man.  I knew that when I was seeing him.  I assumed he had a happy home life and I was a pleasant diversion for him.  He was my first lover.  We saw each other for a few months until I came to the decision that a long term relationship was not in our future.  I ended our relationship and I assumed he went on to a happy life.

When I watched "Leave it to Beaver" in the Fifties I assumed that was a real family and most real families had that same kind of life.  I knew that I didn't have that kind of life at home but I thought our family was the anomaly.  Little did I know.  Our family was typical.  We were dysfunctional.  Not big time dysfunctional but we had issues.

Now that I am a mature adult (in most ways anyway, in some areas I am still woefully naive), I have discovered that ALL FAMILIES ARE DYSFUNCTIONAL.  Not the least of which was my former lover's family.

I have since found out that he had two illegitimate children from a women he met when he lived in Coos Bay, Oregon.  I talked to his look alike daughter today.  She never met her father which is a real shame because he was a charming and vibrant man.  It doesn't seem right that I had more time with her father than she did.

When I was seeing Bob, he was married (legitimately) with three small children.  He had two sons and a daughter.  One of his sons read my blog posting and contacted me and told me information about his father's life after we parted ways.  It turns out that Bob got divorced and married again with three more children.  All the while he kept his homosexuality hidden.

The woman he was married to when when he was seeing me, wrote a book about her life and her "spiritual journey."  She doesn't paint a favorable picture of Bob.  In fact, she portrays Bob as a devil.  I have no other way to describe her portrayal and remain respectful of her and what she went through at that time.  I truly sympathize with her because she was deceived in her marriage.

When I got out of high school I had a girl friend who I liked very much.  But even at that young age (17), I knew a marriage would never work.  In spite of the fact that I was sexually inexperienced in both the gay sense and straight, I knew that sooner or later my homosexuality would destroy our marriage.  I could not to that to her or myself.

 I understand why Bob got married.  I remember very clearly the societal pressure to conform and get married.  I seriously even considered it because I wanted that "Leave it to Beaver" family.  But in my heart of hearts I knew it could never be for me.  I just could not do it.  Which was really weird because I didn't know how to be gay either.  Not only was I dysfunctional as a straight person, I was a dysfunctional gay.  I didn't know the first thing about sex.

How ironic then that the first person to introduce me to gay sex was a married man who stayed in the closet his whole life.  A man who had eight children, two out of wedlock.  A married man who disapproved of his adult daughter sleeping in the same bed in his house with her boyfriend of eight years in spite of the fact that the daughter and boyfriend had been living in their own house for years.

As I wrote in a previous blog posting, Bob was the catalyst that caused me to out myself as a gay man in 1963.  This was way before such an action was fashionable as it is now.  In fact, back when I came out I was illegal. I was breaking the law by declaring my homosexuality  There was no "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" back in those days.  If you declared your homosexuality, you were writing your death sentence, sometimes literally.  I certainly doomed any career chances I had in the world which proved to be true.

But I have no regrets.  I don't even have regrets that I am not living the "Leave it to Beaver" family.  In fact, I don't know anybody who is.  Do you?

A meal with friends - definitely not "Leave it to Beaver" style

Monday, July 12, 2010

My First Love

Bob's letter to me after he left Philadelphia 

Forty seven years ago at an after hours gay dance club in Philadelphia I met Bob.  Bob was 29 years old and recently relocated (with his wife and two children) from Washington state to Philadelphia, PA by his employer Boeing Aircraft. 

Across the smoke filled room on the crowded dance floor I saw him dancing.  He was dressed in a light colored (I think gray) suit which was unusual dress for the patrons of the Pennrose Club.  Most of the men in the club were dressed casually.  But his suit isn't what caught attracted caught my eye.  What attracted my attention was him.  He stood out from the mass of young men on the crowded dance floor. He was slightly built (maybe 5'7", about 130 lbs), dark short hair, square jaw, flashing, mischievious black eyes and a dazzling smile.  I was a goner once he looked at me with those flashing dark eyes and his open and friendly smile.  He was looking just a me.

Bob Surina - the only picture I have of him - an old yellowed newspaper clipping

Sitting at the bar with my friends Ron and Ed I thought to myself  "Wow!  That is one nice looking guy."  I turned around from the dance floor and told my friends about this "knockout" that I saw on the dance floor.  Much to my surprise after the music stopped I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I turned and it was him!  The dazzling guy in the suit on the dance floor who I was admiring earlier.  He asked me if I wanted to dance.  I was a bit tongue tied but I did manage to blurt out "Yes!"  He led me by the hand (a curious sight in retrospect because I was much taller - 6'3" than him) to the dance floor.  A slow song was playing.  He put his right hand in my left hand and his other hand in the small of my back and started to lead.  It was natural for him to lead.  Not because he was older (29 years to my 21 years) but because he was just that type of guy.  He was a take charge, masculine, yet genle man who obviously saw me looking at him and decided to take advantage of the opportunity.

As I wrote in a previous blog posting, dancing with him was pure heaven.  I never felt such joy before in my short life.  I knew then and there the pure sensual thrill of dancing with someone who you find very sexually attractive and who had that extra "something" and Bob had "it" in spades.  This guy literally took my breath away.  Dancing with him I was in another world.  Of course it didn't take long before I realize we were both aroused.  Wow.  I had never experienced anything like this before.

I have written about this experience before but I write it again because something has changed.  A few months after I posted that blog (April of this year) , I heard from one of his children by e-mail.  I was both surprised and thrilled.  Over the many years since that fateful night of that I met Bob for the first time, I  always wondered what happened to him after our affair in 1963-1964.  Last week I received an e-mail from his son informing me what happened to his dad, my lover of 47 years ago.  That e-mail from his son caused me to reawaken all my memories of Bob Surina all those years ago.

Me in my apartment in Coatesville, PA 1963 - the time I was seeing Bob

Much has happened in my life in the past 47 years.  My memories of my magical time with this wonderful man had receded far into my past.  Much of the detail I had forgotten.  But now this sleeping giant of my very first love has been reawakened.

I had ended my relationship with Bob because he was married and had children.  As much as I loved him I did not want to start out my life as a "mistress" to a married man.  Had Bob been single we would have probably been lifetime partners.  I was totally in love with him as he was with me.  But back then, Bob had a family.  I didn't ask him to leave is family nor did he offer to leave them.  He would make the long trip from where he lived in Philadelphia with his family to where I had a small efficiency apartment in a small town 37 miles west of Philadelphia.  He made that trip almost every Saturday morning or whenever else he could grab a few hours to be with me.  When we were together it was like heaven.  I never knew such joy as when I was with Bob.  He was sweet, gentle, kind and above all, very, very sexy.  He had a wonderful sense of humor.  I had never experienced such happiness before in my life as I had those few short hours each Saturday morning that I used to spend with Bob. I loved spending time with him.  I could tell he liked to be with me too because when we were together the outside world didn't matter.  I finally found out what love meant.  All those lyrics to love songs now made sense to me.  They now had meaning for me because we were both in love.

I eargerly looked forward to Bob's visits.  I lived for Bob's visits.  However, over time I wanted to do more than just stay in my apartment.  I wanted to go out.  I was 21 years old and I was afraid I was missing something.  Of course, now with the wisdom of time, I look back in retrospect and realize how foolish I was.   The ignorance and selfishness of youth.  I had both qualities in abundance I am ashamed to admit.

I eventually ended my relationship with Bob.  I knew I hurt him by doing this.  I guess I was selfish because I wanted him all to myself but I knew this could never be.  He had a wife and three small children.  Back then in the early Sixties, whem homosexuality was such a taboo subject treated with fear and paranoia, a man leaving his family (with children) for another man was unheard of.  I never considered asking him to chose a life with me over his family.  I was young and full of hope and confident I would meet someone who I liked as much as Bob and who was single.  Some I could live my life with until the end of my time on this earth.  I did meet that man the following year in July.  His name is Bill and last week we celebrated our 46th year together. 

However, over the years I've often wondered what happened to my first love, Bob.  His son told me that his father and mother eventually divorced and Bob married again and had three more children.  His son also told me that Bob had two children from a previous marriage.  That meant my Bob had a total of eight children during his lifetime.  Wow.  He also told me that Bob died of emphysema (he smoked 3 1/2 packs of Salem cigaretts a day.)  He said Bob also drank prodigious amounts of coffee.  That was Bob, a bundle of high energy.   I guess he felt he need a lot of stimulants to maintain his fast paced lifestyle.

His son also told me that his mother wrote a book about her marriage to Bob.  He said I might find the book interesting but warned me that it didn't paint a flattering picture of his father.  I went on and ordered the book, "I Love You This Much".  I'm reading the book now.  His son was right, his former wife does not paint a flattering picture of Bob.  In fact, the picure she paints of Bob is of a man I did not know.  I don't know whether or not to believe her and her portrayal of Bob.  The "Black Devil" she describes in the book is so unlike the sweet, kind, caring and loving man that I knew all those years ago.  What really blew my mind was the time period she is writing about is the same time period Bob and I were seeing each other.  It is so eerie to read her physical description of Bob with his pale skin that she could see the blue veins on thes side of his forehead because those are the same blue veins I saw.  She describes his "mischievious dark eyes."  Those are the same eyes that I saw.  She speaks of his charisma which he had in abundance.  Bob could charm the pants off of just about anybody and he did me (literally.)

But this mean and vindictive man she consistently describes in her book is a man I don't recognize.  I understand that she knew Bob much longer than me but I think some of her anger comes from a woman deceived.  She felt betrayed. I don't blame her for feeling that way.  But look at Bob's position.  He wanted the All American Family and yet he was a homosexual, living a double life.  The torment this poor man must have went though.  I never had a hint of what he was going through when we spent those many happy hours together in each other's company at my small apartment in Coatesville, PA.

Something strange has happened to me from having my memories of Bob revived and from reading his former wife's book.  I now feel very, very sad for Bob.  My last communiction with Bob was in March of 1964.  He wrote to me from the bowling alley he was managing in Tacoma, Washington.  He told me when he received my letter his first impulse was to "hop on a plane" and fly to Pennsylvania to be with me.  In his second letter he asked me to move to Tacoma, Washington.  He said he had a "lot of money" and would see to it that I "had as much as you have now."  He said that if I couldn't move to Tacoma, then he would send me round trip plane tickets to visit him in the fall during my vacation.  He wanted me to check out the area and make a decision as to whether or not to move to Tacoma.  Of course at that time my mindset was that I would never get involved with a married man. What kind of life would we lead? I would be his mistress again.  I wanted a life for us together.  This was impossibile because he had a family.  It was out of the question.  I didn't go to Tacoma.  I don't even remember if I responded to his plea.  I just didn't go. By this time I had met someone new (Jim) and was busy with my new life.  Jim was single (lived at home with his Mom) and visited me all weekend as occasionally on weekdays.  I liked Jim but I wasn't as head over heels in love with him as I was Bob but I attributed those feelings to the fact that Bob was my first love.  Again, the folly and foolishness and naiveté of youth.  I had no lack of those qualities at that time (still do in many respects I have to admit.)

Much has happened since that time in the spring of 1964.  I broke up with Jim because he was too possessive.  I met Bill in July of 1964.  Bill lived in New Jersey.  He would come out to my apartment in Coatesville and pick me up and take me to his apartment in Pennsuaken, New Jersey to spend the weekends.  At the end of the weekend he would make the round trip to take me back to my apartment in Coatesville, PA and return to his apartment in Pennsauken, NJ.  Looking back on those times I must have been a pretty desirable boyfriend to receive all that attention.  But I digress.

In December of that year (1964) Bill asked me to move in with him.  I was reluctant because I didn't want to be tied down.  I was still young and I wanted to go out and meet people.  Bill said I could still go out but just keep my activities discreet.  He said it was pointless to try and restrict a young guy who was just starting out in life.  He told me I would eventually tire of the bar scene (which I did some years later.) We had an open relationship.  We were realistic.  We loved each other.  We didn't have to prove anything to anybody.  We knew that.

After I got a job at a center city Philadelphia bank in February of 1965 I moved out of Coatesville and in with my new lover Bill.  Bill and I eventually moved to Philadelphia.  We lived a few years in Roxborough then we moved to center city Philadelphia for eleven years.  I went out often to the gay bars and clubs.  Sometimes I went with Bill and sometimes I went alone.  I vacationed often at the gay Mecca of the East Coast, Provincetown, Massachusetts.  I met many guys over those years.  Some I had brief relationships  and some I just became friends.  I experienced much.  Much happiness, some sadness.  I didn't miss much.  I saw many of my friends die of AIDS related illnesses.

Me in Provincetown, Mass sometime in the 1970's

In 1980 I had enough of the big city gay lifestyle.  I wanted a quieter existence in the country with Bill.  We sold our house in center city and moved to the country in the suburbs of Philadelphia.  Actually, we didn't live too far from that efficiency apartment I had in Coatesville, PA. We also lived near my parents. I wanted to be around during their advancing years to help them if needed.

Bill and I lived in our "country house" on 7 acres of wooded land with our three Pomeranian dogs, Horace, "T" and "Babydoll" .  We lived there for 25 years.  In November of 2006 we sold our house and retired to Delaware, where the taxes are cheaper.  In all those years, there probably wasn't a time that went by that I didn't think of Bob and how his life turned out. 

Then one night,during a slow period at my hotel front desk job,  I was researching on the Internet for my genealogy records.  I was checking the Social Security Death Index to get the dates of when some of my relatives died.  The thought came to me to check to see if Bob, my first love,  was on the Social Security Death Index.  His name would be easy to look up because it wasn't a common name.  I put in his name "Robert Surina."  To my surprise his name came up immediately. 

Robert Donald Surina
7 Jul 1933
20 Jun 1990

A wave of sadness immediately swept over me.  Bob was gone.  He had been gone for almost twenty years.  Then I thought of all those years while he was still alive.  Those years that I was so involved in my life that I didn't even have a moment to give him an call and ask him how he was doing.  Oh how I regret now that I didn't call him.  I know he would have been glad to hear me as I would him.  I close my eyes and I can hear his voice now.  I can see his knowing, mischievous smile.  It just breaks my heart to think of him and that I will never, never see or hear him again.  Gone.  Gone forever.

I'm not a religious person but I do consider myself to be somewhat of a spiritual person.  I'm not even sure what "spiritual" means.  But I do feel that perhaps someday I will see Bob again.  I am reminded of the movie Robin Williams made some years ago.  It was called "What Dreams May Come."  Robin Williams' character goes to heaven.  He discovers that all the religions are in heaven.  Everyone.  You can be whatever you want to be in heaven.  Whatever form, whatever age you prefer.  You can stay in heaven as long as you want before you are reincarnated back to earth as a newborn child.  To me this make emminently more sense that much our our obedience based organized religion teachings on earth. 

Now I'm going to say something really crazy.  I feel Bob's spirit is with me now.  I feel his presence.  I feel his warmth and love.  That doesn't mean that I don't love my present partner, Bill.  I do.  But I feel something.  Maybe it's all in my head.  After all, I did fall on my head by rolling off a roof when I was just a toddler (my babysitter wasn't watching.)  Whatever it is, my imagination or the real thing, it feels good.  I have an inner sense of peace and tranquility.  I don't know how long this will last but for right now I feel something and the only way I can explain it is that Bob knows that I miss him and he is with me now.

The mind is an amazing thing.  We have the ability to fool ourselves into believing something that isn't so or we are blind to things that are obvious to others.   One thing that I will always have that no one can take away from me are my memories of Bob and time we spent together.  We were both supremely happy. Bob was my lover.  That's what gay guys back in the Dark Ages (before the Sexual Revolution of the Sixties and Seventies) called each other who went steady....lovers.  I loved Bob and he loved me.

Bob's former wife writes of her spirtiual awakening, secure in her belief that her love for Bob was valid and Bob's homosexuality was a perversion.  She was wrong.  Bob was trying to live two lives the way our homophobic society dictated at that time.  To support his family and maintain his dignity he felt he had to portray himself as a straight family man.  Yet he had his hidden desires for members of his own sex.  To be homosexual is not a perversion.  I was born gay.  I had no choice.  The same was probably true for Bob.  He dealt with his homosexuality in a different way.  The only perversion in our society is the way they treat members of our society who have an attract to the same sex.  Thank goodness the newer generation is more realistic about gays and lesbians in our society and do not discount them as human beings but as equal to them in every aspect of freedom.

What Bob and I had during our brief time together was more than sex.  We had a bond. We had a bond that was doomed by the strict societal codes of that time we were together.  The relaxation of sexual codes didn't begain until the late Sixties.  That was too late for me and Bob.  By the time the restrictive sexual codes began to fall I was with a my partner Bill, who I dearly love.  Bob was divorced and remarried and had three more children.  Our brief relationship in 1963-64 was but a sweet memory. 

I never thought I would feel this way about Bob again after all these years but I have to honestly admit, I miss him.  I miss him more than I ever thought I would, even after all these years.

After reading his wife's book and all that was going on in his life, I just wish I could have been there for him to give him a hug and offer my support to him.  Just to give him a hug and offer him comfort.

I think I may have made a difference in his life.  I do believe there is a reason for everything in this life.  I do believe in The Plan.  I believe that some day I will again see Bob and that melt your heart smile of his.  I don't know how, when or where but I do know I will.  Whenever I think of Bob now I get a warm, peaceful feeling.  That is how I know he is still with me.

Now that I am nearing the end of my life I am comforted by the fact that I just may experience Heaven the way Robin Williams did in his movies "What Dreams May Come."  I will be in a perfect place with those people and my pets that I have loved during my lifetime.  That perfect place will have no room for pain, hate and discrimination.  That perfect place will be Heaven.  I hope to see you there Bob.  I miss you.  I never stopped loving you.

Me at my computer July 2010 - 47 years later writing this blog posting

Random Observations on a December Morning

Late yesterday afternoon sun on our cozy home (in the background).    What? Yet another selfie of yours truly in a hoodie on his property in...