Sunday, June 30, 2013

Getting the Ring

Me checking out wedding rings yesterday at B.J.'s 

Yesterday Bill and I went shopping for the ring.  Yes folks, that time is finally here.  The two old gay guys shopping for a wedding ring.  

July 3rd will mark the 49th anniversary of the day I met Bill at the Westbury Bar in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  I went home with him that night (after he literally swept me off of my feet) and we have been together ever since.  Sure, there have been a few bumps along the road of Our Journey but what relationship doesn't have those ups and downs?  Yep, the past 49 years have been a roller coaster but never once have we stopped loving one another.  

Yesterday Bill came out of his weeklong funk which was caused by our disagreement over who drives the car last Sunday when we made a trip to Pennsylvania.  We're back on board again.

Yesterday we went shopping for The Ring.  We only need one ring because I have my wedding ring.  I bought it in 1970 in lieu of a real wedding ring. For those of you who know me it is that gold band with a single solitary diamond that I've worn for years.  Yep, that is my wedding ring.  But we needed a ring for Bill.

We first stopped at B.J.'s in Millsboro. Saw a few nice rings but they were TOO EXPENSIVE.  Then we went to Dover and stopped at this Pawn Shop that we had visited several years ago.  We found the perfect ring for Bill.  White gold with three diamonds in a channel setting.  

We had to size the ring to Bill's big finger.  We pick up the ring this Wednesday.  

Tomorrow we're going to try and pick up our marriage license in Georgetown.  I don't know if there will be a crowd of LGBT couples there or not since most of the high profile couples already got their civil unions last year.  Those civil unions will automatically convert into marriages next July 1st.  If it is too much of a hassle tomorrow, we'll just go back later in the week or next week.  We don't have to be first in the forefront, we just want to get married.

I think it is appropriate that we got Bill's wedding ring in Dover.  All the years he was in the Air Force and Dover was where I testified twice for marriage equality in Delaware.  

Hey folks, it's finally happening.  Still pinching myself to make sure I'm not dreaming!

Friday, June 28, 2013

One Fine Day

Where I met Bill, the Westbury Bar, Philadelphia PA 1964
One fine day July 3rd, 1964

"One fine day".  

This July 3rd will mark the date 49 years ago that I met my lover partner husband to be Bill Kelly.

We met at the Westbury Bar in Philadelphia.  The Westbury Bar was located at the corner of 15th and Spruce Streets in Center City Philadelphia.

The Westbury - 2009 (on corner at 15th and Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA)

I've already recounted the circumstances of our meeting in several previous blogs postings so I won't tell that story again.  However, what I will tell now that as I come up on this date of our meeting almost a half a century ago I am again reminded of how very lucky I am to have met such a man.  

Bill with "Sparky" - 1969 - Philadelphia, PA

I am not a religious person ("man made religion") but I do consider myself a spiritual person who believes that every one of us is here for a reason and a purpose.  I feel as if I was preordained to meet this person called "Bill."  

Perhaps others may have a more dramatic and glamorous calling in life that is extolled by millions of followers and fans.  However, I am convinced that my "calling", however humble was and is just as dramatic and glamorous.  One thing I do know for sure.  The past forty nine years of my life have been one glorious ride.  Of course there have been a few "bumps" along the way but this is my life.  I think we all are presented with challenges and how we deal with those challenges.  

Westbury Bar - bartenders - 1980 - the last year I went to this bar

Perhaps next month we will formalize our "partnership"with a marriage and thus have the respect, dignity and legal protections our society provides for married folks.  I say "perhaps", because Bill still continues to have issues but we will work through these "issues" as we have so many times in the past.

Last night I found this website site about Philadelphia gay neighborhoods.  The pictures posted on this blog of the Westbury Bar 

Westbury Bar from Spruce Street (with awning) - 1950 - I stood on this corner many a Saturday night

I took from that website.  Looking at these pictures reminds me of a more innocent time, a time when I was just beginning my life with my Prince Charming.  What a good feeling.  I am so lucky.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Puritans Must Be Rolling Over In Their Graves

John Winthrop, first governor of Massachusetts Bay colony

I woke up this morning feeling great!  So this is what freedom feels like?  I love it!

The last time I felt this free and equal was back in 1974 on an early July summer evening as my friend Bob Mc. and I rolled down Commercial Street in Provincetown, Massachusetts.  This was the first time we had ever been in Massachusetts and also the first time we were in a gay resort.  

Ariel view Provincetown, Mass 1974

What struck us first was how crowded the town was.  Solid masses of people on the sidewalks and in the road. At first we were mildly irritated that people were walking in the road and not jumping aside to make way for our vehicle.  Then we noticed something we had never in our lives seen before, same sex couples walking down the street (and in the road) together, many holding hands, some kissing and just being together.  What really astounded us was that the straight people seemed to take no notice.  There were no faces twisted in disgust at the sight of two men or two women walking together, CLOSELY.  

Commercial Street, Provincetown, Mass - 1974

Bob and I were thrown off balance by this new dynamic.  Prior to this steamy, July evening in 1974, in our previous life we were conditioned to expect different responses from straight folks when they say gay folks expressing fondness and closeness  in public.  Then we both had this very strange feeling.  We couldn't quite identify it because we had never felt it before.  Well, actually I did feel something like it before and that was the time I went into my first gay bar in Clairton, PA and saw men dancing with men.  But this was different.  This was in public and there were straight people around. 

Me in Provincetown (working on my skin cancer) - 1976

We quickly adjusted our attitude towards the crowds overflowing in the street thus slowing us down to our destination which was a gay bed and breakfast called "The Ranch" further on down Commercial Street.  Funny thing, we thought we were going to a dude ranch and we were dressed accordingly.  HA!  We found out differently when we arrived at "The Ranch."  
But that is another whole story which deserves its own blog post.  Back to the program in progress.

When we got to "The Ranch" we discussed this new "feeling" that we both experienced.  It wasn't too long until we both came to the realization that this "feeling" was freedom.  Yes folks, FREEDOM! God was that ever a great feeling.   

Outdoor cafe dining in Provincetown - 1976

For the next week we were in Provincetown we bathed and indulged ourselves in this new "thing" called freedom.  

"Tea Dance" at the Boat Slip in Provincetown, Mass (oh I spent many an afternoon here getting sloshed dancing)

Then it came time to leave and return to home which for me was center city Philadelphia.  It wasn't too long before I had to make an attitude readjustment.  Sure, I lived in center city Philadelphia which housed a large gay population. That was one reason I moved to center city Philly. But I quickly realized that even though there were many gay men and women in center city, that feeling of "Freedom" was gone.  Oh sure, a same sex couple could try walking down Spruce Street holding hands.  At best such a public display of affection would guarantee many disapproving looks from the straight people passing you on the street.  At the worst you would have a homophobic slur thrown at you like "Look at the fags!" Or you could even have what I had happen to me once, chased down the street to a friend's apartment to escape a gang of baseball bat wielding South Philly toughs who periodically on Saturday nights would drink enough beer to get the courage to go to "Philly and bash some fags."  Yes, I was chased simply because I was walking down Spruce myself.  Yes folks, even though I had fooled myself by thinking I was living The Life in center city Philly I didn't know what real freedom was like until that 1974 summer evening in Provincetown, Mass.

Jay (guy who reads my blog and sent me some of his Provincetown pictures)  feeling no pain at the Tea Dance

Yesterday I had that feeling again.  I was sitting at my computer, banging out my latest blog titled "Same Sex Ruling Due Today."  To be honest with you I didn't expect anything positive, especially because of the Supreme Court's ruling the previous day which put a dagger in the heart of the 1964 Voting Rights Bill.  Oh no, I was expecting the worse.  Then while I was typing with my TV on in the background I heard THE NEWS!  The Supreme Court declared DOMA, the "Defense of Marriage Ace" unconstitutional!  Unbelievable!  I could not believe it.  DOMA, the only time in our nation's history that Congress passed and the president signed a bill legalizing discrimination against a class of its citizens.  DOMA was no longer valid.  This meant that anyone married in those state that have legal same sex marriages would be entitled to the dignity and respect now routinely accorded to straight couples, including all the Federal protections and tax benefits.  Then that feeling swept over me like Niagara Falls.

Me at Niagara Falls 1967 - back in the bad old closeted days
 Oh my.  I had forgotten what it felt like.  Folks, it feels good!

Which brings to my mind, I wonder if John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Puritan would feel about yesterday's Supreme Court ruling knocking down DOMA.  You all know John Winthrop don't you?  He left England with his little band of religious zealots called "The Puritans" to find....get ready for it......religious freedom.  Of course his brand of religious freedom was you either practiced his religion or you were ostracized and punished.  Sound familiar?  Ostracized and punished.  Hmmmm.  Yes folks, the irony is that one of the first leaders to come to this country for freedom probably would not approve of yesterday's Supreme Court ruling.  Winthrop and his fellow Puritans must be rolling (twirling is probably more accurate) over in their graves today.  

Winthrop and his fellow intolerant Puritans (nice drag).  Justice Scalia would feel right at home.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA

The brave lady who started it all - thank you Edith!

YES!  I can't believe it.  I'm still trying to absorb the full impact of the Supreme Court ruling today that struck down the discriminatory DOMA law that banned same sex marriage.  

The first thought that comes to my mind is "So this is what freedom feels like."  

I have yet another "moment" that I will remember the rest of my life where I was when I heard this news.  Damn, this is a GOOD feeling.

This means that when Bill and I get married we will have the same respect and legal protections that heterosexual couples have taken for granted for millennia.  We also will have 1,138 Federal benefits. Man oh man.  I can't believe that I have the option to file a joint tax return with Bill.

No longer will Bill and I be considered less than equal.  For this to happen in my lifetime is still hard for me to absorb.  I can't stop smiling.

So much to think of.  So many changes.  First I'm going to have to get used to referring to Bill as "my husband."  You know folks, every time I heard heterosexuals refer to their "husband" or "wife" I always had a twinge of envy and also feeling less than because I had to refer to Bill as "my partner", like I was in a business relationship. At least "my partner" was an improvement over "my lover" which was how we gays used to refer to our partners back in the old pre-Stonewall days.  

I'm also happy for my LGBT friends who have children.  They too will now be treated equally and not as "less than."  

Now I'm wondering if my local representative, Stephen Smyk (R-Del) will finally acknowledge me as his constituent and answer my mail.  Who knows?  Maybe he'll get on the right side of history and recognize that Bill and I are equal.  Next time when he knocks on my door asking my support because he is the "family values candidate", he will include my family.  

Same Sex Wedding Ruling Due Today

We await.  We await with nervous trepidation for the United States Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage, otherwise known as marriage equality. Will the Supreme Court do the right thing and strike down DOMA?  Will the Supreme Court strike down California's Proposition 8 in which California voters decided that same sex marriages were illegal?  I don't know.  I know what my "gut" feeling is but I won't say because I'm superstitious.  I am hoping the Supreme Court does the right thing and recognizes that same sex couples are entitled to the same rights, respect and benefits that heterosexual couples have taken for granted for hundreds of years.  

I'm not big on attending weddings.  The very first wedding I was invited to was my best friend Larry's wedding to his sweetheart Lois.  That was to take place in September of 1962.  Unfortunately I couldn't make it to the wedding because I had to attend the funeral of my much loved Uncle John Tipton, who died accidentally.

Larry and Lois at their wedding - 1922

The second wedding I was invited to was my younger brother John's wedding.

Marriage of John and Barbara Tipton - 1963

That's me, standing to the far right (with my eyes closed of course) next to my other younger brother Isaac.  By the way, this picture proves that I am the shortest of the three Tipton brothers even though I am the oldest.  Each Tipton boy came out bigger, that's my our Mother stopped having babies.  But I digress.  My brother Isaac was best man as his brother John's wedding. I was  the Other Brother at this wedding.

One wedding that I didn't attend but that a member had a big influence on my life was the wedding of the man I had my first intimate relationship with.  His name was Bob S. (no last names out of respect for his family, whose wife is still alive and children know who I am because of a previous blog posting in which I mentioned his whole name).

Yes, he was that good-looking.  We had a several month affair until I broke it off because I didn't want to be a "mistress" to a man with three young children.  Bob was my first love. Later his wife wrote a book about her failed marriage. I was referred to in her book, as one of the "other men" he was seeing.  I found out later that Bob had married again and fathered two more children.  Prior to his first marriage he had two children out of wedlock.  This was the man who "introduced" me to same sex relationships.  Ironic don't you think?

I've been invited to weddings over the years.  I turn them down, probably because it was only a reminder that this was something that I could never participate in.  I didn't need that reminder that I wasn't "good enough" to have an official marriage to the man I love and have lived with for the past 49 (this July 3rd) years.  

Bill, me and my brother John at our new house in Delaware 2006.

Maybe today the Supreme Court will rule that Bill and I and all other same sex couples are entitled to the same respect and legal protections that straight couples have enjoyed since millennia.  Maybe.  One can only hope.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Family History - Dan Tipton

Dan Tipton - 1844 -1898
Member of Wyatt Earp's "Vendetta" posse

A change of pace folks.  Instead of hearing about me and my health and personal issues, here is a fascinating slice of my family history.  My family connection to Arizona.  As regular followers of this blog may know, I am my family historian.  I do the family research on my Tipton ancestry.  I do have a Tipton first cousin living in Arizona now.  Shirley Tipton Patterson.
Shirley Tipton standing in  front of baby with thumb in mouth behind her sister Sandy Tipton who also moved to Arizona - I am standing to the right with my arms folded next to my two younger brothers John and Isaac - photo taken during a Tipton Sunday chicken dinner at Uncle Ed and Aunt Mabel Tiptons' place in the country - 1951 when we were both ten years old - the last time I saw cousin Shirley
Shirley and I were born the same year (1941).  I haven't seen her for year but I hope to some day.  Her father Rich Tipton and my father Ike Tipton were brothers. We Tiptons are pretty much spread across the country now.  

Cousin Shirley Tipton Patterson today with her husband Bob Patterson - fully "Arizonized"

I am a ninth generation Tipton.  My first Tipton ancestor to arrive on these shores was Jonathan Tipton (1657-1757).  He was born in Kingston, Jamaica and left after a hurricane destroyed his barrel stave (for storing rum) business in Port Royale, Jamaica.  He arrived in Baltimore, Anne Arundel County, Maryland around 1697.  He was my 6th great grandfather.

I do have a lot of "Tipton" information to write about.  However, let me start with Dan Tipton, one of the few Tiptons that I cannot tie into my family tree.  

Dan Tipton was a very interesting man as all Tiptons are.  We all have our story.  Dan's story caught my eye because for a time he was in the famous American western lawman Wyatt Earp's 
posse.  Here is Dan Tipton's story that I took from Wikipedia:

Wyatt Earp
Dan Tipton (1844-February 25, 1896) was a sailor minor, gambler, and member of a federal posse led by American Old West lawman Wyatt Earp.  He participated in Earp's vendetta during which four outlaw Cowboys were killed.
Ike Clanton - member of the Cowboys outlaw gang

Life in Arizona:

Morgan Earp
Tipton served aboard the USS Malvern during the American Civil War and drifted west afterward.  He showed up in Tombstone in March 1881.  When Morgan Earp was assassinated on March 19. 1881, Tipton was present in the billiard parlor where Morgan was killed.  Tipton joined Earp's posses after it returned from Prescott.  While escorting Virgil Earp and his wife Allie to the train bound for California, Wyatt killed Frank Stilwell who had been named as a suspect in Morgan's murder.

Frank Stillwell

Warren Baxter Earp

Tipton rode with Wyatt, Warren Earp, Doc Holliday, 
Doc Holliday
Texas Jack Vermillion, 
Texas Jack Vermillion
Turkey Creek Jack Johnson and Sherman McMaster as they searched for the other Cowboys thought responsible for attacking the Earps.  He was with the Earp posse when it rode out to Pete Spence's 
Pete Spence
wood camp where they found Florentino Cruz, a.k.a. Indian Charlie, who had been implicated in trying to kill the Earps.  He returned to Tombstone to obtain more funds for the Earps and was arrested on trumped up charges by Cochise County Sheriff and Earp enemy Johnny Behan.
Johnny Behan
 While in jail he missed the shootout at Iron Springs on March 24 during which Wyatt Earp killed
 Curly Bill Brocius because he was bringing money to the Earp posse.
Curly Bill Brocius
Tombstone, Arizona
After Tipton was released on March 25, he brought $1,000 donated by E.B. Gage, who was part owner of the Tombstone-based Grand Central Mining Company and superintendent of the Grand Central Mine.  He was also a prominent Republican and a member of the Citizens Safety Committee.  He took the money to the Earp part at Henry Hooker's Sierra Bonita Ranch north of Wilcox.  The posse members looked for more members of the outlaw Cowboys for a few more days before leaving Arizona on April 15 to avoid arrest warrants.  Tipton remained with the group through New Mexico and into Colorado, where most of the posse stayed to avoid arrest warrants from Cochise County.

Boot Hill, Tombstone, Arizona

Later life:

In 1897, Tipton ran afoul of the law.  Customs agents arrested him for smuggling forged Chinese immigrant labor certificates.  He was convicted in October and sentenced to 20 months in the Ohio Federal Penitentiary.
 The 53-year old inmate lasted just four months behind bars before dying of Bright's Disease on February 25, 1898.  He left no known kin. His body was buried in an unmarked grave at the Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio.

Ron Tipton - Faux Cowboy (although I do think I lived in an earlier time - I just so fit in the costume) 

By the way, do you think any of those guys back then were gay?  Oh I'm sure one of two of them were.  Talk about being in the closet.  Now those days were tough.

Unknown couple - 1880's
Probably not a part of Wyatt Earp's Vendetta posse - just guessing

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...