Sunday, December 9, 2007

Three Strong Women

My father (and I) came from a family of very strong women. Women who with their husbands, sons and fathers settled the American Great Basin in the 19th century. So often the history of the settling of the West focuses on the men and gives short shrift to the women. In our family (and if truth be told most others) the women were just as strong as the men folk.
This is the story of three women who referred to themselves as "The Three Sisters" although they were actually sisters-in-law.
It was childhood tragedy that brought them together.
Lymeda Murphy, the oldest, was my grandmother. Born in December, 1885, the daughter of Jim and Addaline Murphy. She was 16 years old when her mother died. Her father wasn't able to care for her and her brothers and sisters so she was sent to live and work on the Just family ranch near Firth, Idaho.
Kate Reid, the youngest, was 4 when her mother died. She and her older brothers, Jim and Rufus Ezekial, also went to live and work on the Just family spread.
Agnes Just, the boss' daughter, was between them in age. These became the Three Sisters.
When she was 19 Lymeda married Kate's oldest brother Jim and shortly after that Agnes married Rufus Ezekial. Kate, in turn, married another local boy, Bob Blair. It wasn't until they started their own family that Lymeda and Jim moved to their own place, but the "Three Sisters" remained the best of friends.
In the early years of the 20th century women did not wear pants when they went into town. Out on the ranch no one would have known but to go into town would have been just too shocking. Well, never let it be said that Lymeda and Agnes let little things like that get in their way. They once told me about the time the two of them were out horseback riding and decided to go into Firth to pick up supplies at the General Store. They didn't need the wagon so they just rode on into town. Well, talk about scandalized....folks came out and watched them ride through town. Someone went and got their husbands and told the men they had to do something about their wives. Both men just laughed and asked who in town had the nerve to tell Lymeda and Agnes what they could or couldn't do. Nobody that knew them. I guess it helped that they were well liked.
In time my grandmother, Lymeda, became the county's first licensed midwife. At her funeral in 1968 her Mormon Bishop asked the congregation..."If your parents were delivered by her, please stand." "If you were delivered by her please stand," and finally "If she delivered any of your animals, please stand." He then had the family stand and look around....we were the last to stand, hardly anyone was seated.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

"Music hath charms...."

There is some music that has an incredible affect on me. Some have a sentimental attachment, (there are hymns from my childhood that still really move me). But other pieces are just so incredibly beautiful that when I hear them my heart soars (some of Bach's Brandenberg Concerti ). Doesn't matter if there are words it's that glorious sound that does it.
This morning, as I do most mornings, I flipped on the TV to catch Good Morning America to listen to and watch before getting out of bed. The lead story was the death of the great tenor Luciano Pavarotti. As I lay there I felt the tears running down my face soaking my beard. Now I rarely cry at another's death and I don't have a particular attachment to Pavarotti. So why the tears? They were playing his signature aria Nessun Dorma (Puccini's masterpiece from Turandot).
Nessun Dorma is one of those pieces of music that seems to reach into my heart and wring out the tears. I really don't know why. The story is a fantasy tale of a Chinese princess name Turandot. The hero, a Prince has kept his name secret from Turandot who is challenged to learn it by dawn or she will have to marry him. Turandot has decreed that no one can sleep that night, they must discover his name. The Prince's aria begins with Turandot's command "No one sleeps..." (nessun dorma). And ends "Vanish, o night! Set behind the mountains, stars! At daybreak, I shall conquer." In 1990 it was the theme for the World Cup which was hosted by Italy.
I hope you will celebrate the music that moves you. It doesn't matter if the music is classical, rap, R&B or country western. As you listen remember those who brought you that music... the composers, writers, and performers.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

My Name is Larry Craig!

It's not really easy having sympathy for Sen. Larry Craig, but strangely enough I do.
Back in the 1970s, when I first came out in Salt Lake City, I was rather well acquainted with all the most popular public rest rooms. I knew how to tap my foot and pass toilet paper notes with the best of them and I was reasonably good at "lewd conduct". Back then if you wanted to meet another man to have sex with you're options were limited. There were no gay community centers, gay student groups, no gay social groups. In Salt Lake there was a really seedy bar "The Radio City Lounge". In many places, like Utah and Idaho, "perverts and known homosexuals", by law, could not have a liquor license. Rumor had it that gay bars were "Mafia" owned and operated. Oh and we also had a municipal bath house, built over a natural hot springs, that was pretty disgusting.
If this was what it meant to be gay is it any wonder that a lot of men denied being gay? If this is all he knows about being gay is it any wonder Larry Craig denies being gay? If our places were reversed I might be the disgraced senator and Larry might very well be sitting here writing this.
As this story has unfolded I have been struck by something that hasn't been mentioned much. Why was Larry Craig arrested? Did he threaten anyone? No. Did he defraud anyone? No. Did he approach anyone underage? No. He was looking for another man he could have consensual sex with. We know that at least one young, attractive vice cop was working the Minneapolis Airport looking for someone to entrap. In some places "lewd conduct" would be considered a "nuisance crime" like littering. He'd be given a ticket and sent on his way. In Minneapolis in addition to the time he spent hanging out in the rest room the officer spent 45 minutes interrogating the senator. It seems to me that it was homophobia feeding on homophobia. It was homophobia that created the crime and it was homophobia that led to Larry Craig being arrested.
So Larry Craig's career as a good Republican Senator has been destroyed. His fellow Republicans have broken speed records distancing themselves from him. One even said that he had committed "the unpardonable sin". This has to be hyperbole, cruising a rest room worse than lying to the American people to take us into war in Iraq?
So what do we, as gay men, do about this man who doesn't want to admit to being one of us? Do we "owe" him anything? No. Should we offer him our friendship and support? Well, perhaps, but I really doubt he'll accept it. But let us offer it anyway. After all do we want to be confused with the "friends" who abandoned him. I don't think so.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Lone Wolf

In 1920 the United States tried a "grand experiment". For the next 13 years the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages was illegal in the United States.
Of course it was still fairly easy to get a drink, often in little out of the way places called "speakeasies".
My father's older sister, Margie moved from small town Idaho to Salt Lake City, the nearest big city, in the 1920s. Margie worked a number of jobs including modeling for department stores and local fashion photographers. I've seen pictures from that time, she was a very attractive woman.
I never heard the details but by 1930 Margie had opened a high class speakeasy and brothel in the "Avenue" neighborhood of Salt Lake City. At 18 my mother, Dorothy, was living with and working for Margie as her bookkeeper ("I wasn't pretty enough to be one of the girls." she once told me.)
Margie's youngest brother, Jack, was born with a club foot. Jimmy, my father, their oldest brother brought him down from Idaho to The Children's Hospital in Salt Lake for treatment. They all stayed together for a few days until Jack went in the hospital and Jimmy moved on to work in the shipyards in Oakland, California.
Dorothy met and fell in love with Bill, the bar's driver and delivery man. Nine months to the day after they were married my sister Billie Dean was born. Their marriage broke up when Bill brought his girlfriend home to meet his wife. I'm sure he was surprised at her reaction, it seems she threatened to kill him with a butcher knife or a cast iron frying pan...I've heard both stories. When Margie found out, she called a local judge, one of her better customers, who handled Dorothy's divorce privately in his chambers.
At 21 with a baby, no husband and no child support Dorothy had no choice but to move back home with her parents, Dora Mae and Ben, my grandparents. Dorothy found legitimate work in downtown Salt Lake and grandma raised Billie Dean. Life with Dora Mae was pretty difficult for both Dorothy and Ben. Their close father-daughter friendship stemmed from those days.
Dorothy once told me that she despaired of ever finding someone who loved her and would want to marry her. She dated, but few men wanted to marry a woman with a child. She and Margie even travelled to California on a vacation and looking for work. They stayed with Jimmy in Oakland, but they weren't close. It was the height of The Depression and Jimmy was sending money home to Idaho to help his mother and his younger brothers and sister. He had made up his mind to never marry and have a family until times got better.
In 1942 The Depression ended with America's entry into World War II. Jimmy was drafted and went off to war. It was at Margy's suggestion that Dorothy started writing to Jimmy. The wrote each other often and fell madly in love. In June, 1945, while he was home on leave Dorothy and Jimmy were married in Dora Mae and Ben's living room.
And that's how my parents met. So why the picture of Alfred von Kowalski-Wierusz' painting The Lone Wolf ? As long as I can remember a small, framed copy of this picture has hung in my bedroom. It came from a calendar that hung in Margie's bar. It's a wonderful reminder of how my parents met.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Molly and Vick

The story on everyone's radar is Michael Vick's admission of guilt to charges involving dog fighting and killing. I'd rather share another story with you.
When Joe (my late lover) and I moved to Baltimore in December, 1992, our first place was out in the suburbs of Baltimore County. The following Spring we found a place in the city just a block from Joe's office. In July Joe had to fly to Phoenix, Arizona, for a church conference. The morning he left I was packing his bags. To get him out of the way I sent off for a long walk with Bentley, the miniature schnauzer we brought from California.
I had just finished packing, closed last suitcase and was putting them out on the porch when Joe and Bentley came up the walk. They were followed by a larger, skinny dog covered with mud, blood and dog poop. She was a mess.
She was a pit bull that somebody was trying to make mean so she'd be a fighter.
"She was tied up to the fence behind the old high school. I untied her figuring she'd run off but instead she followed me home, what am I gonna do?"
My response was "You're leaving for Phoenix when your ride gets here and I'll take care of her." His ride came, we took time for a long kiss and off he went with promises to call when he got settled. After he left I put Bentley in the house and set down on the porch steps, the new dog came over and put her head in my lap. You need to know that I'm a big softy especially when it comes to animals. I also have a cast iron stomach. It takes a lot to make me throw up. "Well girl, will you stay here while I get some stuff from inside?" She didn't answer but she didn't leave when I went inside and grabbed the dog shampoo and a pile of old towels and the first aid kit. She watch patiently while I uncoiled the garden hose and turned on a gentle stream. It took a half hour of washing and repeating to get all the mud and crud off of her. She kept trying to drink from the hose so I got Bentley's outdoor water bowl and kept it full as she tanked up on water.Her face was swollen, one eye almost shut but no cuts on her head. She had bruises and shallow cuts on her back around her tail. (In case you ever need an ice pack and you don't have a "real one", a bag of frozen peas or corn makes a great substitute.) The most amazing thing was that she let me use peroxide on her cuts and an ice pack on her face without fighting me at all. As I was finishing up Sharon, a good friend, the neighborhood dog walker, stopped by and asked me what was happening. I told her the story as she was petting the new dog. Sharon had been a nurse so she gently checked for broken bones and infected cuts. I told her I couldn't afford a vet to take care of the new dog. She said we didn't need one yet but she knew vets who would help out for free. While she was checking the dog I slipped inside and got a bowl of dried kibble. The new dog was famished.
We ended up calling her Molly. Molly was my constant companion for the next 14 years. She took care of me when Joe was sick and when he died. She took care of Bentley in his old age, until he died. About a year ago she developed a number of tumors, cancer the vet said. When it got to be too much I held her in my lap as the vet gave her that last shot. At the end she was trying to lick the tears from my face.Molly was the sweetest, gentlest dog I'd ever met. She was all the proof I needed to know that pit bulls can be as good and loving as a dog could be.
And so Mr. Vick, you disgust me. You are cruel and malicious, a common thug. I am glad you've lost your job and I hope this ruins your career. I can't help but wonder if a man as cruel as you abuses women and children. The best news is that people will forget you, you will only be a pathetic footnote in NFL history.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Three in New York City

Lordy, lordy, lordy it's been something like 5 months since my last blog! Well, I've now lost a total of 125# making me 180#. I have no idea when I last weighed 180# but it certainly wasn't even in distant memory. Had to be in the late 1970s! I'm doing well, and feeling very good.
A month ago I was visiting Gunny in New York City and he took some pictures including this one. Maybe I'll post a Before pic to go with this After. I had a grand time...a lot of firsts for me...first trip to Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty on Friday and on Sunday my first trip to Fire Island.
We took in three shows Deuce with Angela Lansbury, The Year of Magical Thinking with Vanessa Redgrave and finall Forbidden Broadway a delightful revue of the current crop of Broadway musicals. For me the exciting thing was that a year ago I might have had the energy to do one day but all three would have been out of the question.
Back in Baltimore we've had so strange weather...Thursday we didn't even get to 70 degrees outside...tomorrow there is an extreme heat warning with heat indices of 100+. All to strange.Well, that's about all. I will try and be better about keeping up with this!Hugz to All!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Eye for an Eye

Howdy Folks~I have a longish story to tell you. By the time I'm done you understand what's happening here.On December 1, 1973, I was living in Salt Lake City, Utah. I went on a date with my friend Gene. We had gone to a foreign film at the University of Utah (the movie was Dutch "Dies Irae").On my way home I hit a patch of black ice. My only major injury was to put the gear shift lever through my glasses into my left eye. I was in the hospital for a couple of weeks. The eye was saved but I lost the lens and at that time lens implants were highly experimental and the insurance company just laughed. Jump ahead to 1987 (Santa Barbara, California) then lens implants were routine and were actually an outpatient procedure. The insurance I had then said sure go ahead get it done and I did. Time for another jump ahead to October, 2006...after a day of selling stuff at the Lutherville, Maryland, Swap Meet I tripped and fell smash my face into the plastic crate I was carrying. Lots of scrapes and bruises but I thought I hadn't done much damage...WRONG! I had displaced the lens I'd had implanted in 1987! I went to an eye doctor in January and he discovered the damage. On Tuesday, February 27th I went to Union Memorial Hospital and Dr. Nirankeri replaced the lens implanted in 1987. I went to the doctor this morning. He's rather pleased with how it looks and I'm well on my way to recovery. So there you have my long story coming up to today.I'll keep you informed of how it's healing.MikeP.S. I'm down to 204 lbs. That's a loss of 101 lbs.
posted by Mike @

An Update aka I'm Bragging
Greeting and Salutations!Just want to catch folks up on the latest news from here in Lauraville!I had my 5 month review with the Weight Management Center today.Here's what I found out~At 205 lbs. I have lost 100 lbs. that's 74.5% of my excess body weight! This came rather early since for most folks it takes a year to reach that point.I have lost 10 inches each from my chest, waist, and hips.I am still loosing abt 3 lbs. a week, unfortunately this is bound to slow down.The only thing that hasn't improved (actually it's gotten worse) in my essential tremors. I'm sounding more and more like Kate Hepburn every day!All in all everybody seems pretty pleased, I know I am!MikeWednesday February 21, 2007 - 05:17pm (EST) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~MAL~ Mid Atlantic Leather for MLK So.......who all is going to Washington, DC this weekend for the Mid Atlantic Leather weekend? I'll be there Saturday afternoon through Sunday afternoon... anybody want to get together for a drink?I'm looking forward to showing off my svelte new body (220#)!MikeThursday January 11, 2007 - 05:30pm (EST)~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Happy 2007Just a wee note to wish you all a safe New Year's Eve. Be safe guys, we've lost too many in the last year!Much Love to all....Papa MikeSunday December 31, 2006 - 01:19pm (EST) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Help Wanted
Howdy Guys, ....guess I'm justa big ol' bear... I'm single again and while I don't really hate it I sure good use some buddies...good ol boys I can hang out with, get to know, maybe take in movies, try new things, hopefully fuck around and I sure could use some cuddle time... anybody interested? Drop me a line, please send a pic okay?MikeTuesday December 26, 2006 - 05:06pm (EST) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~November 30, 2006~ San Andreas It appears we have a nasty virus in our computer! So if you have received an Instant Message from me with a link to some pictures...DO NOT OPEN! Just delete it and accept my apology.Papa Mike