I’ve been going through my Uncle Bill’s letters. My uncle and his friends were from one of the last generations to keep up the practice of letter-writing. When I’m gone, my nephew won’t have to scan much of my correspondence, because most of it’s already digital, but he’ll have so many emails to peruse he won’t know where to begin.
Many of the people with whom my uncle corresponded I’ve never heard of, of course, but I do recognize a few names. The letter I scanned today was from one such person, Darrell Rice, a friend of my uncle’s from his days at the University of Kentucky. Darrell was from Watonga, Oklahoma, and after some adventures he returned there, where he worked for the Watonga Republican newspaper for 39 years before retiring last year.
What made me decide to do this blog post was an interesting letter from Darrell to my uncle dated December 29, 1982. The letter itself wasn’t enough—I do enjoy reading these letters but their content I’ll save for another day. No, what I thought interesting enough to share was the enclosures, five newspaper clippings, each headed “WR people” and featuring a photograph and a brief bio of a Watonga Republican staffer.
You may be able to tell from the first piece, featuring “sub-peon* paper boy” Darrell Rice, that it was Darrell himself who wrote these profiles. As Darrell introduced them to my uncle, they were “the results of [his] joke for the week. Maybe you’ll enjoy them or maybe not. The asterisk on [his] deal was a compromise with Tim [Curtin, owner of the Republican].” Of all the people Darrell profiled that week in 1982, I think “born again” Lou Rother might have been his favorite.
Click on a photo to read the corresponding bio (in PDF):
Wednesday, September 25th, 2013
I just got my new license plates. Well they’re the new “Ohio Pride” design, but they’re the same plates I’ve had for 20 years.
Yep, not only am I gay but my car’s gay too.
As you can see, I’ve gotten several GAY CAR license plates over the years, usually getting new ones when a new design became available. I skipped the “Beautiful Ohio” design, which I thought looked stupid. I have two rear plates and one front of the red, white and blue “Birthplace of Aviation” design; someone stole the front one off my car while I was up in Cleveland.
My current gay car, a 2009 Volkswagen Eos, isn’t inherently gay but is just gay because I drive it. My original gay car, on the other hand, was a 1991 Mazda Miata, which was pretty gay.
I got my first set of GAY CAR plates in 1993. I thought it’d be funny to have GAY CAR plates on a gay Miata, but I was also a young idealistic gay activist who wanted to be really out. No HRC equal sign bumper sticker that only other gay people would recognize for me. No, I wanted something that everyone would understand.
At the time I first got the GAY CAR plates, friends and family thought I was making a mistake. My boss at the time thought I was asking to have my car vandalized or worse. I wasn’t sure what would happen. As it turned out I was lucky. Nothing ever happened to my car (which always spent the night in a garage), and the only thing that happened to me was getting called names.
In the 90s I did get called “faggot” quite a few times while out and about in my gay Miata. Being the angry young activist, if someone yelled “Faggot!” at me, I’d yell “Bigot!” right back at them. One time some rednecks in a pickup truck yelled “Fag!” at me while we were stopped side-by-side at a light on Wilmington Pike, and I flipped them off and gunned it. I’ve always liked to drive fast, but that time I had a reason to. They chased me down the street, but I made it home and into my garage before they could catch up. Don’t know what I’d have done if they’d come up to the house.
Speaking of driving fast, my GAR CAR plates got me out of a speeding ticket once. I was driving down I-75 in a rush to get somewhere and sped right past a state trooper who of course flipped on his lights and pulled me over. He came up to me, looked at my license and registration, and said, “I like your plates. Slow down, okay?” and he let me go.
These days the reactions are almost always positive. At least once a day I’m stopped at a light and looking in my rearview mirror I find the driver behind me whipping out a cellphone and taking a picture of my car. People honk and give me a thumbs up. Last month a middle-aged woman pulled up beside me on Dorothy Lane and said that she liked my plates.
Something strange did happen this year when I ordered my new plates. Back in 1993 I expected that the BMV would deny my request for GAY CAR plates, but it wasn’t a problem. This year I got a call from a 614 number, and it was a woman from the BMV who wanted to know what GAY CAR meant. Well, I said, I’m gay, and so’s my car. Is there a problem? I asked. Oh, no, she said, we were just curious. After that call I wondered if there would be a problem, but my new GAY CAR plates did come, so there’ll be photo ops at traffic lights around Dayton for another couple years at least.
Saturday, September 7th, 2013
Old cigarette ads
If you read my Columbia House post, you know I recently acquired a copy of the July 3–9, 1976 issue of TV Guide. Before I share the whole issue, I want to show you the cigarette ads. There were a lot of them.
The Central Ohio edition that week had 128 pages, 32 pages from the color national wrapper and 96 black-and-white local pages. Of the color pages 21⅞% were for cigarettes, just over half of the color ads—for Viceroy, Benson & Hedges, Salem, Tall 120s, Kool and Kent.
Of all the ads, my favorite is the one for Benson & Hedges 100’s, a two-page spread showing a smoking clown looking at himself in a mirror while applying his makeup. His cigarettes are too long for him to get close enough to see!
“Oh, the disadvantages of our long cigarette,” jokes Philip Morris. Pay no attention to the real disadvantages of our cigarettes is what they’re really saying. If you focus on not hitting your long Benson & Hedges 100 against the mirror, you’ll forget that it’s killing you.
The Salem Longs ad is funny along the same lines. R.J. Reynolds asks if we remember that “We all smoke for enjoyment.” Salem Longs have “the good tobacco taste and menthol I enjoy. That’s all I have to remember to enjoy smoking.”
Yes, that’s all we have to remember—how good cigarettes taste. Don’t remember that smoking causes lung cancer.
The rugged manly racecar driver in this Viceroy ad doesn’t care about the taste or length of his cigarettes. “Why Viceroy? Because I’d never smoke a boring cigarette,” he says.
I don’t know why Brown & Williamson thought this ad proved their cigarettes weren’t boring. They probably didn’t really. They just wanted impressionable people to think that smoking Viceroys would make them as interesting as a racecar driver.
Tobacco companies strongly preferred advertising in color. In contrast to the color national section, almost a quarter of which was cigarette ads, only 3 pages, or 3%, of the black-and-white local section were cigarette ads, for Doral, Pall Mall, and Silva Thins. Perhaps having a B/W ad implied that your cigarette was inferior; I never smoked and don’t know which cigarettes were discount brands.
The impossibly-thin model in this Silva Thins 100s ad proclaims, “I’m a Thinner,” whatever that means. I bet American Tobacco Company wanted people to think it meant that if you smoked Silva Thins, you could be thin yourself.
I don’t remember Silva Thins, but googling them I discovered that ad exec F. William Free created a Silva Thins ad that said, “Cigarettes are like women. The best ones are thin and rich.” The National Organization for Women didn’t like that and launched a boycott of Silva. Free got his though, dying of lung cancer.
Monday, September 2nd, 2013
Do you remember Columbia House?
I just came across a vintage Columbia Record & Tape Club (better known as Columbia House) ad from 1976. These ads were ubiquitous in the 70s, and lots of people, including me, were club members.
The draw was getting 11 records or tapes for $1.00 (plus $0.86 shipping and handling), if you join now and agree to buy 8 more selections (at regular Club prices) in the coming 3 years.
Regular Club prices weren’t bad. $5.98 or $6.98 for records, $6.98 or $7.98 for 8-track tapes or cassettes. Reel tapes were always $7.98, never $6.98 or $5.98, but they were on their way out (* Selections marked with a star are not available in reel tapes).
Take your pick: 12" stereo records or 8-track cartridges or tape cassettes or 7" reel-to-reel tapes
Cassette tapes were just becoming popular († Available on records and 8-track tapes only). Vinyl and 8-track were king, covering all of Columbia House’s offerings.
The catch was the stupid automatically-mailed Selections of the Month. They were optional—if you prefer an alternate selection, or none at all, simply fill in the response card always provided and mail it by the date specified—but what Columbia House counted on was that people would forget to mail back the cards and thus would end up with records or tapes they might not have been otherwise motivated to order but nonetheless became obligated to pay for.
I ended up with a bunch of records—Boz Scaggs, Neil Diamond, Paul Simon, Dan Fogelberg, Melissa Manchester, Stevie Wonder, Linda Ronstadt, Beach Boys, Chicago, Simon & Garfunkel, Earth Wind & Fire, Barry Manilow, Natalie Cole, Cher, Aerosmith, ZZ Top, and more— none of which I have today. I carted them all off to Stuart Hall my freshman year at University of Dayton along with my stereo, and they quickly became scratched and unplayable. Not that it matters now—I bought a lot of the music a second time on CD and anything I don’t have now that I might want to listen to I can find digitally via legal or less than legal means.
Amazingly Columbia House still exists, but only for DVDs, not for music. They still ship stuff automatically unless you opt out, but now there are no cards to mail, just a website to visit. Except who buys DVDs these days?
Click on any of the images below to embiggen, or view all four pages in a PDF. Where did I find this ad? In the July 3–9, 1976 TV Guide (central Ohio edition), which I’ll post soon in another blog entry.
Monday, August 26th, 2013
Happy birthday, Uncle Bill!
My uncle Bill in 196x on the day of his graduation from University of Virginia
Today would have been my uncle Bill’s 70th birthday.
He earned a PhD in English literature at the University of Virginia. The photo of him to the left is of him in Charlottesvilla on the day of his graduation. I don’t know the year, but since he graduated high school in 1961, I’d imagine this would have been around 1968 or 1969.
You can learn more about my uncle Bill by reading what I said about him at his memorial service in 2008.
A good place to find some solitude is Cox Arboretum on a Sunday morning.
My first stop today was the Butterly House. I’d visited last month shortly after it opened for the season but that was a bust—tons of kids, both of the lepidopteran and human kinds, but hardly any butterflies and no peace or quiet. This morning was kid-free, and there were lots of butterflies.
Next was the Tree Tower, which is just beyond the Butterfly House. The tower is a new addition to the arboretum. A couple of ladies were descending as I arrived, but then I had the tower to myself. Pleasant breeze, nice views, good place to clear one’s mind.
I didn’t have a specific destination in mind after I left the tower, but I did decide to veer off the pathways and walk on the grass through the trees.
I’m glad I did because I was able to get the nice shot of the tower that you see to the left.
My final stop was the south pond, or to be more specific a bench in the shade by the pond. A few walkers passed and one couple jogging but otherwise it was surprisingly quiet. A perfect place to spend an hour reading. I finished one book and started another.
The book I finished was Stephen Fry’s memoir, Moab is My Washpot, about his years growing up away from home at boarding schools. Fry’s making the news right now for having written an open letter calling on British Prime Minister David Cameron to get the 2014 Winter Olympics moved from homophobic Russia. I’d heard of Fry before this, at least vaguely (oh, yeah, he played Mycroft in the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes), but I didn’t know he’d written any books. This one’s ten years old.
Part of why I liked Moab is that I’m a bit of an anglophile. I grew up reading Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. I don’t know why would an American kid from the Midwest would enjoy learning about an English way of life that doesn’t exist any more, but there are plenty of Americans who like the royals and watch Downton Abbey. Part of Fry’s vocabulary is like a foreign language, not all of which is available in dictionaries or online. It’s easy enough to figure out Heinz Salad Cream and buttons A and B and tuck shops, but what’s with dividend tea?
I also liked Moab because different though Fry’s life is from mine, I understand much of what he went through as an adolescent. He hated gym and sports (or in British, games and sport). He had to deal with kids at school calling him queer. He had an obsessive crush on a cute boy. And he loved to read, seeking out books that explained who he was:
Today the gay boy in every section of society has a world of gay music, dance and television to endorse his identity. … They don’t need a parcel of old poofs historically sequestered in Capri and Tangier to tell them who they are and where they come from and whether or not they have the right to hold their heads up high. I did need them, however. I needed them desperately and without them I am not sure what I would have done to myself.
I needed them too, although I didn’t discover that some of the old poofs like Auden and Forster were in fact old poofs until after I was out of high school.
Although his story is rather serious at times, what with growing up gay and a thief (finally hitting rock bottom at 18 and going to jail for his thieving), Fry’s a great story teller, taking a path connecting incidents in what at first may seem meandering but in fact works to keep our attention and hit all the points Fry wants to touch. I enjoyed it so much that I’ll be getting Fry’s novel The Liar (parts of which, Fry explains in Moab, are based on Fry’s life) and his second autobiography The Fry Chronicles.
The book I started today was Joan Didion’s memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, an account of her year of grief after her husband, John Gregory Dunne, died unexpectedly. I haven’t gotten far enough into it to say much about it, although already something Didion quoted has got me to thinking. Thinking about grief, Didion quotes from a letter a priest sent her after her mother died:
The death of a parent, he wrote, “despite our preparation, indeed, despite our age, dislodges things deep in us, sets off reactions that surprise us and that may cut free memories and feelings that we had thought gone to ground long ago.”
Perhaps why this struck me is that yesterday and today I’ve been thinking about my biological father and about my uncle Bill.
Yesterday, googling myself (sounds naughty, but don’t we all do it?), I discovered my father’s grave (on Find a Grave). Well actually it’s not his grave. I know where my father’s remains are, and they’re not where this tombstone is. I guess it’s rather fitting that he’s not there, because he was certainly not in my life when I was looking for him. I never mourned my father’s death—he wasn’t capable of being a father really—but it’s true that even now, thinking of him “cut[s] free memories and feelings that [I] had thought gone to ground long ago.”
I had a father figure whose death I did grieve, however, and that was my uncle Bill. His birthday’s this month, so I was already thinking of him, but this morning I happened to check my website’s log and saw that some Internet visitor had been on my page about my uncle. I pulled it up myself and re-read the eulogy I gave five years ago. It made me cry again. Uncle Bill was someone I could talk to about books, and I miss him.
Thursday, April 25th, 2013
I used to care what Amy Grant thinks of me
When I was a teenager I loved Amy Grant’s music.
Amy Grant (1977)
My Father’s Eyes (1979)
Never Alone (1980)
Age to Age (1982)
Straight Ahead (1984)
The Collection (1986)
Lead Me On (1988)
Heart in Motion (1991)
Home for Christmas (1992)
A Christmas to Remember (1999)
I bought each of her albums as they came out, and I listened to them over and over. It was a rough time in my life, I was lonely, and Amy Grant’s music brought me some comfort as I struggled with something that at times seemed life threatening — yep, figuring how to deal with the fact that I was a big ole queer was a big deal to me then.
I don’t remember for sure where I first heard Amy Grant’s music, but it must have been at my church, Good Shepherd United Methodist* in Mad River Township here in Dayton.
To the left you can see copies of Amy Grant’s various albums that I bought when I was a fan. I was pretty religious about getting every new Amy Grant CD, continuing even after I stopped going to church but eventually tapering off. I skipped 1994’s House of Love and 1997’s Behind the Eyes but I did buy A Christmas to Remember in 1999.
If you were ever an avid Amy Grant fan, you might notice that 1999 was when Amy Grant got divorced, a shocking event that caused many of her devout Christian fans to drop her. However, my no longer buying Amy Grant albums wasn’t because of her divorce—I wasn’t shocked by that and thought it made her more human—it was just that Amy Grant’s music didn’t speak to me as much as it once did.
I’ve still played the two Amy Grant Christmas CDs I own each December, but other than that, I haven’t really thought about her much.
Until yesterday, when I saw a clergy friend (interestingly now that I’m out I have quite a few friends who are clergy) post a link on Facebook to Amy Grant’s first ever interview with the gay press. Of course I and a bunch of other gay Amy Grant fans flocked to read the article—we were all dying to know “how she reconciles Christianity and homosexuality.”
Amy Grant’s friend Michael W. Smith was another Christian singer whose music I liked, in part because he was cute.
You see, how Amy Grant reconciles Christianity and homosexuality is something I’ve wanted to know for a long time.
Indeed I wanted to know so much that back in the 80s, after I stopped going to church but while I was still an Amy Grant fan, I wrote her a letter. This was back in pre-WWW days, before many people had email, when you actually had to put your message on paper, stick it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and put it in a mailbox. A disadvantage of those days before email and scanners is that I don’t have a copy of what I wrote, although I remember the gist of it. I know I didn’t use the phrase “How do you reconcile Christianity and homosexuality,” but I did tell Amy Grant that I was gay and I did ask her what she thought of people being gay and Christian.
I did get a response to my letter but not from Amy Grant and also not from someone on Amy Grant’s staff. No, the response came from a very compassionate woman, a stranger who found my letter in a seatback pocket on an airplane, where Amy Grant or one of her assistants had left my letter, probably by accident. This woman didn’t know me or Amy Grant, but after reading my letter, she felt compelled to write to me because she said she could feel my pain. She wanted me to know what had happened to my letter and, more importantly, to know that she would pray for me in the hopes that God would heal me and help me to leave the homosexual lifestyle.
God must not have heard that stranger’s prayers for me because God never healed me of my homosexuality, and instead of leaving the homosexual lifestyle, I embraced it, coming out and realizing that if there is a God, God loves me for who I am, including being gay. I was cured of something though, cured for the most part of internalized homophobia, cured of caring whether others, including Amy Grant, approved of me despite my being gay.
I don’t know what I expected when I read Amy Grant’s interview with PrideSource. I guess I was hoping, knowing that Amy Grant had no ground on which to stand about the sanctity of marriage, that the reason she finally wanted to talk about teh gayz was because she wanted to come out, as so many others have recently, in favor of marriage equality.
Amy Grant declined to take a position on marriage equality, either pro or con, instead saying “I never talk about anything like that.”
She didn’t say anything overtly offensive in her first gay interview, sticking mainly to “a message of honesty and welcoming,”
saying that “you can either default to judgment or you can default to compassion” and acknowledging that she knows “that the religious community has not been very welcoming.”
Nevertheless something in Amy Grant’s careful interview—in which she tried not to offend anyone and stressed that “everybody is welcome” on “the journey of faith” towards having “a relationship with God”—did strike me as language I’d heard before.
I had friends in high school who eventually said, “I’m living a gay lifestyle.” — Amy Grant, PrideSource, issue 2116, 4/23/2013
And what was it that I’d heard before? A conservative Christian’s favorite term when it comes to teh gayz: lifestyle.
Amy Grant tells us that she “had friends in high school who eventually said, ‘I’m living a gay lifestyle,’” to which I say, no, you didn’t.
I wouldn’t say that Amy Grant was intentionally lying, and I do believe that she had gay high school friends come out to her, but I don’t believe they said, “Amy, I need to tell you something. I’m living a gay lifestyle.”
Unless we’re still desperately trying to leave it, “lifestyle” is not a word we queers use. No, we just think we have lives just like everyone else does.
But conservative Christians sure do love the word “lifestyle.” Are you struggling with same sex attractions? Google “leaving the gay lifestyle” and you’ll find tons of compassionate people willing to help you.
Amy Grant was probably just paraphrasing when she talked of friends telling her they were living a gay lifestyle. Despite her use of the term again at another point in the interview, talking about the ACLU’s first openly gay executive director, Anthony Romero, whom Amy Grant “felt so changed by” but who has a “very different lifestyle” from hers, given the lengths to which she went to stress being compassionate and loving and welcoming and to avoid being judgmental, I shouldn’t read too much into Amy Grant’s choice of words.
Why shouldn’t I? Because what Amy Grant thinks doesn’t really matter. I didn’t care two days ago, before I knew she was talking to the gayz. So why should it matter two days later? Maybe Amy Grant, living in what some would call an adulterous relationship, has no problem with gay people also finding love but is afraid to say so in so many words. Or perhaps instead “lifestyle” really is hidden code for what Amy Grant thinks of me.
Either way I’m living a gay lifestyle and I’m happy with it.
*About Good Shepherd United Methodist Church: My mother, my sister and I went to this church while we lived in Forest Ridge. It was a small church, originally part of the EUB, something older members of the congregation still remembered although the 1968 merger with the Methodists was before my time.
I never felt unsafe there, well aside from the time I was inducted into the youth fellowship group via a staged kidnapping when I answered the doorbell at home to find people on my front porch in masks who pulled me outside, put a bag over my head, and pushed me into a van that took us away. Kind of a scary thing to do to a child of divorced parents. Ended up at church where the rest of the older kids already in the youth group were there to greet me.
Except for that poorly thought out incident, Good Shepherd was a fairly safe haven for a young nerdy closeted fag. Nothing overtly anti-gay came from the pulpit there, and I had some friends, of sorts, including a girl who told me in the pews once that I had a nice singing voice (and who once also called me “faggot!” along with other kids as I got on our school bus carrying my books clasped to my chest as only girls were supposed to).
I was popular enough my senior year to become president of Good Shepherd’s youth group, or perhaps instead of my being especially popular, it was that I was willing to take the job, although I didn’t keep it long, coming to the conclusion later that year that I couldn’t be gay and be Christian and thus deciding to stop doing church. Where’d I get such an idea? The United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline, which declared back then and still declares thirty fucking years later that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
Good Shepherd is now closed, as of December 30, 2011, according to the latest Miami Valley District directory of churches. At some point in the last decade, Good Shepherd operated as Good Shepherd Community Church, affilliated both with the United Methodists as well as the Presbyterians (the Presbytery of the Miami Valley still has a webpage, albeit a rather sparse one, for Good Shepherd).
Sunday, April 14th, 2013
Uncle Bill’s Encyclopædia Britannica
One of my favorite things to do when I visited my grandmother and grandfather was to go up to their attic, which was the domain of my uncle Bill, and look through his books. He had tons of books, starting along the edge of the stairs up to the attic,
continuing along walls of bookcases on every side of his attic room, and ending in stacks on his desk and tables. Actually the books didn’t end there—Uncle Bill also had books on shelves in my grandmother’s sewing room and even some in my grandparents’ tiny living room. Their house was small but it held a lot of books.
Page 877 features an article about Dayton, Ohio, before the famous 1913 flood and, curiously, with no mention of the Wright Brothers, Dayton’s most famous native sons. In 1910, 116,577 people lived in Dayton, just slightly less than the 2010 population of 141,527. Click on the image above for a larger version, or click here for a PDF.
Even when my uncle was someplace other than Dayton—in Saudi Arabia or Cincinnati or Washington DC—his books made it seem as if he weren’t so far off, especially because he was absolutely fine with my going through his books and looking at whatever I wanted.
Some books I returned to time and again were my uncle’s copies of the eleventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, published in 1910–11. I thought it was so cool that he had an encyclopedia from over 60 years earlier.
Now of course everyone has access to this edition of Britannica since it’s in public domain and available online, but when I was a kid we didn’t have the Internet. Not everyone had encyclopedias in their homes, and doing a report for school often required a trip to the library. My mother did buy us a student encyclopedia, one volume at a time at the grocery store, the cost of which, I suspect now, was underwritten by my uncle, and I did pore over those in my bedroom, but it still wasn’t as exciting as looking through my uncle’s Encyclopædia Britannica.
Now that my uncle’s gone, I have his old Encyclopædia Britannica, now over 100 years old, on a shelf in my living room. From time to time I pull down a volume, to page through it, sometimes learning something new, sometimes marvelling at the historical perspective. It makes me feel that Uncle Bill’s still not so far off.
Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
What’s cooking with Cross Creek?
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that I was a member of Cross Creek Community Church, actually since its very beginning.
You may also have read my post last November about Cross Creek’s merging with Oak Creek United Church of Christ. That post also featured the name I liked—Croak Creek Community Church (“cross” + “oak” = “croak”)—for the merged church, as well as a fun logo I proposed to go along with the Croak Creek name.
I didn’t really think “Croak Creek” would be adopted, and in fact it wasn’t. The new church is named Harmony Creek Church. Not “Harmony Creek Community Church” or “Harmony Creek United Church of Christ,” although Harmony Creek Church is a part of the United Church of Christ as were both Cross Creek and Oak Creek, and Harmony Creek is also affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists, as was Cross Creek.
The merger’s going fairly well as Harmony Creekers work out what traditions from the two churches to keep and what new stuff to try.
Even so, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic about Cross Creek. Because of that I’ve been going through some Cross Creek memorabilia, and one item I came across was this, the one and only official Cross Creek Community Church cookbook, Pass the Plate ’round the Welcome Table.
This cookbook was put out in 2007, a year that was billed at Cross Creek as a “Decade of Daring,” the tenth anniversary of our church. The cookbook wasn’t particularly successful as a fundraiser, but it does work at providing some memories of the good food we had at church gatherings.
The forward to the cookbook also provides a nice glimpse of some of the history of Cross Creek. Since these cookbooks are no longer for sale—they made the move to Harmony Creek but were set out for anyone to take for free—I figured it’d be okay to post a scanned copy here for those who want to remember or learn a bit about the church that was Cross Creek.
Friday, January 25th, 2013
MEMO re: Inter-departmental mail
I came across something recently that reminds me that I’m no longer young. Ask a kid today what an inter-departmental envelope is, and I bet you’d get a blank stare. Yet in the days before email, these envelopes were ubiquitous.
An inter-departmental envelope from the 90s
(click to embiggen)
In case you can’t picture a inter-department envelope, you can see one to the right. Amazingly, you can still buy envelopes like these ($26.81 for a box of 100 at Business-Supply.com), so I guess someone must still be using them.
What went into these envelopes? The same thing that later went into Microsoft Outlook and now goes into Gmail.
A memo I wrote in 1995
(click to embiggen)
Messages headed with lines indicating the date, a subject, the sender and recipients. What was known as a memorandum, or more commonly a memo, of course survives yet today in electronic form as an email.
You may not have been able to imagine what an inter-departmental envelope looked like, but you’ve used email and thus have an idea what a memo looked like, even if you never drafted one, printed multiple copies, optionally physically attached additional material by paperclip or staple, and then stuffed them into hand-addressed individual envelopes to be put in an outbox, picked up by mailroom staff, and delivered to recipients in multiple offices across a company.
If you’re curious, to the left is a copy of just such a memo, one I drafted in late 1995 in the course of my job for my firstemployer. This was approaching the end of an era, for early the next year I would be drafting a memo on how to send cc:Mail messages to people on the Internet.
Thus it turns out that plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Office workers around the world are still, sometimes, doing productive work, but we’re also communicating endlessly about our work.
As you can see in the PDF of this issue, the paper’s original name was the Skyhawk, mirroring the new school’s mascot, but the 83–84 staff decided the paper needed a better name. It looks like the new name stuck — there is still a Fairborn High School NewsHawk and it’s now available online, although they’ve taken to capitalizing the “H” in the paper’s name and they
83–84 Newshawk staff:
Clockwise from front: Jon Hobbs, Bob Dornbusch, Tom Winans, Missy Ross, Jeff Dierker, Holly Gros, Sharon Truex
got rid of the fun original logo, replacing it with something boring. The paper’s current website has archives, but only back to 2006.
As with yesterday’s Books & Co. newsletter, this copy of the Newshawk harkens back to pre-desktop publishing days, with typewritten columns and images and graphics that were literally cut and pasted into place.
My copy of this edition is incomplete, as you’ll notice if you open the PDF. I ripped off a piece from the back page, probably a coupon, but I don’t remember for what. I didn’t use the Godfather’s Pizza coupon (expired 10/1/83) — I was never a fan of Godfather’s pizza, though my sister was, and I didn’t use the Crazy Cat’s Top 40 Video Games coupon (no expiration date) either.
I didn’t remember the article from page 3 of this issue, which likens the paper’s readers to prison inmates — “You are officially an inmate of Fairborn High School.” — but that was certainly an apt metaphor for how I felt back then, even if the article’s author was just trying to be funny. But I did my time and my prison days of high school are long ago!
View the 12/22/1983 edition of the Fairborn High School Newshawk (PDF format)
Okay, I scanned another copy I had of the Newshawk, this time volume 2, issue 8, from April 13, 1984. This issue is much larger than the first one of the year, with 26 pages, and on its front page features an article about a favorite teacher of mine, about whom I’ve previously blogged, Mr. Seewer, who, as reported in this Newshawk, was named “Outstanding Teacher of American History” by the Ohio society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. In 1984 Mr. Seewer, who subsequently would get his doctorate, had already been teaching in Fairborn for 17 years.
This issue also features profiles of some seniors from the Class of ’84, including David Teal, who I haven’t thought of in years. I used to have quite a crush on him. David, if you ever google yourself and see this, sorry, I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable, but you were quite the hottie with your blond hair and blue eyes.
One last update, another copy of the Newshawk from 83–84, which from sheer laziness I’m appending to this post.
This one is volume 2, issue 5, from December 22, 1983. It really is a look into another world, isn’t it? It’s not just that this newspaper is from the pre-desktop publishing era. One article reports that the Soviets walked out of the Geneva talks — God, kids in high school today were born well after the demise of the Soviet Union! — and another page features comments from students about what they think of the possibility of nuclear war. There’s mention of the smoking problem — yes, children, at one time students were allowed to smoke in certain areas of high schools! And then there’s the lovely photo on the front cover, showing Tom Marcellino working on a TRS-80 (not a state-of-the art machine even in late 1983).
Monday, September 10th, 2012
Going through some old boxes (yes, I still have some boxes I haven’t unpacked from my last move) I came across some Books & Co. paraphernalia. Books & Co., as those who grew up in Dayton will remember, was an independent bookstore in the Town & Country shopping center in Kettering.
View a PDF, front and back, of some of the Books & Co. bookmarks I have
My old Books & Co charge card
I have tons of their bookmarks, including, as you can see, some from the days when Annye Camara still owned the store.
View a Books & Co. newsletter from January 1985 (PDF format)
I also have a copy of an old Books & Co. newsletter from January 1985, interesting, of course, because it shows a bit of Books & Co. history but also because it’s a sample of a pre-desktop publishing newsletter, with its typewritten columns and hand-drawn graphics and headlines. Remember when the titles of books were underlined because typewriters couldn’t do italics? This newsletter touts an appearance by IBID, the Books & Co. Book Frog, who I just do not remember.
I used to go to Books & Co. at least once a month, and I could never go in without buying something. If I was lucky, I went with my uncle Bill, and he’d pay for the books I wanted. Other times I wanted to go on my own because Books & Co. had a well-stocked gay and lesbian section, which before I came out I wanted to browse on my own. They always had copies of the Dayton Lesbian & Gay Center’s newsletter (which, like this Books & Co. newsletter, was typewritten—this was after lesbians decided that “gay” didn’t include them but before bisexuals and transgender people got any representation). I even had a Books & Co. charge card, and I loved their great sales (an excuse to buy even more books than I normally would).
Alas, I never go to Books & Co. any more. I still read a lot, but more often than not I read ebooks on my Kindle Fire or my Kindle DX (or soon on my new Kindle Paperwhite).
I do still tend to buy hard copies of gay books, but I don’t buy them at Books & Co.’s big new store at the Greene (really just a Books-A-Million franchise) because they have a “Lifestyles” section, not an LGBT section, and they don’t have much of a selection of gay books. (Earlier this year Erin McCann wrote an article, “Books-A-Million gives the slip to gays, minorities,” voicing similar complaints about another Books-A-Million location.)
Books & Co, now redefined to something not for me
Of course, even traditional bricks-and-mortar gay-specific bookstores havebeendyingout.
So yeah, it’s sad that the old Books & Co. no longer exists, and it’s sad that there aren’t many gay bookstores left, but it’s good that it’s so easy to get books from Amazon (at least I think so; I know others disagree), and there are still some bookstore gems out there.
Key West Island Books, an independent bookstore that reminds me of what Books & Co. once was.
For example, while I was on vacation earlier this year, I picked up some interesting gay books, not at a gay-only bookstore, but at Key West Island Books. I know what you’re thinking—it’s in Key West, so it must be pretty gay, but Key West isn’t as gay as it once was, although of course it’s still very gay-friendly, as is this bookstore. Books & Co. was never this small (at least as I remember it), but it once was as welcoming.
Sunday, August 26th, 2012
Happy birthday, Uncle Bill!
My uncle Bill in 2001
(Click to embiggen)
Today would have been my uncle Bill’s 69th birthday. He died 4 years ago, and I still miss him very much.
To learn more about my uncle, you can read the text of what I said about him at his memorial service.
Sunday, August 19th, 2012
Remembering 9/11 (and ignoring greater tragedies)
Driving south on Fairfield Road near Route 35 you might easily miss Beavercreek’s 9/11 Memorial.
Today as I was out in Beavercreek on my way to get a car wash (why Beavercreek? I was redeeming a Groupon for Mike’s Express Carwash), I noticed a hunk of twisted metal alongside Fairfield Road. I decided to investigate further afterwards, and I discovered that the 25-foot burnt and bent piece of steel came from the World Trade Center and is part of Beavercreek’s memorial to 9/11.
According to a Dayton Daily News report, Beavercreek’s 9/11 memorial was dedicated last year, on September 11, 2011, and came about because Beavercreek native and current New Yorker Dan Marderosian thought it important for people in his native town to remember what happened 10 years earlier, an event that Beavercreek firefighter Brian Seabold says “changed everybody’s lives.” Seabold was part of an Ohio team deployed to Ground Zero in September 2001 to aid in the search for victims, and in September 2010 he went back to NYC to get the steel that was used in Beavercreek’s 9/11 memorial.
There’s no disputing that 9/11/2011 is for our current generation a day that is similar in some ways to how earlier generations remember 11/22/1963. Just as my mother remembers where she was when she learned of President Kennedy’s assassination, so too do most Americans now remember where we were when we learned about the plane flying into the World Trade Center. I myself was on the campus of Wright State University, in Millett Hall in an elevator with Robert Pruett, a Communications professor for whom I was about to start work as a TA for the next few years. Dr. Pruett and I and the other TAs went ahead with our meeting that day, but the start of classes that Fall quarter at Wright State was delayed a few days, as was much else around the country, as we all returned to our homes to watch our TVs and learn about the unfolding tragedy.
3,000 people dying on American soil in terrorist attacks is indeed something that those of us who were alive at the time will never forget, but
would you be suprised if I told you that 42,196 people died in 2001 in the United States due to another kind of problem? Can you guess what kind of problem that might be? I’ll give you a hint. It’s related to the activity in which I was engaged when I noticed Beavercreek’s 9/11 memorial.
That’s right, in the United States in 2001 fourteen times as many people died because of car accidents as died in the 9/11 attacks. Go look at the Wikipedia article listing the number of motor vehicle deaths in the U.S. by year.
In fact just in Ohio 1,022 people died in 2009 in car accidents and 1,080 in 2010 (see this report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the gruesome figures for each state for these two years).
From 2002–2010, cars have killed 359,582 people in the United States, way more than any terrorists have ever managed to kill, even if you count all the American service members who have died in the resulting wars.
If terrorists managed to kill 1,000 people per year in the United States every year after 2001 can you imagine how batshit crazy we’d all be, let alone if they were able to kill 30–40,000 per year?
Indeed even when you consider how many American service members have died in the wars that resulted from 9/11, the numbers pale in comparison to motor vehicle fatalities. According to this Washington Post report, “Faces of the Fallen,” 6,472 U.S. service members have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. That’s not per year, but in total.
I don’t really have a point in writing this blog post. I’m not about to give up my car, and I’m not advocating that cars be banned—though if foreign terrorists used cars to murder 30,000+ Americans per year, do you suppose cars might be banned? I’m also not saying that Beavercreek was wrong to put together a 9/11 memorial.
I guess I’m just commenting that even with thousands of individual ephemeral memorials like this one I documented in December last year that it’s interesting how much time and energy we Americans devote to something that in the grand scheme of things is comparatively small.
I took a road trip to Chicago over Labor Day Weekend and while stuck in traffic on the Chicago Skyway snapped this photo. Somehow I think if terrorists were responsible for these deaths, we’d hear more about it:
Sunday, October 9th, 2011
A letter from Commodore Business Machines, or Harry Copperman was no Steve Jobs
On June 1, 1989, Harry Copperman, President/COO of Commodore Business Machines, wrote me a letter.
Going through some old boxes today I came across a letter I received in 1989 but didn’t remember, a letter from the President of Commodore Business Machines that was in response to a letter that I’d written but had long since forgotten.
It’s rather apropos that I came across this letter this week of all weeks given how everyone is remembering Steve Jobs, their connections to him, howevertenuous, and the development of Apple Computer and the Macintosh. This blog post, however, is only tangentially about Steve Jobs. In my long-time job, starting in 1983, for a publishing company, I did work with Macintosh computers including some original Macs and lots of Macintosh Pluses and Mac SEs and Mac PowerBooks and Mac IIs and iMacs and G3s and more. However, although I did have various company-owned Macintoshes assigned for my use over the years, I never owned a Macintosh personally. Sacrilege, I know!
The first computer I ever owned was an Amiga 1000.
No, the first computer I purchased with my own money was none other than a Commodore Amiga. (The first microcomputer I used on a regular basis was my mother’s Osborne 1.) I wasn’t a Mac fanboy in the 1980s, but I sure was an Amiga fanboy. Amigas were better than Atari STs and IBM PCs and Macintoshes. Amigas ruled!
Except that they didn’t. They should have. For less than the cost of a Macintosh (around $1,600 including color monitor, compared to around $2,500 for a Mac) an Amiga provided sophisticated color graphics and stereo sound and true multitasking. But the folks running Commodore failed miserably at marketing their wonderful computer, which is why few people today remember the Amiga. I could go into all the ways Amigas were better than Macs and PCs, but that’d be rather pointless given that Amigas failed and Commodore died — if you are interested, see this 1994 eulogy for Commodore and the Amiga from BYTE magazine subtitled, “A look at an innovative computer industry pioneer, whose achievements have been largely forgotten.”
I don’t remember what I wrote to Harry Copperman, but re-reading his response to me, it seems I was complaining about Commodore’s failure to get more companies to develop business software for the Amiga. Amigas did become somewhat successful in the specialized niche of video processing, but that niche was small in comparison to the larger but still fairly small foothold in corporate America carved out by Apple for Macintosh (really succeeding for years only in publishing). Macs at least had Microsoft Office (bet you didn’t know that Microsoft Excel was released first on the Mac, did you?). I suppose I could have written, “Harry Copperman, why can’t you be more like Steve Jobs?”
Except Harry Copperman, bless his heart, couldn’t, which is why you’ve neve heard of him and why, unlike Steve Jobs, he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry. But because I’m a pack rat and kept his letter from 22 years ago, Harry Copperman does get this blog post on my obscure blog, for whatever that’s worth.
Friday, August 26th, 2011
Happy birthday, Uncle Bill!
My uncle Bill in 1986
(Click to embiggen)
Today would have been my uncle Bill’s 68th birthday. He died 3 years ago, and I still miss him very much.
To learn more about my uncle, you can read the text of what I said about him at his memorial service.
Saturday, July 9th, 2011
Something from 1993 I once had in my office
A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, or actually 18 years ago in this same fair city, I used to be a fairly recently out young queer professional, and I had a bulletin board on my office wall on which I posted things that made me smile and things that made others cringe, two categories that often overlapped. Looking through some stuff today I came across one such item that once hung on my office bulletin board and that, given recent events in the news, seems apropos to share with you today, namely a cartoon from 1993 by Mike Peters, the Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist at the Dayton Daily News*.
In case you don’t remember what was going on in 1993, and for the reference of future web surfers who may be sceptical that this ever happened in our country, here’s the scoop: we had a popular Democratic president, in his first term of office, who’d made some promises—expedient during his campaign but troublesome during his administration—to teh gayz,
A clipping from the Dayton Daily News that once hung on the bulletin board in my office
causing all sorts of consternation amongst conservatives who, whether they really believed it or not, claimed that allowing openly queer soldiers would lead to the demise of our once proud nation. Yes, I’m talking about 1993 and not 2010.
Mike Peters, bless his heart, was very astute in his criticism in this cartoon showing some of the popular canards about what gays in the military would cause and also showing that OMG we have already have gays in the military, even in high places.
Who’d’ve thought it would take our nation 20 years to begin to accept that queers can be good soldiers, even after numerous examples from other countries with fine militaries including queer soldiers?
Maybe 20 years from now Americans will finally look back at 2010 and at 1993 and realize how stupid we’d been.
Yes, boys and girls, this was back when people actually still read the Dayton Daily News. Yours truly even had a subscription and read the paper in black and white on actual newsprint delivered to his home, which is why the cartoon featured on this page was not saved from an image on a website but was scanned from a physical clipping (and then Photoshopped to remove its yellowed appearance).
Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
A message for queer kids: It gets better.
If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog, you may recall a post I wrote a couple years ago—“Go [away], Skyhawks!”—in which I shared a few memories of my high school years, explaining how they weren’t the best years of my life and that I thus didn’t care to participate in my 25th high school reunion. (Interestingly, despite my telling Skyhawks to go away, searches for “Fairborn High School” and even “Fairborn High School class of 1984” are among those bringing people most frequently to my website.) It probably won’t surprise you (although it would have in fact surprised my teenaged self) that I’m not alone in feeling that way. Lots of queers do not look back fondly on high school.
In fact, quite a few queer teens right now aren’t having great high school experiences. Despite all the gains queers have made, despite the fact that queer teens are portrayed on such great shows such as Glee, there are still queer teens who are being bullied in school, who feel alone. Some feel so alone that they think the only way out is to kill themselves, which is what 15-year-old Billy Lucas of Greensburg, Indiana, did earlier this month, hanging himself rather than continuing to put up with being bullied for being different.
Was Billy Lucas queer? It’s impossible to know for certain, but he did get called “gay,” according to schoolmates of his (see this Fox 59 news report), and probably using ruder words like “faggot”
Cocksucker!Does it offend you to see the word “cocksucker” here? Well it should offend you more that kids in schools across the country are shouting “cocksucker” at their queer schoolmates.
and “homo” and “cocksucker” and many other words that newspapers won’t print.
How do I know what words Billy Lucas got called? Because I got called those words myself growing up (long before I ever sucked a cock or admitted to anyone that I wanted to). Bigots and bullies haven’t gotten more creative over the years.
And, again, though I didn’t realize it then, I wasn’t the only one. The Fox 59 news story about Billy Lucas’s suicide and bullying quotes a former student from his high school who also got called names and who got beaten up and whose “awful memories of high school came rushing back when he heard about Billy’s suicide.” This former student is only 21 and refused to be identified, but there are plenty of us who’ve since come out and will testify openly to our shitty treatment.
Someone else who’s willing to testify to the shitty treatment queer kids have faced and continue to face is Dan Savage, editorial director of The Stranger, Seattle’s independent weekly newspaper, and more famous as the foul-mouthed author of the long-running sex advice column “Savage Love.” Savage posted on The Stranger’s blog about Billy Lucas’s suicide, and now he’s sharing some of his own horror stories, how his being “really different” made school bad, how he got “picked on a lot, even by teachers too,” how he got beat up (read this New York Times story for details).
But Savage wants to do more than just talk about how bad school has been and how bad school is for so many queer kids. He wants to reach out to queer kids who are currently being bullied and who may currently be contemplating suicide with a message: It gets better.
Savage realized that we queers who’ve survived may not be able to stop the current crop of
Here’s a message from me to Candi Cushman of Focus on the Family: Fuck you!
asshole bullies from making life miserable for their queer classmates (or to keep asshole organizations such as Focus on the Family from supporting anti-gay bullies), but we do have the power to let the younger queers following up behind us know that they’re not alone, that life does get better if only they can hang on long enough.
And one way to get that message out there is through a tool we didn’t have as kids, namely YouTube. Savage has created a YouTube Channel called “It Gets Better,” and
Watch Dan Savage and his husband Terry
he’s managed to convince his publicity-shy (and cute) husband Terry to appear in the channel’s first video, in which Dan and Terry talk not only about their difficult experiences growing up queer but also and more importantly about how great their lives have been since high school. Since that first video, many more have been added, and more are coming.
Will I do a video? Probably not. I’ve done my part by highlighting this campaign, by being openly gay, and by talking about gay issues on this blog, including some of my experiences in school. That Skyhawks post I mentioned at the start of this post wasn’t all negative—I point out in it that “my life since high school has been much, much better,” and it’s true, my life has been good. It would have been better if I’d gotten this message as a teenager.
Sunday, August 1st, 2010
I just read a sad article bemoaning the end of the Kodachrome era.
Kodachrome, in case you’re too young to remember an era without digital cameras (and cell phones and DVRs and god I’m old), is slide film and used to be ubiquitous; instead of posting all one’s vacation photos to Facebook, one used to force family and friends to sit through slide shows. (My great-uncle Frank had tons and tons of slides, and I vaguely recall some of his slide shows.)
One commenter on the article says he won’t miss Kodachrome because he’s switched to Velvia. Having fully embraced the digital revolution, I’d never head of Velvia, which apparently is a newer color reversal film introduced in 1990 by Fujifilm and which is credited in the Wikipedia article about it with the demise of Kodachrome (along with, of course, the digital revolution).
And that brings us to the point of this blog post, which is that if you like the saturated colors that you used to be able to get with Kodachrome film and can still get with Velvia but don’t want to give up your digital age conveniences, you can approximate that retro look with a quick and easy Photoshop technique that I found on the Intertubes. It involves adding a channel mixer adjustment layer to punch up your red, green and blue color channels by 150% each.
I dug out an old vacation photo of mine (from Gera, Thüringen) to try it out on, and sure, it does make the colors pop, but even with the wonders of Photoshop actions and batch processing, I’m unlikely to Kodachrome-ize oodles of photos.
No, that time would probably be better spent scanning old slides.
A drab non-Kodachrome digital photo:
A color-saturated Velvia-esque digital photo:
Saturday, July 10th, 2010
I helped my mother to move some old electronics today, one of which was
circa 1998 Sony CDP-CX210 200-CD jukebox
a Sony CDP-CX210 200-CD jukebox, a 20-pound (according to the user manual) behemoth from around 1998. It cost about $150, got varying reviews and was designed so that serious CD collectors could buy more than one, using the same remote control on up to three of these monsters.
Within a few years people would instead be buying iPods, spending $400 in October 2001 for a 5GB iPod that could hold 1,000 songs, or about half CDs that the CDP-CX210 could hold. Of course, the price of iPods quickly dropped and their capacity quickly increased.
If you’re in the market for a CDP-CX210, you can find one on eBay for about $30. One hopeful eBay seller is marketing his thusly — Tired of opening CD jewel cases everytime you want to listen to a different disc? Here's a solution. Put 200 of your favorite CDs in this one and you'll have fast, complete control over what you hear. — as if iPods had never been invented.
Sunday, June 6th, 2010
6680 Poe Avenue, partially de-mazered (Click image to embiggen)
Driving north of town recently I noticed that the logos had been removed from atop the former MazerCorporation buildings on Poe Avenue, and so I decided to stop by to take some photos. Mazer was a privately-held family-run company based in Dayton for over 40 years. I worked for Mazer for almost 18 years, and my mother worked for Mazer before me for about 10, so between us we have a fair amount of the company’s history covered.
I started at the company between my sophomore and junior years in high school, as a keypuncher, typing data onto 8-inch floppy disks for batch jobs to be run on Mazer’s IBM System/36 minicomputer. Yes, I got that job because my mom was Mazer’s data processing manager, but nepotism had a long history at the Mazer Corporation, starting with the Mazer family* but not limited to them.
Those were the days when Marshall Mazer, founder of the company that bore his name, not only was still alive but still ran the company. His son, David Mazer, about whom you can find plenty of angry comments around on the web from people displeased with his handling of the demise of Mazer Corporation, was only the crown prince back then, and Marshall put David through his paces, making him learn the business from the ground up, working in every department. David even worked for my mother for a time; I remember a story she told once of David’s being angry at her for something and her replying to him, “What are you going to do, go tell daddy?”
My Neff Road business card, complete with a 513 area code and old-style embossed Mazer logo (not very visible, but it looked like this: ) (Click image to embiggen)
My mother left Mazer for a job at Reynolds+Reynolds shortly after getting me hired on at Mazer, but I stuck around, working my way up to my level of incompetence, first as a programmer and then eventually as director of MIS. Actually I did manage to be quite competent for the majority of my time at Mazer, writing quite a lot of software for systems such as paper inventory and invoicing and computerized job cost estimating, some nifty stuff for the time, even if I do say so myself.
My gay car, parked in the Neff lot (Click image to embiggen)
The bulk of my time at Mazer was not at its fancy new world headquarters on Poe Avenue but rather at its original Dayton plant on Neff Road, where office space was carved out in odd bits from the manufacturing and warehouse space. This is where Mazer printed vast quantities of Marshall’s invention of spirit duplicating masters, the dittoes that school children of generations past would so eagerly sniff as worksheets were passed out in class, and whose purple ink got Mazer employees banned from setting foot in the local Marion’s Piazza because a group of our press men once hadn’t changed their shoes, tracking purple all over Marion’s carpet.
It was at Mazer that I came out, at first by my increasing involvement in local gay rights groups and then by pulling into the parking lot on Neff Road in my brand new gay Mazda Miata. I wasn’t the only queer employee at Mazer, either in the offices or on the plant floor, but I was the first openly gay one. My boss at the time, Mazer’s president and Marshall’s son-in-law, wasn’t phased by my coming out—when I told him I’d written a letter to the editor that made it clear I was gay, he said, “Oh, is that all? I thought you were going to tell me you were quitting” (a reaction very similar to my uncle’s). The vanity plates I ordered for my gay car, however, did cause my boss some concern; he thought I was asking to get killed.
It was also at Mazer that I first got onto the World Wide Web, both with a personal site (http://www.mazer.com/dlauri, which the Internet Archive does not have, but I do) and with Mazer.com, hosted on a primitive Windows server running IIS for which I was responsible.
One of the last big things I did at Mazer before really reaching my level of incompetence was helping to plan the company’s move to its new headquarters buildings on Poe. These buildings weren’t built for Mazer but we did have them completely gutted and renovated, and they were quite a step up from the hodge podge of office space we were used to on Neff. Not only did we have new carpets, textured walls, and fancy new office cubes and furniture, but we also had state-of-the-art technology including T1 lines connecting us to the Internet and our remote plants and fiber-optic backbone throughout the buildings. Also, at my boss’s insistence, we had no public address system**; no instead we got what is now common place in restaurants, an on-premises paging system to be used to let people know when they had calls or visitors.
Mazer scrolls: (Click a scroll to embiggen it)
Looking west from atop 6680 Poe Avenue at the time of Mazer’s move, this view is before the I-75 renovation and the Miller Road boom
(Click image to embiggen)
In preparation for our Exodus from Neff Road to Poe Avenue, the creative folk in the Creative Services division drew up some scrolls about the anticipated journey. After the move, these scrolls were carefully cut out from the drywall at Neff and installed in the new lunchroom on Poe (click a scroll above to embiggen it).
My corner office at Poe (Click image to embiggen)
Around this time was the pinnacle of my career at Mazer. A perk I got with the move into our buildings at Poe was a corner office, albeit a ground floor one without much of a view, hidden as it was behind the new concrete Mazer Corporation sign in front of our building. Not that being on the first floor was entirely without its status, for Marshall, by then retired, also had a first floor corner office, directly opposite mine and conveniently accessible through our new computer room. Despite my rise in stature, when Marshall (whom actually I still called “Mr. Mazer”) needed computer help, it was I who had to supply it.
Unfortunately it was all downhill from there. I had employees to hire and fire, stupid H/R forms to fill out, and executive meetings to attend. Read this earlier post to see some notes from an utterly useless but typical meeting of this time period. I had reached the level of my incompetence, was no longer happy in my job but too afraid to just quit and forgo its perks. Luckily for me, however, my boss, in a restructuring hinting of the company’s ultimate demise, thought me at this point to be dispensible and cut me loose, along with a fair number of other employees. With the focus that hindsight gives one, I can see now that that was the right thing for me, and I was luckier, in many ways, than Mazer employees who stuck around to the company’s bitter end.
*Fun Mazer nepotism story: For a time, Marshall Mazer’s nephew worked part time for me as a programmer and part time up in the lab in the small building on Neff that also held Marshall’s office at the time. It seems Marshall’s nephew would tell me he was needed in the lab and he would tell Irv in the lab that he was needed down in MIS, giving him the cover he needed to go goof off somewhere. Eventually, of course, Irv and I figured out what he was up to, and to Marshall’s credit, he fired his nephew for his duplicity.
**Fun paging story: Once, in my early days at Mazer, my boss at the time got in trouble when Marshall heard my voice over the PA system paging someone to pick up a call; Marshall thought it inappropriate that I, a man (well, actually then still just a boy), be assigned to cover the reception desk.
My uncle Bill died 2 years ago today, and I still miss him very much. The photo to the right, from when he was still a fairly new uncle, with just one nephew, isn’t a terribly good one of him, but I like it because it reminds me that he was a part of my life for longer than I can remember.
To learn more about my uncle, you can go to my post from last year, which has the text of what I said about him at the memorial service we had shortly after his death.
Tuesday, November 10th, 2009
(Click to embiggen)
As you might have gleaned from Sunday’s remembering post, my mother’s moving and in the process is coming across some old stuff. Today’s interesting item is a letter she and my father received in February 1971 from my great-aunt Kathryn and my great-uncle Frank, a letter (typed—Aunt Kathryn typed all her letters) I’d never seen before.
My sister and I were pretty close to Uncle Frank and Aunt Kathryn, closer than you might expect people to be to a great-aunt and -uncle, but perhaps that was, in part, because they were more closely related to us than a typical great-aunt ant -uncle. Uncle Frank was my maternal grandfather’s younger brother, and Aunt Kathryn was my maternal grandmother’s older sister. Yes, my grandparents and great-uncle and -aunt were brothers married to sisters.
By the time I was born, my grandparents and Aunt Kathryn and Uncle Frank all lived in east Dayton, a few blocks apart, my grandparents on 4th Street and my great-aunt and -uncle just down the hill on Wright Avenue. Many was the time that my sister and I would walk down the hill with Grandfather to Aunt Kathryn’s and Uncle Frank’s, often to visit Aunt Kathryn and Uncle Frank but just as often to get their mail and check their house.
(Click to embiggen)
As you can see from the envelope, Uncle Frank and Aunt Kathryn wintered in Florida, hence the need for my grandfather (with help from my sister and me) to check on their summer home here in Dayton. You can also surmise from this that my great-aunt and -uncle were somewhat better off financially than my grandparents, which isn’t surprising considering that they had only one son, as opposed to my grandparents’s three children, and that both Uncle Frank and Aunt Kathryn worked outside the home. That they helped my parents buy the house my sister and I grew up in is news to me, but that they were able to do so is not. For example, I knew Aunt Kathryn and Uncle Frank could afford to take a trip around the world in the 1960s.
Something else about my aunt Kathryn and uncle Frank that I knew but had forgotten was that they knew my paternal grandparents, who also wintered in Florida. Aunt Kathryn and Uncle Frank probably knew my paternal grandparents better than I did. They certainly saw them more often. In this letter they mention spending the “night with Florence and Augie” before heading off to Mexico.
Sunday, November 8th, 2009
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I graduated from Fairborn High School. Well recently, after having spent several years packed away in a box in my mother’s attic, my high school yearbooks have resurfaced, and tucked away in my 1983 yearbook was a program for a production of Our Town, held November 12–13, 1982, the first production of the first year of the post-Baker/Parks Hills merger Fairborn High School.
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The Stage Manager (Dave Kraus) and Professor Willard (Trina Kittle)
(Click image to embiggen)
Although I’d forgotten about this production for years and years, having seen the program again I do remember now. That Bob Stemen (about whom I’ve written previously) was in the play I remembered, but I had not remembered that Katrina Kittle was also in it. Well she was, as you can see from this photo of English teacher Dave Kraus and her in their roles as the Stage Manager and Professor Willard, although if you look at the cast listing (either to the right or in the PDF version of the program) you’ll note that Katrina was then billed as “Trina.”
Katrina’s one of just a few people from my high school years with whom I’ve had some contact since. Outside Dayton she’s probably better known as an author, but in Dayton Katrina remains an active thespian in community theatre. If you haven’t read her books, you should, and be sure to catch her in the Dayton Theatre Guild production of The Hallelujah Girls opening Thanksgiving weekend.
Although I’ve complained about parts of my time in high school, I enjoyed most of my classes and liked learning and most of my teachers. Dave Kraus, pictured above with Katrina, was one of my English teachers, and I don’t suppose it’s bragging too much to link to something else I found in one of my yearbooks, namely this note from Mr. Kraus praising me for having had, as a freshman, “the highest point total in all three of [his] predominantly sophomore Novels classes.” Yes, I was a nerd and good in school, for all that matters years later (as the Rev. Melvin Younger pointed out back then).
Earlier this month I also posted what I’d written a year ago after my uncle Bill’s sudden death, and reading Granta is something I picked up from him. He kept every copy of Granta from its re-launching in 1979, and, as a “magazine of new writing,” every issue of Granta is still worth reading, even after the writing in an issue is no longer new. Now Granta subscribers have access on Granta.com to the magazine’s archives, and, especially with my fancy new Grantability script, I don’t mind reading on my computer, but there are also plenty of times when it’s relaxing to sit down with a hardcopy issue, whether it’s one that’s just shown up in my mailbox or one from my uncle’s archives.
Friday, May 15th, 2009
William H. Ireland August 26, 1943 – May 15, 2008
My uncle Bill died a year ago today. I still miss him very much. He was more of a father to me than my biological father ever was. The following is what I said last year at his memorial service.
My uncle Bill was many things to many people. He was an uncle, a son, a brother, a nephew, a cousin, a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, a student, a teacher, a philanthropist, a volunteer, and many more things. Of course of all these things, to me he was first and foremost an uncle. He used to tell me that, despite what I believed, he did not know everything, and now that I am an uncle myself, I know that he was right. You see, one doesn’t decide to become an uncle—it’s a choice made for you by a sister or a brother, and even if you have some notice that you’re going to become an uncle, unlike for prospective parents, there aren’t tons of books that tell you how to be one.
Doing some figuring I realize that my uncle became an uncle when he was just twenty-two. Now to my nephew Carl, who’s eleven, I’m sure that seems awfully old, twice his age, but to me, Carl’s forty-two-year-old uncle, that seems awfully young. Of course one good thing about being an uncle is that you get some time to grow into it. When you’re first an uncle you get to help out from time to time, but you can always fall back on parents and grandparents. I don’t know if Uncle Bill ever had to change my diaper, but I do remember that once I was old enough he got to take me in his orange Volkswagen bug to McDonald’s, the start of a long string of his treating me and others in our family to eating out. I also remember that he did do some babysitting of my sister and me, one time at my grandparents’ house, chasing us around their tiny dining room and resulting in the breaking of one of the legs of my grandmother’s dining room table. An advantage of being an uncle is that you’re not expected to be as responsible as a mother or a father.
My grandmother’s table survived, and I remember family dinners sitting around that table where my uncle and my mother would laugh and make jokes, jokes I usually didn’t get but knew often came at the expense of my poor great-aunt Kathryn, who fortunately usually didn’t realize they were about her. My uncle loved books and words and could be very punny, often casually dropping, during the course of family conversation, a pun that would elicit laughter or groans and the observation that if we ignored his puns he’d stop, which of course he never did. My uncle Bill was also infamous for answering “or” questions logically, not making a choice when asked, for example, if he wanted vanilla ice cream or chocolate ice cream but simply saying, “yes,” because if either condition in an or clause is true, as any programmer knows, the statement is true.
As you might suspect from that, Uncle Bill was kind of nerdy, or as they say now, geeky, and that was always a great comfort to me as I grew up feeling different. Maybe most boys didn’t like to read lots and lots of books, but wherever my uncle lived he was surrounded by books in cases along the walls and in stacks on the floor. I might get teased at school for liking books, but from my uncle, who’d take me to the Acres of Books used book store in Cincinnati, I knew it was okay to like and to collect and to cherish books. And later, as I taught myself to type and to program, first on my mother’s Osborne 1 computer and then on my own Commodore Amiga 1000, he also got an Amiga so we could share geeky ideas about scripting and emacs, even though by that time he was living in Arlington, Virginia.
Although my uncle was born in Dayton and died in Dayton, he managed to get around some in his life, first moving with his parents and brother and sister to Cincinnati where he graduated from Western Hills High School and the University of Cincinnati. From there he went to Charlottesville, Virginia, where he got his Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Virginia, and then he accepted a teaching position at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, where some of my first memories of him are, in a tall, old apartment with books and a cat and glass bottles of Tab diet cola.
I didn’t know my uncle well then, but by the time I was nine, he became a much more central figure in my life, moving back to Dayton to help support our family, a role he continued ever since. He came to offer my mother support during her divorce, both emotional support and, as best he was able, financial support, the extent of which I really didn’t realize at the time. Along with my grandparents he helped to make sure that my sister and I had some stability and normalcy, in our daily lives and in our holidays, making sure we had presents like the giant stuffed lion from Rike’s downtown that he surprised Kathie with one Christmas.
A challenge of an academic career is that the pay isn’t the best, and you have to be willing to move to where the jobs are. Faced with wanting to be able to help us more than he might have been able to otherwise, my uncle Bill made a rough choice particularly for him, a somewhat shy man who didn’t like travel much, accepting a job at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I had no idea at the time how scared he was to leave to go teach in a strange land, but I did know how lonely he was, how much he missed us, how glad he was to see us at the end of each school year when he returned with exotic gifts and stories.
Those were the days before Internet and e-mail and cheap worldwide long distance. My uncle did buy my grandparents a speakerphone around which we would crowd for the occasional brief phone call, but the real way in which we kept in touch was through letters, written on thin blue international aerogramme forms. At first my sister and I would each just write a brief note at the end of a letter my mother had written, and my uncle would jot brief notes back at the end of his letters to her, but as I got older, I started to write my own letters to Uncle Bill, confiding in him feelings of anger towards my absent father or feelings of sadness at not being like other kids, feelings I somehow was able to express in writing that I probably wouldn’t have been able to talk about in person. The letters he wrote back to me, written in his angular near illegible script, were a great comfort to me. Those were the days when I thought Uncle Bill knew everything.
We all so looked forward to summers because that was when Uncle Bill would be home. I have so many memories of him, too many to share now, most of which I can’t date exactly, ranging from going with him to Dayton Mall Cinema 1 to see the first Star Wars, to endless loops through our subdivision as I learned to drive a stick shift in his Toyota Corolla, to a trip with him to Houston in the heat of one summer when he went for a job interview, to countless movies and concerts and dinners out with him, either just the two of us, with my sister or mother, or with the whole family, and it was during these that he got into the habit of always paying for all of us.
Eventually my uncle quit his job in Arabia and, following in my mother’s footsteps, took up a new career in computers. Living for a time outside Washington DC with my uncle Willard, he worked at the Census Bureau, and in the summers my sister and I would drive out together to visit them. And then, as my grandparents grew older, Uncle Bill moved back to Ohio, first taking a job at Computer Sciences Corporation in Cincinnati and then finally coming back to Dayton to work at Mead Data Central. He lived in my grandparents’ house, taking a big share of the burden for helping my grandmother through her battles with cancer, then caring for my grandfather after her death, and also being there for my great-aunt Kathryn, who lived just a few blocks down the hill, first while my great-uncle Frank was ill and then afterwards when she was on her own.
Although my family is not a particularly touchy feely one, I knew that my uncle Bill’s love for us, not often expressed in words or in hugs, was unconditional, and one of the best examples of that is when I came out. When I finally made the decision to do that, I asked my uncle to meet me at my mother’s house one evening after work, and I told the two of them together that I’m gay. Mother, who’s been great since, cried and had questions, but my uncle just said, very matter of factly, “Oh, is that all? I thought you were going to ask to borrow money.”
Actually that wasn’t such an illogical assumption, because over the years my uncle has helped us financially, giving me money, for example, towards the purchase of houses or when I went back to school. And when he found out, two weeks ago, that he had terminal liver cancer, one of his biggest concerns was double-checking that everything was in place, so that we’d all be taken care of. And he wanted his great-nephew Carl to understand that although Uncle Bill would no longer be with us, he would still help to provide for stuff like the Battle of Cincinnati and football camp and other things that made him so proud of Carl. And he was happy to know that the tree house Carl will be building this year will be named in honor of him.
So you see, my uncle Bill was a great uncle, in every sense of the phrase, to his great-nephew Carl, to my sister Katt and to me. He may not have known everything, but over the course of his forty-two years of unclehood, he taught me so much, not just about how to be a better uncle but also how to be a better person, and for that I’ll always be grateful.
Monday, December 8th, 2008
Go [away], Skyhawks!
Yesterday a November letter addressed to me at the house I grew up in in Forest Ridge caught up to me via my mother (who also has lived elsewhere for many years). The letter was from the reunion committee of the Class of 1984 of Fairborn High School telling of all the great things they’ve planned for our 25th reunion next year and asking for updated contact info.
Wondering about the atrocious colors on this blog post? Read about them below.
When I was searching on Google for a copy of the Skyhawk logo, what should catch my eye in the search results but this young hottie:
I don't know his story (the Dayton Daily News story was expired), but go Skyhawk!
Well I regret to inform them that I won’t be providing them with updated contact info, nor will I be attending their festivities. Not that they care, I’m sure.
For some people (reunion committee members, perhaps?), their high school years were the proverbial best years of their lives. For me, thank God, that is not the case. My life since high school has been much, much better. The foremost reason for that is that I woke up to the fact that I wasn’t the only homosexual in the world, that I didn’t have to try to be someone I wasn’t and that by my being openly gay my homosexuality would no longer be something people could use to make my life uncomfortable. (In fact, being out of the closet means I get to make other people uncomfortable!)
It’s not that I was completely miserable in high school. I got good grades (straight As except for one single B*), liked learning and enjoyed most of my classes. I had some friends (mostly girls), a few of whom I’ve even seen in the last few years.
But there were days I really wasn’t happy and there were classes I really hated. Gym class, of course, I absolutely dreaded. Take a faggy boy and force him to show day after day that he has absolutely no athletic aptitude whatsoever. Oh what fun! Top it off with teachers who were either indifferent to name-calling and bullying or worse yet were oblivious to it. (Years later one of my high school gym/health teachers, a woman, attended my church for a while; when I told her how miserable I’d been in gym class, she was completely surprised!)
A fun example of a day in my life back then that I remember even now is being in the locker room after gym class and John Coppock yelling "Hey faggot!" at me and then mooning me. As it turns out John was both smart and stupid. He was absolutely right that I’m a faggot. But did he think that showing his tight pale buttocks to a fag was a good idea? (Thanks, John, for supplying me some masturbatory material! Trashy trailer park redneck boys can indeed be hot.) [Dean Christopher, on the other hand, who flashed his gross anus at me during one assembly need not worry; he was ugly and can consider himself safe from all gay men and probably from all women.]
So, no, I don’t really care to trek out to Fairborn (a place where when they say they’re going downtown, they mean Central and Main, not downtown Dayton) to spend time with a bunch of breeders, most of whom I’m sure are perfectly nice people but most of whom probably also voted for Issue 1 (and now probably couldn’t even tell you what Issue 1 was). If some miracle occurs and my former classmates decide they’d like to make up for their past ignorance perhaps by apologizing to their LGBT classmates, perhaps by making a collective Class of 1984 donation to a Fairborn High School Gay/Straight Alliance, then sure, let me know. Otherwise, I’m way, way, way, past done trying to get their approval.
*A note about grades: At our class baccalaureate ceremony the Rev. Melvin Younger (who lived with his family across the street in Forest Ridge and whose daughter Brenda was in my class and was Homecoming Queen) caused mild consternation among parents by saying that we kids would discover as we grew older that our high school grades didn’t matter. He was right.
**School colors: The current Fairborn High School is the child of two predecessor schools, Fairborn Baker High School and Fairborn Park Hills High School. Baker, when Park Hills was started, inherited the original Fairborn High School’s mascot, the Flyers, and school colors of blue and gold, while Park Hills chose the Vikings and colors of brown and gold. In 1983 Baker kids would have been oh so pleased for the merged high school, which is located in Park Hills’ building, to have kept the blue and gold and the Flyers, but to appease the Park Hills kids both mascots were ditched for the stupid Skyhawks and the two schools’ colors were merged so that the new school had colors of blue, brown and gold. Except they didn’t get Baker’s blue right, instead using a pale blue. Now it seems the brown and gold are gone from the current Skyhawk logo with Baker’s blue returned.
Sunday, July 22nd, 2007
An old punch bowl and 1969 television
Yesterday evening was the annual Dayton Gay Men's Chorus progressive dinner, of which I hosted the first course, hors d'oeuvres, which gave me an occasion to use my grandmother's 18-piece Williamsport Crystal Punch Service of polished Prescut crystal by HazelWare®,
My friend Bob
which came to me in its original box. As near as I can tell, the punch bowl and its accessories are worth $10 or $20 on eBay, but this one is of course more valuable than that to me because it was my grandmother's.
Unless you're a collector of HazelWare or Prescut crystal, the punch bowl may not be of much interest to you, but you might be interested what was used to cushion it inside its box, namely a couple sections of the Dayton Journal Herald newspaper of Tuesday, April 1, 1969. That date is less than a week after the birth of my sister, so I wonder what use my grandmother put the punch bowl to that week after which she'd have carefully packed it back up. She used a couple different sections of the paper as cushioning, but rather than share the whole trove with you at once, I'll follow my grandfather's tradition and save it for multiple blog entries (no, he didn't have a blog, but he could cut up a single Bun Bar and make it last for a week or longer).
What I saw when I lifted the punch bowl out of its box was the top half of page 35, the TV listings for April 1, 1969. This pre-dates my own TV viewing memories but only barely. These were the days when every city had only a handful of stations and when every house had an aerial on its roof. Our house (and probably many others) had an antenna that could be rotated by means of a control kept atop the TV console because different stations (particularly the distant Cincinnati ones) came in better with the antenna in different positions. The Dayton newspapers listed both Dayton and Cincinnati stations, although during prime time the choices on Dayton and Cincinnati affiliates of the same networks were duplicates.
So what were your prime time viewing choices in Dayton, Ohio, on April 1, 1969?
Basically you had three choices although sometimes Dayton and Cincinnati affiliates pre-empted or varied from network offerings, though you did get an extra half hour of prime time. No PBS (though it would be founded later that year) and of course no Fox or WB or UPN.
In addition, the newspaper also lists channel 16 WKTR-TV as having "movies" (but doesn't name them!), channel 26 WSWO as having Canadian hockey and channel 19 WXIX as carrying the Joan Rivers Show (I loved Joan Rivers when her Late Show helped launch the Fox network but had no idea she had an earlier show). All three of these channels were independent stations launched in 1968 and 1969. WKTR and WSWO I don't remember, and Wikipedia reports they were both off the air by 1970 (perhaps because all they showed were these untitled "movies"), but WXIX is what my sister and I tuned in after school to watch snowy repeats of shows like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeanie.
The idea of television being in color was still a novelty since the Jerry Lewis Show is noted in one of the previews as being "in color." It seems the Journal Herald didn't employ its own television writer, relying instead on the syndicated services of Richard K. Shull, an Indianapolis-based writer who died just this year. One obituary notes that Shull was noted for his acerbic wit, a wit that's apparent in his preview of the April 1, 1969 episode of the Doris Day Show; he says, "this episode isn't all that bad. Miss Day has some good, light comedy moments." Not quite what you'd call high praise, but I checked out the first season of Doris Day's show once from the library and I think Shull's analysis is accurate.
Saturday, April 14th, 2007
Seven years ago I was still working as IT director for aneducational publishing company and had worked there for 17 years. Much of my time there was good and enjoyable, but by the last few years, when I’d risen to the point where I reported to the president and was part of the executive team, it was often rather mind-numbing.
Today I happened to run across some old backup CDs and discovered the following notes from a meeting held in July 2000, the year before I left. I don’t particularly remember this specific meeting, but I do remember many meetings held over the years with highly paid consultants hired to re-engineer the company using whatever corporate buzzwords or acronyms were in vogue at the time (TQM is the one I remember most, following by “thinking outside the box”).
value creation for customers, employees, shareholders
reward employees for contribution
become more flexible and adaptive, using continuous learning and improvement
increase work collaboration amongst divisions
grow value of company at 15% per year
integrity and ethical management
New strategic operational structure
strategic team to set corporate goals and make strategic decisions apart from operational concerns
Miles Kierson, consultant with JMW Consultants (Stamford CT), will act as moderator
Bill looked for outside experts on organizational development
How to create new leadership and management style
Miles gave overview of his company, which does two major things:
Organizational transformation: companies with a goal for the future that requires a different structure to get there
Break-through projects: e.g., work in Canada with oil company alliance extracting oil out of oil sands and need to do a $2 million project for $1.8 million
100 people, in business for 18 years, offices in Connecticut and in London. He’s been consulting for 20 years. Worked for CSC Index. Alan H used to work there also. Miles has been at JMW for 2 years now.
Concept: background and foreground conversations
foreground are what you say normally, out loud (“Oh, yeah, that sounds great”)
background are what we don’t normally say out loud but think in the background (“Is he out of his mind?”)
It’s important for this process to get more of what we think out on the table.
Meetings with Bill F, at least once a week
Two 2-day offsite meetings of strategic team (probably next month and the month after)
Two 2-hour on-site strategic team meetings
Two 4-hour operational group meetings
Individual discussions with all managers
Collaborative design of the process
Coordinating organizational communication
Deliverable of this process:
A vision of the future that we’ll have created together and to which we’ll be committed and alignedA clear set of strategies on how to meet the goals we’ve set (a specific plan for the next year, something less specific for beyond that, and a process for continually reviewing the plans)
We’ll all know our roles in the plan and will be organized as teams that can work together effectively.
We’ll have gained skills and insights about ourselves and begun a process to develop ourselves as leaders of this company.
“There’s always room for more ‘straight’ talk.” If we don’t have “straight” talk, it will impede our progress and minimize our success. Improving straight talk involves our willingness to increase the background thoughts that we’re willing to say out loud.
Doesn’t that last bit just kill you? Imagine a roomful of white executives all wanting to keep their jobs, thinking about what they could say that would pass for “straight talk,” unable to say what they really thought, which would be along the lines of “what bullshit!” Or perhaps some of them really bought into this stuff, but I know I didn’t. Looking at my calendar for the day of this meeting, I see I spent 5 hours of an 8-hour day in meetings. Mind numbing.
A year after this meeting, I’d be gone from the company, involuntarily, but I’d also be going to Europe for the first time and back in school. I should have quit long before and done something different, but I was still scared of change, despite having gone through some. I’m not quite so scared any more.
Exactly seven years ago today Dan Savagetold me I was an idiot. I'd sent Dan an e-mail on February 17, 2000, asking a question about my closeted live-in boyfriend, and Dan saved it for a special "Closet Cases" column. Well, my relationship ended in flames, and I was an idiot, but I never thought to write Dan to tell him he was right. I figure he wouldn't have been surprised.
Wednesday, November 8th, 2006
I saw an old friend, Scott, at a party last Saturday and was reminded of a trip we took several years ago with a group down to Keeneland, to see the races. I'd posted photos from that trip the next day on my old website, but they never made it to this site, until now.
Saturday, September 2nd, 2006
I start to remember in shards, pieces of glass that rip my skin and leave marks. I find tight little cuts all over: one on my left breast, grazing the nipple, and one that starts just below my left eyebrow and turns across my nose to the light brown line of my upper lip. Another is on my back, burning from the base of my spine over the soft roundness of the right cheek of my behind. Yet another one, trying to scab, unable to heal, is buried on my scalp. These are the memories like a broken bottle, memories I can't speak because the glass gets caught in my throat, ripping it, too. I circle these glinty flashes from above for days, weeks, before I can find a way to sit down with them alone in my room, in front of the computer. From my lofty perch they appear minor, mere scratches; it is only when I look closely that I seem them for what they are: self-mutilations and battle scars.
My last blog entry was in part about some bad writing I'd come across, so perhaps it's appropriate that this one be about some writing I am really liking. I'm reading Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self, by Rebecca Walker. I'd never heard of Rebecca Walker until I took an English class where I read stuff by her mother and learned about feminist criticism and third wave feminism (which is where Rebecca Walker's name came up) and gender studies and other stuff. Doing research on Alice Walker for a project, I found that she'd been married to a white Jewish civil rights lawyer in the 1960s and that their daughter, Rebecca, had written an autobiography. I didn't have time to read it then, but I do now.
I've only just begun to read it, and though I'm not black, white and Jewish, nor a woman, nor have I lived in the South or New York City, I, like Walker, was born in the 60s and grew up in the 70s, and I remember Big Wheels and Baby Alive and Bubblicious and reading Forever by Judy Blume. And I remember having the right answers to teachers' questions in class and learning slowly that that didn't endear me to the other kids, and I remember having to deal with kids who wanted to beat me up, and I remember having crushes on boys who weren't interested in people like me. And I remember my parents divorcing and my mother needing comforting and being among my father's relatives who didn't know my mother or understand her. And I remember spending lots of time quietly observing people around me, trying to figure out the right way that I was supposed to act and respond.
My childhood wasn't horrible, and not all my memories are shards of glass, but I definitely get what Walker is saying, for I do have bits of broken bottle from the past inside me. She's done a lot of work extracting some of hers. I've done some, but a strategy I've used, for good or for bad, is that of leaving some of the glass alone. Certain pieces have worked their way down inside me, and I can walk around now without even being aware that they're there. Once in a while, though, at unexpected times, say when I shift in a chair while reading a book, a piece of glass inside me moves, and I remember.
Sunday, January 25th, 2004
For my ENG341 class, we have to write memoirs about teachers who taught us something about teaching. (That we have to write memoirs and that the subject of our memoirs is so tightly guided is an issue for another time.) We could write about someone from our college days, but I'm choosing to follow the advice of my ENG101 TA (for whom I also had to write a memoir), which is that one shouldn't write memoirs about events in the past few years because the significance of such events hasn't yet gelled. Besides which I also don't want to write about people my ENG341 instructor or my peer reviewers might know.
That leaves high school teachers since I really don't remember much about my elementary and junior high teachers. High school was not a fun time for me, despite everyone at the time saying that these would be the best years of my life. Thank God everyone at the time was wrong.
I did have some good experiences in high school, though, one being AP History, taught by Mr. Seewer (who got his doctorate after I graduated and who I understand has retired in the last couple years). I dug out my old Fairborn High School yearbooks from 1983 and 1984 and scanned a few pics. I'd remembered that we had to write an essay every Friday and that each week a lucky student got to use Mr. Seewer's Commodore to type up his or her essay, but I didn't remember this picture of Bob Stemen typing on (or as the yearbook caption reads, "programming his report into") the computer.
More fun high school reminiscing later.
Wednesday, October 22nd, 2003
Today is old photo day. The photograph on the left is of my maternal grandfather and his twin brother, who were born in 1905. For as long as I could remember it hung in my grandparents' bedroom. My mother lent it to Wright State so they could scan it for their historical archives. They left it in the frame, glass and all, because apparently trying to unframe old photographs is a dangerous proposition.
The other photo was a surprise. I'd checked out The Flying Nun (aka The Fifteenth Pelican) from the downtown library. (Why? On a whim since I'd seen in the credits of a Flying Nun episode on TV Land that the series was based on a book.) I had to request it from storage (which is easy to do over the web site -- they'll even have it waiting for you at the front desk to pick up). It was an original copy from 1965. Out of curiosity I pulled out the card from the back pocket and found this old photo. There's nothing written on it to indicate who the people are. I put it back so if by some coincidence you recognize them and want the photo, you can check out the book to get it.