Texts of my annual holiday newsletters:
Notes toward a comprehensive timeline of significant events, trips, etc.
- September 1966 – Began first of four years of undergraduate study at Mercer University (Macon, Georgia). Met Peg firtst week (month?) I was there.
- Spent summer in Chicago (with Peg) and Little Rock, Arkansas.
- Intensive Summer Studies Program at Columbia University (with Reed and Peg).
- Intensive Summer Studies Program at Yale University (with Reed)
- Married Peggy Malott.
- First trip to Europe: Belgium, France, England with Peg
- Interview with Psychology Today at Algonquin Hotel, New York City
- Month-long internship with Psychology Today, La Jolla, California (with Peg)
- Road trip with Peg up Pacific Coast and back to Atlanta via Montana, Idaho, Colorado, etc.
- Met Jim Struve?
- January – December? 1979 – Obtained M.L.S. at Emory University
- August 4, 1981 – Appointed to Librarian I position at the Central Library, the position split between the Humanities Department & Information Line (the telephone reference department)
- August 3, 1982 – Appointed to full-time Librarian I position, Central Library’s Humanities Department
- January 18 – July 25, 1983 – Took leave of absence from library to travel in Europe for six months with Harvey Schwartz. Visited Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Italy, France (including Corsica), Austria, Greece (including the islands Paros, Naxos, Santorini, Rhodes, and Crete), Turkey
- June – Began taking tai chi classes (via Evening at Emory)
- November 5, 1984 – Transferred (due to a Central Library reorganization) from Humanities Dept. to Ivan Allen Dept.
- August 2nd – or Sept. 14? – first ACOA meeting
- Summer 1986 – Attended my first ALA Convention (New York City)
- July 1, 1988 – Promoted to Librarian II position, Central Library’s Ivan Allen Department
- January 9-14, 1988 – Attended ALA Midwinter Meeting in Washington, DC
- June 24-29, 1989 – Attended ALA convention in Dallas
- January [through …. ] 1991 [Monday nights] “Therapy”
- January 24-29, 1991 – Attended ALA Midwinter Meeting in San Antonio, TX
- February 18, 1991 – “take letter [written to ben Ami] to therapy”
- January 1991 – Trip to D.C. and Charlottesville (to see Reed)
- January 19-20 – Trip to Asheville
- February – July 1991 (every Friday night) – ACOA meeting
- Feb 9-10, 1991 – Trip to Asheville
- Feb 28, 1991 – Began [???] tai chi classes at Evening at Emory
- March 11-12 – moved from studio to one-bedroom apt. at Roanoak Apartments
- April [???] 1991 “Mutual Aid Fund meeting” (also May 1991)
- May 1991 – Trip to San Francisco [with Larry?]
- May 1991 – Trip to Savannah [with Larry?]
- June 1991 -“Gay History Panel” at Image Film & Video
- June 29-July 4, 1991 – Attended ALA convention in Atlanta – Cal hosts Gay Task Force soiree at his place June 29, 1991
- July: “pick up Dilantin”
- July – December) 1991 – chiropractor
- August 9, 1991 – Trip to Asheville
- August 31 – Sept. 1 – Trip to Asheville
- September 8 – “Call Raven re logistics for [Gay] Spirits [Visions] Conference”
- September 9 – “Night of the Squirmers” [???]
- 1991 September 20-22 GSV Conference (Highlands, NC)1991
- September 24, 1991 – “David Lindahl [Randy’s friend???] here overnight”
- September 27-30, 1991 – Trip to Asheville
- October 15-18, 1991 – Trip to Asheville
- October 31-November 1, 1991 – Spoke at “Kaleidoscope,” a library convention in Phoenix, AZ
- October 31-November 3 – Trip to Phoenix for Arizona State Library Conference (presented paper there; met Larry’s mom; saw Ed SantaVicca, met many other librarians)
- [ALL YEAR?] Work on Booklover’s Guide
- November 10-13, 1991 – Trip to Asheville
- November 16, 1991 – “buy meds”
- November 23-24, 1991 – Jim Van Buskirk’s visit to Atlanta1991
- December 17, 1991 – “Meet with Jim [Struve?] at American Roadhouse
- December 22-23?, 1991 – Trip to Asheville
- July 24-July 1, 1993 – Attended ALA convention in New Orleans
- February 14-20, 1997 – Attended ALA Midwinter Meeting in Washington, DC
- April 2, 1997 – At my request, transferred from Central Library’s Ivan Allen Dept. to the library system’s Collection Development Unit
- January 8-13, 1998 ??? – Attended ALA Midwinter meeting in New Orleans
- October 1-2, 1998 – Presentation (with Ellen Greenblatt) at Penn State University Libraries’ Diversity Conference (State College, PA)
- May 2006 – Trip to New York City
- Villa rental in Umbria, Italy with Nancy, Kris, Terry, Larry, Michael & Lynn, Jane
- May 8-10, 2008 – Attended the Conference of GLBT Archives, Libraries, Museums, and Special Collections (ALMS) in New York City
- October 2009 – Trip to New York City
- March 2011 – Trip to New York City
- November 2011 – Trip to New York City
- Camping trip to Cumberland Island, Georgia with Julia
- Trip to Ireland and England with Roger, Kris, and Nancy.
- March? 2013 – Trip to Mexico with Roy and Steve.
- May 2014 – First annual weeklong house rental with GSV buddies at St. George Island, Florida
- Trip to France with Randall, Royce, Martha, Kris, Nancy, and Robert, and to Italy afterwards to see Peg & Gary (with side trip to Capri and Pompeii)
- May 2015 – Second annual weeklong house rental with GSV buddies at St. George Island, Florida
- August 2015 – First sign of permanent (?) arthritis (?) in knuckle of finger on left hand! [Disappeared by February or March 2016]
- May 30, 2015 – Randall puts out the call for a Men’s Enneagram Study Group. First meeting: July 19, 2015.
- Trip to Michigan with Kris and Nancy.
- Trip to Costa Rica with Randall and Greg
- May 2016 -Thirds annual weeklong house rental with GSV buddies at St. George Island, Florida
- Trip to Ireland with Royce, Martha, Kris, Nancy, Robert (boat on the Shannon River plus villa rental with them in Westport, joined by Joyce and Walter)
- January 2-17 – Trip to New Orleans with Charles.
- May 2017 – Fourth annual weeklong house rental with GSV buddies at St. George Island, Florida
- Trip to Italy(Tuscany villa rental) with Randall, Randy, John, Bill, with week stayover in Trieste for Cal
- May 2018 – Fifth annual weeklong house rental with GSV buddies at St. George Island, Florida
- July 2019 – Trip to Virginia with Randy (with overnight visit with Reed)
- May 2019 – Sixth annual weeklong house rental with GSV buddies at St. George Island, Florida
Entries or passages from diaries, letters, travel journals, etc.
Below is Roger’s very detailed record of the trip Cal, Kris, Nancy, and Roger took together in May 2012. The first week was a road trip through a (small) portion of southwest Ireland, followed by a week spent on the Llangollen Canal on a rented narrowboat.
Trip to Ireland, England and Wales, May 5 – 20, 2012
Cal and I left Atlanta aboard Delta Flight 176, a Boeing 767-300 headed for Dublin, Ireland. The plane appeared full and the flight was decent although bumpy at times. The flight left roughly on time and arrived just a couple of minutes after 10:00 AM local time. We arrived at terminal 2, an ultra-modern facility, and made our way to terminal 1, far less modern, to catch the Enterprise Rental Car bus to the facility where we met Kris and Nancy.
We then drove to Kenmare, arriving a little after 4:00 PM after a stop in a pub named Hayes Bar and Lounge for lunch sandwiches. The pub, painted in a color best described as hot pink, is located on the R433 road at its intersection with R434 in Ballycolla, County Laois. We spoke with a friendly man in the bar who was rather inebriated!
The Rockcrest House B&B in Kenmare is very nice with comfortable beds and a great shower. The owners are Marian and David O’Dwyer and they are very friendly and welcoming. The small sink in the bathroom is a challenge, with water taps that just barely overhang the sink below a glass shelf that gets in the way. I can deal with it!
We had dinner that night in the town, a very short walk from the guesthouse. We ate at a restaurant named [at the time of our trip, anyway] Tom Crean on Marian’s recommendation. Tom Crean was a local hero who accompanied Scott and Shackleford on their Antarctic expeditions and survived! She said it was very affordable and good. She was certainly right on the “good”, I’m less certain on the affordable since my meal was just over forty Euros. But, it was delicious: a mushroom soup, followed by a “Tricolor” dish consisting of Monkfish, smoked salmon and spinach. It was perfectly prepared. Dessert was a pineapple tatin with homemade vanilla ice cream. As our trip progressed, I noticed that all meals cost more than the same meal would cost in the States.
On Monday (May 7), I awoke around 7:00 AM having gone to bed the previous evening around 9:00 PM. Definitely a new record! We had breakfast in the guesthouse (tea, muesli, bacon and eggs, toast) and it was quite good. We then hopped in the car and drove the Ring of Beara from about 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM. We had lunch at Josie’s Lakeview House Restaurant on the Healy Pass (R571) near Lauragh, South Kerry, a remote restaurant overlooking beautiful Glanmore Lake. Josie is Josie Corkery although she didn’t appear to be at the restaurant the day we dined. We were instead waited on by her very pregnant daughter. The scenery everywhere was quite spectacular although sitting in the car all day made me welcome the photo stops. When we got back, I went for a walk around Kenmare and took more photos. We ate dinner at O’Donnabhain’s Bar and Restaurant, an Irish pub). As we were finishing, a live singer named Cormac O’Mahony began singing wonderful old Irish pub songs, including “Seven Old Ladies,” a quite bawdy although funny ballad. He had a great voice and I bought one of his CDs.
On Tuesday, I was showered by 6:30 PM. Although I had gone to bed by 10:30, it seemed as though it took ages to fall asleep. We ate breakfast at 8:00 AM and then hopped in the car to drive the Ring of Kerry. Last night, I half felt I didn’t want to spend another day sitting in the car. I should have gone with my heart! The Ring of Kerry was not nearly as scenic as the Ring of Beara yesterday; in fact it was quite ordinary in spots. It did have some highlights that made up for some of the tedium. We first stopped in Sneem, a small tourist town that was only mildly interesting. We then drove up to the most spectacular part of the trip, the Kerry cliffs, from which could be seen the Skelligs and Puffin Islandson the Skellig Ring. The cliffs were located on the property of the Blasket View House B&B at Portmagee, County Kerry. Tea and a delicious piece of apple pie followed in the B&B’s restaurant near the base of the cliff path. We also visited a museum that Kris had visited on a prior trip, the Kerry Bog Village Museum, and it was quite interesting. It was located on the N70 road just outside the town of Glenbeigh in County Kerry. We then drove just over twenty miles to the east where we had a terrific dinner at the Bricin Restaurant, owned by brothers Johnny and Paddy McGuire and unusual in that it was accessed by climbing stairs to the second floor from inside the Bricin Craft Shop, a shop located at 26 High Street in Killarney. But, it was around 7:30 PM by the time we got back to the guesthouse. We had spent what seemed the entire day sitting in the car. The weather was cold but decent all day. Only an occasional sprinkle of rain was felt, hardly enough to even get wet. My mood improved as we sat and chatted in the guesthouse living room. A woman named Patricia from California turned out to have completed four canal trips, including the Llangollen, and she assured us we would love it (she also corrected our pronunciation: the Ll is pronounced Cl as in “Clangoclen”). She suggested we would need long underwear to stay warm and said the showers on the boat are rather primitive. They ate all their meals in pubs.
It was raining on Wednesday morning when I got up but had stopped by the time we finished breakfast. Marian made scones this morning. Delicious! She also made me a pot of loose-leaf tea after a conversation the previous night about how the tealeaves would not be a problem if the tea were made properly! Fortunately, she still provided a strainer. After breakfast, we walked into Kenmare where it was market day. We wandered around among the stalls and dodged the occasional raindrops. It was cold and my hands were cold so I bought leather gloves – the only ones they had – at Quills Woolen Market. After returning to the guesthouse, we drove to Killarney National Park where we first stopped at the Torc Waterfall, located at the base of Torc Mountain on the Kenmare Road (N71) about five miles from Killarney town and about two hundred meters into a forest dominated by trees and rocks covered in moss with many luxuriant ferns. We then drove just over a mile to Muckross House that hosted Queen Victorian 1861 just before Albert died. While waiting for the house tour to begin, we ate lunch in the Muckross Garden Restaurant on the grounds that was very good and reasonably priced. More tourists were present than anywhere else we had seen to this point. The house was interesting with large, high-ceilinged rooms and lots of corridors and stairways for the servants to use. The owner’s bedroom was joined to a bathroom that contained the small tub, toilet and accouterments that were the norm before running water was installed in houses. Every room had bell pulls and we saw the thirty-odd bells in the cellars where servants would wait for a bell to summon them to a particular room of the house. Shades of Downton Abbey! The grounds of the house were spectacular. The guide indicated that the estate covered fifty thousand acres.
After viewing Muckross House, we went into Ross Castle which was quite interesting in that it was a vertical castle with a single room on each floor, all reached by a stone, spiral staircase. Between the first and second floors was a small room with a “murder hole” above the entrance door, apparently to enable defenders to kill anyone coming up the spiral staircase! The single bedroom was near the top of the castle and everyone slept in that room. The owner and his wife had a bed with curtains to allow a certain amount of privacy since children and servants slept in the room, too. A narrow corridor led to the toilet, which was simply a slot in the castle wall that allowed waste to fall three or four stories to the ground. The guide indicated that waste simply stayed where it fell and that naturally produced ammonia that drifted back up into the toilet chamber. Clothes were hung there so that the ammonia fumes could kill lice and other creatures, a sort of primitive laundry! The topmost room was the most pleasing although I’d hardly call it luxurious. This was where the owner lived and ate with his family and servants. A small room off this larger room was where servants prepared food that was then cooked in the room’s large fireplace. Above that small room, a narrow wooden stairway led to a minstrel’s gallery where musicians could entertain the owner and his guests. The room had a wooden, vaulted ceiling that was quite modern and had replaced a roof that a previous owner removed to avoid the “roof tax”. The castle had also been modernized for today’s visitor with radiant heating installed below the stone floors! While the narrow windows – likely arrow slits – contained glass, the guide pointed out that glass was so expensive that it was very unlikely the castle contained any. At that time, the windows were most likely covered by animal intestines stretched across the openings.
We drove to Killarney on a part of the Ring of Kerry that we didn’t cover yesterday. The difference was phenomenal. While I still liked the Ring of Beara best, that particular part of the Ring of Kerry was equally scenic. We ate dinner at O’Donnabhain’s Bar and Restaurant again and heard the same Irish balladeer singing the same songs.
On Thursday the 10th, we decided not to drive anywhere and remain in Kenmare. Thank goodness! I carried laundry up to a cleaners to be washed and folded. It will be ready by 5:00 PM for about €12. I also need to change dollars into Euros to pay my share of the guesthouse (€175). Other than that, I intend to just wander around and enjoy the day. And, that is what I did to the tune of over seven miles, most of it in a very light rain. I also changed dollars into pounds so that I would have money to pay for the Chester guesthouse and any other incidentals. After a lunch at the Bookstop Vegetarian Café, I returned to the guesthouse for a rest and a cup of tea. I went back out in the afternoon and wandered through the shops but bought nothing. The rain, at least, had stopped. We ate dinner at Davitt’s, a restaurant almost next door to O’Donnabhain’s. It, too, was very good (seafood chowder, grilled sea bass with veggies and vanilla ice cream with warm berries).
On Friday morning, I was packed and ready by 7:00 AM and sitting in the lounge trying to get Internet access! The weather looks overcast but dry although I did hear a very brief rain shower while I was showering. The drive to Dublin went well with no problems. It took just a few minutes more than four hours and we did get rain on parts of the trip although it was never heavy nor long-lasting. We made one quick bathroom and tea stop at the Junction 14 Mayfield Service Area on the M7 Motorway between Monasterevin and Mayfield in County Kildare, about forty miles before arriving in Dublin. Dublin’s airport terminal 2 is very modern and nice and I got a decent, though expensive, lunch of a salad with Camembert, artichoke heart, orange segments, sun-dried tomatoes and spinach or lettuce leaves. The flight was also very good and lasted only forty minutes or so. We deplaned in Manchester and took a bus to the terminal. Coming from the EU, we didn’t have to go back through customs or passport control. We walked into the terminal and the first person we saw was the taxi driver holding up a sign with Nancy’s name. We were at the hotel in Chester around 6:00 PM. The Victoria Lodge Guesthouse was decent. We did have to climb two flights of stairs but the shower worked well and while the room verged on being slightly dated, it was comfortable, clean and contained many amenities. The breakfast room was very nice. The owner (Richard Williams) and his wife have the place for sale because they want to retire. He told us about a trip they just completed to Florida, including Key West. We walked into town, over a mile away, and took some photos of the Tudor style buildings and walked on top of part of the old city wall, past the cathedral. We had a nice dinner at a French restaurant the guesthouse owner recommended, Chez Jules at 71 Northgate Street. That too was expensive but good. We took a taxi back to the guesthouse – four pounds!
On Saturday, we were up and at breakfast at 8:00 AM. The guesthouse owners fixed a very good breakfast with everything anyone could want. By 9:00, we were packed and walked again into Chester. We spent a few minute in an Oxfam store where Kris and I got separated from Cal and Nancy. Kris and I wandered the town and went into the cathedral that was quite impressive. We stopped in a café and had tea and then found a taxi to take us back to the guesthouse where the taxi was waiting to take us to the boat in Middlewich. Cal and Nancy were loading the luggage into the taxi so our timing was perfect. We were in Middlewich at the boatyard in a little over thirty minutes.
We first stocked up with provisions at a Tesco Express store quite close to the boatyard on Wheelock Street. When one thinks of mini-marts in the U.S., one thinks of high prices and little choice. Not so here. The selection was great and the quality and prices excellent. We took advantage of the lunch special that included a sandwich, candy bar and a drink and also loaded up with all the food we thought we might initially need. Kris found terrific sandwich fillings that served us well: Cheese and Onion and Coronation Chicken.
The boat is new and only three weeks old. We were the third party to take it out. It’s efficiently laid out but there is no spare room. Two people can’t pass in many places and when seated at the dining room table, it’s impossible to get out without disturbing the person next to one. There’s little privacy since only the two bathrooms have doors. The way it’s laid out, though, provides a modicum of privacy if everyone keeps to his or her own sleeping area. The shower worked well although there are few surfaces to hold anything and, since water won’t run uphill, the shower tub fills up and has to be emptied with a pump. That pump was noisy; there is no way to take a quiet shower! It was gratifying, the first morning, to find that there was plenty of water and it was hot.
The first day on the canal was enjoyable. The boat owners showed us how everything worked on the boat and came with us through the first three locks to show us how to work everything. Then we were on our own. The scenery was nice but not spectacular, moving first through houses with lawns and patios that came right to the edge of the canal followed by more remote farmlands. We went below a railway bridge over which several trains passed, including sleek Virgin trains that appeared to be moving at high speed.
We moored about 7:00 PM just past bridge 19 (the Stockhouse Bridge) and then suffered our first setback. Bridge 19 had been recommended as a place where we could eat dinner at the Verdin Arms pub. Indeed, a small sign pointed to the pub across the bridge and just a quarter mile away along a footpath. The first disaster was that the footpath went through three fields that were extremely muddy and full of cow shit. Each field required us to climb over a stile. We finally got to the pub and it was very nice. The problem was that service in the pub was glacially slow. We sat for ages before someone took a drink order and we finally had to ask for menus. We realized that if we waited for food, it would be dark by the time we had eaten and the thought of navigating those fields in the dark was not pleasant! I threw some money on the table to cover the tea I had ordered and we left. Nancy fixed us a very nice dinner at the boat with items we had bought earlier that day at the Tesco in Middlewich: boiled eggs, a salad, cheeses and bread. It hit the spot. We spent the first night moored at Bridge 19.
Sunday dawned sunny and clear. I’m a little surprised to find that movement can be felt on the boat although I guess I shouldn’t be. After being showered by 6:30 AM, I sat and drank tea and updated this trip journal. We drove the boat all day and it made for a long day, however we did enjoy a nice lunch at the Olde Barbridge Inn on the Old Chester Road near Nantwich which we came upon immediately after making the left turn from the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal onto the Shropshire Union Canal itself. The Inn sat directly on the canal and was extremely attractive with an Aga stove prominently displayed. We had to wait about fifteen minutes until they began to serve lunch at noon. The meal was excellent with me enjoying fish and chips and Kris going really English with an order of Bangers and Mash that she deemed “really delicious”! Just after leaving the inn, we came to Hurleston Junction where we made a right turn onto the Llangollen Canal, immediately encountering the four Hurleston Locks.
We encountered a friendly lock keeper and helpful people at the Hurleston locks and it was lucky that we did because the turn was difficult due to high winds. We tried at least three times to make the turn but the strong wind worked against us. Two guys in a motorboat named Kim helped Cal from the shore and a group of five or so women who had been participating in a Parkinson’s Walk helped pull the boat around the turn. Actually, four pulled and one took plenty of photographs. We might need to keep an eye on YouTube! The helpfulness was quite exceptional and even the experienced boaters helped with no sign of the sighs or eye-rolls one might have expected given our inexperience.
We made it that day as far as Wrenbury where we enjoyed a terrific dinner at The Dusty Miller pub and restaurant, also located right along the canal on Cholmondeley Road. It too was extremely attractive and it was easy to bypass the more traditional pub in town − the Cotton Arms complete with pool players and no doubt blaring sports on the telly − for the attractive Dusty Miller. Perhaps illustrating its more restaurant-oriented nature, Kris ordered a fig and leek tart tatin with a quite fancy round of goat cheese on top. As we walked back to the boat, we checked out the Wrenbury Lift Bridge that we would be going through in the morning, operated with a key that we had received when we picked up the boat.
On Monday, we left Wrenbury early and spent the entire day on the canal. The weather has been perfect except for the temperature, which was on the cold side. The boat is slow, about three miles per hour, and I actually spent more time off the boat operating the locks. Other boaters are friendly and helpful. I did fairly well driving the boat forward except for a couple of times when we hit the bank! Reverse was another story. I haven’t yet figured out logically which way the rudder works when reversing although I think it is the exact opposite of going forward. They did state that steering in reverse is very difficult since the propeller is not driving water past the rudder. Kris surprised us while waiting at the Grindley Brook Step Locks with sandwiches she had made. They really hit the spot since I was starved by then.
The Grindley Brook Step Locks also had a lockkeeper given that they are somewhat more complicated than an ordinary lock. It was here that we encountered a dog having a great time playing with a ball. The dog was throwing the ball on a side of the lock that was somewhat slanted so that the ball rolled back to the dog who would catch it and repeat the throw. The lockkeeper also tossed the ball to the dog a few times but one of his tosses was too hard and the ball bounced onto the top of our boat in the lock then into the water. The poor dog looked bereft but the lockkeeper assured us that the ball would be fished out with a net. It was a sweet pooch!
We made it to Ellesmere by 7:00 PM where we moored near a full-size Tesco. That was also the only place along the canal where I had Internet access. I took the opportunity to mail the postcards and Cal, Nancy and I found a pub where we ate dinner. Kris stayed on the boat and made dinner for herself with some of the food we bought in Tesco. We initially sought out a restaurant that someone had recommended to Nancy which we figured out was at the Meres Visitor Center but after a considerable walk, we found it was closed. The walk was scenic but we returned to an intown pub we had passed earlier. When we first passed, the bartender or owner had urged us to come in. It was an attractive enough place but we were the only customers except for two teenage girls who walked in obviously looking for a night out in a town that didn’t have much going on at night! The bartender, who waited on us and was well dressed and attentive, asked them for ID before he served them drinks. They were quite loud and obviously didn’t understand the concept of a discreet conversation!
The scenery along the canal is pretty but it’s similar to bucolic scenery everywhere. It is not spectacular scenery like we saw on the Beara peninsula. The reality is that the boat would probably be nice for two or four intimate friends but quarters are tight and there is little privacy.
On Tuesday, May 15, 2012 we awoke to rain. We left Ellesmere very early and made it to Llangollen by about 5:00 PM. We left Ellesmere right after I showered and motored for about an hour before stopping to eat breakfast that Nancycooked. The goal was to leave the congested mooring before the other boats all began to leave. In that, we succeeded. It rained off and on for most of the morning and even hailed briefly at one point. We made use of the two waterproof pants and jackets that came with the boat. While it put down plenty of rain, it wasn’t the drenching rain that sometimes falls in Atlanta. The scenery in Llangollen really was quite spectacular. Super high hills surround the town with lots of old buildings, houses, and churches making up the town and surrounding hills. The river Dee flows through town and makes for a very attractive scene. The canal to Llangollen was challenging, very narrow with sharp turns, and maneuvering a 65-foot canal boat along the canal required a lot of focus. We went over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct that was just wide enough for the boat. The wind going across was so high that the boat required full power to make any headway. The high wind pushed us against the side of the canal that made it difficult for the boat to move forward. As I steered across, I did move to the other side of the boat so that I was next to the walkway rather than the 126-foot sheer drop! The town of Llangollen made up for the hard work to get there. Extremely picturesque, it was just too bad we didn’t have more time to explore. However, to make it back to Middlewich by Saturday morning at 9:00 AM is going to require leaving first thing in the morning. I bought a t-shirt and a hoodie, both with Wales written on them, in one of the only shops still open. Although the shop was full of tourist junk, the shirts seem to be of high quality. Afterward, we ate dinner at the Bridge End Hotel where I had a Steak and Kidney Pie for the first time in years. It was delicious and tasted just like the ones Mom used to make (except that it was topped with a puff pastry shell of some type rather than a true piecrust). It was still delicious. After dinner, we topped up the boat with water and performed the maintenance checks so that we’ll be ready to go in the morning. It was also warmer at night than it will be in the morning.
On Wednesday, we left Llangollen at 7:05 AM and stopped twelve hours later near bridge 46 just past the Prees Branch off the canal. We did stop in Ellesmere so that Cal and Nancy could go to the Tesco to buy food for dinner. I topped up the boat with water while we waited. While there, I also figured out that we had probably bent the rudder, which explained why the boat felt difficult to steer. The weather all day was decent although it was cold when we set off and it got cold again after the sun went down. We went through only two locks today and there were two boats ahead of us at each one. I timed the second lock and it took us twenty-five minutes to get through. The scenery near Llangollen was beautiful and the two aqueducts and the tunnels we went through made for a far more interesting trip than the other segments of the canal. We did not encounter the extremely high wind of yesterday as we made our way across the aqueduct today. I was struck by how helpful and friendly other boaters are and the journey is enjoyable despite the fact that all we do all day is drive the boat with no time to stop and see things.
On Thursday, May 17, 2012 we left our mooring at the Prees Branch at 6:40 AM and drove the boat until 6:30 PM, anchoring as soon as we were through the last four locks on the Llangollen Canal at Hurleston Junction. We made the left turn onto the Shropshire Union Canal and immediately docked the boat for the night. We did make one stop today at Bridge 24 and walked the half-mile into Marbury where we ate lunch at The Swan. Marbury is a very quiet, residential town with only 500 – 1000 residents, according to the innkeeper. He was very friendly and helpful. Two elderly ladies were having lunch when we sat down and an immensely fat man was sat just below the bar. He also turned out to be helpful and took Nancy’s two postcards, promising to mail them. He had a driver waiting for him in a small car outside the Swan, I suspect because his size made him incapable of driving! I had fish and chips for lunch with mushy peas, followed by vanilla and strawberry ice cream. It was good, if unhealthy! After we left the Swan, we walked to a quite beautiful church, St. Michael’s Marbury, that was surrounded by very old and also quite modern gravestones. The church itself was extremely attractive and the inside was absolutely full of flowers. Whether they were left over from a wedding or a funeral, I don’t know. Large, beautiful stained glass windows were above and to the sides of the altar. Cal said he saw a notice that the church was trying to raise £15,000 to replace lead roof tiles that had been stolen! We probably spent at least two hours in Marbury and the Swan but it was a nice change of pace from the boat. The weather today was raining when we awoke and got going but it wasn’t bad. By late morning, it had stopped and it turned into a nice day. There seemed less traffic on the canal and we were not delayed at all going through locks, including the Grindley Brook Staircase Locks. While going through those locks, Cal bought a used book in the tiny gift shop while Kris and Nancy bought cards. The tiny shop is just big enough for one person at a time and operates on the honor system. We definitely went through many locks today plus several lift bridges. Operating the locks is more interesting than driving the boat plus it definitely provides some exercise! The scenery on this part of the canal is less scenic than near Llangollen. It’s all farmland populated by cows, sheep and an occasional horse. We saw loads of mallards, swans and other waterfowl and they kept Kris busy feeding them bread. I suspect the ducks along t the Llangollen Canal thought it was Christmas this week! From the inside of the Swan, we saw a pheasant ambling along! After we moored, we did nothing for a while with Cal on the bow reading, Kris taking a nap and Nancy and I updating our trip diaries. We plan to eat a light dinner on the boat.
We should have no trouble making Middlewich tomorrow. After three bridges first thing tomorrow, we make a right turn onto the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal and go 9 and ¾ miles and four locks until Middlewich. That branch also has 27 bridges. Bridges are almost always challenging for the person driving the boat in that the canal narrows to the width of a canal boat with a couple of feet to spare. The bridges are often built on turns that make it impossible to see if another boat is coming the other way. They also make it a challenge to turn without scraping the sides of the boat!
On Friday, May 18, 2012 we lingered at the mooring before leaving for Middlewich. The trip was uneventful except that Kris dropped her cell phone into the canal. Efforts to recover it were futile! We arrived in Middlewich and had the boat filled with water and docked by 3:30. We walked into the town, exploring a couple of shops, and stopped at a pub named The White Bear for an early dinner. We were back on the boat by 6:00 PM, exhausted.
On Saturday, May 19, 2012 we were up early and Nancy fixed breakfast for Cal, Kris, and herself; I was content with cereal. I washed dishes and Nancy cleaned up the boat. We realized we needed to top up with water when the faucet began spitting. Nevertheless, everything was easily ready by 9:00 AM and the boat people were unconcerned about the rudder or any other problems we reported. The taxi came early and we were at the Radisson Blu hotel by around 11:00 AM. Check-in was uneventful and the room is comfortable. I grabbed a sandwich downstairs in a terminal restaurant and then took a taxi out to see [some relatives of mine] Joan, Andrew and Daniel…. [Cal, Nancy, and Kris hopped a train at the airport into Manchester for the day.] We ate dinner in a hotel restaurant and arranged to meet at 8:00 AM to walk to the terminal for our 10:20 AM flight.
On Sunday, May 20, 2012, I awoke just before 5:00 AM and was showered by 5:30. It was a pleasure to have a normal bathroom! There will be no problem being ready by 8:00 AM and I enjoyed a couple of hours online reading the Times.
It was interesting to note that Manchesterairport security does not require shoes to be removed. On the other hand, the line to get through security was long because everyone was being funneled through a small number of checkpoints. Flight 065 left basically on time and the trip to Atlanta was uneventful. The aircraft parked at Terminal E and we had to walk to the new International Terminal F. The walk was interminable and I predict that will become the new complaint point. When we finally left the terminal, Nancy’s friend Joyce was waiting to give us a ride home, which was nice.
Hello old friends, newer friends, and assorted favorite relatives! Mailing out Xmas cards during the holidays has become increasingly difficult for me these past few years. I find myself with more time and energy to write everyone after the gift-buying, -wrapping, and -exchanging – and I’ve noticed that I find myself more reflective immediately after Xmas rather than before then. So I’ve decided to try from now on to mail out an annual New Year’s Greeting. You hold in your hands the first such attempt.
The newest news with me is where I’m living – or, rather, where I find myself not living. For a long time now, I thought I’d be writing you from Israel, but I’m still here at the Roane Oak Apartments in Atlanta, Georgia.
For those of you who don’t know the story, let me recap a bit. Whilst attending a liberrians’ conclave in New York City in the summer of 1986, I met an intriguing man named David ben Ami. An Israeli artist, David moved very quickly into the center of my affections and remained there for the next 3½ years.
Thousands of dollars worth of phone calls, postage stamps, and airline tickets for several transatlantic crossings later, and after having tried mightily to forge a partnership out of our very different cultural backgrounds, aspirations, and personalities, we’re calling off the project and are now trying to shift into a long-distance friendship. David and I spent half of ’89 together in Atlanta; he’ll be back in Tel Aviv by the time you read this newsletter. A very exciting, exhausting, and mostly rewarding era has come to an end. With any luck, I’ll be able to afford another visit later this year to Israel (or to some equally exotic rendezvous spot somewhere between there and here).
…So, despite the nine months of Hebrew classes, the hours of listening to Israeli folk music, the interminable exchanging of newspaper stories on the Palestinian uprising, plus all the visits back and forth, it appears I will, in fact, be spending most of 1990 in Atlantis instead of in Israel, as David and I had been planning on for quite some time. There is sadness and loss for both of us in abandoning our longstanding fantasy of a partnership; there is also some relief all around, as the circumstances affecting what we were trying to do were pretty daunting. David and I share a hope that our friendship will survive and remain important to both of us. Whatever else happens with us now, the world will certainly never look quite the same to me again.
This past year’s income-earning schedule prevented my usual level of travel beyond Atlanta’s perimeter highway. There have been a few travel adventurettes, however:
- Last year at this time, I was staying with friends in Washington DC during an annual library conference I attended.
- Last spring, I re-discovered the Asheville area, including the Southern Dharma Retreat center near Hot Springs, NC (thanks to last year’s winner of The Most Influential Person I’ve Met Recently Award, one Mr. Larry Paul).
- Besides another visit in June to Asheville (where Larry moved last May), I got to visit Peggy (the former Ms. Gough) and her husband Gary during another convention of librarians, this one in Dallas. (I’ve been attending so many librarians’ conventions due to my involvement on the steering committee of the American Library Association’s Gay and Lesbian Task Force. For three years ending this past October, I’d been coordinating the Task Force’s information clearinghouse, a thoroughly absorbing and exciting chore I’ve since handed on to another volunteer.)
- Last fall I made an unscheduled visit to Little Rock, Arkansas, where I wuz borned. I went there to attend the funeral of my father’s mother. This wonderful woman, born in 1900, was probably the original inspiration for my deep love of travel, laughter, and a good many other Good Things. Visiting with relatives on both sides of the family during the weekend of the funeral was one of the best trips Back Home that I can remember. (These trips have gotten more interesting as I’ve grown older, just like I’d been told for years that they probably would. For one thing, I’m now one of the grown-ups, with many of my cousins’ children, much to my chagrin, approaching pooberty: a definite shockeroo! The Minor Mid-Life Crisis Show has definitely come to town for Calvin. I’m constantly forgetting that I’m 41 years old.)
- There was also a brief – and, for me, rather wet – whitewater rafting trip on the Nantahala River with some siblings and visiting cousins.
- I made weekend trips with David to visit friends in Savannah and to visit friends on Florida’s St. George’s Island.
- There was the obligatory annual foray into the North Georgia mountains to see the autumn leafs (whose colors were rather muted this year, although the overnight stay at the historic Lake Rabun Hotel was alone worth the drive up and back).
Otherwise, I stayed put last year. Fortunately, a few of the people in my small though rather far-flung network of friends visited me/us here in Atlanta:
- Tom and Roy from Savannah
- Harvey from San Francisco
- Randy (and Ed, a friend of David’s) from New York City
- Terry and Doug from DC
- Peggy from Dallas
- Paul, a Task Force buddy from Ithaca, NY (now living in DC) blew into town briefly.
Unlike many of my more unfortunate friends and acquaintances, I lost only one personal friend to AIDS in 1989, and only one librarian colleague. Other AIDS-related news: I got to see part of The AIDS Quilt again this past year, and David and I both recently tested negative for exposure to the virus ourselves.
On the literary front, I co-edited a book this past year and Ellen Greenblatt, my co-editor has just mailed the manuscript to our publisher! Ellen is a librarian living in Buffalo, New York. The book’s an anthology about improving library services and collections for gay and lesbian library users. Working with Ellen and the authors of the various chapters – and the writing of several of those chapters myself – has been an exciting albeit nerve-racking experience. The book’s royalties won’t make any of us rich, but it will bring together, for the first time and into one place, a lot of useful info for librarians who want to be more responsive to this seriously under-served group of library users. (Still unfinished is the guidebook to Atlanta that I’ve been working on – i.e., not giving up on – for what seems like the entire decade of the 1980s.)
Speaking of libraries, I’m the volunteer coordinator of the Atlanta Gay Center’s library, though I’m earning my wages – for the 10th year in a row – as a reference librarian in the furiously busy and challenging business and science department of Atlanta’s downtown public library. I still love going to work each morning, despite a demoralizing series of hassles with some maybe-not-so-enlightened-after-all library managers, all about a gay/lesbian history and culture exhibit I put up in the library’s lobby recently.
A more pleasant development at work has been getting to know a bright, capable, new co-worker and co-selector of science books who’s also a writer and kindred spirit. Another job-related excitement has been the increasing amount of time I spend fooling around with electronic database and with computers in general. (I’m a very noisy advocate for WordPerfect word processing software at work, and use that on my computer at home as well. In addition to using WordPerfect to write and co-edit the librarianship anthology, I’ve been exploring the wonders of WP in a variety of small-scale desktop publishing projects both at the library and for the Gay & Lesbian Task Force. Closet journalist that I’ve always been, these projects have been great fun – especially considering the fact that I get paid for the work-related projects.)
If you haven’t already visited my still-tiny apartment recently – the one I moved into “temporarily” seven years ago – you’d probably be shocked to find here a new color TV and VCR – toys bought at the beginning of David’s latest visit with me. (I swear I bought these machines guessing they might save me money – video rentals being cheaper than movie tickets.) David and I did, in fact, watch a lot of videos in 1989, including, thanks to David’s prompting, every Hitchcock movie ever made and the entire 13-part I, Claudius series taped many years ago for PBS.
While waiting for Pete Dexter or Lawrence Durrell to publish their next novels, I’m enjoying the lush and fabulous Love in the Time of Cholera, the hysterically funny Miss Manners’ Guide to the Turn of the Millennium, and am re-reading a very strange book I first read (and then lost) on a train in Europe in 1970 and have been looking for ever since: John Fowles’ only nonfiction book, The Aristos. On the other hand, I’ve done more writing (for that librarianship anthology) than reading lately. Setting aside more time for reading is my New Year’s resolution – as it’s been for several years running, I’m afraid. My consolations for this lack of time for reading – especially for reading novels – have been the unbelievably amazing, usually humbling, and always beautiful issues of my still-favorite-after-all-these-years magazine, The Sun, which I recommend to all literate humans. Subscribing to this amazing thing would be one of the best things you could ever do for yourself – or it was for me, anyway.
And that, folks – except for the almost overlooked but extremely important facts that in 1989 I continued attending my weekly sanity-saving Adult Children of Alcoholics support group meetings, and that I recently hired myself a therapist – is enough news from me for now. Thanks to those of you who sent Christmas, Solstice, Hanukkah, or New Year’s cards this season, and to those of you who might send me some recent news of you upon receiving these greetings from me. May each of you prosper in all kinds of ways in the coming new year. New decade, in fact.
All the best,
Cal (and Hilo the Wonder Cat)
Seems like only yesterday that 1990 was just getting started, yet here it is time for another Xmas letter?! Have you got your magnifying glasses ready? Here we go…
In some ways the past year for me was one of…shall we say continuities? I still have the same job. I still eat lunch practically every day at the same all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant. I still have my moustache, although it seems to grow grayer every day. And I still schlep once a week to group therapy and to an Adult Children of Alcoholics meeting, continuing my longstanding effort to recover somewhat from the toxic effects of early exposure to alcoholism, co-dependence, homophobia, and the narrow mindset that comes with being brought up in a fundamentalist religion high on self-righteousness instead of compassion. …So all of that’s the same this year as last.
On the other hand, a few things did happen this past year that either never happened before (to me, anyway), or that haven’t happened in a long, long time. In the latter category:
- Calvin’s driving a new car these days – something that hadn’t happened in 16 years!
- Remember the semi-comfortable but totally ratty plaid loveseat, purchased in the early 1970s, that has, um, graced my living room ever since? Gone now, finally and forever, replaced by a huge, thick, Japanesey-looking futon sofa-that-makes-into-a-bed. (Take note, all you potential visitors out there.)
- I bought a new camera – well, an almost-new one, anyway.
These 1990 purchases, according to the unanimous chorus of my passengers, visitors, and friends, were long overdue. It remains to be seen whether 1991 will see me going after the long-staved-off microwave oven and/or CD player – the only consumer items I could possibly “need” at this point.
On the non-material plane (as the New Agers are wont to say), I have very recently taken a further step toward a regular meditation practice – also a long overdue development for me. I trace my interest in / drift toward / dread of meditation at least as far back as my late teens/early 20s, when I first stumbled upon the existence of spiritual traditions other than those of the Southern Baptists (thank you, Mercer University!). My interest in Things Eastern was re-ignited in a major way some 15 years later (thanks, Harvey!). In the meantime, I had become attracted to the silent worship services of the Quakers (thank you, Kathy, Susan, Bill et al.!). Later still came my exposure via other friends (thanks, thanks, Tom and Betz!) to the ideas of Tibetan Buddhism. Also figuring into all this somehow was a year’s worth of weekly instruction in T’ai Chi (thanks to my first teacher, Jim, via his Evening-at-Emory class); a 20-year fascination with the writing of Krishnamurti (thanks, Reed!); to some limited exposure to Native American spiritual traditions (thanks, Raven! thanks, Franklin!); to the writings of some Sufi mystics (thanks, Ken!); and to the sermons of the radical Christian mystic Meister Eckhart (thank you, Max!). No doubt there were other influences as well.
Then, two years ago, I met one Larry Paul – of which more anon. Larry was the first person I met who had combined a wide reading – and deep understanding – of Eastern writings with a personal daily meditation practice extending over a period of many years. Meeting Larry was apparently the catalyst I needed – and even so, it was another two years before I finally got my ass down to the local Zen temple to learn how to start my own practice (thank you, Larry!). The straightforward, non-theatrical, nonverbal approach of Zen appeals to the sometimes too-confused, too-theatrical, too-verbal me.
I don’t know what “brand” of meditation I’ll be settling on, but I hope to settle on something. It’s a daily practice, however modest, that I’m aiming for. Wherever the Zen experiment lead me, I’m certain it will do me no harm and much good – and I feel extremely lucky to have a Zendo within walking distance of my apartment.
Another first-ever experience this year was decidedly more unpleasant. After unexpectedly and belatedly finding out something very disturbing that I’d not known about my former partner David, I decided to call a halt our plans for a post-romantic friendship. My “goodbye forever” letter to David last May was an unfamiliar step that I felt ambivalent about taking at the time, and sometimes still feel ambivalent about. (About ten years ago I was on the other end of a similar unilaterally-made decision to cut off communication.) But after talking over my dilemma ad nauseam with friends, therapist, and psychic, there came the time early last year when I found myself too angry, compromised, and vulnerable to handle in any other way the recently-revealed situation. It feels strange even all these months later to have given up all contact with someone who was at the center of my life for such a long time (four years). And I reckon it will be a while longer before I totally accept either the necessity or the wisdom of my decision, a process that started abruptly last February and resulted in that letter last May. Needless to say, this unexpected turn of events and the ensuring internal aftermath has provided much grist for the therapy mill. Or rather, could provide much grist, etc. if I ever get the hang of efficiently using the process of group (vs. individual) therapy.
Meanwhile, Cal has not been idle in the Relationship Arena. (I seldom have been, as those of you who have witnessed my pattern of “serial monogamy” all these years could testify to.) Having realized in October 1989, months before the writing of The Painful Letter, that David and Calvin were Not Meant to Be – not meant to be partners, that is: a close friendship was still on at that point – I decided early in 1990 to see if another man who had once, um, shown an interest in me might still be interested, now that I was no longer betrothed. To my astonishment and joy, the feelings between Larry and me were rekindled and the two of us have been exploring them ever since. As I mentioned earlier, I had met Larry over two years ago now, when he lived in Atlanta. During the David ben Ami period, Larry had moved to Asheville to finish his undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina. We’ve therefore done much of our “exploring” long distance. (I just now counted up the number of visits we had in 1990: a mere 15 in all, including the Christmas visit coming up. I realize that Kahlil Gibran counseled lovers to “let there be spaces in your togetherness,” but this is ridiculous!)
On the other hand, although the alleged allure of long-distance romances has long since faded for me, I have to admit that they do seem to have their emotional advantages. For one thing, the distance has given Larry and me plenty of time to evaluate our feelings for each other, and allowed – nay, forced – each of us to continue developing our own sense of self apart from a powerful attraction to, and respect for, the other person. In any case, our story has begun, or resumed, or whatever it’s doing, and it’s going wherever it’s going. Some of you have already met Larry, and happily more of you will meet him during the coming months.
Two practical advantages of Larry’s and my being apart most of the time: Larry’s been able to concentrate on his schoolwork, and Cal’s been able to do more writing this year than ever before. McFarland & Company has just published the reference book, Gay and Lesbian Library Service, that I co-edited with another librarian, Ellen Greenblatt. Ellen and I and our twenty contributors breathlessly/exhaustedly anticipate reviews in the library journals by early spring.
This past fall, incidentally, one of those journals published my first review of somebody else’s book (and, gosh, did I ever learn how much time and energy book reviews take to write).
Also, I wrote of revised a batch of research guides we distribute to people using the library where I work, plus I created, revised, or contributed to various publications for American Library Association’s Gay and Lesbian Task Force (including compiling the first edition of a “Directory of Gay and Lesbian Library Workers”).
All things considered, 1990 was a gratifyingly productive year for moi, publishing-wise. (And, no, I still have not published a guidebook to Atlanta – an ill-fated project I started working on back in the early 1980s. Will Calvin finally abandon this project in 1991, or will the guidebook appear in some transmogrified form in time for the Atlanta-based 1996 Olympics? I don’t know. It hurts my brain just to think about it – or about the upcoming Olympics themselves for that matter. Maybe it’s just me being “negative,” but I dread the inevitable havoc the Olympic juggernaut will bring to Atlanta: distorted priorities in the heads of my bosses at work, hysteria among local merchants, frenzy and corruption among local politicos, witless destruction of several neighborhoods by greedy developers – not to mention the already artificially-inflated values of in-town real estate plus the sure-to-be-horrific traffic problems. What we’re in for is relentless, fever-pitched commercialism of the Xmas season variety, but for six straight years instead of the usual couple of months annually. And speaking of straight, my “negative attitude” about the Olympics also has something to do with the U.S. Olympic Committee’s asking the U.S. Supreme Court (no less) to ban the use of the term “Gay Olympics” to describe the, um, Gay Olympics – and, even more outrageous news, the Court agreeing to this blatantly homophobic – not to mention petty, illogical, and hypocritical – demand. (Of course, what did I expect? This court ruling was handed down by the same crew who somberly decreed that only heteros have the right to sodomize each other.) …But I digress.
…Now, where was I? Oh, yes, publications. My newest venture is co-authoring with friend and colleague Celeste Tibbets a booklet (note that: a booklet, not a book) we’re provisionally calling “A Writer’s Resource Guide to Atlanta.” More news of that project in next year’s newsletter. By the way, Celeste is also my reliable and usually-enthusiastic early-morning exercise workout companion. Last April she and I joined – and, even more important, we actually patronize fairly regularly – a health spa near the library. I get to start off practically every day in a heated swimming pool!
Another first for me this year was presenting a workshop to a bunch of strange librarians – excuse me, make that “librarians who I’d not met before.” The Arizona State Library Association flew me out to Phoenix to talk to them about improving services and collections for gay and lesbian library users. I had a wonderful time out there, got taken real good care of, met some extraordinary friendly folks, was encouraged to publish a version of the talk I gave (something I’ll probably pursue), and even had time to make a day trip up into the red-rock country north of the desert (thanks, Ed!).
Speaking of travels, Hilo the Cat has had free run of the apartment quite often this past year, as I managed to get outta town several times:
- Instead of spending all that discretionary income of mine that I keep hearing about on yet another ticket to Tel Aviv this past year to see David, I spent that money instead on ten weekend trips to Asheville to see Larry.
- I spent a wonderful week Out West tolling around the stupefyingly beautiful Four Corners area in a rented car with my friend Bob, gaping at assorted national parks and failing in love with the soft, mysterious landscape of northern New Mexico.
- There was the week in Arizona for the aforementioned library convention.
- Larry and I visited friends in Savannah at the end of the summer, where – another first – Calvin promptly got stung (and scared, too) by a very annoyed jellyfish.
Devoid as 1990 was of Harmonic Convergences, local earthquakes, Second Comings, the completion of a so-called “Parkway” through my neighborhood – or of other apocalypses, the year did bring me (a basically shy person) no fewer than four memorable experiences with crowds:
- After years of waiting for an opportunity to do so, I and fortyelevendozen other lucky Atlantans finally got to hear Ram Das give a lecture. If you ever get a chance to listen to this man yourself, do so without hesitation.
- I participated in the 20th (!) anniversary of the American Library Association’s Gay and Lesbian Task Force, in Chicago. Among numerous other delightful encounters there, I got to meet – yea, even conversed into the wee hours with – one David Feinberg, the New Yorker who wrote the brilliantly-conceived and screamingly funny AIDS-age novel Eighty-Sixed, and whose book jacket photo I had swooned over many times as I read his book. (Incidentally, the GLTF anniversary celebration – actually, the T-shirt commemorating it that I wore there – became the occasion for probably the only time I will ever have my photograph published on the cover of a national magazine.)
- I was able to attend the excellent entertainment segment of this year’s annual Conference on Men and Masculinity, mostly because it and I happened to be in the city when it was conducted.
- I was spellbound for three glorious days this past fall by an unexpected and continual outpouring of courage and honesty and sweetness from dozens of men, most of whom I’d never met before, at a perfect-weather mountaintop conference on gay men’s spirituality (thank you, thank you, Raven, Peter, Rocko, Michael, and Ron for y’all’s planning that made the conference unfold the way it did). The sharing there of so many heartfelt memories, convictions, longings, excitements, and anxieties were a powerful and inspiring moment in my own spiritual journey. I also got to hang out a bit with Andrew Ramer and Harry Hay, two other people who long ago I had installed in my personal pantheon of gay heroes. (Of course, in a very real sense, most of the gay people and lesbians I know are heroes and heroines of mine.)
In the Wage-Earning Arena, 1990 started out with my deciding to file a formal grievance against my library system’s administration for not only mismanaging the installation of a library exhibit about gay/lesbian history and literature that I put up in the lobby last December, but also removing the exhibit halfway through tits duly scheduled two-month venue. Although the exhibit was not re-installed as a result of the grievance, I did register my protest and several managers had to spend many tedious hours of their supposedly precious time dealing with it. I suspect these people will behave a little less high-handedly next time around. Meanwhile, the exhibit itself re-materialized twice elsewhere later on in the year: in the window of the local lesbian/feminist bookstore, and in the lobby of a local theater during the opening of a gay play during Gay Pride Week.
Along with the grievance-related activities at work, I’ve continued developing my interest at work in computerized reference sources, and my fanatical pursuit of figuring out how the WordPerfect word processing software can make life – excuse me, can make work – easier and more fun for me, my colleagues, and our Great Unwashed Public.
As my visit this past year to another local public exhibit of the AIDS Quilt and attending a performance of the play Dreaming with an AIDS Patient reminded me, 1990 was the first year in quite a while now when no one I know personally died from an AIDS-related infection. Some of my friends and other members of our species were not so lucky – although, as the federal government’s amazingly stubborn and somewhat genocidal-looking refusals to fund more research on finding an AIDS vaccine reveals, it’s clear that luck has little to do with the toll taken on this county’s people by this worldwide epidemic. No, no, our Congresspeople would rather spend the people’s taxes instead of helping our “gentle,” “kind” President prepares to kill a few thousand souls in the far-off Middle East. God forbid that our country should give up one ounce of its pig’s share of the planet’s supply of fossil fuels. But here I go, digressing again….
Back to the personal. My most memorable reading in 1990 – memorable in the sense of “powerful and recommended” as well as in the sense of “the stuff I can remember just now”:
- Alice Koller’s amazing Stations of Solitude and her even more difficult-to-put-down An Unknown Woman
- May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude
- The Habit of Being, a selection of Flannery O’Conner letters (thanks, Flanders)
- an out-of-print collection of Hermann Hesse’s aphorisms
- Manley P. Hall’s Adventures in Understanding (thanks, Rave)
- Thich Nhat Hanh’s Being Peace (thanks, Lare)
Oh, and several of Tony Hillerman’s set-in-New-Mexico detective novels (thanks, Bob).
Since Frederick Buechner rather rudely failed to publish any nonfiction this year, I consoled myself with re-reading his older nonfiction books. And wasn’t it this year that I enjoyed Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood?
These and my subscription to The Sun – the world’s finest magazine – have kept the addictive reader in me happy. I can’t claim that reading it made me happy, but something I did read and cannot recommend too highly: John Bradshaw’s Bradshaw On: The Family. (Bradshaw’s got a new book out now, so I suppose I’ll have to read it as well.)
A sad item on the literary news front this year: old Larry Durrell died. His novels, along with Buechneer’s and Dillard’s books – and, of course, The Sun – are the things I most persistently press upon people to read.
No recently-released movies to recommend other than Dances with Wolves, although I do recommend re-viewing, via video, as I did with Larry recently, Stevie, Hedda, and Baghdad Café.
1990’s Most Exciting Music Discovery: Chanticleer, “the only all-male, full-time, professional a capella choir in the United States.” You can take Robert Shaw’s word for it as well as mine: they are something else. In fact, their recordings seem reason enough to invest in the aforementioned possible purchase of a CD player.
Favorite Play (and Play Title) of 1990: Bunny Pellets. Worst Play of the Year (but Runner-Up for Best Play Title): The Lizard of Tarsus.
And that, folks, is enough news of me for quite some time to come. A real hollerday treat for me would be hearing some of your news from 1990. What were some of your pleasures, excitements, disappointments, and discoveries this past year? Let me hear from you, you hear? This goes double for those of you Out There (and there are so many of you, dammit!) who don’t live in Atlantis. News or no news, here’s wishing a joyful, gratitude-laden, serene Equinox/Hannukah/Kwanza/Christmas/New Year for all sentient beings (that means us, I think, among others).
Solstice/Hanukkah/Christmas/New Year’s Greetings!
My thanks and admiration to those of you who somehow consistently manage to send out holiday greetings before the holidays have come and gone: anyone want to show me how you do it?
This past year brought the usual mixture of pleasures and surprises (natural, cultural, and personal), but overall I feel like it was one of those “maintenance” years instead of a disruptive or course-changing one.
No trips abroad to gush about, for example. The free time and available money allotted to this particular wage-slave in 1991 were largely spent in Asheville visiting Larry, who’s still at UNCA and who will continue his studies in the English Department here until graduating sometime in 1993. Except for the month of March, this past year Larry and I visited with each other at least once a month. The big news for us this year was finagling the logistics allowing us to actually live together for the first time in the three years we’ve been together: Larry joined me here in Atlanta during this summer break (he worked as a temporary employee at Emory University), and a good time was had by all.
Some of you may not know that I moved to larger quarters last spring, mostly to provide more room for Larry’s summer stay. I’m still at the Roane Oak Apartments on Seminole Avenue, but in #24 (a one-bedroom place) instead of #14 (a studio where I’d lived for – what? – seven years or so?). Larry and I celebrated the move by painting the living room an orangey-red (a color I’d always wanted to use in a house); last fall I re-painted my bedroom a darkish hunter green color (also a color I’ve wanted to use for years). My landlady nearly fainted, but, hey, I’m really happy with both jobs.
I also tried an experiment in minimalist décor for the new living room – a kind of poor man’s Japanese ambiance was what I was shooting for – but after eight months I still found myself not wanting to sit down in there! So I recently rearranged the furniture and began importing tchotchkes into the room. Apparently my clutter-loving temperament has won out over my aesthetic impulses – or maybe some things just look “purtyer” in the magazines! At any rate, I’m still fiddling around trying to get the “new” apartment looking the way I want it to look, which is rather puzzling as it’s never taken me longer to do so. But it’s getting more comfortable all the time. Needless to say, Hilo the Wonder Cat has adjusted well to her roomier quarters: she had more windows to gaze through and more closets to hide in when I bring out the dreaded vacuum cleaner.
Larry and I started off the year visiting Terry and Doug in Washington DC and we’re doing the same in January ’92 – I plan to mail this newsletter on our way out of town. We also took a wonderful week-long trip to San Francisco last May where we stayed with Harve, then immediately took off to Savannah to spend a few days there with Tom. I made only tow other out-of-town trips this year, both sans Larry: a weekend in Highlands, NC in September (for the 2nd Gay Men’s Spirituality Conference), and several days in Phoenix, AZ (where I gave a talk for the second time to the Arizona Library Association, deepened some of the friendships I’d made there last year, and met Larry’s mom).
Several exciting things happened this past year that I didn’t have to leave Atlanta to enjoy. The American Library Association met here in late June, and I did a lot of hosty things with that, including a soiree at my place for members of ALA’s Gay & Lesbian Task Force and spending my 43rd birthday with a few colleagues who stayed over after the conference. Also at ALA, Ellen Greenblatt and I presented a sort of summary of highlights from Gay and Lesbian Library Service, the book we co-edited last year. In November, my friend Franklin Abbott held a conference in Atlanta called “Our Right to Love,” which I got to attend by being on one of Franklin’s panels. And something out of Montreal called Cirque du Soleil came to town this year. You must go see this if it ever comes to your area: it’s a guaranteed Peak Experience!
Work-wise, I’ve started my 11th (!) year as a reference librarian at the main public liberry in Atlanta. Since we had no money to buy books for the library this year, I’ve been fooling around a lot more than usual with electronic databases, which is fine by me: I sometimes wish I could spend all my time at work doing this, so I could get really good at it.
Let’s see, what else can I randomly pull out of my constantly deteriorating memory cells?
• Throughout the summer, fall, and winter we here in Atlanta – and y’all too, I hope – have been enjoying a long string of extra-fabulous sunset resulting, apparently, from volcanic eruptions in the Pacific.
• The neighborhood I live in seems to be getting rather scruffy, even for me: last spring some jerk stole my $1,100 tax refund check out of my mailbox and in October another jerk (let’s assume it was another one) stole the radio/tape deck out of my Honda.
• My weekly group therapy sessions continue (the eight of us started on our third year together last October). On the other hand, I’m no longer attending (as I did for almost seven years) weekly Adult Children of Alcoholics (or Al-Anon) meetings.
• Last May a group of fellow Atlantans who had called ourselves the Mutual Aid Fund decided to disband after meeting several times a year since 1980.
• Friend/colleague/carpoolee Celeste and I are still working on a resource guide for Atlanta writers, and we still go swimming lots of mornings before work. Celeste and I also did some freelance research for a movie company in town last April, something we both hope to do more of.
• Major disappointment for 1991: I didn’t develop, as I’d hoped I would by now, a daily meditation practice for myself.
Again this year as in most years, I haven’t found the time to read as much as I’d like. I did make some further headway on Victor Hugo’s delightful Les Miserables. Most recently I finished Robert Ferro’s novel Second Son, Quentin Crisp’s autobiography The Naked Civil Servant, and Thich Nhat Hanh’s Present Moment, Wonderful Moment: Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living.
As usual, I’m in the middle of many books at once, including Judy Grahn’s Another Mother Tongue, a book of Mark Twain quotations, and several meditation and psychology books I’ve promised Larry I’d read. (I’ve also become intrigued with the prospect of reading several of the books Larry’s read for his English Lit courses.)
And of course I continue to scarf up each issue of The Sun (The World’s Most Wonderful Magazine, as I have told you all before) as soon as I discover it’s been delivered to my mailbox.
Despite my whining about how little time I have to read for pleasure, if any of you have had any peak reading experiences this past year that you’d like to recommend, I’d love to hear about them. Ditto for any music you’ve recently or long ago realized has become indispensable to the well-being of your ears and soul. (Incidentally, two friends here are helping me with my long-term project to explore the world of opera recordings.)
Best wishes for a snazzy, joyous, mindful ’92 – and I hope to hear from each of you long before year’s end!
Looking back through my calendar, the first thing I notice about this year is how much of it I spent out of town. Though, alas, I made no exotic trip abroad, I certainly put a few miles on the Hondamobile these past twelve months. Besides twelve trips to Asheville to visit Larry, I traveled to see out-of-town friends in Washington DC (twice, one of those times to also see the AIDS Quilt), New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Florida’s St. George’s Island, and Highlands, NC (twice: once in early spring to help plan the 3rd annual Gay Men’s Spirituality Conference and again in September for that conference).
I also made an unexpected trip to Arkansas, for the funeral of my grandmother “Jennie.” This self-made and strong-willed woman (my mom’s mom) quietly and determinedly informed herself about many things in the wide world beyond her family. She took an interest in everything from current events to oil painting, from handwriting analysis to the works of Emerson and Swedenborg. And Jennie shared her curiosity – and her passion for beauty – with her grandchildren. She was the first of my mentors. Although Jennie’s death put an end of several years of physical distress for her, I will miss this remarkable woman who has gone out of the world. Jennie was the last of my surviving grandparents, and it feels strange to be without all of them. I was fortunate to have at least known them all. And I certainly enjoyed, at Jennie’s funeral last month, re-connecting briefly with the many aunts, uncles, cousins, and assorted other relatives who I am so fond of.
With any luck, I’ll be able to spend the entire month of December at home, something the long-suffering Hilo the Wonder Kitty will no doubt appreciate, what with all my disruptions during the previous eleven months to her daily routine. Larry will be here in Atlanta, so we’re both looking forward to that change in our routines.
Part of the time I did spend in town this year was devoted to co-authoring and co-publishing with my friend and library colleague Celeste (and with our illustrator, artist/writer/friend Blanche Farley) a booklet called “The Booklover’s Guide to Atlanta.” Just off the press and now on sale in local bookstores, this 45-page booklet is all about the city’s bookstores, libraries, and literary landmarks.
Books I read this year that I heartily recommend to you include Elan Golumb’s Trapped in the Mirror: The Struggle of Adult Children of Narcissists and Robert Neale’s Loneliness, Solitude, and Companionship. And I most emphatically recommend Becoming a Man, Paul Monett’s short but absorbingly written autobiography that won this year’s National Book Award. This was also the year that – in that big old barn of a bookstore, the Strand, during my trip last spring to New York with Larry – I gleefully stumbled onto a copy of A Long Day’s Dying, the long-out-of-print and hard-to-find first novel written by one of my favorite nonfiction writers, Frederick Buechner.
I hope this update finds you healthy, happy, and looking forward to a discovery-filled new year. And regardless of what will or won’t be done or undone in the political arena come next January by Clinton, Gore & Co., I wish you much delight, prosperity, and serenity in all the places and times where you live and move and have your being.
[to be posted when I locate a copy]
Dear Kith, Kin, and Comrades Far and Near:
Season’s Greetings from the tiniest house on McLendon Avenue! As you might expect of any new homeowners – we moved into our new place last December – we spent a good deal of 1994 settling into the new abode, making our the house and the little parcel of land it sits on, and reacquainting ourselves with our wonderful, tree-filled neighborhood, Candler Park (a neighborhood I’d previously lived in or right next to, and where I’ve wanted to get back into ever since). This year’s fall weather came and went before we were able to transform a stack of flagstones out back into a patio, but we did manage during the past twelve months to complete a host of gratifying projects: we painted a few walls; replaced the creaking wicker sofa and chairs with something more comfortable; framed a picture and hung it over the mantel; harvested a modest batch of home-grown vegetables; and began our experiments with the microwave oven my mom gave me for my birthday this summer.
The frost that hit our area last week killed off our beloved petunias and impatiens that had blossomed their little hearts out all summer in our window boxes, but the recent cold weather also brought us a perfect excuse to build a series of early-morning and late-night fires in our fireplace.
If it sounds like 1994 has been a rather domestic year for Cal and Larry, well, you got that right. We find ourselves entering the new year as rather proud and mostly contented homeowners. …Heavily indebted homeowners, of course, but what else are those VISA cards for, anyway?
Yes, it’s been a year of thrilling excursions to the local hardware mega-store: no exciting getaways to London or Paris this year for either or both of us: a long September weekend on North Carolina’s Outer Banks is as far away as we got together. I did, however, extract myself from Atlantis for several additional out-of-town U.S. destinations. I traveled to Philadelphia last winter to visit my friend Bill; to a small town about 70 miles south of here with some other Mercer University alumni for a surprisingly intriguing reunion of psychology department graduates; and, last month, to Madison, Wisconsin for a sanity-restoring and friendship-deepening visit with fellow librarians Dee and Paul. And I somehow made it to the North Georgia mountains twice this year to enjoy with other Atlanta friends the scenery, the quiet, and the welcome break from those never-ending projects around the house and yard. I also made my fifth annual pilgrimage to another mountain retreat (this one near Highlands, NC) for a long, leisurely Fall Equinox weekend with 100+ others at this year’s Gay Spirit Visions Conference. The most gratifying travel news of all for me this year, however, is that I did not make a single trip to Asheville, North Carolina. Larry’s school days may not be over with quite yet, but I no longer must travel over mountain ranges to be with him.
Speaking of out-of-town visits, one of the advantages of owning a house as opposed to renting apartments like Larry and I both did for so many years is that we can finally offer out-of-town guests comfortable overnight quarters. In addition to visits from friends and relatives living elsewhere in Georgia, during the past year we’ve enjoyed overnight visits from friends of Larry’s who live in North Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee, and from friends of mine from South Carolina, Florida, Ohio, DC, California, and New York. A few pairs of Arkansas- and Louisiana-based aunts and uncles were among the others we’ve also had over to the new house this year.
Work-wise, the news is not good. For several years running, a handful of seriously deluded top administrators at the large public library where I’ve worked for the past fourteen years have been annoying the staff and the hapless public with an increasingly wearisome, destructive, petty, high-handed shenanigans. The relentless nonsense perpetrated by these turkeys is steadily diminishing the staff’s effectiveness and credibility with the library’s customers. Naturally, these particular administrators stubbornly refuse to seek therapy! Nor does it look like they are inclined to leave Georgia anytime soon, even for jobs that pay more than the outrageous sums they already “earn.” I’ll spare you the tedious, depressing details and mention instead a few things I have managed to enjoy in the wage-earning arena despite the machinations of these evil Powers That Be. For example, I’ve been spending more and more time exploring – and trying to explain to anxious colleagues – the mysterious, unwieldy, and totally intriguing electronic creature called the Internet. Another example of unsullied work-related pleasure this year was co-leading with Gay and Lesbian Library Service co-editor Ellen Greenblatt a Public Library Association panel here in Atlanta this past spring. And, as in previous years, I put together a few more displays in our library’s lobby: one last June to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the modern movement for gay and lesbian civil rights in the United States, another extolling the various joys of books and reading, and yet another about the legends of King Arthur. Another memorable work-related event resulted from carrying out some recent instructions from the aforementioned crazed library administrators: with virtually zero advance notice, a colleague and I were commanded to drop everything else we were doing a go spend – within three days at four local bookstores – $26,500 worth of books for our department. As I was heaving those hundreds of wonderful new books into our shopping carts, I felt like those game show prize-winners must feel when they win the chance to ransack a supermarket for all the free groceries they can accumulate in twenty minutes. Aside from the absurdity of spending any library’s book budget in this hurried and arbitrary fashion, it was great fun. And who knows: with the Alice-in-Wonderland management philosophy prevailing at the library these past few years, I might get to do it all again next year!
Happily, neither my mortification with the loony antics of library administrators nor my preoccupation with house and yard chores has dampened my enthusiasm for my primary (and life-long) hobby, which is reading. On the other hand, I have noticed this past year that the amount of time available for indulging in this addiction does seem to have shrunk a bit. You will recall that this little seasonal newletter-ette usually includes a somewhat lengthy list of books I’m heartily recommending to the rest of the reading public. Well, I’ve racked what’s left of my brains at mid-life to figure out what books I’ve read this year, and can come up with a mere two (!) titles: Michael Pollan’s provocative and hilarious Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education (1992) and the Englishman Cyril Connolly’s elegantly-written collection of essays, Enemies of Promise: An Autobiography of Ideas (first published in 1939, reissued in 1960 and again in 1983). I’m chagrinned to realize that I have read zero novels this year. Apparently I’ve spent my entire allotment of precious reading time leafing through garden catalogs, consulting home improvement handbooks, and, of course (mostly on the train to and from work each day) devouring each delicious weekly issue of the New Yorker. I also continue, with intense pleasure, to subscribe to The Sun (still the world’s best monthly magazine, folks). And there was that period of several months last summer where, thanks to the miracle of the national Interlibrary Loan system (plug, plug), I was consuming every picture book and travel guide I could get my hand on about Provence, the region in France whose farms and villages I would dearly love to meander through for a couple of weeks sometime. I even bought and framed a detailed map of Provence to fuel my travel-planning fantasies. Ah, well, one day, perhaps. I just hope I manage to go abroad again before I become too decrepit to endure the rigors of cheap overseas travel! …At any rate, it was in my extensive research about Provence that I stumbled across a passing reference to Connolly’s aforementioned essays (only one of which turned out to be about Provence, by the way). You never know where a footnote will take you….
So much for the reading suggestions and a sampling of this year’s happenings. By far the most significant inner experience this year has been a sobering/wonderful rediscovery of how stupefyingly miraculous it is that we are here at all – alive instead of not alive; how thoroughly unrepeatable each of us is; how terrifyingly fragile our connection is to whatever it is that keeps us breathing; and how powerfully, intricately interconnected each of us is to one another. With that in mind, I send you heartfelt wishes for a warm, a safe, and a gratitude-filled holiday season.
[To be posted as soon as I can locate a copy]
Winter Solstice 1996
Let’s see here: to one side of the little fire crackling in our living room fireplace sits a large tree. Peering at it suspiciously from her comfy throne on the other side of the room is an absurdly regal-looking cat. The dining room table, piled high with ribbons, wrapping paper, sealing wax, and other holiday paraphernalia seems as festive as it is messy; there’s cider brewing on the stove; Handel is blaring gloriously from the CD player—and, wonder of wonders, there’s actually some snow out there in the back yard. An ideal moment to sit down and at least begin this year’s annual Christmas newsletter, n’est-ce pas?
This time around it’s easy to identify this past year’s two Most Personally Gratifying Events: Larry’s graduation ceremony and my trip to southern France. For Larry, getting his Master’s degree from Georgia State University on December 15th marked the end to (or at least some substantial shore leave from) his odyssey through academia. For us, it marks the beginning of a much-awaited New Era in Our Relationship. No more crazed dashes through those long novels on his required reading lists, no more excruciating all-night paper-writing projects, and some welcome relief, finally, to Larry’s exhausting efforts to keep body and soul—and bank balance and household and relationship—intact as he takes classes while simultaneously holding down part-time or full-time jobs. For virtually all of the eight years we’ve known each other, Larry has been in school. We’re both looking forward to seeing Larry’s energies freed up to pursue other interests and for us both to be on similar schedules for a change!
…And perchance even traveling to Europe together, as we’ve never had the chance to do? Fortunately, I was able to go overseas this past year for a long-awaited and somewhat extended return to Provence. Also fortunately, I was able to share the trip with my dear and much-missed friend Joyce, who left Atlanta last summer to live with her daughter’s family on an air force base in Germany. Joyce and I rendezvoused in Paris, then took the “bullet train” to Avignon where we leased a car for three weeks.
Basing ourselves in the wonderful Hotel d’Atelier across the river from the disconcertingly traffic-choked Avignon, we spent our days wandering around the mostly-deserted back roads of Provence under some of the bluest skies I’ve seen outside of Greece—which, happily, Provence resembles in many ways. Joyce and I explored—a bit too thoroughly in some cases for Joyce, I think—probably a dozen or so sleepy hilltop villages. Most of them were built in medieval times and all of them overlook deliciously calm and exquisitely colorful valleys of vineyards and orchards.
Later on, we wandered over into Italy, where in retrospect we should’ve stayed longer than we did at Pensione St. Giorgio, with its spectacular hillside view of Santa Margherita, a picture-perfect harbor town near the even more spectacular Cinque Terra area, which we also explored. After encountering relentless traffic snarls in every city in central Italy we naively tried to visit in our rental car, we meandered up toward Germany via the gorgeous resort towns that ring Lake Maggiore—just in time to find everything there was closing down for the winter. With a one-night stopover in Switzerland, we crossed back into France and parked ourselves in Strasbourg until it got too cold to stay any longer.
Since returning home I’ve been yammering on to anyone who will listen about my soul-nourishing (if otherwise somewhat exhausting) trip and its numerous Peak Experiences and various Travel Lessons Vividly Learned.
Other events of the past year that come to mind at the moment are some serious health problems for both my dad and his wife, some of whose problems resulting in hospital visits and surgeries; my brother Mike’s and his family’s move last Spring to Central Oregon (by all accounts Paradise itself, but so remote from Atlanta!); and, last winter, another AIDS-related death in my circle of friends and acquaintances.
One of the more unusual aspects of 1996 was Atlanta’s survival of the (drum roll, please) Centennial Summer Olympic Games. Although it was intriguing to be surrounded for a few weeks by thousands of foreign-language-speaking strangers, what might’ve been an inspiring two weeks was doomed from the outset by the relentless commercialism that preceded and pervaded them.
On the other hand, one nice upshot of the otherwise nauseating pre-Games hype was that, for few blesséd weeks there, the city’s streets—and the Central Library, and local restaurants—were clear of virtually all traffic: most locals had either left town or were cowering in their bunkers. Except for a single brief (pre-bomb) foray into Centennial Park, Lare and I stayed away from the carny-like vortex and watched the games—well, the gymnastics, anyway—like the greater part of mankind did: on television. Too bad our remote control wasn’t working: we endured every one of those damn tv commercials! (Incidentally, apart from that weird parade of Chevy pickup trucks, I thought the Opening Ceremonies was pretty impressive, didn’t you?)
In addition to my trip to Provence being a way to spend some quality time with Joyce, it was also a most welcome interlude in the increasingly unpleasant situation at the library where I’ve worked for 15 years. Like a lot of other public libraries around the country, ours has been hit with crippling budget cuts that translate into increased and chronic stress for everyone trying to provide what few services we still provide (and much of that badly, which itself is demoralizing). Those budget and staff cuts, plus a series of wacko decisions by a profoundly out-of-touch—and, thank goodness, now recently departed—regime of managers were exacerbated this past year by my having to adjust to three different bosses within the period of several months.
Not landing a library job I’d interviewed for at Emory University last summer was a major disappointment. As circumstances at my beloved but dysfunctional library continue to deteriorate, I hope one thing 1997 will bring to me is another opportunity to improve my work situation, either by finding a position in another part of the same organization, or in another institution altogether.
One development in 1996 that’s been helpful in coping with the dismal picture at my “day job” has been the increasing amount of time outside of work that I’ve been able to devote to free-lance editing. My earnings helped pay for that trip to Provence, and I hope further editing jobs will help defray the expenses of a future trans-Atlantic trip or two. Also gratifying (and slightly remunerative, or potentially so) were some advice I gave to the publishers of two reference books now in the works and a wee bit of progress on revising my embarrassingly out-of-date “Booklover’s Guide to Atlanta.”
This past year’s travels have included repeat visits to some favorite spots in the USA. I started out 1996 accompanying my sister Lori (then recently graduated from art school) and my sister Gayle to see the Vermeer exhibit in Washington, D.C., where I also got to visit with my friend Terry who lives there. I spent the week of my birthday in July at the American Library Association’s convention in New York—an exhilarating and exhausting adventure, as always. Larry and I spent a few days in and around Hot Springs, NC (near Asheville) for a lovely outdoor wedding in August, and I traveled to (of all places) Chattanooga, Tennessee twice this year—once with Larry over Labor Day weekend and again with my librarian pals Dee and Paul during their visit to Atlanta for Thanksgiving.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I continue to surprise myself by how much I enjoy simply hanging out at home doing those mundane chores that homeowners do in their spare time. For example, my herb garden was, for an amateur’s first attempt, fairly successful. I added more hostas and nandina bushes to the patio area, and it was fun to add to our tiny piece of real estate a few baby trees, including a Japanese maple just outside the window of the guest bedroom. Other home improvements in 1996 included a new French door to separate the living room from the rest of the house, gutter guards that should prevent further floods through our living room windows, and some mortifyingly expensive but absolutely necessary visits from a plumber, an electrician, and the pest control people. I may seem inordinately proud of these developments chez nous, but for us, each of these things – especially that frantic call to the outfit called “Varmit Control” – were Very Big Deals. The Squirrel-in-the-Attic/Squirrel-Down-the-Chimney/Squirrel-in-the-Bed-with-Larry incident was especially memorable. Fortunately, no interior rodent sightings were reported by any of this past year’s overnight human visitors to our house, visitors who included (last April) Larry’s mom.
On the book-reading front in 1996, last July I began a two-year stint on the book award committee of the ALA’s Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Task Force. That means I’m expected to read and pass judgment on—and find a place to store!—dozens and dozens of mostly wonderful books the committee chair arranges to arrive in my mailbox. The passing judgment part would be easier if I could manage the time to read these items, no? So far, my favorite candidate is Heaven’s Coast, a memoir by the poet Mark Doty. Wait for the paperback if you must, but please treat yourself to this mesmerizing and haunting book. Those of you without the inclination to read this or any other book are, of course, encouraged again this year to do yourselves a favor and subscribe to the world’s two best magazines, The Sun and the New Yorker. I’m telling you, I would be downright inconsolable should either of these two amazing publications go out of business in my lifetime; how do so many people do without the pleasure they bring so reliably?
…Well, since beginning this letter weeks ago, the weather turned from appropriately freezing to downright tropical—we’re talking day after day of 70-degree temperatures here—and now it’s bitter cold again outside! A few days ago Larry and I—guess who was the more reluctant?—pulled down our Christmas tree and packed away all the trimmings for another year. This leaves me with no further excuses for finishing this letter and mailing it off this very week. I hope the New Year has begun the way you’d wanted it to.
(modeled after the “Harper’s Index” featured in each issue of Harper’s Magazine)
Number of Cal’s voluntary transfers to other jobs at the public library where he works, and the month that occurred: 1; March
Current average number of the great unwashed public Cal deals with per day in his new position: 0
Job satisfaction rate vs. job dissatisfaction rate in new position: 50%/50%
Satisfaction rate with current supervisor over former one: 100%
Number of monthly staff newsletters Cal has created since starting his new job: 9
Number of library displays Cal put together this year in the lobby of the public library where he works, and the months he did so: 2 (May, November)
Number of pay raises for Cal this year: 3
Number of those raises resulting from his new position at the library: 0
Number of Cal’s free-lance editing clients this year: 4
Number of published librarian-ship journal articles Cal co-authored in 1997: 1
Approximate number of linear feet of shoe molding Larry’s friend and wizard carpenter Steve Skufka installed last Spring at 1576 McLendon: 196
Number of rooms involved in remodeling projects underway at 1576 McLendon as you are reading this: 5
Projected number of months it will take to repay bank loan for these projects: 36
Number of delightful visits made to out-of-town nurseries with oldest sister and fellow garden enthusiast Gayle: 3
To intown nurseries: 4
Number of trees, shrubs, or other perennials (not counting herbs) planted in 1997: 14
Of those, number of rhododendron bushes: 6
Number of Cal’s visits (with and/or without Larry and/or friends) to North Georgia mountains this past year (excluding imminent experimental Xmas encampment there with immediate family): 3
Number of weekend trips this past year to Asheville, NC, where Larry earned his under-graduate degree: 1
Number and destinations of Cal’s trips this year involving airplanes: 2 (Washington, D.C., and Madison, Wisconsin)
Number of trips to Akron, Ohio Larry made to visit ailing father, older
brother, and childhood haunts: 1
Number of visits this year to beaches named after Catholic saints: 2 (St. Augustine, St. George’s Island)
Number of months since Cal has traveled across an ocean: 13
Hometowns of overnight guests this past year, in chronological order by visitor: Dallas, Philadelphia, Asheville, Phoenix, Greensboro
Number of times a group of gay friends has met together monthly in each others’ homes to discuss spiritual questions: 9
Number of men in that group at present: 12
Number of books Cal is expected to read, skim, or thoroughly fondle within the next 30 days as one of a dozen judges for a national gay/lesbian/bisexual book award: 52
Approximate number of inches Cal has added to his waistline since mid-decade: 2.5
Number of pounds: 20
Estimated reduction in Cal’s consumption of milkshakes and french fries due to doctor’s warnings about cholesterol levels: 80%
Number of consecutive hours Cal gleefully spent shopping recently in a single huge store 110 miles north of Atlanta for Xmas trimmings and stocking stuffers: 8.5
Number of life partners mortified by this annual compulsive ritual: 1
Estimated percentage of personal correspondence conducted via electronic mail in 1997: 97%
Proportion of (nonvirtual) Xmas cards and newsletters mailed this year to friends not living in Atlantis vs. mailed to friends living here: 50%
Number of items currently on Cal’s list of specific activities he enjoys about the holiday season every year (e.g., looking again at holiday cards received in previous years): 23
Number of brothers, sisters-in-law, or nieces who will be missed at annual family Christmas gathering because they moved away to Oregon year before last: 1 each
Number of housecats habitually and stubbornly enthroned in most comfortable chair at 1576 McLendon Avenue: 1
Likelihood of that cat moving from that spot any time soon, regardless of seating needs of alleged house owners: 0
Number of pages this newsletter might have been had I not used this format: You don’t want to know this.
Winter Solstice 1998
People of Earth:
From the vantage point of mid-December, 1998 feels like The Year of the Great Blur! Is it because I turned 50 this year that time seems to have accelerated? Or because I’ve put in so much overtime at work? Whatever the reasons for being astonished that another year is almost gone, I hope that in 1999 I can find a few more ways to slow down and smell a few more of those proverbial roses.
Speaking of which, there was far too little gardening this past year at our house. That was partly due to the fact that I completely missed the spring planting season – the yard was still piled high with construction debris from our remodeling projects. At least five different “shrubberies” (as Monty Python calls them) still wait impatiently in their pots to be planted, and that’s not counting the pot-bound plants I’ve carted home from faraway nurseries only to kill them before I could get them in the ground.
The herb garden went totally untended this year and certainly looks it (when you can even find it amongst the towering weeds, that is); and the wall I impulsively started to build along the driveway – and then just as abruptly had to abandon – will probably not be up until after next spring’s bulbs begin to sprout nearby.
On the other hand, this past year I did manage to find the time to throw together a sort of ivy-covered trellis-and-bamboo concoction out back to screen off our patio (a new glass wall in the bedroom faces the patio). In front of the screen, I’ve placed a bench to sit upon and gaze out at my garden – come that fine day when there’s actually a garden worth gazing at.
Meanwhile, inside the house, the renovations we started last November are, miracle of miracles, at last complete. Larry and I, Hilo the Wonder Cat, and assorted houseguests have all been enjoying our spruced-up, mildew-free bathroom, as well as a whole new sitting/reading/tea-sipping/pet-enthronement area: a blindingly white – if tiny – sunporch; very soon now, a bunch of overwintering outdoor plants will also be enjoying that porch.
Likewise being thoroughly enjoyed is the aforementioned glass wall looking out onto the patio from the back bedroom, the glass providing much better – and mosquito-free! – views of the patio plants, the resident chipmunks, and the occasional stray dog. And even after all these months after we put them up, it’s still a thrillette each morning to pull aside the fabulously theatrical deep green drapes my mom made for these bedroom windows so I can let in all the light.
Finally, the newest addition to our wee homestead is the small fountain on the edge of the patio, which is not only wonderful to look at and listen to, but also helps muffle the rush-hour traffic noises from the road in front of the house – these noises being only serious drawback to living in our otherwise resident-friendly in-town neighborhood.
Happily, we were not forced to spend every minute of 1998 sharing our home with the house contractor people; during quite a few weekends, at least, Larry and I hosted out-of-state friends or were out of town being guests ourselves. Our overnight visitors this year hailed from South Carolina, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Washington DC, Florida, Wisconsin, and New Mexico.
My out-of-town destinations in 1998 began last January in New Orleans at yet another convention of librarians (alas, probably my final appearance for a while at that annual conclave unless I win the lottery). Next came a long weekend in Florida shortly before flying up to Akron, Ohio in February for Larry’s dad’s memorial service. We spent Larry’s birthday (Memorial Day weekend) in New York City staying with Lare’s cousin Jeff and his partner John, visiting also with other friends in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and being treated by these generous souls to a wonderfully exhausting series of faboux cultural experiences that only New York can offer. My birthday weekend this year we spent with a passel of friends at our favorite rental cabin atop a mountain (and on a nearby lake) in north Georgia. Labor Day weekend we spent with friends at yet another Florida beach house, mostly flailing away hysterically at games of quadruple solitaire or munching down on enormous quantities of fresh seafood. In October, I flew off to Pennsylvania to participate on a panel of librarians at a conference there, and for Christmas Larry and I will fly to Arizona to visit Larry’s mom and Larry’s brother’s family, plus a friend of ours, near Phoenix. No transatlantic trips to report this year, but, hey, Lare and I are definitely planning one (to Merrie Olde England) sometime before the Millennium.
…If I still have my job that long, that is. The bad situation at my chronically dysfunctional library has gone from ludicrously bad to disturbingly worse. The tiresome antics of an Interim Director racing about like the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland, vilifying and threatening everyone in sight (including, recently, yours truly) have been far overshadowed lately by increasingly obnoxious emanations from our board of trustees, otherwise known as The Gang of Seventeen. Mostly incompetent, highly delusional, and incredibly vicious, this crew continues to wreak their exquisitely draining brand of havoc on everything they touch – which in their case is a lot of things. Having long ago traumatized into paralysis most of the library’s top managers, and having run off late last spring yet another library director, these implacable so-called people apparently mean to keep at it until they demolish every smidgen of rationality from the organization’s operations. They methodically extinguish virtually every detectable spark of employee initiative or enthusiasm and severely punish every instance of employee competence that occasionally manages to bob to the surface of the sea of mediocrity the Board seems hell-bent on maintaining. Their latest campaign is trying to find ways – legal or otherwise – to declare all but five (count ‘em, five) administrative librarians’ jobs as superfluous so they can eliminate them (i.e., a whole raft of us) from the payroll.
How bad is it? Well, let’s just say that the underground newsletter lampooning the antics of these people that I felt provoked to publish last summer – not to mention the strongly-worded no-confidence petition signed around the same time by over two hundred library employees – seems, in retrospect, far too kind. I spent the greater part of last week trying to compile, at the urgent behest of our loony board member, a list of reasons why librarians should be permitted to operate libraries. The Board has somehow gotten into its tiny little collective head the notion that most librarians, especially those worthless functionaries (such as moi) who work behind the scenes can be replaced with part-time teenagers – you know, the people the local Barnes & Noble hires during Christmas season. And this little list-making assignment was merely the most recent irritating and time-consuming trustee-fending-off chore: there has been a steady stream of them for several years now. (Actually, I think the trustees have got it precisely backwards: any randomly-chosen set of seventeen teenagers would do a better job of running the library Board!)
In any case, our runaway freight train of a library board may pretty soon result in a spectacular train-wreck and, if the trustees have anything to say about it, Cal may soon be spending all his time tending his garden – without any pesky work routine to worry about whatsoever!
Whether out of such a Bleak Midwinter something positive work-wise will emerge remains, for the moment, shrouded in mystery and gathering clouds of potential litigation. Despite my attempts to stay focused on those parts of my duties that I am still permitted to perform, the overall workplace situation often smells to me like some terrible rough beast slouching ever closer to thwart all my plans – and all the plans of equally-beleaguered colleagues – to make our library a better one. Perhaps something definitive will happen soon, and the sordid – or happy – details can be revealed in next year’s edition of this newsletter. In the meantime, anybody out there in Libraryland who’s in the market for hiring a well-seasoned, highly motivated (if currently exasperated) 50-year-old liberrian is welcome to send me an email at email@example.com.
Despite the circus going on at my workplace this year and the stress it’s brought into my life, I think the most permanent negative marks 1998 will leave on my psyche have nothing to do with work but instead with the highly-publicized murders this year of three people I’ve never met. That black man in Texas dragged to his death behind a truck, the young gay man in Wyoming tied to a fence before being beaten to death, and the New York doctor gunned down in his home by some still-at-large self-appointed (and presumably anti-fetus-killing) executioner – somehow these three unusually brutal and remorseless murders (out of all the thousands of murders committed in our country in 1998) overshadow this year’s schoolyard massacres, the year’s quota of murderous genocide in Africa and the Balkans, and this week’s tragic deliberate bombings of people on another side of our little planet.
The statistic that I will most remember from this past year: that 1998 was the year when the number of (officially reported) lethal hate crimes against lesbians and gay men exceeded the number of lynchings in a single year of black men in this country’s remarkably murderous history. I realize that I’m supposed to have been cheered up by the fact that 1998 is also the year that the Georgia Supreme Court, in overturning the state’s antique sodomy law, has finally decreed that Larry and I and many of my dearest friends are no longer to be considered unindicted felons. Somehow, though, I don’t find myself feeling very cheerful at the news of this long-overdue gesture of sanity, or even feeling relieved – instead, it all leaves me feeling more cynical than ever.
Fortunately, mixed in with these unsettling currents of anger and despair are a number of modest pleasures enjoyed, small wonders beheld, and personal goals accomplished in 1998. Among them:
• Marking a ten-year anniversary with Larry, and a five-year anniversary of living together in our little houselette.
• Several long-term friendships quietly sustained or gratifyingly deepened.
• Being transfixed or transformed by the stimulating, provocative, haunting, dazzlingly beautiful, or otherwise astonishing worlds that have streamed from the pages of another year’s worth of my favorite magazines, The Sun and the New Yorker (subscriptions to either or both once again unhesitatingly recommended!).
• Attending fewer funerals this year.
• Gradually converting (at my advanced age!) my eating habits into those of a would-be vegetarian.
• Working productively for yet another new supervisor (this time – hallelujah! – someone who knows what’s she’s doing), and helping her orchestrate the opening day collection of a huge new branch library.
• Cranking out another twelve issues of a newsletter for my compadres at work.
• Earning extra bucks spending my pre-workday early morning hours doing what I think I do best: editing the creative work of other writers.
• Spending quite a few Sunday mornings with a congregation of local Quakers, silently meditating with others for an hour.
• Watching my cat living-in-the-moment and aging more gracefully than her so-called owner seems to be able to do.
…To prevent these end-of-year musings from rambling on to an even more embarrassing length, I will forego the annual lists of book recommendations and sightings of literary celebrities, and instead wish you a pleasant holiday season and an upcoming year of enriching and/or serene moments. Whatever challenges 1999 brings your way, and to those dear to you, may the coming year be frequently punctuated with pleasant surprises. Or, as Garrison Keillor says so succinctly every day on his public radio “Writer’s Almanac” program, “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”
Final Pre-Millennial Issue*
*Or is it? See Stephen Jay Gould’s enlightening and entertaining answer to the controversy about when the next century begins in his Questioning the Millennium: A Rationalist’s Guide to a Precisely Arbitrary Countdown (1997).
Note: This greeting is coming to you a bit later in the year than it did most years when I was considerably younger and more spry. This year’s delay is also partly deliberate: I thought it might be fun to mail out my greetings from where Larry and I will be spending the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day: the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains (see related story). If my plan works out well, this arrange-ment for sending out the annual news-letter in relative serenity might become a trend! Stay tuned!
Cal’s & Larry’s Transatlantic Adventure
A ten-year-old dream of Cal’s and Larry’s to travel overseas together finally materialized this past year. They spent the last two weeks of September in Merrie Olde England, splitting their time about evenly between pounding the pavements of London and doing day trips in a rental car from a single, fabulous rental cottage in the wee Cotswolds village of Ilmington, about eight miles south of Stratford-upon-Avon.
This was Cal’s third trip to the United Kingdom and Larry’s first trip abroad. London highlights included self-guided walking tours of various haunts of Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury circle. Hinterland highlights included a pilgrimage to Shakespeare Country (Larry’s master’s degree was in English Literature). In addition to motoring agape rough numerous and relentlessly picturesque Cotswold “willages,” Larry and Cal made side trips made to Warwick, Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, and Wells.
In addition to their extensive cathedral-touring, palace-prowling, garden-ogling, and museum-gift-shoppe-shopping, Cal and Larry also took in more theater performances during their two weeks in England than they usually do during a whole year in Atlanta, and those performances were uniformly wonderful. Our meals, on the other hand, were uniformly expensive and forgettable. Much more enjoyable were the twice-daily forays into tea shoppes, and the conversations overheard on London Tube trains were often hilarious. (When pronounced with a British accent, even the epithet “asshole!” has an irresistibly charming ring to it.)
Cal Still Unhappy with Work Situation
Circumstances at Cal’s workplace have gotten worse since last year—and the year before that, and the year before that. Cal’s now working for the third boss he’s inherited since moving three years ago from a highly stressful dealing-directly-with-the-public-every-day library reference department to the semi-stressful behind-the-scenes job of coordinating selection of materials for adult readers.
Frustrated by a variety of infuriating obstacles and setbacks, and wearied by added duties I inherited from two co-workers who left this year (and who were not replaced, and won’t be), Cal lobbies daily and prays nightly that the library’s recently hired director—also the third in three years—will hurry the hell up and hire a Collection Development Officer. The CDO is a management position our library board was finally convinced we needed desperately after our having endured eight miserable, havoc-spewing years without one. With the hiring of a new CDO, Cal and his few remaining immediate co-workers would be moved to the CDO’s supervision, and things could start making sense again. Unless, of course, the library hires some Proven Dolt who knows zero and cares even less about public library collections. (Alas, such a maneuver would not be without precedent in our institution.)
One of the main things Cal looks forward to in the New World Order is restoring his monthly training newsletter for library materials selectors to its rightful length and breadth of coverage . Since last summer my then-new and still current supervisor has gutted every issue to the point that I’m ashamed of distributing what’s left of the thing each month.
Meanwhile, things have remained pretty grim work-wise for Calvin, who used to love his work. Cal’s main work-related problem seems to be that he simply hasn’t been able to exchange his ingrained customer service attitudes for the delay-tolerant, inefficient, shameless ways of his library’s system’s technical services department.
Cal, Larry Co-Purchase Mountain Getaway
Along with five other long-time friends, Cal and Larry are now the proud co-owners of a cabin two miles outside of Blue Ridge, Georgia, about an hour-and-a-half’s mostly-scenic drive from Atlanta. The joint purchase is the result of many years worth of yammering among a group of long-time friends about how groovy it would be to buy our own place rather than continuing to rent them to conduct our several annual weekend get-togethers in the mountains. The means, motive, and opportunity finally came together this past July 30, and us co-owners are still pretty excited about our mutual purchase of a retreat to offset our otherwise thoroughly urbanized daily routines.
Our name for the place: “A View of Our Own.”
The shareholders have divvied up the 52 weeks of the year among ourselves, setting aside seven weeks as “All-Group Weeks” to make sure that we could all get together simultaneously. This has proven to be a wise move, since at least one shareholder is always out of town…at the cabin!
The two-story cabin, built in 1984 and sold fully furnished and equipped, has 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, and sleeps up to 10 people. The cabin sits on a large lot on a dead-end gravel road surrounded by woods and a few neighboring cabins. Lake Blue Ridge and a grocery store are only two miles away.
Cal and Larry apparently like the place quite a bit: they’ve spent 10 weekends there in the past 5 months!
Calvin Roy Gough, Jr.
Miscellaneous Factoids from 1576 McLendon & Beyond
1999 marked Year Two of Cal’s Recent Tentative Experiment in Semi-Vegetarian Eating, and Year One of Larry’s Return to It.
Cal and Larry refinanced their house last February, a first for both of them.
In May, Cal and Harvey (who at one point lived together in San Francisco where Harvey still lives) were able to get together in the Georgia mountains for a long-postponed catch-up marathon.
Hot off the presses: Uncle Bill’s and Aunt Corinne’s well-documented and engagingly written 540-page history of the Gaddy family (Cal’s maternal line) since Colonial times.
Cal’s oldest niece Shauna graduated from high school this year, immediately after which her mom (my sister Lori) took off for a much-anticipated trip to Italy with a friend. This was Lori’s first trip abroad, and she and Debbie were able to stay part of the time with my ex-wife Peg and her husband Gary, now retired and living in Rome.
Cal’s reading this year—apart from his routine devouring (mostly on the subway) of the indispensable magazines The Sun and the New Yorker—has been unexpectedly dominated by the (nonfiction) writings of Virginia Woolf. First he became fascinated with the (abridged) diaries, next the (abridged) letters, and now he’s looking forward to reading a minimum of several dozen of her essays. Cal’s initial obsession with VW pretty quickly extended itself to the biographical essays of Lytton Strachey, and to at least a half-dozen biographies of the others in the Bloomsbury crew. (One of this year’s peak experiences for Cal was his opportunity at the new British Library Sound Archives to listen to a snippet of an old BBC recording of Virginia Woolf’s voice.) Cal’s final Reading Find of 1999 was yet another addition to the Bloomsbury-related gossip mill, entitled Bloomsbury Pie: The Making of the Bloomsbury Boom (1997). Great stuff!
Not much to report this year, especially the latter half of the year, when most weekends were being spent not in the backyard but up at the mountain cabin—itself an entire potential new venue for gardening, of course. This year’s rather modest outdoor improvements:
- setting up a trellis at the side entrance to the garage and a semi-successful attempt to training a grapevine over it;
- reshaping the herb garden;
- relocating the fountain from the middle of the patio to one of its corners;
- finally getting around to planting in the ground two trees that had sat for two seasons forlornly root-bound in the pots I bought them in.
Cal’s Resolutions for Y2K
- Spend more time volunteering at Quaker Meeting House Library.
- Convince Larry that he wants to teach me yoga.
- Resume Tai Chi lessons.
- Get an Internet connection and an e-mail account at home.
- Worry less about job-related stuff when I’m not at work.
- Create at least one book exhibit in the library’s lobby.
- medium orange
- 12-ounce package cranberries
- 1¼ cups sugar
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 16-oz can sliced peaches, drained
- 16-oz can sliced pears, drained
- 16-oz can sliced apricot halves, drained
Grate 1 teaspoon of orange peel and squeeze ¼ cup fresh juice. In 3-quart saucepan over high heat, heat juice, peel, berries, and next five ingredients. Boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes or until berries pop and mixture thickens. Add canned fruit. Heat through. Mixture may be served warm or cold. May be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.
December 17, 2000
Dear One & All, Near & Far:
I woke up this morning to find a flame-red cardinal munching away at the bird feeder just outside our glassed-in porch. Soon he was joined by his less-brilliantly-colored mate. Both seemed amazingly indifferent to the miraculous inch or so of snow that had fallen in our neighborhood during the night, and to the bone-chilling winds flailing away at what few leaves were left on the trees. After finishing a comforting cup of tea while watching these mysterious flittering, feathered creatures, it occurred to me that this was the perfect moment—very early during my last day of a full week’s glorious vacation from work—to begin typing up this annual holiday newsletter.
To quickly dispense with my more unpleasant tidings, this year the situation in the library where I’ve worked since 1981 has gone, like the traffic and the weather in Atlanta, from Already Bad to Unbelievably Worse. It is disheartening and of course intensely frustrating trying to get any worthwhile “customer service” done in a place where the values and priorities of those in charge are so frightfully at odds with my own.
In addition to increasingly demoralizing circumstances at work for me personally (not getting a promotion I applied for, losing my full-time assistant while being given more duties, being forced to adapt to my fourth boss in four years, etc.), the past twelve months have also spawned not only a raft of very energy-draining and unpleasant formal grievances by assorted employees (including yours truly), but a federal lawsuit as well. Though not a plaintiff in the lawsuit myself, my efforts to support my colleagues who are have most recently taken the form of helping launch an Internet web site (www.AFPLWATCH.com), where those of you with Internet connections can read the grisly details of what sometimes feels like a galactic struggle between the Forces of Good and Evil and what, at other times, seems a huge and futile waste of precious time, energy, and money.
Although The Powers That Be have not actually chiseled over the front door of the library’s front door the words “Abandon All Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here,” they might as well have. Those of us who haven’t been able to resign or retire earlier than we would have otherwise march grimly on into the new year, constrained by the “golden handcuffs” of our far-higher-than-average salaries and worrying what Fresh Hells are in store for us over the next twelve months.
Fortunately, my life outside of work has been far more pleasant. The year 2000’s happier events include:
• The birth, last spring, of my first and so-far-only grand-nephew, one Kaelan Orion DeLong—who is every bit as splendid and unwieldy as his name. At the rate he’s learning to crawl and grab hold of tablecloths-full of available bric-a-brac, he’ll no doubt be the center of attention at this year’s family (and Kaelan’s first) Christmas gathering.
• Larry’s landing an office administrator job last July at the regional office of a national organization that sponsors landmark lawsuits aimed at increasing legal protections for lesbians and gay men. Although the job is temporary until the firm decides whether or not to hire him (or someone else) permanently, the long, grueling era of Larry’s working in an abusive, badly managed department at Georgia State University is over. (Both of us enduring similarly abusive work environments simultaneously was really beginning to work our nerves.) Larry really likes his new work environment, and we’re both hoping the foundation will decide very soon to hire him permanently.
• The purchase (in late August) of my first pick-up truck, which despite its lower gas mileage I’m having a lot of fun with, especially since it makes hauling things to and fro so much easier. I wish I’d bought a truck years ago—in fact, I may never buy another car again!
• My niece Jessie’s graduation from high school.
• My sister Gayle’s long-awaited and much-envied (early) retirement from her job as a psychiatric nurse.
• Spending almost half the year’s weekends cocooned in the enormously peaceful and comfortable cabin in the North Georgia mountains that (as mentioned in last year’s newsletter) Larry and I co-purchased in July 1999 with some Atlanta friends. Those weekends—especially the warmer ones spent there after the purchase of a giguntous hammock—have kept me sane and mindful of the many blessings in my life, including the blessing of the cabin itself.
Due to these frequent trips to the cabin – not to mention those frequent cabin mortgage payments – I’ve done less of two things that I love to do more than anything except maybe reading a good book: puttering in what I loosely call my garden (although I did find time this year to install a bamboo, some Boston ivy, another Japanese maple, and a gingko tree), and traveling out of Georgia—and, whenever possible, out of the United States altogether. To my chagrin, I didn’t get out of Georgia at all this entire year. I’ve also spent far less time than I would have preferred attending Quaker meetings in Atlanta (where I’m supposed to be working as the meeting’s volunteer librarian). Unfortunately, there’s no Quaker congregation in or near Blue Ridge, where the cabin’s located.
Speaking of the cabin, Larry and I plan to end of the year 2000 like we began it: snuggled in front of the cabin’s fireplace with a few friends, in the middle of some very quiet woods and far away from the buzzing beehive that Atlanta has become—and very far away from the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library and the local Border’s bookstore, where Larry, to earn some extra Christmas money, is toiling away at a part-time second job as I type this newsletter.
Here’s wishing you many good things in the coming year. I much appreciate the efforts of those of you who’ve recently written me news of your own journeys throughout this past year, and look forward to receiving a few more such missives throughout the few remaining days of the year 2000. For I do enjoy visiting with, or at least hearing from, almost all my friends and family— whether living nearby or not so near—every holiday season.
Finally, despite the strong temptation to do so, I won’t end this newsletter with my annual list of recently-read and highly-recommended books. (Although, as usual, I renew my plea to consider subscribing to either The Sun or the New Yorker, or to both, certain they will bring to you as much exhilaration as they reliably bring to their other stalwart fans, including moi.)
Instead of a book list, then, and in the spirit of the year’s-end reflecting that a lot of us are doing these final days of another year fast coming to a close, I pass along from a single favorite book published this past year (Joyce McCreevy’s Gardening by Heart) two equally provocative questions useful for thinking about at the end of any year we’re given:
Did you find joy? Did you bring joy?
Partly to celebrate his birthday this past May, Larry and I took a trip together to see our friend Terry in his new house outside Washington, D.C., and then on to New York City, where we rendezvoused for a couple of days of sightseeing with my brother Mike (in town for a few weeks to help make a movie before returning to his home and family in central Oregon).
Highlights of the NYC leg of our trip included revisiting The Cloisters (the Metropolitan Museum’s medieval art collection, including the recently restored Unicorn Tapestries and my favorite U.S. herb garden), and being treated by our friend Corky to the riveting new Tom Stoppard play, The Invention of Love, about the life of poet and scholar A.E. Housman. The next morning Larry also got to briefly visit with his cousin Jeff and Jeff’s partner John, who live in Manhattan not too far north of the World Trade Center.
Mountain Cabin News
Aside from our trip to D.C. and New York City last spring, we’ve stayed in Georgia this year. Which isn’t to say that we’ve stayed put in Atlanta, as we’ve continued to travel—virtually every other weekend, in fact—to the mountain cabin that Larry and I co-purchased with several friends a few years ago. Our enthusiasm for spending time at the cabin shows no signs of diminishing.
As I’d been hoping she might, this past summer my sister Gayle also co-purchased a mountain cabin this past summer. The fact that her place is only 33 miles away from ours means it’s easier for us to get together for visits when we’re both in the mountains than when we’re both at home!
A major improvement this year to “A View of Our Own” was the decision to pitch in with our neighbors in Tanglewood Cove to pay for paving the long and winding (and rut-filled) road the cabin sits on. It’s amazingly easier nowadays to get up and down the mountain!
Sharing time at the cabin with long-time friends continues to be a joy. This year we were able to a splendid autumn weekend lolling at the cabin with our friend Harvey, who flew in from San Francisco. Also this fall we again hosted at the cabin the Gough Family Thanksgiving.
…If you haven’t spent time with us in this magical place, we certainly hope you will one day!
Exciting Employment Developments!
Our household’s biggest news this year was Larry’s move to a permanent position after working temp jobs for over a year.
At long last, Larry’s willingness to learn, his energy, and his customer service skills are finally being appreciated, which leaves Larry somewhat chagrined, as taking this job is Larry’s first foray into Corporate America. His new, downtown employer is called AmericasMart (formerly the Atlanta Market Center), the largest concentration of trade show space in the country, where Larry works with the people who rent out Center space between the major annual trade shows. Apparently there’s a high potential for eventual promotions and, so far, all the work-related stories I’ve heard have been remarkably positive ones, and Larry’s colleagues really seem to be a sharp, humane bunch of folks. It’s great that at least one of us is finally happy with his job situation; it was rough going there for a while when we were both coping with jobs in which we were profoundly miserable.
Instead of using my annual savings this past year to make another trip abroad, I opted instead to hire a friend with proven carpentry skills to build us something this summer that I’ve secretly wanted for decades: floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in the living room! This massive bookcase turned out just as I’d imagined it, and the job (including the repainting of two walls) was finished in barely more than a month from the night we signed the contract. Hurray!
Finished even more quickly was the long-awaited painting of Larry’s bedroom (a calming shade of gray called “chromium”) and of our hallway (with “curry cream,” the same color as our living room and dining room).
Whether we’ll fork over another couple hundred bucks to also get the home office painted in 2002 remains to be seen.
Our frequent visits to the mountain cabin have put the kibosh on some of my former gardening ambitions since spending so much time at the mountain cabin cuts into the time available to putter around out in the back yard of our house in Atlanta. I’m not complaining, you understand—just explaining why, after also subtracting from my time in the garden the total number of hours the mosquitoes drove me back into the house, our little patch of ground has sadly gone more untended than tended this past season. I did manage this year to haul in enough rocks to begin constructing a knee-high dry-stacked stone wall along an edge of the herb garden—as much to trigger flashbacks to my visits to the English countryside as to deal with the erosion problem at hand. My green-thumbed sister Gayle remains my primary gardening pal, and we managed to spend another small fortune this past year during several glorious all-day excursions to nurseries in the area.
This year’s Christmas festivities are being extended in both directions from the 25th, which we will spend, per usual, at my mom’s place with most of the extended Gough family in attendance.
We started out the season early with our friend Kim doing the annual Holiday tour of homes in her nearby neighborhood. By the time I mail this newsletter, we’ll be enjoying a mid-month visit from our friend Terry from D.C.
The weekend before Christmas, Larry and I are hosting a Christmas Tea for a long-suffering group of library colleagues who are suing the library for job discrimination (their next court date is scheduled for January 7, 2002; details are available on the Internet at http://www.afplwatch.com).
A few days after the 25th, we’ll be treated to a rare visit from our friend Blanche, who moved away to a new job in South Georgia a little over a year ago. Then it’s off to North Carolina to check out the “Candlelight Christmas” version of the Biltmore Mansion in Asheville, a town Larry and I both love and where Larry finished his undergraduate education.
We’ll be back at the cabin with assorted friends for New Year’s Eve, safe from the drunk drivers and the hubbub of the bright lights of the big city. It’s the best way I know of to end any year.
So there’s my news, folks. I hope to be hearing from you during the holidays. Happy Holidays!
“I walk around, aware and unaware, seasoning the familiar with the unfamiliar….My knowledge of the world, a steadily enlarging store, is chastened again and again by revelations of my ignorance….I think I know each season, the year’s colossal quadrants, but every successive spring, summer, fall, and winter is a set of new discoveries….There are always new combinations, new thresholds, surprises. Time turns a corner, opens a new vista.” – David Young, from Seasoning: A Poet’s Year (Ohio State University Press, 1999)
Journey through Mid-50s Takes a Few Unexpected Turns
The previously turbulence-free journey through my mid-50s took several rather unexpected turns this past year.
Early January brought a resounding legal victory for some colleagues who many months ago had sued the director and trustees of the library system where I work for violating their constitutional rights. (Details of the sordid circumstances leading up to the lawsuit are posted on the Internet at www.afplwatch.com) After a dramatic trial studded with well-documented revelations of race discrimination, the federal jury returned a series of guilty verdicts and awarded the plaintiffs more than $23 million (later reduced by the trial judge to $16.8 million). The county government officials who operate the library, indignantly unrepentant and clearly indifferent to burdening the taxpayers with additional legal fees, appealed both the verdicts and the damage award. The appeals court date is scheduled for late January 2003.
In a case of what I am convinced was my body rebelling against the stress at work, I came down with a bout of shingles on my forehead—a malady that took over a month to get rid of, and that I hope I’m never plagued with again!
Far more serious medical problems menaced both family and friends: My sister Gayle underwent her first of several surgeries for breast cancer, and my friend Nancy endured similar surgery, also for breast cancer. Both are now doing fine. My uncle Bill’s medical problems got worse, forcing him to undergo all sorts of painful, intrusive treatments throughout much of the year.
In the nonmedical sphere, Atlanta friends (including Nancy) who, along with Larry and me co-own a cabin in the North Georgia mountains, decided to refinance the cabin’s mortgage, and we all continued throughout 2002 a third year of periodic weekend escapes there from the city.
Meanwhile, back at 1576 McLendon, Larry and I upgraded the comfort level for overnight visitors by installing a “Murphy Bed” in the study— and we improved our own comfort level by purchasing a portable two-person Jacuzzi/hot tub. This latter purchase Larry and I expect to use increasingly often as our ageing joints confront the chillier evenings and mornings of the coming winter.
By a long shot, it was the hottest months of 2002 that brought the most radical changes to our lives. Larry interviewed for, and promptly received, a substantial promotion, and six months later is still enjoying a well-deserved era of harmonious, satisfying, and well-paid employment.
On the home front, we finally got rid of the hideous chain link fence in the front yard. We accomplished that just in time for an ice cream party we hosted for about two dozen gay and lesbian members of the American Library Association, which met in Atlanta in June.
Shortly after ALA left town (and shortly after an article appeared in Library Journal that publicized the afplwatch website), the already-poor relations between the library director and yours truly began getting worse. Me being who I am, and the library director being who she is, it was probably inevitable that she would eventually try to neutralize my consistent opposition to the havoc she continues to wreak on the institution where I’ve worked for over 21 years. Sure enough, the director found a pretext to abruptly transfer me to a branch library—exile being the standard punishment these days for Central Library employees who voice objections to nonsensical, impractical, unethical, or illegal administrative schemes.
It was difficult to reconcile myself to being demoted for no good reason from a post with system-wide responsibilities (a job I obtained five years ago) to a vacant position as assistant manager at a branch library. (I lost both of the formal grievances I filed to protest the demotion and the transfer.) Plus I had to quickly learn a completely new set of job duties at a new work location and deal with a whole new set of co-workers. Six months later, the adjusting is pretty much complete. That’s been possible largely because:
• I have rediscovered the many pleasures – as well as a few long-forgotten frustrations – of dealing daily with the Great Unwashed Public rather than with suppliers of library materials, with electronic database providers, and with clueless library administrators;
• the branch where I work is a mere two miles from my front door;
• the branch is managed by someone—a fellow exile, in fact—who I’d previously worked harmoniously with for several years at the Central Library;
• my daily stress level has plummeted from its shingles-inducing high point about this time last year to virtually zilch;
• although branch work is intellectually less stimulating, I’m getting a lot more physical exercise these days.
Regardless of the personal advantages and disadvantages of the new job assignment, the Central Library is going to continue to be an extremely toxic place to work – for anyone, in any capacity – until the library system’s current regime is replaced by saner individuals. Meanwhile, Larry best described the upshot of the recent derailment of my library career with his remark that “The Devil may have meant it for evil, but the Lord meant it for good.”
Along with job changes for Larry and me, July also brought with it an unsettling episode of pet trauma. Hilo the Wonder Cat, apparently having munched on a houseplant, started behaving like she was about to expire at any moment. After an anxious all-night vigil and a couple of frantic trips to the vet the following day, Hilo fully recovered and is back to being her lazy old self.
The autumn began with three more medical crises. My mom was hospitalized for a few days for dangerously high blood pressure, an episode that took her quite a few weeks to recover from. My brother Mike (who lives with his family in Oregon) was taken to an emergency room for treatment of some sort of mysterious and probably stress-related heart malfunction. And my friend Myron got sideswiped by a car as we both crossed the busy street in front of the library where I work. It was a miracle he wasn’t killed, and the extremely close call—and the startling reminder of how quickly and easily a person’s life can be abruptly and violently obliterated—was rather sobering, to say the least. (This incident instantly transformed me into a more cautious driver and a more paranoid pedestrian, at least on that particular street.)
In early November, Larry flew to Los Angeles for a meditation retreat, an important milestone on the particular spiritual path he began pursuing over thirty years ago.
The season ended pleasantly with the now-annual assembly in the North Georgia mountains of the Georgia-based Goughs and assorted friends for another Thanksgiving weekend. My sister Gayle hosted the meal this year at the cabin she co-owns with friends, and in lieu of the usual pre-feast blessing, several of us mentioned a few of the things we felt especially grateful for this past year.
You will note that there is no mention in this year’s newsletter of any trips to any foreign destinations in 2002. Larry and I plan to remedy that situation by spending the second week of 2003 in London. This will be our second visit there together, and we’ll be doing the trip with three other friends we’ve never traveled with before. It should be lots of fun if somewhat of a logistical challenge! In any case, our preparations for the holidays this year are mixed in with our growing excitement about our upcoming overseas trip.
Have a safe and happy New Year, and I hope to receive greetings and/or news soon from all of you sometime during the holidays.
“Beauty is a gift, a grace. A system, a reminder of truthfulness. That grace is always there. That is why I go into the woods. That is why I lie down on the grass…. The universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects…. Obviously, it’s not a collection of objects to be used. Obviously, it’s a world to be venerated. It’s a world to be communed with, to be present [with], to be delighted in…. The beauty of the natural world is healing, is informing. I think that our engagement with beauty, our intimacy with beauty, can save us…. It is communion that will save the world, communion with beauty.” – Fritz Hull, in an interview with Rod MacIver, Heron Dance #35
The Constant Reader
While others my age spend their spare time listening to music, shopping for bargains on eBay, or skydiving, I spent virtually all my own free time this past year doing one thing: reading. My staples continue to be The World’s Two Best Magazines, The Sun and the New Yorker, but over the past twelve months I have also managed to read more than three dozen books.
As usual, some of this reading has been devoted to books about my (other) hobby, gardening.
Another recurring theme – an apparently limitless fascination with British authors of the early 20th Century – continued throughout 2002. Just as I had devoted many months of another recent year reading books by or about Oscar Wilde, and many months of another recent year reading books by or about Virginia Woolf, this year I immersed myself in books by or about E.M. Forster.
I love to swap recommendations with other maniacal readers, so let me know if you’d like my 2002 list, and I’ll be happy to mail or email it to you.
The holidays this year seem a bit surreal so far, probably the result of several factors:
- A stubborn sinus infection has been making the holiday a little more stressful than usual, due to the groggy head, runny nose, the haze of medications, etc.
- I’m more behind with my holiday chores than I remember being in years. (In fact this letter won’t reach most of you until after the 25th.)
- Larry and I are still recuperating from the upheaval of some protracted major remodeling, and are still a bit too worn out to fully enjoy the improvements, much less face the inevitable holiday prep and clean-up.
- Larry’s decided to do a solitary retreat up at the cabin in Blue Ridge for the few days immediately preceding Xmas, and won’t be around even though I’ll be off work during that time.
On the proverbial other hand, I’m happy to report that I’ve decided to take off quite a bit of time from work this year around the holidays, the better to enjoy them, so I am–fortified by the antibiotics –looking forward to the beginning of a little stay-at-home winter vacation.
The first batch of holiday guests have come and gone, and I’ve postponed a second gathering until after the 25th, so I expect to be a bit chirpier and relaxed by the time this newsletter is printed and mailed.
- The newest member of the extended Gough family arrived early this year: my grand-niece Shea Elizabeth was born last January 29th. The smiliest baby I remember meeting, she’s teaching herself to walk already.
- In September, my brother Mike and his wife Inice, who live in central Oregon, flew into town for a few days (leaving behind Erin, now-almost-grown-up niece).
- For the third year in a row, all the Georgia Goughsters converged on the cabin in Blue Ridge for Thanksgiving dinner. My grand-nephew Kaelan did really well this year in the post-feast family bowling tournament.
- My youngest sister Lori (Shea’s grandmother) reached a milestone this month, turning 40; one of her daughters, my grand-niece Jessie (Shea’s mother) celebrated her 21st birthday earlier this year.
Home Front News
Money was found – i.e., taken from funds otherwise devoted to travel abroad – this year to pay for several long-awaited house improvements:
- In February: two sets of gorgeous wooden shutters for my bedroom— which is sort of turning into my study as well, since I also moved the computer back there this year (the bedroom is as far away from the television as one can get in our little house).
- In April: we had the living room painted a very vivid lipstick red – which I didn’t like as much as I’d hoped, so it didn’t last long.
- In May: a new roof. Oy, those damned “infrastructure” improvements that cost so much! (And now everything in the attic—and unfortunately there’s a whole lot of stuff up there—is covered in grit.) Despite the cost, the roofing contractors were pros from beginning to end.
- Not so professional were the crew we hired in September to do some extensive work in our kitchen and on the ceiling of the stoop just outside the kitchen door. Those projects turned into lots of other projects. For about two months there, I felt like we’d been taken hostage by a bunch of gypsies: they were very numerous, very colorful, very unpredictable, and very messy – and very difficult to get rid of. After they all finally did leave, we then began paying other people to re-do various things they had messed up. What I learned: if somebody gives you an estimate on how much something’s going to cost that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We’re still in the midst of practically re-wiring the house (there goes another trip to Europe), but at least we feel we’re in good hands and that the house won’t be burning down around us three weeks after our licensed (!) electrician leaves. Meanwhile—once the holidays have come and gone—we can take some time to look around and notice our new kitchen walls, ceiling, and floor, as well as our re-painted washer and dryer (we’ll be buying a new stove to match), plus the spare bedroom’s new coat of paint—the first it’s had since we moved into 1576 McLendon 10 years ago this month.
- At some now-forgotten point this past year, I installed a nifty little temporary wooden floor beneath the still-much-used hot tub we keep year round out on our glass-enclosed (and shrubbery-surrounded) sun porch.
- Finally, we had that red living room wall repainted a dark wine color, which we like a lot better.
I got out of the country twice in 2003:
- To London for a week in early January with Larry and our friends Nancy, Kris, and Terry, where we had a great time with zero major logistical nightmares. We got to see London in the snow, listened to a chamber concert at St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, saw several fabulous plays (including Maggie Smith and Judi Dench in Breath of Life and the magical London production of The Lion King), and where I made two long-put-off pilgrimages: to Freud’s house (where he moved after the Nazis took over Austria) and to the Tea & Coffee Museum. I also enjoyed revisiting several favorite haunts from previous trips to London. And it was fun being in town with most of the city’s 2002 Christmas decorations still up.
- To Toronto in June, to visit with friends who were attending the annual American Library Association conference there. I’d not been to this city before, and had a wonderful time exploring its neighborhoods on foot, on a bicycle and via streetcar and ferryboat. Toronto is a much more interesting city architecturally than I’d expected, and it was fun to stay with my friends at a gay-operated bread-and-breakfast in the middle of Toronto’s enormous gay neighborhood during Canada’s run-up to gay pride week and to hobnob with the B&B’s interesting owner, a world traveler himself.
Larry and I also continued a third year of weekend escapes to the group-owned cabin in the north Georgia mountain town of Blue Ridge. We’re still doing that on an average of twice a month, so there’s a lot of traveling going on that isn’t transatlantic. Luckily, the cabin is a mere 1.5 hours drive from our front door, and definitely still worth the drive. Others have predicted that we will tire of making these trips, but so far that hasn’t been the case. I really can’t imagine my life without having in it the serenity and the almost-chore-free simplicity of the cabin, so it remains one of the things Larry and I continue to feel grateful about.
2003 was my first full year working at the branch library near my house, having been involuntarily transferred there summer-before-last by an Evil Library Director. From that safe haven I:
- Continue to do what I can to support colleagues who sued the library back in May 2000 and whose case the county (incredibly) appealed late last fall to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is not expected to agree to review the lower court verdicts and damage awards. I hope I can count a few millionaires among my acquaintances this time next Christmas, and that the Evil Ones will have long since been toppled, as, indeed, one of them already has been. Meanwhile, it’s been a lot easier doing my work at the branch than it ever was when I was at Central, constantly warding off crazed library administrators and trustees. The library system has deteriorated terribly, but my personal day-to-day situation is fairly pleasant, if somewhat boring. I’ll be able to take early retirement (which colleagues are doing in droves these days) within the next year or two, which is probably what I’ll do if things don’t improve radically beforehand—and there is little reason to expect that they will.
- Finally have the time again to create little book displays from time to time. This keeps me out of trouble with The Authorities and is a lot of fun. This past year’s efforts included displays about “Mark Twain as Social Critic,” Cats, Buddhism, Celtic Culture, Haiku, Islam, Children’s Classics, Antique Maps, Botanical Illustration, “Exploring Time,” Japanese Art, Native American Heritage Month, and – for December – a display of books about angels and something called “The Christmas Cat.” I also did my annual display in June for Gay & Lesbian Book Month, focusing this year on local authors (of which Atlanta has several).
- Made my debut as a library program-planner by co-hatching with my friend Franklin a fairly elaborate “Evening of Gay and Lesbian Poets” that was well-attended and a lot of fun.
Our study is now equipped with a nifty “Murphy Bed” where our overnight visitors now sleep (unless we can arrange for them to join us for a weekend at the cabin in Blue Ridge). This year our Atlanta sleepovers included friends from Tampa, Asheville, Dublin (Georgia), and Washington, DC.
The Constant Reader
There wasn’t enough space in last year’s newsletter for a list of what I’d read last year, and I’ve got the same problem this year as well. But reading accounts for so much of the pleasure in my life that I find I want to share those lists in case not only to hint at what I’ve been spending time thinking about, but also in case a title or two might trigger an interest in someone else.
As a concession to the fact that not everybody is as keen on reading as I am, I’ve put last year’s and this year’s “book reports” on a separate page; even the reading enthusiasts among you may want to tuck it away to read some other day. Here, though, for everyone, is a passage I found in one of those books that partly explains why I spend so much time with my nose in a book – or in one of the world’s two best magazines, the New Yorker and The Sun:
“You are never the same person when you finish a book—even one that is read purely for escape or entertainment. A conviction may take root or deepen, the imagination may be sparked, a new perspective may dawn.” –Philip Yancey, quoted in Indelible Ink edited by Scott Larsen (Waterbrook Press, 2003)
Eleven years into our mortgage, Larry and I continue our efforts to make our tiny 1934 house more pleasant to inhabit. This year, we hired a friend to completely re-do the long-neglected front yard. After uprooting virtually every sign of existing vegetation, we anxiously await the spring, when we hope the new plantings will make the yard look less like the site of a nuclear blast.
Hoping to make both the back yard and the front yard more user-friendly, we hired a mason to reconstruct the patio and all our paths, and hired an electrician to install motion detector lights all around the house.
Meanwhile, we’ve stayed busy indoors as well. The kitchen that we had completely repainted last year now sports a new stove, a new (and quieter) washer, and a new dryer. In the living room, we replaced the old sleeper sofa with a pair of comfy love seats and had spotlights installed for the mantel and for the floor-to-ceiling bookcase we had built a few years back. Other recently-installed electrified amenities include a now well-lit hallway—no more rummaging around in the dark hall closet for the linens and vital supplies we store in there!
Not too long into the new year, we’re having the house completely re-plumbed. We’re looking forward to being able to drink our tap water and to enjoying our morning showers a lot more, due to the better water pressure.
The fine couple next door who we’ve shared a driveway with for many years were the best neighbors anyone – including our otherwise-often-abandoned cat Hilo – could ask for. Last month, alas, they decamped to Asheville. We’re hoping our new neighbor and her roommate(s) will be as easy to get along with—and as amenable to mutually-agreeable vehicle parking compromises—as Gina and Lisa were. And speaking of vehicles, it may be only our wishful thinking, but it seems that the finally-completed series of “traffic calming” efforts along McLendon have resulted in a less noisy and more pedestrian-friendly neighborhood. (As Martha Stewart would say, that’s A Good Thing, considering all the walking Larry likes to do.)
Family & Friends
This past summer, my oldest sister Gayle accomplished her long-planned post-retirement move, from a hideously overdeveloped Atlanta suburb to a beautiful spot in the mountains of North Georgia. Larry and I joined the other Goughs for Thanksgiving at Gayle’s new place, located only about 30 miles from the cabin in Blue Ridge that Larry and I co-own with friends. We’ll be spending Christmas at Gayle’s this year as well. My brother Mike and his family, who live in Oregon, will be joining us, so we hope to hear a bit more about Mike’s visit to Greece this past summer to film the Olympics.
My youngest sister, Lori, recently decided to separate from her husband, and her assorted relatives are gradually adjusting to Lori’s new living arrangements.
The three visitors who spent time in our Murphy Bed-equipped guest bedroom in 2004 were all long-time friends: Blanche, for several escapes from the tiny metropolis of Dublin, Georgia, where she now lives; Roy, fresh from his nurse’s stint in Hawaii; and Terry from D.C., who we’re looking forward to spending New Year’s Eve with at the cabin.
Probably the single most exciting bit of 2004 news for Larry and me was our late-October trip to Italy: Rome, Assisi, Florence, Ravenna, Venice, then Rome again. This was my third trip there and Larry’s first, and we both want to go back for more (including more gelato)!
My overnight trips this year—other than weekend escapes to the cabin in Blue Ridge—were limited to a funeral in Knoxville (where my father’s sister Ruth, definitely a favorite aunt, lived); a wedding in Athens, Georgia (of one of Larry’s co-workers); and a college reunion near Macon, Georgia.
We and the other owners watched with dismay as someone built a new cabin on the vacant lot directly across the road—right in the middle of our beloved mountain view. We’re still reeling from the shock, regretting that we didn’t find some way to raise the funds to buy the lot ourselves. It’s too early to tell whether this extremely unsettling development finds us adapting to decidedly less-isolated surroundings or nudges us to find ourselves another cabin.
Two huge bits of news since last year’s newsletter:
- The late-December 2003 settlement of the race discrimination lawsuit colleagues of mine had brought against the library’s director and assorted trustees.
- The May 2004 firing of the library’s evil director, accomplished only after a three-years-in-the-making amendment to Georgia law changed who the library director reports to. Anyone who’s interested can read the appalling details at the web site (http://www.afplwatch.com) that continues to monitor the ongoing soap-opera at AFPL.
Although I am happy about the outcome of the lawsuits and the removal of our crazed ex-director, the institution seems hopelessly mangled and will remain crippled for years to come. This depressing certainty has been made more difficult to cope with personally due to the recent retirements of two very important mentors of mine, including the person who hired me for my first library job 20 years ago.
Along with some generalized weariness in the face of AFPL’s gloomy prospects was the major disappointment this year of not getting a promotion that I’d applied for in August. (This would’ve been easier to accept more calmly had they hired somebody more qualified than me for the job, but they didn’t.)
On the proverbial other hand, the good news about not getting the promotion is that the branch where I’ve been working since the Evil Director exiled me there three years ago remains a haven of sanity from library politics and is a mere two miles from my house. Not so good, however, is that I was forced to become the branch’s Acting Manager when my manager was dragooned for a temporary assignment at the far end of the county for two months last summer. (It would’ve been longer than three months had I not filed and won a formal grievance about not getting paid for performing those managerial duties.) That unpleasant experience confirmed my horror at ever having to do it again – something which is highly likely should my boss be given another temporary reassignment, gets promoted, or decides to retire.
Meanwhile, I’m using some of my remaining time as a non-manager at the branch to expand its gay and lesbian collection and am gratified to see how often our customers are using them.
Things for Larry at his job continue to go swimmingly. He continues to receive well-deserved promotions, bonuses, kudos of various kinds, and he enjoys working with interesting, productive, and supportive colleagues.
Local Cultural Activities
Having recently roamed the halls of the Uffizi, the Vatican, and the Villa Borghese, I feel like I’ve certainly gotten a satisfying dose of High (Western) Art this year. But some of the most culturally transporting moments of 2004 took place right here in Atlanta:
- A series of lectures by Salman Rushdie at Emory University (lectures that were so captivating that I took off work to attend a couple of them).
- Local (and excellent) performance of two plays by Edward Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?
- An installation of colossal illuminated glass sculptures by the amazing Dale Chiluly at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens (which I got to stroll through after dark).
Also on the local culture front, during Gay Pride Month I participated in a public reading at Atlanta’s gay/lesbian bookstore of poetry written by gay men, and last month I helped organize an exhibition of the art work of Raven Wolfdancer, a gifted friend murdered eleven years ago.
A Poem for the New Year
“A Brief for the Defense” by Jack Gilbert*
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, there are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafes and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
*published in The New Yorker, November 15, 2004
An advantage of mailing out The Dreaded Annual Newsletter the week after Christmas this year is that, because Larry and I are spending the week before New Year’s at the cabin in the mountains of north Georgia that we co-own with several friends, I get to mail out the newsletter from such a pleasant and serene setting. So even though our news arrives in your mailbox a bit later than usual this year, here are this year’s Top Ten Domestic News Stories:
Cal’s Library System Hires a Sane Director
After five years of Library Hell, the county manager finally fired Hurricane Hooker last April. Working conditions for library employees immediately improved and a somewhat depressingly distant prospect of better services to library customers has opened up. Not all was made instantly perfect, of course (details at http://www.afplwatch.com).
Hilo the WonderCat, R.I.P.
The marvelous creature who first trotted up to my door in 1986 got way too sick this past spring for me to put off euthanizing her a moment longer. That decision was hugely traumatizing, and both Larry and I miss Hilo intensely sometimes. This is our first Christmas without Hilo being with us. We expect a few more years will elapse before we’re adopted by our next kitty.
Cal Buys Motor Scooter
Woop! After discovering years ago that Europeans had totally embraced this sensible means of urban transport, and after recently noticing that several scooter stores had opened up in Atlanta, I plunked down my money for a scooter of my own during the thick of the latest gasoline price crisis. To my delight, scootering has turned out to be as much fun as it has been a gas money-saver; it also doesn’t feel as dangerous as I’d feared it would be!
Foray into French Canada. The Euro being too expensive this year to make a trip to Paris (which Larry hasn’t yet visited), for Larry’s birthday we went instead to Quebec City, with a quick side trip via train to Montreal, to hear the French being spoken and to see non-American architecture. Although we were underdressed for the unseasonably cold and windy weather that confronted us, we had a great visit anyway.
Cal Spends Birthday in D.C. visiting friends Terry and Tom and greatly enjoying a long-put-off day trip to Annapolis.
Larry Takes Cal Home to Ohio. Akron is much prettier than I’d expected, especially in October, when we went. Met some nice friends of Larry’s there, and (among other things) toured the beautifully preserved Stan Hywet Hall, a faux Tudor mansion built by one of the local magnates. Nice gardens, too!
Goughster Family Milestones:
- Birth of New Bambino (9½ -pound Natalee Grace, to niece Jessie and her husband Lee.
- Sister Lori’s Long-Awaited Divorce and Lori’s purchase of a new house near the Chattahoochee River.
- Brief Visit to Atlanta from Brother Mike and Family from their homestead in central Oregon.
Cal’s & Larry’s Wee Cottage Completely Re-plumbed
After enduring 11 years of low water pressure and rusty tap water, plus coping with an additional year of our dilly-dallying plumber’s excuses, Cal and Larry (and their overnight visitors) are now reveling daily in better showers and enjoying their new bathroom sink and new (higher) toilet!
Charming Irish Stonemason Installs Walkway to Cal’s and Larry’s Front Door
No more worries that hapless visitors might trip and fall on loose flagstones. However, the aforementioned charming stonemason left behind huge piles of still-to-be cleared surplus flagstones, sand, soil, and debris. I’m in the process of lugging the extra stone to the mountain cabin (and/or to my sister Gayle’s house 30 miles further up the highway).
More recently – just in time for the holidays, in fact – Larry and I hired a local handyman to paint our suddenly-more-accessible front door a color called “Fabulous Red.” This is something else we’d wanted to do for the past 11 years, and finally got around to!
Other significant-to-us exterior improvements: installing an arched trellis at the entrance to the back yard; building a wee stone wall out of the flagstones from the previous back patio to line a portion of the newly-paved backyard pathways; adding three storm windows; planting a bed of purple irises (Cal’s favorite flower) that my friend Maureen donated to our garden from hers.
We’ve also made some progress in re-landscaping of the front yard, including the planting of some evergreens, which I’ve recently come to like much more than I ever did before. Finishing the front yard will take at least another season or two, however.
Larry Paul Turns 50
Hard to believe that I met Larry back when he was only 33. That means we’ve been together now 17 years as of this past September.
Cal Spends An Entire Morning Picking Blueberries!
This mesmerizing (and, for me, unprecedented) episode definitely wins this year’s award for “Cal’s Most Enchanting Day Trip from Atlanta.” Shortly thereafter, I managed to successfully bake my first pair of blueberry pies, and there are enough berries still in the freezer for another pie some cold winter’s day in 2006. Pie construction may not sound very impressive, but you may not realize how little cooking (and even less baking) I’ve done these past 10 years!
Sundry Friends Make Overnight Visits to Smallest House in Candler Park
This year our overnights included friends from California, from south Georgia, and (via Europe) from Florida.
If you haven’t visited us and our spare bedroom in awhile, why not make plans to do so in 2006?
A Poem for the New Year
by Wislawa Szymborska
Life is the only way
to get covered in leaves,
catch your breath on the sand,
rise on wings;
to be a dog,
or stroke its warm fur;
to tell pain
from everything it’s not;
to squeeze inside events,
dawdle in views,
to seek the least of all possible mistakes.
An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a conversation held
with the lamp switched off;
and if only once to stumble
on a stone
end up soaked in one
downpour or another;
mislay your keys in the grass;
And to follow a spark on the
wind with your eyes;
and to keep on not knowing
*Translated from the Polish by S. Baranczak and
C. Cavanagh; The New Yorker, November 28, 2005
This past October, Larry celebrated his five-year anniversary at AmericasMart, where he sells technology services (phone, internet, etc.) to the Mart’s exhibitors. Larry still enjoys his work, his colleagues’ support, and his substantial paycheck and benefits package.
Since late January 2006, I’ve been Interim Manager of a busy and functional midtown branch of the mostly-dysfunctional public library system where I’ve worked in several different capacities (and at different work sites) since 1981.
This past summer, I enjoyed helping plan several library system programs and exhibits in connection with a traveling set of artifacts from San Francisco Public Library’s Gay & Lesbian Center.
Although content at the branch – and somewhat happier than expected with my Interim Manager assignment – I look forward to a fully-staffed branch and to surviving the era of dismal mediocrity the library system as a whole has been mired in for over ten years now. (For the low-down on All That, see http://www.afplwatch.com).
(Dec. 15, 1921 – May 29, 2006)
Role model / mentor / enchantress to dozens (hundreds?) of Mercer University students.
Scary Medical Episode
Last March, Larry underwent “fusion surgery” to strengthen three deteriorating discs in his neck and spine that had been causing neck and arm pain, lethargy, and bouts of frequent clumsiness.
Although his recovery put him out of commission for seven weeks, Larry was lucky in several ways: his neuro-surgeon was a former employer, his nurses included former (and treasured) colleagues at the Emory Clinic, he healed quickly, and his insurance paid for 99.9% of the enormous bill.
House & Cabin News
Large sums of cash were spent on two house projects this year. Last spring we had a set of indoor shutters installed in the guest room; this month, we paid a “varmint control” crew to “seal” our house against mice and squirrels, whose previous attic scurryings had been keeping Larry awake at night.
The six of us who’ve co-owned a mountain cabin for the past seven years spent part of our cabin maintenance fund for a new roof and new gutters. Alas, we’ve so far been unable to locate a nursery in Blue Ridge to plant a screen of evergreens between our cabin and another one that’s been built right smack in the middle of our (former) view of the mountains.
Meanwhile, back at Chez McLendon, global warming seems to have provided added opportunities to zoom around blissfully on my motor scooter. Perhaps 2007 will bring a waning of “scooter novelty”…and a bit more gardening?
Larry and I spent a third of our weekends in 2006 at the cabin in sedate Blue Ridge, Georgia, located a mere 100 miles from the ever-more-traffic-infested Atlanta.
Having ruled out any transatlantic trips this year so Larry’s neck and spine could heal from his surgery, we managed two trips beyond the north Georgian mountains:
• During the Spoleto Festival, last May, we spent a couple of nights with friends who live just outside of Charleston.
• In October, we made a long-postponed road trip around New England. After several days in Boston/Cambridge, we rented a car and stayed with friends living in central Massachusetts. Later, two librarian friends who work at Dartmouth spent an afternoon showing us around their lovely town. We spent the rest of our trip poking around a series of tiny and outrageously picturesque “willages” (spend-ing our nights in B&Bs) in Vermont and New Hampshire. Zero billboards! Zero litter! Gorgeous scenery! Although we missed the turning of the red maples, we had a glorious time.
I spent a second (!) full year trying to do two demanding library jobs – the assistant manager’s job at the busy Ponce Branch Library as well as continuing to function as that branch’s “Interim Manager.” The library system’s director recently assured me that a resolution to this increasingly exhausting situation – or at least an explanation of its apparent and mysterious interminableness – is forthcoming. Whatever happens will be a welcome change to the workplace status quo – especially since Ponce recently expanded its hours of operations (for example, we’re now open on Sunday afternoons) and added three additional part-time employees who I’m responsible for supervising.
The most unexpected library-related news of 2007, however, was obtaining for the gay and lesbian users of our library system a donation of the entire contents of the library formerly operated by the now-defunct Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Center. For a half-day every other week throughout the past year, I’ve been working with another gay library colleague to integrate these six truckloads worth of materials into various collections of the Atlanta Fulton Public Library, including the Gay/Lesbian Collection at the Ponce branch. And in October, that same colleague, in cahoots with my friend Franklin, orchestrated what they hope will become an annual GLBTQ Literary Festival co-sponsored by the library system.
The tedious rebuilding of the library system, almost completely wrecked by its former (and eventually ousted) director and a particularly terrible gang of library trustees, and its biggest remaining problems, you can read about (if you must) at http://www.afplwatch.com.
Somewhat tangentially related to my job are the side-effects of the otherwise troubling Global Warming phenomenon. Although this past year’s unusual weather patterns – in particular, a series of droughts – have played havoc with my sporadic gardening efforts, they’ve also extended what I’ve come to think of as the Scooter Commuting Season: I was using the scooter to get back and forth to my workplace until mid-December, a full month longer than in 2006!
Fambly & Friends
This past year was marked by several losses and several celebrations:
• Larry’s stepfather died this past March after a series of illnesses; five weeks later, on April 28th, Larry’s mom died unexpectedly during our visit to see her while she was in a hospital near Phoenix, where she and her husband had lived for many years.
• In June, one of my nieces, Shauna DeLong, graduated from college with an art instruction degree.
• Shortly thereafter, my siblings and I treated my mom to a rather festive surprise 80th birthday bash in the social hall of her church.
• In May Larry and I and two friends attended the memorial service for Betty Lee, the wife of one of my favorite high school English teacher, both of whom I’ve have stayed in contact with all these years since graduation.
• In August, I drove with my mom and sister Gayle to Baton Rouge for the funeral of my Aunt Corinne.
Other than our visit to Arizona last April to see Larry’s mom, I’ve only a single trip outside the southeast to report for 2007, but it will remain an unforgettable one.
After spending approximately five years trying to cajole a few friends to somehow juggle their finances and travel schedules so we could all split the cost of a renting a villa in Italy for a week, that dream finally came true this past summer. Eight of us, arrived from different cities at different Italian airports at slightly different times. Besides our time together at the villa each morning and evening, we used four rental cars to go our sometimes separate ways each day.
Larry and I took day trips to Assisi, Perugia, Todi, Montefalco, Spoleto, Spelo, Siena, and several smaller Umbrian and Tuscan towns, including the mysteriously -named Bastardo, where the group also bought its groceries for the week.
This latest visit to Italy with the “Villa People” only deepened my obsession with All Things Italian (and particularly with the history and landscapes of Tuscany and Umbria). That obsession is now on a par with previously-established profound affinities for the cultures and landscapes of England, Greece, France (especially Provence), and Israel.
Unfortunately, the ever-declining value of the U.S. dollar vs. the Euro certainly puts a damper on any notions of further European adventures anytime soon.
• Larry fully recovered from some outpatient surgery he endured in mid-April, and has had no recurrence of the unrelated problems that led his spinal surgery in 2006.
• Another cabin co-owner and I began renting a retail booth in a Blue Ridge second-hand shop. We’ll see how this little entrepreneurial experiment goes in terms of income vs. rental fees. It certainly helps me feel a little less uneasy about my frequent-object-acquisition tendencies.
• Although we spent many of 2007’s Sunday mornings at the cabin in Blue Ridge, we spent the rest of those mornings with our respective spiritual fellowships: Larry at a Yoga meditation temple north of town, and me at a nearby Quaker congregation (where I continue to serve as librarian).
The Most Important News of All
Overshadowing everything else that I’ve felt or done or that has happened to me this past year is the fact that Larry and I are splitting up as a couple.
Rather than explaining how we came to this unexpected juncture in our story, or trying to describe what it feels like to be facing a change of such enormity, I’d rather focus (in this newsletter, anyway) on the positive aspects of our news. I’m also trying to cope with some of the sadness I feel by remembering with some gratitude that we did have the opportunity (rare for most couples) to a spend a full nineteen years together.
The decision to split up resulted primarily from some fundamental differences that we never managed to eradicate over the years.
Mercifully, there’s no third person in the picture – a fact that makes it easier for us to learn useful lessons about each other during our final days together.
We started discussing the permanent separation in mid-September, and early on decided to tackle the breakup logistics gradually rather than abruptly. So far, we’ve managed to keep communicating pretty well as we prepare to go our separate ways – which is not to imply there haven’t been sad hours and a few angry flare-ups. And certainly our days and nights recently have been laced with more than a few anxieties and apprehensions. Still, we seem to be navigating the emotional upheaval – in a mostly amicable way.
I credit all this to our deep knowledge of and respect for each others’ personalities and vulnerabilities…and to the collective efforts of our respective past therapists. We are also blessed with dear friends and immediate family members who have proven to be as mature and insightful as they have been loving and supportive.
Larry and I are spending part of 2007’s year-end holidays attending to various (sometimes tedious, sometimes painful) aspects of our slow-motion divorce. Just before Christmas I refinanced the house in order to buy out Larry’s equity. I will continue living in the house, and Larry has found a new abode – which he describes as a charming studio apartment convenient to his job downtown; he will be moving there in early February. Sometime early next year, Larry will also divest himself of his interest in the mountain cabin that, along with me and others, we have jointly owned for more than eight years.
My apologies to those of you learning of our breakup through this newsletter. I’ve been unable to summon up the energy to contact everybody individually and privately, nor could I cope with starting off the new year feeling obliged to contact everyone to re-hash this news with several dozen extended family members and friends. If I haven’t already bombarded you with Too Much Information, you’re welcome to contact me and/or Larry individually with any questions or comments you might have.
Although 2007 has turned out to be quite different than either Larry or I expected, most days both of us feel optimistic about our prospects in 2008.
Will Larry and I be able to successfully renegotiate a mutually satisfying friendship, as we both hope to do? Will we be able to maintain that friendship even if Larry eventually moves out of the South, as he is considering? How will the 59-year-old Calvin and the 52-year-old Larry fare as they embark on the unfamiliar routines of living alone? How difficult will it be for us to adjust to our new financial realities?
These and many other things we just won’t know until February at the soonest, and probably not until much later than that.
One thing’s for sure: at least psychologically speaking, 2008 is bound to be an intensely interesting year for both of us. So, stay in touch…and in the meantime, I hope you’re having yourself a merrie holiday and will have a bountiful and discovery-laden new year.
A Poem for the New Year
WINTER: TONIGHT: SUNSET
by David Budbill*
Tonight at sunset walking on the snowy road,
my shoes crunching on the frozen gravel, first
through the woods, then out into the open fields
past a couple of trailers and some pickup trucks, I stop
and look at the sky. Suddenly: orange, red, pink, blue,
green, purple, yellow, gray, all at once and everywhere.
I pause in this moment at the beginning of my old age
and I say a prayer of gratitude for getting to this evening
a prayer for being here, today, now, alive
in this life, in this evening, under this sky.
*From While We’ve Still Got Feet: New Poems (Copper Canyon Press 2005)
An Unsettled Year
This past year has been an odd one for Calvin. In early February, Larry moved out of the house and into his own apartment, and I’ve devoted most of this year slowly learning how to live again as a single person.
After spending nineteen years as part of a couple, the adjustments – emotional, financial, and social – were mostly unpleasant challenges, and all these months later I don’t feel I’ve done a very graceful job of it. There are still plenty of days when I feel like a fish out of water, but the rebalancing of my attention, interests, and daily routines is finally beginning to happen.
Reorganizing my affections, or feeling even theoretically open to someone else’s, is another story that I’m not very far along with at all. That process will presumably be accelerated when Larry leaves Atlanta this coming Spring. Larry plans to quit his job then, and move his stuff to Phoenix (where his brother lives). After some further study in Mexico, he will try finding a job there working as a free-lance or school-based teacher of English.
Meanwhile, Larry and I have maintained communication – and have gotten together occasionally – since he and I split up. But Larry’s planned departure from the city in a few months is almost certain to be a major turning-point for what has so far seemed an excruciatingly gradual return to single-hood for me.
Because plenty of people I know personally – as well as millions of others who I don’t know – found themselves struggling this past year with events, circumstances, or crises a lot more serious than adjusting to living alone, I feel somewhat chagrined to notice how preoccupied I’ve been this year with “mere” Relationship Issues. Be that as it may, the support of my family and friends, both here in Atlanta and those living elsewhere, has been very moving and extremely useful. Their wise counsel, their forbearance with how stuck I continue to feel sometimes, and their thoughtful comments, and kind gestures over the past twelve months have played a major role in rebuilding my self-confidence and optimism. I don’t think I will forget their supportive efforts when I finally find myself in different, happier circumstances.
Another somewhat unsettling event – this one 100% positive – occurred in late July, when my former boss at the branch library where I work abruptly returned after a 2.5 year assignment elsewhere. His return marked a much-welcomed end to my 2.5 year stint of being expected to simultaneously perform two jobs (the branch manager’s and the assistant manager’s).
Although the slightly higher salary I’d gotten for that “temporary” two-jobs situation evaporated along with my former boss’s return, I’ve been much happier since August with my less stressful – and far more interesting-to-me – former job responsibilities. I also now know for a fact what I had always suspected: that although I can perform a branch manager’s job fairly well, there are very few things about a manager’s job that I enjoy.
The upshot is that not only has my job served as a reliable daily respite from my emotional woes, but also I’ve been able to spend the past five months eagerly catching up on numerous work-related projects I’d been forced to neglect.
New or Renewed Interests
The single completely new activity I’ve explored post-Larry has been my discovery of a love for contra dancing. (Think of the dancing you always see in those Jane Austen movies, speed up the pace a bit, subtract the fancy costumes, and you’ll have an idea of what contra dancing is.) In addition to showing up for a weekly dance that often attracts about 200 or more dancers, I also enjoy a much smaller, mostly gay/lesbian contra group that dances once a month.
This year I also resumed my dabblings in calligraphy, an old interest rekindled when I decided to take a class last April taught by someone who attends the same Quaker Meeting that I attend most Sundays. Although my calligraphy practice has fallen off again in recent months, I plan to continue showing up for the monthly meetings of a group of local calligraphers called the Friends of the Alphabet.
And speaking of Quakers, I have ramped up a notch of two the amount of time I spend each month volunteering in the local Quaker Meeting’s library.
The high cost of travel in 2008, some anxiety about my own new personal financial circumstances, and some hesitation about solo sightseeing combined to put the kibosh on my enthusiasm for any adventures on foreign soil. I did, however, make three totally fabulous trips outside of Atlanta in 2008:
In early May, the library paid my expenses to attend a fascinating conference in New York City of representatives from the planet’s numerous gay/ lesbian archives and libraries. I prolonged my stay there for a brief but satisfyingly rich visit with my friend Corky, who has lived in Manhattan for decades. Not only was it great fun to finally visit with Corky again, but the visit made me fall in love all over again with New York. And the weather that wonderful week was absolutely perfect!
At the end of May, I flew up to Washington, DC for another in an ongoing series of always-great visits with my longtime buddy (and sometime traveling companion) Terry.
In mid-August, I took a deep breath and decided to spend a week alone traveling in a rental car along the coast of Maine. The unqualified success of that trip was largely due to having picked such a glorious part of the world to visit for my first-ever extended solo trip, and I certainly hope to do more traveling – alone or otherwise – in that particularly magical landscape.
In mid-September, my friend Harvey visited me and other friends here in Atlanta. We spent part of our time together rendezvousing with Terry in Charleston (which Harve had never seen before), and part of our time in Savannah (which Harve had never seen properly before). The week hanging out with Harve, with Terry, and with Franklin (for the Atlanta part of Harvey’s visit) was one of the happiest, most care-free, most affirming parts of 2008 for me. That visit also confirmed, among other things, that my life as a single guy will not likely mean the end of my travel adventures – even if the crummy economic situation does put the brakes on my planning more travel any time soon.
My final trip out of Atlanta this year, in early December, was not only brief, but sad: I drove to Arkansas with my mom and my sisters Gayle and Lori for the funeral of a cousin.
Deborah Ann Davis Heath
June 4, 1953 – November 29, 2008
Friends who spent one or more nights this past year in my spare bedroom included folks from Charleston, from Phoenix, and from Dublin (the Dublin here in Georgia). I’ve always enjoy hosting visitors, still do, and I hope there will be several of them in 2009!
Due most likely to a rather prolonged listlessness resulting from the Cal/Larry split-up, I haven’t attempted any newsworthy projects inside the house this past year. An important and recent exception was gradually converting what used to be my bedroom into a sort of office space/sitting room.
On the garden front, this past autumn I discovered a local nursery that specializes in ferns – an exciting development in my longstanding plans to transform the mostly-neglected front yard into what garden writer Beverley Nichols calls a “fernery.”
I turned 60 this past July. Gulp, gulp, and triple-gulp! I don’t feel particularly old, but the mirrors (and my gray hair and gray moustache) tell me that it’s true, it’s true! I am still blessed with excellent health, however, and haven’t yet misplaced either my sense of humor or my sense of curiosity. (On the other hand, I do regret not having figured out somewhere along the line how to rid myself of the annoying shyness I still feel in unfamiliar social situations.)
The damage resulting from a fire this past October at the Georgia mountain cabin I co-own with several friends has prevented us from enjoying our little weekend getaway until the repairs are finished, possibly by early Spring of 2009. (One entire bedroom – the one I usually stay in – must be completely gutted, re-built, and re-furnished). The sobering, expensive lesson learned: Never hang a quilt near a supposedly turned-off heating unit!
I continue to get a lot of use from (and a lot of pleasure driving) the motor scooter I bought back in 2005, and I especially enjoyed owning a scooter during this year’s gasoline shortage in Atlanta. During the recent colder (and, finally, wetter) weather, I’ve reverted to the pickup truck for transport, but I look forward to more frequent scootering when it warms up again in a month or so.
I finally got around to asking one of the two computer gurus I know to agree to help me create early next year a sort of Internet-based journal/commonplace book. I’ve been fantasizing about this project for several years now, so those of you with email can be on the lookout for an announcement once this blog is up and running.
Post-Election (Qualified) Euphoria
Wonder of wonders, a U.S. presidential candidate who I voted for finally won!
Like many people, I’m immensely relieved to be nearing the end of the eight long, disastrous years of the George W Era. Also like many others, I’m hoping that whatever changes Obama and his team are able to make – however limited and temporary – will result in my no longer feeling ashamed to be an American citizen.
My post-election optimism is guarded, however, having not forgotten that another president I expected great things from, Bill Clinton, waffled on his election campaign promise to change the second-class status of gay people serving in the U.S. military – not to mention Clinton’s completely avoidable torpedoing of any chances for a Democratic successor via that discrediting episode with Ms. Lewinsky.
A Quotation for the New Year
“Let us read and let us dance … two amusements that will never do any harm to the world.” – Voltaire [via my friend Franklin who heard it on National Public Radio’s “The Writer’s Almanac” on Nov. 21, 2008]
Holiday CD Gift Offer
I plan to mail some of you something I finally learned how to make at home this past week: a carefully chosen mixture of music from various sources to enjoy during the holidays (if you own a CD player, that is).
The music I’ve chosen includes some of the most gorgeous Solstice-themed and Christmas music I’ve ever heard; I chose the tracks I did because each of them seemed particularly suited to an imagined quiet evening in front of a fireplace (as opposed to future compilations I envision making of choral music or more rousing instrumentals).
Because I realize not everyone may be interested in receiving such a thing, I’ll refrain from sending them out to everyone I’m mailing a holiday card and/or this newsletter to – but if you don’t get a CD and would like a copy, just let me know, and I’ll mail you one post-haste. If you’d rather alert me via email, my address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Season’s Greetings, One and All
I look forward to hearing news from some those of you I haven’t already heard from by the time you finally receive this. Whether you choose to write or not, I hope that many unexpected good things will come to you despite whatever economic inconveniences and hardships some of us may find ourselves facing in 2009 and beyond. Happy holidays!
A Poem for the New Year
The Patience of Ordinary Things
by Pat Schneider*
It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?
*From Another River: New and Selected Poems (2005),
via my friend Franklin who heard it on National Public Radio’s “The Writer’s Almanac” on October 27, 2008
Winter Solstice, 2009
The year 2009 started out for me rather uneventfully, with my continuing to work at the branch library I’ve been at for half a decade or so, and starting a second year living alone for the first time in approximately 15 years.
What I didn’t know then was how different the second half of the year would be from the first half.
You may recall that, after partnering for nineteen years, Larry and I split up in September 2007, with Larry moving four months later to an apartment several miles away. After taking a year’s worth of Spanish lessons here in Atlanta during 2008, Larry quit his job and moved out of Atlanta in early February 2009. After visiting with his family in Phoenix, Larry then moved to Mexico, where he’s now teaching English in a language school in Guadalajara. Larry and I stay in touch through periodic emails and via Larry’s Facebook updates.
At about the same time as Larry’s departure from Atlanta last February, I decided it might be interesting to resume some activities that I greatly enjoyed at a much earlier time in my life. I signed up for weekly classes with the local gay square dancing group, started going to a couple of local contra dancing groups, and took up weekly T’ai Chi lessons again. All of these still-ongoing, fairly frequent activities have been fun, and my ageing body has certainly benefited from them.
In the workplace arena, my most interesting project this year was setting up a blog last spring to support the enthusiasms of the book-loving (vs. the computer-obsessed) patrons of the public library where I work. It took me a couple of months to get the hang of the blogging software and to build up a readership, but I’m fairly happy with the results and currently update the blog almost every day. Those of you with Internet access who spend time reading books might enjoy this blog too: you can find it at http://atlantareader.wordpress.com.
Speaking of blogs, one of the reasons for teaching myself how to blog was a longstanding plan to someday create a personal blog. By the time you receive this (or shortly thereafter), that blog should be up and running. I don’t know what I’m going to call it, but you can find it at https://calgough.wordpress.com. I hope to eventually post there (among other things) lots of photos, plus quotations from (and an ongoing list of) the books I’m reading, so I hope some of you with Internet access will consider visiting the blog from time to time, and posting your comments (and your reading/listening/viewing recommendations).
Meanwhile, back at Chez McLendon, I enjoyed welcome departures from my usual daily round whenever out-of-town friends came to visit overnight.
Blanche drove up from Dublin, Georgia for brief visits in January, February, and April; Terry flew down in March from DC; in May, two librarian pals – Paul (now living in Oregon) and Dee (now living in Massachusetts) – joined me for a week-long reunion in Atlanta; and in June, Peg and Gary (then living in Pennsylvania, now several months into a two-year stint with the Peace Corps in Panama) blew through Atlanta.
I spent my birthday this year (my 61st) where I’ve been spending so many other recent birthdays, at the cabin in Blue Ridge, Georgia (about 1½ hours away) that several friends and I have co-owned for the past ten years.
In mid-August, Terry and I met up in Portland for a road trip through the scenic glories of Oregon. It was great to spend a whole week traveling and visiting with Terry, and our trip included two days with Paul and his partner Donnie (now living in Eugene) plus a three-day visit with my brother Mike, his wife Inice, and their daughter Erin, who live in a beautiful straw-bale house that Mike built himself outside of Sisters (near Bend). I hadn’t spent this much time with my brother since we were both a whole lot younger, and it was wonderful spending sharing a few days together as grown-ups!
No home improvements to report for 2009, and not much gardening got done this year either – although I really enjoyed attending a day-long gardening seminar with my sister Gayle in April, and I made a bit more progress in turning my front yard into a “fernery.”
At the end of May, something happened that would profoundly change the course of the rest of the year for me…and perhaps for a lot longer than that.
A fellow named Frederick Peck, who my brother Mike had introduced me to over three decades ago and who I’d subsequently lost touch several years after Fred left Atlanta for a job opportunity in Chicago, surfaced on Facebook, an Internet “social networking” website.
Delighted to have suddenly re-discovered each others’ whereabouts again – Fred now lives in Fort Lauderdale – we spent several days together in August catching up on all that had happened to each of us over the past (gulp!) 32 years.
Shortly after Fred returned to Florida, I was surprised to learn that Fred and his partner of thirteen years were splitting up. Not long after that, Fred and I arranged a series of further visits here in Atlanta, during which we’ve been discovering, to our mutual amazement and delight, that our ancient connection is still a powerful one.
Although Fred’s retirement a couple of years ago has allowed him the freedom to travel back and forth to Atlanta approximately once a month since September, we don’t know yet how we’re going to manage the geographical and financial barriers to spending more time together. What we do know is that we are excited by and at ease with each others’ company, and look forward to exploring and deepening our new-found (re-)connection.
Of the numerous post-Larry scenarios I had imagined for myself since late 2007, what has happened with Fred and me was definitely not among those fantasies. Needless to say, I am exceedingly happy about this unlikely, unexpected (and unexpectedly intense) turn of events.
As someone skeptical about the notion of people having “destinies,” I have nonetheless often felt the hand of fate in (a) Fred and I having found each other again at all after so long a time, and (b) our continued discoveries of so many significant shared compatibilities, similarities in the life-lessons we’ve learned over the years (especially lessons learned from our previous relationships with our respective Significant Others), and a host of shared interests – for example, our love for travel and, even more important, our love of reading.
Finally, the rekindling of my relationship with Fred has felt like a miracle on top of a previous miracle: the day sometime in early May 2009 when I realized that my self-confidence and feeling of general well-being had returned for the first time in a couple of years.
In addition to Fred’s monthly visits to Atlanta since August, I enjoyed several out-of-town adventures during the latter half of 2009:
- a fascinating weekend in early October with approximately one hundred other gay men at a 20th annual spirituality retreat in Highlands, NC;
- a long weekend later that month at a gender-free contra dance gathering in Western Massachusetts – preceded a short-but-sweet visit with my friend Dee (and his partner Scott) in Northampton,
- followed by an equally sweet-if-also short visit with my friend Corky in Manhattan.
Here in Atlanta, I took full advantage this past year of two excellent local literary festivals: the 4th annual Decatur Book Festival and the 3rd annual Atlanta Queer Literary Festival.
Lawson H. Bowling, M.D.
Wise Person, Beloved Administrator, Mentor
Fred and I are spending the holidays with our respective families, but we were able to do a few seasonal things together during Fred’s most recent visit here, and part of my holiday glee is looking forward to my first trip to Florida to visit Fred there the first week of 2010.
Meanwhile, I’m happy to report that I’ve been successful in further scaling back on the annual “Stressmas” frenzies, having decided to puzzle out what I most like – and dislike – about these holidays and being more thoughtful about how I would prefer to celebrate them. Marking the Winter Solstice, which human beings have been ceremoniously acknowledging for approximately 30,000 years, is one of several natural cycles I’ve become increasingly more interested in paying closer, grateful attention to.
…Gratitude. Having been struck on several occasions this past year with upswellings of that particular feeling – gratitude for my continued fine health, for my supportive family, for my treasured friendships, for the numerous comforts and conveniences of my little house that’s situated in such a congenial neighborhood, and for a recent run of good fortune in my work environment – I’ll finish this year’s holiday greeting with an excerpt from a poem (from her 2008 collection entitled Red Bird) written by one of my favorite living poets, Mary Oliver:
Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.
All the best to you and to those you love throughout the upcoming first year of our new decade!
Another Unusual Year for Mr. Gough
Although it’s difficult to make a generalization about what an entire year has felt like, some unexpected discombobulations in both my personal and my professional worlds have made 2010 seem a bit odd to me. Here’s why:
I started out the year involved (long-distance) with someone who I very strongly felt might become a potential Significant Other. In mid-May, that relationship unexpectedly ended as abruptly as it had started (back in late August 2009). I therefore spent the majority of 2010 re-adjusting, once again – and not very happily – to the routines of living as a single guy.
Meanwhile, I had also started out 2010 as a happy-as-a-clam Assistant Manager at the branch library I’d been working at for almost eight years. In March, because of a colleague’s retirement during a county hiring freeze, I was permanently reassigned to replace that manager at a branch across town. This change resulted in a set of colleagues to supervise, and a distinctly different set of customers, priorities, problems, and challenges – not to mention a longer daily commute. Before the year was over, the HVAC system at that new-to-me branch fell apart and we’ve temporarily closed the building I’m supposed to be managing. That predicament means that for the past couple of months I’ve been back working at my previous workplace.
Despite this disorienting development at work, I feel grateful that – unlike many, less fortunate Americans – I am still employed. And in a job I love. (Well, in a job I like, most days.)
Patterns in my life that remained stable throughout 2010 from previous years:
• I remain amazingly healthy for a 62-year- old American, a fact for which I am exceedingly grateful. (And which I largely credit to my seventeenth consecutive year eating a mostly-vegetarian diet.)
• I still enjoy getting out of Atlanta approximately one weekend every month, spending it at the cabin that a group of friends bought ten years ago in the north Georgia mountains.
• I continue to enthusiastically attend a weekly T’ai Chi class taught by two gifted teachers.
• I continue to periodically attend several local contra dance and English county dance events.
• I accomplished this year a goal I’d set for myself late last year: posting more frequently to two online blogs I write. (To find the blogs, just ask Mr. Google to find “Cal Gough’s Blog” and/or “Atlanta Booklover”)
• I still spend a lot of my free time reading. I recently agreed to serve on a panel of judges for a national award given to the best gay/ lesbian nonfiction book published this year, and will be expected to read up to 50 nominees within the next few months! Yikes!
• I continue to greatly benefit from attending the weekly silent services of the local Quaker Meeting, where I also continue to serve as the Meeting’s volunteer librarian.
• Weather permitting, I continue to very much enjoy riding my now-five-years-old motor scooter almost everywhere I go.
I also have continued my life-long habit of traveling outside Georgia whenever time and budget permit. My trips this year:
- In January, I was chauffeured around parts of South Florida: Fort Lauderdale, Miami’s South Beach, and (best of all) Key West.
- In February, I experienced my first-ever ocean cruise, stopping at several Caribbean ports-of-call, only one of which I had visited before.
- In May, I briefly revisited some of my favorite parts of western North Carolina (Asheville and the Highlands area).
- In June, I visited my friend Terry who lives just outside Washington, DC. We made two day trips during that visit, and I spent another day getting better acquainted with Old Town Alexandria, where Terry works.
- In October, my sister Gayle and I made a wonderful week-long road trip throughout much of New England. We spent almost half that week seeing the sights of coastal of Maine, where, year before last, I’d taken my first-ever solo vacation.
Back at the Ranch
House-wise, the year’s major project was replacing the door and French windows that open onto my patio. The really big change outdoors resulted from a neighbor’s cutting down several trees. Suddenly, after umpteen years of coping with a mostly-shady back yard, I now have all the sunshine any gardener would want: if I had the room, I could probably grow corn back there!
Also this year, I refinanced the mortgage on the house. For the first time since Larry and I split up several years ago, I’m no longer spending more money each month than I’m earning. This is A Very Good Thing in my life. Hurray!
Winter Solstice 2011
The Good News this year is that I am still alive, still as able-bodied and healthy as any 63-year-old could expect to be, am still employed in a job I still enjoy, am still able to live within my income and free of the crushing debt that plagues many people these days. I’m still living in a house – and in a neighborhood – that are so well-suited for meeting most of my needs and druthers that I hope to continue living in them indefinitely. I continue to enjoy frequent fellowship with my smallish circle of friends (some living in Atlanta, some living elsewhere) and am almost satisfied with the frequency of my contacts with an almost-adequately-sized circle of congenial acquaintances.
The Bad News: one of my closest friends (who was very close to my own age) died this past year, as did one of my favorite uncles. And, almost as distressing and disorienting, another close friend is confined to a hospital in D.C., recovering not only from emergency heart by-pass surgery but also from a very serious post-surgery stroke. (The good news about this latest bad news is that Terry seems to be making steady progress, which his friends are able to monitor via a frequently-posted-to Internet group.)
Probably the most subjectively significant bit of personal news is that 2011 was the year I noticed that I’d finally became more comfortable living alone. After spending most of my adult life living with a series of other individuals (with the most recent of those couplings lasting 19 years), the process of emotionally and financially readjusting to the routines (and budget) of a single person was quite a challenge. The relief I’ve felt at this successful transition doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned my hope that that another Significant Other will materialize at some point, but I have been far from unhappy living alone these past twelve months, and that’s A Good Thing.
One happy result of this third consecutive year of living solo has been some further feathering of my little nest here on McLendon Avenue. For example, I’m now enjoying a slightly upgraded kitchen (with so much more counter space!), a fact that I hope will support my resolve to steadily expand my modest cooking skills.
Of my three main interests outside of work – reading, gardening, and traveling – I’ve done more of the first and less of the other two this year. In fact, the only three trips I made outside of Georgia this past year were not sightseeing adventures:
- In late May, I attended the wedding in D.C. of my friend Tom Turner to Joe Rawson, where I also got to visit with my other DC-area friend Terry, and got brief glimpses of my librarian pals Howard Jaffe and Stephen Klein.
- Last summer I drove to Arkansas with my sister Gayle and with my mom for the memorial service honoring my favorite uncle, who died in June.
- This past fall I traveled to New York City so I could spread in Central Park the ashes of my friend (and longtime Manhattan resident) Corky Garner, who died unexpectedly in March.
Although I’ve been spending a bit more of my free time than I’d prefer in my increasingly comfortable little house in Atlanta, I also spent about two dozen weekends away from it, at the mountain cabin that several friends and I co-own in Blue Ridge, Georgia. These periodic weekend getaways remain as delightful as they were when we first bought the place twelve (!) years ago, and I continue to feel grateful for such frequent access to surroundings and activities quite different than those I’m used to in Atlanta: the gorgeous mountain scenery, fewer chores to interfere with my reading, spending time with my sister Gayle in her own interesting neck of the mountain woods not too far from Blue Ridge, abundant opportunities for napping outdoors in a hammock, negligible traffic to contend with, having horses living next door, etc.
Meanwhile, back at the bungalow, except for my weekly square-dancing class and the occasional meal at some distant restaurant, I probably spend most of my days and nights within a five-mile-radius of my house. Not only does this minimize the amount of time I’m forced to spend in a car contending with Atlanta’s notorious urban sprawl and all its traffic, but it means that I can do a lot of my to-ing and fro-ing – including, most days of each year, my five-mile commute to work – via my trusty motor scooter. To my surprise, scootering remains – a full seven years into it now – a lot of fun for me, and it’s certainly more enjoyable than driving somewhere – anywhere – in a car (or, in my case, in a ten-year-old pickup truck).
There’s not much news on the gardening front to report for 2011, other than the planting of three additional butterfly bushes (purple, of course), plus a tiny, allegedly butterfly bush-like (and purple-blossomed) “chaste tree” sapling on the bank beside the driveway. I also installed a handsome row of miniature cast-iron fences along one of the stone paths out back. As for 2011’s shrub, flower, and herb purchases, I again this year (barely) managed to stay well within my $1,000-max-per-year garden hobby budget (a budget ever at risk of being exceeded, as Gayle and I are fond of patronzing several nurseries she’s discovered in the North Georgia hinterlands).
As for work news, things at the branch library that I’ve managed the past couple of years have settled down to semi-normal compared to the previous year’s comedy of errors, when the owner’s renovation of the building’s other floors wreaked havoc on the library’s operations (and on my peace of mind). The half-dozen colleagues I supervise at the branch are personable and dependable, plus I’ve enjoyed becoming reacquainted with Atlanta’s interesting Midtown neighborhood. Fortunately, I’ve recently discovered a more scenic (if slightly longer) route to work, which makes scootering there and back every day more interesting than it had been previously.
Activities undertaken before 2011 but continued with pleasure this year:
- Weekly Tai Chi classes, taught by two of the most knowledgeable, personable, patient, and skillful teachers I’ve ever had the good fortune to encounter.
- Weekly square dancing classes, which have been a lot more fun for me this year since the gay organization sponsoring the classes hired a new instructor who takes seriously his teaching duties. Attending these classes, however, has meant that, at least temporarily, I’m showing up at fewer local contra dance and English country dance events.
- Attendance most Sunday morning silent services at the local Quaker congregation, where I continue to serve – rather slap-dashedly, I’m a-feared – as its volunteer librarian.
- Updating (although not as often as I plan to eventually) my personal blog: http://www.calgough.wordpress.com
- Updating almost every other day the blog I write that celebrates the joys and virtues of the printed word: http://www.atlantareader.wordpress.com
Several activities new to me this year:
- Joining a meditation group and a monthly book discussion group – plus attending the quarterly plenary gatherings – organized by the Atlanta contingent of the Gay Spirit Visions organization.
- Dropping in on several discussion groups among the younger generation of the gratifyingly large (and totally adorable) local tribe of Radical Faeries.
- Joining another book club (now defunct) through which in late September I met an interesting fellow named Roger who I’m now hanging out with quite a lot lately.
As for summarizing Calvin’s thoughts and sentiments (vs. his activities) this past year, I list here several patterns that seem to have preoccupied me for several years now:
- Further disenchantment with (and increased indifference to) the depressingly repetitive spewings of the American Media Machine, and a related growing lack of interest in the wearying, increasingly irrelevant spectacle of U.S. electoral politics.
- Abandoning my ambition for gradually transforming my eating habits into those of a Perfect Vegetarian – although I do plan to remain an aspiring one whenever eating alone at home alone or in restaurants.
- Rapidly growing skepticism of the claims and of all organized religions, including Christianity.
- More frequent feelings of awe for the complexity, fragility, and sheer beauty of the natural world, and more conscious enjoyment of the annual cycle of the Earth’s seasons.
- Ditto with respect to the complexity, fragility, capacities, and sheer beauty of the human body.
- Increased chagrin at the simultaneously inspiring and horrifying arc of human history, and frustration with humankind’s dangerous (and often disastrously manipulable) thirst for a level of certainty and security than humankind is likely to achieve.
- Continued interest in the never-ending high-stakes struggle between human superstition and the occasional (though far-from-permanent) inroads into it made by the brave enemies of human ignorance in all its forms.
- Noticing more than I used to notice how much younger I feel than how I look. (“Welcome to gay elderhood, Mr. Gough.”)
- Being humbled by, and drawn toward, all manifestations of human open-heartedness and intellectual bravery that I’m lucky enough to witness, and feeling sad that instances of either are so unusual.
- A growing appreciation of the multiple ironies and embarrassing contradictions in the workings of human minds (including my own).
- An increased impatience with politicians’ simplistic proposals for “solving” stubborn social problems or for redressing social injustices.
- A growing appreciation of the arts (and of music in particular).
- Ditto for the range and power possessed by the English language’s most articulate users: its best poets, novelists, playwrights, and journalists.
- Continuing fascination with the symbolic and psychological aspects of architecture and of landscape design, particularly with the symbolic and psychological aspects of homes and gardens.
March 19, 1930 – June 4, 2011
January 28, 1947 – February 19, 2011
I hope I’ll be hearing from some of you about your own versions of 2011: what you hoped for, what you encountered, what you thought and felt about it all.
Feel free to use whatever communication method is easiest for you: I’m on Facebook; I’ve got that Internet blog (http://www.calgough.wordpress.com) that you can leave comments at; there’s always email (email@example.com); and, of course, actual letters posted via the U.S. “snail mail” are always welcome, too!
Meanwhile, may the Solstice find you already enjoying whatever holidays you celebrate this time of year. Here’s hoping 2012 will be an interesting one for all of us!
Quote for the New Year:
“If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; if you are depressed, it will cheer you; if you are excited, it will calm you.” – William Gladstone (1865)
Poem for the New Year:
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird –
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? let me
Keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
– Mary Oliver, from “Messenger” in Thirst (2006)
Note: The text of the snail-mailed annual newsletters for subsequent years were posted directly to the blog: