Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Gun in the House

I've never been strongly for or against gun control. I've always said laws wouldn't keep guns out of the hands of those who want them any more than laws have kept heroin out of the arms of junkies. On the other hand, I think we do need fewer guns all the way around and that without them, many of the killings wouldn't happen. That is what I believed until last night.

I don't own a gun, but I'm pretty sure if I went to get one I wouldn't run into any problems. I'd pass a background check easily and if you know me you'd say I'm probably a pretty stable person. I could be trusted with a gun. Or could I?

Last night around 1:30 am. I was lying in bed reading when I heard a "bang". After the second one I thought perhaps some snow or ice was falling off the roof and hitting the side of the house. Then I heard another one. At this time I went to my bedroom window and looked out.

I live directly across the street from a bar. In fact, the courtyard is less than twenty yards away. When I opened my blinds to look out, I heard the cheering of a crowd. There was a group of about ten guys in the courtyard of the bar and they were looking my way. And then the snowballs came again. At first I thought they might have been friends urging me to come out and play. Then I realized I didn't know any of these guys.

I couldn't understand and I stood there for a minute trying to wrap my mind around why they would be throwing snowballs at my house. Had I pissed someone off? No, I was lying in bed reading. Were they guys just trying to be cool and see who could throw the furthest? Were they just trying to hit the building or were they aiming directly for the windows? After a few more throws I realized they were aiming for the windows.

Now I realize they were just snowballs and probably just some drunk guys trying to show off, but at 1:30 in the morning, all alone in the house, with no apparent reason to be targeted, I felt like I was under attack. I was scared and then angry. My next thought was, "I wish I had a gun."

I watched as six guys took turns throwing snowballs at the windows standing between me and the cold night air. I needed to make them stop before one of the windows was broken.

I needed a gun. I didn't want to kill anyone, but I was damn sure if I went out waving a gun at these punks, the snowball throwing would stop and a couple of them might piss their pants. I wanted them feel just as violated as I did. What's more, I suddenly needed a gun because if they were randomly throwing snowballs at my house, I could just as randomly be targeted to be beaten up, robbed, or worse. I needed something to protect myself.

The feeling and need for a gun was quickly replaced with sound reasoning. I called the bar and asked them to tell the guys to stop. They did and it stopped immediately. Then I spent the next hour wondering if they would be retaliating against me for reporting them.

I don't know why they picked my place to throw snowballs at, or why they wanted to break some windows, but it probably wasn't personal. It was random. A random act done by some, probably drunk, guys trying to be badasses.

So now I understand why someone would want a gun to protect themselves, and I also understand that in the absence of a gun, I was forced to find another solution. I'd like to think if I would have had a gun I never would have gotten it out before sound reasoning would kick in. I would like to think that. I guess it all depends on how scared you are and what's at stake.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Isn't All Art Subjective?

If you read this blog yesterday, you'll know I did not enjoy the big screen adaptation of Les Miserables. I said what I liked and didn't like and I also acknowledged that many people will love the film. Some of my best friends, and people I admire, loved the film. How could this be?

Actually it's all subjective. What one person loves, another person hates. Or they're indifferent, which is really the death knell for art. Indifference. The role of art, and I mean this as in cinema, theatre, books, television, photography, or what we usually consider art: paintings, sculpture, etc.. is to invoke a feeling, or interest in a person. It's not just entertainment.

By hating (and I use that term loosely because there were parts I liked) Les Miserables, I felt immediately compelled to call my friend, Preetemdas, and tell him how much I hated it. I ran into a coworker at the grocery store and went on to tell him how much hated it. I even came home and blogged about it. It had me talking. In fact, I couldn't shut up. Like it or not, it did it's job.

In my novel, Postcards from the Desert, I have a character, Elsa, who is a blind artist. She makes paintings by using textures as well as colors. She explains to my protagonist how she sees a painting compared to what a sighted person sees. It's all a matter of perspective. We each bring our own set of baggage, feelings, prejudices and expectations to everything we experience. This is how one person can love The Fifty Shades of Grey and others can hate it. It's where we come from.

Several months ago, I gave a copy of Postcards to some beta readers. One is a writer who is published and has become a friend of mine through Facebook and Twitter. One was a relative. Two were fellow writers from my writer's group. One was an avid reader. When I got their feedback each of them had different things to say. One didn't think a certain part was believable, while another person completely bought it. One thought it was slow in one section, another loved the pace of that section. As a writer looking for feedback, this can be very confusing. What to leave in, what to leave out?

It has taken me several months and lots of trial and error on revising my novel but today it finally hit me. Everyone is going to view it differently. I'm not going to write a novel that everyone is going to love. Some will be angry about it. Some will love it. Some will love parts of it and be uncomfortable in other parts. Ultimately, like Elsa says, "I finally stopped painting for other people and started painting for me."

My revisions just got a whole lot easier. I can stop trying to make the story fit the audience and write the story that's true to my intentions. I hope others will read it, but after all, I'm writing this for me and my characters.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

I Dreamed a Dream

It is not often that I leave a movie theatre angry. Well, in the case of subject matter, Schindler's List left me angry, but I was also kind of numb from having my heart ripped out of my chest.

Today I left the theatre angry. I went to see one of my all time favorite musicals brought to the big screen. Les Miserables. Yes, films have been made before about Les Miz but not musical films. I've been anticipating this day since I heard it was being done. Maybe my expectations were too high.

Critics have not been kind to the movie. I chalked that up to "theatre snobs." It turns out they were right. At least in my opinion. Many people will go see it and love it. And they should. If you've never seen the story before, you will be enthralled.

I've had the advantage, or disadvantage in this case to have seen the stage version many times. I've listened to the sound track many many times. It's my "go to" musical. It's about fighting the fight for equality, empowerment, redemption, and forgiveness. All of my favorite topics.

Now I knew not to expect much from the singers. Most had passable voices. Anne Hathaway stood out as excellent, as did, Eddie Redmayne, as Marius. I Dreamed a Dream and Empty Chairs at Empty Tables were my two favorites of the film. Also just two redeeming moments.

My problem was not the voices. I could accept that, although I did wish I was listening to the Broadway Cast Recording at some points, as I watch the scenes unfold. My problem was the cinematography and editing. Two things you don't really notice unless they're bad.

Tom Hooper, the director, is apparently a fan of close ups. The whole film is one close up after another. In fact, I'm not even sure the actors were in the room at the same time when they were filming some of the scenes. Close ups are good when the director wants the audience to catch a subtle moment, or tell them this is important. When you do a whole film of them, you never know what's important and what to pay attention too.

The second thing I hated was the jerky camera movements followed by rapid fire cuts. One close up to another. One jerky pan to another. It made me motion sick.

Les Miserables is a beautiful story set against the backdrop of an unsettled France. It's the weaving of the stories of Jean Valjean, Inspector Javert, Fantine, Cosette, Marius, Eponine, and others. It needs a large stage, or some distance,  to show the intertwining of the stories. Not more closeups.

There were times when I felt like the director was saying, "see, you couldn't do this on stage" as the camera would shakily follow an actor, or highlight a particular prop piece.

The straw that broke my back was during Eponine's On My Own, which she did wonderfully. She captured the heartbreak of the character. Samantha Barks could both act and sing. It was a lovely scene and song until the director decided to illustrate the words to the song in case we were too stupid to understand. There is a line in the song "in the rain, the pavement shines like silver." Don't you know the camera panned down to show the pavement shining like silver. "See told you," he seems to say. Then the line "all the lights are misty in the river." Pan to the street lamp in the fog. Then if those weren't enough, the line is "the streets are full of strangers." Eponine, who has been all alone in this whole segment is suddenly joined by one dark figure walking by and you guessed it, the camera panned to him.

I really wanted to love Les Miz, but I certainly did not. The actors were, for the most part, wonderful. I don't blame them. The singing wasn't bad. The sets, from what we could see of them, looked great. Although it could have all be shot in front of a green screen for all they interacted with the sets, or each other for that matter. I guess closeups can't capture that.

This could have been a much better film, had the director relaxed and let it flow. The audience knows what's important. You don't have to beat us over the heads with it. The people coming to see your film are probably not the typical audience for Honey Boo Boo. We understand grown up things.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

Imagine

I've struggled all weekend to come up with something to say about the school shooting last Friday in Newtown, CT. I could say something about gun control, but smarter people than I can better argue that. I could say something about mental health, but again, more intelligent people than me are already supporting that cause.

We all ask, "how did we get here?" Each shooting like this is more shocking than the last. We look around for someone to blame. Was it the mother? Society? The media? Was he bullied? Most of the time we will never know what goes on in the minds of these killers.

Since we can't understand why, our next question is how do we stop this from happening. I know many people say gun control, but we're naive to think that's the complete solution. Drugs are illegal, yet drug use is rampant in this country. People will always find a way to get what they're looking for. We have to make them stop wanting to look. How do we do that?

Kindness!

We live in a country so heavily fractured among racial, income and theological lines that we are actually broken. Our society is broken!

We've replaced empathy with apathy. Kindness with cruelness. Encouragement with ambition. We live in a society that says "succeed at all costs." A society where talking heads on television can openly show hostility to the President of the United States. A society where religious leaders can preach hate from the pulpit and say certain people should be put to death. A society where reality television shows glorify greed and manipulation. A society where corporate leaders are given million dollar salaries and bonuses while their workers earn minimum wage and go without healthcare. A society where people people with HIV can only afford to take their meds every other week, if at all. A society where The Westboro Baptist Church can picket soldiers funerals because "God is punishing us."

As long we accept these things, we are all part of the problem. The Constitution guarantees the right to free speech, but it does not say that speech can not be held accountable and have consequences. When the Westboro Baptist Church picketed a young gay man's funeral (Matthew Shepard), a friend, Romaine Patterson, organized a group of "angels" to block them. That's what we need. They showed love and kindness in the face of hate. And it worked.

This kindness doesn't have to be at a global level. It starts locally with each one of us. To start, simply look people in the eye when you walk down the street, and smile. Say "hello." You'd be amazed how few of people are used to that. Most will probably look away, afraid you're going to bum money from them. Isn't that what we all do? We live in our lonely shells and don't let people get too close. We're afraid they might want something. They do. A connection. Even a momentary connection with another human being done in kindness can change the course of a whole day. You might even be saving lives.

"You can say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope some day you'll join us, and the world will live as one." ~ John Lennon, Imagine

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Twelve Days til Christmas? What?

People keep asking me if I'm ready for Christmas.  It surprises me each time.  "What?!"  I answer.  "Oh yeah.  Nope."  The truth is I keep forgetting Christmas is coming.

Sure the trees are up and I hear Christmas Carols everywhere I go, but it just doesn't seem like Christmas for some reason.  It also doesn't seem like I should have to have my winter coat out either, but I get reminded when I go outside.

It's not that I'm not in the Christmas spirit.  The whole "peace and good will towards men" is something I try to carry throughout the year.  It's not that I'm not in the mood of giving, because I'm usually like that.  When money is scarce, I can never give as much as I'd like to, but the desire is still there.

It seems like the older we get, the faster time moves.  It seems like it should only be about October.  Thanksgiving didn't feel like Thanksgiving this year either.  What's up with that too?  Maybe I just need to stop and let my sense of wonder play for a while.  Maybe I could stop thinking about work, paying bills, walking the dogs, doing the responsible things I do everyday.

I hope my brain wraps around Christmas soon.  I'd hate to see another holiday pass and feel like just another day.

Christmas is supposed to be special.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Name is Rick...and I'm an Alcoholic


I was four months shy of my twenty-first birthday when I first said those words out loud.  It was a small meeting in Oakwood, and I was less than twenty-four hours from my last drink. In fact, I was still shaking from the blackout I had the night before. I had awaken that morning about five miles from home in a motel room.  I didn't have my car, my shoes were nowhere to be found and I was in bed with a man and woman I didn't know. I sneaked out of the motel room before the others woke up and grabbed a pair of house slippers that were on the floor.  As I walked home that cold January morning, I tried to piece together the events of the night before, but nothing came.  It was my worst fear-- a complete blackout.

It sounds like the beginning of a novel, but it was actually the end of a nightmare that had become my life.

I had no idea what to expect in that first AA meeting.  I thought I'd find a bunch of smelly old guys in trench coats.  I was surprised to find about half of those in attendance were only a few years older than me, and they were also gay.  They were good looking and their faces held some kind of serenity I hadn't known. I wanted desperately what they had.  That was January 6, 1986.

I quickly fit in with the recovering alcoholics I surrounded myself with, while continuing to go to bars and working as a waiter and bartender.  Some of the oldtimers warned me I'd never stay sober that way.  But I did... for over a year. One weekend I slipped, and curiously enough, so did my sponsor.  We both got back to meetings and began our sobriety over again.  It was a rocky couple of months of in and out, but then on August 1, 1988 I began what was to become twelve years of sobriety.

Twelve years without so much as a drop to drink.  I went to meetings. I hung out with sober friends. I stopped hanging out in the bars as much and started living a productive life.  I was amazed at how much time and energy I had by not drinking.

Growing up I was always around alcohol and I want to be clear here that I don't blame anyone for my drinking problems, but it was very easy for me to drink.  It started when I was thirteen and continued through my teen years.  I had always been everyone else's caretaker when they drank too much until someone wisely, or no so wisely, suggested I don't worry about others and I have a good time.  Alcohol became my refuge.  My escape.  My excuse not to take care of others.  That need to take care of others came back after I got sober, but that's a whole other blog entry for a later day.

After twelve years and having my shit together for a while, I began to wonder if I really was an alcoholic.  Alcoholics Anonymous calls this thinking cunning, baffling and powerful.  After all, I was a completely different person, right? So after much thought I did what the Big Book of AA suggests to those who think they may not be alcoholics. I decided to try some controlled drinking.  I had a beer.  Then three weeks later, I had another beer.  Two months later I had a cosmopolitan. Nothing happened.  I didn't get drunk. My life didn't spiral out of control.

For someone who had been sober and studying the text of Alcoholics Anonymous for over a decade, this fucked me up.  I didn't know what to think of my ability to control my drinking.  It went against everything I had known.  I certainly couldn't tell my friends in AA.  They would say I was in denial.  Eventually I learned why I was able to stop at one or two beers.  It's because I had a choice.  Before AA I didn't know how to live sober.  I didn't know what people who didn't drink could possibly do for fun.  How did they deal with life? Once I had a taste of sobriety I actually preferred it.

Twelve years after picking up that first beer again, and I still prefer living a sober life.  Don't get me wrong.  I do love an occasional beer, glass of wine or cocktail.  And sometimes I've had one or two more than I should have, but it's not my life now.  My life is waking up clear headed in the morning. My life is not blacking out and coming home with an empty wallet.  My life is mine.  I'm not just along for the ride while my dark passenger sits in the driver's seat.

I will always be grateful for those men and women in Alcoholics Anonymous.  They saved my life.  I would not have lasted much longer in the life I was living.  Thoughts of suicide were always hanging over me every time I drank. My dark passenger was winning. I put myself in situations in which I never should have survived. Robbed. Beaten. Raped. But somehow I came out the other side.

Although my life is good now and I'm far away from that person I used to be, I don't delude myself into thinking it could never happen again. It's part of me and as long I don't forget how lucky I am, I think I'll be okay.

One day at a time.





Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Do You Have a Dark Passenger?

If you're fan of Showtime's hit drama, Dexter, you know about the dark passenger.  If you're not, here's a little history. Dexter Morgan is a serial killer.  As a young boy he watched his mother being murdered.  That event left it's mark on him as the urge to kill.  That urge is something he began to call his "dark passenger."   This season Dexter has begun to question who is in control?  Does the dark passenger control him, or does he control the dark passenger.

Luckily we're not all serial killers, but the idea of a dark passenger is not all that different than the parts of ourselves we don't fully accept, or show to the world. As Dexter struggles to stay in control of his dark passenger, how many of us struggle to control our smoking, drinking, drugging, gambling, food addictions, sex addictions, lying, cheating, depression or other secrets?

Dexter's father, who knew about his son's urges, taught him to use a "code" that would help him to control the urge and use it for good.  Dexter's code is only to kill those people who are bad guys, or who have slipped through the cracks of the justice system somehow. What kinds of codes have we created for ourselves?  "I'll only drink on the weekends.  I'll only smoke when the kids aren't around.  I'll only cheat when the spouse is out of town. I'll only get high when I'm stressed.  I'll only eat until 7pm."

I've had a dark passenger.  Several, actually, in the course of my lifetime.  Some I'll freely admit to, some I won't.  I suspect I'm not alone in this.  Anyone who has ever dealt with an addiction understands the concept of something other than ourselves calling the shots.  I think that's why shows like Dexter thrive.  People identify with a character who seems to have come to term with his urges, whether he's controlling them, or they're controlling him.

As Dexter learns his dark passenger is not a separate entity, but a part of himself, we can learn the same lessons.  How much more at peace would we be if we could accept ourselves completely and as one integrated human being?  Flaws and all.  Sometimes merely embracing those flaws and admitting them gives us the strength and courage to change the behavior or take the power away from the dark passenger.

If things feel out of control and you think you need help, ask yourself who's in control of your life?  You or your dark passenger?  Even if it is your dark passenger, you are not alone.


If you're struggling with an addiction or causing harm to yourself or others,  I urge you to seek the appropriate help.  Dexter may be a fascinating television show, but it's no way to live. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Do We Really Want To Define Marriage?

Yesterday the United States Supreme Court agreed to take on same sex marriage. Marriage Equality experts are rejoicing everywhere because its a good thing, right? Well, isn't it?

On one hand I'd say yes. I should be able to marry whomever I choose. On the other hand, I'm not sure "marriage" is the answer.

One of the perks of being gay, besides knowing a lot of good hairdressers, is that we've always been able to operate outside the norm of societal expectations. Where society has said women are supposed to be married by a certain age, or men are expected to be providers for the family, gay men and lesbians have been able to carve out their own lives, free of those expectations. Now if marriage equality becomes the norm, everything changes.

If same sex marriage becomes legal in all fifty states, what happens to those partners who have decided not to become married? Are their relationships suddenly invalidated because they chose not to sign the piece of paper the government provides saying you have a valid union? Instead of equality, we have judgment.

Personally, I don't think we can define any relationship (gay or straight) as valid or invalid. Each relationship is as unique as the two (or sometimes three) individuals who make up that relationship. Some relationships are open, some are hostage situations. Some are two people, some are triads. Some relationships are for convenience, some are arranged. Some are business transactions and some are to legitimize a birth. Unless someone is getting hurt, the terms of the relationship are no one's business except for those involved.

Recently my grandfather passed away, and he left behind a wonderful woman named Joyce. After my grandmother died several years ago, Grandpa met Joyce. They've been inseparable ever since. They attended all the holiday gatherings together. They came to see me in plays together. They did everything except what would have been unheard of a generation ago. They never married. I realized this week when I was telling someone about Joyce, that I was looking for a word as to what she was to my grandfather. Wife? No. Girl friend? Doesn't seem appropriate at 70 something. Life partner? No. Lady friend? Maybe. The fact is, she was just Joyce, a wonderful woman who brought joy to the life of my grandfather and all of us. Isn't that enough of a definition?

If we really have to define marriage, or any relationship, can we just say, "someone who brings you joy?" Maybe the joy isn't everyday, but there is joy in each of our relationships. That's enough to make it valid.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Cost of a Paycheck

Remember when we got jobs out of high school or college and we stayed with those jobs until we retired?  Remember the pensions?  Remember how the boss used to send us home with turkeys for Thanksgiving and hams for Christmas?  Remember the terrific health insurance?  Of course you don't!  That was our grandparents!

As someone who has somehow always found himself in positions of management, I've often wondered what's happened to work ethics.  I've even had conversations recently with other managers about why employees just don't seem to care anymore.  Conscientiousness and pride in ones work has gone by the wayside.  That's me, the manager talking.

Now, there's me the rebel.  Me, the man tired of being held down by the man and the system.  Me, the guy who believes in Human Rights! Yes, me the liberal.

You want to know why employees don't care?  Look at the leadership of the companies today.  They live in expensive mansions, driving expensive cars, and fly on expensive private planes while they cut their employee's hours to less than thirty hours per week so they won't have to provide them with health insurance.  These are also employees making just at or below minimum wage.

You wonder why your employees don't care?  Because they know you don't care about them!

I understand how small businesses with only a few employees worry.  The costs would be prohibitive for them.  I think the employees still have a right to affordable health insurance, but there must be a better way in those situations.

The assholes I don't think have a leg to stand on are the large corporations like Papa Johns, Applebee's and now Denny's.  Each of their CEOs have announced they will cut hours so they don't have to comply with the Affordable Care Act.  Wow!  Way to slap your employees in the face.  One owner of forty Dennys restaurants in Florida, John Metz, even went on to say he would allow the customer to deduct the surcharge he'd have to charge them from the employee's tip.  That's a great idea, asshole!

Mr. Metz, I hope you choke on one of your greasy ass Grand Slams and have to seek some healthcare of  your own.

I get furious at how the rich in this country get and stay rich on the backs of the poor.  The people who can least afford to take the cut, get the shaft every time.

I hope this spawns an uprise from workers everywhere.   Not just in the restaurant industry, but in all areas of business.  The employees who have taken the brunt of the recession, while the CEOs continue with their billion dollar bonuses.  The employees who are tired of taking it in the ass from their employers because they're held captive by a weak job market.

Mark my words, one day it will be an employees market again.  The best and the brightest will be able to write their own ticket and they will remember the acts and attitudes of the companies who screwed them.

A paycheck is nice, but my dignity is not for sale.  Is yours?


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Wednesday, November 7th

We're in the final stretch of the 2012 Presidential Election. Just a few more days of attack ads, polls, and talking heads interpreting it all. Some of us will watch late into the night on Tuesday to see who the next President will be. Some will prolong the joy, or agony, and wait to wake up on Wednesday to find out. Either way, roughly 50 percent of Americans are going to be disappointed and angry over the outcome.

Whether we're looking at four more years for President Barak Obama, or we're learning to say President Romney, the work is only beginning. We are a nation no longer United. We are a nation divided. We are now the Divided States of America. There may not be uniforms of blue and gray. The uniforms are now red states and blue states. Red counties and blue counties. This bumper sticker over that bumper sticker. The killing might not be as blatant, but we are in as much of a civil war as the won fought over a hundred forty years ago. The armies are gathering, and while they may not carry guns, they rile up their troops with words. Angry words. Rhetoric. Lies.

The government that should be bringing sides together is exactly why the sides are so violently divided. The United States Congress is a broken machine of extremists and the lack of compromise. Nothing gets done because no one is willing to work things out. We have a whole party who dedicated the past four years to making sure the President doesn't get anything done and doesn't get a second term. Why? Because he's a Democrat? Or because he's black? Oh yes, I said it. There are a whole lot of racists still out there who won't even admit it to themselves. They'll say things like, "he just doesn't fit in." Kind of the way Country Clubs used to keep the Jews out.

In my lifetime I've never seen a President of the United States more disrespected by the people who are to work with him and much of the nation he serves. In fact, I'm not even sure why he wants a second term. He'd make more money in the private sector. He'd probably get more good done too. He wants a second term because he believes he can make a difference. In spite of all those who conspire against him, he wants to see the job through. That is the kind of dedication I want to see in a Leader.

You may disagree and say "he didn't keep his promises. He promised the unemployment numbers would be better." You do realize that when someone is campaigning for a job, they can't even know what the full job entails until they are elected. And then if they are elected, they can't always share everything they know with the American public. The numbers are getting better, even if it doesn't seem as fast as some would like to see them grow. Slow progress is better than no progress.

If you're still reading, which I doubt some of you are, as you've probably pegged me as some bleeding heart liberal. Well, you might be surprised to know I'm actually more conservative when it comes to government. I believe more democratically when it comes to social issues and human rights, but I lean more conservatively when it comes to the size of government and a fiscal plan. So I guess I'm a moderate. Remember those? If I were elected to Congress I'd work with both sides for the greater good. Which is why I wouldn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of ever being elected.

So, no matter who wins this election, they have their work cut out for them. What we really need is to change Congress. It's time to stop seeing red and blue and see the individuals who can work together for a better America.

This message has been brought to you by the Committee for Rick Flynn for Congress 2014. I'm Rick Flynn and I approve this message.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Witches, Goblins and Ax Murderers, Oh My!

I know a lot of freaks!  And I say that with all due respect.  The freaks I'm referring to are those who celebrate Halloween like it's the Second Coming.  Until recently, I didn't know how many of my friends share this as their most favorite holiday.  They can't wait to put out scary decorations and props.  They live for scary movies, haunted houses, trails of terror and spending the night in a cemetery. 

I get how Halloween is fun for kids.  There's the haunted houses and trick or treat.  There's a lot of cool candy to be had for merely dressing up in a costume.

I get the whole costume thing.  Who can resist putting on something different and becoming someone new for a few hours.  We actors do that all the time.  It can be addictive.

What I don't get is why people will spend perfectly good money to go to a "haunted house" where actors are running around dressed in scary (or mostly gory) costumes. It seems like the more blood and guts the better. The victims walk though hallways where they're grabbed, and surprised and frightened by chainsaws, scary music, or they're own adrenaline. 

What is it about that adrenaline rush that lures us? Is the fear of death something that makes us feel more alive?  

If you really want to be scared, you don't have to wait for Halloween.  You can live on this adrenaline all the time. It's simple.  It's called life.  Here are some things I find pretty frightening and none of them involve actors with painted on body parts seeping. 

1. Write a rent check four days before you have the funds in your account to cover it.  About that third day you'll be making deals with God to make sure the deposit goes in before the check gets presented.

2. Let the condom break, or don't use one at all.  That's enough to keep you on your toes until you or your partner come back with a clean bill of health. 

3. Don't stop at a gas station out in the middle of nowhere when your gas gage reads empty.   You'll be doing some praying as you approach your destination. 

4. Tell your boss you want a raise and if not, you'll be turning in your resignation.  This will have your heart pounding for a few days until you receive your answer. 

5. Have a teenage daughter.  This will provide an endless supply of fear. 

So, you see, there are things a lot more scary than actors in bad makeup.  Think of them next time you feel the need to run for your life. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Are We What We Watch on TV?

You know the old saying, "You are what you eat?"  This takes the premise that if you eat good, healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables, you're going to be healthy.  If you eat junk food, you're going to feel junky.  It makes sense, right?

Is the same true for what we watch on television?  I wonder.

I'm concerned because as the fall television season began I found myself really looking forward to certain shows that I can't seem to get enough of.  A list of those shows would include Dexter, The Walking Dead, Revenge, 666 Park Avenue (which I quickly gave up), and American Horror Story.

Now I'm no psychologist, but that list gives me pause.  On the surface it would seem I'm obsessed with serial killers, sociopaths, demonic possession, zombies, and more demonic possession. 

Actually these things give me nightmares.  I want to turn away and not watch, but the writing is so damned good on these shows.  Why does it seem the best shows on television contain some slice of society considered undesirable.

Some of the best shows are Sons of Anarchy, about a gang of outlaws, Breaking Bad, about making Meth, Nurse Jackie, about a drug addicted Nurse, and then all the above I named.  Boardwalk Empire is a hit and is about the mafia.  Look at how well The Sopranos did.

We as a society are obsessed with the bad guys, so much we make them good guys.  The good guys like Harry's Law, don't hit the right demographic.

I don't know about you, but I'm worried about my television karma.  I hearby sentence myself to an hour of the Hallmark Channel to balance my chi.

At least I'm not watching Honey Boo Boo.  Now there's something to have nightmares over.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Breaking the Silence

I never intended this blog to become negative, or bitter, or any of those things I don't want to be. Unfortunately I think some of that has happened, both to me and the blog. While I've been feeling bad for feeling bad, I have failed to write anything. A self imposed punishment of sorts. An isolation, which I seem so good at. Ask my friends I keep avoiding.

I've always wanted this blog to be lighthearted and fun, but sometimes thought provoking and reflecting. Those things that are me at my best. Lately I haven't been so much my best, so I didn't have it to bring. A very good friend reminded me yesterday that I had to own it and move on.

As you can probably tell from the last few entries, I've been going through an existential crisis, or midlife crisis, depending on how you look at it. Either way, it has SUCKED. It robbed me of my self confidence and my self worth. Everything seemed to be a crisis and it all seemed too much to bear. That straw that breaks the camel's back really can be as insignificant as a straw, or a late payment on utility bill that leaves you in the dark for a few hours.

A few days ago I ran into an old acquaintance I haven't seen in about five years. After a conversation of about ten minutes he turned to me and asked "what happened to you?" "You used to be so self confident." It was like a smack in the face. Even when I was unsure of myself, I was more confident than I have been lately.

I know enough about self esteem and confidence to know it doesn't go away over night. It's a process. It's a gradual chipping away of our self image. I think my decline began with getting laid off, gaining thirty pounds, finding no one out in the job market seemed to want me, going back to an old job making not much more than half of what I used to make doing the same job. Being told I wasn't worth my old salary, etc.... Yes, I still have some anger. It's the only thing sometimes that keeps me from giving up all together.

I know I'm not alone in this. Many Americans are facing the same circumstances. I know I've faired better than many, and I am grateful, but still the anger comes.

In the midst of all this lately, a very dear friend of mine decided she could no longer fight the good fight. It had become too much. She decided to end her life. I don't know what the straw was that finally broke her back, and probably never will know. That scares me. What straw might still await me? Could she have held on for one more day to see if it got better? Would it have been better the next day? I don't know. I only hope she's found peace now.

I had a couple of great conversations with friends lately and I realized the power resides with me. Only I can make the changes necessary to put my life where I want it to be. It sounds so elementary, but in the midst of the darkness, it seems so big. So, I gather up all my strength and I take a step forward. The first step is that I stop apologizing and asking forgiveness for my life. Then I start living it the way I want to live it. On my own terms.

I can't say I'm done with my funk, but I am starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I also know I have some choices I need to make. Some things in my life are not working. I think it's time to start exploring the alternatives. This is where faith comes in.

I've landed on my feet lots of times in life and I'm gathering up the faith to believe I will again. Giving up is not an option for me right now. Becoming stronger because of my struggles is.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

How We're Remembered

I've had a difficult week.  I don't know if it's the change of seasons, or just something deep within me, but I feel unsettled.  Anxious.  I want to be somewhere else. Anywhere but where I am.  I'm in a rut.  I'm looking for some meaning in my life, aside from showing up for my day job, collecting my paycheck, paying bills, walking the dogs and loading the dishwasher. There has to be more.

I've found myself lately envying those people with children, or grandchildren.  They have purpose.  If they do nothing else in life, they are Mom or Dad or Grandma or Grandpa.  They are molding young lives and hopefully raising responsible, thoughtful young adults.  They are shaping the future.  What am I doing?

I read a couple of Mommie and Daddy blogs, because friends write them, and I look at my blog and think it's self indulgent schlock. Is that what my life is too?  Even as I write this, it sounds self pitying, and that's not my intent.

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a writer.  It took me a lot of years to finally accept that it could be a reality. I thought I had to get a "real" job so I pursued a lot of stuff I didn't really want.  And then I did well with those ventures and it only kept me further and further from my writing.

Now, I make time to write, but I get impatient.  I have been doing it for a while on some level, but I've been working on my novel for about four years now. I am ready to be done.  My writer friends tell me not to rush it.  Don't worry about how long it takes.  Enjoy the process.  My non-writer friends say things like, "Still?"  "When are you going to be done?"  Each time I finish a revision, I think I'm closer to done, only to find out it needs more work.  It's frustrating, but I'm told it's all part of the process. I have to trust that.

I admitted to a friend last night that I'm scared.  All my life I've wanted to be a writer.  What if I can't cut it?  What if it turns out I only have a half decent rough draft in me?  That's not good enough.  I don't want to be a half decent writer, or half decent actor, or half decent photographer.  I want to be good!  I want to be great!  Not for the accolades, but because I want to make a difference.  I want someone to remember I was here.

My family tree ends with me.  A hundred years from now I won't have a great grandchild researching my life.  The best I can hope for is a novel or two sitting in the public library, or as an ebook on some primitive version of Amazon.com.

I'm sure this sounds silly to many of you, but it's where I am today.  I want to do something with meaning.








Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Telling a Book By It's Cover

Since I'm nurturing my entrepreneurial spirit by self publishing my first novel, Postcards from the Desert, I get to make decisions other authors might not get to make.  The big one I keep coming back to is, what my novel will look like?  I have to choose or design a cover. There are professional services one can contract to have this done, and I may still do that, but I want to have some input.

Everything I've read regarding choosing a cover has been helpful.  You want something that is going to look good both as a thumbnail image (for ebooks) and on a paperback, if you're going that route as well.  I am.  I plan to publish both as an ebook and in a paperback form.

But how to choose?  I've been looking at other novels to see what sells, and then I've gone through photographs I have taken, or friends have done.




I've gone through different stock photo websites.  Looking for something I want to purchase the right to use. I've enlisted the help of a friend of mine, who is a graphics designer to help me out.  We'll see what he says. Above, are just a few of the mockups I've tried. I've still got time and should probably get back to editing, but this keeps me reminded I am moving forward.  This is really happening.

You might not be able to tell a book by it's cover, but it certainly can't hurt to have the right one.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chipping Away

As I go through what I hope are the final edits of my novel, Postcards from the Desert, before the big proof read, I'm struck at how subjective editing and revising is.   I've had several beta readers look at the manuscript and I've made changes along the way as I see things that need tightened, or cleaned up.  I took their feedback to heart and made changes when necessary, or in some cases chose not to change something they suggested because it didn't feel right to me. I keep referring back to their notes when I get stuck or discouraged.  Through this process I've become very aware of my inner perfectionist who needs this to be perfect and my inner critic who tells me if it's not perfect, I should give up. Revising is hard because there are an endless variety of options.

Some writers say it's like making a sculpture. You chip away at the clay until you get the piece you're looking for.  As a photographer, I'd compare it to cropping a photograph. You change the subject of the photograph by removing the things that distract from it and displaying the things that compliment it. Revising a story is much the same way.  It's in the revisions the theme and "moral" of the story begin to emerge.

I look at my first draft and see how I'm miles from that now.  Almost everything was there, but it was surrounded by a lot of words that distracted from the subject.

Since I decided early on to self publish this novel, I don't have someone from a publishing house saying "Lose this character, or drop that subplot, or add another antagonist," so I ultimately have to make the decisions about where this is going. I like that freedom, but it's also scary as hell. What if I'm wrong?

Ah, my perfectionist!  Always ready to assume the worst.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Favorite Time of Year

For some, summer is the favorite time of year.  Hot days spent at the beach, or in a swimming pool.  Balmy evenings partying on the patio. Playing in the garden. Vacations. Relaxation.  For me, autumn is my favorite time of year.  It's a time for slowing down.

This summer flew by.  I wanted to stop and enjoy it, but work kept me way too busy.  You would think being in theatre it would be the opposite, but alas, I had a lot of planning and training to do before the new season begins (next week).

Now I can take a break and finish those projects I've been picking away at, like the final edits of my novel, and getting some R&R.

Of the many things I love most about autumn, being outdoors is my favorite.  Taking a hike in Yellow Springs, or camping in West Virginia, both have a way of soothing my soul.  The daytime can still be warm, but the evenings are cool enough for a sweatshirt and hot apple cider.

Okay, I'm pushing it a bit here.  Labor day weekend is coming up to signal the unofficial end of summer, but those chilly nights are still several weeks away.  I'll have a little more humidity to endure first. I can manage it because I know what's coming.

Apple cider. Walks in the woods.  Football. Crunching leaves beneath my feet. Lots of photography. Sweaters.

I think I'm already there.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Is Today the Day I Die?

I woke up this morning and wondered if today is the day I should write my obituary. Maybe I watched too much coverage of the tragic shooting in Colorado last night, or it's the crazy show Rob turned me onto, 1000 Ways to Die, or something like that, but I started wondering how to put my affairs in order.

I have a will, a power of attorney, living will, insurance, etc... All the adult stuff, but what about my obituary? How do you sum up a life in 150 words? Would it read something like this?

Richard Alan Flynn, 47 of Dayton, died unexpectedly this morning. He leaves behind a loving partner, Rob, and a host of family and friends. He also leaves behind some outstanding credit card bills, a car payment, the cable bill, DP&L, an almost completely edited novel, a few dollars in a coffee can under the stove, many unreturned emails and phone calls. Directions to program the universal remote (Rob will never figure it out). He owes several coffees and lunches to friends he's put off. A lot of unexpressed gratitude and love. The memory of a first kiss. An apology for a huge misunderstanding, and lots of hugs.

I know we're supposed to live each day to its fullest, but there will always be something undone, or unsaid. How can we do it all?

We can't live our lives in fear, but I don't know if I'll ever be ready to go. Maybe in fifty years, but I don't know. When you look at this crazy world and all the ways one can die, the real miracle seems to be that we're still here. I'm writing it and you're reading it. A piece of space junk could be falling in our direction at this very moment, but we have now.

As for those credit card bills, who cares? I do hope I find the courage in my heart to express that gratitude and love though. Lunches and coffee sound like an excellent idea as well. And hugs. Lots of hugs. They make my heart smile.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mid-life Crisis.....or Just Plain F*cking Tired

We all know the symbols of a mid-life crisis. The man with the new little red sports car or the woman who suddenly leaves her marriage to have an affair with a younger more exotic man. We know the symbols. We make the jokes. But do we really get it? I think I'm beginning to.

I've held some level of adult responsibly since I was eleven years old when I had a paper route and babysat for my brother and sister. I had one of those morning routes where I had to get up at 4am to stuff my papers and get them delivered in time to get back home and get ready for school. The only time I ever got help was on the morning of January 26, 1978. Why do I remember that? Because that morning began what was called The Blizzard of '78 and I was the only carrier in a four county perimeter who delivered that morning. I had some help because my dad came out into the blizzard to find me and help me finish my route.

I've held some kind of job ever since (except a four month period of unemployment in 2008 which I didn't enjoy nearly enough). Now I'm tired!

I'm tired but not in the I-need-a-nap-before-dinner tired. I mean down to the bones and soul tired. Not just of work, but of adult responsibilities. I'm tired of paying bills and showing up for work on time. I'm tired of walking my dogs and picking up their poop. I'm tired of being nice to people who give me nothing but grief. I'm tired of closing doors and turning off lights and then wondering if we'll have enough money to pay for running the air in 100 degree temperatures. I'm tired of waking up in the middle of the night remembering I forgot to pay the phone bill. I'm tired of bank fees and carrying car insurance. I'm tired of deductibles and pre-existing conditions. I'm tired of hearing about wars and elections. I'm tired of employers and companies acting like they give a shit. I'm tired of big bonuses and corporate greed. I'm tired of dieting and failing. I'm tired of worrying about having enough money for retirement. I'm tired of car accidents and people driving drunk. I'm tired of wearing a seatbelt and using condoms. I'm tired of cancer killing my friends.

I'm just so fucking tired!

So the little red sports car and the affair with an exotic younger men are symbols. Symbols of being tired of being responsible and worrying about consequences. Is that what a mid-life crisis is?

I can't afford the little red sports car and I don't know any exotic younger men who would gave me the time of day. It seems that I am stuck.

Just for a little while I want to say, "Fuck it."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

And the Award Goes to....the Other Guy

We've all seen the award shows where a presenter announces the nominees in a category and the cameras zoom into the faces of the hopefuls as they wait to hear whether or not they've won.

"And the Oscar/Tony/Emmy goes to.... the other guy."

Everyone smiles politely for the camera and does their best acting of the night because they really want to scream, "WTF?! I worked my ass off on that role." Susan Lucci made a career off that polite face as she was nominated nineteen times for the Daytime Emmy for Best Leading Actress before she finally won.

It's not New York or Hollywood, but we have a very active theatre community here in Dayton, Ohio. We also have our own version of the awards called the Daytonys. We also have the one theatre critic in town's Best of the Year column he writes for an e-newspaper. Yesterday it came out.

I've been doing theatre off and on for twenty seven years in Dayton. Some professional, but mostly community theatre or in college. I've worked with a lot of great people over the years and I've had a lot of fun doing it. I'm a character actor and I haven't lost out on too many of the roles I've wanted. I even had my first leading role a few years ago in Neil Simon's The Prisoner of Second Avenue. I loved it!

The work itself has always been the reward. I love being on stage. I never did it for the awards, but occasionally I've hoped this might be the one that gets me some attention from my peers. That's what I thought when I went to the Daytonys the year I did Prisoner. As we all sat there and the names were called out I heard my leading lady's name get called as a winner. My heart pounded in anticipation because it might finally be my turn. The names continued to be called and then they moved on to the next category. Wait! Where's my name? I was there too.

If you know the show you know it's basically a husband and wife show until the second half of the last act when the family comes on stage. I just didn't understand how she got an award and I didn't. Its not like the Tony's where only one male or female can win in each category. Everyone deemed "worthy" gets an award. Apparently I wasn't worthy, I thought.

I swallowed my pride and went back to work on other shows. I did three or four after that. After all, it really wasn't the awards that motivated me.

This year, after a four year break, I jumped back on the stage and did an unprecedented (for me) three shows this year. Two of the roles really stretched me as an actor. For that I'm grateful, but is it enough? Here's the thing about acting on stage, you can't see yourself. The only way to know if you're doing a good job is the feedback you get from your peers, your director, and the audiences. And we actors are hungry for that feedback.

So yesterday the Year in Review came out. I scoured the listing looking for my name. It wasn't there. Not even as an honorable mention. Okay. Whatever. One person's opinion, right?

Yes, I'm being a needy self centered actor but I'm doing that because I wonder if it's time to give it up. Its fun, but I don't know if I'm any good at it. If I'm not I've got other things to do.

If awards do one thing they make wonder, do I suck?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Who is in Charge?

One of the first things you'll hear in an AA meeting, or any twelve step group, is that you must believe in a power greater than yourself. That's easy. Pretty much anything fits the bill here. Most choose God, or some similar deity, but aren't we at the mercy of pretty much everyone else? Someone is always ready to take charge of our puppet strings.

The government is always taking our money and telling us what we can and cannot do. For example the government tells me I can't marry my partner of sixteen years. Even though I don't have the same rights as others and am not being represented in government I still have to pay taxes. I believe our forefathers called this taxation without representation.

Corporations are greedy powers greater than ourselves. CEOs make the decisions every day that affect their workers and their livelihood. If the profit is looking less than desirable the company lays off workers. The CEO is then rewarded with millions of dollars in bonuses. I'm sure that will trickle down to the poor people he fucked over eventually. At least that's what the Republicans would like us to believe.

Television executives wield their godlike power based on ratings. Ask Ann Curry if she felt in control of her fate when NBC fired her from the Today Show because Good Morning America beat them in the ratings a few times. NBC execs are used to having their heads up their asses though. They are the same idiots who cancelled one of their highest rated shows, Harry's Law, because it wasn't scoring well with the 18-49 age bracket. Apparently no one over 49 spends money.

If you work in customer service you know you're at the mercy of the customers. Companies are so scared of being blackmailed by bad Yelp reviews or blog complaints they bend over backwards with angry, and often wrong, customers. It's the customer service professionals who take the brunt of the abuse on this one.

You can't make it through your day without coming in contact with someone who has more control of your fate than you do, or at least it seems so. Banks, mortgage companies, insurance companies, bill collectors, landlords, bosses, police officers, teachers, and many others seem to have power over us. Some control.

As we approach the 4th of July and celebrate the independence of our nation, I wish to declare my own independence. I'm tired of feeling powerless in my own life and at the whim of every wind that blows my way. I hereby declare myself the sovereign state of Rick Flynn. One person under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I may not be able to control everything that's going to happen in my life, but I'm nobody's victim either. I need to stop feeling like it. To the tyrannical "England" I say Fuck you!

May we all find the independence we deserve.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What Did He Say?

I've never really thought about it, but I have a disability.  I'm hard of hearing.  I have nerve deafness and my hearing is only about forty percent of what everyone else hears.  Approximately 36 million Americans suffer some degree of hearing loss.  Mine has been since birth.

I wear a hearing aid, which helps tremendously.   Actually I have two hearing aids, but one is almost always in need of repair.  I can usually only afford to have one going at a time.  When one is starting to go out, I quickly get the other one repaired. So I'm not without.   Repairs usually cost between $250 to $300 a shot.  One day, when I have an extra $500 I'll have both working.  And guess what?  Most insurance companies don't cover the cost of hearing aids or repairs.  With the average hearing aid costing $2500 a piece, that's a lot of cash to put out over the years.  My insurance company will pay for me to have an abortion or get Viagra, but hearing isn't as important apparently.  Oops.  That rant is for another day.  


Today I find myself with neither hearing aid working.  One is in for repairs, which is why I decided this would be a good time to write about it.


Like all of our senses, I think we tend to take them for granted until we don't have them or they're temporarily blocked.  I started thinking last night how my deafness has affected my life.  How I've learned to adapt and where it's held me back. 


The first thing I will tell you is that not being able to hear is lonely.  I was a loner as a kid.  Not because I didn't like other people, but because I couldn't really connect with them.  I didn't get my first hearing aid until I was fifteen.  Before that, and even now, it was usually easier to be alone than to continuously ask someone to repeat something, or say "huh" or pretend I heard them.  You'd be amazed at what I've pretended to hear over the years.  That's probably why I'm an actor. 


I also found out at an early age that people don't have a lot of patience for people who have difficulty hearing.  They think just by yelling, or moving their mouths in an exaggerated way they are helping the person who cannot hear.  Actually they're just embarrassing him or her and themselves. 


I know hearing loss can seem funny at times.  Hell, I even joke about it.  One of the things we do to adapt is we put sentences together like puzzles.  We usually don't hear every word, depending on the tone, articulation, etc, so we match what we hear to what we usually hear or what would make sense in that context.  It's not always accurate and that's when it usually makes for a great laugh.  


I'll pick on a friend of mine to see if she reads my blog.  She told a story once of her father, who is hard of hearing, and a laugh the family had over his misunderstanding.  My friend had a cold or something and her mom said, "You should go to the doctor to get some medicine."  Her dad heard, "You should go to the doctor to get a Mexican."   Her father, in all seriousness asked, "What does she need a Mexican for?"


I 'm sure my family has many of those gaffes I made to share as well.  My desire to make people laugh was born from that I'm sure.  Never mind they were laughing at me, not with me, but whatever. 


I don't know if my hearing loss has ever really held me back, other than not being able to play a musical instrument or sing, I don't think my life would be all that different than it is now.  


When I can't hear, I still get lonely.  I also tend to isolate.  It's not a lot of fun being around people when you can't hear them.  So I'm lonely and I write.  That's what I do.  I guess perhaps it has molded me into who I am after all.  A lonely writer who acts and likes to make people laugh.  I wouldn't change that.  It seems to me there's a lot out there in the world that's just noise anyway. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Diet Crazy

Some days I think my head is going to explode when I read about all the various diets that are supposed to help you lose weight. There's Weight Watchers, South Beach, Atkins, Paleo, Nutri Systems, Vegetarian, Vegan, Mediterranean, etc....  They'll all help you if you buy the book, attend the costly meetings, or buy the food.

You can eat fruits on some, but not on others.  Bread on some, not on others. Dairy on some, not on others. Bacon on some, not on others.  You get the idea.

A doctor even told me it doesn't really matter what you do as long as you stick with it.  So that's the key? Pick something you can stick with?

Sounds simple as long as I never want to eat bread again. Or never want another hamburger.  Or always want to count points/calories. Only want eggs. Give up everything but red wine.

It's all enough to make me want to biggie size my french fries.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Biker Chick in the Anne Taylor Suit

We all came into this world naked; the rest is all drag.
~ RuPaul

Ordinarily when we think of someone in drag, we think of RuPaul, or a drag queen at the local pub who is "Working hard for her money."  There's the long eyelashes.  The theatrical makeup.  The padding and cinching. It's all an illusion of another character who is not the person standing before you.  It's magic.

Drag can mean something else too.  It's the clothes that many of us put on everyday to create the illusion that we're a corporate big wig, or a docile administrative assistant.   We put on our black and white and serve food and drinks. We dress in brown and deliver packages.  It's the uniform, whether blatantly so, or more subtle, that defines who we are with our day job.  The real question is who are we out of that drag?  That was a question that was raised at a conference I attended once.

It was a Sunday morning breakfast with a key note speaker.  It was the end of the conference, and like so many others, I wanted to blow it off and go home early, but it did include breakfast, which I'd already paid for.  I decided I'd give it a shot.  I sat in the back so I could slip out if it was too boring.  To my surprise it was anything but.

A petite blonde woman looking to be in her late thirties stepped up the podium.  She was dressed to the nines in cute little Chanel suit.  I was sure this was going to be boring, and then she opened her mouth.  One of the first things she asked is how we liked her suit.  The crowd made affirmative noises and she smiled.

"Good," she said, "but it's not who I am."  She took off the jacket.  "I am a drag queen," she said.  

Nervous laughter filled the room, so she went on to explain.  "This is drag to me.  Monday through Friday, I put on my Chanel or Ann Taylor suits and I go to the office where I make million dollar deals and have power lunches.  I have assistants who bring me things and employees who scatter as I walk through a room. Sometimes I go into my office and quietly chuckle at it all, because this is not who I am.  This is the persona I created to survive in the corporate world.  If you want to see who I am, show up at my house on Saturday morning around 10 when I'm putting on my Levis and straddling my Harley Davidson and getting ready to take her out for a ride.  That's who I am, a biker bitch in an Ann Taylor suit." 

The crowd wasn't sure how to respond, but slowly the applause began to build into an explosion. 

The speaker went on to explain how we're all in drag.  We do it to survive.  The most important thing to remember about ourselves and those around us is that it's all an illusion.  We should never judge anyone based on the persona they present to the world.  Take the time to know who they really are. 

I left that conference better than any I'd ever attended.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I must put on my drag and head to the day job.  


Monday, June 18, 2012

Your Bliss is Where Your Heart Pounds

Many of us learn at an early age that we are to follow our dreams.  Follow your bliss. Do what makes you happy and the money will come.  There are several ways of saying it, but it all boils down to the same thing.  We're to go for it.  Life's short and you have to live!

I'm not sure what age it happens but eventually, in many of us, the live your dreams speech gets tempered with practicality. Suddenly we have to be practical and think it through.  Those childhood dreams of being an actor or writer suddenly seem too unrealistic.   Too unreachable. We need to start thinking about getting a "real" job.

That's what I did, and I struggled.  I was an A student all through high school until my senior year.  I had a bad case of senioritis and I had no idea what to do with my life.  It seemed everyone wanted me to make a decision that would affect my entire life.  Who gives this responsibility to a seventeen year old?  I wanted to go to college, but didn't know what I'd pursue.  The acting and writing seems too far fetched, so I struggled to find something else that would make me happy.  The choices were overwhelming considering none of them felt right in my heart.  

I followed many different paths, always finding myself down the road and miserable and wondering why.  I'd reach out in despair, only to be told by a good friend, spiritual advisor or therapist that I was supposed to follow my bliss.  My bliss?  What the hell is my bliss, I'd ask?  Through all that practicality, I'd forgotten what made me happy.

A few years ago I rediscovered it when the economy tanked and I lost my job of twelve years.  A job I had grown weary of, but it was steady, nonetheless.  I began pursuing my writing and I had a novel in progress.  What I noticed during the course of writing the novel is that my work on the novel was directly related to how unhappy I was in my regular circumstances.  For example, in a job I hated, I wrote almost every day.  The writing kept me sane and was going to be my way out.  As I got an old job back (the portions I liked), I got complacent and my writing slowed down.  

Eventually I always came back because the writing is what I love.  I took the long way to get here, but I'm here. I'm pursuing what makes me happy.  It doesn't matter what my name tag says at the day job, or what title might be on my business card.  Those things don't define me.   I am a writer!  I say it proudly and with certainty.  Everything else is pretend.  

When I start believing that I'm the other guy, I just need to come back to the keyboard and remind myself who I really am.  The rest is bullshit.

For some the keyboard is a stage, or a concert hall, or any number of venues in which your dream plays.  Where you feel most alive is where your bliss is.  Go for it, otherwise, you're just taking the long, lonely miserable road that is going to bring you back here anyway.  It's fate.  It's destiny.  It's your dream. Your life.



Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Mystery of Neil Patrick Harris

People seem to love Neil Patrick Harris.  Straight people. Gay people. Grandmas. Your average Joes.  They all love NPH as he's affectionately called.  Why don't I get it?

I don't hate NPH, I just don't get the fascination. I don't think he's all that funny.  He's not a great musical talent.  He's an average looking guy who seems to have a stick up his butt much of the time.  Is it because he's a safe gay? Or a gateway gay?  He's the gay people start with before they accept Nathan Lane and Harvey Fierstein.

The photo at right is circulating Facebook and I think it hits the nail on the head.  NPH is non threatening.  He's gay and he's kinda normal.  Wow!  What a concept.  I guess Mr. Leather Fire Island 2012 wouldn't be the best representation of the gay community would it?

So, NPH is our representation, huh?  He's the image of most of us in the LGBT (insert any letters here so no one is offended or left out). An average Joe.

I guess I can accept that.  Mr. Leather Fire Island doesn't really represent me anymore than RuPaul does.  But really?  NPH?  Doogie Howser?  They don't come much more vanilla than that.  I hope he's at least wearing a leather thong.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Some Parenting Advice from a Non-Parent

I am not a parent and generally I would not presume to give parenting advice.  It would be like hiring a blind decorator.  The ideas might seems great in theory, but they don't work so well in the real world.

For of all, I know parenting is hard.  You don't get a manual and kids can be a pain in the ass, but as adults, we're supposed to rise to the occasion and be the better person.  I've never had kids and most of the times I've been grateful for that decision.  I was always afraid I'd somehow get a damaged one.  Like I always thought I was.

I love my parents and I know they did the best they could.  I mean that with all sincerity and would never want to embarrass them for actions forty years ago, but I feel deeply moved to write this tonight.

Several things have come up this week that have pushed me to give you one piece of parenting advice:

LOVE YOUR KIDS UNCONDITIONALLY!

Most of you are probably saying, "Well, of course. That's a no brainer."  Good, I'm glad you think so.  Now make sure your kids know that as well. You might be surprised to know they may not be so sure.   I was over thirty years old before I knew I was much more than a pawn in the divorce game.   That may not be true, but that's how it felt to me.  Sometimes I still feel like I'm being asked to choose and I'm forty seven years old.

Here's a hint about unconditional love.  It does not mean spoiling the child with laptops, iPads, cell phones, $400 sneakers, cars, taking them to music lessons, soccer practice, band practice, play rehearsal.  It does not mean raising a self entitled spoiled brat.  All of those things are substitutions for unconditional love.  These are the toys you can take away if they disappoint you.  Something to hold over their heads.  Isn't that healthy?

I woke up from a dream early this week where I recalled a childhood memory that I had forgotten.  Not repressed, but forgotten.  I knew the memory was there, but I never understood the significance of it until this week. Suddenly I realized why I grew up always assuming I was the least worthy person in the room. 

I'm happy to say that I have managed to get past that, but it helped to discover where that began.  Again, I know my parents were doing their best and one ten minute interaction may not have even stayed in their memories, but it certainly did mine. 

Here's another piece of advice:

DON'T EVER TELL YOUR KID YOU'VE GIVEN UP ON THEM OR THEY'RE A LOST CAUSE

No one is a lost cause, and if anything screams the opposite of unconditional love, it is this.  Now, I understand that some kids/adults make bad decisions and you as a parent get your heart broken, but too bad.  You disagree with their decisions if you like.  Sometimes we all make stupid decisions. You love them from a distance if you need to, but you do not fucking give up on them.  

I watched my step sister make terrible decisions and ultimately she died because of those decisions. She broke my parents' hearts, as well as those of her daughters.  My heart broke for her because I wanted somehow to help her, but she wouldn't accept it. I could have said, "fine, I give up on you," and built a shell around my heart, but right up to the end I had to believe that she was worth the fight, the pain, the effort.  I'm afraid she didn't think so though.  She gave up on herself.  

You may be wondering where this is coming from.  Why am I so passionate about this right now?  It's because I see history repeating itself and I see people buying into some bad advice they got growing up.  

Here's my advice for kids and adult kids:

DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU WERE TOLD
SOME OF IT WAS WRONG EVEN THOUGH IT WAS PASSED DOWN FROM 
GENERATION TO GENERATION

BE THE ONE TO BREAK THE CYCLE

YOU ARE WORTH IT!

YOUR FUTURE KIDS ARE WORTH IT!

Friday, May 18, 2012

We're Here; We're queer; What's the big deal?

The gay rights movement really began in 1969 with some drag queens at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan.  They stood up to the police, who had been raiding the gay bars and arresting the inhabitants.  On that June night, the patrons of the Stonewall decided not to leave.  They stood their ground and a movement was born.

Today, in 2012, the President of the United States comes out as being in favor of gay marriage.  Granted, many states have laws in effect prohibiting that, but this is the last remaining fight in the revolution.  So what happens when we win?

Gay Pride parades and festivals have been going on since 1970.  It's tradition now that the gay bars build floats to have their strippers and drag queens dance on, the leather daddys put on their assless chaps, and the town's Gay chorus sings songs as they all parade down Main Street USA.   These are some of the subgroups of the gay community.  Where are the rest of the gays?  Where are the doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, CEOs, and entrepreneurs?   Perhaps they're home working in the garden, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or attending their kid's soccer game.

What's the matter with them?  Aren't they proud to be gay?  Or maybe they don't think about it.

If equality is what we're really after, doesn't becoming mainstream become the definition of success?    We're here, we're queer and people have kinda gotten used to us.  Many have accepted us.  Isn't that what we want? We'll never get everyone to accept us.  No one has.  Blacks and whites still have issues.  Jews and Arabs have a long running battle.  Hell, lesbians and gay men have issues.  In fact, we gays don't even like every other gay we meet.  That's human nature.  We aren't all going to get along, but we can find peace in knowing that.

So this June as you have the urge to celebrate gay pride, go ahead and go to the parade, but if you really have pride and courage, be the gay dad at the PTA meeting, or be the lesbian couple inviting your straight neighbors over for a barbecue.  That's how we really succeed, when people see we're no different than they are.

It's not very exciting becoming the mainstream, huh?   There aren't any parades.  But it is nice.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Stealing Moments

I realized today that it's been over a month since I've written anything here.  I've been on a whirlwind writing binge trying to finish the second revision of my novel, Postcards from the Desert, which I'm hoping to have released by the fall.

Lately I have been crazy busy and the busier I am with life in general, the more time I want to spend writing.  It seems like likely I've been stealing moments here and there so I can sit down and work out a scene or revise some dialogue.  Of course in all of this, I'm having the time of my life.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Instant Information- Is it a Good Thing?

We live in the electronic age.  We are bombarded with information nearly every moment we're awake.  News comes at us in 24 hour cycles.  Twitter gives us news instantly and as its happening.  Facebook tells us what's going on with our friends or anyone we're subscribed to.  Television, radio, websites, email, blogs, all are there to feed our hungry eyes and minds, but when is enough enough?

Most of the news we receive isn't the uplifting kind.  Sure, there's the occasional story about a soldier coming home and surprising his child.  Or the dog who saves his owner's life.  These are uplifting, but they come all too rarely.  More often the stories are like that of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed kid in Florida who is gunned down by neighborhood watch volunteer.  Or there's the story where Evangelist, Pat Robertson said homosexuality is a form of demonic possession.  Then there's the story of a snow plow driver and his wife who kidnapped, beat, strangled and killed a woman basically because they were bored.

After having an argument on Facebook with one of my "friends" about the Pat Robertson article and whether homosexuality is wrong and I need to repent, I decided I'd had enough. I had reached my breaking point and could not process any more bad news.  I had to step away from the computer and smart phone.

Also in the news this week, there was a story of a Jet Blue Captain who began babbling things that scared his fellow crewmen and passengers aboard a flight to Las Vegas.  The co-pilot had to lock him out of the cockpit while several passengers pinned him down until the flight made an emergency landing.  He was apparently having a meltdown.  He kept saying over and over, "things just don't matter."

My question is this:  Do any of us have any idea how close we are to such a melt down?  Its hard to watch all the media feeds us and wonder, what's the point?  Is there any hope for mankind at all? Does anything matter?

Its an election year so each side paints a more dire picture of the other side and we start believing the other guy is going to make it worse for us.  The economy sucks, but it's getting better.  No, it's getting worse.  Gas prices are up, no, they're down.  Unemployment is down, but more layoffs are coming.   By November, we are polarized and paralyzed and just want the negativity to stop, so we walk into the voting booth and lay our token down on the roulette wheel.  Is it going to get better or worse?

November is several months away.  Maybe the only way we get there in one piece is by putting away all the information overload, and spending time each day processing the beauty of the world right at our fingertips.  The blooming flowers.  The taste of the enchiladas a loved one made for dinner. The words on the page of your favorite novel.  The moving images on the thirty foot screen.

The world will still be there blowing itself up when we're finished, but at least for a few hours each day, we can take a break from the insanity.

Now I can honestly say I completely understand those people who give up everything and move to the mountains, desert, beach, etc.... If nuclear war comes, at least there will be a gorgeous sunset before the lights go out.

I apologize if this entry seems too negative or fatalistic, but its because I do think things matter and we do deserve better, that I write it.  If I didn't I'd be too drunk to write anything.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

When Will You Speak Up?

I usually try to avoid political or religious arguments.  Mostly I find them to be unproductive.  We all pretty much know what we believe.  Someone shouting at us from another belief system isn't going to change that. Neither will our shouting do much to convince them.

Every now and then I do have to speak up though, and it usually gets me in trouble, but its usually worth it.

The hot topic these days, although I still don't understand why, is that child star, Kirk Cameron gave an interview where he blames homosexuality on the decline of civilization.   I can think of a lot of reasons for the decline, but homosexuality isn't anywhere on the list.  So, he said it and we should have all shaken our heads and moved on.  After all, what power does he have?  The real people we should be worried about is the GOP candidates running for the office of the Presidency. They, especially Rick Santorum, scare the hell out of me.

When I say they scare me, I don't mean like George Bush scared me.  It was an uncomfortable eight years, but I didn't fear for my life.  People like Rick Santorum take their public pulpit and start spewing their hate speech about homosexuality and I get nervous.  When did we, the homosexuals, become the divider in this country?  You either love the gays or you hate them?  Is that what we're about now?  Is that how we choose leaders?

Forget about the Trevor Project and a few episodes about bullying on Glee.  We are being bullied and told to hate ourselves by the people who want to be the leaders of this country!  How can anyone with a Bible who claims to believe in Jesus think that's right?

I'm reminded of a very powerful statement that surfaced after the rise of  Nazi power in Germany.

"First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me."

~Martin Niemöller

When do we speak up?  When they take away women's health choices?  When being gay is illegal again?  When the Bible becomes the new Constitution?   Where will the Jews be then?  The Catholics? The Muslims?  The religious freedom the country was built on?  What will it take to put an end to the people of this country blindly following the false prophets who tell us they'll lower gas prices and give us all jobs.  They will say anything to get elected.  Will you stone your neighborhood fags and whores if it will help?   

Do I get pissed when political figures spout their hatred towards me and people I love?  Hell yes I do!  Am I going to be polite while you throw your Book of Leviticus at me?  No.  I'm done being polite.  I'm done trying to be the better person.  I'm ready to fight.  I have to be, because I'm fighting for my life.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

We Change the World With Our Words

Art changes us.  Whether that art is in the form of a painting, a sculpture, on film, or the written word, it changes who we are, how we think of ourselves,  and how we think about the world around us.   Art comes in many forms in addition to the ones we most accept as art.  It's a novel. It's a film. A play. A performance. Sometimes even a television show.

I have always had an affinity for a well written television show.  When the words are genuine, the acting is real, and the finished piece of film captures the attention of millions and has the power to influence our world.   Sometimes the actors and writers win awards, advancing their careers, or expanding their audience, but we can never really know how a particular scene, episode, or even word changed someone's life.


In 1987 there was a hit television show called Cagney and Lacey, starring two tough female detectives.  It was a typical cop show of the time, but delved a bit more into the character's lives from time to time. One such time, the show decided to explore the drinking problem of Christine Cagney, played by Sharon Gless. The episodes and the performance won Gless an Emmy.  I wonder how many people also saw themselves and got sober after that.  I did.  I went to my first AA meeting not long after and I believe that saved my life.

Recently, the tv show, Glee, tackled a topic all too familiar these days.  Gay teenagers committing suicide because of bullying.  Unfortunately this is also familiar territory for me.  I was seventeen and also coming to terms with being gay when I tried to kill myself.  Fortunately, I did not succeed.  I kept quiet about this for most of my adult life until the past year with the rash of suicide attempts in the news.  I am proof that it does get better.  You've got to hang in there and keep going, but it does get better.

I watched the Glee episode and while it was very well written and acted, it made me angry.  It made me angry at the bullies people have to face everyday.  Not just as teenagers, but even as adults.  Bullies are as prevalent in the workplace and political arena as they are on the playground and it's never okay.

While the episode of Glee was difficult to watch, I applaud them for doing it.  If that popular television show can save one life, it's done it's job.

Recently I was asked why I write.  I write because I enjoy it, but I also hope that in some small way I can change the world, or at least make someone's day or life better because I had an idea and put the words on paper.