And Now a Word From The Sponsor

Welcome to my site and thank you for reading. After many times thinking, if only I had a blog, well-- here we are. This blog will feature writings on a variety of topics from roadside food, to leadership in the fire service; politics; culture- gay, straight, and indifferent, my experiences in Ohio, New York and beyond; and much much more. It's my hope that you will find it interesting and that it stirs at least some thought and discussion. I am certain you wont always agree, but that is what its all about right? Oh and one more thing: The views expressed on this site are entirely my own. They do not reflect in anyway the views or positions of my employer.



Saturday, April 28, 2012

Male Seeking Male.. PLEASE (or, Hi Jim!)

I really had no idea that I had even signed up for it.  But like some tattoo left behind from a nightmare Vegas trip you would rather forget, but who's leftover ink on your arm wont let-go, it just kept showing up.  Each and every day, increasing in frequency as time went on.  The obscure dating site must have gotten a mention in the NY Times, or managed to become the next "it" thing.  Suddenly, so long after I had checked out the site and left just enough information for them to be dangerous, I was being "in-box bombed" by more "he's interested"; "email-received"; and my personal favorite:  "Pander to your desperation and give us your credit card number- NOW" e-mails than I ever thought possible. 

My first solution was to ignore.  But after five, ten, fifteen messages a day I realized there had to be a way out. So I clicked the link.  And into Alice's Wonderland I went. Pages of "fill out this" and "tell us that" -- an online dating version of Ikea where each turn led not to an exit but endless personal questions and"features" to add. Disoriented and confused I just started clicking.  And it would not let me out.  Wouldn't close, wouldn't minimize.  It was as though I was now a permanent resident of the eighth level of Dante's Gay Dating hell.  Clicking madly, stammering relentlessly, inches from tossing my laptop across the room-- I just gave up.

I took the time to read the questions on the page.  Surmised that if I answered a few, perhaps it would permit me to leave.  And it worked!  After answering two questions, the page relented and I was freed to go to the next page.  A festival of photos of guys who had "emailed me" and declared that "we have so much in common".  How this could be?  based on some weird random questions on a strange and forgotten website-- I can not or will not ever know.  But I do know the websites theme as it perched credit card logos just above the faces of the cute guys:  Give Us Money and we will give you love.  All you have to do is give us that card number-- and the guy of your dreams is right here.  Just beyond sight, but within reach of those three little digits on the back of your card.  I always knew they were important, but damn-- the key to life long love in (4) point type.  Upside down. Depending on how you look at it. 

I had to smirk.  Guy of my dreams?  How the hell would they know that?  I think they had my email address and that was about it.  But they were certain, beyond all doubt,  that my soul mate was in here. And that my desire to meet him would result in me forking over God knows how much money to make it happen.  

I guess this works for some people.  I couldn't help but be reminded of my all too frequent purchases of scratch-off lottery tickets.  Those too offer salvation with purchase. Hell, the entire protestant reformation was based on a guy realizing that salvation couldn't be bought.  I suppose if salvation cant be bought, its not likely that you can buy love either.  But still they call you:  Just take a chance-- "It Has to be someone right"-- Why not you?  An entire culture we live in-- built on happiness just beyond the numbers on your card.  Thankfully, all my personal adventures with bad dates and lottery scratch offs have taught me something.  The $2 that more often than not is wasted could certainly bring me a Tim Horton's Coffee-- or Maybe a chili and chicken nuggets from Wendy's.  Or, best of all, a Vanilla Ice Dream Cone from Chick-Fil-A.  And how much better is that?  Guaranteed Joy-- or take the chance.  I think I am at the point where I want the sure thing-- some risks are good, well worth it perhaps.  But those are the risks and the chances that don't involve money-- for nothing really good ever does. And happiness is more often than not, about doing the little thing-- the simple, non-dramatic thing that amounts one step in the right direction, instead of one big leap into the dream.  And the biggest secret of all is that those little steps are how the dreams really come true. That wont sell a lot of lottery tickets, or many lifelong memberships on match.com-- but for me anyway, I'm better off.

The Future of EMS in Columbus (Some Thoughts..)


Good afternoon Everyone.  This post may only appeal to a few of my regular readers, but it is something I have been thinking about a long time and finally decided to put to "paper".  Basically, its an expanded suggestion on how the CFD could address the future of their EMS system.  It is not meant to union bash, or suggest reducing headcount-- only applying some critical lessons learned, with available technology, to address the realities of providing EMS in a major American City that needs a much larger fire department than it currently has. 

__________________________________________________________________________________

Columbus Division of Fire: The Future of EMS



In the Mid 1990s, Columbus Fire, in an effort to improve EMS service delivery, instituted a single-tier, all ALS System to replace the previous two-tiered system that had been in operation since the introduction of Firefighter based full-time paramedic units in 1972.  In the past seventeen years, like many other large cities, the CFD EMS call volume has skyrocketed as more and more citizens and visitors call 911 for a greater variety of medical conditions.  Many of these calls are not for ALS incidents and, as a result, Columbus Fire does not currently posses the ability to adapt resources to meet the realities of EMS service demands in this environment.  Basically, CFD has far more paramedics than it needs.

Not only does this result in misdirected resources during a time of financial hardship for the City—it also likely does not result in improved care worthy of the expense.  Most famously, a 2005 USA Today series feature the results of numerous studies on the topic of Emergency Medicine that determined more paramedics did not lead to better outcomes for patients—ALS or BLS. According to the study, Paramedics should be viewed as specialized resources and only deployed in effective quantities to meet realistic demand.  To paraphrase the studies: more does not necessarily mean better.  Fortunately opportunities to improve EMS in Columbus do exist. As part of technology efforts introduced in recent years, as well as the continuing need to effectively manage limited budgets, the time to assess the EMS delivery system in Columbus is truly today. 

Several Key Goals should be at the root of an attempt to improve the effectiveness of Columbus Fire EMS:

·         Improve patient care by focusing ALS resources on ALS incidents.

·         Reduce reliance on automatic aid partners for BLS medical incidents

·         Leverage advances in the new Computer Assisted Dispatch System to improve response times; call-handling; and resource management

·         Reduce Costs of the EMS system and redirect funding into badly needed service enhancements

·         Improve utilization of existing resources to ensure that personnel respond to an ample number of ALS calls to maintain their skills

·         Improve the safety of Emergency Responses by CFD apparatus by instituting non-emergency responses to minor incidents whenever possible.

The primary methodology to achieve this goal will involve utilizing the department’s new Computer Assisted Dispatch System, along with a Priority Medical Dispatch Call-Taking protocol; to improve the triage efforts of incoming calls and thereby improve resource management and assignment.  This will occur through the following:

1.                Intergraph CAD can be programmed to recommend both ALS units and BLS units based on proximity and call-type.  For example, if an ALS unit is five minutes from a BLS call, but the nearest BLS is fifteen minutes away, the CAD will recommend the ALS unit to respond.  This feature will permit ALS ambulances in the outer portions of the city to handle the BLS and ALS calls in their areas. (32s; 5’s; 29s, etc). 

 2.                  Dispatching algorithms can be developed, based on call type and level, which       
                  accommodate a far greater level of detail. 
                  Suggested dispatch algorithms would be:

“Alpha Response” [BLS--non-emergency]- 
                       Nearest Available BLS Ambulance; if ETA > 15 Minutes,
                         then nearest AvailableEngine to evaluate patient and determine if Ambulance needed.

                                “Bravo Response” [BLS--Emergency]
                                 Nearest Available BLS Ambulance; if ETA > 8 Minutes then:

                                  If ALS AMB is closer send ALS Ambulance only

                                   If no ALS AMB closer but Engine/Rescue/Ladder is- dispatch as first responder

                                “Charlie Response” [ALS- Level-1]

                                                Nearest Available Paramedic Unit: ALS Ambulance; Engine; Rescue

                                                If ALS Ambulance not Closest ALS unit; ALSO Assign nearest

                                                If BLS Ambulance is within 8 minutes—Assign along with above

[permit Paramedics from Eng or Res to ride with BLS to Hospital if best option]



                                “Delta Response” [ALS Level-2]

                                                Nearest available ALS Unit; nearest available BLS Unit [If < 8 Min ETA]

                                                If ALS Engine or rescue is closer than ALS Transport = Assign along with

                                                Nearest EMS Coordinator

                                 “Echo Response” [ALS Critical]

                                                Nearest Available ALS equipped unit [transport/Rescue/Engine]

                                                Nearest Available ALS Transport [if not above]

                                                Nearest Available BLS Transport  [if ETA <8 mins]

IF NO Close BLS and ALS Transport is Closest ADD (1) Suppression for manpower

Nearest EMS Coordinator

3.                   Dispatching algorithms can also be introduced that prompt the dispatcher for the following situations:

·         Redirect units from lower priority calls to higher priority calls that they are closer to. (Improves response times)

·         Check with units in a hospital after a certain time to see if they are available to take calls in close proximity to an incident—(improves resource management)

  • Prioritize lower priority calls to CFD units—preserving automatic aid medic units  for ALS/serious incidents 

·         Provide a ‘busy period modification to response to permit improved resource management during peak periods.



·         Adjust the response location of slower units during “peak” periods of demand. (EMS Move ups when coverage is seriously depleted in an area)

Related Solution: Rescues; Engine/Rescues and Engines with Combi-Tools:

 A related potential solution exists as a part of  the same effort regarding the response of

an additional rescue company whenever a township rescue [normally Rescue/Engine]  is assigned to an auto accident as well as the assignment of Rescues to long-distance runs where they have little likelihood of even arriving at the scene.   This is a significant waste of resources and often an unnecessary emergency response which puts the lives of responders and the public in jeopardy. CAD can be programmed to recognize the capability as dual function: Rescue/Engine but only within a certain geographic proximity and/or other conditions. 

                Definitions:

Heavy Rescue:  not dual function; dedicated crew; large amount of equipment & verified training.

Rescue/Engine:  Dual Function Capability [Engine & Medium Rescue]

Engine with Combi-Tool:  Dual Function [Engine & Light Rescue]

    Responses:

                Engine with Combi-Tool:  Only if nearest available on generic accident

                [Assign additional engine and min. of medium rescue with]

                Rescue/Engine: 

[Auto Accidents] Responds as Eng. if 1st Due; Rescue if beyond 1st                [Fires] only as rescue if ETA < 12 Mins, not 1st- 4th Due

Generic Auto Accident
           
                                                Heavy Rescue assigned on initial only if <10 minute ETA

Rescue Engine Assigned only if < 12 min eta

 Reported Pin; Highway incident or working Extrication:

Nearest (2) available extrication equipped units

[one of which must be Heavy Rescue]

                 Reported Fire; Gas Leak; etc.

                                Rescue if ETA < 12 Mins or 1st/2nd Due

                                Rescue Engine if not 1st-4th due (would go as engine) and eta < 12

                Working Fire:

                                Must Have nearest Available Heavy Rescue



Changes to EMS Resources:

 From the above adjustments in Call-Typing, unit assignment and deployment; the following realignments in the daily resources deployed by the department will permit management of the new call-flow and response procedures:


·         Reintroduction of BLS Ambulances (20 Units)

·         Reduction in the number of ALS Transport Units to Sixteen (16)

·         Reduction of ALS Engines to (15)

·         Increase in the number of ALS Heavy Rescue Units to seven (7)

·         Introduction of two (2) 24 Hour EMS Training/Infectious Disease Control officers

·         Introduction of a twenty-four-Hour EMS Battalion Chief [EMS-10]

·         Additional twenty-four-hour EMS Captain


Total Personnel:

                BLS Ambulances: (3) FFs per Unit per vehicle: [min 2]                            (180)

                [1;2;4;5;6;7;8;10;12;15;17;18;19;20;21;22;24;27;30;31]


                ALS Transport Units: (3.5) Medics Per Unit per vehicle: [min 2]        (168)

                [1;5;6;11;13;14;15;17;18;23;25;26;28;29;32;33]


                ALS Engines: (2) medics per unit per company: [min 1]                          (90)

                [4;5;7;22;26;27;28;29;30;31;32;33;34;35;36]

               
ALS Heavy Rescues: (2) medics per unit per company: [min 1]          (42)

                [2;4;5;6;11;16;17]


                Paramedic Officers: (1) per unit per vehicle                                                   (21)

                10@1; 11@8; 12@ 33; 13@19; 14@15; 15@12; 16@21; 17@34]



                Paramedic Training/Infectious Disease Control:                                        (6)



                Total:  (3) BC   (6) Capt   (18 Lts)   316 Paramedics  =   Total Medics:  327

                 Daily Assigned Medics:  109                                   Minimum on Duty: 63  

                Leave: Kelly Days:  (16) per Day          Vacation Spots: (15) per day

Cost Savings/Revenue Increases

·         Reduction in number of Medics:  approximately 350

                                [This is equivalent to approximately 40 Full-time positions]

·         Additional savings:            

o        training/CME reductions/

o       Supplies; drugs; equipment reductions

o       Reduced wear on units

·         Revenue:  increase number of calls handled by CFD units


Enhancements with personnel savings:

o       Increase in number of transport units from 32 to 36 [BLS, existing personnel]
         
o       Increase in Heavy Rescues to (7) from (5) [24 positions] 

                              o       With streamlining of Kelly Day and Vacation Schedules:

o       Construction and Staffing:

§         Station 35 [Far east-Waggoner Road]     [Engine Only]

§         Station 36 [Northeast- Harlem Rd]            [Engine Only]

 Projected Outcomes:

 Taken together,  the service enhancements to the EMS program; improvements in Dispatching methodology; improved resource management and deployment; and related adjustments to the amount of Apparatus and number of firehouses will significantly improve the effectiveness of the Columbus Division of Fire while improving the cost-benefit relationship.  Beyond the ideas contained within this brief plan, there are likely many other solutions to the challenges inherent in providing Fire/EMS services in an expanding City without dramatically increasing costs.  Many of these solutions will be found by partnering with the members of the department and the firefighters union—IAFF 67.  If each of the stakeholders involved participates with honesty and openness and the desire to truly find solutions to the challenges the CFD faces; then the department can truly begin a new era of dedication and effective service.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Its Not Just about the Coffee

There are so many time honored traditions in the fire service it’s occasionally hard to keep track. Some have little real purpose other than simply a tip-of-the-hat to the way it used to be, while others, such as learning your streets; hitting the books for your first year; and keeping what happens at work at work, have a more significant role than many seem to ever realize. 

Such is the situation with the coffee.  I don’t mind making it.  I really don’t.  In fact, truth be told, I prefer my way of making it to most of the others practiced in my particular backwater of the FDNY.  However, the other day, when at 6am I had to make the coffee because none of the twenty or so dispatchers (many with two years or less on the job)  even thought to do so;  I was genuinely annoyed.  When a few actually watched me make the trip down to the water fountain to fill the coffee pots (why there is no sink is a rant for another time) with not so much as the slightest “I’ll get that Chief”—I was downright aggravated.  I could just hear the justifications rumbling through their minds, if they were aware enough to even offer a faint excuse—at least to themselves:  “so and so is junior—he or she should do it;”  “I don’t even drink the coffee”; “why do I always have to do it”; “who cares about the stinking coffee—its too much work anyway” and so on.

In that moment, as I rolled around their comments and justifications and accommodations in my own mind I was reminded about the traditions that are more than traditions.  Little traditions in the fire service that actually help teach a new person (a Probie!)  to be responsible without direct instruction for something—no matter how seemingly insignificant.  Moreover, how that responsibility, even if its just coffee, trains you to be aware of more than yourself.  How being concerned about others—even if its something that doesn’t directly impact you—is critical in the fire service if we are going to be a successful team.  How, as a Probie, looking out for the little things instills confidence in yourself and in others that you can be trusted to do the right thing.  After all, if you can’t remember to  check the coffee a few times a day or do it without whining about fairness or justice—then how can you be trusted to learn all the rules, and the policies and the intrinsic and essential skills  you need to know that cant be found in any book or on any test. 

In that way, making coffee is not just a Fire Department lesson.  Just as with many other simple tests of character, it is a minor event that reveals so much more and serves as one of the many ways that character and responsibility can be developed.  I have been told that no-one spends even a moment explaining to our new generation why making the coffee is so important.  I have been told that none of our new people are ever told why it’s important to be a part of the team, to do your “probie duties” and serve the role that a new person should.  One department I know of has even banned the use of the word “Probie”—under the thought that it harms our newest members and erodes their sense of self-esteem. 

As I drank the cup of coffee I made, and knew it would not be the last, I couldn’t help but wonder about all the other things we do to help this new generation’s self esteem—and all of the other things they will likely be unable to do effectively—or confidently, if they don’t even get the most basic skills right or the lessons of why the little things are so important.  More importantly, I wondered if they will ever understand that doing the little things right leads directly to doing the big things right.

Finishing the cup, with just a slight touch of salt to cut the bitterness, I had to ask myself—are we really doing them any favors at all?  I can’t help answer that we aren’t.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Lessons in Love


I am left to wonder today about one of the central questions of our humanity.   The last twenty four hours have featured tragedy, miracles, love, hate, forgiveness, loss—and more.  A casual read of Facebook comments from my friends reveal the entire list of possible human emotions and actions—successes and failures.  Within those words and posts are as many reasons for there to be a God and a point to the whole human experience—as there are mysteries, questions, and doubts about it all. 

 I will not be one of those religious types who greet the worst that this world can offer with the dismissive and disrespectful phrase “its Gods Will”.  I find it hard to even bring faith to the table in the face of the death of a child—or the diagnosis that ends with discussions about Hospice, or any of the other myriad moments that bring us to our knees in confusion and despair about this life, this world, and this creation. 

Like everyone else, I have these questions from my own past. In my own case the loss of my Mother who would have turned sixty-seven years old this week.  In the last eight months of her life she was brought through a terrible and horrifying journey, her physical form changed nearly beyond recognition by a rare and untreatable disease.  From memories of the senseless moments in a hospital chapel I can recall how little comfort can be found from logic, or faith, or bargaining.  From the memories of an even more dramatic day, four years before, on my birthday—when so many lives were erased for the sake of a senseless political ideology I can recall the same questions as I watched a swirling and hateful column of black smoke rise over my home. 

On these, the darkest of all days, regardless of scale, we simply want answers.  Why does this have to happen?  Why must this earth, why does this supposedly loving God allow to happen to his children so much pain—so much unexplainable heartache.  What is the benefit to allowing this to happen?  For what reason are we shown glimpses of beauty and then, in single breath—or the very next online post—tales of complete horror and of sadness.   

I can not know that answer.  I don’t believe any of us do or ever will in this realm.  But I do know that there are lessons to be had in these events and these reminders of our humanity.  For it is in these moments that we are shown the beauty of the human spirit—and the capacity of love.  Without the darkest of days we would likely never know the whole breadth of the human ability to share, encourage, support, and care.   From that suffering whether local or global, is born the impetus that drives human beings to ask the questions—to help their brother or sister—and to take a stand in the cases where they can against the tragedies that we can prevent. 

For as long as we are likely to reside on this planet there will never be a cure for all the things that can befall a man, woman, or child.  The doctors will always be one or two steps behind—and the truth of our mortality (and our birth) is the one thing upon which all human beings can agree.  Perhaps that is why it serves as the one point where we can all begin—to love, to share, to understand, to help, and to forgive.  For it is in how we handle death and tragedy—that our strengths as humanity are revealed.

I do not know for what reason it occurs every single day to so many people—but I do know that for any progress to be made, for any growth to happen, we must take from these tragedies the lesson that we are all God’s children, Allah’s Children; Buddha’s Children—we are all one.   So when these terrible realities of our human condition affect a friend, a family member or a community—perhaps the question of why, even though it is often first, is not really the most important question at all. 

Perhaps the most important question is— what’s next? How will you help bring love into the darkness that can be the human experience?  For that is the only part over which we have any control or any real understanding.  To love is our greatest gift-- and our greatest obligation.  Most of all at the times that bring only questions and few if any answers. 

A Poem For Friends who have Lost

I Saw in Lousiana a Live Oak Growing
By Walt Whitman  

I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,

All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches,
Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous leaves of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself,
But I wonder’d how it could utter joyous leaves standing alone there without its friend near, for I knew I could not,
And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it, and twined around it a little moss,
And brought it away, and I have placed it in sight in my room,
It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends,
(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them,)
Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly love;
For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana solitary in a wide flat space,
Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover near,
I know very well I could not.
 
 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Let Freedom Ring

“I envy your freedom”.  These words came not from a person in a foreign country or a person in jail.  They were not uttered by someone staring out from a hospital bed, crippled by illness or disease or some other physical ailment. Instead, they were spoken by someone who knows, from a place of fear, what it is like to live a life where you can not pursue who you want to be or who you are.

Living as an out gay man in the City of New York, amongst pride parades, rainbow flags, drag queens, hand-holding in the street, and recently legalized gay marriage you sometimes loose your prospective. It is easy to forget what it was like to be behind the frosted glass—true to yourself only in shadow, or only to some friends—and not your family or your coworkers.  That tired old silly game of pronouns. Avoiding the subject of love entirely with your friends, family, or yourself.  Not wanting to let out even a hint of who you really are except in the most guarded and private of ways.

This isn’t me now and hasn’t been for a while.  With a solid “fuck-you-world” I will hold my man’s hand walking down the street.  I will tell the gay jokes and stories—even at work—just the same as the “straights” tell theirs.  I have moved into the post-gay world where I have always seen myself.  A place where being a Gay Man is only one of a hundred—of a thousand—ways you can describe me.  

And that is why the stories shocked me out of my fairytale Gayville. With a group of twenty or so fellow LGBTQ people I heard their stories.  Tales of coming out at 68 or 75.  Grown adults—retired adults who were still afraid to tell the family back in Ohio. They were still unable to “officially” tell the kids—or to even have a conversation about it after so many years.   Still unwilling or unable to comprehend integrating the various sides—the various stories—after so many years of fighting what they were—of fighting love.  Still afraid—and never free. 

 And this is New York City!  Blocks away from gay bars—and gay billboards—so beyond gay that our pride stickers largely rest in museums and nearly every bar in Manhattan can be described safely as mixed.  Where we keep the Gay bars largely for the tourists and the rest of us just live a normal life.  And that is what I so blindly, so callously assumed until just the other day. 

If even here, if even in 2012, we have so many people unable to live their lives in a fully integrated way and afraid of what “They think” or what “Those people” will say, then how is it other places? How horrible can it be for our older LGBTQ brothers and sisters who haven’t caught the 21st century train of gay liberation?  Those who live in unsupportive places—who are old or young or middle aged— and so terrified to loose those they love that they loose themselves instead. 

I always assumed that the kids had it hardest.  The rash of suicides by gay teens is an embarrassment to this nation and a disgrace to all religious organizations that claim to love in the name of God—but at least they are being addressed in some way.  At least there are Facebook pages, rallies and fundraising walks and gay prom kings and queens.   At least the light is being brought into many of these places of darkness and things are “getting better.”  

But what of the ones who don’t have Facebook pages?  Those who still remain behind the darkened doors of their closets in 2012—confined by their belief that they can’t be themselves? With a door held closed by an unsupportive community, frequently unsupportive Church; and too many politicians who see us as something between the anti-Christ and Hitler.  These people—old and young, not yet permitted the inner strength to overcome these factors to proudly proclaim who they are—no matter what Pat Robertson or Jim DeMint think?  

How can the LGBTQ community ever be whole as long as so many of our old and young are in pain—and unable to love themselves far more than strangers dislike or hate them?   Some from being too out in the open, some from still living in fear of that same light? Until we help all of them—old and young—men and women—urban and rural—find their way out of the darkest depths into a path of love then we are failing at our first—most critical purpose—to help and love and support and nurture our own family.  Our growth and progress will be stunted—our cities and towns will lack the presence of these beautiful people—and they will not know the glory of living a life as the entire being, 100 % in God’s image, 100% God’s creation—that they are. 

And beyond all doubt I know this is not a uniquely Gay problem, or Lesbian Problem.  It is a human problem.  One only needs to talk to a victim of domestic abuse of any gender or orientation to see what ravages can be brought when a person has a hard time seeing themselves as worthy of love.  One only needs to read a few words about bulimia, or anorexia, or see a commercial about plastic surgery to being to see that this is our greatest epidemic. It is real and it is everywhere.

Anytime a person can not look in a mirror and love who they are—all of who they are;  anytime a person can not share who they are—all of who they are—with others and with a sense of pride and divine acceptance; anytime a person feels they need to hide in the shadows to avoid any questions, any potential outing of any kind; anytime someone feels unable to be true with someone they are supposed to love be they family or friend; and anytime someone sees themselves—a life that is a representation of God here on earth—as a lesser human being because of their orientation—these are all sad and tragic wake-up calls to the work that needs to be done.  A universal alarm to the extent that humanity has allowed itself, for so many reasons, to see human joy, human potential, and human divinity diminished and excluded and denied in the name of hate; judgment; and misdirected righteousness.

I will not claim to know the source of all this un-love in the world.  I can not being to guess at the entire reason why so many people feel as those they just aren’t good enough—in whatever form they are.  I do know, however, where some of the messages come from.  From the media, from politicians, from advertising; from so called religious figures—a million images that cascade down on people to convince them that they just aren’t good enough. To overcome this may seem impossible.  To overcome our own fears at being unloved or disliked or unwanted may seem or feel to be completely beyond reach.  But I also know that I have experienced it myself.  The same kinds of feelings very nearly lead to tragedy many years ago in my life. 

But sitting on a hillside in Southern Ohio I made a choice that the demons would not get me for any reason—that I would fight through the feelings of self-loathing; inferiority; and low self esteem.  I didn’t know how, and God knows it took a long time.  But when I look back now, I know that what I really did that fall day in 1999 was declare my freedom to be me. 

The fear of so many people—their inability to be free—is denying this world of so many of its children—their gifts—their creativity and their solutions.  My wish, going forward, is to help empower people to claim their freedom—to demand it and to proclaim it.  And from that position of strength—to share their unique and magical gifts with the world and help to make this a better place. 

That, in the end, is what we all need: the strength to declare that we each have the freedom—to be ourselves.  In whatever role, or condition, or orientation, or dream, or desire that means.  Not in a sulking, hide in the closest way of freedom—but a freedom of expression and of sharing and taking our rightful place in the world.  Bringing our gifts to the world’s table and putting our talents to work.  Secure and content in the knowledge that freedom is not given to us by any other person—it is not bestowed to us by anyone here on this earth.  It is not the receipt for them deciding that its okay we are gay, fat, black, purple, single, buck-toothed, thin, bald or any other thing.  We do not obtain our greatness because someone decides it okay for us to do so.

Greatness is our birthright—it is ours from the moment our eyes first blink.  And though others may try to convince us otherwise—perhaps even our own ego working to undermine us—it is a gift we never ever loose.  And even though it may be misplaced—it never ever leaves us.  Our highest expression of freedom is when we acknowledge this—and our highest place on this earth is when we live it!  

Friday, April 13, 2012

GallBladders and Chelsea Fairies

Another amazing week.  So here we are, galleries are showing my photography, some consulting work is coming in; I may be teaching again in the fall (Not at John Jay) and I will be headed out on a few wonderful little trips in the next two months to visit my niece; the lovely city of Charleston SC; see an airshow in Hamilton; and who knows what else.  Sometimes you just have to take a moment and breathe.  And, if you don't, well life will force you to. 

I made my way to the Doctor the other day, as some of life's little stresses have been getting to me.  He directed to me to, among other things, get my annual gall-bladder ultrasound.  Result: same as before. A 6MM polyp just kind of hanging out.  Only occasionally problematic, but when it is...  Most of the time, however, its just kind of there.  Sort of like an annoying co-worker or distant family member that you only see on the major holidays-- and are quite thankful for that. 

The truth is that this means that I will probably have to have my gall bladder removed For the first time in my life, a solution to a problem is going to be to have something that I was born with-- some original equipment-- sucked out with an arthroscopic procedure, never to be seen again.  I know this isn't a big deal.  But, for one who still has his tonsils, all ten fingers and toes, and all the other stuff as it was from the factory (well, except for my hair) this is kind of a big deal. 

Not the procedure itself, but the truth hereby revealed. I am getting older. I am getting close to (cough, cough) 40 and that these sorts of things are kind of par for the course.  And I suppose it also involves a level of acceptance. 

I was wondering today while walking through Chelsea (The Ultra Hip Gay Epicenter of The known Universe- or at least a place with lots of very fit guys wearing cool shoes) just what it is that makes the little gay boys so attractive.  Why do so many guys my age just go crazy when they see some hot kid in his early 20s. Why do they dream of that as though its the end-all, be-all? Kind of Like Boardwalk; A Hole-in-One; and a free first class upgrade all rolled into one package. 

Many gay men go through crazy rituals- gym, diet; drugs and god knows what else to either try and attract one of these cute kids to bed with them, date them, or at least obtain their attention. Many is the 30/40 year old guy I have known who views this as his ultimate quest-- and ultimate suggestion of failure when, more often then not, a hot NYU kid just walks right on by- never paying the least bit of attention. 

A new understanding of this came to me today as I was making peace with the concept of saying goodbye to my gallbladder.  I think for many guys, its hard to say goodbye.  To a sexy young and exciting time that they had when they were 20.  Or, a sexy young and exciting time that they wish they had when they were twenty.  A life of parties and belonging and acceptance and style that is presented by the media as the entire purpose of gay life on this planet earth.  So many buy in-- fully and completely to this expectation of reality.  They cling to it-- to its memory and its hope and its idea.  In much the same way that an five year old clings to the idea of Santa Clause. 

Thankfully,  most kids do grow up-- and out-- of the need to believe in some certain myth to hold to in order to make things right or life worth living.  I think they see this kid, this "twink" as a door to this expectation- this world that they dream of either being in still, or of having had back then-- instead of a plain old life in Ohio or Missouri or maybe even in New York.  The lust after this person becomes less about the individual than it about the symbol-- the memory and the dream-- and of immortality, or at least a few more ticks on the clock.

It is only when kids grow up, when they come to accept that Santa Clause, and the Easter bunny, and the Gay scene are all just really different sides of the same coin and when they realize the only life that matters-- the only truth that matters-- is the one beyond the pages of the Brothers Grimm that that they can find love and peace and acceptance on their own terms.  
 
Santa Clause and the twink passing you on the street,or chatting with you online, represent nothing that you can not have yourself or know yourself.  And its not until we move on from seeing our self as being fulfilled by others- by the fantasy- by the illusion-- that we can know true happiness.  It is not until we escape from questing after a Queer as Folk life and replace it with a Queer as Me life that real change, real miracles, and real growth can occur.

So I will be happy letting my gallbladder go.  I will be happy accepting that my body is aging, that I am aging.  And entirely content that I have moved beyond the fairy tales of Chelsea or of childhood, into a place where I am responsible for myself and to myself not to get caught up in the illusion-- but rather to build the dream of something beautiful in my own skin.  And where I get to unwrap presents nearly every day... not just Christmas Morning.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Old Friends

In the last few weeks, I have managed to say some things and do some things and experience some things that I never thought I would bring myself to do.  I admitted that I am not capable of solving every problem on my own; I made it to church for Easter Service; I actually figured out how to re-size photos in Photoshop; and I looked into the eyes of a friend to realize that he didn't know me as well as I always thought he had.

It is a profoundly interesting experience when you try to talk to someone who has known you a long time about the changes that have gone on in your life.  Ways you have tried to grow, to evolve-- the new approach that you excitedly apply to the problems opportunities of every day living. 

I don't want to sound like a Pollyanna but it has to be acknolwegded on nearly every level that things are different.  A phone call from NYC health services (Im fine); a grand vista and its associated silence; the words of a passionate liberal minister; holding my niece; being chastised for all the things I thought know make me good at my job.  These are just a few of my favorite things-- and just a few stops along the road if my life over the last eighteen months. 

I sat down with my friend in a Bar (As is normally the case) and tried to listen to what's going on with him.  I wanted to hear about the new apartment; the girlfriend; the family; and everything else.  But the noise in the bar was incredible and I found it hard to focus. (Note: my recent lack of comfort  in all but the most quiet or lounge-like of bars is a profound symptom of the new me).  He was perceptive enough to note my distaste of where we were, so, after two beers (where I should have stopped-- another indication of just how much things have changed)  we wandered to a new place. 

With a glass of wine and some food, I listened to the parts of his story I had missed and was able to fully comprehend just what it meant when he said "Your always talking about relationships"- something what felt a great deal like a dismissal of nearly everything I had or would say about what's new in my life.  He just kind of let it go by, checked off the box marked "same old news" and took another sip of his beer.  As I just sat there-- more than a little wrecked by the fact he couldn't see the winning lottery tickets in my hand, just the same old scratch offs, a dollar winner here, a "good luck next time" there. 

It took me a minute to figure out what to say after that.  I didn't want to argue, or to demand fiercely that he acknowledge the changes-- pay homage to the man being reinvented even as he sat eating pulled pork and mac-and-cheese at a far too late hour for such heavy food.  I whimpered a bit, but the biggest part of me sighed. 

A line from a Harry Chapin song I like says something "an old friend is much better than a new friend, cause they know where you been".  I always liked that line-- fantasized about it when I thought of a home I will someday own with a fireplace.  In a comfy living room where I will sit with my old friends and reminisce about the good old days.   It never occurred to me that, for some, even some great friends-- the good old times are something more than old.  They live on.   In ignorance of Einstein and the clock on the wall, their ideas and expectations and perceptions remain in whatever page on the calender that was there. 

Lacking the desire or the interest to walk with you down the road, or maybe even push you sometimes-- they stay back in the place you met, or that bar, or that school, or wherever the old you resides.  As distant as the baby's crib to the you of today, but the  only you that they may ever know.  Kind of a living breathing memorial to where you have been, but without perception of where you are now. 

But, maybe that is a good thing.  Maybe its good to have a mirror that points backwards.  And that thought is what I settled on as I made my way back home.  With prayers of thanks that the one-night stands, and the ten beer nights, and the drama are nearly all gone.  I laughed at bit at the memories-- and the stories that will still be told.  But that life that is now only in the past-tense.  and, to be honest, I was and am thankful.  For I love the new life a lot better. 

Maybe Harry Chapin was right after all, perhaps the old friends are good for something.