Don't get me wrong, we love living in the Glen Cove neighborhood of Vallejo. It is ideally located only about thirty minutes from San Francisco when traffic is moving on I-80 or a 45 minute ferry ride across the bay. On the one hand, I understand the problems with "gentrification" but on the other hand, as a homeowner, I would like to see Vallejo clean up some of the blight along I-80. Vallejo is already one of the hottest real estate markets in the country, according to some, but much of that is due to it being the cheapest place to live in the San Francisco Bay Area's hot real estate market. It still has a reputation for crime and grittiness. A drive through on I-80 discourages many from thinking of Vallejo as a place to call home. No other city that I have seen in the Bay Area has as much blight along their freeway corridor as Vallejo seems to have. Here are a few pics of Vallejo from I-80:
We had been on about 11 cruises. Three were gay cruises. Two were with RSVP Vacations and most recently, we sailed with Atlantis Events on the world's largest ship, Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas. Here is about 10 minutes of video.
The election of 2016 is over and Hillary Clinton won!! Well, she won the popular vote, anyway. She won more votes in the country than any white male has ever won. But, in America, we do not have a one person-one vote system. The votes of those living in smaller states have more weight than the votes of those that live in larger states. Larger states, such as California, Texas and New York have the highest GDP. People gravitate to the larger states from the smaller states because larger states have better economic opportunities, educational opportunities, cultural opportunities, and a host of other advantages. The larger states are the ones that create most of the nations wealth and they end up subsidizing many of the smaller states. People of color tend to live in larger states, too, and so the electoral college is rigged to give white voters, in smaller, less productive states an advantage electorally over larger, more productive, more diverse states. So, in 2016, a minority of priveleged white people in the rust belt throwing a pity party for themselves got to dictate to the rest of the country who our President would be for the next four years (or longer if elections are suspended after a manufactured or other crises leading to martial law.
So, on this page, I am trying to be optimistic. I am trying to think ahead to 2020 and thinking about who I would like to see run. Personally, I ruled out Bernie and Hillary as they are yesterday's candidates and not tomorrows. Elizabeth Warren would certainly appeal to the base and it is unlikely that there would be a split in the party as there was in 2016 that gave the election to Trump. Personally, I don't think Michelle Obama will run so I wonder about who else there is? I am going to include a few speeches on this page of people that I am wondering about. I would be curious in feedback on those from other DEMOCRATS. I am not really interested in hearing from "Independents" or anyone that voted for a third party candidate in 2016 or anyone that wants to denigrate the Democratic Party, which IS, still the vehicle that will move the progressive agenda forward once again.
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This first one is Gavin Newsom, born 1967, the current Lieutenant Governor of California. He is running for Governor of California in 2018 but I also think he could be a great president. He was elected as the 42nd Mayor of San Francisco and then re-elected in 2007. In 2004, he directed the San Francisco city-county clerk to issue marriage licenses to gay couples and helped fight Proposition 8. He was elected Lieutenant Governor in 2010. He has apparenty had problems with alcohol but did seek treatment. He has a wife and three small children. He attended Santa Clara University I think he has some charisma?
The second video I have here is of Senator Cory Booker, born 1969. Out of the four that I have here initially, Newsom, Harris, and Cruz, I think Cory gives the best speech. It is both well written and well given. There are several quotable lines. He has been a Senator fron New Jersey since 2013. Before that, he was mayro of Newark. He attended Stanford and is a Rhodes Scholor. Is America ready for another black president, though? Obama was probably the best president of my lifetime but the backlash from racists in the election of 2016, helped put a fascist over the top. Will America vote for another black man so soon?
Next is Kamala Harris, born 1964. She was recently elected to take Barbara Boxer's seat in the Senate. She graduated from Howard University and the University of California and Hastings College of Law. She was elected Californias Attorney General in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. She is the daughter of an Indian-American and a Jamaican-American. I wonder if America IS ready for a female for President? Is the country more misogynistic than it is racist?
Joaquin Castro, born 1974, is in the House of Representatives. His district includes San Antonio, Texas. He has an identical twin brother. I wonder if that would be too complicated for some of our more "simple" Americans? He IS Hispanic and changing demographics would seem to say that this would be helpful but Hispanic turn out was a disappointment in 2016 when there was a fascist running that was scapegoating Hispanics. He graduated with honors from Stanford University.
And then there is Julian Castro, Joaquin's brother. Maybe he's the better candidate? I am not sure:
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand? Personally, I am not so sure? Being a real progressive means that i am registered and vote as a Democrat and will always vote for whoever the candidate of the progressive party is.
Senator Amy Klobuchar?
Senator Elizabeth Warren? Watching this video, I am inclined to think Elizabeth Warren would probably be a good choice.
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For the life of me, it is incomprehensible to me why anyone would gamble with third party votes? I do think it is one of the most critical questions that progressives and the Democratic Party face, though, if they are going to win back House or Senate seats in 2018 and the White House in 2020. Although the Democratic Party has been the vehicle of the progressive movement since Franklin D. Roosevelt, bringing us our county’s entire safety net for it’s citizens including a long list of popular programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Veteran’s G.I. Bill, civil rights, the women’s right to vote, public education, the eight hour work day, the forty hour week, overtime, unemployment, environmental protections, gay marriage, and so much, so much more, some that pose and posture on the left put more energy into bringing down the Democratic Party than they do fighting the real enemies of the progressive movement!!! What is it that would cause someone that leans to the left politically to turn their back on this party, undermine this party and throw the election to an extreme right wing fascistic, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and homophobic candidate?
Those voting for 2016’s "Ralph Naders," Gary Johnson and Jill Stein were not the only reason Hillary lost and may not even be the main reason. James Comey and the FBI had a huge impact. The Russians had a big impact. The media spent months giving Trump billions of dollars of free media. People like Chris Mathews on MSNBC spent much of the time chasing ratings rather than chasing truth. There were way too many false equivalencies between truly irrelevant emails and the private server with real bigotry and crimes by Trump. Those things are not equal. Hillary's emails and the server were used to keep it a "horse race." Trumps absurdities were minimized and normalized. Rabid white fundamentalist evangelicals in the Bible belt, salivating over control of the Supreme Court, had every bit as much impact as the white under-employed in the rust belt that felt like nobody was paying attention to them. Apparently they felt left out and insulted by those enjoying the economy's resurgence and prosperity in the big cities on either coast.
BUT, it is dismissing reality to dismiss the impact of Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, though, and those that didn't bother to vote because of James Comey, the FBI, the Russians or old stories from the Faux News channel. I think misogyny certainly played a role and sadly, many women are just as misogynistic as men can be. We know racism played a role for 8 years in the Obama administration and many felt like this would be a third term for him and they would do anything to put a stop to that. Some in the rust belt apparently felt like people of color were being heard and their needs were being addressed more than the needs of white people that they saw as the “real Americans.” White Americans wanted to take their country back from all the brown, black, Muslim and gay people they thought had stolen it from them. They didn't see themselves as "privileged” anymore. They saw themselves as “oppressed” anytime anyone got equal rights to theirs that diminished their sense of “privilege” and entitlement.
Then there were the pollsters. How many people felt like I did, lulled into believing there really was a "blue firewall" and almost impossible for Hillary to lose? I had done some phone banking as I have done in every election since the 80's and sent texts through Moveon.org and contributed cash to the campaign but I could have done so much more if I thought it was needed!! The polls all assured me that I could finally relax that last couple of days. (All the pollsters should be fired or fined for incompetence and malpractice!!!) But, in the end, we have to remember that Hillary DID actually win all the debates and did win the primary vote with the most actual votes and the popular vote in the general. This was against odds. When you have James Comey, the FBI, the Russians, Chris Mathews, racists, misogynists, homophobes, xenophobes, fundamentalist evangelicals. under-employed resentful, entitled privileged white people in the rust belt. and disgruntled “Bernie or Bust”ers all working against you, it is amazing how well Hillary actually did!!
There is nothing that I can do on a personal level about all the other factors that handed the election to Donald Trump but what I really want to focus on, discuss and try to understand is, why anyone leaning left would vote against the Democratic Party? Why is it that so many people seem to take pride in not being registered in either of the parties that can actually win? As a long time progressive since the sixties, I could never comprehend registering as a Republican and wonder why everyone wouldn’t want to register as a Democrat? What did the Democratic Party ever do to you that you find so egregious?
Now, just for a moment, consider what the Democratic Party has done FOR you. If you are able to read this and you went to a public school, thank the Democratic Party for that. If you are going to go to college and get student aid, thank a Democrat for that. If you are a woman that votes, thank a Democrat for that. If your an African American and vote, thank a Democrat. If you are employed, thank a Democrat for the 8 hour day, the forty hour week, overtime pay, and the minimum wage. If your a veteran and used the G.I. Bill, thank a Democrat. I could go on about benefit after benefit you enjoy because of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party’s New Deal brought us out of the Republican caused Great Depression and built the worlds premier infrastructure. Obama and Democrats brought us out of George Bush’s Great Recession. Now, take a moment. Off the top of your head, name ONE thing the Republican Party has ever done for you? If you can name something, my guess is that you are somehow misinformed. The truth is, the Republican Party has never done ANYTHING for you. Why doesn’t the Democratic Party deserve some loyalty after all they have done? Did you think the Democratic Party had ever stopped working for you despite the last eight years of obstruction from the Republican Congress?? And you turned your back.
Maybe your a “Bernie or Bust” er and was hoping all along that Hillary would fail so you could jump on your high horse and insist that “If only Bernie had been the candidate, he would have won.” The fact is that Bernie couldn’t even win the primary, how is it now that you believe he could have won the general? What bubble do you live in? Have you been 100 miles East of the West coast or 100 miles West of the East Coast? Have you talked to anyone outside your progressive bubble??? How many people over forty in this country are going to vote for anyone so naive as to self label as any kind of “socialist” whether “Democratic” or otherwise?
We have all heard your “Bernie or Bust”ers admonitions toward the fundraising arm of the Democratic Party, the D.N.C.. Yes, some emails showed Debbie Wasserman Schultz’ preference for the Democratic candidate. Maybe that had something to do with Debbie Wasserman Schultz being a loyal Democrat supporting a candidate that had been loyal to the Democratic Party since 1969 over an independent socialist that didn’t become a Democrat until he wanted to run in the Democratic primary. By the time Bernie entered the race, most loyal Democrats had already assumed the candidate would be Hillary. Many had made the decision to support Hillary’s candidacy for 2016 way back in 2008 when she lost to Obama. Some had decided Hillary would be the best candidate when she had a 67% approval rating as Secretary of State. So, was it really any wonder that most Democrats would choose a loyal Democrat over an opportunistic outsider that had the poor judgment of calling themselves a Socialist rather than a New Deal Democrat? By the time Bernie entered the race, many loyal Democrats had already made up their minds and anything the D.N.C. and Debbie Wasserman Schultz did later was already irrelevent to who most Democrats would support.
Yea, we all loved the fact that Bernie was to Hillary’s left and most loyal Democrats saw his role as pulling Hillary from her center left position, further to the left, but most of us, including Bernie, also knew that any kind of self described “Socialist” was never going to win a general election in this country in 2016. That is just a reality regardless of how you might like to delude yourself.
Hillary entered the Democratic primary April 12th, 2015. Many loyal Democrats coalesced around Hillary quickly. She had a built in constituency. She had been building her coalition for as many years as the right wing media had been smearing her and creating conspiracy theories about her. By the time Bernie entered the race 44 days later on May 26th, 2015, many Democrats and especially the infamous “Superdelegates” were already committed to Hillary. That was way before there was any impact from the DNC or Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Bernie’s candidacy was seen by many as something beneficial only in the short run to make that pull to the left on Hillary and for her to have someone to debate with. If there had been no Bernie, there would not have been much of a debate and even less media air time for the Democratic candidate. Bernie was necessary but most of us, at that time, really didn’t think he would take it as far as he did, hanging on even after he had obviously lost the primary, only to do damage to Hillary’s candidacy. His supporters gleefully picked up the thirty years of smears and conspiracy theories from Fox News and the right wing and disseminated these lies through social media. Rather than putting their energies into defeating the Republican candidate, they put their energy into damaging Hillary and the progressive agenda for their own self gratification.
The reality is that Superdelegates were not created for the purpose of thwarting Bernie’s campaign. The Superdelegates had been created back in the eighties after Democrats had suffered landslide defeats and implemented for the first time in the election of 1984!! Democratic leaders wanted nominees that could actually win the White House rather than keep losing to Republicans with candidates like George McGovern (who I voted for btw). They thought that the party leaders should have an increased influence on who the nominee would be rather than just rank and file Democrats. Although Howard Dean won most of the Superdelegates in 2004, John Kerry actually won the nomination because he won the primaries and caucuses. This was very similar to the situation in 2015 when Hillary entered the race first, secured pledges from most of the Superdelegates before Bernie even entered the race which gave her some advantage as it did Howard Dean in 2004. Unlike John Kerry, though, Bernie was not capable of winning enough delegates in the primaries and caucuses to overcome Hillary’s early advantage and the loyalty of the coalition she had built since her husbands run in the 1990’s.
In the primaries and caucuses, Hillary got almost four million more votes than Bernie and won 11 more contests than he did. Bernie mostly won caucus states. He had much more difficulty in states with one person-one vote elections. In Washington State, Bernie was able to pull a landslide in the less Democratic caucus there, winning 74 of the 101 delegates, but when they had their one person-one vote election, Hillary won with 53% of the vote over Sanders 47% showing that more people actually supported Hillary in Washington State than the caucuses would indicate. The fact is that way more people participate in primaries than caucuses and in those more democratic contests, Hillary more easily won actual votes.
Some “Bernie or Bust”ers also whined about those registered as "Independents" not being able to vote in the Democratic primaries in some states. I suppose you believe Republicans should be able to vote in the Democratic primaries, too? Of course that is ridiculous. There would be all kinds of mischief. Why should people that work within the Democratic Party day in and day out, making sacrifices for the party and doing the real work have their choices diluted and undermined by those that don't want to show up until the primary? THAT is ridiculous and unfair, too. if you want to vote in the Democratic primary, register as a Democrat. Not difficult. If you are too self righteous and sanctimonious and holier than thou to be a part of the party that brought us civil rights, minimum wage, Social Security, Medicare and that long list of other benefits you enjoy, then you are part of the problem, not part of the solution. The Democratic Party is the vehicle that has brought us this far and it is the party than will continue to take us into the future. It is made up of regular people like you and me except that they are actually willing to put in the unglamorous work that I doubt you are willing to do. If you don't want to be a part of it, you don't get to whine about their policies. Most "Independents" I have known are essentially Republicans anyway or privileged, straight white men that don't have much on the line and can afford to waste their votes.
You say you didn't "trust" Hillary? Based on what? You and Bernie whined about her speeches? You finally got your way and saw excerpts the Russians wanted you to see and there was nothing very interesting there! A Russian hacked wiki-leak that said she has a public face and a private face? Wow, grow up! We all have various "faces" we wear depending on who we are with and the situation! You are one person with your spouse- maybe a little sexy at times. You are a different person with your kids. You are one person with your boss and a different one with your co-workers. This is normal. This is reality. You do not put on the same face with everybody you know.
No, personally, I don't think it was the emails or the speeches or much of anything else except for one thing: misgogyny. You just couldn't accept a woman in a position of power. You would prefer to believe sources like Faux News that you would never believe otherwise. You are not really that gullible but, in this case, you made an exception. You CHOSE not to trust Hillary based on smoke and mirrors from the far right 30 year campaign to smear her and decided that you would rather "trust" a flake like Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or a fascist like Donald Trump. Maybe you jumped on the Comey FBI train during that last week before the election, assuming that there would finally be something substantial in the "new" emails. You must have really felt like a gullible fool when nothing materialized and you had contributed to a fascist taking power.
My suspicion is that a lot of people like to pose and posture on the left, a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. In reality, the only real way to move a progressive agenda forward is through coalitions and collective action within the Democratic party. There are always those on the fringes that don't want to put in the time or the effort but then want to second guess, undermine and sabotage the hard work of others. We are already hearing ultimatums from some "Bernie or Bust"er types that they will never vote for a Democrat if Bernie's pick, Keith Ellison, isn't elected DNC chair. They would rather see a fascist in office than lift a finger for the party that has always lifted them up unless they get their way 100% of the time. How did we raise a generation with so much entitlement that they would cut of their nose to spite their face and undermine everything they themselves believe in???
The only true progressives are those that are wiling to put in the time and the work to nudge the Democratic Party forward and to the left. It takes a herculean effort by selfless individuals that care more about others and the progressive agenda than just self gratification and their own ego. If people want to denigrate the party rather than fix it or go off and do their own little impotent circle jerk, so be it, but that really doesn't do much for anybody else, the progressive agenda or our country. Sometimes individuals have to subjugate their own egocentric wants and desires and work for the greater good. That is what coalitions are all about. That is what collective bargaining is all about. If you decide to attend a protest and the protest is walking down Market Street and you don’t like that route and decide to take a turn by yourself on Van Ness, your not really part of the protest any longer. You are just another individual walking up Van Ness. That is essentially what your "protest" vote amounted to.
So, many “Bernie or Bust”ers, feeling "pure" in their "waiting for the messiah" posture, mad at the DNC and Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Democratic Party for their perceived "impurity," decided to take out their revenge on women, minorities, children, the disabled, immigrants and even themselves and their peers to get back at what they saw, whether true or not, a “rigged system.” Trump and Republicans delighted in taking up their cause. Conservatives are always looking for ways to undermine the progressive agenda. This time, they had a lot of help from the disgruntled, deluded and dishonest “Bernie or Bust”ers who turned out to be racist, sexist, ageist, and paternalistic too. These, mostly straight, white males thought they knew better than African-Americans, women and people over 40 that overwhelmingly voted for Hillary. They thought their votes should matter more than people of color, women, and those that had been fighting in the real “revolution” since the sixties. Many millinniels with no grasp of history, discounted, minimized and dismissed the long struggles that came before them, believing the “revolution” started with them and Bernie. The real revolution started with people like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Betty Friedan, and Harvey Milk. These people, along with the Democratic Party had brought us civil rights, women’s rights and lgbt rights. The real revolution didn’t start with Bernie. The real revolution isn’t about one generation, one candidate or one election.
There are so many people these days living in the tinfoil hat, flat earth, anti-intellectualism bubble of ignorance. Anti-science. Anti-logic. Anti-reason. They ignore all the accomplishments of the Democratic Party and all the accomplishments of the Obama administration. They minimize and dismiss the obstruction of the Republican Congress. Even though Obama saved us from the worst recession since the Great Depression, that still isn't enough for them. In their ignorance, they complain that Obama is not "progressive" enough as if he could have done anything more in the face of the brick walls called the House and the Senate. Some of them listen to Alex Jones and his conspiracy theories. Some are actually naive enough to think someone like "Bernie" could have done better than Obama. (Even Bernie doesn't believe that!) These are the kind of people alarmed by chemtrails, vaccines, and the "reptilian" elite. They reject science and western medicine in favor or medical quackery and vote for people like anti-vaxxer Jill Stein. Sadly, we have a lot of them that posture and pose on the left.
I don't play sports or have much interest in sports but I do understand that teamwork, people working together, is what wins the game. As a union person all of my life, I understand that collective bargaining and working together accomplishes more than individuals going it alone. As a Democrat, I know that it takes coalitions to win elections.
Does every team member agree with the coach? My guess is probably not. My guess is that individual team members subjugate their own ideas for the greater good of the team. Did I always agree with my union? Definitely not, but I always showed up on the picket line because I knew it wasn't always just about what I thought I wanted. When I was in my twenties and couldn't imagine ever being old, retirement benefits didn't matter to me. I wanted more money per hour. I didn't get my way but ultimately I benefitted from the collective effort with others when, somehow, I did get old.
Reagan's so called "11th Commandment," (actually penned by Gaylord Parkinson) was "Thou shalt not speak ill of any Republican." The point was to discourage infighting. It was a winning strategy for Republicans for many years just as good teamwork is a winning strategy in sports and solidarity is a winning strategy for unions and coalition building is a winning strategy for political parties. If there are two opposing sides and one is going to win, dissension only improves the odds of the other side winning.
Since the election, I was looking back over Cory Booker's speech at the DNC this year. He said “I respect and value the ideals of rugged individualism and self-reliance. But rugged individualism didn't defeat the British, it didn't get us to the moon, build our nation's highways, or map the human genome. We did that together.” Egocentric individualism does not win in sports, unions or in politics. Cory said, “We must find the common ground, we must build bridges across our differences to pursue the common good.” Apparently, you could not find the "common good" that Hillary and the Democratic Party were offering.
"If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together," Cory said. I have heard the impatience of others that thought the whole system needed changing, the “swamp drained” and wanted that done yesterday and fast and went off in their own direction and didn't end up changing the system at all or really accomplishing anything together with others.
One last quote of Cory's from that speech I liked was “We cannot be seduced into cynicism about our politics, because cynicism is a refuge for cowards.”
Of course, Washington, like Oregon and California are "safe states." You, like others I know in the Bay Area, knew your third party votes wouldn't matter much because others would pick up the slack anyway. I kind of doubt if that works in sports- one team member figures the rest of the team will do fine without them putting in as much effort? It doesn't work with unions when one member decides they would rather take a vacation during the strike than walk the picket line. It obviously doesn't work for political parties, especially in those states that are not "safe."
Benjamin Franklin said, "We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." Don't think that I am trying to chastise you or beat a dead horse here. I really am trying to understand the logic. You are not the only person I know that decided to abandon the coalition that makes up the Democratic Party and the collective action it requires to win elections to vote for someone with no possibility of winning. It doesn't make sense to me. It doesn't compute. It doesn't follow any kind of logic I can figure out?
For some, on the far left I know in the Bay Area, as I have said multiple times, it is merely about self righteousness, feeling sanctimonious and leftier than thou. I guess it makes them feel superior in some way to the regular folks that do the day in and day out grunt work, week in and week out, months and years of work. Those that started the real “revolution,” like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Betty Friedan and Harvey Milk are minimized and discounted. Current leaders in the African-American community are denigrated. Primarily young, straight, white males paternalistically insist that African Americans must not know what they are doing because they overwhelmingly voted for Hillary. That ends up feeling a bit racist to me. The same young, straight, white males insist women that voted for Hillary must not know what they are doing either. That always sounds a bit sexist. When they find out that people over forty voted for Hillary in the primary, the Bernie or Buster types figure people over forty don’t know what they are talking about either. Then they play into the hands of Republicans manipulating them with Russian hacked emails about the DNC. Well, yea, the DNC and Debbie Wasserman Schultz may not have been perfect, but who hasn’t made mistakes? Donald Trump? You think Bernie Sanders is the messiah?
I think most of the “Bernie or Buster”ers are young— too young to remember 2000 and the Ralph Nader debacle. I don't think that is all of you that sat out the election or voted third party, but it is something I saw in 2000 and see in 2016. For me, it feels like putting ego and self over community and common interests. For me, it is the same thing that would undermine a team, a union, a political party and the progressive agenda. Many of these people are former Bernie supporters but rather than follow Bernies advise and support the Democratic Party, they individually decided that they knew better than the team, the coalition The Party AND Bernie!!! Rather than playing a part in productive collective action, they chose to go it alone and accomplish nothing for anybody except to have that feeling that somehow they were above it all and others really didn't matter as much as their own self gratifying orgasm of self righteousness.
Eldridge Cleaver said "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem." For me, I think that is my mantra for the next couple of years until 2018 and certainly 2020. I don't understand the logic of your voting third party and I don't understand the logic of others voting 3rd party but it is something to ponder for the next couple of years.
Hillary was an imperfect candidate in some ways but, at the very least, she was qualified. She had also been well vetted. We knew everything about her there was to know. She made a few mistakes along the way which she was willing to admit. Nothing ever bordering on criminal in spite of 30 years of right wing lies, smears and conspiracy theories.
We knew little about Jill Stein but most of what we knew showed her to be a bit of a flake and not qualified for political office. Gary Johnson also showed himself to be uninformed and flakey as well. So, a vote for one of them was essentially a "protest" vote I suppose? For me, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson were part of the problem just as Ralph Nader was a part of the problem in 2000. Progressives must learn the same lesson again that they learned in 2000. As imperfect as it may be, the Democratic Party IS the only viable progressive party. The only “real” revolutionaries are those progressives that are willing to put the time and energy into the day to day grunt work that keeps the Democratic Party functioning as the vehicle for the progressive agenda. There will always be that fringe element that wants to stand on the sidelines through history and then think they are entitled to remake the Democratic Party every four years at their convenience and then abandon it when they don’t get 100% of what they want. Hillary did win the popular vote which a "socialist" in 2016 could have never done. Jill Stein could never do it. Gary Johnson could never do it. There was only one other person that could win the election despite losing the popular vote and that was the racist, misgoynistic, xenophobic, homophobic fascist you helped get elected because of your narcissistic self righteous, sanctimonious, "leftier-than-thou" desire for self importance and self gratification. Hopefully, more so called "progressives" will get that narcissim doesn't win elections. Solidarity, loyalty to the Democratic Party, teamwork, and hanging together is what wins elections. As Hillary said, "Stronger Together." By 2018 and 2020 if we are still holding elections by then and it hasn't turned into a totally totalitarian country by then.
a play by Sylvan Rogers
Henry: Gay white male looks middle forties but in his early fifties.
Robert: Gay black male in late forties.
The play takes place in the modest living room of the suburban home of Henry and Robert, a middle-aged black and white gay couple. Stage right exits to the kitchen. At rear of stage is front door of home. There is a window to left of the door that is open and a wall that angles toward front of stage. There is a large mirror hanging there. There is another door on stage left that exits to bedroom.
Scene 1 (Henry and Robert):
(When the lights come up, we are in Henry and Roberts modest suburban home.)
Henry enters from stage left with a large box and several photo albums in his arms. He crosses to the couch and sets the box and photo albums on the floor in front of him. He takes the photo albums and sets them next to him on the couch and then takes one of those and puts it on his lap and opens it. He reaches down into the box and spends a moment looking at it as if trying to remember. He puts it carefully into the photo album. He reaches back down in the box and takes out another. This one he just sets aside and goes back into the box for a handful of pictures. He sorts through them, creating a discard pile and putting others into his lap that he then puts into the photo album.
Robert comes in through doorway left stage. He is carrying plastic grocery bags laden with groceries. He crosses and exits stage right. He enters the stage again and walks across to stage left and as he crosses the stage, he speaks.
Robert: Come and help me get some of these groceries. (he exits stage left and soon returns with two more bags of groceries and crosses again to stage right.)
Henry (not moving to help with the groceries): I’m sorting pictures for the photo album. (Robert has exited and Henry goes on) There’s a great one of you from our vacation to Key West I just put into the album.
(Robert re-enters and again goes for another bag of groceries while Henry continues)
That was a great vacation even in spite of the “Storm of the Century.” We were in that little gay bed and breakfast when the storm hit, remember?
(Robert re-enters with more groceries and crosses behind Henry).
Robert: I got a few extra things for our earthquake stash. I figure if I get a few canned things for our stash every time I go shopping , we will be prepared for when everything shuts down. You should pick up a few things too.
Henry to Robert who is now off right: Do you really think the world is going to come to an end?
Robert: It doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
Henry: Alright chicken little. Are we going to become survivalists? I’m not so sure I look so good in camouflage fatigues.
Robert: You will look great.
Henry: Oh, here’s a picture of Stanley. He taught me about the importance of douching before getting fucked (he laughs). Stanlietta. I miss the old girl and his craziness.
Robert Re-enters: “Tina” didn’t help.
Henry (in agreement): Really. Was I with you when Stanley called me in the middle of the night because he thought the FBI was watching his every move? I went over to his apartment and he hadn’t washed clothes for weeks and they were all in a pile. His hair went in every direction and his eyes were wild with paranoia. There was no consoling him. Of course there was no FBI… just tina burning up what was left of his brain cells.
Robert: If it happened in the last 25 years, I was with you.
(He takes a stack of polaroids out of the box that are bundled together with rubber bands. He takes the rubber bands off and starts looking through them.) This is interesting.
Robert: What are those?
Henry: These are polaroids. I took them back in the seventies before I met you. I was fucking so much back then and I was having trouble keeping track of all my tricks so I bought a cheap polaroid camera and after tricking with somebody, I would take a polaroid so I could remember them. When you are having sex with hundreds of men each year, it is hard to keep them all straight… especially if you are smoking a lot of pot at the same time. It was always so embarrassing to be out somewhere and run into a trick and not remember their name. I wanted to remember each and every trick so I took polaroids.
Robert: I don’t think you were expected to.
Henry: Of course I couldn’t take my polaroid camera to the baths and so I didn’t get pictures of THOSE tricks. I didn’t even have conversation with most of them, much less take their pictures. Usually I was so fucked up on qualudes back then when I went to the sex clubs…but the ones I dragged in off the streets or out of the bars for an overnighter at my place... I felt like I wanted to remember them. Everybody was fucking everybody but each everybody wanted to think they were special… that somehow there was something about them that made them memorable. These polaroids are what made them memorable to me. (as he looks through the polaroids) Of course now as I look at them all these years later, I don’t remember any of them. There were some cute men though. I wonder how many of them have died?
Robert: Let me see. (He walks over to Henry and Henry gives him a stack of pictures). (looking at a polaroid): You fucked white men back then?
Henry: Occasionally. I think I was in transition. I was into hispanic men for a while but all the one’s I meant seemed like they wanted to do drag. Everybody talks about the Latin culture being so macho but most of the latin men I dated were bottoms! I was looking for what they called a “cholo” at the time and most of the ones I found were hot until I got them home and they threw their legs up in the air.
Robert: So you were looking for a top? (they both laugh).
Henry: Ultimately, isn’t that what we are all looking for? (they laugh)
Robert: Is that why you got into black men?
Henry As if all black men are tops! Ha! I have known a lot of black bottoms... I mean, a lot including you! (teasing him playfully) I remember when I first saw you in the Tenderloin, wearing that pink mini skirt that barely covered your clit dangling down between your legs... a toothless crack whore laying in the gutter, offering blow jobs for dimes! I knew YOU were looking for a big white dick when I first saw you!
Robert: But I never found it so I settled for your little white dick (they laugh). The REAL story is that I saw you at the Versateller machine taking cash out and I thought you were a rich white man that could buy me all the things I ever wanted... turned out you were just as broke as I was!
Henry: Yea, but as soon as I stuck my tongue up your ass, you were in love. (they both laugh)
Robert: You liked the ass, didn't you!
Henry: Oh yes, the magic ass. It would heal the sick and raise the dead!
(they laugh again).
Henry: The first man I ever fucked was a black queen I met outside the greyhound bus depot when I was about 18. She was more of a queen than you even and dragged me to her room at the “Y” to do the deed. I don’t know why my firsts were always black! The first woman I ever fucked was black, too!
Robert: Admit it, your a dinge queen.
Henry: I had never even realized when I was young that females even had sex because they enjoyed it! I was always under the impression that females had sex as a duty or as a manipulation for some material gain. It was only later in life that I realized that some women actually enjoyed the act itself besides doing it for material gain! Isn’t that weird? Of course, when I had sex with women, I always had to be heavily sedated.
Robert: I think I have heard this story before.
Henry: (ignoring him and going on) That was how I met my first lover, Jim… he was fucking Linda, a fat hippie chick I was living with at the time and I was fucking Judith with help from seconal, and he and Linda would come and get in bed with Judith and I. Linda would be riding his dick and Judith would be riding mine and he and I would be talking and we soon realized they we were more interested in each other than the women that were riding our dicks. When Jim and I finally got together without the girls, no sedation was required!
(still looking through pictures)... Oh here is one of Doug. Aids got him too. I am amazed that you and I are still here! God knows I did all the same things that everybody else did. Nobody was a bigger whore than me. I was a whore way back then and I am still a whore to this day… although being a whore at fifty-two is much different than being a whore in your twenties or thirties or in your forties for that matter. Being a whore in one’s fifties requires much more resourcefulness and creativity.
Robert: Yes, you have always been a whore… yadi, yadi, yadda… blah blah blah. That’s what I loved about you when we met.
Henry: Because we had that in common? (they laugh)
Robert: I would never claim to be as much of a whore as you were though. You were much more of a whore than me and you still are.
Henry: I was? I am not so sure about that. You were a pretty big whore too. It is getting to be too much of bother, now, though. It is so much easier just to stay home and watch porn these days. You don't have to get dressed, comb your hair or brush your teeth. Five minutes on Porn Hub and your done and can get on with your day! No awkward conversation or wasted time.
Robert: As if you had any hair to comb!
Robert: You were always running around and then trying to beat MY ass when I did.
Henry: We had a rocky year or two working out all the dynamics of an open relationship, but with a little couple’s counseling, I think we did a pretty good job of it.
Robert: That first year was rocky because you said you wanted an open relationship but you meant that you wanted an open relationship for yourself but wanted me to sit at home and be a good wife.
Henry: That’s not true. I just wanted you to be considerate and fuck on your own time and not on mine.
Robert: Yea, right. You wanted to fuck everything in site but then you got jealous if I did the same thing.
Henry: I really didn’t care if you were fucking other guys… I just didn’t want to know about it every time... you had not quite grasped the concept of discretion at that time.
Robert: What about being honest and truthful with one another?
Henry: Truth is way over rated. To live life happily, one must reserve a little bit of deniability… I am a firm believer in denial. Denial is the bumper on our bumper car ride called life. It is the cushion that makes everything tolerable. It is what has gotten me through the Aids epidemic up to this point. I didn’t care if you were fucking when we first got together but I preferred not to know about each detail. My main issue back then was about consideration. You were inconsiderate with your fucking. You would come home late for dinner. You need to get your fucking done by dinner time... you know?
Robert: Yes, dear. I know. I know maybe you just had some control issues.
Henry: The problems were around you not showing up for dinner when you were expected. That was inconsiderate and inconsideration is a much worse thing than infidelity. I just needed a phone call to let me know you were going to be late. It was not that you were fucking… it was that you were late for dinner and that is much worse!! The inconsideration of your being late was much more significant in my mind than that you were out fucking… although to be totally honest, I guess I was a little insecure too in the beginning…
Robert: I remember that… the constant phone calls every five minutes to see what I was doing.
Henry: Yea… I guess I am an insecure mess at the beginning of a relationship… especially after my three year debacle with Jim Grier. I had a hard time trusting anyone after that narcissist. He was a good fuck but he was totally fucked up. I spent all my time at his place losing track of who I was... getting lost in his world... I thought I was in love...
Robert: More likely in love with his dick!
Henry: Yea, everything else sucked! Did I ever tell you how I met him? I lived on Haight street, about a block from the old I-Beam and when I got horny, I would go out in front of my building and when black men would walk by, in a low voice loud enough that only they could hear me, I would ask “blow job?”
Robert laughs: It’s amazing somebody didn’t kill you.
Henry: Somebody did steal five dollars out of my wallet one time. I would have been glad to give it to them, though, if they would have just woke me up and asked. He DID have a nice dick and it was always fun to suck off a “straight,” thuggy guy.
Robert: So Jim wanted a blow job, huh?
Henry: Yea, about three years worth. I think he mostly just wanted somebody to argue with though. He just loved to argue, that guy. Emotionally absent except to incite and contradict. I tried to get him to go to couples counseling but he just told me I was the one with the problem. I guess it was true- I was the one that had the problem alright, and he was it! (he laughs)… That was an unhealthy relationship and was my realization you can’t base a relationship on the sex. Sex is brief...
Robert: In your case, seconds...
Henry: At least I can cum! It takes you hours to cum! I just don't have that kind of time or patience!!
Robert: (laughs) No it doesn’t.
Henry: but sex is brief and relationships that last are long and the sex will not sustain the relationship by itself in the long term. I learned it is better to look for those things that can sustain the relationship in the long term.
Robert: And then make do with the sex?
Henry: Kind of. Or find the sex elsewhere. That is what makes an open relationship with you so great! I can have it all. I was kind of a mess after my relationship with Jim. Therapy helped though. I think getting older helped. In some ways, just getting older is as therapeutic as therapy. I think getting more secure helped. I guess therapy did help a little too though.
Robert (referring to the photographs that Henry is going through): How are you sorting those?
Henry: I am putting family pictures in one album and pictures of friends in another.. .(pause as he thinks about this).. it used to be so much easier to make friends when I was young and I remember back in the seventies, thinking that these friends that I was making at the time would be my new “family.” I think a lot of us that came to the city thought we were creating our own extended families... What happened to those families?
Henry: Yea. I guess so. Sometimes I wonder why it was so easy to create a sense of “family” in the seventies as we approached the new millennium? Now, in the winter of my life when I need family more than ever,... why is it so much harder to create “family” now?
Robert: It is easier when you are young and trusting and have much less to lose. Maybe it is also easier when you are young and full of cum to offer. I think for me at least, a lot of those people I considered “family” back in the seventies were people I tricked with or got high with. At this point in my life, I am just not tricking with that many people and certainly not getting high with anyone.
Henry: I wouldn't mind getting high.
Robert: Nobody is stopping you.
Henry: The problem is that now it just makes me so paranoid, so what’s the point?
Robert: Yea, you get so paranoid so I don’t know why you want to smoke pot at all. Your an addict.
Henry: I have smoked pot since I was sixteen. It is just something that I have always done.
Robert: You used to smoke cigarettes too and you stopped that.
Henry: Yea, I quit smoking cigarettes by smoking more pot! Then I was too paranoid to go out and buy the cigarettes! And I don’t really smoke pot all the time.
Robert: Only when you have it.
Henry: Yes, but I don’t always have it. (looks through some more photographs)
Maybe I should put all the pictures of friends that have died of aids in their own album?… like a memorial or something? It seems like there are so many of them. (thinks for a moment)- Sometimes I wonder if I am somehow immune to HIV.
Robert: I don’t think you should test that theory.
Henry: I am not going to but it just seems so weird that between the two of us, you would be the one that would test positive.
Robert: As much of a slut as you were…
Henry: Maybe it is because I was a top most of the time?
Henry: (picking up a photo) Oh here is a photo of Charlene and her no neck monsters when they visited us on their way to Disneyland.
Robert: You only call them that because you are jealous because you could never have babies!
(they laugh at the Tennessee Williams reference)
Henry: I hear the placenta is good for your hair, but otherwise I don't really see the point of having children.
(they both laugh)
Henry: Children are really too needy and self centered. They expect you to spend all your money on them and I would much rather travel and eat at fine restaurants. Children are really the consolation for the poor that can't afford to do anything else or don't know how to do anything else.
Robert: Or maybe God's punishment for the inane and dull?.
(they both laugh again)
Robert: By the way, tops get HIV too… and if I remember correctly, you were not always a top anyway. Remember the night we went to the baths together and you took the quaalude and got gang banged?
Henry: Oh yea… that was great… one guy fucking me right after another… I think it was seven guys in all that night. That is a one of my fondest memories... all those guys shooting their hot wads up my ass. I think of all those heterosexual people out there that have probably not had the opportunity to get gang banged, one of life's greatest joys! What do breeders look back on in their twilight years?
Robert: Their children? Are we in our twilight years? I bet none of them used condoms back then.
Henry: Of course not.
Robert: You were so proud of yourself. I think with you, it was always about numbers… you put so many notches on your belt that eventually there was more notches than there was belt.
Henry: Cum was just dripping out of my ass… oh.. the good old days. It feels like a dream. Could we have been so free? Young gay men today are so incredibly conservative. They all want to be Ozzie and Harriet.
Robert: They have never heard of Ozzie and Harriet.
Henry: Yea, that's true. (he ponders for a moment). What happened to our sexual revolution?
Robert: Aids, obviously. And some say the internet.
Henry: Yea, AIDS, for sure. Was there really ever a place called Ritch Street or was that just a dream?
Robert: Yes, there was a place called Ritch Street at 330 Ritch Street to be exact. Three floors.
Henry: I loved that pool in the basement with the huge salt water aquarium behind it. You could get a sandwich at the health food bar and sit at a table and watch beautiful men coming and going in their white towels folded just so and wrapped snuggly around the waist. There were showers to the left where one could wash the remaining vestiges of sex one had participated in on the other floors.
Robert: You mean the sweat and the cum and feces?
Henry: Vestiges of sex is what I mean. There was not always feces, you nasty thing!! Trying to take a romantic, fond memory and throw shit at it!!! Most bottoms learned to douche before a night out at the baths!
Robert: Not all. I can assure you- not all.
(they both laugh)
Henry: Well, you were kind of a scat queen anyway, weren't you?
Robert: Not at all but I'm sure you must have been!
Henry: There was also the dance floor in the basement, too, although I don't recall anyone ever actually dancing there? A disco ball spun over an empty dance floor. Disco music bounced through every corner of the entire three floors except at a slightly lower level in the T.V. Room where gay men gathered to watch the most popular shows at the time.
Robert: Where were the sauna and steam room?
Henry: I think those were in the basement as well. God!! My memory is so bad. Why can't I remember ALL of it? I LOVED Ritch Street. It was the first sex club I ever went to. My first lover, Jim, took me there when I was 18. I was there almost every week for years until it was shut down in the AIDS panic of the eighties. Young gay men have no clue how much fun sex could be!
Robert: I think most young gay men today would probably think of our sexual behavior as sexual addiction and frown on having anonymous sex with more than one person at a time.
Henry: Yea. I think you are probably right. They have grown up in a time of fearing sex and cautious sex. Men were so hot back then in their tight pants showing off their ass and their package. Then, after AIDS, everything got baggy and shapeless. The biggest problem I ever worried about with sex in those days was clap.
Robert: Oh yea. I remember it well.
Henry: The burning pee!! Ouch!! Another trip to the City Clinic. Another shot or a pack of pills... and sometimes you could even find a new trick AT the clinic and get off in the bathroom before you left. Condoms? Condoms were for preventing pregnancy and nobody I was having sex with was worrying about having babies.
Robert: Yea. All your babies got swallowed down somebody's throat or up somebody's ass or flushed down the toilet in a wad of toilet paper.
Henry: Thank goodness!! I never wanted to have babies anyway!! Thankfully you were sterile and couldn't carry a baby to term.
(they both laugh)
Henry goes on: Buddy night at Ritch Street was the best- Two for $6.00. There would be a line out the door. And inside it would be packed with hot young men in towels wandering through dark mazes with glory holes you could stick your dick through and almost be guaranteed a blow job. Not only did you not have to talk to the cocksucker, you didn't even have to see them!! THAT was truly anonymous sex.
Robert: Personally, I liked to see who was sucking my dick.
Henry: There were times I didn't care. I have always loved anonymous sex. Reality is not always as exciting as the fantasy. Sometimes you would see a hot, strapping young man in the bar and your dick would start getting hard, fantasizing how he would be such a butch top, throwing you down on the bed and fucking you senseless. Then when you finally got up the nerve to ask him for cigarette or a match, the standard opening of a sexual encounter in those days,.. and then when he started talking in a high pitched, nellie voice, all fantasy disappeared and reality raised it's ugly effeminate head and my erection would collapse into doughy flaccidity. I much preferred going to the baths where dialog didn't interfere with the fantasy.
Robert: I really preferred 8th and Howard.
Henry: I'm surprised they let a nellie thing like you in!
Robert: You know it isn't politically correct for your cock to go soft when your with an effeminate gay men.
Henry: I'm sorry. My dick has a mind of it's own and it is just not as politically correct as the rest of me.
Robert: There was a lot of racism in the gay community, too, back then.
Henry: I remember the policy about cologne at the baths. They banned it. I'm surprised YOU didn't go to Boot Camp.
Robert: Oh, I remember going to Boot Camp and seeing this guy in a tub getting pee'd on. It was pretty dark. Was that you in the tub?
Henry: Yea, right. I remember going there one night and this troll sucking my dick and me trying to get away and he attached himself to my leg and I was dragging him across the room. He just wouldn't let go!!
Robert: But Boot Camp really wasn't a bathhouse. I don't remember there being any amenities like running water where you could clean up.
Henry: That's right. I think there WAS a shower or maybe just a sink. I think most guys just washed their dicks in a sink. There were also facilities for douching.. The only amenities were bathtubs for water sports, slings and bunk beds for fucking on. There was a pool table too. Sometimes guys were playing pool on it and other times, guys were fucking on it. I remember watching guys getting gang-banged on that pool table with a group of men standing around watching. The place reeked of an intoxicating mixture of leather, man sweat, poppers, stale Crisco, cum and peanuts.
Henry: Yea. They had those barrels of peanuts. You could bring your own beer. They didn't have a liquor license but they had refrigerators and you could stash some beer there and the bartender would give you a token with which you could redeem your beer between sexcapades. Did you ever go to The Jaguar in the Castro? I think it initially cost a quarter or fifty cents or something. Very cheap anyway.
Robert: I never went there.
Henry: And The Barracks. Stanley was there the night it burned down and he was out on the street in a towel. I never went there but he used to tell me about it. Leather seemed kind of scary to me back then. I never made it to the Black and Blue , The Cauldron, Hot House or The Handball Express either.
Robert: You missed your opportunity. I guess I did, too. When I hear the name “Handball Express,” I think it must be about fisting.
Henry: Yea, I would have thought that would have been your favorite place!
Robert: Yea, right.
Henry: What I would give for such opportunities like those again!!
Robert: I know you would. Those days are long gone. All gone. Now it's all about monogamy and heterosexual type marriage... and adopting some kids.
Henry: Yea. I miss being a whore.
Robert: Your still a whore. You will always be a whore, my dear.
Henry: I was always much more of a whore than you… why did you get HIV and I didn’t?
Robert: Yes, you were a bigger whore than me… I don’t know.
Henry: As I look through these pictures and see all these faces of the dead, I just don’t understand it.
Robert: Just be thankful.
Henry: Oh, I am. I am definitely thankful. I have had a great life. I have had a great lover for 25 years. I experienced the hippie sixties and God on mescaline. I danced through the gay seventies and had sex with thousands of beautiful men! If I got hit by a truck tomorrow, you be sure and tell everybody how thankful I was! I have had a great life. It has not always been easy but it has been full of adventure and full of hot men. (he picks up a photo and holds it for a moment contemplating it) And then there are those pictures of people that used to be friends but who no longer speak to me… like Sherry here (he picks up another picture).
Robert: The pity whore?
Henry: Well she was. I think I heard that phrase on t.v..
Robert: I don’t think she liked being called a pity whore.
Henry: Well that’s what she was. She had one to one therapy twice a week and her group three times a week and after a while, it seemed like all of my interactions with her were about her and her neurosis. She was a therapy junkie. She would never call me to get together for a movie or dinner or anything fun… no... she had other people to do the fun stuff with… but I would be the first one she would call when she needed a shoulder to cry on.
Robert: I remember.
Henry: She had so many issues with men! I wonder how she is doing with that son she adopted… that poor child… he was probably better off in the orphanage… what would he have known about her issues with men? I hate to think of it but I bet she even fusses at him about putting the toilet seat down after he pees! Some women can be so castrating! He probably just sits to pee and wipes where his balls used to be as if he has a pussy.
Robert: Do men sit to pee when they have been castrated?
Henry: I think they must?
Robert: So sitting to pee is a sign of castration?
Henry: Or being too fucked up to stand (laughs). Men need to pee standing up to feel like men. They need to be free to pee on the toilet seat or the floor or in the back yard for that matter. Women are so hard to live with. It is much easier to live with men.
Robert: Is it really? Who cleans up all the pee on the toilet seat and on the floor if there are no women in the house?
Henry: We clean it ourselves.
Robert: Not in this house, Henry. I do of course, but just go look at your bathroom. It is disgusting.
Henry: Yea, but it really doesn’t matter because there’s no women here to bitch about it -except for you! Stay out of my bathroom. (thinks for a moment… laughs): I guess some men are not so easy to live with. I have had a few like that.
Robert (changing the subject): You are one like that but I love you anyway. Are you staying in this evening?
Henry: I am trying to lose five pounds and the only way I can do that is to sweat it out so I thought I would go to the City and dance at Badlands.
Robert: Aren’t you the oldest one there?
Henry: Ask me if I care. Actually there are usually a few guys my age there. It doesn’t really matter to me because I am just there to dance. If I don’t have my contacts in, I can’t really see anybody anyway.
Robert: So if they are looking at you like you are some pathetic creature…
Henry: …(shrugs his shoulders) I don’t see it so I don’t care. I do wish there were more dance clubs, though.
Robert: What about The Stud. Don't they still have a dance floor?
Henry: Yea. I guess so. I haven't been there for a while. I liked the old Stud on Folsom Street better. I miss all the old dance palaces of the '70's: Toad Hall on Castro and then The Phoenix. The City in North Beach. Remember The City?
Robert: I think that was closed by the time I moved to San Francisco.
Henry: Downstairs, they had The Cabaret. Sylvester played there quite a bit when he was in his torch song phase. I really miss the old I-Beam and The Trocadero.
Robert: Yea, the I-Beam was my favorite. Have you had dinner?
Henry: I am trying not to eat.. It wouldn’t do to survive the AIDS epidemic and then drop dead from a heart attack. I can eat again when I get my cholesterol under 200.
Robert: Everyone has to die of something.
Henry: I have got to lose a few pounds. It is difficult enough to be a whore in your forties but it is another thing altogether to be a FAT whore in your fifties!! I already spent forty minutes on the stairmaster this morning and if I don’t eat anything the rest of the evening and go out dancing tonight and work up another sweat, I am bound to lose at least a pound. If I can just keep that up for a few weeks… It might be mostly water but a couple of those pounds will actually stay off.
Robert: It sounds like you have your method. I just don’t want to hear you in the bathroom throwing up so you can lose more weight.
Henry: Which is worse for your health: being obese or throwing up now and then? If it’s about the same, I think I would rather take my chances with throwing up since, at the very least, I would look better when I die. I just can’t stand the idea of throwing up though.
Robert: Maybe you should just take up smoking crack?
Henry: I would if I could stop when I got to the weight I wanted to be… or amphetamines…I used to steal my sisters diet pills back in the sixties and stay up all weekend with my friend Ron, going through a carton of Marlboro’s while we played gin rummy over and over again, drank koolaid to wet our drug dried mouths while we discussed at length those things that were important at the time.
Robert: I guess the down side to not getting hiv is that you have to struggle with your weight all the time… I guess I am lucky not to have that problem. (he exits to kitchen)
Henry continues to look through photographs. He lets out a brief sob and a tear rolls down his cheek. Robert returns.
Robert: Are you alright?
Henry: Looking at these pictures of the dead makes me a little sad. Maybe it is just part of coming to terms with being in my fifties. These old photos got me going. Remembering so many that died. I want to get them organized into an album before I die. What will you do with it then?
Robert: What will I do with what?
Henry: The photo albums I organize.
Robert: What will I do with them once you are dead?
Robert: First of all, I will probably be dead long before you. What do you want me to do with them?
Henry: See, that’s the thing isn’t it? When you think about it, after we are gone, there are a few photo albums and mementos left that someone has to deal with. Some of the photos are passed on but much of what a man is, ends up being put away in a cardboard box… a cardboard box that holds the remnants and souvenirs of a lifetime… and then inevitably that box is thrown away on the junk pile and all remnants of your life are gone.
Robert: What are your talking about?… boxes? “representing a lifetime” ?… what are you talking about?
Henry: As gay men without children, who will take our boxes when we are gone?… our photo albums containing the significant events of our lives? When my mother died, I got a box of her photos and letters. Who will take mine or even her’s after I am gone? Will somebody ultimately come along and put it all out on the trash heap?
Robert: That is why everybody should have a will.
Henry: I’m not talking about wills- those are all about money. There are always those that will want money if there is money to be had but I’m talking about personal affects.
Robert: The dildos, lube and poppers? (they both laugh)
Henry: No... I’m talking about the diaries, the home movies, and the photo albums of memories that no one else will remember or care about?
Robert: You are so morbid today.
Henry (laughs): I don’t mean to be morbid. That is what truth does to you. That is why denial is such a better place to be. Those people that want to “feel the pain,” can have it. I want to avoid pain as much as possible. (pause)... I have had such strange dreams in the last few weeks.
Henry: I had a dream I was in some Tenderloin hotel and this white guy was going to fuck me. It was so weird.
Robert: It was weird that you were going to have sex with a white guy?
Henry: No, that wasn’t it..
Robert: Well we sure know it wasn’t anything unusual for you to be getting fucked so what was it that was so weird, dear?
Henry: Dr. Blum was there reading his newspaper.
Robert: Who is Dr. Blum?
Henry: My psychiatrist back in the eighties.
Robert: Your psychiatrist is reading the paper in the room where you are about to get fucked by a white guy?
Henry: Yes. It was very strange.
Robert: What would your psychiatrist say about such a dream?
Henry: I don’t know... I’ve had others just as strange though. I guess my brain chemistry is going through some changes. I always sleep better on pot but I don’t like the side effects.
Robert: What side effects?
Henry: I don’t always like the getting high part of it or the munchies that make me want to eat too much or the laziness or the cotton headed feeling. But it is the best sleep I have ever had. When they take whatever it is in pot that makes me sleep so good and get rid of all the other side effects, then I want some.
Robert: For someone that says that pot makes them paranoid and that they don't like getting high, having munchies or a cotton headed feeling, you sure do smoke a lot of pot!!
Henry: Yea, life is complicated lke that.
In 1960, I was nine years old and not paying much attention to politics. I knew my Mother was a Republican and didn’t like John F. Kennedy or any of the Kennedy’s at that time and so I just assumed I didn’t either. I really didn’t give it much thought at that time. It wasn’t until Kennedy was assassinated November 22nd, 1963 that I started to “tune in.” My Mother had expressed so much hate toward Kennedy that I was actually surprised when those in my classroom reacted with shock and horror that he had been killed. From all that I had ever heard up until that point, it seemed like surely the country would be better off now that he was dead? But something was amiss. It seemed like the entire country was grieving! It made me realize that maybe I wasn’t getting the “whole story” at home. Maybe my Mother didn’t actually know everything there was to know about people and politics. Maybe I might have a different opinion even. Maybe it was time to start paying attention!
The Civil Rights movement was in full swing and, as I started paying attention to the news, I saw African-Americans being sprayed with water cannons and being treated unfairly. I had lived in Abilene, Texas during the fifth grade and I had personal experience of how horrible racist Southerners actually were. It seemed a good thing to me when Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If baffled me that my Republican Mother and Republican relatives could possibly have any objections to “equal rights.” They would talk about “communists” everywhere, while it seemed more obvious to me that the real problem was not “communists,” but racists.
I was paying more attention to the election in 1964 when Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon Johnson. I remember the “Daisy Ad” that ended with the atomic bomb. I had learned about this threat a few years earlier during the “Cuban Missal Crises,” when everyone was talking about building “bomb shelters.” That guy my Mom and her relatives hated so much actually seemed to have handled all of that “crises” pretty well as it turned out that none of us really needed those bomb shelters after all!! I read the book, “None Dare Call it Treason,” that my Mother and her right wing, John Birch Society relatives were reading at the time because they all seemed so “alarmed” by what it was saying. Even at 13, it seemed like a very poorly written book, full of illogical hyperbole that was pretty transparent. It just shocked me that any “adult” wouldn’t see through this nonsense? My Mom and I had some interesting conversations about that.
Lyndon Johnson won that election but within a couple of years, I was questioning the Democratic Party, too. Viet Nam was heating up on television and we were beginning to see the injustices there and now there were protests in the streets. It certainly didn’t make any sense to me for us to be fighting there, despite what my right wing relatives were saying at the time about “the domino theory” and the “red threat.” I tried to grasp what they were talking about but it seemed like they were coming to conclusions that were not necessarily logical or had much to do with facts. People on the left were shouting, “L.B.J., how many kids have you killed today.” I was confused and glad to see Johnson would not run for another term. (In my mature years, I can now see Johnson's accomplishments on civil rights much more clearly).
I was becoming more opinionated by this time and I supported Eugene McCarthy early in the primaries and then Robert Kennedy when he started running , the anti-Viet Nam candidates. By this time, I was joining the protests and filing my papers with the draft board as a “conscientious objector.” Then Robert Kennedy was assassinated and I got behind McGovern entirely against Humphrey. I was shocked to see Humphrey become the nominee over McGovern. I was pretty disappointed in the Democratic Party and became pretty cynical about politics and our country that year (much like some millennials are going to be disappointed and cynical this election cycle). It didn’t seem to matter which party won, since they both seemed to be pro-war. It was now the height of “the cultural revolution” in 1968, the year after the “Summer of Love,” and our cynicism had led many of us to “tune in, turn on and drop out” by this time. Richard Nixon won that election and for the first time in my youth, since Eisenhower, the country was now under a right wing regime.
By 1972, there was “hope” again. George McGovern was back and seemed better than ever! Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew just seemed slimy to me and most of my friends, but even my “Democratic” Father was going to vote for them!! This just seemed crazy to me! There was chaos in the Democratic party at the time which undermined McGovern. His candidacy was referred to as being about “amnesty, abortion and legalization of pot,” which all seemed fine to me! Ted Kennedy, Walter Mondale, Hubert Humphrey, Edmund Muskie, and Birch Bayh, all refused to be his running mate which undermined him further. He selected Thomas Eagleton but then it was discovered Eagleton had a history of being treated for “depression” with electro-convulsive treatments, (E.C.T.) that was popular at the time, (which several members of my own family had been subjected to), and the media made a big deal about it and so he was replaced with Sargent Shriver. The Democratic Party just looked flakey and in disarray!
Before the actual election in 1972, news was trickling out about a break-in at the Watergate office complex in Washington D.C. and there were rumors that Richard Nixon was involved. I remember talking to me Father about it but he wouldn’t believe it. Nobody seemed to care!! None of the “grown ups” I knew would even consider McGovern and Nixon won in a landslide. Ultimately, the American People would come to see just how slimy Nixon really was as the Watergate scandal grew and Nixon left office in disgrace and replaced with bumbling Gerald Ford, who was actually much more likable, except for the fact of “pardoning” Nixon for his crimes.
I was definitely on board for Jimmy Carter in 1976 as were the American People. He was actually a pretty good President despite circumstances over which he had little control. The oil embargo hurt and so did high unemployment, inflation and the Iran hostage crises. By 1980, a lot of us were having doubts about Carter. I was excited by Jerry Brown during the primaries and then Ted Kennedy seemed like he might have a shot. All that happened, though was Carter was undermined by Edward Kennedy running against him and dividing the Democratic Party, and it seemed in disarray once again as in 1972.
Carter won the primary but when he ran again in 1980 against the B-list actor, Ronald Reagan, I made the biggest voting mistake of my lifetime that I will always regret. I voted for John Anderson because it seemed like the country really DID need a third party! After enduring eight years of Ronald Reagan tearing apart F.D.R.’s “New Deal” and creating problems we still haven’t recovered from, i would never, ever vote for a third party candidate again that divided the Democratic Party. I now knew where my “political home” was and where it would remain for the rest of my life. The experiences of a “divided party” in ’72 and ’80 must never happen again! We must ALWAYS unite against Republicans that had moved the country further and further to the right with racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, evangelical fundamentalism, and dividing the American people with propaganda and hate.
In 1984, I obviously voted for Walter Mondale. The racist Willie Horton ad that the George H. W. Bush campaign ran disgusted me. Dan Quayle was an idiot. My friends and I were out in the streets protesting the first Bush “War for Oil” during the next four years as the Republicans continued their march to the right with war mongering and trying to get rid of the separation of church and state. If you are judged by the company you keep, The Republican Party was keeping some pretty slimy company with Jerry Falwell and other televangelists.
In 1982, I was struck by the eloquence of Bill Clinton speeches. We were desperate by that time to keep the country from moving any further to the right and I joined his campaign, “phone banking” from a local union hall. In the context of the times, he was obviously to the left of the Republican Party but today, when he is judged out of the context of those times, in some ways we remember him as being almost a “moderate” Republican because the Republican Party had moved so far to the right. His wife, Hillary, really seemed at that time to be to Bill Clinton’s left. She advocated for universal healthcare and was labeled a “socialist” by Republicans. From then, until today, the Republican Party has had a relentless, ongoing campaign of smears against her that would continue to this day. Bill Clinton did save us from another four years of George H.W. Bush and brought us a good economy but in some other ways, just held the country in a holding pattern to keep it from drifting too far to the right.
By 2000, I had moved from San Francisco to the suburbs of Vallejo. I couldn’t have cared less about Bill Clinton’s sex life but apparently Al Gore did and did not utilize Bill Clinton in his campaign. I was not thrilled with his choice of running mate, Joe Lieberman, though. Joe Lieberman was a "Blue Dog Democrat," Democrat in Name Only (DINO) and was way too far to the right as far as I was concerned and would be a an anchor around our necks dragging us down, a festering boil that would release it's toxic pus a few years later. Thankfully, over the years, most of those "Blue Dogs" are gone.
It was an extremely close race between Gore and Bush, made even closer by Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. Initially, I had been interested in Ralph Nader’s campaign, but then I came to my senses, remembering what had happened in ’72 and ’80 when the left was divided. I did phone bank for Al Gore but he was not the most exciting candidate that I would have liked. A “recount” was required in Florida because the vote was so close, Ralph Nader syphoning off many Democrats for his Green Party, but ultimately Al Gore was winning until the Republican candidate’s brother, Jeb Bush, co-conspired with Republican Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, and the Supreme Court to stop the recount and hand the election to G.W. Bush.
Then there was 9/11, when the twin towers came down. It was shortly after this that I joined a group in Vallejo called “The Solano Peace and Justice Coalition.” What I didn’t realize when I joined it was that much of the initial leadership were Green Party members. These were the same people that had contributed to syphoning votes away from the Democratic Party in Florida so that it was a tight enough race to require the recount in the first place!! Essentially, they had helped hand the 2000 election to G.W. Bush, who then ignored the warnings about Osama Bin Laden preparing to attack. It is very likely that if Al Gore had become president, HE would have heeded Richard Clark’s warnings about the famous “memo” and Gore would have kept us safe and there would have probably been no 9/11, no war in Afghanistan or Iraq and no "Great Recession."
I stayed involved with the S.P.J.C. for several years despite adamantly disagreeing with some of the initial leadership. Most of the Green Party members drifted away over time, having been mostly about “sound and fury signifying nothing. They were always denigrating the Democratic Party and any of it’s candidates and could never see how this just fed into the desires of the Republican party and was totally self defeating of any progressive agenda.
In 2004, I made calls for John Kerry and went with a friend to Nevada to register people to vote. Republicans purged voter lists and suppressed as many Democratic votes as possible. The Republicans made it more difficult to vote in Democratic districts, creating a situation with longer lines to vote and there were many suspicions of fraud and many rigged voting machines in Ohio. There were huge discrepancies between exit polls and actual votes. Republicans WERE ruthless. Kerry was labeled a “Massachusetts liberal” and famously “Swift boated” which was another one of a long line of Republican “dirty tricks” of which they were the masters. Again, there were those on the far left, too, that joined the Republicans in undermining the candidate and contributed to G.W. Bush winning another term.
By this point, I had learned my lessons well. There would be no “perfect” candidates that would meet every purity test for those on the far left. Too much dissension in the primaries only undermined the party and helped the Republicans win elections. I had seen the Democrats lose too many times. Often, those on the left hurt the party more than those on the right. Democrats could be their own worst enemy!! I was never going to contribute to THAT again!!
By 2008, G.W. Bush had us in two wars that hadn’t been paid for, had blown up the countries deficits and crashed the economy. We were in dire straights. We had two great candidates running in the primaries, both more progressive than any candidate in a long time, Obama and Hillary. The prospect of having the first woman president was exciting but Obama was so incredibly eloquent! Hillary had been more of a centrist when she was a Senator, though, and had voted to give G.W. Bush authorization to go into war in Iraq, based on lies that she was not aware of at the time. I supported Obama but was ready to vote for Hillary if he failed to win the nomination. When he won, I did hope that Hillary might have another opportunity in eight years to run. She graciously bowed out at the right time and she and her husband campaigned hard for Obama. He made her an integral part of his administration as Secretary of State. She did the right thing for the party and the country at that time and I appreciated that and would remember it in 2016, which many apparently forgot.
Obama was, without a doubt, the best President that I had seen in my lifetime. Sure, there are always those posturing and posing on the far left that will nitpick and find fault but in the context of history, Obama will go down as one of the greats. He inherited a mess from G.W. Bush and the Republicans, verging on another Great Depression. It would be forever called “The G.W. Bush Great Recession.” He actually got Osama Bin Laden which Bush had dismally failed to do. The G.W. Bush administration had been full of incompetence and had lowered the countries standing throughout the world. Obama brought the country back from the devastation and restored our reputation. Throughout his eight years, the Republicans only obstructed and during the first two years were joined by the Blue Dog Democrat DINO's. For much of the eight years, Obama kept trying to compromise with the right to make deals to keep the country going but the Republicans consistently put party over country. Many spineless Democrats foolishly kept a distance from Obama at times which gave the Republicans a majority in both houses. The Republican Party lurched even further to the right with the “Tea party” contingent and lifted up fools like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman. Their propaganda machine, Fox News, worked overtime to denigrate our President.
So, now, in 2016, after an incredible presidency and high approval ratings despite constant lies from the right, Obama must leave office as mandated by the Constitution. Hillary WAS running again. For the entire eight years of obstructing Obama, the Republican Party had never relented on denigrating Hillary, too. In fact, the Republican Party had never stopped denigrating Hillary since she had tried to do “universal health care” during her husbands administration! Now, though, the “Independent” candidate from Vermont that labeled himself a “socialist” was running against Hillary in the primaries.
There was much to be said for Bernie Sanders. The millennials seemed to love him. His policies were to the left of Hillary and that seemed fine to me. Bernie Sanders policies did seem to pull Hillary further to the left and I actually appreciated that. I was not ready to commit to him, though, because it seemed to me that he had made several huge mistakes early in his campaign. He had never been a “Democrat” previous to running for president as a “Democrat” and, because of previous experiences of defeat due to denigrating the party, I felt hesitant about that. We essentially have a two party system and one has to decide on which side they stand and then work within that party to make it move in the direction you want it to move. After the past failures brought on by divisiveness, I didn't see how abandoning the party really helped?
t also felt that Bernie labeling himself with the poisonous “socialist” label was a self-inflicted wound which was unnecessary and which I thought would make him unelectable in a general election, But I was ready to give him the benefit of the doubt and see where it went.
The third big mistake that materialized as the primary season went along was that it became evident that he was from a state that was 99% white and, although he had participated in some civil rights marches in the 60’s, he had not really cultivated relationships with communities of color which the Clintons had done so well over the years.
Bernie often spoke in broad, general terms and rarely laid out detailed plans on how he would accomplish his goals, while Hillary just seemed more knowledgable and specific on almost any topic. In the debates, Bernie never had an adequate response to Hillary when she pointed out that he wanted to abandon the ACA and start all over with another contentious debate. I remembered how difficult it had been to get the ACA passed in the first place!! I wanted Bernie OR Hillary to say that the next step in healthcare was to add a "public option," working toward "Medicare for All," eventually. Bernie never had an answer. After doing some searching, I did find Hillary's answer, though, that she DID want to add a public option, although I did think she needed to say this louder and more often.
Bernie seemed to always repeat the same speech, over and over without much variation, while Hillary seemed better to me at taking on new topics or going “off message.” People might accuse Hillary of seeming "contrived" but that seemed ridiculous in comparison to Bernie's robotic speech that rarely deviated from the speech he had given the day before or would give the day after. Hillary's grasp of issues was amazing. The way she handled the silly Benghazi witch hunt was incredible! Her stamina to sit there for 11 hours and deflect that barrage of lies thrown at her was very impressive. Bernie just seemed repetitious with the same stump speech over and over and over.
After eight years with an obstructing Congress that created a stalemate on everything. it was never quite clear how Bernie would ever be able to succeed with the obstructing Republicans. Hillary had a history of working with Republicans in the past, although I have my doubts that this Congress would ever work with either candidate. Bernie would admit that it would “take a revolution” of the American People rising up. I watched to see if there would be any indication of this “revolution” during the primaries. It just never materialized. Only a few millennials were rising up at his rally's but not always turning out to vote. Hillary was getting many more votes despite constant smears from the Republican party propaganda machine which was eerily silent when it came to Bernie.
The rules for the primaries had been written years before Bernie had ever decided to run but when his campaign started slipping behind in the actual votes and delegate counts,,he, and his supporters started accusing the DNC of writing the rules to exclude them and favor Hillary. They whined about “closed primaries” because, in states where there were “open primaries,” independents and Republicans couldn't vote in the Democratic primaries and affect the outcome. I could never see why that was a good thing? It seemed to me that those that wanted to vote in a Democratic Primary should register as Democrats? Why should Republicans have the opportunity to manipulate the outcome of Democratic Primaries? I was a Democrat. My vote is the one that should count, not those that were Green Party, Libertarians, Republicans, “Independents” or anyone else that had chosen NOT to be Democrats. The line of reasoning of Bernie and his supporters just seemed ludicrous and full of holes.
I kept waiting for the “revolution” to materialize to this date before making any commitments to Hillary. Bernie could win caucus states where the process really did seem a little more “rigged” but he had trouble winning actual primary states. Hillary’s vote count kept going up faster than Bernie’s. Masses of people were not “rising up” for Bernie as they were still sitting on their couches watching t.v. as they usually did. If they had not risen up and took to the streets when G.W. Bush crashed the economy, why did Bernie and his supporters think they would turn off their t.v.’s long enough to do so now? They point to flawed polls saying that Bernie would have a better chance against the fascist, Donald Trump, but it was obvious to any objective person able to reason, that the polls only appeared that way because Hillary has been “vetted” for twenty some years with a constant onslaught of smears from the right wing, while Bernie has never had any negative campaigning against him like he would face in a general. The Republicans have been careful to only smear Hilary during the primaries as Bernie would be the candidate they would most like to run against and easily beat in a general when they started running negative ads calling him a "socialist" and a "communist" and pointed out that he honeymooned in Russia. Of course, none of that would matter on either coast, especially in liberal "bubbles" but it WOULD matter if you went more than a 100 miles inland from either coast. There was no way this country would vote for anyone labelled a "socialist." Self labeling as a socialist just showed poor judgement in my mind.
There was more and more Bernie supporters denigrating the party and Hillary. I had seen this movie too many times before and didn’t like how it ended in 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000, and 2004. The 2016 remake didn’t appeal to me at all. Bernie’s supporters had all kinds of “purity tests” and reasons to take their ball and go home. When it became obvious that Hillary would be the nominee, Bernie continued to hold out and hold on. I was fine with this but the writing was on the wall and I was concerned about the general election by this point. Bernie and his supporters were starting to bruise the Hillary campaign a bit, which I suppose is to be expected in any primary but, I just couldn’t see the point for me to hesitate any longer. Bernie had served his purpose and, for me, it was time to start “uniting.” Waiting too long in the past had dire consequences too many times.
Life had taught be to be somewhat of a pragmatist. At this point, my goal is always to elect the most progressive candidates possible to elect. I don’t believe that is Bernie in this election cycle. All candidates are always imperfect. I am old enough to understand that no candidate is going to do everything that i want them to do or meet every “purity” test. The good news is that there are fewer and fewer “Blue Dog” type, Democrats In Name Only (DINO’s) over the years. The party has moved further to the left. The party has accomplished an enormous amount in my lifetime. I would rather focus on the positive and continue to push, pull and prod the party to the left because that is what has gotten results over my lifetime. Life has taught me that the “revolution” didn’t start with Bernie. It will not end with Bernie. It isn’t about one candidate, one election cycle or one generation. It’s a lifelong marathon, not a sprint. It is about staying engaged with the party, as flawed as it may be, which every human endeavor and every organization is, Bernie included.
Ultimately, the Democratic party is not the enemy. If anyone on the left wants to make it the enemy, I’m really not interested in that conversation as I don’t see any positive outcome to that line of thinking, taken to it’s conclusion. I am not the enemy. Hillary is not the enemy. The Democratic Party is not the enemy. Those that would make it so are not helping “the progressive cause.” They are undermining it. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, trans-phobia, ignorance, fascism, social injustice, economic injustice, Donald Trump and the Republican Party are the enemy. I have no interest in serving those things by trying to make Hillary, the DNC or the Democratic Party the enemy. Do THAT if it “feels good” to you. It is certainly “easy.”
I am not looking to convince anybody that I am more to “the left” than them just because it may “feel good” to my ego to pose and posture. THAT serves no purpose and has no real positive outcomes for progressives and the progressive agenda. For me, the collective party and the collective agenda is more important than my individual egocentric “issues” which all of us have. As individuals, we are not as powerful as we are when we come together in a union or in a party. To those that call the Democratic Party or the DNC corrupt, I would say that ever institution ever created by man has been corrupt and imperfect in some way. Unions are corrupt but no more so that corporations and I believe we still accomplish more with unions for the workers than without. Yes, political parties may be corrupt but what is the alternative? Letting corporations just run everything as if they are not corrupt too???
I believe that coming together is what we need to be doing at this point as the primary season comes to its conclusion. We can either be full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, or we can come together and win against racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, trans-phobia, ignorance, fascism, social injustice and, hopefully, in the long run, make some headway toward economic injustice as well. That is why I am voting in the primary for Hillary Clinton and why I will also vote for her in the general. She is qualified. She has received the most votes. She has been a Democrat most of her life. She supports other Democrats in the party and works to get them elected. She is pragmatic like I am. She has detailed plans of what she wants to do.
Is Hillary a “perfect candidate?” I don’t believe there is any such thing. Will she go as far left as I would like her to go? Probably not, but I think she will keep us on track in that direction and the fact is that we have already accomplished much that I thought would be impossible in my lifetime!
Eventually, hopefully, still in my lifetime, maybe in another eight years, there will be a more progressive candidate that will actually be a “Democrat” and will have enough sense to not self-label himself as a “socialist” which we know is poison in this country. Maybe they can call themselves a “New Deal” Democrat. Maybe someone like Gavin Newsome? Or maybe one of the Castro brothers? How old will Elizabeth Warren be in eight years?
Meanwhile, we will continue to push, pull and prod Hillary and the Democratic Party further to the left and hold all politicians “feet to the fire.” We never quit. We never give up. The “real” revolution continues.
I have been "political" since I got kicked out of school at 13 for having a Beatle haircut, became a Conscientious Objector at 18 and protested the Viet Nam War, came out of the closet as gay, and spent much of my life protesting war and advocating for civil rights, social justice and economic justice. I feel like the real revolution started in the 60's, not with Bernie Sanders but with MLK, Rosa Parks, Betty Friedan, and continued through the 70's with Harvey Milk. The "revolution" is NOT about one candidate, one election cycle or one generation. It IS a marathon.
Although the Democratic Party has always been imperfect as is EVERY candidate, including Bernie Sanders, the Democratic party is the vehicle that has brought us Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the civil rights act, gay marriage and so much more. There have always been those on the fringes of the left that give into cynicism and their own individual "purity tests" over the collective consensus of the party, posing and posturing and feeling good about their steadfast egocentric tantrum of sound and fury signifying nothing, ready to take their ball and go home, while the rest of us continue the real work of pushing, pulling, and prodding the Democratic party to the left, hopefully back to a "New Deal" and away from the real threat of rising fascism. For me, the way to do that is to commit to our candidate, Hillary Clinton at this time, donate money to her campaign and work like hell to get her elected and save our country from the very real threat of fascism.
More political stories for 2016:
Not Going Along to Get Along: http://sylvanslife.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=241:4-4-2016-not-going-along-to-get-along
Liberals vs Conservatives: http://sylvanslife.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=224:9-4-15-liberals-vs-conservativest
Thoughts about "Progressive Christians:" http://sylvanslife.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=227:2000-thoughts-about-progressive-christians
2011- Peace and Justice Coalition: http://sylvanslife.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=146:peace-and-justice
2005- Christmas Poem in response to Faux News "War on Christmas" BS: http://sylvanslife.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=172:2005-%20Christmas%20Poem
2006- Christmas Poem in response to Faux News "War on Christmas" continuing BS; http://sylvanslife.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=171:2006%20Christmas%20Poem
2010- Christmas Poem in response to Faux News phony "War on Christmas" again: http://sylvanslife.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=170:2010%20Christmas%20Poem
2014- And yet another Christmas Poem in response to Faux News bogus "War on Christmas" nonsense: http://sylvanslife.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=188:2014-christmas-poem
I have been dreaming of owning a trailer, 5th Wheel or RV for at least 25 years. Milton and I had looked at Hi-Lo trailers back in the nineties and the possibility of owning one was part of the reason we bought a tow package when we bought our Ford Ranger. We never did get the Hi-Lo trailer after getting the truck, getting side tracked with other things that came up in life but in the back of my mind, I continued to contemplate having a trailer one day to travel with.
Over the years, we would subscribe to Trailer Life magazine from time to time and we would attend RV shows. I realized that most trailers had relatively low ceilings for 6'4" men and discovered 5th Wheels. For several years, we looked at 5th wheels and I dreamed of owning one some day. The problem was that the 5th wheels we liked would require a more powerful diesel truck. By this time, we had gotten rid of the Ford Ranger anyway.
One fantasy that I entertained for a while was to buy a 5th wheel and just hire someone to move it from place to place. We could set it up in Palm Springs for a year or two and go there during the winter to get out of the rain in the SF Bay Area. Then we could have it moved it to San Diego for a couple of years. Then maybe Phoenix. In this scenario, I was't really thinking in terms of short term vacations as much as a moveable second home where we could spend the winters. To see how it might feel to live in a 5th wheel, we found a company in the San Diego area that would deliver a 5th wheel to any of the local RV parks and we planned a road trip around this. You can read about that "adventure" at this link: San Diego Road Trip and 5th Wheel
The road trip to San Diego and living in the 5th Wheel at the lovely RV park in Mission Bay was a positive experience for us but after that, I started looking at diesel trucks and realized just how expensive they were! I was still working at that time and one of my co-workers had bought a "used" diesel truck for twenty-something thousand and suggested that I could do that and get a used 5th wheel for another twenty-something. This seemed like a pretty good compromise but then, in my looking around, it was really difficult to find a used diesel truck and used 5th wheel in that price range. I was also concerned about buying something used that had no warranty. I am not mechanical at all and worried about buying a truck that might need a lot of work or getting a used 5th wheel that leaked when it rained. I had a cousin that had bought a trailer for thousands of dollars from a private party and the first time it rained, it leaked and was "totaled."
One day, while visiting an RV dealer and looking at 5th wheels and dreaming, I was talking to the salesman about my budget and my dilemma of finding a reliable truck and not wanting to pay more than $500 a month for whatever I got, he suggested that a class A motorhome might work better for my needs and budget. He pointed out that I could get a used gas class A for around $80,000 and the payments would come out to about $500 a month AND I could write off the interest on my taxes. That did sound pretty good.
I had never really considered class A motorhomes before then. Up to that point, I couldn't see how it made sense to combine the motor and drivetrain with the "trailer." It had always seemed like it would be better to have a truck which could be used for other things and a mode of transportation when you arrived at your destination. If there were problems with the truck, you could still live in the 5th wheel while the truck was being repaired. But, the tax write off was very enticing. Later, I would talk to my friend about this and he told me that he WAS able to write off his truck, too, because of his rental properties and using it in regards to this "business." So, I wondered if I wanted to become a landlord for the purpose of writing off a truck or wouldn't it be easier just to get a class A?
I started leaning more toward the class A idea and started taking a look at them. We went out to Mister Motorhome in Elk Grove and looked at the used ones they had to offer in the $80,000 price range. The used gas class A's they had looked pretty nice. There were even a couple of older diesel class A's in our price range. After this, I started seeing ads on t.v. and elsewhere for brand new class A's in the $80,000 price range. We went to Manteca to look at some of these and then down to San Jose to See Grins. Manteca Trailer salesman were very nice and answered all of our questions. The first salesman at See Grins admitted he had only worked there for a week and didn't know much about the R.V.'s. He went and got a salesman with more experience to help us and that salesman was helpful initially, up until he found out we were not going to buy something that day. Then he seemed to lose interest in us and gave us his card and told us to call him when we were ready to purchase. Of course, we were NOT ready to purchase that day and were still in an "exploratory" phase, but with his attitude, we would never consider going back to him for anything.
Since we had stayed in a 5th wheel in San Diego but now were thinking about a class a, and we were planning a get away to to Palm Springs for the White Party, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to rent a class A for a few days and see how we liked living in one. How different would it be from the 5th wheel experience?
El Monte RV Rental
I started doing some research. I looked at "Cruise America" but they mostly rent class C motorhomes and we knew we were not interested in something that small with low ceilings. Their rigs seemed more geared toward family camping. I also looked at Road Bear and then El Monte RV. They were comparable in a lot of ways but the selling point for El Monte for me was that they had a location in San Bernardino, which is about 60 miles from Palm Springs. I had never driven an RV except for a ten minute test drive with a salesman in Manteca on a country road and still had a lot of anxiety about driving one in real traffic on a freeway.
El Monte requires that you buy insurance from them or have a "rider" from your insurance company. We had our home insurance through Allstate since we had owned our home but our auto insurance through Geico. I called Geico and found out that they are not willing to do "riders" for RV rentals. I called our Allstate agent and they would be willing to do a rider for an RV rental if we had our auto insurance through them. Their auto rates were about they same because we got a homeowners discount and so it was an easy decision to switch our auto insurance over to Allstate. The rider through Allstate was less expensive and more comprehensive as far as I could tell than the insurance through El Monte. Because I had never driven a class A motorhome, I wanted to be sure we were covered completely in case of any unforeseen accidents.
To get the "rider," our Allstate agent needed information about the RV we were renting. I had called El Monte in San Bernardino and spoke to "R," who assured me that she would fax a form to my Allstate agent with the information he needed the following Sunday, four days before we would pick up the RV. I let my Allstate agent know to expect the fax when he came in on Monday. On Monday, my agent called to say there was no fax. I called El Monte and spoke with "F" and she got the fax sent that day. I WAS surprised in San Bernardino that they still put a $1,000 on my credit card in case there were "damages." I thought that was what the rider was for but I did get the $1,000 back when we returned the RV so no big deal.
When we were taken out into the lot to go through the RV, Milton and I were both disappointed that it was much shabbier than we had expected. It was a 2006 "Flair" with 2 slide outs. I knew we had reserved a "Flair" but I didn't realize it would be ten years old!! It had over 90,000 miles on it. The agent, "F," who was very kind and helpful, went through everything on the RV rather quickly and I felt overwhelmed with trying to remember everything!! Milton and I were taking pictures as she went over each ding and scratch on the motorhome, of which there were plenty! She explained how to use the slide outs, the propane, the hookups, the generator and a lot of other stuff. Thankfully, I had done a lot of research and had watched youtube videos so I was able to follow the orientation but it was a LOT of information!! The ugly blue carpet had stains & floor outside the bathroom was pretty "soft." The whole checkout process was pretty fast.
In the checkout process, at one point, I was asked if I wanted to pay $25 to have the gray and black water tanks emptied on return. At first i declined, saying that the purpose of this trip was to learn about those kinds of things. The agent said that was fine but if we didn't empty the tanks before return, we would be charged $75 to do so upon return. I thought about it for a minute and figured that $25 wasn't so bad and I could still try to empty the tanks if I wanted to have the experience but if there was a problem, it might be good to just let them do it. At the end of our four days, I was so glad I had paid the $25!!!
My anxiety was pretty high when I was handed the keys. Milton was going to follow me to the Happy Traveler RV Park in Palm Springs in the Prius. I didn't dare have the radio on or any distractions. I was extremely tense and aware of every bump in the road and every rattle and groan of the RV. It seemed very noisy on the road but I did develop some confidence in my ability to drive one of these behemoths and that was one of the main purposes of this "adventure."
One of the things we were disappointed about was that this RV had a "tube" tv rather than a flat screen and, even with Happy Traveler's "cable" at the RV park, we would only be able to get about 3 English speaking channels. San Bernardino is only about 60 miles from Palm Springs. The gas tank appeared full when we picked up the "Flair" & you are expected to fill it up on return or El Monte will charge $6.00 a gallon!! We paid somewhere around $3.00 a gallon and for the 120 miles there & back came to $80! That seemed like a lot of gas but we are used to driving Prius's that get about 48 miles to the gallon.
Happy Traveler RV Park
The biggest anxiety I had about Happy Traveler was that all of the sites are "back-in." I had such minimal experience with driving a Class A motorhome, that I worried quite a bit about those back in sites. I was assured by Happy Traveler that I would be given an "Easy Back In" site. I watched some videos on youtube about backing in an RV into a site but all of those assumed backing in from the driver's side of the RV. That WOULD have made it much easier and anything called an "Easy Back-in" site should certainly be from the driver's side as it is much more difficult to back in from the passenger side!!!
Upon arrival at Happy Traveler, we discovered that they don't take credit cards at all!! But they DID have our reservation, so I was happy for that!! There was a very sweet older woman to greet us and to tell us where our site was and since we didn't have $220 in our pockets, she said to just bring the cash by later. I'm not sure why they didn't mention the need for cash in our correspondence before our arrival. There was an office, but apparently there was new management and some transition and maybe some drama. I don't know, regardless, during our stay, there was rarely anyone in the actual office but they did refer people to a space where assistance could be found.
We were given these little slips of paper with passwords for the "wifi." Unlike most hotel wifi, each device had to have it's own password and the passwords were only good for 3 days. The wifi would turn out to be very spotty and not very useful at all. Thankfully, my iPhone could be used as a "hot spot," although that bumped up our phone bill. I have never stayed in a motel with wifi as bad as Happy Traveler.
The toilet in the RV we had rented was plastic and had a hand flush at the height of the toilet seat. I think the 5th wheel we had in San Diego was a foot flush. I remember having used that one with no problem but this toilet looked like it might be problematic with "solids" and so I never used it, opting to use the toilets near the Happy Traveler office.
(After we got home, I did see an article and a youtube video that explained better how to use an RV toilet. Apparently, you pull the handle half way to fill toilet with water before depositing solids.)
El Monte had given us one pack of chemicals for the toilet and one roll of one ply tissue. They also insisted that we use a "pressure regulator" when hooking up to water at the RV park which then made the water pressure useless for taking a shower, (although, just enough to get water all over the floor because of the poorly designed shower screen).
The alternative to taking a shower in the RV was taking one in the Happy Traveler showers. Milton did this one of the days we were there. I looked at them and thought they looked to disgusting to use and will include some pics here. Between the non-existent water pressure problem in the RV, the poorly designed "shower curtain" and the disgusting Happy Traveler showers, I ended up not taking a shower for THREE days!!! I was so glad to get back to a motel after dropping off the RV!!!!
It is hard for me to see the "economics" of owning a class A motorhome for short trips like this one. For anything less than 8 weeks a year, I think it makes more sense to stay in motels, where you usually know the quality of the motel/hotel chain before you leave home. It would only make economic sense in my mind if one were going on trips of more than a couple of months at a time or just parking it somewhere for the winter season and using it as a second home.
A basic model, gas Class A runs about $80,000 or a nice used diesel pusher for about the same. Financed, about $500-600/mo? The payments could be tax deductible but even then, when you add in gas to get to where you want to go, insurance, the cost of an RV park, the costs go up. And then there are the inconveniences of having to make your own bed, hooking up and unhooking and having to deal with sewage hoses and then having to pay for storing the RV when not in use. The "dream" of having an RV for short vacations is not so much a "dream" at that point as it could be a nightmare.
I suppose if one had a million bucks and could get one of those 2-3 hundred thousand luxury models with the ceramic toilet and shower that a 6'4" man can stand up in and not use a "pressure regulator" so you could have decent water pressure, and you could get a good phone plan so you could have wifi at a decent cost and not be dependent on whatever is available at the RV park and have satellite t.v. so, again, you are not dependent on the RV park. I suppose if you had a family of four to six, the economics might get better, too. This RV rental from El Monte and staying at Happy Traveler was more like "camping" & we are not campers. When we are on vacation, we want to relax. Maybe, for a full timer, the economics would work but not for vacations less than 8 weeks a yr.
Happy Traveler showed us another major drawback to an RV vacation. With motel or hotel chains, as I mentioned before, there is a certain level of quality expected and you are pretty clear about what to expect when you get there. If you are dissatisfied, management will usually try to move you to a better room or make things right. I guess there are some RV Park chains that are more reliable, where you kind of know what level of quality to expect. The RV park in Mission Bay, where we had stayed with the 5th wheel was 100 times better than Happy Traveler, more professionally run and had better wifi and cable. I know it is possible to find good RV parks but Happy Traveler would not be one of those.
I chose this RV park primarily because it seemed the closest to downtown PS but, while there, I did see several others that might have been better choices and only slightly further out.
We had been to Palm Springs a couple of times before this trip for The White Party weekend when thousands of gay men descend upon this small city. We did go to the actual "White Party" on one of those visits but it is pretty late at night for us at this point in our lives and too expensive for out budget, too. We usually go to a couple of the pool parties which are in the afternoon, much less expensive and still a lot of fun. On this visit, though, it rained A LOT! Essentially the pool parties were rained out. We were so glad we had not purchased our tickets before coming!! We had been to Palm Springs in the winter previously when it rained a little. We are feeling at this point that Palm Springs does not have reliable winter sunshine! We also learned that there really ins't much else to do in Palm Springs if your not attending White Party pool parties or other events or playing golf.
A friend had recommend we try Lulu while in Palm Springs, which is located in the heart of all the action on Palm Springs Drive. We stopped in around noon and made a reservation for 3pm but probably not necessary. There were four stylish millennial women taking reservations, talking among themselves but one could be distracted long enough to take a reservation. When we arrived at 3pm, we were told there would be about a 5-10 minute wait. I'm not sure if it was because we were a gay interracial couple or that we were "older" and not "cool enough" or what, but we watched other's walk in and could hear the interactions with the hostesses. Several walk-ins that did not have reservations were taken to tables before we were seated. I think there may have been one other party that had children that was made to wait also. After a few minutes of, what appeared to be discriminatory practice, I returned to the four hostesses and pointed out that we had a reservation for 3pm and we had been waiting about ten minutes while they had been seating others just walking in. Three of the hostesses looked at me perplexed but the fourth grabbed some menus and said, "we can seat you now." When we got into the restaurant, it was surprising to see how many empty tables there were!!
Apparently the "cool" looking people are seated out on the patio or toward the front but we were happy with our oversize booth on the back wall. The waiter assistant came and introduced himself and was very nice. Our waiter, David, was also very nice and accommodating. These two made Lulu a much more pleasant experience for us than the hostesses in the front. If you can get passed them and their attitude and obvious biases, the rest of the experience isn't so bad. I had the chicken piccata but was disappointed there were no capers. The food was average at best. We watched one table of two millennial parents, a baby and two toddlers while waiting for a food. Like so many parents today, they essentially ignored the kids and let them run wild, climbing all over the chairs, sitting on the top of the tables with their diapered behinds and wandering off to other tables to play with their toys. I am always surprised when people have children but no interest in actually raising them or teaching them anything!! Of course, that wasn't the fault of Lulu and this is a review of the restaurant, not parenting skills. Overall, the experience at Lulu was nothing special for us. We have much better restaurants in the SF Bay Area with far less attitude.
Our favorite restaurant by far on this visit and others, was Sherman's Deli and Bakery. It is such a great, casual, friendly atmosphere and excellent food. We highly recommend it!
Link to Pride article to which I am responding: http://www.pride.com/lgbt/2016/4/22/5-reasons-lgbt-people-should-stop-saying-we-were-born-way
I recently came across this article from "Pride" on line recently. The female author, Cassie Sheets, speaking from her perspective, extrapolated some broad generalizations from her female point of view pertaining to "gay people," that I had heard before from a female friend of mine that identifies as "bisexual." My friend was in female to female relationships for many years and then later switched to female-male relationships. I have seen this with other women i have known in my life and it does appear that women do tend to be more fluid in their sexuality than men but I think it is dangerous for these women to assume men have anything like the same experience. I might be able to read about the experience of women in an article written by a woman but I would not depend on an article written about the experience of being a woman, written by a man. In the same way, I would not depend on an article written by a white person defining what it is to experience being a minority person. There is always something that is lost when one set of people attempt to define another set of people. Bisexual women for whom sexuality is "fluid" should not attempt to define Gay men, for whom it is not.
There are several glaring errors in these suppositions about gay men. The title of the article is "5 Reasons LGBT People Should Stop Saying We Were "Born This Way." Obviously, Cassie is a millennial and may not have much real experience in the struggle for equal rights. She has benefitted from my generations Acting UP and fighting the long fight. Now she comes along and it is easy for her to take issue with Lady Gaga's song, but I would say that GaGa get's it much more right for gay men than does Cassie. Cassie apparently feels that she was not necessarily born "gay" and that her sexuality is "fluid" and maybe merely a "choice" as my bisexual female friend has implied as well. That is all fine except when they draw conclusions from their own experience and apply those conclusions to gay men, millennial or otherwise.
On point #2, in her article, Cassie goes on from a woman's point of view, talking about sexuality being "fluid" and I just don't think that is as true for men as it might be for women. Straight men might have a sexual encounter with another man early in their life but that does not change their "identity" from straight to gay. In my many years of life, I have found that most gay men DO believe they were born gay and object to fundamentalist evangelicals implying that somehow it is merely a "choice." Most, would have never "chosen" to be gay and most struggle with coming out of the closet.
Most gay men go through a "grieving" process about their sexuality. For most of our lives, when we first start coming to terms with our sexuality, usually in our teens or early twenties, we go through a period of "denial and isolation." We are in the "closet." We may have some "anger" and act out is some way, often towards ourselves. There is a "bargaining" phase in which we beg the universe or God not to be gay. We go through a period of "depression." Finally, we realize that it is really society that has the problem and we are fine the way we are and we learn to embrace our sexuality and learn to love ourselves as we are. Cassie seems to negate and neglect all of this. Anyone that uses the word "fluid" or "continuum" or "choice" pertaining to gay men apparently have no understanding of gay men.
On the other hand, I have known many women for whom sexuality does seem much more "fluid." I won't speak for women, but please don't think that women can speak for gay men. We are not "fluid." We are not on a "continuum." It is not a "choice." By extrapolating your female experience on to gay men, you are feeding into the fundamentalist evangelical arguments and you are hurting us.
In Cassie's point #3, she says that "We didn't all figure things out at the age of five." Yes, it is true that "...we often don't have the resources to name our own gender or sexual orientation until later in life," but most gay MEN know from a very early age that there is something "different" about them from other boys. It is not just about sex. Maybe this is not true for gay women but I have never known a gay male that did not know something was different about them from as far back as they can remember. Usually, it isn't until after puberty that they realize what that something different is and have the "resources" to name what it is.
Cassie concludes her article by saying, "Rather than arguing that we're born this way, (which won't make a difference to those who wish we hadn't been born at all)" I think this is patently false. Because I am much older than Cassie, I think I have a longer view of society and it's response to homosexuality. When science revealed that sexuality was probably NOT a choice but inherent for whatever reason, society's attitude began to change. When people realized that gay people ARE "born this way," people began being more open and accepting. The conclusion that homosexuality is not merely a "choice" HAS made an incredible difference and has brought us to where we are today, where Cassie can have her inaccurate, cavalier undermining voice
It is true that "we should fight for everyone to be treated like a person regardless of how they were born or the choices they make," but as I have already said, and will repeat, it is also true that implying that sexuality is merely a choice feeds into the fundamentalist evangelical argument of sexuality being merely a choice, takes us back fifty years, and does us more harm than good.
My mere existence is political. I just can't “go along to get along.”
My sibling witnessed my Mother being raped by a distant relative of the family who always used to show up at our family reunions. She never did anything about it because she “went along to get along.” Back then, women were expected to stay in the kitchen and not to “make waves.” Although I have no personal memory of it, I know that this same man that raped my mother, and his brothers, also molested my sibling and I when I was about six years old. I'm sure WE were taught to “go along to get along,” too. Somewhere along the line, though, I learned not to “go along to get along” and that is what I am writing about today which will hopefully answer the question of why politics are so critical to me and why I am a “progressive” and a Democrat and why attending my family reunion being planned by the politically right-wing of my family would be difficult for me.
When I was in third grade in an integrated school in Spokane, Washington, my best friend was a black boy who's name I have long forgotten. I remember very little about him other than going with him to his home one time and waiting for him outside as he was not allowed to bring anyone into his home. I know I felt something like affection for him.
Then, the very next year, I was moved to Abilene, Texas for fifth grade and went to a segregated school for the first time. I had never experienced that kind of racism and hate in my meager ten years of life before then. I just couldn't bring myself to “go along to get along” with that sick culture in Texas and my one and only friend in that school that year was a Hispanic boy, who's name I have also long forgotten. Throughout my life, I would always be drawn to people of color. I have never been able to tolerate racists, whether I am related to them or not. I know that several of my relatives in Spokane continue to be racists and so that makes it difficult to enjoy a "reunion" with them.
When I was thirteen years old, I had a Beatle haircut and the school's Principle sent a letter to my house before the school year began that year and I was told I needed to conform and cut my Beatle hair and “go along to get along.” I didn't do that and my Mother supported me in that decision. I was allowed to stand up for myself and my beliefs and preferences and this would not be the last time in my life that I did so.
The same year that I was expelled from 8th grade, while living in Escondido, California, we were seeing on our black and white television, "White America" beating on "Black America," spraying African-American's with water cannons and beating them with billy clubs. I heard about someone's “dream” that led to a “mountain top” and that dream didn't include “going along to get along.” I admired that so much and became increasingly aware of the injustice in the world and the need to struggle against that injustice. I remembered the horrible, hateful white children of Texas and was so grateful that I had only had to suffer through one year of “The South,” and was so glad to be out of there and in California! It was a big disappointment for me to learn that some of my own relatives in Washington State were racists and dismissed those fighting for their civil rights as "communists." It seemed anyone that didn't agree with these right wing relatives were considered "communists."
A few years later, I remember being at a cousin's funeral in Coulee Dam with some of my extremist right wing relatives and hearing them refer to my brother and I as "communists" merely because of our long hair. These men were drunk as they often were and seemed menacing and threatening. Of course, my brother and I were just kids with no politics but the vitriol I heard from our relatives then would define that side of my family in my mind for the rest of my life. They were ignorant and hateful and to be avoided for the most part.
All of my life I knew there was something different about me from other boys. I was absolutely tortured
by the fact that I didn't “fit in.” I was uncoordinated and I couldn't catch a ball. While my brother and a male cousin played with their little plastic army men, and loved to “rough house,” I preferred playing with my sister or my female cousins. I just couldn't make myself to be like other boys and was just incapable of “going along to get along” no matter how desperately I tried. By the time we were living in Escondido, I began to realize that I might be an aberrant monster and struggled to push out of my mind, what I perceived at the time as demented and abhorrent thoughts and feelings I was having in my thirteenth year, that I couldn't discuss with anyone and didn't understand. My own body seemed intent on betrayal of my horrific secrets I could share with no one. I was isolated, alone, confused and depressed.
When I was 18, I finally began facing the reason that I was different from other boys throughout my life. I began to confront what I had known for a long time but had refused to acknowledge, that I was a “queer,” a “faggot,” a “homosexual.” I begged God not to be but it felt like God had turned his back on me long before then. Nobody, or at least very few, used the word “gay” in the late sixties and there was no such thing as a “gay community.”. There were only brief sexual encounters and self loathing. I even considered suicide at the time which was the only way at that time to “go along to get along.” If it wasn't for an incredible psychologist that I saw for only one session in San Diego at that time, and a sister that loved me unconditionally when I needed it most, I would have been dead. I just couldn't do what society back then would have preferred me to do “go along to get along.”
(Years later, I would hear of a second cousin that may have also been gay and did commit suicide. He had often visited my right wing relatives in Washington and experienced their homophobia and hate directly. I am so sorry that I never meant this second cousin to let him know that life could be better- that there was a whole other world that existed in which he could be supported and loved as he was. It was with much sadness that I heard years later that his suicide was probably related to his sexuality and the cruel homophobia and hate from some of my right wing relatives. I recognize that I was lucky not to have spent very much of my youth with these hateful, homophobic relatives that would have probably destroyed me, too)
When I moved to San Francisco in the late sixties, I was a flower child, hippie. As it turned out, many of the other male flower child hippies I had met, turned out to be just like me. Men could be gentle and kind and empathetic and compassionate. (This was so different than any of the men I had known in my life that all seemed to aspire to the "John Wayne" kind of male image). We started referring to ourselves for the first time as “gay.” We became a “community.” We thought positively about ourselves rather than continuing the self hate of the closet that society wanted us to stay in to “go along to get along.” Instead, we celebrated ourselves, fought back in the Stonewall riots of 1969, started holding parades of pride in the seventies and elected Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to the San Francisco City Council.
In the eighties, a plague hit our wonderful “gay community” we had created and we started dying quickly. The B-list actor, Ronald Reagan and his Republican Party ignored the plague when there would have still been time to save thousands of lives and ultimately millions of lives. He was too busy selling arms to the Iranians and Contras, throwing the mentally ill out into the streets and redistributing the country's wealth from the working poor and middle class to his rich cronies. Reagan and my right wing relatives denigrated Nelson Mandela in South Africa and supported Apartheid. As usual, they would be on the wrong side of history.
In 2009, finally the country came to it's senses and elected the best president in my lifetime, Barack Obama. His administration brought the end of “don't ask, don't tell” and the end to “the defense of marriage act.” He saved our economy and his actions directly led to my ability to finally retire and to marry Milton. Obama accomplished so much in his eight years despite constant obstruction from an out of control, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and homophobic Republican Party that would continue to be illogically embraced by my far right relatives in Washington State! The same relatives that were now planning another "family reunion" in the summer of 2016.
I just want you to know that I didn't just “go along to get along” for many reasons throughout my life. I am just not willing to “bend over” and take whatever is dished out by the far right, including those to whom I am related. I believe in making waves, (and the mere fact that I am gay in a 34 year relationship with an African-American male, my mere existence makes waves for many in my own family).
It is those of us that make waves that have moved our country forward over my lifetime. African-American's gained civil rights by not “going along to get along.” They made waves. They raised the consciousness of the country. Women are no longer relegated to kitchens and motherhood anymore because some of them were willing to stand up and "make waves." They are doctors and lawyers and represented in almost ever field of endeavor. Gay people can marry and serve openly in the military and be proud of themselves rather than cutting their own throats because the were willing to stand up and speak out and "Act-Up."
So now, it is 2016. A family reunion is being planned. My Republican Mother passed away years ago and I believe her rapist must be, too, after all these years. The last time I was to a Walling Family Reunion, I specifically asked that he not be invited but I have no clue whether he will be invited this time. Darlene, Roger and I would find it extremely difficult to come face to face with him.
During the last "family reunion" in Spokane which I brought Milton to, I had made some dvd's that contained family pics and videos to give as gifts. I approached one of my far-right cousins to give him a dvd, he recoiled and seethed and spit out the words, "I'm a Rush Limbaugh fan and I agree with everything he says!"As he took the DVD from my hand, I felt like he was saying, "get the fuck away from me you liberal faggot Democrat and take your nigger with you!" Although those were not his exact word, THAT was exactly how it felt to me and I felt that others there felt the same as he did. But, that time, I swallowed my pride and "went along to get along."
Over the years, a few family members have sent me friend requests on Facebook. Before I accept that friendship, I always feel compelled to tell them that I am a progressive gay male in a 34 year relationship with a black man and that I am a registered Democrat. I have been pleasantly surprised by those that turn out to be Democrats, too! There were some Republicans that friended me early on but after a couple of liberal posts from me, they unfriended or obviously don't follow me on Facebook because of my political posts. For a while, I would still follow them because I was interested in their lives outside of politics but these just became one way relationships, my following them but them showing no interest in my life outside of politics. Maybe, again, because my mere existence IS political to them. How can they "like" my vacation pics or posts when they remind them that I am everything they object to? So, I get no "Happy birthday" from any of them, or "likes" for any of the happiest moments in my life. It just became my wishing them "Happy birthday" or "liking" some new accomplishment or even of theirs. This becomes tiresome after while. What's the point?
As I get older, and the 2016 election nears, and I feel more threatened by right wing fascism that disrespects me, my life and my love, it becomes increasingly difficult to put politics aside to spend time with right wing relatives that I barely know otherwise. Milton says to "go along to get along." He says he has "conservative" relatives, too, despite their being African American. Other relatives of mine that I think may even be gay or lesbian seem to be able to "go along to get along," with no problem, apparently resigned to living in their closets. Why can't I? For me, there is no returning to the closet, ever, but I guess just being silent for a couple of hours is not necessarily going back into the closet. Or is it?
Milton insists, it is only for a "couple of hours." Can I "go along to get along" for just a couple hours when I know that some will be looking at me, wishing I wasn't there at all... or worse. Oh, well. My Mother was silent "to go along to get along" for the rest of her life after her rape. I remember attending a family reunion where her rapist and molester of my sibling and I was attending and my Mother was so "gracious" to him and no one would have ever suspected him of being the monster that he was. Later, she would confide the facts to Darlene, Roger and I and I would be told of our own molestation by this same man and his brothers.
EVERYTHING is political. As I have said earlier, my mere existence is political. Standing up and speaking out against injustice is political. When people talk about suppressing their own thoughts or views and "going along to get along," I just can not comprehend it. Can I subject myself once again to the ignorance, racism, and homophobia with a big smile on my face at another family reunion that includes rapists, pedophiles, NRA gun nuts, racists, misogynists and homophobes? To "go along to get along?" I think, ultimately, the answer will have to be "no."