Monday, March 18, 2024

Still here - and still a happy Claremonter


   Don’t worry.  I’m still here. 

   I haven’t posted for a while – again – but I’m still dealing with this damn pressure sore on my butt.  It is tiny but still there, and I’m still having to lay down, to stay off it, as much as possible.  But I’ve been getting up to go to movies, plays, concerts, Quaker meetings – and also to write a bit.  (This has been challenging and frustrating.  No doubt getting up like this – playing hooky, so to speak – is a big part of why it’s taking so long for the sore to heal, but, as I keep saying to anyone who will hear or read, I need to have a life.)

   I managed to write two columns for the Claremont Courier.  Both happen to be about Claremont and why I love it, and both are below.  The first ran in January, and the second ran on Friday.  Enjoy! 

                   FORGET L.A. WE HAVE CLAREMONT   

   Who needs L.A?  I don’t. 

   At least not anymore. 

   There was a time when I told myself the only reason I would stay in Claremont where I grew up was that it was relatively easy to get to Los Angeles.  There was a time when I would drive to L.A three or four times a month to see terrific and not-so-terrific plays in tiny theaters in Hollywood and wherever else, to see museum exhibitions and eat at favorite spots, to go to the beach and sit.  There was a time – this was before my spinal surgery seven years ago – when I would get on the Metrolink in my wheelchair on my own once a week and take it to Union Station and then, more likely then not, take the Red Line subway and the 320 bus to get to wherever I was going, whether to see a friend in Beverly Hills or to spend a couple hours on the Santa Monica Pier or, if I was feeling really adventurous, cruise down the boardwalk to Venice.

   But not anymore. 

   Don’t get me wrong.  I loved L.A.  Still do – and miss it.  Indeed, I love L.A, ala Randy Newman. 

   But now I can’t take the train, not to mention the subway and bus on my own, and, more significantly, I hate the traffic.  Or, let me clarify, I always hated the traffic, but now I can’t take it.  And I pretty much won’t. Getting out to L.A may not be so bad – it may even be a breeze – but there’s always, always, no matter the day or time of day or evening, traffic coming back, which exhausts me and nearly ruins the day – and I’m not the one driving.

   In the last two years or so, I’ve ventured to the L.A area twice, to have lunch with friends and then attend their wedding.  I’ve been to Pasadena a couple times, but there’s still the return-traffic problem.       

   Besides, I’m finding that I don’t need L.A.  Literally. 

   There’s plenty going on here. 

   On almost every weekend during the school year, there’s at least one concert going on at the colleges.  There are impressive faculty and guest artist recitals and performances by rigorously trained student ensembles, not to mention offerings here and there by student groups.  No, these may not be the Los Angeles Philharmonic or Master Chorale, but, hey, almost all are free (a rarity at colleges, I’ve come to discover).

   There’s also lots of music presented in town, whether it be concerts in the park or in the Village on summer evenings, well-known artists playing at the Folk Music Center and various artists and local bands performing in a variety of venues, from churches to bars, around town. 

   As for theater, we have Ophelia’s Jump, just over the border in Upland.  I say “we,” because this production company is based in Claremont.  Even when it was an orphan outfit looking for a home, performing in whatever venue would take it in, I was saying that Ophelia’s Jump is like seeing a play in L.A without the drive and traffic.  There are also plays and dance performances, including by student group, at the colleges, more often impressive than not, and Claremont High, yes, puts on some pretty good productions. 

   Speaking of artists, there are also lots of exhibits at the colleges and around town.  Add in the numerous talks at the colleges and other events there and around town, not to mention the Laemmle Cinema, and there’s more than enough to do. 

   I don’t know if this is because Claremont and the colleges have changed or if I have changed.  I thought Claremont was pretty boring when I was younger – it wasn’t so lively then – and a teen and young adult may well feel the same today. But Claremont and the colleges are now a pretty good deal – a boon, in fact – for those of us who are older and can’t get around like we used to. 

   So, forget L.A.  Those who can put up with the traffic and the hassle can have it.  The rest of us have plenty to enjoy and love right here in Claremont.   



   I almost lost it. 

   She told about getting a phone call early one morning, knowing it was from her son. It had to be something serious, she knew, because her son doesn’t like getting up early. She said that by the time she reached the phone, a room and a half away, she had planned her grand-daughter’s funeral. 

   It turned out that the grand-daughter wasn’t dead, hadn’t been murdered, but such thinking, such a worry, is typical for this grandmother who lives in Pilgrim Place, because this grand-daughter is transgender and lives in Tennessee.  The southern state, on the other side of the country, literally and otherwise, isn’t known as a friendly state to those who aren’t straight and is one of a growing number with anti-trans laws. The grandmother also told about the grand-daughter having attended very conservative schools, where she was told that such “life styles” were sinful, and about the other set of grandparents who offered to pay for college if she didn’t use her new name. (The grand-daughter didn’t accept, saying, “You can’t buy me.”)

   As a gay man who came out in the 90’s when same-sex relationships were beginning to be accepted and same-sex marriage was about to be a hotly contested issue here in loosey-goosey California, I could relate.  As a severely disabled person used to being stared at, sometimes made fun of and who people constantly make the wrong assumptions about, I could relate.  A bit.  At least enough so that I felt my eyes begin to well up. 

   The grandmother, Elizabeth Moore, was speaking, remarkably enough, at the library one Saturday morning last month. I don’t know if her eyes were welling up, but she was clearly speaking with much emotion, with much concern, if not fear, for her grand-daughter and also no doubt for speaking about it in such a public setting. 

   She was one of three speaking on a panel that morning related to the current On the Same Page selection, This is How It Always Is,  a novel by Laurie Frankel about a large, rambunctious family dealing with the youngest child, aged about 5, suddenly insisting that he is a she.  The other two were a young Claremont couple, one of whom was a man when they had a child and then transitioned to a woman a few years later.  They talked about what this process was like and how their relationship successfully and happily survived.

   All the speakers were compelling and engaging, although hearing a grandmother’s fears for her grand-daughter time zones away was most griping.  But as remarkable as this Saturday morning discussion at the library was, as remarkable as this community read is in this time of proliferating book bans and anti-trans laws and violence, what was most remarkable was the audience. 

   The room was packed, and I could feel it radiating with love and support.  When it came time for the Q&A, people jumped up, all but cheering, eager to ask questions, to get more information.  Even when the questions were salacious, having to do with “what happens in the bedroom,” as one older woman cheerfully put it, they were asked with genuine curiosity, with wanting to understand, with wanting to support and to know how to help.  

    It was easy to see why, as was shared earlier, the trans grand-daughter loves it here in Claremont when she comes to visit twice a year, why she says Pilgrim Place is somewhere where “I can be who I am.”

   As I left that morning, my eyes were again welling up.  Or perhaps it was my heart that was swelling up.  Or both.  I felt elated – flat-out elated.  I was so happy, so proud, to be part of this community where this could happen. 

   I am just as excited to go hear the book’s author, Laurie Frankel, speak at the Hughes Center, 1700 Danbury Road, at 10 on Saturday, March 16. Go Claremont!  Keep on, keep on making me proud!

Monday, January 22, 2024

A change in the weather - and me


   It’s raining today.  It rained hard last night, and it rained pretty much all weekend. 

   I say good and that it’s about time.  I hope it keeps raining.  I hope we have another year like last year, when it rained an unusual amount, an extraordinary amount here in Southern California. 

   It feels really odd to be saying this. 

   For most of my life, I had mixed feelings at best about rain.  I knew that we needed the rain, and I enjoyed the cooler weather that usually came with rain, but it is very inconvenient to be out in the rain in a wheelchair.  For years, I would have a big rain poncho draped over me and my wheelchair and thought nothing of zipping all over town in my wheelchair in the rain come Hell or sometimes high water (but not too high, as I learned when water got into the motors and I got stuck a few times). I sometimes looked like a big tomato cruising along.  Or perhaps I was like the guy I saw one very rainy New Year’s Day as I was leaving Santa Cruz who was standing along the road in a nice bright poncho and no shoes.  (I once did something like this when I was in my teens or twenties and ended up with a lousy cold.  Maybe the Santa Cruz dude learned a similar lesson or – sadly more likely – maybe he needed help and hopefully got it).

   After a long while, when I was in my fifties, I got tired of going out like a madman in the rain, and the rain became even more of a bother.  Now it meant I couldn’t go out on my own, without getting a ride in my van, and I hated it.  I literally cursed it. 

   Even when I was okay with good out in the rain in my chair, I preferred it when it wasn’t raining and I didn’t have to deal with a big, bulky, wet poncho, steamy glasses, etc. Rain was a pain.  I guess this was a primary reason I felt lucky to live in SoCal. 

   But things changed – Boy! Did they! – after I had spinal surgery almost seven years ago.  It is now harder for me to get out.  It takes more work and energy and is often a chore, even when I want to.  So now, it’s nice when there’s an excuse, like the rain, and I don’t feel bad or angry about not going out, like I’m missing out (unless I have to and go in my van). Who knew I would one day be grateful for the rain for making it okay to be lazy!

Monday, January 1, 2024

Happy New You Year - and Merry Christmas!


   Happy New Year! 

   Yes, it is a new year.  A new year has begun.  So, Happy New Year! 

   But, also, Merry Christmas!  Because Christmas isn’t over. 

   Yes, that’s right.  Christmas isn’t over. 

   In England and Mexico and most other countries, Christmas only starts on Christmas.  Remember the 12 Days of Christmas.  Remember Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.  Christmas Day is actually the first day of Christmas.  Christmas actually goes on until Twelfth Night – January 6 – Epiphany, Three Kings Day in Mexico, when the three magi are said to arrive at the manger with their gifts for the baby Jesus.  In some countries, like Italy, gifts aren’t exchanged until January 6.

   It’s really unfortunate that, here in the U.S, January 6 is now associated with a very different, upsetting event. 

   That’s not the only unfortunate thing about Christmas in America. Here, as soon as Christmas Day is over, on the 26th, all or many of the lights and the trees and the decorations start to be taken down, no more Christmas music is heard, there are no more Christmas specials on T.V.  It’s right back to business as usual.  When I was growing up, it was unusual that my family kept the tree up until New Year’s Day or just after (but no later).     

   Another childhood memory: when we were once watching the Rose Parade on T.V on New Year’s Day, and one of the marching bands was playing a Christmas song, I asked my mom why they were playing that song now that Christmas was over, and she reminded me that Christmas wasn’t over.  After all, we were still singing carols at mass, and people there were still saying, “Merry Christmas” which I also found curious for some years (yes, I was brought up Catholic).    

   And when we lived in London for a year, there were no Christmas specials on T.V until Christmas Eve, and then they were on until New Year’s Day (here, there are loads of specials aired before Christmas and then none or hardly any after Christmas). There was also no newspaper for three days, including Boxing Day, which drove my dad nuts – but that’s another story. 

   Anyway, I do find it unfortunate that we Americans are so eager to be done with Christmas, to pack it in.  It makes me sad and also a little nuts. 

   I get it that some people, maybe many people, are sick of all the buying and wrapping, all the clutter and busy-ness, the endless carols and old Christmas songs playing over and over everywhere.  Yes, take down the Santas and the snowmen. 

   But what about the lights, the lights the shine out and make the cold nights a bit less dark and perhaps a bit warmer, reminding us of the comfort and joy, the peace and goodwill that Christmastime is all about, supposedly?  Are we really tired of the colorful lights that brighten the dark and cheer us up in this bleak, dreary season?  Why does everyone rush to take them down, pack them away?

   Perhaps, after everyone has gone on a spending spree on gifts and feasts, the lights along with all the decorations and the all the songs playing aren’t useful anymore.  Perhaps, here, in this country where everything ends up being geared toward money and, most importantly, the spending of money, the songs and the decorations and the lights and the T.V specials aren’t needed anymore. 

   Unfortunate, sad, crazy-making indeed. A balm that I have come up with is, after taking my Christmas tree out, hanging a string of colored lights above the alcove framing the bay windows in my living room.  The lights are especially nice to have on during grey and/or wet days, and I leave them up until daylight saving time or shortly thereafter, depending on the weather.    

·         *  *

   Perhaps one reason why I don’t want Christmas to end, or the lights to go down this year in particular – and why I haven’t posted in so long - is that the last two and a half months have been a hell of sorts.  In my last blog back at least that long ago, I wrote about getting a pressure sore on my bottom and that I hoped it wouldn’t get that bad. 

   Well, it turned out I was hoping for too much. The sore got to be pretty bad – not nearly as bad as the massive one I got after my spinal surgery almost seven years ago, but it got bad enough, deep enough for the doctor to sternly tell me to lay down as much as possible, if not all the time. (When a doctor is stern, you know it’s serious, and you listen and obey.)

   So, that’s essentially what I’ve been doing since mid-October – laying down, except for meals, doctor’s appointments and a few events (like seeing Anita Hill speak at Pomona College). I won’t lie: it has been devastating. It has been super hard, Hell, like I said.  Not only has it taken me back to the year after my spinal surgery, when I was bed-ridden, making me all the more aware of being disabled.  It came during my favorite time of year, with the cooling weather, the unique light that comes in October and November and all the Fall colors. On top of this, I watched concert after concert, presentation after presentation go by and having to miss them. I feel like I’ve been robbed. All this has been devastating, like I said. At least I’ve been at home and not in a nursing home, like I feared and like the doctor seemed to threaten when he was stern and said that “more drastic measures” would have to be taken if I didn’t stay off my bottom. 

   The sore is much better now – the doctor is happy – but it’s still there.  I’m getting up more, for concerts, shopping, Quaker meeting, doing a bit of writing (like this, a little at a time), but I’m still lying down for a good part of the day.  This is still a pain, in both ways.  Pressure sores can take a long time to heal, sometimes plateauing at one stage, but I’ve been making good progress and hope to be back to business as usual, including posting more here before too long. Getting up more now may well be delaying the healing, but, as long as I don’t regress, I think this is vital for my sanity and to keep me from being completely in the dumps. 

   Is it any wonder that, this time in particular, I want Christmas, or at least its lights and hope, to go on for a bit longer. 

   What’s more, I’ve ended up with not having internet since early last week. To my surprise, and some horror, as one who didn’t venture onto the internet for years (for fear it would take over my life, as I heard and read reports of) and who continued to pay bills with checks and use snail-mail for years, etc, I have come to use and rely on the internet for a whole range of things.  Not only do I use it for e-mail, paying bills and the like, I rely on it to listen to the radio, read the Los Angeles Times and watch television (I no longer pay for a T.V service - I’ve come to really like watching what I want when I want to watch it and to watch it without commercials!). So, other than getting up to write this in spurts and watching a few shows one of my attendants knew how to download onto my tablet using his phone and recently using the slow and spotty hotspots on my attendants’ phone, I was lying down with no radio to listen to and no television to watch.

   Talk about disabling!  Talk about devastating! 

Friday, October 13, 2023

A pain in the ass

    Lately, I’ve been wondering if I should change the name of this blog, perhaps to something like The Aging Queer.  Or even Queer Interrupted.
   Many of my recent posts, in the last year or so, have been about increasing limitations, like not being able to travel as much, and dealing with and finding ways to compensate for them (or not). It seems that this has been the running theme, that this is now what this blog is all about.  
   I have developed, yes, a new limitation.  This one is painful, sometimes quite painful, literally and otherwise.  I now have a pressure sore on my butt, in the same place as the one I had after my surgery but nowhere near as horrendous as that one. Nevertheless, it has gotten to be quite significant, and, strangely enough, I feel this one.  (I guess the nerves back there have come back, which I guess is a good thing?) It is like sitting on a walnut.  Yes – ouch!  
   (One of my attendants and I have figured out that I must have gotten it while I was in the hospital for four days in July – like how I got the first one.  Unfortunately, I was not aware of it and went on with life as usual – and not so usual, going on a four-day trip to the Central Coast – and it was some time before I could get an appointment with the wound specialist.  There was some talk that my Roho cushion was the culprit, but one test disproved that, and, besides, I just learned that, insanely, I’m not eligible to get a new one for another two years!)
   The wound is being treated, with medicated dressings being stuffed into the wound every night.  Okay.  But I’m also lying down for about an hour and an half during the day, and I lie down after dinner or after I get home if I go out in the evening. I really hate having to lie down like this.  I resent this.  It really cramps my style, as they say.  It gets in the way of things I want to do (including maybe going out for the day). It funny that two or three years ago, I liked lying down like this, but not anymore, now that I’m doing more things!  Also, it impacts me in other ways.  Like, yes, I can still go out on my strolls, which I especially enjoy now in the Fall, but going over all the bumps in the road and on the sidewalk does hurt my butt all the more. I’m also checking out different pain relievers – Alleve, Extra-Strength Tylenol, Motrin. The doctor won’t prescribe any, and I want to stay away from opioids.   
   What I really don’t like, what I really worry about, is that the nurses at the wound specialist keep saying that I need to lie down more.  I fear that I won’t really heal, that the pain won’t go away, unless I lie down much more if not all the time.  I don’t know if I could handle this.
   The other night, my attendant said the wound is looking a bit better.  Hopefully, the doctor will also say this when I go back on Monday.
   Don’t worry.  I’m not changing the name of this blog.  I’m not ready to.  As the name of my favorite disability rights group says, I’m not dead yet!

Monday, September 18, 2023

The old and/in the new


   For some time after my surgery, I was saying that I was going to have a new life.  Now that my abilities were greatly diminished, I was going to do different things and put what I used to do away, in the past, and be satisfied with that.  Like a snake shedding its skin, I was going to shed my old life and live a new life, almost as a new person. 

   I have been discovering that it doesn’t work that way.  I just can’t forget about my old life and be a person with a new life.  The snake is still the snake with a new life. 

   I don’t wear bib overalls everyday as I used to, because they are now a pain to put on and take off, but I do wear them on many days, especially if I’m going out.  I just can’t not wear them, because, after all this time, they are a big part of who I am if not who I am.  (After all, I am the Overalls Guy.  Actually, I didn’t intend for this.  I made Overalls Guy my handle on YouTube, and it was suddenly my name on my Google e-mail account.  For a while, I was bothered and embarrassed, but then I grew into it like into a new pair of overalls; it just made more and more sense, because that was who I was.)

   I can no longer wear my mismatched, rainbow-laced high-tops, because it hurts too much, but I just couldn’t give them away.  They sat hidden, wasted, in their shelves, but then I thought of an idea my friend gave me (actually for my overalls). They’re now nailed in a row on top of a wall in my office, and I get a kick – pun intended – every time I see them.  Too bad I didn’t think to do the same with my Docs. 

   I continue to go to concerts and talks at the colleges here, although not as many talks as I used to go to, and I now get more rides, but I do go home if it’s light out and the weather is nice. I keep having memories places where I’ve traveled, now that traveling is so much harder, especially when someone talks about going on a trip.       

   There are many other examples of this big and small.  I reflected on this in my latest Courier column with came out on Friday (with another title and with the right byline and picture after coming out with the wrong byline and picture in the previous edition).



   A group was making its way through the crowd seated on the lawn in the darkening, warm summer evening.  The guys had glow sticks around their necks, and the young woman had one crowning her head, like a string of daisies.  Others walked past with hamburgers, ice cream and other treats from the concession stand as the band played on into the night. 

   Suddenly, I was in Grass Valley, on the beautifully grassy, wooded Nevada County Fairgrounds. The band was playing, and the night was coming on noticeably earlier in July. I was laughing, remembering the time my friend gently guided me toward the parking lot where our campsite was when I was going the wrong way after getting a contact high. My friend was laughing at me as I awkwardly navigated my wheelchair through the dispersing crowd. 

   Except this wasn’t mid-July, and it wasn’t the California WorldFest, an annual festival featuring bands from all over the world that I went to for about the five years before a spinal surgery in 2017 left me far more disabled, making traveling far and camping much more difficult if not impossible. 

   No.  This was late last month, and I was at Memorial Park for the Monday night concert.  Not only was it the last concert for the summer, it was the final performance by the Ravelers, the Claremont-based cover band that has been playing gigs for over 35 years. To celebrate, a friend bought and fed me a Hagen Daz ice cream bar with chocolate and almonds at the Kiwannis Club concession stand. 

   Summer has come and is going – yes, fast.  The college students have been back, and school is under way already.  This year has gone by so fast.  I think it’s because of all the rain and cool, seasonable weather we had, with the hot weather not arriving until, literally, July 1. The year didn’t drag along as usual with sometimes long periods of warm, even hot weather starting in February or even January. 

   Maybe it’s the unusual weather – weather we should always be having – but these memories, these flashbacks, keep popping up, like sudden shifts in a movie or a novel.  It is likely also because I’m venturing out slowly, ever so slowly, after the pandemic (not that COVID is done with), which came on just as I was venturing out after my spinal surgery. 

   Last month, for example, shortly before the last Memorial Park and Ravelers concert, I ventured out farther, more boldly, than I have so far, driving up four hours to San Luis Obispo.  In the last five years or so, I have been flying to the Bay Area to see family and friends.  This was easier after the long drive became too difficult for me, but it rendered the Central Coast a flyover zone. 

   This was unfortunate. I have always enjoyed stopping or staying in San Luis Obispo on my way to and from the Bay Area, but I forgot how lovely it is.  San Luis Obispo has gotten to be quite a place, quite a hot spot, not unlike the trendy Bay Area but laid-back (“SLO”) and also reminding me of what I love about Claremont.  And everyone talks about up north, and, yes, the coast up there is spectacular, but the Central Coast has its own if more subtle beauty and charm. 

   I stayed in the hotel where I always used to stayed, and I ate at favorite restaurants and visited old haunts, but I also had new adventures, like having breakfast at the Madonna Inn, which was, as I’ve always heard and imagined when going by, a real trip. I returned very satisfied and, again, with more appreciation for what we have here in Claremont. 

   I was also sad – sad I can no longer go camping as I used to love doing, including at Morro Bay State Park; sad that I can’t travel as easily, as far and as often as I used to; sad that I don’t have the crazy adventures that I did – at least not as crazy and not as many. 

   For sure, this hurts like Hell, but it means my life has been sweet and rich.  And, unlike the seasons 

that go by faster and faster, these sweet, rich memories stay.