Aug 22, 2016

THE OTHERSIDE OF THE VOLCANO - MY 73rd BIRTHDAY - Part 21: " I have been flying through my lifetime. I have never wanted to miss any of the possibilities..."

In a few days it will be my birthday.  I will be 73 years old.  How could this happen to me?  How did I become a full-grown+ man so quickly?  "It just happens that way", they say. I got it, "they", like it or not, are often right about "normal" things. Everyday things like getting old.  Tantrum: stomp, snear, turn away...well, ok! 

I know what "getting older" means and it may not be the favorite part of my being human escapade. We will see, what we will see...verdad?  More, no doubt, will, and ought to be, revealed.  

I'm getting a glimpse of myself in the full length and lifesized "blog" one. It's a whole wall of mirror and a ceiling mirror too.  It's clear...the reflecting of the whole of my life mirror. I have defogged it and I am seeing a well focused glimpse of me. The "take a good look at my life" mirror. I think it must come just before the images start to fade around the edges.  Probably perfect timing...I'll tell you later (if I remember) when I look into the future of my real life mirror.

This is my first time as an admitted "old" person. I am inexperienced at telling this truth.  Like all the other "times" in my life I show up, I will try to figure new/old out. I pay attention to friends who do *it* well and I, then, will do what I can to enjoy older and survive myself. I am a survivor so far, I would like to continue for a decade longer (or two).

 As my Mom, Ardythe, the "lovely in every way" person, often said to me: "We shall see what we shall see, dear" see, my Mother still talks to me and I am almost 73.  Mom has gone elsewhere, but she remains close to me.  I still pay attention to what she tells me.  I am a good son.  You can ask her someday if you don't believe me.  She will vouch for my many attempts/efforts at seeking/improving my personal integrity.  Sometimes I do, and have done, better than other times.   

My Mother knows all (many Moms do).

I have been flying through my lifetime. I never want to miss any of the great possibilities. I could easily see the great fun/potential for fame/fortune around me. I always wanted my life, almost always, and in most every way, to be a dance, a party, a kiss/etc in the dark...a success, one more drink at The Top Of The Mark, a good report card and/or later, a HUGE raise (and a little praise)! A full-up life that was/is full of my desire to embrace it and accept it as my own, my own customized/pasturized (now, soberized), terms. I always wanted to kick the tires and have a go fast life. I got it. I've never wanted to run out of gas or be strangled to death with a silk scarf like Isadora Duncan...I only want the wind in my face as it blows through my hair...I most always roll the window down at any speed...with or without a car or not even 
going anywhere .. full stop!  

Things have often been much different than I thought they ought to be...amen. 

Most of my life I have been striving very hard to get everything packed and repackaged to fit into the life I imagined for me! I have pushed and shoved my life sometimes.  I have wanted everything  exciting and a free-to-be-me in life.  I have wanted life to keep laughing and kissing/hugging everyone/everywhere around me! 

A delicious life, in every way, for myself and others.

I ran/run in life! Ready (again)! Fearless/afraid, hardworking/feckless, steaming/rolling/drolling but mostly clammouring for, and hoping for, more lifefilled delights in/around/for me, me, me...this particular story has been about me.  

The Otherside of the Volcano
 blog entry chapters are all about me:

BUKAROO/ay bandido!
SAN JOSE/do you know the way?
DREAM DO-TOY/marched in!
DRY DOCKED/12-13-78! 
BIG FROG/little pond/s!
FLAMBOYAN GLEE/not the tree!
SUN VALLEY/art leaguers!
CUBANOS/Dons, joyas, y media de noches!
BEST/s - LAST/s?

 Each moment, each part, each joy, each person, is catching up with me!  I will be 73! I have outdistanced myself and sometimes I run/ran, slam/banged into a wall.   I rarely saw the "walls" coming.  I always hated them...climb over the walls or  jump the fence! That's my motto (fingers crossed). 

Getting "walled" in or out of life is not fun. During some of my younger years I opted for alternate thinking/drinking. I escaped the reality that was, or could have been, mine full-on.  Lost in my time, and  hazy as the drunk kissing of a stranger under the pier at Santa Barbara during a heavy rainstorm late at night..all night long - or, should you know about the under-overcoats affair? I was sober. I was Winterwandering during snowfalling on a brisk-late-night walk in Paris. The Eiffel Tower glowed in the dark and a unknown friend kept me extra warm.  
Yes, it was me. I was there. I was inside the overcoats and looking in and outside of myself.  The view was spectacular! 

My life likes to play pretend sometimes...but in a good way, a clear way and in a sane way I leap into the today...often it's like an Artist should/would/could and does way. 

Gracias, a Dios.

I cherish my life.  I am thankful for my life and for all of you, you and you! 

I love you, now and before now,  

(green is my favorite color, did you know?)

Leonard/Leonardo/Len/Ricardo/Leo and Lenny too! 

to be continued 

Jun 10, 2016

THE OTHERSIDE OF THE VOLCANO - Part 20: " Don't tell anyone, I didn't tell a living soul how terrified I was of not being enough, or getting enough. Enough of anything desireable."

It's June of 2016 and I am sitting at my computer at the foot of Fuego Volcano in Scatepequez, Guatemala.  It's now "rainy season" and it has been raining off and on for a few days...good, my world is turning emerald green. I love green, green is my favorite color and I like the rain too...I pull the down comforter over my head and a couple of dogs are always at my feet.

This morning I am going into Antigua and rush around doing errands, lunch too and then, friends to greet. I am going to Florida next week for one week but my thoughts keep drifting back to the nineteen sixties and the many "Buying Trips"  I made to New York...all the "fun" and all the enthusiasm I have always felt for travel, for my work, for life, keeps on rolling and before now, life keeps singing me its alluring song: "there is more to be and see"  (and should be/seen). Appetite, I have a great appetite for life.

I have always enhaled deeply on every moment, every adventure and discovery in my life. I've not wanted to miss one thing that has "warmly" touched/brushed by me, my little corner of the world and my part in it. I like almost everything (except bigotry, plain nonsense, exploitation and greed).  I am riveted to the small, good and bad, details of life everywhere. Sometimes pushing for the next part of life extra hard...wanting more, even craving more...always wanting the positive and better. There is my extra hard striving as to not  "feel" the very insecure nature inside of me that was (not much now) afraid I wouldn't get my share of whatever there was I must have.  Sometimes ignoring "difference" in real evidence that appeared before me. There was always the underlying doubt that I was not "good enough" to just be me, or "get enough" to please me and all of you.  All sorts of appetities in my life that now amuse me and shock me. 

I defied my own doubts about me, mostly.  I´ve ignored, or pretended, that LGBTI people were perceived differently than we were (or angrily overeacted when it was clear we were not). We were/are second class slimy monsters according to those who whispered vileness about us/around us (just loud enough for us to hear the slurs).  Liars! I was defiant and angry, albeit often secretly, but I often returned the favor of unkindness (secretly or not so much). I desperately sought to have more worth than I thought I was "worth" receiving. I eagerly forced my way through my teenage years and then into adulthood, and grew on my own terms (with kind help of others along the way).  There was no handbook of how "to be" for LGBTI people like me. I always, and instinctively, knew the world was wrong about people like us...I was right and the haters of LGBTI people are still wrong...sometimes deadly wrong. 

I was obsessed with living and gaining on life.  I was self-obsessed and lacked much gratitude for gifts I had been given. This morning, at age 72, I know how fortunate and gifted I have always been. Gifted, as in with gifts, given to me in endless ways by my heritage, my parents, my family, my talents and coworkers and a lengthy lifetime of loved ones and dear friends...we laughed, we´ve cheered, we won/lost and we´ve sometimes cried and even died. Endless giftides, flowing in and out of my life. 

The younger me thought he needed to survive those who would shame and harm him. Some of his fear and "nerves" and self-loathing were based on reality as it really was but also how a few other people, friends and family, thought it was or thought how it ought be.  The authentic in me couldn't figure out how to "be" me...just be, me, comfortably. I didn't know about the business of growing into a emotionally secure human being who shared freely, loved others and participated mutually.  I drank to help me resist feelings of awkwardness and inferiority.   Don't tell anyone, I didn't tell a living soul how terrified I was of not being enough. Or getting enough, of anything desireable.  I sometimes prayed "God, help me!"

I remember something startling (sad-chilling) right now.  My travel work/pleasure adventures always included a desire for romantic encounters...enchanted, or not, encounters with handsome young men of my own age  (sometimes a little older).  My idea of healthy men were handsome, popular and filled with laughter and passion for life and me (lasting relationships I thought would be nice/right too).  The first decade of my New York "working-buying" visits I was in my twenties the whole time.  I was in good shape, attractive in a regular White young guy sort of way and wore fashionable clothes (I was a department store buyer with a 25% discount gold/executive discount card, heavily used).  I remained that way, and tried as hard as I could (including taking diet pills if I gained five-six+ pounds) to remain 150 lbs with a 30 inch waistline...I visited the dentist smile was genuine and nice...fancy salon type hair cuts too and in and out of gyms, depending.  People usually liked me just as I was...but, if I especially liked THEM, I was not comfortable with being around them...I didn't want people I was attracted to, to know I liked them!  Even people I just wanted to be liked by socially!  Odd? I may have been mostly afraid of rejection, but, in my mind, today, I think I was mostly afraid they might like me, and then what?  What do I do? You see, I didn't like me and I certainly didn't want to keep entertaining you with my charming-funny, temporary/artificial, personality! Itimacy, of most any variety, stark sober, was not normal for me with people I admired.  I needed, and desired, a buffer, I needed relaxing...I needed the kind of nerve that one gets after a few drinks. Party with me!

Here's the catch: I always drank alcoholicly and smoked Marlboro Cigarettes (only at night) when I was out in the bars cruising or attending parties or meeting someone new...I had "habits" that would become addictive but I was never interested in marijuana or hard drugs. I was a child of sixties, but not a hippie. I was trying as hard as I could to be a more popular me (and "Dancing as fast as I can")...I wanted to be a more desireable version of ME.  That is exhausting and it wasn't about self improvement!  

Image result for Liquor Bottles,photos

Early in my 20's, I was a department store buyer. Salesmen/women took me out for lovely lunches and dinners. I always ordered a drink (or two, not three or I would get drunk).  Almost every night (later in the evening) I went out and met friends at various bars. I got drunk almost every night. I almost always, for years, was hung over at work (anywhere)...often I felt dread and almost dead inside but I pretended to be HAPPY/ALIVE so the world wouldn't know the real pain inside of me! I tried extra hard to succeed at work. I needed to succeed.

One trip to New York I was drinking heavily on the plane before landing at JFK.  I had a hotel reservation at a "nice",  not elegant, hotel on Park Avenue South...I was drunk when I got in the taxi cab and went to the hotel to check in.  Drank more in my room, changed my clothes and then had another taxi driver drive me all over New York.  A very lonely night on the town: Uptown, Downtown, Midtown, Eastside/Westside...everywhere! I was afraid to arrive at any destination because I didn't want anyone to SEE me as drunk as I drunk as I needed to be to meet that "someone special" who, of course, could not possibly have been interested in a drunk like me! I knew it.  After a couple of hours I paid the cabbie and I went back up to my hotel room and looked down on the lights and people on Central Park South.  Selfpity: "I would like you to meet Leonard.  Len is in his twenties and he is Gay and alone tonight in New York'd love him if you liked him...and, so would he."

To be continued

Feb 27, 2016

THE OTHERSIDE OF THE VOLCANO - Part 19: All-night, every night, "nights out" in New York City

New York, New York,   Lauren Bacall's "Applause" and more!
Phil Stout was a very good friend.  Phil went to University of California at Berekely and worked part time at Rhodes Department Store in Oakland selling womens shoes.  Most all students that I knew had part time jobs while going to college. We met in San Francisco and became part of a group of young friends who traveled into "the City" every weekend from different colleges in the San Francisco/San Jose Bay area...we hung out mostly on Sutter Street at the Club Rendezvous.  FUN (but no dancing allowed for Gay people in S.F. yet in the early 1960´s even though Carol Doda was going topless in North Beach)!

Phil was especially clean cut and attractive in a blue eyed, big smile, flashing white teeth and deep-dimpled way...he was intelligent, handsome, well mannered and modest...he had a great sense of humor.  We became regular "drinking buddies" and after University he did graduate work at San Jose State and lived close by me near downtown San Jose.  

Ron Williams returned to San Jose, after the Peace Corps (and his divorce) and met Phillip.  The two became immediate friends and intimates.  I was pleased, I was fond of the both of them. After Ron was hired at the Community Development Foundation for assignment as country director in the Dominican Republic, he moved abroad.  It was a sad seperation for the two of them. Ron later promoted Phillip, to his employers, for his assistant job that was available in Santo Domingo. Phil, UC graduate, spoke Spanish, was a natural, and he got the job. Off he went to work with Ron in the Caribbean.  I missed my friends but my life went on in a positive way and I moved to Arizona and moved up in my career path at Goldwater's.

Ron and Phil had "relationship" troubles and had a very nasty brawl on a vacation they took together in London.  Phil left Ron, quit his job on the spot. A few months later he moved to New York city and found work immediately at Gimbel's Department store on Herald Square.  He worked as a salesman in the mens sportswear department.  Someone told me Phil was living in New York and working at either Macy's or Gimbels...on my very next buying trip I set out to find him. I SURPRISED us both when I DEMANDED help/service after spotting him behind the Puritan knit shirt counter on the main floor at Gimbels!  Hugs! What a great time we had..quickly.  I moved out of the hotel and we spent my store expense money on lovely dinners, theatre tickets (vendor paid) and nights out...mostly, all-night nights out...we were in our twenties and filled with adventure and free-spirit with a pre-HIV/AIDS state-of-mind.

Ron later quit his job in the Dominican Republic and came to Arizona and lived with me.  We rented a house in Scottsdale behind Camelback Mountain and Ron became a Probation Officer for Maricopa County and then he purchased a 240 Z (a very hot car at the time)...not one quiet moment followed.  

More later, you'll agree.

to be continued 

Jan 23, 2016

THE OTHERSIDE OF THE VOLCANO - Chapter Eighteen: Arizona, late 1960´s - I experienced life while looking through heavily tinted/medicated/inebriated eyes - playing pretend

Breaking my own rule by telling you part of my ¨drinking¨ saga.    
I am reflecting about my life as I type my ¨personal¨ story.  Not an unsual thing since it is an autobiography.  I can see as I type/reflect and write about my life in the sixties there is much drinking, drugging and lots of self-medicating by me.   In San Francisco and in Arizona I drank without much restraint several times a week.  I took me with me when I moved to Arizona, then back to California four years later.  Interesting, now, after more than half of my life sober, I'd forgotten most of the out-of-control everyday antics that led me to another whole new version of ¨being¨ in my later life, at 35 years old...I'd forgotten the madness that helped me reach out for a saner based existence. I'll share some of my earlier real life experience which led me to wanting me back from the addiction of alcoholism.  

Living in Arizona, late sixties, I experienced it through heavily tinted/medicated/inebriated eyes.  After arriving in Arizona I set out to make friends.   I knew not one person and there were only a couple of Gay bars (as opposed to San Francisco/San Jose area dozens).  I liked my new job as a buyer at Goldwaters.  Everyone at Goldwaters seemed to be ¨Conservatives¨ but very accepting of the rights of the individual...I was amazed.  I was fond of my coworkers at Goldwater's, but, I knew right away my social life must reinvent itself..finding a ¨Gay¨  outside social life in Phoenix was going to be a challenge. Phoenix/Scottsdale was not a Gay destination (yet).  

There was a Gay bar by the the name of Diamond Lil´s on the ¨right¨ side of town and another two Gay bars deep into the downtown bowels of old Phoenix.  The downtown bars were totally out of question and not well patronized but LIL´S I could tolerate. The newish bar had small tables and plenty of air conditioning (no dancing). Lil's, in a strip mall, was the only place where younger Gay people, out-of-towners and/or newcomers like me met.  That was good (enough). The ¨local¨ Gay people seemed quite closeted, shy and secretive and needed a little ¨organizing.¨  A small group of us, more experienced with Gay life we out-of-staters, helped them!  We found one another, poco a poco, eventually...then, finally, we created some excitement in the night hot Arizona air.  We made up a social group of  (those of us sentenced to the calm Gaylife in Arizona) who began to have FUN in the ¨Valley of the Sun¨...Maricopa, Country, Arizona. Here we are! We grew, we had parties,  we made Lesbian friends, Bi sexual and Heterosexual friends too...we made the place move with our ¨group!¨ Almost every Sunday we went tubing down the Verde River and had late afternoon cook-outs afterward...Mondays were a struggle after all that fun in the sun!  Lot's of dinner parties, meeting new acquaintances and laughing all night (or at least until one o´clock when the bars closed).  Later another bar, with dancing, Mi Casa/Su Casa opened up the street from Diamond Lil' rocked.

I went to New York and Los Angeles on buying trips from Goldwater's.  Since I had spent my high school years in Los Angeles I knew my way around the ¨City of Angels¨ and Hollywood/West Hollywood too...Los Angeles was where my family lived and I considered Los Angeles home (I still do and I have not been there for decades and my family has mostly all departed).  

New York was/is wonderful.  I had visited New York as a buyer for Hart's in San Jose and going back more regularly for Goldwaters was  inspiring! New York always takes my breath away with the real possibilities! 24/7 real possibilities of enchantment, romance and many discoveries.  Some of my San Francisco friends had moved to New York city in the 60's...I had pals in NYC and quite often I would use the per diem for Hotel/etc and party with the friends I stayed with in The Village.  I also received lots of ¨pairs¨ of Theatre tickets and saw most everything on Broadway (with great seats - the vendors paid for them) during those years! The bars in NYC were open all-night.  I drank all-night.  Almost always I would have a heavy work schedule in the market (or at the 5th Ave office of Associated Dry Goods) each day.   I took tranquilizers, I drank at lunch, I survived myself. I was young, filled with energy but DREADED each hung-over work day. When staying in Hotels I sometimes would call the house doctor in the morning for ¨vitamin¨ shots (which I think were pure sedatives because I felt ¨perfect¨ immediately).  

I pretended I was alive inside. I have always lived in a world of my own especially neurotic, imaginative, overdrive.  I was, sometimes I am still, hiper or edgy and suffer from claustrophobia and fear of heights! I find most every person, every place/thing and *situation* fascinating (both good ones and not so much).  I can become rivited on the bazaar and not hear a word spoken around me...thirty seconds short of obsessed , I come back and I move along. 

When I had appointments high up in New Yorks Empire State building or when I would have lunch dates at the ¨ Copter Club¨ on TOP of the Pan Am building I would get very shakey hands would swet...I needed a drink (or two) and I would find a bar and have vodkas on the rocks (you can't smell vodka..verdad?)...then, and only then, would I ascend in the elevator (all the while thinking about the great distance as I was taking myself away from the ground level...swet, swet) . Then, post lift off, I would join in and pretend that I wasn't scared to death when they seated me next to the window (always, so I could enjoy the view)!  Most of my 20's I was hung over to the point of feeling sick, upset and different than everyone else...I was (but I didn't want them to know I was)...I am really good at playing pretend with myself and others.  

to be continued