I Don’t Wanna Grow Up…

Toys R Us from 70s Commercial
I think anyone raised in America around my age knows how to complete that jingle.

(For those of you not in the know, you finish it with, “I’m a Toys R Us kid.”)

It seems to be the end of an era. The toy store that was a major destination for American kids (in at least the 70s and 80s) is closing its doors.
Read I Don’t Wanna Grow Up

7 Years After the 22 February 2011 Quake

Memorials at the CTV site, where 115 people died in the building’s collapse on 22 February 2011. Credit: Joseph Johnson/Stuff

Today is an anniversary date in my life that I could live without.

Actually, it’s so bad that the other day Noel asked me, “Isn’t the anniversary of Grandpa’s passing about this time of year,” the day after that anniversary, and I felt guilty about forgetting that. (My Grandpa passed away on 19 February 2004.)

Last year, I spoke about feeling stuck, like 22 February 2011 is a fixed-point in my timeline, and, like a black hole, the rest of my life slowly spins around it, stuck in its gravity.
Read 7 Years After the 22 February 2011 Quake

Familiarity in Dreams

Bottle of Dreams by David Urbanke
Bottle of Dreams by David Urbanke

Dreams play an important part in my life. I don’t mean I follow what my dreams show me or I let them rule my life, but I find they are an important part of inspiring me and exposing the hidden places in my psyche.

I have many different types of dreams, as I think we all do, and I could go on and on about them, but in this post, I think I’d like to focus on familiarity in dreams.
Read Familiarity in Dreams

Memories of Grandpa

On Thursday night, Noel and I were watching a special episode of Gold Rush where the young miner Parker Schnabel was dealing with the decline of his grandfather John Schnabel.  The final shots showed John celebrating his 96th birthday in a hospital in California after an operation to attempt to restore blood flow to his leg.  John died a month later, peacefully, in his sleep.

The finer details aren’t totally important, but the relationship between John and his grandson Parker, on film at least, reminded me very much of my relationship with my Grandpa, who was born in the same year as John and suffered from prostate cancer the same as John, but only lived to 83 and a half, compared to John’s 96 years.

You could see that John felt the sun rose and set in Parker, and Parker didn’t seem too terribly reserved in showing his love for his grandfather.  My Grandpa had always encouraged us to show our emotions, that it was okay to hug, to cry, to laugh, to tell people what they meant to you.  And I think this helped make me a more caring, empathetic person.

Read Memories of Grandpa

Worlds Apart

By the time you read this, I’ll be jetlagged to here and back in Chicago on the first evening on our a six-week visit.  I honestly am excited beyond words.  Well, as excited as I can be with depersonalisation (although it does come ashore and retreat like the tide, and really depends on the day and how much stress I’ve had that day).

I was texting back-and-forth with my sister-in-law Darcie on Sunday, and the subject of living in New Zealand and visiting my stomping grounds in Chicago came up.  I have spoken about this before with other people, so the concept isn’t exactly new to me, but I thought it seemed timely to bring it up again.

Read

My 93 Year Old Grandma Thinks I Should Be Allowed to Marry; Why Don’t You?

Today, there are major battles occurring in New Zealand, the USA, France, and many other countries.  It’s a civil war of sorts, another civil rights movement, and this time, the question is:  Should we allow gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) couples legally marry?  (Not civil unionise.  Marry.  As one of the Supreme Court justices said, it’s the difference between a skim-milk marriage and a full marriage.)

We’ve heard every excuse in the book from the anti-marriage crowd.

“Marriage is for procreation.”  Really?  How can two straight people in their 50s get married if marriage is for procreation?

“God / Allah / Jesus / [Insert Your God Here] wants marriage between a man and a woman.”  I don’t think you or I can say anything about what God (or whatever god you believe in) thinks.  Besides, marriage has been around for a lot longer than some of our gods, so no one religion can truly make a claim on the institution of marriage.  Also, holy books like the Bible say a lot of things like, “Don’t eat shellfish” and “Don’t wear clothes of two different fabrics” and “Women are not equal to men” and “You can have slaves” and “Don’t cut your hair” and “Don’t get tattoos or pierce your body” and (my favourite) “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, yet anti-marriage equality people seem to conveniently forget some or all of these parts.  And, while we’re arguing this point, LGBT couples are asking for the right to legally marry so we can have the same rights and privileges under the law (not your church) that straight couples have.

“God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”  If you are dumb enough to believe that Adam and Eve were the only two people on the planet at the start, then you are dumb enough to spout garbage like this.  My Mom (a very smart woman) said to me one time: “I think Genesis in the Bible is how God tried to tell His people about these things in very simple terms, like explaining the Big Bang and evolution to a 5 year old.”  And it’s true.  Now, we’d say, “Imagine there was a boy named Adam, and a girl named Eve,” knowing that Adam represented men and Eve represented women.  And, even if you want to argue this point with me, go read some of the additional Biblical texts out there and let me know who Lilith is and how she fits into the picture if Adam and Eve are the only man and woman on the planet.  On the scientific front, homosexuality and even homosexual pairing is observed in many species on this planet.  So, God created gay ducks but He didn’t create gay people?  Right.

“Marriage is sacred.”  If it’s so sacred, why do we allow divorce?

“The fabric of society will unravel if we let gay and lesbian couples get married.”  Really?  Because we heard this argument with multiracial couples, and it totally happened when we allowed a black man to marry a white woman.  Oh wait.  It didn’t.  And see the point above.  If divorce, single parents, mixed marriages, etcetera, etcetera, haven’t destroyed the fabric of society (and they won’t), I doubt letting a few loving, caring, monogamous gay and lesbian couples getting married will unravel society either.

I could go on all day with some of the garbage that people say about the whole thing, but it comes down to this:

I was born gay; the only choice I made was to tell the truth and live my life true to my biology / genetics / whatever made me gay.  I pay the same taxes as everyone else.  I am supposedly equal in the eyes of the law.  But, as the law currently stands, I do not have the legal right to marry my partner Noel.  This automatically bars him and me from certain legal rights (like the ability to adopt as a couple) in New Zealand and thousands of legal rights, protections, and abilities in the USA.  This brings the argument back to that, therefore, as a gay man, I am not equal in the eyes of the law.

The USA is very good at doing this to groups of people, including African-Americans throughout US history and Japanese-Americans during World War II (at least).  Animal Farm has the perfect quote: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

One of the stories my Grandpa used to tell us that stands out in my mind was when he had to go to the emergency room in a hospital in Chicago or Milwaukee sometime in the 1940s or 1950s; I wish I could remember the story exactly.  My Grandpa had scoliosis (a curvature of the spine) and so, I guess he was used to being a bit of an outsider in that regard, and he did the Christian thing and treated others as he would like to be treated.  At the hospital, Grandpa had to wait for a while to see a doctor.  The nurse came in, quite flustered, and apologised profusely.  Grandpa said he was in a bit of pain, and the nurse said, “Well, we do have a coloured doctor on duty.”  Grandpa told her he didn’t care what colour the guy was, send him in.

The doctor came in and kept asking Grandpa if he was sure he wanted an African-American doctor to help him.  Grandpa said, “You’re a doctor, aren’t you?”  The doctor confirmed he was, to which Grandpa replied (again) that he didn’t care what colour the doctor was as long as he could make him feel better.

And this is the attitude a lot of my family has to this day.  This was the amazing attitude Grandpa had towards everyone he met in life, and it’s something I try to emulate (hopefully somewhat successfully, because I, like he, am a minority).

Grandpa died in 2004, aged 83.  I still think about him every day.  At his wake, though, another amazing thing happened.

My Grandma was talking to one of her and Grandpa’s friends, a woman about the same age.  I was standing nearby and happened to overhear my Grandma: something she doesn’t know to this day.

My then-83 year old Grandma said, “Marty (my Grandpa) even got to see Scott before passing away.  Scott flew in from New Zealand; we all wish his husband Noel could be here with us, too.”

My grandparents, devout Catholics their entire lives, never cared that I was gay.  They never cared that I was in love with another man or wanted to marry him.  They thought I should have the same rights as everyone else.  They never judged me at all, because they loved me for who I am.

It took courage for my Grandpa to let an African-American doctor help him out in an era that that was frowned upon.  It took courage for my Grandma to say to her peers that her grandson was married to another man.  It took courage for my friends and family to stand behind Noel and me to love us for who we are and support us in our fight for marriage equality.

Every little step we take as individuals, for the freedom and equality of others, helps change society in a positive way.

Do you have the courage to stand with us, on the right side of history?

What?!?

It’s been a while since I have blogged, and I apologise for this.  For those of you who know me closely, loss is something I handle very poorly and I needed time to recover from the deaths of our cat Celeste and dog Nyota.

As some of you may know, Noel and I went up to Auckland recently to see Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the Musical.  For the second time!  It was a great break from everything, especially since Nyota had passed away very suddenly only a few days before.  Nothing like a break from normal life and routine to recouperate from everything.

Anyway, we stayed at the Prince’s Wharf Hilton, one of our most favourite places to stay.  I have several stories related to the Hilton and this trip, but I’d like to talk about one specific one here.

The first day we were there, we noticed a small ship moored on the opposite side of the wharf.  It was old… There were so many layers of paint on it that you could see some places where the hull had been repaired or maybe even loss the outer layer.  The paint was thick on the hull plating.

There were two gangplanks from the ship to the wharf, and we saw people getting on and off the ship.  We didn’t think much of it, assuming it was an old cruise ship sailing the waters of the South Pacific.

One night, heading back from dinner, we realised it was open for the public to view.  As those of you who know us know, we love the ocean and love cruise ships.  So, with an opportunity to view the ship, we went aboard and had a bit of a look around.

We discovered the ship, the Doulous, toured the world, taking books and educational materials to those in countries who might not be able to afford it.  There were several other good things the crew did as well (I am sure), but, off the top of my head, I can’t remember them.  I do remember the crew were multinational and worked on the ship without pay.  Basically, everything done on the ship was done out of some sense of humanitarianism.

Near the end of the journey on the ship, we found a make-shift bookshop.  The walls and ceiling were comprised of tarps jurry-rigged over the deck from the port to starboard sides.  The shop wasn’t small, and seemed to have a great selection of books at first glance.

The system of buying books was interesting.  Instead of putting a dollar value on books, they were rated in credits or points, so a book might cost 100 credits and, in New Zealand, that equated to $4 (or something similar).  The books were relatively inexpensive, anyway, especially in light of being at Whitcoulls (the local bookchain) during the day and seeing some paperbacks at the hefty price of $50NZ.

We browsed around and found a lot of books.  Somewhere along the line, we discovered the ship was a Christian ship.  I don’t have a problem with that or any charitable organisation being of one religious belief or another as long as they don’t push it down non-believers’ throats.

On a brief but relevant diversion from the topic, I believe you express your belief and your faith through your actions.  As a Christian, albeit maybe a very liberal one, I believe my actions should show my faith, not how many times I attend church or how many “heathens” I attempt to convert.  Some of my friends are atheists.  Some are agnostic.  Some are Buddhists.  But I don’t believe in pushing over my beliefs on others.

So, with browsing the books on the ship, they seemed to have everything.  But near the check-out area, we stumbled upon the Christian section.

I don’t have a problem with Christian books.  As a matter of fact, I’d bought a Christian-themed book earlier in the day at Whitcoulls from an Australian lawyer who wrote a book arguing why God exists.  I think, though, quite a few Christian books approach the subject, as the author in the book I’ve bought has said, from a level of the reader being overly familiar with the Bible.

But one of the books ruined the experience for me.  I did try to joke to Noel about it (and I’m sure he found it funny), but I took offense to it on a ship I believed would be more advanced than to have a book like this on it.

The book was entitled The Gay Agenda.  Now, I’m gay.  Noel’s gay.  Some of my friends are gay.  And I’m not sure whether the New Zealand or US branches haven’t gotten the memo or anything, but I don’t know about any “gay agenda”.  I mean, I know about gays and lesbians wanting to be treated equally as their straight counterparts, and, kicking religion out of the equation, I strongly believe if I pay the same (or in the case of most states in the US, more) taxes as straight people, I should have the same rights.  That’s only fair.

But “The Gay Agenda”?  It makes it sound like we’re trying to take over the world or something.

I joked with Noel.  “Did you get the memo?  I didn’t get the memo.  When did we get an agenda?”  He laughed.  But the book’s subject matter made me uneasy.

As a gay man, I guess we have a long row to hoe to be treated fairly and equally with others.  (To be honest, women and other minority groups have also had a long row to hoe, and I sympathise with their movements as well.)  And it was a very sobering moment for me.  It did put a dampener on my few days away.

My Grandpa was a man who took people for who they were: individuals.  He’d sit down and talk with anyone, and he gave people, no matter what, a chance.  You see, he’d been judged his whole life.  He had scoliosis, a curvature of the spine.

But he taught me so much about dealing with others.  I never saw the curve in his spine, never saw the deformaties other people did.  He was Grandpa, my Grandpa, and I saw him for his soul, his personality, not what he looked like.  As a matter of fact, his scoliosis never really ever dawned on me most of the time.

When I came out, he never judged me.  He loved me unconditionally, which meant a lot for me.  Maybe it was because I loved him unconditionally; I’ll probably never know while I walk on this mortal world.

The point of this whole blog is we can get along as humans.  I honour the author’s right to exercise his point-of-view, but, honestly, who cares?  Is he gay?  How do gay and lesbian people impact him negatively?  Why do others feel they have the right to impinge on the rights of others?

I just don’t understand people like that.  It leaves me thinking… What?!?

Noel and I bought the books anyway, and we made a major purchase (as we felt it was going to a good cause overall) compared to the others who were on the ship at the same time we were.

The crew were friendly enough.  But I wasn’t sure what to do.  Buy the book and burn it?  But wouldn’t buying the book mean I was supporting the author and the bookstore’s perception the book was popular?

Should I complain?  I’m sure these people were only stocking all opportunities.  I’m sure some people might have found the Alice in Wonderland book offensive for some reason or another.  But that’s classical literature.  Was The Gay Agenda?

Would complaining about me finding the book offensive make me just as bad (in my opinion) as the author?  Or had others complained about the book throughout the day?  It’s a fine line to tread, I guess, between freedom of speech and freedom of the individual.

My Opa (my other grandfather) believed to the day he died the Holocaust was made up by the victors in WW2.  Even though he fought for the Nazis, he was a victim too, his mother, too Russian and not mentally stable enough to fit into the Nazis’ New World Order, dragged off and never seen again, his father forced to remarry an echt deutsche Frau (true German woman), and he ran so far tha the ran into the arms of the very people who hurt him deepest.

But he believed, fervently, it was all a lie.

You see, he read these things in books. Books he’d find somewhere in Borders or Barnes and Noble or wherever.  Books my family would sometimes reluctantly buy him for Christmas or his birthday when that’s what he wanted.  (Me?  I never would have the confidence when I was younger to buy him a book like that.  I didn’t want to fuel the fire.)

What I mean is, the people we see or believe are evil or villians don’t just suddenly end up that way.  Somehow, something, some event or chain of events twist them and turn them into the people we see as those we can’t agree with.

The whole point, the other side of the coin, is he was my grandfather.  He should have the right to choose the books he read, have the opinion he had, believe what he wanted as long as he didn’t hurt others with it.  And, even though I didn’t agree with his opinion or his views, I would defend his views to the end.

So was I overreacting about The Gay Agenda?

Maybe it’s just been a long year, but, to be honest, I’m sick of being judged for what I am, or where I work, or because I’m larger than what’s considered normal, or because I have an accent compared to others in New Zealand.  I don’t judge others on that.  I try to be open-minded and loving, like my Grandpa taught me as a child through his actions.

Maybe it’s just the year getting me down; I don’t know.

Maybe I’m just getting more confused by some peoples’ motivations as I get older.  it leaves me thinking… What?!?