“Thou Shalt Not Question”

For a long time I have infrequently thought about the semantics and direct absolutism of the Christian bible.

I don’t know a lot of scripture — I was raised Roman Catholic — but I at one time had known “the hits” of the Bible very well. In the 3 cycles of the Lectionary, A, B, C.

So Paul in all his haughty cruelty is there (“wives, be submissive to your husbands”), some old testament that included descriptions of a “flaming brassiere”, as one Lector mispronounced it (it was actually about a flaming brazier) and I saw nearly everyone in the congregation trying like hell not to laugh.

I told you I remembered a boatload of “the hits”, and so I just had to sit there on my hands, lips pursed, and watch the train wreck about to unfold over the next couple of minutes: the word ‘brazier’ appears three or four times in that piece.

And then as I watched the Republicans swearing they know what everyones’ beliefs should be, hearing hate from a living caricature of a black preacher in what was supposed to be a benediction (which has no place in politics anyway).

And I found myself going back to the one thing I had been pondering for awhile now: supposedly we they are all created in God’s image.

One of Frank Herbert’s genius quotes — and he’s perhaps the most quotable author excepting for Shakespeare — goes something like this: “The first Commandment of any religion is implicitly ‘Thou Shalt Not Question’”.

And the more I see of public displays of what biblically are supposed to be privately done, the one question I would like to ask is a question that has no specific prohibition listed in the Ten Commandments from Moses.

And it would seem that there is a bit of encouragement to ignore the illicit eleventh. It says (somewhere…Genesis?) that “man [sic] was created in god’s image.

While often God the Father is drawn as Santa, but garbed in good-for-all-seasons couture. Or Dumbledore.

But God the Son — Praise Jesus — was 200% of an individual (all-man and all-god, definitely not half and half!) that alone would make him atypical. But even granting the “holy paradox of His Diptychy-ness”, there are serious implications of the statement “made in his own image”, and anyone who attempts to bang out the thought-space around that implication would immediately be seized upon as heretical or insulting.

These days I think it’s worse to insult a christian than appear as a heretic.

I digress.

So Jesus was a man. A human male. Born to a virgin — which could only reasonably happen to a divine even because there’s the intact hymen to consider.

So Jesus was circumcised. And in those days (and still in practice today, I believe, among the Jewish orthodoxy), part of the bris involves the Moyl (the rabbi performing the circumcision), after snipping off the foreskin proceeds to drink some kind of wine (sacred?), but keep the wine in his mouth. He then puts the infant’s penis into his own mouth to bathe it in the wine.

Good Christ.

I’m not belaboring anything here, and though I’m disgusted by a practice which is no longer used (mostly), I’m not poking fun at any of it. I’m just letting my ever-questing mind spend some cycles on the implication of all of the above.

So yeah, you’re damned right I have questions/thoughts:

  1. Was the newly-detached foreskin preserved as a Holy Relic to be venerated by all?
  2. Did anyone give Jesus the birds and the bees (or in his case the bees and the Almighty) talk?
  3. Did he masturbate a lot, at least during puberty?
  4. Since Christian extremists believe that homosexuality is just about sex, since Jesus didn’t have sex (they all presume) could Jesus have possibly been gay? Or probably bi/poly, since god loves all mankind.
  5. Why is the canonical Jesus painting depicting an Anglo/Aryan man with excellent bone structure?
  6. Was Jesus’ penis significantly, differently-sized than the average Jew of that era?
  7. Everybody Poops.

Again, I am not (so far as I know) maligning christians OR christianity. If I have a single concrete reason for this entry, it’s that the crux of the Judeo-Christian corpus lands on this one line. If we were not created in his own image, how could the bureaucracies and power bases have ever formed? How could they have taken The Homeric Hymns of Hermes and refit its timeline to what is now primarily considered Jesus’ timeline?

Thus, this specific language being so important, I think it deserves scholarly attention.

If I have offended, specifically WHY? I’m not dissing Jesus, and I intentionally side-stepped any questions about his divinity. I’m giving you that one, for the purposes of this piece.


At the risk of sounding morbid, tonight, 12-July-1995, twenty-one years ago to the day, there he was and was not: The He that he was was gone from a body that only knew how to keep itself going, to hell with the vacancy.

A terrible in-between where he was no longer responsive and would never ever be again. If you think this was going through my head when I was there dispatching the only duty I still had — hitting the button on the home-pump every fifteen minutes to send another bolus of morphine into his body, each time hoping wondering if this would be the one — THE ONE — that would finally settle his body and end that which had ended a couple of days before.

It has occurred to me for a moment to try to hack the home-pump, which was locked in and locked down to a certain dosage and a certain interval, ostensibly to prevent patient abuse. It was only a moment because the only things I had left to hold on to were medical protocol — and more to the point, medical ethics.

This was my last responsibility to dispatch for him. And I would do it by the book, I told myself. Irony had other plans, of course. Just before midnight (almost three hours from right this moment twenty-one years ago), I hit the button, delivering the morphine bolus.

I looked at the digital clock and it never occurred to me that Tuesday had given way to Wednesday, and that this date would be the date, The Date, and it would be permanent. And in a culture like there is in Northern California, people shy away from permanence. Lessons learned and all that.

I put my head on the mattress (all the pillows were under and around his body, his rangy limbs giving some macabre caricature of an abandoned puppet: I was never a puppeteer) and moments (to me) later, I opened my eyes to a clock that read 12:55am, the LEDs practically buzzing in the now-absolutely-silent room.

It happened and he was dead and there were things I had to do.

The only time I even flirt with Absolutes is when they are also labelled: Temporary. Intrepidity is what was required of me and I knew each and every thing that I needed to do, y’know, Before.

I kissed the cold, cold forehead of my forever man. His warmth was imagined, of course. Or maybe I had enough for both of us.

Then it was time to dispatch the last two things I would have to do: wake Allen’s sister, who had been here at home for a couple of days and leave her some time alone next to him. And call the Coroner.

Everything was off inside me. Not off-kilter, just OFF. Running on adrenaline, hind-brain and muscle-memory, I went through all the meds that were in the house so that the coroner could destroy all the opioids and other Schedule-3’s. It was strongly suggested by my always-wise mother that I not be in the room when the Coroner’s office carried his body out: that was something I didn’t need to see, she said. And I knew it was the right thing, too. And that might have been the first thing I did primarily for myself in well over two months. That decision more than anything was my final goodbye to him.

After it was just Patty and me, Patty called their mother in Colorado. It was not a long phone call. Vivian was a woman who knew economy in words as well as life, generous as she was anyway.

And after, I suggested that Patty get some sleep. I went to the bedroom and there was the shape of him, in dents and bumps on the pillows and exhaustion alone forced me to strip the bed because I didn’t have anything left in me.

I did, however, sleep for four hours on the living room sofa. That’s 4x the number of hours I’d slept in a row in at least a week.

So what happens when all that intrepidity has no cause to remain? Terror and trepidation.

World AIDS Day 2014

When things aren’t going well in the present, it’s a natural thing to want to retreat to the past. It’s escape: even if the past you’re inhabiting isn’t particularly happy or even pleasant, it is a known quantity.

So really, escape is escape from the unknown.

But sometimes the past escapes its chronological bonds and rises to the present: a sense-trigger or an event, a memory hyperlinked to that past or even a kind of full duplex déjà vu where a present thought makes a past one feel familiar in new way.

I’m the kind of person who listens to sad songs when I’m happy. And I like listening to happy songs when I’m sad. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully capable of wallowing, but when emotion doesn’t override sense of self, I have a better appreciation of those things that are Other to the present. The sometimes-solemnity in happiness, the often-absurdity in sadness.

World AIDS Day this year, this day, is very much a present day experience. AIDS wasn’t about the HIV particle, it was about suffering at the hands of something none of us saw coming, and a thing of such magnitude that none of us could truly appreciate until it was far too late.

And then the deaths kept coming. Dying and dying and dying, where 20-somethings and 30-somethings took to hunting the Obits section of the paper every day out of the same kind of pragmatism that much, much older people do as a matter of course.

They say that global AIDS may be over as soon as 2030. That’s astoundingly great news, given how many non-scientific, non-medical hurdles had to be overcome just to get started in addressing it in a significant way.

And I’m not blaming the homophobes: lots of us homoPHILES didn’t want to believe it was happening. Didn’t think there needed to be such a huge effort to address it. Thought that it would be over in a matter of months when there was another new pill for another STD.

Before AIDS, there had always been a pill or a shot for whatever you sometimes got when body fluids mixed and made contact.

So on this World AIDS Day, I wonder: who recognizes in Today that believing “there’s a pill to fix whatever ails ya” is what happened Before?

The Slippery Slap

Lies, lying, liars.

People lie.

That’s what they tell you when you can’t seem to deal with being lied to. They want you to “move on” and “get past” it.

Good advice, but it’s all just pissing into the wind: it’s just going to come back to you, disgust you, and leave you no better off than you were before.

This is where I leave the rhetorical: so why does it stay, sometimes? The nagging, puling, dragging, aggravating, draining remaining whine remanding a part of you to remain?

I had a discussion with someone about the Folsom Street Fair, an event where facile language belies myriad distressing goings-on, where costumes of individual expression all look the same, where excuses are made by all for the infliction of pain, the endurance of pain, the spectacle of pain.

A whole streetfest, community and spectacle for one thing: Elective Pain.

Other cartoonish brandings (see what I did there) help to hide and variegate: slavery, ownership, pup, dom, sub, master, but they all ground out in violence: the physical violence of pain or the emotional violence of servitude.

That there may appear an election/non-compulsoriness at play (see what I did there) remains beside the point — or beside my point.

If someone elects to stay with someone who inflicts pain, enjoys inflicting it and believes the target of hand/belt/paddle/fist deep down really wants the violence done to them, shouldn’t that be the end of it, just between the two who choose to stay together?

Choice! and there’s an end.

Choose to “move on” or “get past” a breach of trust! and there’s an end.

The end?

Except that sometimes, sometimes repetition makes liars of us all: A choice repeated repeats a shallow lie and reverses a deeper truth.

The ‘sub’ human becomes subhuman. The ‘owner’ creates property out of personage.

And for me? I am a slow learner at some things. Years ago, I stopped repeating shallow lies to myself and avoided becoming the deeper liar, that one who lies to himself.

I only just realized this simple-shallow-deeper self-evident self-truth: I am the one who never wanted to be ok with hearing lies by those I care about.

I was starting down that road, but I got out by getting out and staying away. Most everyone around me seemed to abide the lies and stride on. Turns out, I hadn’t dwelled on the past because I couldn’t understand “get past” people lying to me, but rather I had real fear that I was capable of becoming ok with living amongst lies.

manhood is melted into curtsies, valor into
compliment, and men are only turned into tongue, and
trim ones too. He is now as valiant as Hercules
that only tells a lie and swears it.

Would they ever say that of me? Would I ever say that of myself? I can imagine it and it’s terrifying.

Schadenglück! and Goodbye to Jack Allen

Today my Uncle Jack Allen died.

He was married to my Aunt Toots for many years, up until she died back in 1995, just six weeks after Allen did.

I don’t think he ever quite got over losing her, even though he did of course eventually move on. Still, it was mainly a solitary existence in the house they’d shared.

You might think this was the basis for a sort of unspoken kinship between him and me (he was a man of few words), but the similarity of our lots wasn’t the majority factor.

No: he loved her and she loved him. Of course that’s true but that was between the two of them. For my part, he made her happy.

What else is there to feel for the one who makes someone you love so dearly so joyfully, obviously, ebulliently happy?

I had plenty of reasons to like Jack Allen. I loved Jack Allen, just for himself. I honored him every day for what he did for one of the most important people I ever had or will have in my life.

In a world of bread and circuses having become a cottage industry around other people’s pain and misfortune: institutionalized schadenfreude. It’s a German word that translates to “joy of harm” — others’ harm.

It’s never been my favorite fare. It only lands you in a group of people you wouldn’t want to spend your happier times around.

Me? I’m coining “schadenglück”, which translates to “joy of happiness”, schadenfreude’s long-needed antonym.

So here’s to Jack Allen. Thank you for having been part of our family, for having made my Aunt Toots so very very happy, and for understanding. You will be greatly missed by me and my whole family.

Time Is Another Place

A few short days ago I was witness to a 25th Anniversary and a wedding. They were the same event involving the same two people.

Such is life and marriage for same-sex couples in America.

I was present—and Present. We were all present and Present and there was nowhere else and no one else, even though it was City Hall on a thronging, thrumming Monday Midday.

Such is love and solemnity in San Francisco.

In the days that followed, off by myself, to myself, with myself, status quo: myself, another anniversary: Allen Howland tonight, in a couple of hours from now exactly….dead nineteen years. It’s the only time I look back, this day every year, strange as that sounds for how much I’ve written here about him, about us. About then. But yes, it’s the only time I look back.

All the rest? Time looks back at me; I just record it.

What do I see when I look back? My vision fails, details slip, fade, hide. At a distance only its Principle can be seen. He’s gone.

Love and marriage. Life and solemnity. Only I remain.

The Well-Meaning Idiot

Yes, it’s awful about Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Yes, addiction is a disease and not just a choice. No, he’s not an “idiot” for ODing.

Yes, everyone should get help. But even if everyone would get help, you know what wouldn’t happen? Addiction wouldn’t’ go away.

Plus, the disease theory of addiction only goes so far: cancer, for example, is never attended by a posse, pack or litter of enablers (just something to noodle over for a bit).

And do you know what else Addiction is? A transitive verb — when you’re still Using.

Addiction/Using is also NOT an abstract thing. It’s about as concrete as it gets. It affects. Everything. Everyone around you.

It affects those who love you, who care about you, or just the ones who are even in your life within the blast radius of the choices you make, or are unable to make, or allow to be made for you. Because of Using.

Behaving as if something real is merely an abstraction is yet another form of escapism. And escapism is merely running away. Liberal or conservative, activist or apathist, like addiction itself, the spinelessness of running away knows no boundaries of politics, color, gender, blah blah blah. Maybe emotional maturity is the boundary. It’s my best theory so far.

And I’m not alone in this. My current TV hero, Veronica Mars agrees:

The hero is the one that stays…and the villain is the one that splits.

Is emotional juvenility tantamount to villainy? (The emotionally mature stay in the present, in reality, while the rest check out into abstraction, ghetto-minds, the past, puppy-space, pain, or whatever soporific lets them not-deal). Oh, and it has a blast radius, too, and the damage it inflicts is irrespective of intent. So let’s leave that as an exercise to the reader.

For myself, I’ve lived through that take-home-exam and I can tell you, clean up’s a bitch.

Poetry & Hums

Happy Birthday, Yog. Allen Howland would have been 56 years old today.

“’But it isn’t easy,’ said Pooh. ‘Because Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is to go where they can find you.”

― A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

“Promise you won’t forget me, ever. Not even when I’m a hundred.”

― A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

The Year That Never Occurred To Me

In the year of your Lord (well, he’s certainly not mine), two thousand fourteen, there began an interval of ordinary time (you catholics…see what I did there?) that I never considered. Not once when I was growing up, or had grown up. Not once in all the calendrical-gymnastical mathletics of my time did I consider my semicentennial, the year I should become — deep breath — a quinquagenarian. The deep breath is for the hexasyllabic word, not for the feigned histrionics of becoming a 50 year old.

After all, remember that I always remember the grave alternative.

After figuring out that I’d be 36 when we hit that science fictional watershed milestone 2001—and then of course, 37 by that year’s end. And upon actually turning 37 realizing I was the same age as Allen when he died, making me feel like there was no turning back on this adulthood thing in every possible way (emotional maturity being the most precious — and lonely). I also noted that I was the same age that Vincent van Gogh would ever be. It made an impression. Or technically a post-impression.

When I was a wee boy, I knew when I’d be able to drive (1980), vote (1982), drink (1985). At one point I almanacked — somewhat paganistically in retrospect — what years my birthday would also be an Easter: three times in my life so far, including my first Easter as a San Franciscan. I’d almost gone and done the (somewhat paeanistic) Easter Sunrise Service atop Mt. Davidson with its primeval clearing presided over by a depressingly, imposingly large, eisenhowered christian cross.


I however did not: 4:30 in the morning is just evil if it’s an early 4:30 and not a late one, and Allen wasn’t quite well enough to endure the foggy bluster that was brewing outside.

I also know that the next time my birthday falls to an Easter Sunday, I’ll be 103 years old (2067). If I’m around to make it to Mt. Davidson, there will have to be solar powered gondolas to convey me up there. Still, it’ll be a first for me.

Many other odd bits of math wit have been broken against tick-tock-time just because I’m like that, but again, 2014 just never did occur to me. Fifty doesn’t seem like all that interesting a number. Half a hundred. Maybe it’s because binary and hexadecimal are more preeminent in a quotidian sense. Or that when it comes to base 10, it becomes the metric system to me (I am a scientist when you get down to it, after all, and fractions tend to find no purchase there, in favor of decimal representations).

And so let’s face it: “0.5 centuries” doesn’t have quite the ring to it as “woo hoo! I can drink in a bar now!”

So when did it occur to me? Obviously, the irony of writing about something that never occurred to me is that it suddenly did occur to me or else we wouldn’t be here, you with the reading, me with the writing, right? It occurred to me when I was back in Pennsylvania in December visiting my family. My phone has long since been reporting temperatures in Celsius and my dad asked me what the temperature was. I had to calculate it in my head because the only four °F/°C pairs I’d had memorized were:

  • 32°F = 0°C
  • 212°F = 100°C
  • 98.6°F = 37°C
  • -40°F = -40°C

The last one, note, is where Fahrenheit and Celsius are identical: the crossover point of the two lines — see? math is fun!

As it just so happened, it was 10°C. Quick math turned up 50°F. 32 + ( 9/5 * 10 ) = 50. Exactly. Whole number.

And for some reason, there was 50 as some sort of number of interest. And yes, the propeller on my beanie took a lap or two.

And so, on 3 April 2014, 50 years to the day from 3 April 1964, I shall become a Quinquagenarian. Six syllables, two Qs. One Q doesn’t fit my gayness anymore, and my economy of words continues to “suffer” from inflation: turgid is my prose and no blue pill required.

Bounded But Infinite

A writer who hasn’t been writing. A painter who doesn’t paint. An artist who hasn’t picked up a pencil, brush, pastel, charcoal in can’t-tell-ya-how-long. The conceptualist who wilts at rigor.

Head full of Time & Pain, Change & Ache, Color and Glyphs and Cardinality n-dimensional absurdity colliding and orbiting and mixing: Synesthetic Anesthetic Sympathetic-Parasthetic, all trussed up and nowhere to go, all run amok and nowhere to hide.

“Just Pick One and step towards it,” they say, simplistic reductive nonsense in a head full of plurals born of too much experiences with duplicity and multiplicity and simultaneity.

The voice that fails to speak can one day only croak its first new words and then only under great strain and effort. And that presumes an interested audience. Thought alone isn’t any easier, just a more familiar kind of steep challenge.

And a full head, unlike a full bucket, doesn’t overflow: it just gets bigger while staying just as full. There’s just more TimePainChangeAcheColorGlyphsCardinalityDimesionality. More makes sense but less is accessible to that presumed, presumed-interested audience.

And ain’t that the pits.