Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Do Not Go Gentle


A case can be made for the nobility of suffering physical and personal problems in silence. My mother died after a far-too-long battle with lung cancer, yet never complained. More recently, a good friend dealt stoically with the bone cancer which killed him and never, ever spoke of it or his reactions to it, despite the fact that he knew I was more than willing to listen and do what little I can to provide support. My admiration for those who suffer in silence borders on awe. 

I have never suffered in silence on any level...even at those times—almost all of them—when I admittedly probably should have. If I have a hangnail, everyone within a six-mile radius knows about it. (I just got a paper cut on my tongue while sealing an envelope to the manager of a business at which the receptionist had been gratuitously rude...thus enabling me to suffer, loudly, twice.) I know my desire to share my physical discomforts is undoubtedly a rather childishly crude bid for an "Aww, poor baby!" response. But this is not true of my insistence on being treated with courtesy and reasonable attentiveness by those whose job it is to provide me with a service.

There is no nobility in suffering gratuitous rudeness, professional incompetence, poor service, poor treatment, or willful ignorance in silence, and I refuse to do so without making my displeasure known.

People tend to be sheep. Rather than risk any form of confrontation by "making waves," they accept the unacceptable without a single word of protest...which of course only encourages more of the same. And as a result, they suffer not only the initial transgression but the frustration and bottled-up anger of knowing they should have/could have objected but did nothing. I do not consider stating a legitimate complaint clearly and without undo emotion to necessarily be a "confrontation."

I have friends who will tolerate the most egregious rudeness and insensitivity without a murmur. Surly, inattentive clerks, poor service, cold food in a restaurant, bureaucratic dictates? No matter how frustrating or anger-inducing, they accept it all with not a peep of protest, and it drives me crazy.

When I am paying for a service, I have every right to expect that service, and if I don't get it you can be sure I'll not remain silent.

Back when I was still able to eat, if I received cold food in a restaurant, I didn't hesitate a second in sending it back...politely, of course. My friends just shrug and eat what they're served. If a clerk or a waiter is rude, I ask to speak to the manager. Immediately. I then calmly explain my position and, while not demanding the clerk/waiter be fired on the spot, suggest that they be reminded of the value of civility and courtesy to the success of any business. Not to report improper behavior to the manager is to perpetuate it, and to perhaps assure that the customer will not only never return, but let others know what happened. The only way a manager has of knowing there is a problem is to bring it to his/her attention.

If there is a problem with a phone representative (usually after dancing through hoops and waiting half an hour to do so), I immediately ask to speak to a supervisor. If I am not satisfied with the response, I ask to speak to the supervisor's supervisor, and ask for the name and address of the head of the company.

I can think of at least two incidents where my refusal to simply acquiesce to what I was told by the first person I talked to saved me several thousand dollars. I would not be in the apartment in which I am now living had I simply accepted the explanation, when I requested to change from my old apartment, that "nothing could be done." It could, and it was. But it would not have been done had I not pursued the issue beyond the first “no.” I never forget that low level bureaucrats have the tendency to assume that they are the organization for which they work, and that what they say is the way it is. Period. It is not.

And even if expressing unhappiness does no good...as my friends are quick to point out that it probably won't...I at least have the satisfaction of knowing I did not suffer in silence, that I did not go gentle into that good night.
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This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com



Saturday, August 11, 2018

Bees & Flowers, Progeny & Words


For all the complexities of the human brain, for all our technological achievements as a society, for all our philosophical pride in "free will," homo sapiens are still biologically an animal with certain imperatives—-“Prime Directives" as they are known in science fiction film—most involving our survival as a species.

The imperative to leave something of ourselves behind for future generations is wired into our very being. Most humans obey this imperative by the most fundamental of all processes—breeding, by which we to pass our physical DNA down through the generations. (I've always found it interesting that gays frequently use the word "breeders" as a mild epithet when speaking of heterosexuals.) I am not a breeder. I will not pass my physical DNA down through time.  I shall leave no living, breathing posterity. My words are my progeny. If I cannot produce children, I can hope to produce words which will outlive me. I cannot pass on my body, but I can pass on my mind. 

I must admit that, though rarely, every now and again I miss not having children. I think I would really have made a very good father. But as a 100% homosexual male, the physical "insert tab A into slot B" process necessary to produce a child the usual way is utterly repugnant to me (and, if you are heterosexual, that statement is probably utterly incomprehensible to you). Until relatively recently, adoption by a single man...let alone any same-sex couple...was not an option, and now I have been, as with so many things, aged out of the possibility.

There's an old saying: "Love me, love my dog."  My often-rather-embarrassing need for validation has resulted in my changing that to "Love my books, love me." As with most things, I tend to be a study in contradictions. On the one hand, I really want everyone to like me. But on the other hand, if they don't, I don't take it personally. Not all parents get along with their children, and vice-versa. So I strive to lay out as much of myself as I can in my writing. I can completely understand how richly rewarding it is for a parent to have the love of a child, but if I cannot produce children to love me, I can hope to produce an untold number of books through which I might win the affection of an untold number of readers. It's not the same, of course, but it comes close. 

For a writer whose life is words, books and blogs and emails and letters are not unlike different children, each with their own separate personality. Each are comprised totally of words, yet each serves a specific purpose and have a different...well, I like the word "gravitas." In the world of writing, books are generally given much more respect than blogs or emails/letters, probably because the writer has invested more time and effort in them. While all writing is an aggregate of the writer's thoughts, beliefs, and life experiences, books present them in a more blended, broader-based form; blogs, emails and letters are on a more concentrated and personal level.  

Just as heterosexual parents want the very best for their children, so do I want the best for my words. I would truly love to become rich and famous through my writing. But even as successful as I am in the denial of reality, I cannot delude myself into thinking I might ever achieve fame or fortune through my words.

Like 99.9 percent of all writers, I write because I cannot not write. Secondarily (and it's a big "second") I write to be to be read. But most importantly to me is that I be remembered; that when I am however reluctantly forced to turn in my membership card of life, my words might stay behind. And thus I put as much of my personality and feelings and outlooks and experiences and memories as I possibly can into words. Words are not life, but to me they are the next best thing.

I tried to come up with a single analogy to explain what I'm trying to say, but so many flood in that I can't choose just one. I've often, in describing the hard-to-explain relationship between my dual selves, Roger and Dorien, used the analogy that Roger is the bulb, and Dorien the flower. Taking that analogy one step further, my words are the pollen of Dorien's flower and you, by reading them, are the bee, and without your carrying away the pollen of my words, they end with me. I do not wish to die without a trace.
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This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com


Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Name Dropping


While I always find name droppers mildly annoying, I realized the other day, while talking with an English friend (drop #1) I met on my last year’s cruise from Rome to Istanbul (drop #2) about the possibility of his joining me and my friend Gary on our August Venice to Athens cruise (drop #3) that I am one of them. Actually, I’m far more of a place-dropper than a name-dropper, but the annoyance factor is potentially the same.

My defense is that I do it not so much to impress others as to convince myself that neither I nor my life are quiet as dull and uninteresting as I have told myself all my life. I have never liked myself very much and have always thought of myself as the epitome of “vanilla”…nothing outstanding or of any particular interest to anyone, including myself. 

But when I can step away from myself and look at my life as though it were not my own, view it  from the perspective of the little boy who still lives somewhere inside me, I find an odd form of validation and reassurance that I’m not as dull as I think I am.

There have been moments of true euphoria in my life…moments so marvelous to recall that they send me into a state of wonder: Soaring alone through the clouds  as a young naval aviation cadet; rediscovering, after nearly 60 years, a battered quay in Cannes, France I so strongly associate with the happiest week of my Navy service; sitting on a beautiful April day in front of a cafe in Piazza San Marco in Venice, having a beer while an orchestra plays songs from old movies; sitting on a broken column in the courtyard of a villa in Pompeii, listening for the whispers of people dead 2,000 years. Me! I did these things!

I have friends who routinely travel from Saskatchewan to Kenya, from England to Japan, from Florida to Thailand. I read books of peripatetic adventurers who constantly move from one amazing adventure to the next, and see movies in which the wealthy go casually and effortlessly from exotic hotel in Dubai to equally exotic castle in Spain, or cross the ocean on a small sailboat. And I realize that no one human being can do all these things simultaneously. One cannot live in a snow-covered chalet on the side of a Swiss mountain and attend an opening of the Paris Opera at the same time. But the implication from all forms of media is that they do.

I’ve been to London once, Paris, Cannes, Athens, and Istanbul twice, Rome three times; Venice, Nice, Florence, Sorrento, Capri, Budapest, Vienna, Amsterdam, and a dozen or more places most people never get to see. Granted, I did not spend all that much time in any one place, but I was there! And with the upcoming trip, I’ll be back in Venice and Athens with half a dozen or more new places. Liza Minelli, in her album, Liza with a Z, sings “Ring Them Bells,” in which there is the line, “Be sure you see Dubrovnik, dear, before you come home.” Well, I’ll be seeing Dubrovnik. 

This next trip will quite probably be my last European adventure. I’ve seen most of what I’ve wanted to see there and, at 80 (odd how there are so many things I can say and yet cannot comprehend), my body, upon which I have depended for so long and which has served me so well, is simply getting to the point where, like any machine or living organism, it can’t do everything it once could. 

But like a squirrel storing up nuts for the winter, I have accumulated and will continue to accumulate enough positive memories to sustain me through the long winter and whatever lies beyond.
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This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com



Friday, August 03, 2018

The Candle

Please believe me—I do not want to become a bitter old man muttering oaths under my breath and swiping at passing children with my cane. But I am sincerely growing increasingly concerned about how bitter I am becoming. I don't want to turn into a nasty curmudgeon people cross the street to avoid. But it's like being in quicksand: the harder I try to free myself, the further in I sink.

Perhaps it is just that bad things weigh more heavily on the mind and sprit than do good things and tend, with every passing year, to become more and more the consistency of hardening concrete.

How can I—how can anyone—escape being aware that we are becoming a society utterly consumed by a pathetic fascination with the rich, the beautiful, and the famous? Our worth as individuals—often in our own eyes—is measured against those three criteria: wealth, beauty, and fame. A "celebrity" suffers a hangnail and the world gasps in horror and shock. Flowers and messages of support pour in. Mary Jenkins, a supermarket clerk in Olathe, Kansas, is brutally murdered in her home in front of her children and the news doesn't make it past the next county.

Have I been under a rock for the past ten years? Who the hell are these people who rule our popular culture--these preening, posturing poseurs whose unknown talent totally escapes me? What constructive, positive things have they ever done to help improve humanity? Why should their peccadillos, their divorces, their scandals interest me in the least? (Well, they don't, of course, but surely, surely I have to be missing something, somewhere!)

Why are we glued to "reality" shows—awash in vacuous young rude, obnoxious foul-mouthed—but filthy (the operative word) rich bimbets and with flawless skin and perfect teeth but with a heads so hollow you can almost hear a the wind whistling between their ears—which couldn't possibly be further from reality? Why do people listen to—and far, far worse, obviously totally believe—the purveyors of ignorance, bigotry and hate posing as "political analysts," pundits, and talk-show hosts on egregiously un-fair and un-balanced media like Fox News?  (Actually, Fox occasionally displays some bitter humor. You can be sure, for example, if, when reporting on a home-grown terrorist, they discover that the perpetrator's great grandfather had voted Democratic in the 1928 election, it will be brought out as incontrovertible evidence of guilt.)

The problem is that it is so hard not to be bitter when things that should be so simple and self evident are twisted and skewered and turned inside out at the whim of anyone with a perceived axe to grind. Becoming bitter is a particular danger for romantics, who really want and fully expect to see goodness and courtesy in others and who never really develop the rhinoceros hide most people don in order to deal with the world. The more one yearns for a world of puppies and cocoa with marshmallows, the more prone one is to be disappointed and hurt by gratuitous evil. 

The seeds of bitterness grow slowly, but the trees that spring from them are almost impossible to fell. And worst of all, there is no joy, or hope, or promise in them.

And yet, for all my very real concerns, for all my inability to comprehend why the world works the way it does, or why there is so much soul-crushing stupidity and bigotry and greed and so little compassion and common courtesy, there remains, underneath the accumulating layers of cynicism and distrust which threaten to smother me, the belief in good and our ability to somehow...somehow reverse all this negativism; to somehow put the genie back in the bottle.

And as long as humanity has hope, however unrealistic it may seem, we will survive. For in the raging tempest of existence, hope is our one small, inextinguishable candle providing a beacon in the vast night.
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This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com



Wednesday, August 01, 2018

"Mine Enemy Grows Older"



It’s not often one gets to make reference to raconteur Alexander King, Walt Kelly’s Pogo, and Dorothy Parker in the same sentence, but I’ve managed. The title of this particular blog is taken from King’s 1958 book of his personal observations on aging. That I and so many others appear to look upon aging as continuing battle brings me, of course, to Walt Kelley’s marvelous comic strip character’s astute observation that “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Which, in turn, sparked the memory of a classic exchange in the long-running feud between the inimitable Dorothy Parker and socialite Clare Both Luce. At one point, a friend said to Dorothy, about Clare: “But you know, Dorothy, Clare is her own worst enemy,” to which Dorothy replied, “Not as long as I’m alive, she’s not.” Scotch-tape the references together, and you have the story of my life.

I am and have always been my own worst enemy, my bitterness against aging and against myself easily rivaling the enmity between Parker and Luce. It stems from the fact that, all evidence to the contrary, I am a perfectionist. I can and do accept flaws in others that I cannot and will not tolerate in myself. Actually, it is a particularly perverse form of hubris. A great part of me has never matured beyond the child’s assumption that he is all-powerful, and that everything that happens in the world is somehow related to him.

As a result, I am incredibly easily frustrated when something—anything—does not go as I think it should. And when that something directly involves me, frustration often quickly spirals totally out of control, sending me into a self-directed rage.

Though I’m not a psychiatrist, I would suspect that masochism, the self-infliction of pain, has a mental component, and I fully if regrettably see that quality all too clearly in myself. I am constantly measuring myself against others and falling far short.

Regrets are a part of the human condition; we all have them, and they cause us a great deal of suppressed sadness and pain. But for the mental masochists among us, the emotional scabs which inevitably form over the incident are constantly being picked at and reopened.

I can clearly recall embarrassments and shames experienced from childhood and throughout life, and they often for no reason I can determine suddenly pop into my head. I can also recall too clearly the pains I have caused others; the things I should have done that I did not do; the careless and thoughtless things I would give anything to change. And, of course, these flaws build up over time like the individual snowflakes in a life-long snowstorm. The older I get, the more oppressive they seem.

So why, exactly, do I insist on dragging out all the skeletons in my closet and frantically waving my dirty laundry in front of you? Perhaps as a part of the mental masochism thing, but I would prefer (I am also very good at self-delusion) to believe it is because, once again, I do not think I am the only human to have this problem. There are many things in life which, though common-to-universal are, like certain bodily functions, considered too private and personal to talk about. So I like to think I do it to assure others who feel the same way that they aren’t alone. It may simply be yet another form of self delusion but, hey, I’ll take it.
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This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com



Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Chaos Kid


Okay, students: today's assignment is to select four words which best encapsulate/summarize your outlook, experience, and level of emotional development. It's a fun and telling exercise, and I'd enjoy hearing what you come up with.

Choosing my own four words was relatively easy:

1. chaos |kay-oss|, noun: complete disorder and confusion; Physics behavior so unpredictable as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions.

2. contradiction |kon-tra-dick-shun|, noun: a combination of statements, ideas, or features of a situation that are opposed to one another

3. egocentric |ee-go-cen-trick|, adjective:  centered in or arising from a person's own existence or perspective

4. melodramatic |mel-o-dra-mat-ic|, adjective: characteristic of melodrama, esp. in being exaggerated, sensationalized, or overemotional 

Putting them in order of influence may be a bit harder, since they often change position with little or no advance warning, depending on circumstances, and there are large areas of overlap and interaction.

Mild chaos rules my life. I am never completely sure of anything and there is so much going on at the same time, and on so many levels, that any sustained form of order is next to impossible.

Contradiction is an integral part of chaos and colors most of my life. I am, for example extremely insecure, bordering on needy, while at the same time utterly convinced that I have some special talent or ability which gives me authority to influence other people's thinking and outlook. I often sincerely frighten myself with my self-loathing while at the same time being utterly convinced that I am somehow very special, and my view of the world is the way everyone should view the world.

My egocentrism, which is pretty tightly interwoven with my other three key words, is rather like the 800 pound gorilla in the room, dominating these blogs and almost everything I write. But I really like to think that my apparent self-absorption really isn't so much a matter of that I think I'm so special (which I am, of course, as are you) but simply because I am the only human being for whom I can speak with any degree of confidence. My assumption that you share many of my views is total egocentrism; however, I find validation in the fact that you're reading my words now.

Because I still react emotionally to the world largely on a child's level, I've always been given to melodrama. Its air of unreality adds spice to my life, and I like to fool myself into thinking it allows me to vicariously experience feelings I cannot express. I do feel emotions deeply. And yet, ironically, no matter how intensely I feel—no matter how very much I might long to really, really cry, or cheer, or dance...there is something within me that does not allow it, and no matter how turbulent my inner emotions, externally I stand like a pillar of salt, watching others do so easily those things I cannot.

And there you have it: the four words—chaos, contradiction, ego, and melodrama—that underlie almost everything this writer…this one human being...does, or says, or writes. I do encourage you to take a moment to think of four words upon and around which your own life is built, and I, for one, would be delighted to hear them.
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This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com



Saturday, July 21, 2018

When Then Was Now


Every now and then I like to go back to the letters I wrote my parents while in the Navy—and which have been published in e-book form as A World Ago—a Navy Man’s Letters Home, 1954-1956, to see what I was doing on the same date nearly 60 years ago. I found this, and thought I’d share it with you. (The “Lloyd” referred to was a shipmate on whom I had a terrific crush, even though he was totally and irredeemably straight. Needless to say, though I’d been gay since the age of five, I had to be very careful not to let it be known.)

 6 - 7 May, 1956

Dear Folks

After several days’ silence, I rise from the dead and take pen in hand once more.  Today is the Greek Easter. Today is also the morning after the night before, though I am quite proud of myself, having come through the entire ordeal with what I consider “flying colors.”

Lloyd and I went on tour yesterday.  The tour got over about three thirty―we got back to the ship at five minutes to twelve.  Between the hours mentioned came God only knows how many bottles of wine.  If it hadn’t been for the goodness of three Greek sailors, we probably never would have gotten back.  We met them in the subway, and stayed with them a couple hours.  A grand time was had by all.

I suppose I should be ashamed of myself―I’ve been spending far too much money, but who cares?  This will be the last good liberty port we will hit until we return home.  Which reminds me―did I mention our month’s extension?  Now we’re not supposed to get back to the States until July sometime.  (And then again, I heard today that we’d received another dispatch canceling the extension.)  Oh, well, think what you will.

The guide we had on the tour did not have the gift of narration that would have been so helpful―I knew more of the legends and mythology than he, and carried on a sort of secondary running commentary on whatever he said for those who didn’t understand what he was getting at.  Still, it was interesting to see what I’ve been reading about.

And here it is still another day―I have developed a muscular tic in my left arm, which is going to town at this minute.  It only goes away when I concentrate on it.  There―it’s gone.  It will be back.

The weather here has been from warm to mild, with occasional showers and cold winds in the hills and mountains.  Other than that, it’s been excellent.  I shot another two rolls of film on the tour Saturday, and so when I get home we’ll have to spread them out over several evenings. 
I got a kick out of mom’s saying that the sea air might harm the film―they are inside a steel box in a metal locker three decks down in a steel ship.   They never even see daylight, let alone salt spray.

Tomorrow we leave Athens―it doesn’t seem possible that we’ve been here a week.

Someone has donated a tape recorder, to which we are now listening―the current selection is a classical gem called “Who Put the Devil in Evelyn’s Eyes?”―a question which remains unanswered through the entire three minutes it takes the vocal group to ask the same question one hundred thirty-four times.

Later this evening Lloyd and I are going to play canasta―for which we bought two decks of cards.

You know, Saturday night we tried to figure out just why it is we should be such good buddies―I’m not the kind to have tons of friends―in the Navy, anyway.  I came to the conclusion it is because he is everything I am not, or would like to be, rather; and he looks up to me for some reason; I’m a combination of big brother and conscience.  At any rate, we get along.  Besides, I always wanted a brother.

Oh―now they’ve got a real tear-jerker―a “mountain-William” with the heartrending repetition of the phrase “Dawn’t let me hang around if yew dawn’t care.”  (Excerpt from a conversation―highly intellectual―about  the new records of a friend―“Man, they got some terrific stuff―Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb―man, that’s fine music.”  The horrible thing was that he meant it!)

I’m getting several members of our little group highly irritated.  Now, I fully believe that “to each his own”―but why THAT?

                                             Love
                                                Roge
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This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com.