Wednesday, November 30, 2011

People as Punctuation

Some people are periods. Some are exclamation points. Some are commas. I'm a question mark.

I know, I know...I spend far, far too much time on introspection and trying to figure out exactly what the hell is going on. I never have and probably never will understand the world or my place in it, and I spend so much time dwelling on me because I don't know nearly enough to presume to talk about you and your place in the world. I just do a wing-it hopeful assumption that maybe there are some things about life that you don't understand, either

We look out on the sea of faces around us, and we see...faces; the surface. We can make assumptions based on a number of probably unreliable clues, such as how other people carry themselves and the ease with which they relate to others. But we cannot know what goes on beneath those surfaces because we're all programmed to keep the vast bulk of what's going on inside our individual selves...well, inside. We seldom know for sure what punctuation marks lie beneath the surface.

I'm not sure--three words which sum up my existence--why; probably because our punctuation marks are hidden beneath the all-inclusive blanket of what they call "cultural imperatives": actions dictated by belief systems shared by/unconsciously imposed on a group or individual by the greater society, and to which all members of that group adhere. Given that there are now more than seven billion of us, without some sort of imposed unanimity it would be like throwing a Molotov cocktail into a fireworks factory.

As a result, most of us are extremely hesitant to let anyone know what lies beneath the surface. But as you have probably noticed, I have a penchant for laying myself out like a "help yourself" table at a rummage sale. Nothing's secret; nothing's too sacred to be talked about.

Because, not understanding what is expected of me...even by myself...I am too easily confused, frustrated, and angered. I blame myself for what I see as my failings--which I do not readily see when looking at the surfaces of others. And I, personally, am always favorably swayed though often misled by what I consider to be beautiful or attractive people (especially men, of course). And I tend to ascribe to them qualities they may not indeed possess simply because I consider them to be beautiful or attractive. (This, by the way, seems to be fairly universal trait.)

Growing older certainly exacerbates the entire situation. On those rare occasions when I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror, I am truly, sincerely shocked by what I see. Who IS that man? What became of ME? I find it bitterly ironic that, while I was young, I always considered myself singularly unattractive, and it is only now, looking back a photos of myself, that I realize I wasn't all that unattractive at all. Why couldn't I have realized it at the time?

At times I have the distinct impression that life is a game of cat and mouse...and guess who's the mouse?

When it comes to one's--okay, my--relationship with other people it is once again largely a matter of assumption. I can assume things about you based on personal observation, but I can't know for sure that I'm right. The hope/assumption that you share some of my feelings, reactions, and instincts sufficiently to understand what I'm saying is partly, I'm sure, a method I use to avoid feeling any more like an outsider than I have to. Yet all I need do is look at the news or listen to Rush Limbaugh/Eric Cantor/Michelle Bachmann and their ilk to be quite sure that I'm living in some sci-fi movie, surrounded by beings totally alien from myself.

Some people--the exclamation points--stride through life, purposeful and sure of themselves and their place in it; most are periods--just pleasantly compliant round dots, simply accepting things as they are; a few are commas, a little bolder than periods, curious about what comes next in life. I and my fellow question marks, by our very nature, can never be content--there is just too much to know and not enough time to know it. And every answer hides another question.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( )

Monday, November 28, 2011


I seem to always be searching for new analogies to try to make sense of this vast Terra Incognita which is my life, and this morning for absolutely no reason--there so seldom is one--I was remembering the pinball machine we had in the basement of my parents' home when I was in high school. Where it came from and what happened to it I cannot recall...and the fact that it has taken all of two sentences for me to begin wandering off into a digression goes to the subject of this blog.

Thinking of that pinball machine...and pinball machines in general...I immediately saw a correlation between one of those shiny steel balls caroming haphazardly through the sloping maze of bumpers and obstacles and traps, and me and life. The ball somehow makes its way to the bottom of the machine only to be propelled back again, never ever hitting the same bumpers and obstacles and traps the same way twice. As I say, me and life--and, I suspect, you and life.

As I type this, I am trying to install an update to iTunes to my computer. Ten minutes or so into it, I get a small box saying "In order to continue installation, please close the following application: iTunes" with a bar at the bottom of the box saying "Quit Installer." I close the "application: iTunes." The box remains; no further progress is made (according to the little should-be-moving bar at the top of the screen). But if I "Quit Installer" I cancel out everything that I've done to that point. Dear Lord! Carom! I finally figured it out (I think) and the installation was completed! Hooray! I then went to click on iTunes so I could hear some soothing music after my ordeal. Got a message saying "Your iTunes account has been disabled." Carom-Carom-Ping! Will I get iTunes back? Will the world end not with a bang, but a whimper?

A bit earlier, I went to post a blog on Open Salon. It took a full ten minutes to even reach the site, then another 15 minutes to be able to post the blog. The accompanying illustration never did post, so I finally gave up. I know the fact that I somehow manage to take all these little mishaps personally deprives me of being the poster boy for robust mental health, but I can't help myself.

Old-fashioned pinball machines--real machines over which the player had some modicum of control-- are now pretty much relics, replaced by totally digital, beyond-the-player's-control devices. And on thinking it over, the evolution of pinball games is a pretty good analogy of how our society itself has changed; yet another area of our lives in which humans have lost all power to manipulate or influence, relegated to just standing by and watching the action.

Of course, everyone's life is like an old-fashioned game of pinball. Once our little steel ball is catapulted onto the table of life, exactly what route it takes to the bottom is different for each of us. Some of us are naturally better at the game than others, knowing (or being lucky in) just how to give give a little nudge to the machine or flip one of the little paddles at just the right time to change the course of the ball. I, needless to say, am very poor at it.

Something there is within the human psyche that totally unrealistically expects life to be far simpler than it is, and reacts to the fact that it isn't simple with rebellion rather than acceptance. When something does not go the way we expect/want it to, or something bad happens to us, personally, the common human reaction is to ask "why me?" The answer, befitting the question, is: "Because." If not me, who?

Man is a sentient ball in the vast, insentient pinball machine of life. We don't have to like it, but to like or not to like is not an option. Better we just resign ourselves to the fact and try our best to enjoy the game. We only play it once.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, the recently-released Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Of a Gloomy Day

While I love bright, warm, sunny days, there is much to be said for Edgar Allen Poe, Heathcliff-on-the Moors days. They add balance and give time for reflection and a sense of inner calm and contentment. Being inside and warm, looking out through rain-streaked windows at low, dark clouds, trees swaying in the wind, a dark, brooding day can create a sense of pleasant melancholy. Rainy days lend themselves to contemplation of things not usually given much thought on sunny days. It's as though there's a subtle mental shift from the physical to the cerebral. Life takes on a slower pace--things don't appear to be quite so rushed.

And though gloomy days best lend themselves to solitary pleasures--reading, listening to music, the rare luxury of contemplation and quiet introspection, sharing them with a friend or two in quiet conversation has its own unique quiet pleasures. And in the word "quiet," I think, lies the key to gloomy days. (One of my favorite synonyms for "gloomy," is "lugubrious"...a delicious sounding, seldom heard word, though it is a probably a little excessive for the intent of this blog.)

Gloomy days whisper "there's no rush," a message we need to hear, but which tends to be lost or too easily ignored on sunny days. Unfortunately, too many people unfairly equate gloomy days with boredom or lethargy, when they need be neither.

When I lived in the snow belt of the Great North Woods where 3-foot snowfalls were not uncommon, I loved looking out the window at the snow blowing horizontally past the windows and both hearing and feeling the wind throwing itself against the house. I loved it. (Getting outside and shoveling a path to my car, then digging the car out and clearing a path to the road in the subzero cold, however, somewhat balanced the pleasure of being inside looking out.)

There is an actual medically-recognized condition, Seasonal Affective Disorder, which can result in severe depression for those deprived of sunlight for too long a period. It's quite common in areas of the country such as far northern Wisconsin, where I lived for many years where long winters can tend to be wearing. The condition's appropriate acronym, S.A.D., can be countered by light therapy using a lightbox emitting far more lumens than a customary incandescent lamp.

But for those who merely appreciate the variety the occasional gloomy day presents, rain is calmative, smoothing the sharper edges of what might under other circumstances have been sadder thoughts, memories, and recollections, and softens the sting from self recriminations and regrets.

It is the different, the unexpected, which provide the spices of life. It can be the gradual movement of an all day or several day event, or relatively quick and surprising. Summer thunderstorms, preceded by black clouds sweeping across the sky and the far-off but advancing cymbal-clash flashes of lightning and deep tympani booms of thunder are, to me, the last notes of a celestial symphony, the heavy rain sounding like applause. And when a storm is over, Mother Nature sometimes gives us a curtain call in the form of a rainbow.

One of my fondest weather memories of living in Northern Wisconsin was standing in my back yard and watching a weather front moving toward me from west to east. A ruler-straight line drawn from northern horizon to southern horizon divided sharp blue sky to the east of the line with an unbroken wall of black clouds to the west. An amazing sight.

Good weather encourages us to get out, to focus our body and our mind on exterior things. But the next time dark clouds move in, look on them as an invitation to spend some pleasant time inside--both your house and your mind.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, the recently-released Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Boy in the Band

I'm not sure why I find such bittersweet comfort in rereading letters I wrote my parents while I was in the Navy so very long ago. I guess it's the direct-link reminder of who I was, once upon a time. Each letter is a a frame in the movie of my life, and I only wish I was more fully aware of just how amazing it was as I lived it. Even the ordinary, nothing-special days and the letters they produced are like the ghosts of a long ago, favorite aftershave. Here's one.

Monday, November 29, 1954

Dear Folks

I have time (where it comes from or how I don’t know) to dash off a short note, partially to make up for my long silence. Saturday (no, Friday) I went down and helped Eastern Air Lines buy a new DC-6. And it only cost me $112.90—I had to pawn some old family heirlooms to be able to get my ticket. I cashed my last government check ($50.00) and when I came home I had a little over twenty left! $17 for the plane, plus $5 for a new head for my razor.

Saturday night the band played for a football game—did fairly well, even though we had to compete with the drill team and the Pensacola High School Band, which was really terrific. After returning to the base, I was in one of my “moods,” if it could be called that, and felt like taking a walk. It was raining like mad, but I like to walk in the rain. By this time it was 11:40; a bus came by heading for town, so I took it. Oh, well—it’s fun to be different every now and then.

Just think—only about ten or twelve more days in this place—and only seventeen days more till I come home—I’ve been away so long the very thought of home doesn’t even sink in. I’ll have to believe it when I see it.

I’m sorry if every time I write I seem to be in a bad mood, but at the moment, I could cheerfully DOR (Drop On Request) and be done with this ….*@..program. It has been proven that certain people are “accident prone”—well, I am “frustrating situation prone.” Nobody, and I mean NOBODY can get into the trouble I do in as short a time and with as little effort. At the moment I am not sure if I will ever get through this program (and I don’t care---“at the moment”). I am, as usual, on “academic probation” (--not being set back a week). Every night I go to band study hall. Also every night the battalion has its own study hall, for men who are on academic probation. Band study hall is supposed to excuse you from the battalion “stupid study,” as it’s called. The only drawback to this is that no-one bothered to tell the battalion captains; as stupid study is compulsory, and since I was not there, I was put on report, and chewed out by the captain.

After telling appropriate people, I was assured that the captains would be told and demerits canceled, which they were. So tonight, I went to band study hall, to return to the battalion and face another report chit; tomorrow I must see the same captain who chewed me out before and who evidently still hasn’t been told that I’m excused. And Battalion 4 is noted for its sweet and gentle captains.

Well, here I am again, a day later and no wiser. Went to speak to the Captain, forgot to sound off properly, and was given another five and one. If my demerits were Confederate money, the South would rise again.

Another day—by now its Wed. I think I’m in a little better spirits, but I really can’t tell. Only two more finals and I’m through! You know, it’s funny how the band can pick up my “lagging spirits.” Last night at band practice we got a whole bunch of new music—Song from Moulin Rouge, Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” (which is one of my favorites) the Triumphal March from Quo Vadis, which is fabulous, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, and some others which we didn’t get a chance to play. Since the band is now officially recognized by the Navy, we get free music every month from Washington.

The Admiral received a letter from NBC saying that Arthur Godfrey wasn’t on that week-end, but asked how we would like to play a half hour show of our own. So that’s the latest. Now, if we play, you’ll be sure to see us (you’d better). It’s only ten days or so away, though, so there’s a possibility we won’t be able to be ready. We also don’t know the date or time yet for sure.

Well, as I’ve said before, the days till I graduate are rushing by (though they can’t rush by fast enough to suit me); and this being one of those days it is also rushing by, I’d better get busy and study if I want to pass those finals.

Hope to have more time to write in the future—I know I will once I get out to Corry Field.

Till then, I remain
Your Prodigal Son

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, the recently-released Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).

Monday, November 21, 2011


Every now and again I find myself however-briefly in a state best described as "Nothing" when, even though fully aware of the number of things I could and should be doing, I am for some reason unwilling or incapable of doing any of them. It's not a comfortable feeling, and I resent it.

There's a great song in A Chorus Line titled "Nothing," in which a girl in an acting class struggles with her inability to respond with the feelings her instructor wants her to. At the moment, I know how she feels--or doesn't feel.

I set out this morning to work on my next book. Whenever I'm away from it for any period of time, I always start reading about three or four paragraphs from where I'd left off as a form of mental pump-priming, so that when I get to the last words written, I can just sail right on. But as I did the same thing this morning, I found I had no reaction to it. Nothing. And I had/have absolutely no idea of what the next sentence should be. And the worst part was that I didn't care. Not a comfortable sensation, to be sure.

"All right," I tell myself, "if you don't want to work on the book--which you really, really should be doing--what would you like to do?"

And the answer, not surprisingly, is "Nothing."

So I sit staring at the monitor...noting that it really needs to be wiped off...and listening to classical music and guessed it. I could play some computer solitaire but I have noticed that, for me, it is soporific; three or four games into it and I find myself nodding off.

Nature, they say, abhors a vacuum. So do I, in that a vacuum is, in essence, Nothing. There'll be plenty of time for Nothing--an eternity's worth--once I'm dead, and that prospect doesn't concern me in the least. Death and nothing are synonymous. Therefore moments of Nothing while I'm still alive are disconcerting in the extreme. While I'm still alive, Nothing robs me of life, and there is precious little enough of life in even the best of circumstances

I know that for a great many people, doing Nothing is considered a pleasant pastime. To sit under a tree on a warm summer's day, doing nothing, with no cares and nothing that must be done immediately is generally considered idyllic. I can go along with it for maybe three minutes, max. No matter the beauty of my surroundings or the sense of peace it may offer, I will look around for a passing insect so that I can watch and wonder where it's going and why, and to create scenarios about it. Or I will become absorbed in watching clouds and seeing what my imagination might do with them. To be fair, I would assume those I see sitting in parks or on the lakeshore apparently doing nothing must be at least thinking of something. Otherwise it's rather like watching a screensaver of an aquarium or a burning log.

I am driven to avoid Nothing at all costs, and frantically try to fill it in with Something...Anything. On those occasions where Nothing becomes overbearing--waiting rooms without magazines, bus stops, el platforms--I find myself excruciatingly uncomfortable. Whenever I know I'm going to be in a situation where prolonged waiting will be involved, I try to take along my laptop--though I have found trying to use a laptop in a moving vehicle is a lot easier in theory than in practice.

But, ever the optimist, I suppose I can take comfort that even the subject of Nothing can produce something. This blog, for example.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, the recently-released Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Reality Wars

Well, the title of this blog might be slightly misleading. I am at war with reality, but reality doesn't give a crap: I sincerely doubt that reality even knows I exist. But because I am, by choice, increasingly estranged from reality, I do not handle it well when we do run into one another. I am at a total loss as to how reality operates, and at times such as now I find it almost impossible to verbalize many of my problems with it.

Following written instructions is a primary example. If I am reading, for example, how to give my computer access to some a new technological marvel, I seldom get two sentences into the directions without becoming totally confused. I do not handle confusion well, either. Brain-freeze sets in immediately, followed quickly by total mental meltdown to the point where I am hard pressed to remember my own name.

I pick up the instruction manual and read: "Before beginning installation, be sure the framilizer is shut off. Next, take the osculating miramostat (Illustration B) and carefully insert it into the bifurvated scramister (Illustration M)." Usually, on studying Illustrations B and M with utmost care, I am totally unable to identify either the osculating mirmostat or the bifurvated scramister and I am reminded once again of a vending machine I saw in a subway station many years ago...a gleaming, ultra-modern device with enticing photos of the product offered. There was a slot into which money was to be placed but no opening from which to retrieve the product. None. Nowhere. Not front, side, or back (the machine stood about seven feet tall and sat directly on the concrete floor, preventing me from checking either the top or the bottom). I stood in front of that machine for five full minutes trying to figure out where the product came out, and never did.

Now, surely there had to be some sort of portal through which the product was retrieved. There had to have been, but I was totally unable to find it. And that experience pretty much sums up my dealings with reality: I just don't get it. My life is filled with "there has to be"'s when in fact, for me there isn't.

Yet given my high level of incomprehension, I am still a sucker for trying to do things I am told I must do. I belong to Facebook, which has recently been going through a minotaurs labyrinth of changes to make its subscribers' lives so very much easier. Theirs, maybe, but certainly not mine. I am told I must separate all my "followers/friends/whatever-in-hell-they-are's" into several categories: Friends, family, acquaintances, etc. (with lots of space to create my own categories). Since I have over 700 contacts, I subsequently spent far more time than necessary doing what I was told to do, only to realize that I am now unable to see posts from anyone in many of those categories. The reason I joined Facebook in the first place was to establish contact and get feedback from as many people as possible, which following Facebook's directions has now made either impractical or impossible.

I am then instructed that I can "+1" them. I have no idea what +1-ing does, but I set out to follow the directions to +1 them. I get about 46 +1s done when it dawns on me that maybe I should see just what +1-ing does. I still don't know, but I do find all 46 on a new Dorien Grey page which I'd never had before but which appears to be a carbon copy of my original page. I post a message to the "new" page, and find it does not also appear on my original page. So I now have two Facebook pages under "Dorien Grey" with no discernible crossover, and to be able to say something to the people on both pages, I have to double-post everything.

I do not want to double post everything. I do not want two Dorien Grey pages--which I basically cannot tell apart (other than the fact that one page shows I have 711 friends and the other that I have 46). Apparently they cannot be combined, and since both have the same log-in information, to attempt to delete one would, with my luck, undoubtedly delete them both. And even if I could, to delete one of them would also delete however many followers I have on that page.

If you were able to make one bit of sense out of the above, please let me know and I will send you a little gold star to paste on your refrigerator.

And let me make it clear that I am not blaming reality. It knows exactly what it is doing. I just wish I did.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, the recently-released Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Spam and Train Wrecks

I've tried countless times to figure out my total revulsion/utter fascination with internet spam. It's rather like watching a passenger train plunging off a bridge--you watch it in horror, but you watch it nonetheless.

I suppose it is very much like the case of the guy who goes to the doctor, pushes his head to one side with his palm and says "Doc, it hurts when I do this," to which the doctor replies, "Well, then, don't do it." Nobody's holding a gun to my head and forcing me to read spam. Why can't I, like everyone else in the world, just ignore it? Well, for one thing, to me it's like trying to avoid a cloud of mosquitoes hovering around my head. Or like the young man I once dated in Los Angeles who, when I brought him home, wanted to have sex with my tennis shoes. I actually dated him again because I couldn't believe it the first time.

My fascination is due to the utter incomprehensibility of Spam and what the spammers truly think they're achieving. Even more intriguing is how anyone with sufficient intelligence to be able to read can give an atom of credence to what is read in a spam message?

My revulsion stems from many things: the dumbfoundingly brazen, utterly unapologetic lies, the complete lack of a single iota of logic, the spit-in-your-face contempt the spammer displays for the intelligence of the recipient (not to mention the lack of basic intelligence displayed in the messages themselves), the astonishing arrogance of the spammer in assuming that any human being could be gullible enough to fall for their garbage.

Spammers are an utterly despicable, loathsome sub-species. It is my inability to admit the fact that they exist which forms the base of my fascination. I simply cannot believe that any human being could be so shamelessly predatory, so totally devoid of honor, dignity, compassion, decency, or any other trait to which the bulk of humanity aspires.

There has to be a strong element of mental masochism in my inability to simply hit "Delete" without at least scanning the initial words. That I take each message as a personal insult may also indicate a slight problem.

I rest my case with the following, received three minutes ago. Please take a moment to read, to study it...carefully to savor every subtle nuance, from to whom this very "personal" message is being sent, to the fact that the message is sent from Qatar. We all know lots of people in Qatar, of course.

to undisclosed recipients

We receive an email that you are dead and you ask one Dr. John Mark to come and claim your FUND, now and he has also agreed to pay for the renew of your paper works, I am writing you to know if you are truly DEAD OR ALIVE, if you do not reply back before 12hrs we will have no other alternative than to believe that you are truly dead according to Dr. John Mark.

And if you are still alive you can get back to me as fast as you can or you can call me on +234 819-159-2634, so take note that every thing has been paid for it is just for the renew of your paper work that this Dr. John Mark has agreed to pay for and also if you refuse to get back to us am afraid we shall give him the FUND and collect the money from him that means that, he is written that you are dead and you ask him to come and claim the FUND on your behalf.

Please take note that you have been given just 12hours to get back to us so that we can know if you are alive, and fill the Information Below:

Driver License:
House Address:
Direct Cell Phone Number:

We await your swift response in regard of this email we have received from Dr. John Mark, reply back to this email:

It is to weep.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, the recently-released Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).

Monday, November 14, 2011

It Ain't Easy

People tend to look upon romantics as being somehow delicate and fragile blossoms. Nothing could be further from the truth. To be a romantic in today's world is like being a single flower sprouting from a wall of rock: it sure ain't easy. It's difficult--almost impossible--not to become totally disheartened and discouraged by the world around us. Newspapers, television news reports, and talk-show messiahs bombard us, day in and day out, with examples of the worst elements of human nature to the almost total exclusion of the good. But then, gloom and doom sell; happiness and joy have little commercial appeal.

Surrounded by seemingly overwhelming evidence that we are doomed, vast numbers of otherwise good people, frustrated and confused by the world around them, willingly cede their right to think for themselves to those who, knowing nothing but speaking with an air of absolute authority, assume they know everything. Any self-serving pundit who claims to have the answers to unanswerable questions --without, you'll notice, ever offering details--is sure to gain a devoted if brain-dead following regardless of how specious and/or devoid of logic their claims may be. The mountainsides are alight with the burning bushes of these whose fire creates not light but toxic fumes. And their followers gather raptly 'round, breathing deeply.

Meanwhile, huge segments of our population, deprived of education, encouragement, employment, and hope, smolder on the fringes of society. I live in Chicago, which is, in fact, not one but two cities, a classic division of north and south. While I cannot cite statistics, I am confident in stating that the vast preponderance of violence and, not coincidentally, illiteracy and poverty in the city is located on the south side. That the south side has a disproportionate number of blacks and latinos as compared to the north side is not racist or an attempt to disparage their worth as human beings, but merely further evidence that it is that blacks and latinos throughout the country who are, to a shameful degree, too often denied access to those things which could lift them out of negative factors which keep them from an equal chance for growth.

Disenfranchisement breeds disenfranchisement. Those denied basic opportunities for improvement can scarcely be blamed for not having them. Sadly, those denied opportunity too often develop contempt for the very values they themselves are denied. Human life itself is devalued. Death means nothing when life means nothing. Denied courtesy, compassion, and consideration in their own lives, they then deny those things, and more, to others. Their reality is not only bleak, but too often devoid of hope.

Gangs, the bane of law enforcement, are formed to provide their members the sense of belonging the outside world denies them. Things seen by those in the mainstream of society as being counterproductive to progress in the workplace--excessive tattooing, in-your-face clothing, hairstyles, and attitudes, a disregard for the day-to-day language of the majority, etc.--are embraced by those without hope as a way of self expression, and the more hopeless they feel, the more extreme their flaunting of the larger society in which they do not feel welcome. It is a vicious circle seemingly spinning out of control.

Which brings us back, by a rather circuitous route, to the original point of this blog. We each deal with the reality of the world in our own way. My way is to ignore it as much as I possibly can. I am that flower which somehow manages to survive in a small crack of romanticism in the rock of reality. I find emotional nourishment in even the smallest evidence of goodness. Any display of patriotism, the bravery of individuals or groups responding to disaster, scenes of people helping or comforting one another, masses of people acting on or reacting to a positive stimulus; grown men crying, stirring music--all are guaranteed to elicit the strongest emotional response in me.

So as far as I am concerned, being a romantic is not easy, but it is worth the effort to try. And, when balanced on the scale of who we are as a race, evil may have the volume, but without question good has the weight.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, the recently-released
Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).

Friday, November 11, 2011

Whither the Interrobang?

I'm having one of those "I need a blog for tomorrow and haven't a clue as to what to write about" days. I'd like to say (and think) that this type of day is very rare, but alas...and seemingly is not. It is indeed true that often an idea pops into my head and I sit down at the computer and go from the first word to the last without so much as a pause. More often, I find myself rummaging through the cluttered closet of my mind until I come up with something I fancy or think I can use. But there are times, like today, where trying to find something to write about is akin to drilling for oil, with all the labor involved and no guarantee that I'm going to find what I'm looking for.

Since I never throw away anything I've written, I often start a blog, get a few sentences into it, and then abandon it for any one of a dozen reasons. I then carefully save however much I'd managed to write on the subject to my "Dorien Grey and Me" blog file, prefacing the title with either a "U"...for "unfinished"...or a "UB"..."unfinished, begun" with the date I started writing it and the title. This gives me an idea, at a glance, how long it's been sitting there. I just checked, in hopes of having one of the unfinished titles strike a spark which I then might use to kindle a brilliant and memorable blog. Nothing. And I note to my great dismay that I have 23 prospective but unfinished blogs prefaced by "U" and, purely coincidentally, another 23 prefaced by "UB". That's 46 potential blogs--three months' worth, were I to complete them all (which I know I'll never do).

And just sitting here, I've come up with the title and idea for a future blog (no time to do it before tomorrow, I'm afraid) called "A Garden of Words," comparing outdated and arcane words ("prithee," "thee/thou/thine/thy," "mayhaps") with exotic hothouse flowers. Well, soon, I hope.

However immodestly, I do think I have a gift for catchy titles, and there are a number of pretty good ones in the Unfinished pile: "Druthers," "Whither the Interrobang?" (which I just stole to use as the title for what I'm writing now), "MacArthur Park," "Life in the Rabbit Hole," "Your Career in Spam," to name a few. Whether I'll ever get around to finishing any of them is unknown, and I sometimes find that the title sounds better than what comes up when I start to get into it. It's most likely why I have so many in my Unfinished list.

I've noticed that many bloggers tend to have...well, specialties. My friend Kage Alan writes always-humorous pieces about his partner, "Pookie" (a.k.a. Ralph) and Ralph's Chinese grandmother, who to Kage is "the Godmonster." I admire Kage, and anyone who can consistently find humor in the most ordinary things. As you may have noticed, I tend to dwell on one the secondary subject of the past. Kage's goal is to amuse, and he succeeds. My goal, as so often stated, is, by spreading myself out before you like the entrails of an owl, that you might read in them some things about yourself to which you've never given much consideration...or considered to be something only you have thought or experienced.

Blogs are, I feel, a very effective tool for a writer. It provides a way to reveal himself/herself to the reader in a way far different than in a book, and to show himself/herself (Oh, dear God! Here we go again with this ridiculous "politically correct" nonsense!) as a human being, not merely, as the wonderful Frank Morgan describes himself in his role of the Wizard of Oz "the man behind the curtain." And while I always consider my books to be a form of conversation between myself and the reader, I feel blogs give me the chance to get closer to the reader--and in far fewer words than I can in a book.

So let's hear it for blogs and their ability to build shorter, less elaborate bridges between me and you.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, the recently-released Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Books and Dreams

There is a trinity of dreams. First and chief among them is the collective dreams of our race, which guide us toward a better future and urge us to strive to make them come true. That few of these dreams have yet been fully realized never stops us from having them. We are an indomitable race, and we are patient.

Second is the only form of dreams most people are aware of: those we have as individuals while we sleep, which are considered by some scientists to be a form of subconscious mental housekeeping…a way each of us tries to resolve inner conflicts and deal with the waking world around us. The brain has often been referred to as a computer, yet in two major ways they are diametrically opposed: computers operate on the logic of the literal. They lack the flexibility necessary for dreaming. The human mind, especially when dreaming operates almost totally on what the waking brain would consider totally illogical.

The third of the trinity of dreams is what prompted this entry: those dreams which are conceived in the mind of individual artists, musicians, and writers and translated into forms which can be understood and shared by others.

I’ve always considered books to be a writer’s dreams set to paper: I know mine are. They are formed, as are all dreams, in the imagination. But unlike sleep dreams, the writer has some degree of control over them. If unable to direct the dream’s every aspect, at least the writer can consciously influence them by nudging them in certain directions. I know that some writers plot out every single step and detail of a story before actually sitting down to write. It works for J.K. Rowling, who has made more money from transcribing her dreams of Harry Potter into more money than I will ever see in ten lifetimes. But it would never work for me. The element of spontaneity, both in sleep dreams and writing, is far too crucial for me.

If writing can be compared to flowing water, the detailed-plotting method seems to be like one of Los Angeles’ drainage canals—straight as an arrow and contained within concrete walls. I prefer mine to be like a meandering river: I know where it’s going, but while I can see the bends coming up, I have no idea what lies beyond them. And I am always aware that I am not on the journey alone: the reader and I are Huck and Jim on the raft, flowing through the story together. I can’t imagine it being any other way.

People frequently ask where I get the ideas for my books…and even my blogs…and my answer is always the same: I quite honestly have no idea. They just appear. (If I can be allowed another metaphor here, I’ve often likened my “creative process” to be like the gas bubbles rising to the surface of a tar pit. I’ll be minding my own business, thinking of almost anything except where my next story/blog idea is going to come from, when I’ll be aware of something rising to the surface. I’ll watch while it emerges and forms a bubble of thought and finally bursts, leaving me with a topic or plot idea. I love it!

For me to try to explain how these bubbles form and exactly how I handle them when they do appear is as impossible as explaining how we dream what we dream when we’re asleep. I

All dreams are born and are nourished in the nursery of the subconscious, and there they remain until they are ready to emerge, either as a sleep dream or as a book or a painting or a sculpture or a symphony. Dreams are our humanity, and I cherish them, whatever form they take.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, the recently-released Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).

Monday, November 07, 2011

Go, E-Rabs!!

I received a notice today of my high-school class reunion--the 60th, if you can believe it, and I hope you can, because I certainly can't. I will not be in attendance, just as I was not in attendance for my first-through-fifty-ninth reunions. The charming saying "Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out" fairly well sums up my attitude on my high-school experience.

For me, it was like spending four years watching paint dry. Even when I try very hard, I can remember almost nothing at all about it. While I had a number of friendly acquaintances, with the exception of Gary Atkins and Lief Ayen, both irredeemably straight and to whom I never "confessed" to being gay, I had no real friends. I was not a mingler in high school; I am not a mingler now. It's not that my classmates weren't, by and large, nice people; it's just that I was painfully aware that I had absolutely nothing in common with them. And though I realized later that it was a statistical impossibility, I was to the very best of my knowledge the only gay in school.

I know there were enjoyable moments during those four years, of course. There had to have been. It's just that they are so buried in the banality that I don't care to take the time to go looking for them.

I suppose I could consider the numerous sexual encounters with my (male) classmates pleasant, if I could remember them. One of the nice things--for me--was that teenage males are ruled by hormones and testosterone and it is the responding to them which matters far more than the niceties of with whom the end result is achieved. The self-recriminations (theirs, certainly not mine) always came after the act; they never prevented them. And the unwritten rule was that they never, never be spoken of again. Ever. I never came out to anyone in school, not that I needed to. I wasn't bullied or picked on. I was just like one of the extras in a movie mob scene; there, but unnoticed.

I probably had a few more casual girl friends--as opposed to girlfriends, the very idea of which revolted me to the core--than guys. One, Marlene, whom I called "Flower" after Thumper's girlfriend in "Bambi" was truly charmingly sweet, and I enjoyed her company. Another was a very nice girl named Donna of whom I was quite fond. I felt an affinity with Donna, who was overweight, not beautiful, and therefore, like me, invisible. But what she lacked on the outside, she more than made up for in kindness and understanding.

In high school, as has been true most of my life, I was acutely aware that, being gay, I did not "belong," and I cannot, in all honesty, remember really ever wanting to belong. Of course, I wanted to be liked...who doesn't? But for going to dances and hanging around with my classmates after school and weekends,...nothing. They were heterosexual. I was not, and never the twain shall meet. Again, my memory may be slightly faulty here, but I also do not remember ever being particularly lonely because of it. I know now, when I read of how difficult it is for gay teens today, how blessed I was.

My only extra-curricular activity in high school was orchestra, in which I played the clarinet, not particularly well. I took it up in junior high after falling in love with Mike Alongi, who in addition to being beautiful was a truly talented clarinetist. I think I might have been a grade or two behind him, so he was totally unaware of my existence, though I was achingly aware of his. In the orchestra, which was led by a nice older teacher named June Borland--I had never heard of a man named June before, and I fear that is the only reason I still remember him--there was a trombone player who went by the name of Candy. He was, to me, dumbfoundingly beautiful, but I was several planets beyond Pluto in the solar system of which he was the sun.

Oh, and to this day, I have no idea why we called ourselves "E-Rabs." ("E," I know, stood for East High. "Rabs" stood for God-knows what.) I didn't care then, and I don't care now.

So, while I wish my classmates, 99.9 percent of whose names I cannot recall, a wonderful reunion discussing golf and spouses and showing photos of the grandchildren, I don't think my not being there ("Roger who?") will be either noticed or missed. And I'd just as soon keep it that way; though I would be delighted were they to decide to read some of my books.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, the recently-released Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).

Friday, November 04, 2011

Of a Long-Ago November

Every now and then I enjoy going back over the letters I wrote my parents while I was in the Navy so very long ago. They are a form of time-travel for me, taking me back mentally and emotionally if not physically to a time when I was very young and the world lay before me like the presents beneath a Christmas tree.

Here is a letter I wrote when I'd been in the Navy less than three months. My 21st birthday was still two weeks away, and I was beginning to realize that for all the wonder that lay ahead, there was also danger.

Monday, November 1, 1954

Dear Folks

This isn’t going to be a pleasant letter—at least not the first part of it—mainly because it deals with a very unpleasant subject.
In class 25, which graduated about four weeks ago, I got to know several guys; one of them our platoon leader—a quiet guy from California named Franson. He was Norwegian and reminded me vaguely of Zane.
Today, at Corey Field, he and his instructor were taking off—Franson was at the controls. Something happened and he got “shook” as we say; he pulled the nose up sharply—it began to stall—he got more nervous and pulled back on the stick as hard as he could….

The instructor is still alive--Franson resembled a department store dummy that had been hit by a truck.

Death comes in many forms, and is unpleasant in any of them—it can be remote, where someone dies in some futile little war in a nameless country; or it can be personal—like Uncle Buck. Franson was a third type—a vague mixture of the two others. He was no great friend, and yet again, he wasn’t a statistic in the newspapers.

Everyone, I am told, has an intense desire to live—that is one habit or trait I have acquired, and is very deep-rooted. Truthfully, I don’t see how the world could get along without me.

The guy across the hall is playing bop, and I loathe bop! To me, music is something you can hum or whistle; bop is like a surrealistic painting done by a lunatic.

Sorry if I sound morbid—I didn’t mean to, but I get “shook” when it comes to things like that. Death, like life, is also very real, and I suppose I must learn to accept that idea. Tomorrow, no doubt, on the commanding officer's desk at Corey will be five or six letters requesting permission to D.O.R. (Drop on Request). It always happens when a serious accident occurs.

The command is always very unhappy when someone is inconsiderate enough to go and kill themselves; especially around the holidays; for then guys get to thinking about their families and girls and things, and decide that two years of rough Navy life is better than five months of glory that will end in flames at the end of a runway.

Don’t worry, dad; I’m not considering DORing—but should I ever, it won’t be because I disliked the idea of dying—rather that I loved life more (a paraphrase from “Julius Caesar”—Act II, Scene V; I think). Anyhow, which would you rather have—a dead hero or a live nobody?

Well, now if I’ve made everyone perfectly miserable, I feel a bit better. And I’m not discouraged—just a wee bit suspicious of the workings of this old world. Cheer up—I have.


P.S. Remember how I used to be when I was smaller; get all broke up any time I’d see a dead cat or dog? Well, I’ve put on the hardened shell of growing up; but I think I leak a little here and there….

Till then

I'm thinking of reposting them all in hopes of reaching a whole new group of readers. Would you be interested in seeing them?

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, the recently-released Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


Of all emotions experienced by humans, the rarest and most precious of all is euphoria: those moments in which our souls are lifted up and carried to a place we wish we would never leave. We must, and do, of course, but the memory of those moments becomes a part of our being and remains with us forever.

The emotion of romantic love is the most frequent springboard to euphoria: being with someone you deeply love, a glance, a touch, just the sudden awareness of the love itself is enough to evoke euphoria. But almost any happy experience is, depending on the person and the circumstances, capable of triggering euphoria.

Possibly because I am a hopeless romanticist, I have been blessed to have experienced euphoria several times in my life, and I have placed each in a separate bell jar which I keep in the vast curio cabinet which is my mind. Whenever I look at them, I experience the residual warmth they still radiate.

Moments of euphoria are unique to the person experiencing them, and mine are certainly very different than yours, but if you don't mind, I'd like to point out just a few of those which have meant more to me than I could possibly describe.

I recall attending my first gay pride parade in San Franciso in the mid-to-late '70s, surrounded by tens of thousands of my own people holding rainbow flags and marching together down the packed streets in an atmosphere of...of belonging. The pure joy of knowing I was not, as I had been raised since childhood to assume I was, alone was exhilarating beyond description

I can and will never forget the euphoria experienced the day I, as a Naval Aviation Cadet, was on a solo flight and found myself in a "cloud valley" perhaps ten miles long and two miles wide surrounded by billowing cumulus clouds. The sky above was razor-sharp blue, and far below was the green and brown patchwork of farms and woods. To soar up and down that valley, doing aerobatics, barrel rolls and spins and up-and-over circles was an experience I'd never had before and knew I would never have again.

Possibly my most significant example of euphoria is unusual in that it was both cumulative and delayed, covering not a few moments, but several days, and I did not recognize it as euphoria until I was far enough removed from it to realize what it was and fully appreciate it. I'm referring to the time I spent in Cannes, France while still in the Navy, in the company of two German and two French young men...Gunter, Yoahchim, Marc, and Michele. It epitomized, for me, the indescribable joy of being unconditionally young and madly in love with life and the endless adventures it held in store. To this day, I have only to close my eyes and we are together again exactly as we were so very many years ago.

From the above paragraph, I hope you can appreciate my euphoria, fifty-five years later, on returning to Cannes to look for...and find...the battered concrete quay I was sure could not possibly still be there. To be standing once again on the very spot where, more than half a century before, Marc called out to me and a buddy from the Ticonderoga with whom I'd rented bicycles, "Hello, boys! Come on down!" Even now...even now the memory fills me with an overwhelming awe and happiness.

My recent return to Europe, brought me not one but two moments of euphoria, the first described above. The second occurred in Venice as I sat in the Piazza San Marco on a bright, warm April afternoon having a beer and listening to a small orchestra play in front of one of the restaurants lining the piazza. At that moment, I suddenly realized that insecure, self-deprecating, sometimes-teetering-on-the-edge-of-paranoia me...was sitting in the Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy, 4,650 miles from home, doing what millions of people would envy. It was the happiest I can remember having been in years. It was...well, euphoric.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, the recently-released Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).