Monday, January 30, 2012

The Boggled Mind

At times I suspect my mind is a blender set on "puree," with no "off" switch. I am constantly in a state of awe over things I can't imagine anyone else taking the time to think about: simple, passing thoughts which, if grabbed and examined, can indeed boggle the mind.

There are seven billion human beings on this planet, and yet there is only one me and only one you. Seven billion individuals--each of them their own "me." How could this fact alone not boggle the mind? I know, this is sort of like buttonholing a complete stranger on the street and saying, in an awed tone, "Did you realize the sun rises in the east? Every single day?"

Because there are such an infinite number of things to be utterly fascinated by, some sort of inner defense mechanism kicks in to prevent us from becoming so distracted that nothing else gets done. It throws a blanket of unquestioned acceptance over everything not directly affecting the individual, and it is only when we lift up one corner of the blanket to see what's underneath--and again, it seldom occurs to anyone to do--that we can appreciate the incomprehensible complexity and awesomeness of the world around us.

Children have not yet learned that imagination, that wanting to know a "why" for everything, increasingly becomes an anchor slowing down the progress of our individual lives. We learn not to ask, simply to accept. The camera of our mind goes from wide-angle zoom to close-up. Our concerns and interests increasingly focus on ourselves and those immediately around us.

Yet deep within us the wonder resides. Even adults tend to be fascinated by magic. Movies and TV provide for us the wonder we are fairly well unaware is readily available to us if we just open our mind's eye to see it.

Here are two little exercises you can use to demonstrate my point. 1) Open your hand and spread your fingers wide. Now stare at it intently; really concentrate. Examine every crease and wrinkle and tiny crevice. How did they get there? Why are they there rather than a few millimeters in any other direction? 2) Write the word "the" or "an" or your own first name. Stare at it. Again focus all your attention on it. If you do it properly, you will be almost willing to swear that you have never seen that word before.

What's the point to this sort of activity? Looking into corners that you can get by perfectly well without ever looking into? Because our lives should consist of more than getting up and going to bed and filling the interval between with the routines of every-day life. We need to think of things seldom if ever thought of not only as a form of mental exercise, but for the almost childish pleasure it can bring. The mind needs to be boggled every now and then, or it will atrophy.

I admit that my mind is undoubtedly more boggled than most. I probably allow my mind more freedom to wander around than most people, caught up in the necessities of their lives, can really allow themselves to do. I ramble. I digress. The night skies of my mind are a constant fireworks display of thoughts and ideas and memories and impressions. I try to catch as many of the sparks they throw off as I can, and put them in these blogs. Granted, I do no get anywhere nearly as much done...including writing my I should and would were I to reign in my thoughts a bit. But like Oscar Wilde said, "I can resist anything but temptation," and given the choice between reining in my thoughts and letting them run free, it's no contest.

I know you probably can't afford such luxury (if you would even consider it to be luxury), but that doesn't mean you can't afford a minute or two from time to time to open the cage door of your mind and let it fly free.

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 ( ).

Friday, January 27, 2012

All the Pretty People

I have lived my life in awe and envy of pretty people, aching to be one of them. When I am able to step away from my insecurities and apply the rules of rationality, I realize I am far from alone. Our culture instills in each of us the assumption that beauty is not only the norm, but mandatory for happiness. Just turn on the TV or go to a movie, or pick up a celebrity magazine. Everyone is beautiful.

There is the clear implication that if you are not beautiful, you are somehow not as worthy of attention, admiration, or love as those who are. And whereas the actual proportion of beautiful people to average-looking people is probably around one in twenty-five, the preponderance of beautiful people in the entertainment media reinforces the tendency to equate physical beauty with worthiness.

Sadly, that assumption has solid scientific basis in fact. Research has consistently shown that attractive people have unquestioned advantages in almost every area where selecting one person over another is a factor. Undoubtedly it has roots in the old "survival of the fittest" genetic imperative, altered over time to associate attractiveness and "fitness." (Have you ever noticed that every ad for body-building products features models who have no need for the product being sold?)

Of course, we are all implicit accomplices in all this. We slavishly follow "pretty people" celebrities, no matter how vacuous or devoid of personality or actual talent they may be. They're pretty, and that is enough. Yet in the real world, you can walk through a crowd of ten thousand people and quite literally not see nine thousand eight hundred of them. But I'll bet the pretty ones get your attention, no matter how fleetingly.

Our cultural concept of beauty has varied only through the centuries...and what little variation there has been is centered mainly on the "ideal" weight of the female of the species.

Fortunately, aside from the general universal acceptance of "beauty," each of us also has our own standards of what/who we consider beautiful, based on our individual experiences. I say "fortunately" because there are not that many pretty people to go around. These individual variations on the concept of beauty are vital to the continuation of the species. Were we all are exclusively attracted to the alpha male/female, natural selection would have kept the population to a bare minimum and might have led to the extinction of our race.

There is, I truly believe, something to the concept of "vibes." They do draw people to one another, and either you get them, or you don't. Among gays there is the concept of "gaydar," which we feel enables us to spot other gays in a crowd. I have seen innumerable people who are undeniably beautiful, physically, but from whom I receive no aura of there being anyone beneath the surface of the skin. Conversely, I frequently am physically drawn to people who others would not look at twice.

I've always felt sorry for beautiful people who rely on their beauty to get them what they want from life--and I've known a great number of them. They too often don't have much else going for them and they don't think they need to. Defying all logic, they assume that since they are beautiful now, they will always be beautiful. There is nothing that so saddens me as to compare photos of people my age who were breathtakingly, chest-achingly beautiful in their 20s with photos of what they look like today. What must it be like for them?

I, who was never beautiful--though I now realize to my infinite regret that I was far more attractive than I ever appreciated at the time--am having a hard enough time dealing with all those things of which accumulating age has robbed me. But loss of beauty was never something I had to be overly concerned about. Again, I can't comprehending having to add loss of beauty to the list.

Life plays strange and often cruel games on us. The giving, taking, and lifetime absence of physical beauty is but one of them. We can't change the rules, but we can be aware of them and both recognize and make the most of whatever role we were assigned in the game.

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 ( )

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Memory and Reality

Don Quixote and I, I like to think, have a lot in common. We both live in our own worlds, as independently as possible from reality. But just as Don Quixote was undone by having to face the mirror of reality, I am frequently deeply shaken by the realization that something I clearly and distinctly remember may not, in fact, be the way it actually was. Being something of a pack-rat of the bits and pieces of my life doesn’t help, since I often stumble across concrete evidence, in the form of letters or photographs, that what I was absolutely positive happened at a certain time and/or in a certain way in fact did not.

I resent reality’s unnerving ability to screw up a perfectly good memory. I do not like the fact that memories that have been like old friends, comforting me through the years, can be challenged by fact--and to know that despite all the pains I take to disregard it, reality always wins in the long run.

I’ve had several instances of this since I’ve begun writing blogs. That I have so many photos from my past, and that I have every letter I wrote to my parents during my two years in the Navy have caused my memory to trip over reality on several occasions.

I’ve often told, for example, the story of how my Uncle Buck in effect ran away from home to join the army in WWI, and that my grandmother, who died in the flu pandemic of 1918, never saw him again. It is something I had believed all my life, and it made a very poignant story. And then I came across a photo showing Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, and Uncle Buck--in uniform-- posed together. And therewith, a tiny thread in the fabric of my being was snagged and had to be snipped off. Uncle Buck obviously did return home on leave after his basic training. But the resentment I feel for reality’s intrusion into my memory is, I admit, offset by my pleasure in knowing that Grandma did get to see him again before she died.

In an entry about my beloved Aunt Thyra, I relayed my distinct memory that it was my cousin Jack who had found her dead. But after posting the entry, my second-cousin Tom pointed out that it was his dad, my cousin Cork, who had found her, and I verified that by checking with Jack. A very small lapse in memory, but that it went against what I was so sure I believed bothered me nonetheless.

So what does it matter if memory and reality differ? To me, a great deal, for memories form the foundation of my life—they are an integral part of me, and to doubt them is to doubt everything that has made me who I am. I have built, to the best of my ability, my own world and shaped it to suit myself. I’m comfortable there, and I do not take kindly to the thought that many other cherished, firmly set memories might in fact, be untrue.

You might well think that, since I so dislike reality to begin with, I’d be quite comfortable with a little fudging. But I am not. I take it as yet another reminder that I am only human, and since my very earliest childhood, I’ve always wanted to be, and thought of myself as being, something more. I have no idea why this is so important to me, but it is. Why, I distinctly remember one time when I was about six….

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, January 23, 2012

Oil and Water

I've always liked the word "unseemly." It has a charmingly archaic sound to it. How very odd it is that each of us has very personal thoughts, feelings, and opinions of which we never speak; things about ourselves we never discuss or even mention to others because...well, because it just doesn't seem right to speak of them. Perhaps because we are embarrassed by them, or are afraid that others would think less of us were we to make them general knowledge. Or perhaps because it simply is not anyone else's business but our own. The intimate details of our personal sex life is a prime example of the kind of thing we prefer to keep within ourselves. To talk about them would be considered, well, unseemly.

I have a tendency, in these blogs, to talk about things most people don't, but I do it largely as a way of showing that there are areas of unspoken commonality among us all. When I use my own thoughts and feelings as a lab frog to lay out my innards through blogs, it is most often about things in which I hope others might see glimpses of themselves.

My sense of alienation from the rest of the world is a frequent topic because I feel that most people have, though seldom address, at least a small degree of the same feeling of not belonging. But there are areas of my life and personality even I hesitate to confront openly for fear of not being able to express myself properly or for fear of driving off the very people I'm trying to reach out to. It is, frankly, again the case of the little girl's book report on penguins: "This book tells me more about penguins than I care to know." And sometimes I tell you more about me than I'm sure you care to know. This blog is one of those times.

The truth is that I honestly and in all sincerity do not understand heterosexuals. Though as a gay man feel I have a fairly good idea of how other gay men think and act--though I am frequently wrong on specifics--I honestly do not understand the mindset of heterosexual men, and most particularly their relationships to and with heterosexual women. Heterosexual men's utter fascination with things like organized sports and women goes completely over my head. I just don't get it.

I fully understand the physical and sexual attraction of men to men. To me, it's the most natural thing in the world. But while I can accept that the physical and sexual attraction of men to women is some sort of genetic imperative aimed at preservation of the species, I never received or read the manual. I am not the only one in the history of the world to associate the relationship between men and women to that between oil and water, nor am I the first to point out that men and women tend to be complete mysteries to one another. They have very different interests and tend to prefer being with others of their own gender, except....

And it is the "except" that so utterly confuses me. Even in the gay community, where one might expect that the commonality of our sexual orientation might give us a better understanding of and insight into what makes each other tick, the oil and water principle applies. A case could be made that for most practical purposes there are two gay communities: gay men in one, lesbians in the other. There is relatively little social intermingling between the two. In any city large enough to support both gay men's bars and lesbian bars, there will be both, with almost no crossover between them.

Please do not read any degree of misogyny into my oil and water analogy between men and or straight. To me, as a gay man, women simply...well, are. I can't imagine my life without my female friends and relatives. But in my personal world the oil and water of the genders remain forever separated. There's no vigorous heterosexual shaking of the bottle to try to blend them together in the basic imperative to mate. When it comes to gender incompatibility, I really think I have an advantage over heterosexual men. Like them, I really don't understand the female gender, but since I am not sexually attracted to women, I don't feel the need to.

I do hope you didn't find this topic unseemly, but if you did, it's unlikely that you'd have read this far. I thank you for that.

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 ( ).

Friday, January 20, 2012


normal |?nôrm-el|, adjective: conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected, free from physical or mental disorders.

Most people are normal. Most are born mentally and physically healthy and remain largely so throughout life. Because we each must live our entire life within the confines of our physical being, we generally consider "normal" to be whatever we and our circumstances are. And because of that, it is difficult for us to get a true perspective on life. We occasionally see others who are visibly different from ourselves, but while we may empathize, we have no real way of knowing how they view and deal with life on a day-to-day basis.

Yesterday, at Walgreens, I saw a young man in his early-to-mid 20s, to whom I was immediately physically attracted. We were both at the pharmacy counter, and he was perhaps three feet from me. In front of him was a pile of coins with which he was doing something...I couldn't tell what. A quarter rolled under a counter computer and went behind a wire. He searched for it but couldn't find it. At last one of the pharmacists came up and retrieved it for him. A simple enough scene, but in it I immediately recognized that there was something...not "normal"...about him, and my heart sank for him. To be young, and attractive, and yet somehow tragically different, deprived of something most of us take so much for granted...forced me once again to take a look at my own life.

I do not consider myself "normal." In fact, I have worked very hard for most of my life not to be normal in my attitudes, outlooks, or responses to life. But my not being normal is a matter of choice. The young man at Walgreens--and so many more like him, so often unseen or ignored by others--did not have that choice. That they somehow manage to deal with their condition...the fact that whatever their condition may be is "normal" to them...amazes me. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be in their position. But they manage, and my sincere admiration for them is limitless. It is not a matter of their being more brave, or noble than anyone else, though they undoubtedly much as it is of each dealing with their "normal" the best way they can.

As I grow older, I often view with abject terror the fact that what has always, always been "normal" for me, physically, is being taken away from me. I can no longer run. I can no longer eat a full meal, or lift my head high enough to drain a glass of water, or, or, or. Yet when I consider that there are so many people who have never run, or walked, or heard a symphony or seen a sunrise...I feel utterly ashamed of myself for blowing my petty problems so far out of proportion.

Others have so many gifts and talents and abilities...and youth and beauty...that I do not, that I lose track of the fact that there are those who may envy some of the things and experiences which are part of my personal "normal." I have such an infinite number of things to be grateful for, yet I often am not, because those things are "normal" to me and I accept them without thought. I'm sure the same is true of you. It's only when we are able to step outside ourselves--not an easy task--that we can appreciate all that we have. I know that when I am able to do so, I am infinitely grateful for the fact that, while I have lost so much of my physical abilities, lost so many loved ones, and that so many experiences are now forever behind me, I had them! How can I possibly justify resenting their loss to the degree that I too often do?

My sadness upon seeing that young man in Walgreens--and all those physically and mentally deprived of so very many things--is not based on pity, or condescension, but on...what? odd sense of guilt that I have been given, even if not forever, so many wonderful gifts I cannot share with them.

But I do share, by these words, what I can in hopes that while our "normal"s are not the same, our ability to understand and appreciate each other's is.

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 ( ).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I remember a line I read once that I loved: “How is it that those who long for immortality get bored on a rainy Saturday afternoon?” Excellent point.

We’ve all wondered what it would be like to live forever; I certainly have, and I realize there is a great difference between the prospect of living forever as an individual and everyone living forever. The latter would be more comfortable, but less practical.

If all humankind were suddenly immortal, we would within decades breed ourselves to the point of there not being a square inch of space on the entire land surface of the planet to hold us all. What would we do then, and how? Spread out like an infestation of bedbugs to other planets, to do the same thing there?

Science has fairly well determined that the universe itself will not last forever. At some point, our sun will grow dim and die, and the earth, too, will die, as will our solar system and our galaxy. Humankind may well, if it survives that long, be able to move on to other worlds, other solar systems, even other galaxies, but those, too, would suffer the same eventual fate, and there would, at some point, be nowhere to run. Mankind, too, must perish.

For a single individual, the gift of immortality would come at a truly terrible emotional price. It’s bad enough for any mortal, in our limited time on earth, to watch those we love age and die around us even as we ourselves grow old. The ending of any relationship is traumatic. Any form of long-term relationship would be impossible when one partner grows older and the other does not. Imagine how terrible it would be to go through that same trauma time after time after time through eternity. And for a single immortal man (or woman) in the end, when the last sun has gone out, what then? There are many things which cannot be conceived of, and this is surely one of them.

What I would wish for all of us, were it in my power to grant such a wish, would be that every human being live in good health, exactly as long as he or she wants to live, barring natural disasters or war or the many other violent methods we are so adept at inflicting upon one another. The decision to die, in all other instances would be completely up to the individual. I’m sure that for the first few hundred years, there would be very few deaths not brought about by the above mentioned means.

But eventually, the “rainy Saturday afternoon” syndrome would set in, and more and more people would say: “Okay, that’s enough. It’s been fun, but now it’s time to move on.” And “move on” to where opens another entirely new book.

I truly enjoy speculations like this, even though there are, and in many cases simply cannot be, any answers. To question is one of Mankind’s greatest gifts: to be denied the answer is one of its greatest curses. So, having little other choice, I think I’ll just try to be as comfortable as I can be with my mortality, and make the most of whatever time I have left. It is, after all, the mind which defines--which is--life.

Pondering the imponderable can go on...well, forever...but when it comes to the subject of immortality, the French philosopher René Descartes pretty much sums it up with three Latin words: Cogito ergo sum--I think, therefore I am. And when I cease to think, I will be no more. Simple as that.

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, January 16, 2012


I love words. Always have. According to my mother, "Constantinople" was among my very first words, though from whence--a lovely word in itself--I might have gotten it, I'm not sure. I've always been in love with the the sound of words, and their meaning and the thoughts and mental images they evoke.

We tend to live in a world of one- and two-syllable words, with an occasional three-syllable word thrown in. I loathe the dumbing down of the language, and as noted in earlier blogs, the trend toward the stupidification (there is no rule against making up a word if the ones at hand are inadequate) of the general population is both condescending and insulting. TV commercials for products treating "atherosclerosis, or 'athero'", "atreofibrilation, or 'a-fib'", and "low testosterone, or 'low-T'" clearly state that the sponsors think you are far too stupid to be able to pronounce big words. Well, I think they should take their medications for "athero" and "a-fib" and "low-T" and shove them up their "a".

I love multi-syllabic words: lugubrious, tintinnabulation, onomatopoeia, antidisestablishmentarianism. They may be rather difficult to work into a conversation, but they have a delightful sound. Words surge and recede in popularity, and often become archaic. Words like "Thee, thou, thine, prithy, mayhaps, perchance" have a pleasant sound, and are still in our lexicon but almost never heard in general conversation except among the Amish, Quakers, and a few other religious sects.

Word usage is of course limited, to a degree, by the speaker's exposure to them. Like so much else in life, education is the key to the expansion of vocabulary. Lord knows, with the above mentioned concerted effort to dumb down language, the situation isn't made any easier. The less educated one is, the more limited the ability for expression of thoughts. As a direct result, expletives are often the only words the under-educated have to express their anger and frustration. Even so, I find it sadly ironic that that the dumb-down factor extends even to expletives--though one of the most common expletives, "muthf**ker," has four syllables, it is almost always reduced to the first two.

It is the astonishing flexibility of words--the ways they can be combined to evoke any emotion the user wishes to convey--which provide their fascination. Words, whether written or spoken, can be caresses or claws; they can soothe or sting, praise or condemn, be conciliatory or threatening.

Words are keys upon which our emotions are played, and while their combinations most commonly produce ditties or simple folk tunes, they can also produce symphonies. Single words can by themselves play emotional chords: "mom," "America," "cancer," "puppies."

Words paint pictures. They are both artists' brushes and color palate with which masterpieces can be created in vivid colors or the softest pastels.

Spoken words have a slight advantage over written because the human voice allows for inflection where, even when shown in italics, bold-face, or underlined, written words do not. Conversely, written words have the advantage of being able to be rethought and revised before they are released to the world, whereas spoken words, once they have passed the lips, cannot.

Two of mankind's greatest blessings are vocal cords and the intelligence to have invented writing, both of which depend on words. And words are just one more example of the amazing, albeit all but ignored, complexity of human existence.

The 26 letters of the English language contain every book ever written and every thought ever expressed. All you have to do is put them in the right combinations.

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 (

Friday, January 13, 2012

Some Thoughts on Poetry

If all forms of written expression could be considered a family, poetry would definitely be the odd uncle, the spinster aunt, the strange cousin. It is, without question, the most subjective form of writing. Arguably, scientific and technological writing aside, it can be the most intricate and complex. For a number of reasons, many people are uncomfortable with poetry much above the nursery rhyme/limerick level, and indeed it can be both obscure and intimidating. Even the simplest of poetry is probably far more difficult to translate from one language to another than prose, simply because words that rhyme in one language do not rhyme in another.

The most elemental poems have a rhythm you can literally beat out on a drum ("da-dum-da-dum-da-dum-da-dah, da-dum-da-dum-da-dah"). Like the various forms of prose, poetry has certain set rules of which I am largely ignorant but which, like the rules of prose, are, I gather, shot so full of exceptions as to resemble a Swiss cheese. Most people expect a poem to rhyme, but it doesn't have to. I think it's probably generally agreed that the most important thing a poem must have is a definite sense of rhythm, of meter, to the words, even when there is no rhyme.

Poetry and news reporting are at opposite ends of the writing spectrum, with all other forms falling somewhere between the two. Interestingly, news writing and poetry require an economy of words to convey their message. But whereas news writing is among the simplest, most straight-forward, and easiest to understand forms of writing, poetry can be the most difficult.

It's not that poetry can't be simple, as the above mentioned nursery rhymes and limericks verify, and the simpler the poem, the more people can relate to it without feeling they are being challenged or their intelligence threatened. Emily Dickinson and Dorothy Parker are two very different types of poet, yet they share the ability to say complex things in the simplest possible way.

It's doubtful that any other form of writing evokes a stronger or more visceral response, either positive or negative, than poetry. The power and beauty of poetry lies in the careful selection of words calculated to compress thought into the smallest possible package, so that relatively few words convey the broadest and most vivid mental images.

I think it's safe to say that people, as a whole, tend to view poetry with a disquieting suspicion, charging (often rightly) that it is too often abstract or obtuse. Those who enjoy abstraction and/or the obtuse tend to get it. Those who don't, don't, and for many--including me--there is a vague sense of resentment in the implication that if I was as smart as I thought I was...or as I should be...I'd have understood it. If I don't, obviously it's my fault. Poetry smacks, in the minds of many, of elitism, snobbery, and assumed intellectual superiority. That poets seem drawn to archaic and ponderous words and obscure illusions doesn't help.

I have subscribed to The New Yorker magazine for years (okay, primarily for the cartoons). I can honestly say that I am utterly incapable of understanding one poem out of one hundred the magazine publishes. I find that frustrating, and I protect my easily bruised ego by telling myself that the magazine deliberately puts them in there as examples of the Emperor's New Clothes--to get readers to "oooh" and "aaaah" over pure gibberish only because they fear they'll appear stupid if they simply admit they don't get it.

There are poems I love and poems I simply cannot force myself through. I like haiku because it is, to me, probably the most compact form of poetry. It is, in a way, a distillation of distillations. Good haiku is the Turkish espresso of poetry--the distilled essence of thought.

I dabble in poetry myself, and believe that writing poetry is good practice for anyone wanting to write more concisely. I stand in awe of beautiful poetry as I stand in awe of beautiful prose. But in the end, everything still all boils down to simple truth that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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 ( ).

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Judge and Jury

There are those who devote far too much time reflecting on their weaknesses and shortcomings, examining each through a magnifying glass as though they were so many insects-on-pins in a display case. They are their own judge and jury. Alas, I tend to be one of them. And while, way down deep, I know I am not being fair to myself, and that I’m not really all that bad, it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve always measured myself against others and inevitably come up short. But I am saved from too much "woe is me" anguish by the realization that I'm the one doing the measuring. And I’m talking about it here because, once again, I think I am not totally alone in being far harder on myself than reality dictates, and that in my self-imposed negativism, you might catch just a glimmer of yourself.

Though I cannot be absolutely sure from whence my lifelong, deep-rooted sense of inferiority and unworthiness come from, other than my tendency toward melodrama, I think I have put something of a handle on it.

It most certainly was not the result of my parents’ actions. They loved me unconditionally and never criticized me any more than I’m sure any parent criticizes a child. But I have always lived in a world of dreams, and dreams can never live up to reality. I don’t think I ever fully was able to separate fairy tales and Santa Clause and all the wondrous things that I found in books from real life. I expected myself to have all the sterling qualities, all the marvelous talents and abilities that the heroes in books and movies had.

I was, I felt—and again, it was only I who felt it—a great disappointment to my father because of my total inability to grasp the concept of organized sports, which he loved. The fact that I was also what I’ve always unkindly referred to as a “motor moron”—totally lacking in the hand-eye coordination which leads to physical grace—created a very real sense of self-loathing, echoes of which remain with me to this day.

I looked around me and saw how easily other people seemed to be able to interrelate, how effortlessly they understood what was expected of them by life and society, did wonderful things with astonishing grace, and comparing myself to them, how could I not have felt less than they? I could not understand why I could not be what everyone else seemed to be. So many of the things I ached to be, even as a child…graceful, talented, handsome, at ease in any situation, able to fit in anywhere…I knew I was not and never could be. Therefore, obviously, I was inferior and unworthy.

And of course it wasn't exactly easy growing up in a world in which a boy who knew he truly, purely loved other boys was constantly told by the entire world around him that he was an abomination in the eyes of God, would burn forever in the fires of hell, and was generally not fit to call himself human. (But as willing as I have been to believe so many negative things about myself, even as a child I never bought into that nonsense. One of the reasons I had abandoned organized religion by the time I was twelve was because if God considered me to be an abomination, then why was I also told I was made in His image? I was never very good at specious logic, and I got it every Sunday at Sunday school...which, I'm sure, is why I became an Agnostic.)
I suspect one of the reasons I concentrate so strongly on my own flaws is because I do not feel qualified to comment on the flaws of others. And besides, I know my own so very much better. I can judge myself; I have no right to judge anyone else. And, again, I truly do realize that I am not nearly as bad as I insist upon making myself out to be. It’s just that I expect so very much more out of life…and myself…than it is realistic to expect.

The prosecution...and the defense...rests.

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, January 09, 2012


When we are born, each of us is handed an empty suitcase and the general instruction, "Here 'ya go, kid! Fill it up." And from that moment on, we start filling it with experiences and memories and plans and hopes. Most people fill it pragmatically, making sure everything is orderly and neatly folded. They choose with care exactly what is to go into it and where it is to go. When it becomes too full, they remove or shrink older items to make room for new ones.

Not, alas, I. Almost anything within my reach goes into my suitcase. Big things, little things, important things, trivial matter. If I have seen it or experienced it or contemplated it, in it goes. And no one said I couldn't have more than one suitcase, so as soon as one is filled, I grab another and start repeating the process. Suitcases then give way to steamer trunks and steamer trunks to crates and crates to shipping containers.

All well and good, except for the fact that we must then carry our baggage with us whenever we move, physically or emotionally, from one place to the other, and the older one gets, the more there is to carry and the harder it is to carry it all.

You might think that physical baggage would be relatively easy to get rid of. That old threadbare chair? The chipped platter? Simple: just pitch them. But I bought that chair when I first moved to Los Angeles. My lost love Ray sat in it. My mother sat in it. Aunt Thyra sat in it. Friends now long dead sat in it. To throw it away is to throw part of them away. That chair is a tangible piece of the past. I have only to look at it and I can see everyone who has sat in it. It is a buffer between me and the cold winds of time and reality.

That chipped platter? It is the only remaining piece of a set of china Mom bought for Norm and me when we were together. I have not used it in years and probably won't ever have occasion to use it again, but how could I throw it out?

I'm fully aware of how silly and counterproductive it is of me to make such strong connections between inanimate objects and people, and how impractical it is to keep things just to keep them. Having too many physical things limits options for mobility. If I want to move from one apartment to another, I have to pack it all up, carry it wherever it is I'm going, and then unpack it. To not be tied to any one place, to be able to take off for wherever I wanted to go whenever I wanted to go there is a dream totally negated by the knowledge that I couldn't possible do it...what would I do with my things?

When Norm died, I had to get rid of 40 years of his physical baggage. The minute he died, its value to him ended. The same will of course be true of my indispensable things when I go. But until that moment...

And the problems created by physical baggage are nothing compared to those of mental baggage. They can weigh down the soul to the point where it can be nearly impossible to move forward with one's life. Regrets, grudges, and longings are the reefs and shoals in the ocean of life.

Who we are as individual human beings is too often dictated by our emotional baggage. The heavier the baggage, the less able we are to throw it off and, worst of all, the less able we are to change what we know should be changed. Temerity, distrust, fearfulness are all direct results of our emotional baggage and they stifle growth as surely as a rock set atop a seedling.

And what can be done, at this point in time, to deal with the problems we have largely created for ourselves with our various baggage? It would depend on how hard we are willing to work to do it...on what we can force ourselves to part with. Alas, it is one of those things I fear are far easier said than done.

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 ( ).

Friday, January 06, 2012


Two months or so ago, I went cold turkey in an attempt to withdraw from my addiction to internet spam, which is, I can assure you, just as insidious as addiction to cocaine or heroin or alcohol. I did it by forcing myself, each morning, to go to my spam folder and, without allowing myself to look at a single message, to hit "Delete."

Sadly, as so often happens with addicts, I made the mistake, yesterday, of thinking that I had indeed overcome my addiction, and therefore could allow myself just a quick peek at the come-on opening sentences designed to lure into their web the addicted and those who should not be allowed to handle sharp objects. And then, having read the come-on, I could not resist looking at the entire message.

And looking at one led to looking at another, and another, and...

But the worst part of my addiction is not only that I am compelled to read this crap, but to mentally respond to it!

The following shining examples of the spammer's art are reprinted exactly as received, and my mental reactions as I read.

"MY HEART CHOOSEN TO BLESS YOU. - Dear Beloved, I am Mrs. Alisa Losif and i have been suffereing from ovarian cancer..." (And you, lady, are so far beneath contempt for exploiting a serious disease to scam money that you can't see the bottom by looking up.)

UNITED NATIONS "((($5,000USD ENCLOSED))) - How are you? We happily announce to you the draw of the United Nations programs held on...." (I am fine, thanks, and flattered that the United Nations would care enough to ask. I regret, however, that there was no $5,000 enclosed. How does one enclose $5,000 in an email, anyway? Please send via regular mail. I'll wait.)

Mr. ObdenValentine Ibru "I NEED YOUR TRUST TO EXECUTE THIS DEAL -Hi, Can you handle US $35M for an contract investment fund of Late Mr. Kir...." (Are you kidding? Of course I can! I'm always handling US$35M deals for complete strangers. Just tell me how much earnest money you need, and it'll be in the mail this afternoon!"

"I AWAIT YOUR URGENT REPLY" (My reply may be urgent to you, but it certainly is not urgent to me. And have you ever heard of lower-case type?)

"Rock her hard on your first date - College girls desire me, cool dudes worship me, all thanks to my might rod." (Your "might" rod? I'm sure no matter how "might" it is, it can't match the size of your ego.)

"Change your life in 60 seconds. - She makes 9681. Scam or real? Find out here." (9681 what? A day? A week? A year? And "scam or real?", that's a tough one.)

LORI GONZALES - "Let's go!" (Dorien Grey - Let's not!)

"Shocking Investigation Report - Local Mom Quits Her Job She Hated...Click Here" (Stop the Presses! 'Shocking' isn't the word for it. Really, it isn't. Oh, whatever shall the poor lady do? Tell me, please!But let's wait until hell freezes over first.)

"Germany shows Portugal the strength in an extra inch - Make your lady cry out in joy every night." (Oh, for the love of God!!!)

"talk to girl - have a look..." (Me gay man! Me no want talk to girl! Me no want look.)

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 ( ).

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


I've always wondered why people say they're "catching a cold." Why would anyone catch a cold? If I see one coming, I duck. The problem with colds is, in fact, that I seldom see them coming until they sneak up from behind and whop me on the back of the head with a coal shovel.

Most of the time, that's just the way it happens with me: I'm fine one moment and lying face down on the pavement the next (okay, so that's figuratively, but you get my point). Usually, it follows the same course: sniffles and a runny nose are followed by my sinuses slamming shut and my nose becoming Niagara Falls. My energy draining away like water from a bathtub. Intermittent coughing slowly increases in frequency and intensity until I start looking at the Kleenex into which I've just coughed, expecting to see bits of lung tissue. I'm fortunate in that I seldom am actually sick during a cold, but just feel generally "Blah!" (A scientific term on the same level as "Low testosterone, or 'Low T'" and "Atherosclerosis, or 'Athero'") The total duration of any given cold varies, but it sometimes seems as though I get a cold sometime around October 1 and it lasts through the following September. And then it abates a bit and I begin the slow, slow Sisyphean push up the hill to whatever passes for normal for me.

Because we all tend to have rather short term memories when it comes to remembering exactly how it felt to be ill while we're ill, I must admit that, looking back on a cold after it's gone, the mental masochist in me tells me that I rather enjoyed it. A bad cold provides me with the chance to play martyr, which I secretly rather enjoy. And, as my friends will attest, I do it very well. Long-suffering nobility is my forte.

I suppose it all goes back to my dislike of reality. Feeling fine most of the time is reality for most of us; being ill is not. There is an element of drama in uncertainty in each moment as to what might be coming next.

Type-A personalities live for challenge, for adventure, for a cliff to climb or an ocean to sail solo. I'm far too timid and physically uncoordinated/inept to ever attempt anything that might result in physical harm. But my mind is constantly putting me in positions of emotional risk and I really must enjoy it or I wouldn't do it. Dealing with a cold is my equivalent of trekking through a rainforest without a compass. It's about as adventurous as I care to get.

I often think of myself as the snail riding on the top of the turtle's shell, yelling "Wheeeeeeeeee!!"

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, January 02, 2012

Fifty-Six Years, Minus One Day

So as most of us step into a new year, I decided to step back fifty-six years to a then brand-new 1956, via a letter written to my parents while serving aboard the USS Ticonderoga in the Mediterranean. I'd be pleased to have you come along.

3 January 1956

At sea again and a beautiful day, as most of our days at sea are. The sky has just enough clouds to make it interesting, and the sun made it the kind of warm one expects of the Mediterranean-—but I've been too thoroughly disillusioned to be fooled.

I would have liked to spend a lot more time “outside,” but we’re so busy in the office I had to dump my wastebaskets and return. Spent most of the afternoon and evening drawing lines on ledger cards—a job even an imbecile would grow bored at. Damn—the ship is shaking so badly I can scarcely write! It gets carried away like that every so often.

All I’ve been thinking of all day is getting out—I have it all in my mind’s eye; I’ll have less than two months to do when we get back to the States—mom and/or dad will fly out to Norfolk on the 11th, and we’ll leave for home on the 12th, or soon thereafter, taking from three to five days to get there (we drove the 800 miles from Pensacola to Norfolk in three days, traveling only from 10 in the morning till eight at night). I’ll spend all my time buying clothes and getting ready for college; sit in front of the TV set and swap sea stories with Lirf—oh, stop!

Had a most interesting dream last night—all my dreams seem to have plots and are very detailed—I can’t recall whether I dream in color or not, but I think so. Anyway, I was in Shanghai on an American ship during the Japanese invasion. Something happened to the ship and I found myself in a longboat—a powered liberty launch. We decided to try to head inland rather than face the Japanese fleet in the harbor. I was sitting up forward and was terrified that Jap troops along the shore would open fire—I kept expecting to feel a bullet in my back any moment. The next scene (I change scenes frequently without losing the main thought) we were much further up the river, plowing through a bunch of floating debris and branches—I remember watching the boat’s wake washing over them, and the branches riding the waves. To my right was a fallen bridge, a large section of rusty metal jutting from the water. In the next scene we were on shore, near a two-story American-type white frame house, with outside stairs leading to the second floor. On the porch railing was a hand-winding air raid siren, and a Chinese man standing by it, watching the sky. An American woman and her two young sons lived in the house, and wanted to go with us as we fled inland Suddenly (I was now detached and acting merely as a spectator) a plane dived out of the sky. The woman ran from the house, pushing one son ahead and pulling the other, when a bomb exploded directly behind her—I saw her outline in the doorway for an instant and then she and it were gone. I remember thinking with little or no emotion that now we had a young boy (the one who’d gone ahead) on our hands. End.

Not exactly Hollywood, but what do you want on the spur of the moment?

Mom asked me in a recent letter how the food was over here. Well, I really don’t know—in hotel restaurants and on tours, it consists always and everywhere of spaghetti; followed by veal (sliced), a few potatoes (quartered and semi-French fried), and spinach; cheese, and fruit. When I’m by myself I get only Pizza—which is fairly good, but not all decorated like American—just cheese and tomato. And always white wine—which is only a few steps below vinegar on the fermentation scale. I haven’t had a drink of milk since we left the States.

New Year’s Day Nick, I, and two of the other guys decided to go to Pompeii by taxi. It turned out that Pompeii is closed only two days a year—Christmas and New Years. So we went into New Pompeii and visited the Cathedral—the second Cathedral of Italy in importance. It was very pretty—especially the different marble columns around the altar. Some of the large supporting columns are covered in pure gold leaf—over the altar is a fresco of the Virgin Mary, embossed with a diamond necklace—actually, her whole body from the waist up is studded with them, worth a paltry 2000,000,00 Lire (about $300,000—give or take $100,000). I was impressed….