Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"And Pearls Before Swine"

I’m not sure why I take such delight in put-down lines, but I somehow find them a guilty pleasure, especially when deserved. I was thinking yesterday of the wonderful, long-running feud between Claire Booth Luce, wife of the founder of Time magazine, and Dorothy Parker. No one did put-downs better than Dorothy, and I sometimes felt a bit sorry for poor Claire. I’m sure you’re familiar with most of them, but I hope you’ll agree they deserve repeating.

Arriving at the same function at the same time, Claire and Dorothy met at the door. Claire stopped short at the door and with a regal gesture, indicated Dorothy should enter first. “Age before Beauty,” Claire said. “And pearls before swine,” Dorothy replied sweetly, as she swept past Claire and through the door.

Defending Claire, an acquaintance observed to Dorothy: “But you must admit, Dorothy, that Claire is always very kind to her inferiors.” To which Dorothy replied, “Wherever does she find them?”

I’m not certain this one is attributable to Dorothy or not, but it sounds like her. “You know,” a friend remarked, “sometimes Claire is her own worst enemy.” To which Dorothy replied, “Not as long as I’m alive.”

There are some memorable movie put-downs as well. Groucho Marx often used the regal Margaret Dumont as a foil. I can’t recall the movie, but at one point Margaret says, in a huff, “I’ve never been so insulted in my entire life!” And Groucho replies, “Oh, you must have been!”

One of my favorites comes from the movie The Man Who Came to Dinner in which Monty Wooley’s character is greeted with the line, “At the risk of being swept away in mountainous waves of self pity, how are you?”

And the classic exchange between George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill when Shaw sent Churchill two tickets to the opening of his new play with the note: “Do bring a friend, if you have one.” Churchill returned the tickets with a note: “Sorry I can’t make the opening, but would like to exchange these for the second night’s performance, if there is one.”

I was in a bar with friends in L.A. when someone came up to one of our group with pick-up definitely in mind, and said: “I think I went to school with your sister,” and my friend replied, innocently: “But I don’t have an older sister.”

Along the same lines (as it were) the classic response to the old saw: “Where have you been all my life?” The response: “Well, for most of it I wasn’t born yet.”

The young preacher approached after his first sermon by a little old lady who asks, “Has anyone ever told you you were absolutely wonderful?” Flattered, the minister replies, “Why, no.” And she responds, “Then wherever did you get the idea?”

Ah, there are a ton of ‘em.

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, May 28, 2012


As too often happens, I sat down to write this blog and...nothing. If I had a thought as I approached the desk, it was gone by the time the seat of my pants hit the seat of the chair. There are few things more difficult than trying to think of something when you have no idea of what to think of. It's not that I don't have any thoughts...I have millions of them, and they're all churning around in there like grains of sand in a dust storm. Catching and holding on to just one of them is the problem.

But as frustration over my inability to come up with an idea grew, I became aware that often my most random thoughts tend to be progressive, one leading to the next, like a game of mental hopscotch. So I decided to just follow the chain and see where I'd end up.

“Okay,” I told myself, “just pick a thought and we'll see where we go from there.”

“How about doing a blog on the people who live in my building?”

“Good as any. Go with it.”

There is a lady who lives on the same floor as I. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned her before. When she is not out mopping the halls (despite the fact that the building's maintenance crew does the job quite well), she is whistling. And unlike the seven dwarfs in Walt Disney's Snow White, she seldom whistles while she works. But any other time I see her, she is whistling. No recognizable tune, no recognizable melody, no recognizable pattern, just whistling notes at random. I am all in favor of those who march to their own drummer, but at least they have some sort of cadence. With the whistling lady, I strain to find even three connected notes of something which might be considered a tune, but have yet to find them.

And? Time for a hop.

I recognize a large number of people with whom I share the building (see the link?), and exchange greetings and brief observations on the day's weather, but nothing more. I am sure most of them are very pleasant. But I have no desire to go beyond the idle-pleasantries stage. Perhaps it stems in part to my being gay and used to keeping my distance from people with whom I feel I have little or nothing in common. Some may consider this being aloof. I prefer to think of it as just being apart, and I like it that way.

And because I live in a city-subsidized “Senior Citizens”—the politically correct term for what people who are not themselves senior citizens refer to as “Old Farts”—apartment building and am surrounded by old people, it's an easy hop from contemplating the residents' being old to my however-reluctant and painful lip-service acknowledgement of my being old. (I adamantly refuse to accept the reality of that concept; I prefer to think of myself as simply being trapped in a body subject to the ravages of time.)

This, naturally—well, naturally for me, at any rate—led to the next mental hop, the fact that I consider myself a case study in aging in the strangely detached manner of a medical examiner performing an autopsy. Perhaps partly because I'm a writer I've developed the ability to somehow stand outside myself and observe my thoughts and actions objectively.

And as frequently happens on these hop-skip-jump excursions, I can sense that the chain of these chain-of-consciousness thoughts are starting to lead me in directions I really do not want to go, and certainly don't want to drag you along with me. So rather than risk getting caught up in the bog of “oh, you poor kid!” and dwelling on how much I have lost and how I have no control over anything, etc., I will now grab myself by the scruff of the neck and give myself a stern lecture on just how damned lucky I really am and everything positive in my life.

Which, right now, includes a reflection on William Ernest Hensley's classic poem, “Invictus:” I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul. Live with it!

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, May 25, 2012


My mind has a tendency to go blank at the most inappropriate times. (And an "appropriate" time would be...?) Usually it happens when I most desperately need it not to go blank…like when introducing two people, each of whom I have known for years, and suddenly can't remember one, or often either, of their names.

The most current example was about five minutes ago, when I realized I needed a topic for this blog entry. One minute my mind is like a whale swimming through thoughts as thick as an ocean full of krill, and the next It’s like looking for a lemonade stand in the desert. (Aha! How about a nice blog on non sequiturs and mixed metaphors?)

When I’m writing a book, one or two blanks are almost guaranteed, but I usually get over them by going back a chapter or two into the manuscript and reading my way forward to where the blank occurred. It’s rather like a car trying to get up a slippery hill…back up, shift it into first, and gun the engine. (Hmmm…about those metaphors….)
Blanks are always a source of frustration, but on very rare occasions they can also be terrifying. I've only had one such instance, but it was more than enough. A couple of years ago I was on the el late at night, heading southbound returning from a writers’ meeting. Chicago’s els have various “lines”, the Red and Brown serving the north side of the city. While each line has its own stations, the larger serve both lines to facilitate transfer from one line to the other. Most Red line stations are located on "islands" with northbound trains stopping on one side of the island and southbound trains on the other. Brown line trains are more or less “feeders” to the Red line, and those stops it does not share with the Red Line have separate platforms on either side of the tracks--northbound on one side and southbound on the other.

I was on a southbound Brown Line train and somehow got off one stop short of the one I wanted. I had reached the bottom of the stairs before I realized my mistake. I immediately turned around and went back up the same set of stairs to the platform. But when I reached the platform and looked across the tracks at the other platform, my mind drew a total blank. I was absolutely positive that I somehow had crossed from the southbound to the northbound platforms. I stood there totally confused, and my confusion quickly turned to panic. I couldn't even remember, by looking at the surrounding buildings, which side of the tracks they were on. Even when a Red Line train passed by in the direction from which I had come, and I clearly saw it said “Dan Ryan,” which I knew meant it was southbound, I still was sure I was on the northbound platform.

It was one of the most terrifying experiences I have ever had, and I realized just how horrifying memory loss has to be for those with Alzheimer’s.

A Brown Line finally pulled up to the platform, clearly marked “Loop”--which meant it was southbound and I got on. I hope I never have an experience like that again.

And so, children, you see what I do when my mind draws a blank when it comes to what I can possibly write about for the next blog. I just start writing about whales and krill and lemonade stands in the desert, gun my engine, and charge up the hill.

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, May 23, 2012


I admire people who have patience. I also admire people who have $28,000,000 in the bank. Unfortunately, I have neither.

Patience—or, more accurately, the total lack thereof—is one of the most consistently recurring themes in my life. I can readily acknowledge the value of patience, but am totally incapable of practicing it. If I want/expect something to happen, there is in my mind absolutely no reason why I should have to wait for it. Waiting for something wastes time, and time is without question my largest single obsession.

Being a writer and having patience go together like peanut butter and jelly. I hate peanut butter and jelly. I am at the moment awaiting the release of my next book, which my publisher assures me will be rolling off the press in a month or so (“or so” being the operative words). But it could, in fact, be rolling off the press day after tomorrow and that wouldn't keep me from pacing back and forth, mumbling and muttering and being miserable because I don't have it in my hand right this minute. I know I will have it sometime, but I want it now. I’ve wanted it now since the minute I sent it off to the publisher.

I am totally unfazed by logic pointing out that my expectations aren't realistic. Anyone who has followed my blogs for any length of time—say two or three weeks—undoubtedly knows where I stand when it comes to accepting reality. I do understand logic, it's just that I can't apply it when it comes to something I want. I know it takes time for a book to go through the process, but that's totally irrelevant to the fact that I want what I want when I want it. (We will not go into the question of my success rate on that score.)

It sometimes puzzles me how I can possibly justify my lack of patience in light of the very real pride I take in the stoicism I developed during and after my bout with cancer. And I do realize that in the scheme of things patience and impatience are little more than a niggle. But knowing that and doing something about it are unfortunately two different things. Patience is the desire to bridge the gap between now and a point of time in the future but, like worry—to which we all seem to devote far too much time—the fact is that the things we wait for or worry about do eventually resolve themselves regardless of what we do or do not do. Like kidney stones, once the cause of the impatience has passed, the pain and anxiety are instantly over and quickly forgotten, thus freeing us up for the next set of niggles.

The lack of patience has an untold number of unpleasant side effects. For one thing, it leads to making hasty decisions which are far too frequently regretted as soon as they are made. Words once spoken cannot be unspoken; the best one can do is to partially repair or patch over the damage. An act resulting from impatience may possibly be rectified, but it takes infinitely more time and effort than having taken the time to do it right the first time.

It's also been my personal experience that the impatience that caused me to do something wrong the first time will cause me to do it wrong a second time, and a third, or more, and compound the negative effects.

Because my impatience has led to so much frustration throughout my life, I have developed a mantra: “If at first you don't succeed, give up.” While this is hardly an attitude conducive to accolades for perseverance or the raising of monuments honoring achievements, I find it avoids an amazing amount of frustration. And, rightly or wrongly, it is a mantra I can live with.

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, May 21, 2012

Life and Clothes Dryers

Yesterday morning began with my being awakened at 5:15 by my cat, Spirit, reprising the previous two or three mornings of meowling at the top of his considerable lungs outside my bedroom door, which I keep closed at night specifically to prevent him waking me up several times during the night by walking all over me, licking my hair, or putting his nose an inch from mine to check to see if I'm still breathing. (Wow! A 75-word sentence! I'm going for the Guinness!) My response was to throw a slipper at the door and, when that didn't work, jumping out of bed, banging the door with my fist, jerking it open and chasing him around the apartment, yelling at him. (Maturity is the cornerstone of my being.)

He remained on my shit list for a couple of hours, but we finally made up.

Last night, anticipating a repeat of the scenario, I filled a spray bottle with water and put it on the dresser beside my bedroom door.

But this morning I awoke at 6:15 from an uninterrupted sleep filled with pleasant dreams. When I got up and turned on the computer—part of my first-thing-in-the-morning ritual—I found a Google Alert to a link to an unexpected and very nice review of one of my books. It was all the more appreciated because it was from a reader I'd made contact with through a readers' network site just a few days before.

The point of this recitation, and the purpose of this blog, is to contemplate how different two successive mornings can be and, by extension how strange and fascinating are the vagaries of life.

Because we are such busy individuals in such a busy society, we have set aside one day of the year for the purpose of showing gratitude for the good things in our lives, thereby sparing ourselves the necessity to thinking much about them the other 364 days. But perhaps we should at least be a lot more conscious and appreciative of them.

Life is like looking through the glass window of a clothes dryer on “Tumble”—the marvelous (white silks) and the good (whites) and the bad (dark colors) and the absolutely terrible (winter coats and heavy jeans) are all tossed in together and come tumbling past the window with seemingly total randomness. And while we spend very little time looking through the window of a clothes dryer, perhaps we should with this blog in mind.

Because humans are programmed to expect the good of life, we tend to pay little or no attention to it when we're experiencing the good things. Our focus seems drawn only to the frequent not-so-good, the occasional bad, and the fortunately rare absolutely terrible. The fact that humans are both physical and mental beings adds complexity to the equation. You can be feeling fine physically, but be plagued by worries or troubles having nothing to do with the physical body; or, conversely, a physical problem of one degree or another can offset the balance. To me, a perfect day, is one in which I am totally unaware of my body and am not mentally unhappy about anything. The perfect temperature, for example, is the one at which you are completely unaware of it. The perfect mental state is one in which it is free to concentrate on whatever task you have set for it.

The tumble-dry of life ends only when our cycle is over; in the meantime we should concentrate on looking for the whites passing by the window, and more fully appreciate just how nice they are and how lucky we are to have 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, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).

Friday, May 18, 2012

...And a Job from Limbo

Not all jobs are jobs from hell. Some are very nice jobs, as was my employment with the porn mill. And some jobs are, well, a couple steps above hell. I've had a couple of those too, the most memorable being the one I had immediately after leaving my glory days with the P.R. firm, related earlier. A friend got me a job with Peterson Publications, a magazine publishing conglomerate that cranked out countless well-known, very popular, mainly male-oriented periodicals such as Car and Driver. My tenure there was blessedly short, for reasons soon to be made clear.

I have always held to the philosophy that one should work to live, and one should never, as so very many people seem to, live to work. Combining that philosophy with my ability to exist in the world without really being a part of it has largely enabled me to pretty much sail though life like the Flying Dutchman. Still….

Some jobs are furnaces, some are ice boxes and some, like my stint at Peterson Publishing, are London fogs. My job with Peterson was definitely fog: fog so thick that I never did understand exactly what my job was supposed to be, other than do whatever I was told to do at the moment. I think I was in the Promotions department, the primary purpose of which I gather was to come up with little gimmicks to attract new readers. I do recall making up a fake airline baggage claim ticket to be attached to the front cover of one of their travel magazines. I assume it had something to do with an offer of a free trip, though its purpose was never explained to me and I never saw the finished magazine to which it was attached.

There was a similar cover attachment for a diving magazine for which they wanted to feature a ferocious-looking shark, which I was assigned to draw. This, to me, was proof positive that the inmates were running the asylum, since I have never, ever been able to draw anything that ended up looking even remotely like whatever it was I had set out to draw. I think I found a photo of a shark in some other publisher’s magazine and just traced it. It was atrocious, but they used it. And again, I never knew its purpose.

It was not a bad place to work, I don’t think. It  just reminded me of what Limbo must be like. There were people there, but other than the friend who had gotten me the job, they all existed in this thick, grey fog. I do not remember the face…let alone the name…of a single person there. I do not remember the layout of the workplace or what went on there. I could not find the building today if my life depended on it. I would imagine I did have a fairly good idea at the time where the restrooms were, but other than that…

But what I do remember distinctly was that the entire organization seemed to be focused on Office Politics, particularly among the management, whom I do not think I ever saw.

From what I could gather from my friend, the company operated like some strange, gigantic game of chess. While I know nothing at all about chess, I gathered that in this game, the employees were pawns, the lower level supervisors rooks, the supervisor’s supervisors the Queens, etc. So when one Queen bested another Queen, not only would the overturned Queen be fired, but all the rooks and pawns under him/her as well. Entire departments would be let go at one time. I couldn’t quite figure out how an organization could survive like that, but what did I know?

I did not understand the rules of the game and I really didn’t care.

Suffice it to say that after perhaps three months in Limbo, my supervisor’s supervisor lost to his faceless opponent and my entire department was let go.

I did not 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, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Jobs from Hell, Part II

We pick up our fascinating tale of my personal Jobs from Hell where we left off in the last blog, describing my fun-filled days working for an L.A. public relations firm shilling a land development project laughingly called Golden Hills in beautiful Tehachapi, California, and our project of the moment--to produce a glossy brochure calculated to draw flies into the spider's web.

For reasons I could never understand, I got the assignment to accompany the boss, his statuesque girlfriend Inga, a truly hot male model, and his female counterpart to Golden Hills. The models had been selected, I’m sure, because they fit the beautiful image of the beautiful development, and apparently for their ability to sit on an unmoving horse without falling off.

Though the models had never met before, they took an immediate shine to one another, as heterosexuals are wont to do. The boss was too preoccupied with impressing Inga to notice what was going on between the models though I, as fifth wheel, was very aware of everything.

The boss, ever aware of propriety, had his own room at the motel; Inga and the female model were to share a room, as were I and the male model—a prospect I looked forward to even knowing that the guy was irredeemably straight.

All went relatively well until after dinner, during which Inga and the boss played little courtship games, the male and female models sat gazing rapturously at one another, and I tried to convince myself I was in some sort of existentialist movie. After dinner, as we headed for our rooms, the male model approached me and announced that he and his newfound girlfriend would like to spend the night together, and that Inga agreed that I could sleep in her room.

Have you any idea of the degree of enthusiasm with which I greeted this whole prospect? But he pleaded and I, unused to resisting the pleas of hot male models, gave in.

So, to Inga’s room and to bed.

Six a.m. A knock on the door: “Time to get up, sweetheart,” my boss called. Inga got out of her bed and hurried to the door. The minute she opened it, the boss strode in. Hearing him at the door, I had pulled the covers over my head and prayed for death.

A moment later, I felt a hand on my shoulder: “Time to get up, honey,” he said.

I will leave to your imagination the look on his face when I sat up. Betrayal! Debauchery! Boinking the boss’s girlfriend right under his nose! Shock!

He stormed wordlessly out of the room, followed by Inga, leaving me to get up and get dressed. I’m not sure how I got through breakfast, but let’s just say the atmosphere was a tad strained.

Finally, about noon, I’d had it, and told the boss I wanted to talk to him. Now, whether he knew I was gay or not I don’t know, but this was at a time when you could be fired in the blink of an eye if it was even thought you were. So I couldn’t very well just say “Hey, don’t worry about Inga: I’m gay.” Instead, I told him that I had come up there to work, I explained the circumstances (as I’m sure Inga must have, as well), and that children’s games were for children. He merely looked at me.

Immediately upon return to Los Angeles, I began looking for another job.

Oh, and for those of you who have read my Dick Hardesty mystery, The Butcher’s Son, should you see any similarity whatever between my boss and Dick’s boss, Carlton Carson, I can assure you it is purely coincidental. Purely. Yes.

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, May 14, 2012

Jobs from Hell

Reminiscing about my days in the porn industry in my most recent blog posts reminded me of a few of my less pleasant working “less pleasant,” in fact, that I consider them my Jobs from Hell.

The first and most memorable of these was my first job in Los Angeles, with a small public relations firm in Beverly Hills, whose major clients were two land development projects. My boss apparently gained whatever success he had by strict adherence to one rule of business: his clients could do no wrong; his employees could do no right. All credit was his, all the work and any blame fell to his employees.

Paydays were Friday, and though the work day was supposed to end at 5 p.m., checks were almost never handed out before 5:45 on Friday evening. He had, perhaps not surprisingly, a rather high employee turnover rate. I did my best, many years later, to immortalize him in the character of C.C. Carlson in my book The Butcher's Son.

Of the two land development projects mentioned above, one was the then-new Lake Havasu City in Arizona. Every weekend, a Lockheed Constellation airliner would be chartered to fly prospective property buyers from Los Angeles to Lake Havasu City, as part of an absolutely free, “no obligation” package offered to those interested in getting in on the ground floor of this amazing new Eden. Actually, Lake Havasu City was at the time largely undeveloped desert, its only attraction being the much-touted London Bridge, which had been hauled stone by stone from England to span a largely man-made river. But it looked nice in the brochures. The few model homes available for inspection had front lawns comprised not of grass but of green-painted pebbles. But again, in a photograph, who could tell?

I never was quite sure what I was supposed to be doing there, other than to make sure nothing got too far out of hand, like a rebellion by prospective buyers who realized they'd been pretty badly mislead by the brochures.

The plane would leave at 10 a.m. on Saturday, and was scheduled to return at 8 p.m. that same evening. “Scheduled” was the operative word. The minute the plane landed, the prospective home/land owners were descended upon by a horde of sales people hired specifically for their ability to never take “no” for an answer. If 8 p.m. approached, and there was a prospective customer who had not yet signed on the dotted line, the plane would not leave the runway until they had. It was rare to return to L.A. much before midnight.

The second land-development project was located near Tehachapi, California, about a hundred miles northeast of Los Angeles. And while my frequent forays into the Arizona wilderness were looked on with something far less than pleasure, it was the Tehachapi development I look back on with curled toes. It was named “Golden Hills” only because, as the sun was going down over the parched, dried grass of the undulating, deadly dull landscape, the brown could be considered, by someone with a vivid imagination, as having a golden glow which lasted maybe five minutes before it was just brown again.

The developers had created a small, two or three acre man-made pond in the midst of the development, and had surrounded it with lush foliage which must have cost a fortune to maintain.

Our assignment was to produce an informational sales brochure, the cover of which was to feature a handsome couple on horseback in front of the pond which, shot from just the right angle, looked far, far larger than it actually was.

In preparation for the brochure, the boss demanded we find out everything we possibly could about the Tehachapi area and its history. After days of intensive research, we presented a thick stack of materials to him for his approval. He flipped through our several days’ work in fifteen seconds, looked at us scornfully and said: “I don’t see the average rainfall figures for 1947.” I beg your pardon?

Since we worked on salary, to be sure the boss got his money’s worth, he would inevitably come up with some way to have us work those Saturdays we weren't riding shotgun on the Havasu City flights. But at one point, in preparation for some ground-breaking ceremony or other, I was assigned to escort actress Pat Priest, who played the niece on the popular Adams Family tv show, to Tehachapi by private plane. It was the one and only pleasant experience I can remember of my entire term of employment in my first Job from Hell.

Out of space. As they say....To Be Continued.

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, May 11, 2012

More Porn Days

I explained in my last blog how I came to work for the largest “porn mill” on the west coast in the 1970s during the height of the “sexual revolution.” I use it as an example of how we seldom fully appreciate the uniqueness of our experiences while we're living them.

The company for which I worked was 99.99% heterosexual, though their "Lesbian" magazines always sold extremely well. The fact is, of course, that the women featured in them were not lesbians, and the magazines were not directed to lesbians, but were strictly for the intellectual musings of straight men, who inexplicably seem to be fascinated by the thought of women having sex together. Very rarely…very, very rarely…there would be a picture in one of the company's innumerable other magazines of two men together. The company, naturally, offered nothing specifically aimed at the gay market. I'm quite sure it had never occurred to them that there was such a thing.

The company was owned by a husband and wife team in their 60s, who had been in the business for many years and who had made a very large fortune at it. The husband ran the publishing end, his wife the business end. The husband had his own strong, definite ideas of what was sexy, and they seemed to boil down to three irrefutable facts: 1) mesh stockings drive men into a frenzy of desire; 2) A woman’s sexual appeal is in direct ratio to how many rings she can cram onto her fingers; 3) A 30-year-old woman in pigtails, an elementary-school uniform, oversize dark-rimmed glasses coyly licking a lollipop is the epitome of sexual appeal.

I was fascinated to realize, in a short time, how astonishingly little heterosexual men know about the workings of the female body, especially as it relates to sexuality.

After I’d been with the company for a while, I suggested that perhaps they might consider putting out a few magazines aimed at gay men. The initial universal revulsion (except from my immediate boss Keith and his wife Iris) was somewhat lessened when I provided some facts and figures on the buying power of gay men. They were still revolted, but the prospect of making even more money than they already had overcame it, and I became editor of two new magazines devoted to gay sexuality which, although I was never privy to the degree of success of any of the magazines I edited, straight or gay, obviously sold well enough to keep them going.

I subsequently suggested a line of gay-oriented erotic fiction and, surprisingly, they went for that, too.

Finding suitable manuscripts to get the line started was something of a problem.

The top lieutenant to the owners was an outstandingly dour man not only totally devoid of a sense of humor but of any signs whatever of a personality. He had a college-student nephew…straight, of course…who had totally unfounded delusions of becoming a writer, and I was informed that this young man would be supplying me with the manuscript for a male gay novel, for which he was to be paid the then-princely sum of $1,000.

I insisted on seeing a rough draft first, and when I did…well, let’s just say I was somewhat less than ecstatic. This kid couldn’t write his way out of a torn paper bag, and judging from his writing "style" I had no idea how he’d gotten out of third grade. If I had come to the company with no knowledge of what men and women do in bed together, this kid was several planets past Jupiter in not having a clue about gay men.

I will quote you here one line from his manuscript, which is engraved forever in my mind. He was writing what I’m sure he assumed was the penultimate gay sex scene, and the line was (feel free to write this down): "They pressed their lips together and enjoyed it very much." Wow! Time for a cold shower!!

I immediately wrote the young man thanking him for his time, assuring him that he could keep his prepaid $1,000, and wrote the book myself.

Life ain’t always easy, but sure can be a lot of fun.

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, May 09, 2012

My Days in Porn

I’m not out to offend the pure of heart. Really, I’m not. But it is the not-ordinary that tends to make life most interesting, and I’ve had quite a few not-ordinaries in mine. Here’s a look at one of them.

When my mom died shortly after moving to California to be near me in the early 1970s, I quit my job, bought a Winnebago motor home and just took off on an open-ended attempt to run away from life…which of course never works, but is indicative of my mental state at the time. I’ll be talking more about the trip in future entries, and it is mentioned here merely as a brief lead-in to how I ended up working several years for probably the largest porn mill on the West Coast.

When I finally returned home I was forced to face the reality of getting another job. I saw an ad in the paper for an editor for a “men’s magazine” and sent in my resume. Shortly thereafter I got a call from the company for an interview.

The company was located in Chatsworth, one of L.A.’s innumerable suburbs, about half an hour’s drive from my home, and I arrived, as always, early. The building was truly impressive…a huge, sprawling, modern concrete-slab structure that bespoke success.

My appointment was with the chief editor of one of the company’s several divisions. Keith was in his late 40s, stocky, glasses, a crew-cut, and friendly. As he explained the job, I quickly caught on to the fact that when the ad said “men’s magazine” it meant it, literally. The job involved editing several “sex education” magazines with explicit photographs—which, of course, are what sold the publications.

This was at the time when the phrase “redeeming social value” was vital to the success of what a few years earlier had come to be known as “the sexual revolution.” Every magazine put out by the company was comprised of very carefully-researched-and-written articles which did, indeed, provide basic and, I learned from experience, badly needed information on human sexuality—strictly, totally, and exclusively heterosexual, of course. The legal line between “sex education” and “smut”--I love that word—was a razor-thin line which the company took extreme care to walk. Each article was, as I say, carefully researched and had to be footnoted with references to no fewer than five, I believe, published works by noted authorities in the field of human sexuality.

Popular idioms for sex acts and body parts were forbidden. Clinical terms only. Every explicit photograph…and here there were no holds barred…had to have a caption specifically relating it to the subject of the article and using exact physical terminology. Not easy to do, I can tell you.

Anyway, after we’d talked quite a while, Keith called in his wife, Iris, who was also an editor there. Iris, too, was in her late 40s; she wore no makeup, and her long blond hair was pulled back in a pony tail. I liked her right away. After a few more minutes, Keith offered me the job...and here comes the part of the story I love best. I had never before told a prospective employer that I was gay, but in this case, I saw no way around it. So I said: “Well, there is only one problem: since I’m gay, I don’t have the foggiest idea what men and women do in bed together.”

Without batting an eye, Keith said: “Well, then you’ll have a different outlook on things.” It was a truly liberating moment, and I decided in that instant that if they could have that kind of attitude, I wanted to work for them.

I was with the company for five years, through many turbulent free-speech confrontations and the diligent efforts of the police to shut us down. At one time, they found an excuse to lock the building to keep workers out (we shifted operations to several smaller locations). Another time, on a Friday afternoon—when they knew no judge could be contacted to free them—Keith and Iris were arrested. These were only a few of the various forms of legal harassment taken in an attempt to rid the world—or at least Chatsworth—of the scourge of smut. The police would arrive with a search warrant and a judge sitting in a squad car. If, during their search, they found something of interest not covered in the warrant, they would simply go out to the squad car and have the judge amend it.

But we all survived, and I’m delighted to say that I have counted Keith and Iris among my best friends for some 40 years. Iris died this past year, and I truly miss her.

There are several more stories from my porn days, which may well fuel future entries if you'd like to hear them.

But enough for now.

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, May 07, 2012

Bubbly Creek

Where Michigan Avenue crosses the Chicago River stand four large, regal-looking towers, two on each bank, flanking the lift bridge. Only one or two of them houses the mechanism that raises and lowers the bridge, but the builders thought four would look better and more impressive. So there are four. The bridge is so delicately balanced that it only takes the equivalent of a 1950s Volkswagon engine to lift and lower it.

One of them is now the Chicago Bridge Museum, which I had never even known existed, and to which, had it not been for my friend Gary, I would probably never have given a second thought.

Chicago has more lift bridges than any city in the country, and the Chicago River is, I believe, the only river in the world that flows backward. How it came to do so is a fascinating (to me) story.

Chicago was born where two slow-moving streams, the North Branch and the South Branch joined to form the Main Stem, linking the branches to Lake Michigan. The surrounding territory was largely inhospitable  marshland and bogs which the city’s growth slowly consumed. The Chicago River served as the city’s sewer and until only recently was one of the most polluted bodies of water in America if not the world. Because the sewage flowed down the North Branch and up the South Branch and into the Main Stem, all the sewage, garbage, and general debris of the city flowed freely into Lake Michigan, which was and is the city’s main source of drinking water.  A water pump station was built out in the lake beyond the area of main pollution, but the pollution produced by the city’s growth soon overtook it and another station was built further out, which in turn was soon overtaken.

It was decided to dig a canal connecting the South Branch to the Des Plaines river, therefore routing the growing city’s garbage and sewage from Lake Michigan and sending it down stream to the Mississippi, St. Louis and beyond. Only because the land sloped to the west was this possible, but once the canal was opened, the river reversed its flow.

All the growing city’s industrial waste and garbage could then happily be tossed into the Chicago River and let the people downstream on the Mississippi worry about it.

As the city continued to grow, the gigantic Chicago Stockyards were constructed along another stream called “Bubbly Creek”…a lovely name conjuring up images of forest and glens and clear artesian water bubbling up from the earth.  Unfortunately, that image would be wrong. Bubbly Creek received its name from the fact that the tens of thousands of cattle carcasses and general offal from the slaughter houses were dumped into it, and their rotting at the bottom of the creek created methane gas which bubbled to the surface.

During the great Chicago fire, a large stretch of the South Branch, including Bubbly Creek, actually caught fire.

Throughout most of its history, Chicago was known not for its beauty but for its stench. One prominent New York businessman arrived in Chicago by train, stepped onto the platform, took one whiff of the air, got back on the train and never returned. And even today, after years of devoted and concentrated effort to restore the river’s purity, swimming in and fishing from the river are generally discouraged.

And there you have it.  As I said, fascinating. You must come and visit some day, and take a boat cruise along the river. It’s a really beautiful way to see the city. And you don’t have to hold your nose anymore.

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, May 04, 2012

Life and Furniture Stores

Just saw one of those "Buy Now and Pay Nothing until 20XX" furniture store ads on TV and suddenly realized that's pretty much the way life works. And while I can't, much as I would really like to,  believe in a prescient God, I really do believe there is something out there with a rather perverse sense of humor.

I have a mental image of a long line of babies-waiting-to-be-born standing in an endless line, like new army recruits, ready to be issued their lives. And part of the process includes agreeing to a "The Gift of Life" contract which at first glance seems all glowing promise. Not being able to read yet, they just nod in agreement without having the vaguest idea that the "gift" must be paid for at some future point, and that payments are on an automatic deduction basis. Having agreed without really realizing what we agreed to, we step into the world. Things generally go marvelously well for the first thirty years or so, when the smarter among us begin to be aware that withdrawals are beginning to be made from our account. A lost friend here, a relative there.

The pace of these withdrawals accelerates very slowly at first. By our fifties, the occasional illness or physical ailment is added to the repayment schedule, and equally slowly even the more dense among us become peripherally aware that this isn't quite the free ride we thought we'd signed on for. Our bodies, taken so much for granted and subsequently often badly treated, begin to show the signs of the wear and tear we've inflicted on them. Hair thins and recedes, skin wrinkles and sags, muscles lose tone. The person looking out from our mirror becomes less and less familiar. Attempts of the vain to fight these signs of aging become less and less successful and consume more and more time (and often money).

There are those--the blessed ones--who have the ability to simply accept these changes and account withdrawals with grace and dignity, and there are others who fight the realization that had not understood the contract tooth and nail. Many refuse to even acknowledge the existence of the contract, the fine print of which clearly tells us will extract a greater and greater toll with every passing year. 

Humans, as you may have realized, are a truly strange lot. We have a knack for putting our hands over our ears, squinching our eyes closed and chanting "LaLaLaLaLaLa" when faced with something we do not choose to acknowledge. Most people somehow convince themselves that they are immune to "getting old" until they it is impossible to deny the fact that they are, indeed, doing just that. Suddenly they're 65 or beyond and realization shocks them as though someone had snuck up behind them and yelled "Boo.", say, you?...was absolutely, totally convinced that I was never going to get old. Not ever. A classic case of "don't bother me with facts, my mind is made up." And then, to my abject horror, it was made clear to me that yes, I am going to get old. I am getting old. And even if I could manage to convince myself that I wasn't, everyone around me is letting me know it. Offering me a seat on the bus, having people wanting to help me on with my coat, being asked by a grocery clerk if I needed help with two small bags of groceries, being increasingly, infuriatingly eased out of the mainstream; being in a group of "younger" people and knowing I am no longer considered one of them. And realizing, with shame, that that is exactly the way I used to react to people much older than myself.

And I'll wager your reaction to this blog, if you've not already given up on it, is that it is uncomfortably, unnecessarily "depressing" or "morbid" (a fascinating word which means "an abnormal and unhealthy interest in disturbing and unpleasant subjects, esp. death")--proof of our not wanting to even think of things which upset us.)

The thought of growing old does upset most of us...some, of course, far more than others. It's an area in which other animals have the advantage over humans in that they are spared even the concept of what growing older means.

So if I've upset you, I apologize. I only hope that, by urging you really think about this Gift of Life, you might better appreciate everything you have for as long you have it. No matter what your age, enjoy every minute of every day to the fullest, and never forget that life, whatever its cost, is still a "gift" of inestimable value. Treasure it.

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, May 02, 2012

The Blogger's Dilemma

While I don't particularly agree with the Ralph Waldo Emerson's opinion that "consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," I find it does come with its own problems. Consistency leads to routine and routine leads to rut and ruts, once having worn a hole in the psyche, are hard to get out of, let alone remove.

I have, for the past several years, committed myself to writing a blog every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. And the key word here is "committed," as in "consistency." And, in another A-to-B-to-C pattern, with blogs, "consistency" becomes "obligation."After said several years, it gets a little difficult to find new subjects to talk about. This, according to Blogger, the site on which I post my blogs, is blog number 645(!).

It's not that there aren't thousands of subjects out there I've yet to address; just that the most obvious ones have already been used. And, like every other human being, there are certain areas of life with which I am more familiar/comfortable (or which bother/concern me more) and therefore to which I frequently return. Coupling that with my increasing tendency toward procrastination only compounds the problem. I frequently amaze myself at how creative I can be in coming up with ways to avoid doing what I'm supposed to be doing. Were I to apply that creativity to coming up with something to write a blog about, there would be no problem.

So I sat down at the computer this morning to write a blog for tomorrow. While I can't speak for other bloggers, I suspect that I am not alone in finding that writing a blog is considerably easier if you have some idea of what you're going to write about before approaching the computer. Frequently, as today, I haven't a clue. When this happens, I'll sit staring at the vast expanse of whiteness on the screen in front of me, feeling rather like a motorist approaching a very steep, snow-covered and icy hill in a blizzard. Gunning my mental engine and hoping for the best, I proceed, my mental wheels throwing up sprays of thought. But the further up the hill I get, the more my wheels spin until I come to a dead halt or, worse, start sliding backward.

I am, I freely admit, a word-hoarder. Because I never throw away anything I write, I have a long list of blogs I've started and gotten only a few sentences or a paragraphs into before running either out of steam or into a brick wall. But rather than just pitching them, I file under them away, with the date they were begun and prefaced with a "U," for "unfinished." I currently have exactly 50 of these (I just counted), dating back to July, 2009. Will I ever use them? Probably not. Ah, but I might.

Between the above paragraph and this one, I wandered off to play a couple games of solitaire, which necessitated my guilty conscience applying a mental whip and chair to drive me back to work.

Bloggers ignore at their risk the elemental prescript that a blog must hold some degree of interest not only for the blogger but for whomever reads it. This is not always easy, and I realize that I frequently teeter on the edge with this one. Everyone accumulates, over the years, something of a steamer trunk of favorite topics, most of which center around themselves and their prejudices, both positive and negative. Because they come from the blogger's own life and experiences, they are obviously important to him/her. All well and good, except that it is not axiomatic that what is interesting to the blogger will be interesting to the reader. So it behooves the blogger to be aware of this fact and try to make it interesting.

As I've frequently said, I write my blogs based on the unproven assumption that you, as the reader, will understand and hopefully somehow relate what I say in terms of your own life and experience.

How well I succeed in relating to you is still up in the air. Feel free to drop me a note at to let me know.

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 ( ).