Friday, November 30, 2012


Euphoria (eu-phor-ia): noun. A feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness

Euphoria is probably the most powerful—and rare—of pleasurable human emotions. It grabs you by the chest and squeezes your heart.

Romantic love—especially new love—is probably the single most universal source of euphoria, and I've been lucky enough to have experienced it more than once. But beyond that, what produces euphoria in any individual is largely based on his or her own personal experiences and emotional makeup. Since I am unable to tell what sparks euphoria in you, I'll give you some examples of those things which have produced it—and still produces it in reflection—in me, and hopefully that may spark recollections of your own euphoric moments.

Looking back, the first one that comes to mind is of, as a Naval Aviation Cadet on one of my first solo flights, flying through the top of a cloud and finding myself in a vast “valley” created and surrounded by whipped-cream-cloud mountains. Of the hundreds of training planes in the air at that same time, mine was the only one in that valley, with the pure blue sky above, the clouds all around me, and the patchwork green and brown quilt of the earth below. As I soared and dove and climbed and rolled, all alone, through this valley, I experienced an indescribable joy and wonder I'd never experienced before.

It was not until I was seventeen years old that my suspicion that I was not the only guy in the world not simply experimenting with homosexuality was confirmed in a movie theater in Rockford, Illinois. Even so, it was still many years later, after the military and college, that I experienced attending my first gay pride parade in San Francisco. Surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people like me, the knowledge that I belonged was truly euphoric.

My two recent trips to Europe produced several incidents of euphoria. The first trip, in 2011, I think of as a memories tour to revisit places I'd been while in the Navy 55 years before. But to find the battered concrete quay from which I'd dived and swum and laughed with two young Germans and two young Frenchmen so many years ago...euphoria. Instantly I was transported back in time to what I think of as possibly the happiest single week of my life. To find it again, to stand on the edge of that very quay and look down into the clear waters through all those years was...extraordinary.

During that same trip, in Venice...Venice!...I, Roger Margason, sat in the Piazza San Marco (!) on a warm April day drinking a beer while a six-piece orchestra in front of the restaurant played a waltz. The sense of pure joy and happiness cannot be put into words.

Also on the same trip, I revisited Pompeii and, in the garden of a 2,000 year old home, sat on a small broken column and listened to the whispers of the ghosts of people dead for two millennia. The sensation of euphoria was like a dry sponge suddenly immersed in water.

On my second trip, this year, while on a river cruise of the Rhine and Danube from Budapest to Amsterdam (Budapest? Amsterdam? Me?) I spent an evening in the ballroom of a 15th-century palace in Vienna (!), listening to an amazing nine-piece orchestra—the concert master was playing a Stradivarius—performing music Mozart wrote in that very building, followed by Strauss waltzes. Total euphoria!

How can I possibly devote so many of these blogs to bitching and moaning over the fact that life is not what I would have it be? I should be ashamed of myself and, on rereading this blog, I am.

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Things I Have Learned From Social Media

I undoubtedly spend far too much of my time on the internet, yet I can say that it has exponentially expanded my knowledge of the world and opened my eyes to concepts I could never have conceived.

Almost every physical and scientific fact known to man—and many previously unknown—can be found somewhere on the internet. But it is the social media...the Facebooks, Twitters, MySpaces, Google Pluses and endless others—which expand one's inner, personal world. The facts social media present are euphorically mind-expanding.

Here are just a few of the things I've learned from my time on the social media sites:

The degree of pure altruism—the deep, sincere desire to help one's fellow man—to be found on line and dismissively referred to as “spam” only by those with their own nefarious agendas, demonstrate the finest and most noble qualities of mankind.

For example, while nowhere is it stated in so many words, I have learned that Nigeria is the wealthiest, most generous nation on earth, with more banks, barristers, and wealthy widows (all of whom seem, unfortunately, to be dying of “cancer disease” and who contact perfect strangers with tears in their eyes and sorrow in their hearts to help them distribute their wealth).

There are unimaginably vast numbers of lotteries—distributing, cumulatively, billions of dollars, pounds, francs, rupees, etc. for absolutely no discernible reason other than altruism—of which I am awed to have been declared winner.

I had not been aware of the number of wives, children, third-cousins-twice-removed and other relatives deposed dictators have, all of whom have access to huge fortunes and need only my help to smuggle it out of wherever it happens to be at the moment. The same goes for an astonishing number of former prime ministers, cabinet officers, and bureaucratic flunkies of said dictators.

U.S. military personnel, especially those “currently serving in Iraq,” constantly come across huge sums of money with which they need my help to get out of the country. That this, and the proposals in the paragraph above, is undoubtedly blatantly illegal is of little matter. Their premise is that greed trumps logic and morality every time. If you can get in on the action, go for it.

But spam aside, Facebook in particular seems to be at the forefront in alerting us to vast conspiracies afoot on every level to deprive us of the truth, destroy our liberties, enslave us, and generally condemn us to a life of pure hell. Until I joined Facebook, I was unaware that technology has absolutely proven that cars can run on air; that the entire planet's energy needs can be provided by a glass of water; that a cure has been discovered for every disease known to man, and that the only reason we do not have access to these wonders is that they are being deliberately suppressed by the bankers, politicians, auto, energy, and pharmaceutical giants who control the world's economy. No authority figure can be trusted any further than one can toss a Sherman tank. The only truth out there is to be found in posts positing a conspiracy theory. Granted, mainstream news media works hand in hand with Facebook posts to expose such shocking truths as our president's being a Kenya-born anti-christ usurper of the title he holds. No claim, theory, rumor, or innuendo, no matter how far-fetched or wildly, egregiously wrong it may be, or where it is presented, goes without ready access to an all-too-eager-to-believe-it audience.

We have become Frankenstein's monster.

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

Monday, November 26, 2012

Stupidity Redux

I was sitting here sorting through my vast treasure trove of goofs, gaffes, errors, and random stupidities for which I am a legend in my own mind, and for no reason—as in fact there almost never is one—followed a short trail of breadcrumbs to a post received from a friend earlier in the day commenting on the fact that the sleeping medication, Ambien, has a warning on the label that it may cause drowsiness. I am always fascinated by drug commercials on TV in which the recitation of warnings and side effects takes up more time than telling you why you should buy it. It had struck me as ridiculous until I got to thinking yet again at how incredibly stupid people other than me and thee can be. Obviously the makers of Ambien go to such great lengths to tell you everything that could go wrong with its use do so to prevent someone who had used the product while piloting an aircraft and, surviving the resulting crash caused by falling asleep at the controls, then suing Ambien charging that the label did not specifically warn him/her that it might cause drowsiness.

When I worked in Chicago the first time, a co-worker was telling me how, when he worked for the Packard Motor Car Company (I know, you’re much too young to remember Packards), a woman drove into the Packard garage with a new convertible, the cloth top and collapsing/raising mechanism of which looked like a crumpled kite. The woman was outraged, demanding Packard fix the problem immediately. The shop workers could not imagine what might have caused such damage, until the woman explained that she had been driving down the highway at 60 miles an hour on a lovely spring day and decided to put the top down. It simply never occurred to her that she might have to stop the car to do it.

Recently, another woman (sorry, not picking on women, it just happened to be a woman in both these cases) sued the manufacturer of her Winnebago motor home for not specifically stating in the owner’s manual that the driver cannot engage the cruise control feature while driving down the highway and then get up to go to the kitchen area to make a sandwich. She won.

A truly tragic example of stupidity occurred when I was living in northern Wisconsin. A young man, despondent over the breakup with his girlfriend, decided to kill himself (after all, life simply is not worth living if you break up with a girlfriend). He put his father’s shotgun under his chin and pulled the trigger, blowing half his face away. But he lived, if his condition can be called life. My feelings of true shock and infinite sorrow for the young man were nonetheless tempered by the utter stupidity of the act.

Bank robbers who write hold-up notes on the back of their own checks, people who, peer into the barrel of a loaded gun to see if it needs cleaning, the man who enters a darkened room and, smelling gas, lights a match to see if he can find the source, etc.! The examples are endless. I am deeply appreciative to whomever it is who creates the annual Darwin Awards, which “salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who have accidentally removed themselves from it.” The accounts of incredible stupidity exhibited by reward recipients are mind-boggling…all the more so because they are true.

I guess part of my problem with all these blatant examples of idiocy and incompetence is that, I take a perverse pride in my own, and I resent the competition.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Friday, November 23, 2012

Of Time and Cookies

I’ve not written a poem in a long time; it seems to be a cyclical thing, though not so reliable as the emergence of the cicada. Part of the problem is inspiration. The inspiration for a poem is not the same as the inspiration for a book. Poems are compressed thought, and I have always had trouble compressing mine.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure exactly what qualifies as a poem. When I attempt to write a rhyming poem, it generally tends toward the “ta-Dum, ta-Dum, ta-Dum, ta-DAH” school, as though I were still playing woodblocks in my first grade band. And there are few things worse than a poem in which a word chosen for a rhyme is so egregiously bad or inappropriate it appears to have been dragged in at gunpoint and is being held against its will.

Each issue of The New Yorker magazine contains groups of words I assume to be poems, though I cannot recall one single poem in which I had the foggiest idea of what was being said, or why. They belong to the “the more obtuse it is, the more meaningful it must be” or “the Emperors's new clothes” school.

Anyway, I digress (oh stop the presses!). The point of this blog, if there is one, is that the other day a friend sent me a very nice, nostalgic poem about the memories evoked by the smell of cooked cabbage, and for some reason—why do I insist on saying that, when there is in fact no reason at all—a sentence entered my head and refuses to go away. I recognized it immediately as the basis for an as yet unwritten poem; an achingly sad poem reminiscent of “The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock.”

I do not like sadness; there’s far too much of it in the world as it is. Yet the sentence stayed with me, and I saw an entire poem—an entire life—encapsulated in it. Part of its appeal lay, as in all poems and in all writing, in the words and the way they are put together, and in the picture that they paint for me.

So I sat down, after writing the first few paragraphs above, and let Dorien use Roger's fingers to go where that lone sentence might take him. Half an hour or less later, here is what he wrote, just as he wrote it. I’ll polish it a bit later, but thought you might be interested to see the workings of one unfettered mind.

Of Time and Cookies

It was a time of ritual,
a time of coffee and cookies
inserted between games of solitaire
and the evening news.

It was a time when he was free
to be who he no longer was;
a time to be young enough to dream
dreams which could still be fulfilled.

The space between each sip of coffee,
each small bite of cookie,
could be filled with thoughts of friends no longer dead
and memories of a bed warm with a body other than his own.

After the ritual, he returned to the world as it was.
He washed his coffee cup and replaced it in the cupboard.
He closed the box of cookies and put it on a high shelf,
in hopes the cockroaches would not find it.

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cages, Keys, and Tinkerbell

We all live within the harsh confines of the cage of reality, the bars of which are the unbreakable laws of physics. And even within that cage, we are tightly shackled by our daily lives and by unconscious acceptance of what we have always been told is and therefore must always be. Few realize that the cage has a door, and the key to that door lies within the mind. Reality imprisons the body, but it cannot restrain the mind.

I've been aware of this fact all my life and, as a result, Reality and I have developed a most unusual relationship. I am not so foolish or delusional as to deny Reality's existence; I simply—and quite honestly—choose to ignore it whenever possible, which, fortunately, not having the tethers of job or family, is most of the time. I've always found life much easier to get through when I don't have to burden myself with facing Reality head on.

Reality, for example, says I am 79 years old. I blithely refuse to accept it. Even when Reality puts a reflective surface in my line of vision in an effort to show me who's really in control, I'm able to simply reject the image as being of some wizened old man I've never seen before and would be happy never to see again. He resembles nothing so much as a dried apple-core carving of a human, and I cannot relate to him in any way. So I don't.

I am able, despite Reality's strong evidence to the contrary, to still believe in the basic goodness of people. I believe in honor and grace and beauty. I believe in happily-ever-after and miracles and bravery and nobility. I automatically assume that every man I find attractive is homosexual. Even when he is with a woman, I know it's his sister or good friend and that he has an equally good-looking male partner waiting at home. If he is with another good looking man, they are partners. This was evinced this morning at coffee with my friend Gary. A truly beautiful young man...tall, dark curly hair...came in towing a large wheeled suitcase. He had, my mind told me, just flown in to O'Hare, had taken the CTA Blue Line to Logan Square and transferred to the eastbound #76 bus, getting off at the Brown Line Diversey station next to the coffee shop. He ordered coffee and left, Gary calling my attention to the fact that another extremely handsome man had just pulled up and gotten out of his car to meet the beautiful traveler. Gary assumed the other man was the traveler's father, but he was much too young...almost the same age as the traveler. They were, of course, partners, and the coffee shop was a convenient halfway point for them to meet. They didn't hug or kiss, but I knew that would come later. They got in the car and drove away. They were holding hands, I'm sure.

Were they partners? Were they even gay? They were and are in my mind and heart, so what difference did it make if Reality said otherwise? I wanted them to be together, and in love, and happy, and so they were and are.

Far too many people ever even dare to think outside Reality's cage. Had they been in the coffee shop they—like Gary—would have seen nothing more than a nice looking young man with a suitcase, ordering coffee and then going outside to meet someone and driving off. Period. End of story. Or, rather, no story.

Life is so filled with wonderful, delightful, fun, positive stories which need no basis in reality to provide pleasure and warmth in a world too-often bleak or dull. The trick is to see beyond the bars of the cage.

If it pleases you to believe something—no matter how unrealistic it may appear to others—and it harms no one, by all means, believe it with all your heart. We make so much of the sorrow we experience in the course of our lives; surely we are allowed to create a little happiness.

Remember the end of Peter Pan, where Tinkerbelle is dying because she believes no one believes in her? Well, as Peter says, “Clap if you believe.” I do.

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

Wastebaskets and Life

Because of the smallness of my bedroom, where my computer is located, my wastebasket is about five feet behind me. So every time I need to pitch something…usually wadded-up Kleenex…I have to turn my swivel-chair around to throw. I throw it. I miss. I get up from my chair, pick up the Kleenex, walk back to the chair and, without sitting down, throw it again. I miss. Ever a glutton for mental torture, I go retrieve it again. I stand directly over the wastebasket and drop the Kleenex from a height of less than three feet. I miss.

How the hell can anyone possibly miss a wastebasket from a height of three feet? I’m not sure, but I manage, eight times out of ten.

I look on my luck with wastebaskets rather as an analogy for my life. It’s a singularly perverse form of narcissism that I am in constant awe at my ability to screw things up with absolutely no effort. My inability to perform even the most simple of tasks is not limited to tossing Kleenex into a wastebasket. I suspect that when we are born, we are handed a detailed instruction manual for dealing with just about every possible situation which may arise in the course of our lives. Mine, unfortunately, seems to have been written in Swahili.

For most people, when the manual says “Insert Tab A into Slot B”, they merely insert Tab A into Slot B and get on with their lives. For me, however, either Tab A is too large and Slot B is too small, or Slot B is just a line drawn on a solid surface and therefore impossible to “insert” anything into it.

Pop top cans are simplicity itself. Just hook your index finger under the top edge of the tab, raise it up, and the can opens. I try it and cannot get my finger far enough under the tab to have any leverage at all, and after innumerable, increasingly frenetic attempts and a broken fingernail, I go to the silverware drawer to extract a knife or spoon in an attempt to pry the damned thing high enough to get my finger under it. Even this often takes five or six tries.

Whoever invented the phrase “To open, simply lift flap” on packaging deserves a special place in hell. This applies not only to soda cans, but innumerable items. I am never able to “simply lift flap,” and end up ripping the package to shreds in an uncontrollable fury, often sending the contents flying around the room, necessitating my going out and buying more of whatever was in the package. (And you think manufacturers aren’t aware of this? Silly you!) When is the last time you opened a bag of potato chips or crackers without tearing the bag?

Why am I incapable, once I have managed to dribble something stainable on the front of my shirt (which, given the lack of physical control I have over my mouth, is inevitable), of removing the stain either before or after putting it in the wash? Bleach merely creates a huge white blob on whatever color the item may originally have been. Spot-Ex, Oxy-Clean, Shout—no matter. I am incapable of removing a stain. Ever. As a result my clothes look like a Jason Pollock painting.

I recently bought a Swiffer floor cleaner. Millions of people have bought the Swiffer, and every single one of them (at least if one can believe the ads, which of course I always do) are elated with the results. Grimy, blotched floors become sparkling with just one pass of the device. For me, not only does it not clean the floor, but my feet tend to stick to the floor after I’m done.

But, hey, as the song says “Life is just a bowl of cherries.” They don’t mention the pits.

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

Friday, November 16, 2012

Organized Sports

Among the myriad of things I simply cannot comprehend (as witnessed by the frequency with which I mention it)—and I am totally serious when I say this—is the appeal of organized sports. It is in viewing the rest of society’s reaction to these commercial activities that I find yet more strong evidence that I live in a world to which I do not belong. Does it never occur to anyone other than me that if a football game is divided into four fifteen minute sections, the game should be over in an hour? Has a football game ever been over in an hour?

As I have so often said, I am completely in favor and supportive of games involving physical activity, and to the active participation in them, yet this is exactly my point. I can see the physical and emotional benefit of playing any sport, but absolutely no benefit to or point in just watching them…let alone comprehend the beyond-all-reason fervor they engender in people whose most exercised muscles are those controlling the their elbows and jaws. What is gained by sitting at a bar stool or in a recliner chug-a-lugging beer with one hand while shoveling food into one’s mouth with the other is simply beyond me.

Am I the only one who realizes that tomorrow’s“BIG GAME!”, anticipated with all the fervor of the Second Coming, will, day after tomorrow, rapidly fade from memory to be replaced by the fevered anticipation of next week’s “Big Game!”?

If you will excuse me, every time I see a bunch of out of shape, overweight couch potatoes celebrating “their” team's win and yelling “We're Number 1!” I want to grab them by the throat and shout “No, you idiot! They're Number 1; all you did was sit there on your dead ass and watch!”

I can even concede, in an incredible display of nobility, that there is some interest in watching athletes perform. Grace is evinced in sports as it is in ballet. I admit I love watching Olympic diving competition and men’s gymnastics, but I have motives other than in seeing who wins. But, again, it is watching and not participating.

But to me, organized sports say volumes about a culture in which individuals who, by sole dint of their physical prowess in one sport or another, and despite their frequent inability to put together a complete sentence without fifteen interjections of “Ya know what I’m sayin’?” or just “Ya know?” make more money in one year than most scientists, educators, scholars, researchers, rocket scientists, and doctors make in twenty?

As with so many things in human existence, it is far easier to delegate as much of one’s life as possible to someone else than to put out the effort to do it oneself. This applies equally to mental activity, like seriously thinking about issues affecting all mankind or asking questions of anyone in authority, and to physical activity. Why should I get all sweaty and achy climbing three flights of stairs or walking to the grocery store two blocks away, when I can take the elevator, hop in my car, and then on returning from my arduous and exhausting trek, flop down on a comfortable chair or couch and watch other people—obscenely overpaid people—catch footballs and chase after baseballs or whack one another soundly with hockey sticks and do all those things I am too lazy to do for myself?

If anyone could explain to me how the billions of dollars spent annually on commercialized organized sport could not be better spent improving the human condition, not to mention improving the health and well being of those who spend the money for tickets, I would be most willing to listen.

And I am sure that the value and wisdom of my views will be universally realized, and the world will become a far better and healthier place. When pigs fly.

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Seventy-nine years ago today (a Tuesday), at 11:15 p.m., I was born—not in a log cabin on the prairie, but in St. Anthony's hospital in Rockford, Illinois. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had been in office eight months and ten days, and he would be the only president I would know until I was 12 years old. World War I had ended only 15 years and three days before. It was a world without television, computers, internet, or cell phones. The first transoceanic airline service was still two years away. Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge had begun only 9 months earlier.

I grew up in a world totally unknown by, and alien to, the vast majority of people alive today. Yet to me, as I passed from day to day, year to year, each seemed perfectly natural. Things were what they were. We cannot miss things that we do not yet know will exist. The same is true today. We can't imagine what will be normal for someone seventy years from now, though those living then may well wonder how we ever got along without them.

So I can say “Today I am 79 years old.” But I can also say “Today popcorn elephants disgorge purple butterflies.” Both statements mean about the same to me in that each is incomprehensible. The truth is, of course, that while I can reluctantly concede the fact that I have lived 79 calendar years, I am not 79 years old. The operative word in “79 years old” is “old,” and I refuse to accept that I am old. I will never be 79 years old, no matter what the calendars say.

That reality and I are barely on speaking terms is a given fact. I've become something of an expert at avoiding it. As the years add up, reality keeps trying to show its control by placing reflective surfaces in my path unexpectedly, to make its point, like someone jumping out from behind a tree and yelling “Boo!” I avoid reflective surfaces whenever possible, and slowly retreat further into the world of my mind, which knows no age.

What I would undoubtedly would have considered maudlin or negative thinking twenty years ago—what you may well consider this blog entry to be—I can now accept. Not maudlin, not negative, not self-pity...simple fact. Every human life, yours included, has a point of no return, where there are fewer years ahead than behind. None of us knows when that point of no return is crossed. I've been blessed to have lived as long as I have, and I want to live as many more as possible. But I know that however many may be left, and as much as I would have it be otherwise, at 79 my point of no return was crossed some time ago.

And with age comes a certain...stoicism.

Edith Piaf's “Je ne Regrette Rien” has always been one of my favorite songs. Unfortunately, looking back at the previous 78 years (78 years? See? Just writing that gave me a shock!) I have an awful lot of regrets; things I wish with all my soul I could go back and change, or avoid altogether. But of course I can't. I have always expected more of life and of myself than either of us could be expected to provide.

Every life is a balance. Joy/sorrow, love/loss. As an extreme romantic, I long for things to always be positive, for the handsome prince to find his counterpart and live happily ever after. The fact that life doesn't work that way has tended to embitter me. As a result, when looking back on all the sorrows and losses of my life, they tend to stand out more sharply than the loves and joys simply because I expect the loves and joys and am disproportionately hurt by anything less.

I've said and mean with all sincerity that I view the inevitable end of my journey, whenever it comes, not with the fear and sorrow of death itself, but with the sorrow of knowing that life will go on without me and there will be so very many roads I will not walk, so many adventures I will not have, so many books I will not write or read, so much beauty, so much happiness, so much love that I will not experience. I am infinitely grateful for everything I've been given. I just want more.

I guess that's what they call “life.”

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

Monday, November 12, 2012

Once Upon a Time in the Navy

To realize that this year's Veteran's Day marks the 56th year—well over half a century—since I completed my military service is, quite seriously, incomprehensible to me. I have only to close my eyes and I'm back in the Navy, back aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga in the Mediterranean sea.

The purpose of our military, then as now, is to protect our country, and everyone who has served in whatever capacity has fulfilled that duty.

The 1950s seem like so very long ago, and we tend to forget that it was at the height of the very real cold war, and the threats and dangers we faced were also very real.

I am very lucky to have kept the letters I wrote to my parents at the time, and I am using an excerpt from a letter of March 1, 1956—written during one of the looming crises we faced—to illustrate my point:

Chief Sewell and I spent a good two hours today hotly debating whether, if war came and we were cut off in the Mediterranean (it would be very easy—there are only two ways out—Gibraltar and the Suez), and if we had expended our bombs, planes, and fuel, we would surrender the ship intact or scuttle. I claimed that rather give the enemy a potential weapon to be used against us somewhere else, we would most definitely sink ourselves. The Chief contended that we wouldn’t dare sink $200,000,000 of the taxpayer’s money—that we should put into port and surrender, having first disabled all our guns and instruments, in hopes that we’d be able to take it back by force or it would sit in port till the American armies (victorious as ever) should come and recapture it. He claimed I was very stubborn because I couldn’t agree. What do you think?

What in hell good reason would we have for sinking it?”

So they couldn’t get it.”

There are 3,000 men on this thing—what are they supposed to do?”

We have lifeboats and life jackets.”

You know how long they’d last in that water? We haven’t got that many lifeboats to begin with.”

So you’d going to sail blissfully into port and say: ‘Here we are, take us’? Oh, no, Chief. If you were kicking me in the face, I wouldn’t offer you my shoes.”

And so on into the night. We finally agreed that we would make a run for it, even if we knew we could never make it, and go down fighting.

The United States Sixth Fleet—consisting entirely of thirty-five ships, including two submarines, and two aircraft carriers, is right now in the awkward position of a sacrificial lamb.

But we only have 107 days until we get back to the good old U.S.; and only 163 until I get out.

The crisis passed, and we sailed home safely, and I became once more a civilian and got on with my life. I did nothing special while I served my country. But I would have done anything I was called on to do, and am proud to prove the saying, “They also serve who merely stand and wait.”

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

Friday, November 09, 2012

"Dirty Old Men"

One of my major complaints against life is that it gives us so very much to start with, and then, once we are totally used to it, begins taking things away.

I made the mistake the other day of, upon stumbling on an on-line ad for a “personals” column, checking it out in a moment of mental masochism. It was one of those "Meet People" pop-up ads on Yahoo, and all I needed to do was check “ ‘M’ seeking ‘M’” and put in my zip code. I knew the instant I did it that the result would only be total frustration and self pity, and sure enough…there on my screen appeared John, 27, and Bill, 22, and Jimmy, 25, all accompanied by photos of good looking, smiling young men who gave brief descriptions of themselves and what they were seeking by placing themselves on the list. I looked at each one of them, and my chest ached knowing that I still want exactly what they want, yet none of them would (or, honestly, could be expected to) give me a second glance.

Dirty old men are a cruel joke in our culture. How dare someone over 40 or 50 or 60 (and we will not even think about anyone older than that) think they have any right to be romantically loved, and held? Even trying to form a mental image of such a thing is somehow revolting, rather like picturing your parents having sex. These guys had their chance. The door has closed on them: by what right do they feel sorrow or resentment for no longer being welcome in a world in which they were, not all that long ago, one of the gang; popular, sought after, cruised, smiled at, approached, touched?

I know that is just the way life is. I also know there are eighty-seven quintillion billion stars in the universe, yet I am totally incapable of understanding or making sense of either fact.

The ability to love is one of the many gifts given each of us at birth. Some of us use it well, others squander it. But at no point in life, be we 20 or 90, does someone come along and say “all right, you don’t need it anymore: give it back.”

I don’t often quote my poetry in these blogs, but this subject reminded me of one that I find particularly significant, and I hope you’ll indulge me. It’s addressed primarily to gay men, but it can apply equally to anyone:
Tell Me, Friend
Tell me, friend: how old are you?
(Twenty-one? Thirty-two?)
What do you think of men like me?
(Forty-five? Sixty-three?)

Remember, please, that those “old farts”
have faces older than their hearts.
Before you scorn them, be aware
that there’s a young man trapped in there.
It costs you nothing to be kind;
look past the body to the mind
And think too on this irony:
as I was you, you will be me.

Well, that’s enough reflexivity for one blog. But don’t be surprised if the same topic comes up again at some point.

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

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


I’ve devoted several blogs to dreams, and how much I enjoy them. I particularly like story dreams, or musical dreams, or flying dreams, or those which seem terribly profound at the moment. Well, last night I dreamed of toasters. All night. Nothing else. Just toasters. Waking up for a bathroom break, or a loud noise outside didn’t interfere. The minute I went back to sleep, it was back to the toasters.

I can’t even say I spent most of the time contemplating the history and cultural impact of toasters. I didn’t. Just the two basic types of household toaster with which I am familiar: the old-fashioned kind where the side flipped down to allow you to put the bread in (and which only toasted one side at a time), and today’s slot-type. I’ve not seen a fold-down toaster in many, many years, so perhaps, in reflection, it might all have represented some deeply subliminal longing for the past, in which my mind spends so much of its time. Possible, but I think it was just about toasters.

There was a building in there at one point…a huge, solid, windowless circular building like one of those gigantic gas storage tanks, with a wide and ornate band of decoration (Corinthian column caps and elaborate bas-relief scroll-work of some sort) at the top, painted bright purple and green and silver. (I am nothing if not stylish, even in sleep.) What it had to do with toasters or anything I of course haven’t a clue, but it was there, so assume it had its own reasons for being there. That I have/had no idea of what that reason may be is irrelevant.

Other than that, there was no story, no plot, no people, no music, no sound at all. No particular emotions…frustration, boredom…associated with them. Just toasters.

I have friends who claim they never dream, which of course is impossible, and friends who claim they never remember their dreams. I feel rather sorry for them. Dreams are among the greatest of mankind’s gifts, and reflecting on them and their meaning is a form of active relaxation I truly enjoy. And reflection on dreams is perhaps more important to and common with me than with others given my already tenuous relationship with reality in any form.

Dreams are a form of game the mind plays with itself, made the more interesting by the fact that the game has no rules.

Of all the things I do not understand—and the list is endless—how and why the mind works the way it does is pretty high up on the ladder. And to consider that there are seven billion or so people on earth (Go, Breeders!!), each one assumedly with his or her own dreams, remembered or not, gives depth to the phrase “mind boggling.” But again, it’s fun to speculate on.

And now it’s time for breakfast. Not sure what I’ll have. Toast sounds good.

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

Monday, November 05, 2012

Do Unto Others

Why is it that the simplest and most natural questions always seem to be the ones with the most complex answers—or no answers at all?

I’ve often wondered why the Golden Rule is so widely praised but so seldom practiced. It’s like that old saw: “What is there about ‘NO’ that you don’t understand?” What is there about “Do unto others as you would have done unto you” that makes it such a difficult concept for so many people to grasp? Is there some sort of species-wide dyslexia which forces so many to read that simple sentence as: “Do unto others as you would have done unto them”?

Though it is a precept of the Judeo-Christian bible, it’s not a matter of religious belief; it is universally applicable to agnostics and atheists as well. The fact is that within those ten simple words lie the solution to just about every moral issue facing mankind. Unfortunately, acknowledging it in theory while ignoring it in practice renders it all but meaningless.

The problem lies, I think, in the simple fact that on the “animal/vegetable/mineral” chart, human beings are undeniably animals, despite our arrogant assumption of superiority over all other living creatures. We are nonetheless the product of tens of thousands of years of predatory animal behavior, and it’s not easy to quell the most base of our animal instincts. Kill or be killed. Eat or be eaten. Survival of the fittest. One might assume that after more than five thousand years of struggle toward civilization, our more advanced brains might have put us further ahead of other predators than we seem to have come. We are civilized in theory, yet far too often not in practice.

In our daily lives, as individuals, we struggle with the same genetically imposed imperatives as our earliest ancestors; if someone crosses us in some way, our knee-jerk reaction is to defend ourselves. Even in matters which do not directly affect our physical wellbeing, we far too often respond to real or perceived rudeness with rudeness. I live in a large apartment building and, especially in the elevators, always try to acknowledge my fellow riders. But sometimes I don’t for one reason or another, or sometimes when I say “hello” I will be greeted with stony silence. And just as there may be good reason for my lapse, I have to acknowledge that there may be a very good reason for their lack of response—they didn’t hear me, they were preoccupied, they were having a bad day. In any case, I have no excuse for any negative reaction on my part. But, too often, I have one.

Though as humans we have carefully devised the tools of language and logic, when we feel challenged, we too often simply ignore them in favor our basic, animalistic responses/reactions.—a form of the eternal, basic animal “fight or flight” response. The conflict between how we, as civilized people, feel we should respond and how we do respond are, again far too often, two very different things.

"Do Unto Others" is one of the guidelines we have established or ourselves. It is admirable and noble and definitely a goal for which we should aspire. But it can only be achieved by somehow overcoming our animal-based primary imperative: survival of the fittest.

So I really must try harder to practice what I preach and treat everyone the way I would like to be treated, even if they do not respond in kind. Turning the other cheek isn’t always easy in every instance, but there are so very many instances when it really doesn’t take that much effort. And there is a certain comfort and even an odd ego-stroking in knowing one has behaved better than someone else. Almost makes me feel a little…well, superior. Survival of the fittest, you know.

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

Friday, November 02, 2012

In, But Not Of

I think one of the reasons I became a writer is that I have always had such a difficult time making myself understood. I’m still trying, and still don’t do a very good job of it. I think I am searching, too, for a way to understand that which I have never understood.

Take the world, for instance. I am homosexual…one of the major components of what makes me me…and I live in a world of heterosexuals. Neither one of us fully understands the other, though I and those like me are outnumbered 9 to 1, so in any conflict between the two, it’s fairly clear who has the upper hand. I was born of heterosexual parents into a heterosexual family of which I am the only homosexual. Not just in my generation, but to the best of my knowledge in all generations. The only possible exception, and this is only pure speculation and perhaps wishful thinking on my part, was my mother’s uncle Peter, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 19 back in the early years of the 20th century. I probably romanticize Peter because he died so young.

So I have, as do most homosexuals—and especially those who recognize their homosexuality at a very early age (I was five)—made my own way, learning social survival skills, playing social survival games (but only to an extent; I have never in my entire life denied my homosexuality). I became an expert at dodging the issue when it got too close. As I have reported before, when I joined the Navy, I marked the box “Have you ever had homosexual tendencies” “No” with a clear conscience on the sound logic that there were no “ever” or “tendencies” involved.

I understand, to a degree, heterosexuals as individuals, but when mixed together as husbands and wives and in-laws and their kids (invariably heterosexual themselves) dating and going to proms and doing all those wholesomely red-blooded American heterosexual things that come so naturally to heterosexuals, I am quite honestly completely and totally at a loss as to what is going on. I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like, nor do I have any desire to find out. That, of course, does not mean I am not frequently embittered by the arrogance of many heterosexuals in assuming their numbers make them superior.

I just read an article in which the writer was describing a trip he and his wife had taken with his parents and children and I just stared at the page. I had no real concept of what he was talking about, or how the people involved interacted or interrelated. In a way, my attitude toward the world in which I live is not unlike watching a football game (or basketball game, or baseball game)…I simply do not understand it or its rules and cannot comprehend how others seem to.

One of the things that confuses me most is how straight men and women relate to one another. In a large gathering, they’re together, yet they’re separate. The women tend to cluster together and talk women things—children and clothes and recipes—while the men huddle around the TV glued to whatever sporting event happens to be on, putting on a great display of testosterone and male bonding and making far more to-do over whatever is happening than I can conceive of as being warranted.

I’ve never understood how everyone else…well, get’s it. They walk into a party and mingle and talk and laugh and dance, and to them it is the most natural thing in the world—which I suppose it is: there is great comfort in being among one's own kind.

It’s strange to live in a world to which one does not belong, and in which one is often not comfortable. I’ve been in that position all my life. I take some comfort in the fact that I am not alone, and there are many others who, like me, walk through the zoo that is the world, warily watching those on the other side of the thick glass walls. The question is, who is on which side of the glass?

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