Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On the Wonder of Words

I've had a life-long fascination with words; with their sounds, with their origins, with their meanings. It amazes me how few people ever take even a moment to think about the wonder of words. To do so can add new layers of appreciation and delight to life.

I owe my love of words to my mother, with whom, as a very young child, I would play a game we called "Dictionary." We would sit with the dictionary, taking turns opening it to random pages, then closing our eyes and putting our index finger on the page. The other would try to identify and define the word the finger pointed to.

I am delighted by words which are, in effect, their own definition. Some are so elementary as to be fascinating when you stop to realize it: "fly," for example. A "fly" is what it is, and "fly" is what it does.

Seeking the background of words can, however, be a trap, in that you set out in one direction and find yourself wandering off in another. The word "butterfly," for example, is a spoonerism for what a butterfly "flutters by," and spoonerism—a verbal error in which a speaker accidentally transposes the initial sounds or letters of two or more words—is one of those words the definition of which is derived from the person with whom it is associated, in this case a 19th century scholar named W.A. Spooner, famous for garbling his words. The word for a certain form of facial hair, sideburns, derived its name from civil war General Ambrose Burnside, who wore them. And the word "hooker" derives from another Civil War general, Joseph Hooker. Large numbers of women, many of them prostitutes, traveled with his troops, and thus became known as "hookers." (See what I mean about the ease of getting distracted?)

A great many two-and-three syllable words contain their definition in the individual words of which they are comprised, and while not one person in a thousand considers doing so, looking at them as separate words gives a new appreciation for them and their meaning: lawnmower, blackberry, blueberry, foghorn, battleship, gravedigger, peacemaker, handkerchief, timekeeper, scorekeeper, pastime, bartender, nightclub.

Many of the words we use have foreign roots which are self-descriptive in their original language:
parasol ("for sun"), mayday (mispronunciation of "m'aidez: help me").

The self-definition of some common words are archaic and thus less obvious than others: breakfast (refers to breaking the fast between dinner and dawn), landlord (from the time when titled "lords" owned large amounts of land and had control over the people who lived on them).

The three primary American sports are self-descriptive, of course: basketball, baseball, football.

I'm particularly intrigued with words whose pronunciation has evolved to the point where it totally obscures the word's true meaning or origins. The despised racial epithet, "the N-word," is in fact an almost logical result of the historically-acceptable word "Negro." But through casual repetition and/or rapid pronunciation, it morphs into the "N-word."

Those of you who have followed my blogs for some time are already aware that when it comes to mispronunciation totally hijacking the meaning of a word, my personal cause célèbre (literally, "famous case") is "President," and I have dragged out my soapbox innumerable times to point out that the correct pronunciation...and the true meaning...of the word is "pre-ZI-dent": one who presides. Yet I'd bet that 9,999 out of 10,000 have never made this connection. So, as with so many things in life, I fight my own little battles and, as with so many of my little battles, lose them—though I have fun doing so.

A common philosophical question is "if you were stranded on a desert island, and could take only one book, which would it be?" For me, the answer is simple: "a dictionary."

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, February 25, 2013

Ya Know?

There are, ya know, all sorts of things that, ya know, drive me totally, ya know, crazy. It seems like, ya know, every time I, ya know, listen to sports figures or, ya know, just average people, ya know, talking on TV, it seems like, ya know, they can’t make it, ya know, through a single sentence without, ya know, sprinkling it with at least, ya know, forty or fifty “ya know”s.

And worse still, if it is possible for there to be a worse, is the absolutely infuriating “ya know what I’m sayin’?” Yes, you obnoxious cretin, I know what you’re saying. And nine times out of ten, I don’t care.

Something there is that terrifies us about pauses in speech while we look for the next word we want to say. So we seem driven to plug the gaps with…something. Anything. The time-tested and ever-popular “…uh…” and “…um…” seem to have fallen out of favor in recent times. Perhaps the speaker, has some pathetic (and totally erroneous) hope that by rattling off an endless stream of “ya know”s he—and for some strange reason it is invariably a “he”—is creating some sort of glue to hold the listener’s attention, and to implying a (nonexistent) bond between speaker and listener. But “ya know what I’m sayin’?”, in addition to being incredibly annoying, is also insulting in its implication that the speaker is not sure that you are bright enough to grasp the depth and subtlety of what he’s attempting to convey.

Gap fillers seem, like clothing fashions, to be trendy, and the only thing they all have in common seems to be their “fingernails on the blackboard” quality. They share this annoying tendency with their close relatives, the ubiquitous “catch words of the moment.” In the 40s and 50s, “sez” was quite popular (“So he sez, ‘I don’t like it,’ and I sez, ‘too bad.’). “Like” is still quite popular (“and I’m, like, ‘oh, no you’re not!’, and he’s, like, ‘oh yes I am’”), but I am infinitely relieved that “goes” (“And then he/she goes…and I go…and he/she goes…”) seems to have been fading away. There are a number of lesser fillers, one that seems oddly out of place is “…and that” which some people use not as a gap filler but a sentence ender. (“So I shot him between the eyeballs and waited until the police came…and that.”)

Lord knows I have difficulty speaking in intelligible sentences. That, again, is why I became a writer, so that I could take the time necessary to put my thoughts into a coherent sentence. I don’t always succeed, but I have always found expressing myself through writing much more satisfactory and far less embarrassing than speaking them.

One of the worst things about gap fillers and catch words is that those using them are often totally unaware that they are doing so, and to point it out to them is rather awkward, like telling someone they have bad breath.

I really do try to avoid gap-fillers (even if I have serious problems with linear thought and wander aimlessly from point to point within the same sentence). Still, I’m sure even I may be guilty of, like, an occasional gap filler or catch word. Ya know what I’m sayin’?

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, February 22, 2013


One of the most overlooked of basic human needs is our need for validation—the overt or subtle assurance from others that we are liked, respected, admired, and cared about…in short, that we are worthy in the eyes of other humans: that we matter.

The degree of validation we receive as a child molds us into who we become as adults. It is a form of nourishment for the soul. Too little, and it stunts our growth; too much and we become bloated and too self-important to function effectively.

Some of us, for whatever reason, can never seem to get enough validation. Lord knows my parents, family, and friends all seemed to like me and not to keep that fact a secret. Yet I constantly craved—and crave—more. As a writer, absolutely nothing delights me more than when someone says they like what I write. It is, truly, food for the soul.

But like most forms of nourishment, our need for validation is with us all our lives, and the sad fact is that as we grow older, we seem to receive less of it just when we need it more. To be deprived of validation leads to loneliness and isolation. The older we become, those people to whom we have always looked for validation…family, friends, coworkers…fall away and too many of us grow weak through its lack.

That we live in an increasingly technology-driven society which seems values the individual less, only intensifies increases this insidious form of emotional starvation.

Validation need not, especially as we grow older, be in the form of effusive praise—and there is nothing more transparent or insulting than condescension. But a simple sincere statement (“You look nice today, Mrs. Johnson”) or question (“I heard you weren’t feeling well last week: I hope you’re better now?”). Something so utterly basic as a smile and a “Hello” or “How are you”—and if that’s too hard to manage, just a smile—can provide the emotional equivalent of a nice meal.

And as I say this, I realize that I do not practice what I preach nearly often enough. My own insecurities make me hesitant to make the first move in any social contact. As people grow older, they often become more withdrawn and as a result give the impression that they don’t want to be bothered. Why smile and say “hello” to someone who looks so dour? That it is a defense mechanism doesn’t seem to matter: it works.

I have, recently, really tried to do better at this, and will, after writing this, try to do even better. It isn’t easy. But consider how much a smile costs compared to its value. So you’re shy? So what? Get over it! It isn’t about you, or me. Consider how you feel when someone smiles at you or says something kind, and that what you are doing when you do the same may very well contribute to the recipient’s RDA of validation, and remind him or her that they are not invisible…that they do matter.

There is nothing more validating than to be the recipient of a gratuitous act of kindness. Keep that in mind. Better still, act on 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, February 20, 2013

The Body Snatcher

There is a scene at the end of the l956 film, “The Body Snatchers” in which Kevin McCarthy is running down a line of stopped cars in the rain, pounding on the windows, warning people of the invasion of the body snatchers. No one listens.

I know how Kevin felt. Time is stealing my body, and I am…we all are…helpless to prevent it. The theft is diabolically slow, apparently to keep us from being aware that it is happening, but Kevin and I are aware. I view it with the horrified fascination of watching footage of people leaping from the doomed World Trade Center.

That it is “all a part of growing older” doesn’t work for me. That it is “just the way life operates” is so flimsy an explanation as to be discarded out of hand. The fact that we all age and are all robbed of what we once had may be true, but it does not make it right, nor does it mean we should just meekly accept it. Of course Time will win in the end. It always does. But I for one am not going gentle into that good night.

I have been chronicling the details of this theft endlessly in these blogs, to the point that I am sure you are tired of reading about it. I remember a guy I served with on the USS Ticonderoga, whose parents had been killed when their car was hit by a train. It was all he talked about, though they had been dead for many years. I seem not to be alone in being incapable of letting go of the past. For those like me, the past is a huge old tree to which we lash ourselves against the hurricane of time. It worked for John Hall and Dorothy Lamour in the 1936 movie “Hurricane;” why can’t it work now?

To recognize a problem is, unfortunately, not to make it automatically go away. I dwell on aging largely because I cannot comprehend why it is happening. It shouldn’t be happening. It can’t be happening. To everyone else, maybe, but not to me! How the hell did I suddenly find myself in this Bates Motel mansion of a body? I constantly have to resist the temptation to grab people—especially young people—by the shoulders and shake them until their teeth rattle, shouting “This isn’t me! I’m 20 years old, fer chrissakes!

And even as I criticize my body for increasingly failing me, I feel guilty for being so ungrateful. It doesn’t deserve it. It’s really been a wonderful, eminently serviceable body which has given me a great deal of pleasure and on which I could always rely. Maybe not a Mercedes Benz of a body, but certainly a Toyota Corolla, and it has served me amazingly well all these years. It’s not fair for me to suddenly disown it, or criticize it. It can’t help what’s happening to it, and I feel terribly sad for it. And just as I bought my 1978 Toyota Corolla—probably the best car I ever owned—off the showroom floor and drove it for 12 years with an absolute minimum of problems, so has my body served me well from the day I was born up until my bout with cancer in 2003. It’s still serving me amazingly well considering all it’s been through, but I can’t help but look at newer models and wish I had one. Ah, we fickle mortals.

You will note, ladies and gentlemen, how in an amazing display of non-linear thought, we have, in one short blog, somehow managed to carom from Time being a body snatcher, through 1960 and 1936 movie references, to comparing bodies to cars. And you will note that at no time did my fingers leave my hand. What can I say? It’s a gift.

But much as I rant about the various cruelties and unfairness of aging, I am reminded of two little bits of wisdom which we all too often ignore: first, people often refer to life as being a roller coaster, it is seldom pointed out that nobody rides free. There is a price to be paid for the luxury of being alive, and it becomes more expensive as we grow older. Second (and you might want to write this one down): The only people who are as young as they used to be are dead.

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, February 18, 2013

Logic, Oh Logic!

I often bewail the fact that I am not wise; that what I do not know/understand is to what I do know/understand as one drop of water is to all the oceans on all the planets in the universe. Quantum physics; mathematics beyond the “if Billy has three apples and gives Sally two” level; the internet; fire...all are things I do not and never will fully comprehend. But I am comforted by the knowledge that even if I don't understand them, they are all based on the irrefutable, immutable logic.

Yet the instant human beings enter the equation, all laws of logic are up for grabs at best and thrown out the window at worst. people believe so many of the things they do? How can they not question things which do not stand up to the most elemental principles of logic?

So much of organized religion, for example, relies on faith, which is largely devoid of logic. Faith, to me, is basically a convenient buffer against rational thought and, most definitely, against the need to ask questions. I can see certain advantages to faith over logic, to a degree. There are many things I would like to believe—a sentient God and Santa Claus, for example—but logic simply will not allow me to. So I am however reluctantly wary of those things based solely on faith.

I've often related the story of probably the final, scale-tipping incident that made organized religion and me part ways. I was probably around twelve, attending, under extreme duress, an evangelical Christian sunday school whose teachings were of the “we are but dirt beneath God's feet” variety. One day, while being regaled with the eternal happiness of heaven and the fires of hell, I asked the teacher a question: If I have a friend who does something terrible and is sent to hell while I somehow managed to make it to heaven, wouldn't I be sad that he wasn't with me? Well, that went over like a concrete dirigible, and ended my church-going days.

I take comfort from the idea that even when my intellectual limitations prevent me from following the breadcrumb trail of logic leading from a question to its answer, I know that the trail is there even if my befogged mind cannot see the crumbs. I'd like to think logic and truth are synonymous, but of course they are not; they are two completely separate and often totally opposite things. Logic is objective, truth subjective. What is the absolute truth for me—“a pizza is not a pizza without anchovies”—may may not be the absolute truth for you. What is accepted as absolute and unquestionable truth by a depressing number of people—our president was not born in the United States; all Muslims are terrorists; the only way to prevent gun violence by having more guns, etc.—is, in fact, utterly antithetical to logic. The wilder the conspiracy theory, the more people seem willing to simply nod knowingly, eyes slitted in suspicion, and accept it. That there is not one atom of logic behind this acceptance is irrelevant. There are no breadcrumbs between statement and belief. One is the other. Period.

One difficulty with logic is that logic is built on the interpretation of facts, and people have a tendency to look upon facts as a buffet, choosing the ones that suit them and leaving the rest. And logic based on the wrong or weak facts can leave the wrong trail of the wrong breadcrumbs, leading only deeper into the forest.

Humans have the unfortunate tendency to be, in effect, brainwashed to simply accept whatever they are told. The advertising industry is built upon this assumption. “Everyone is talking about Burp-O!” They are? Okay. “The greatest sale in the history of the world.” Ok. And the fact is that it never occurs to us to apply logic to those so many things which really don't have any effect on us one way or the other. The application of logic is like so many other things—we only pay attention if it effects us directly, which puts us at risk of absorbing illogic by some odd form of osmosis.

Logic requires reason, and reason requires thought, and thought requires the willingness to think. It is far, far easier not to think, especially when there are so many people willing and eager to think for us. But logic makes us owls; never using it makes us sheep.

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, February 15, 2013


The nap is purported by many of my friends (admittedly, all over the age of 50) to be one of life’s little pleasures. Their benefits escape me, however. I’ve never been one to take naps. When at the age of five I was in the hospital recovering from a broken leg, I remember the nurses coming into the children’s ward (yes, most patients recovered in wards back then; private and semi-private rooms, if they had them, were a luxury my parents could not afford) every afternoon, pulling the shades/blinds, turning off the lights for half an hour or so and leaving us to our naps. I never napped, even then. I considered them then, as I do now, to be a monumental waste of precious time. So I would lie there, excruciatingly bored, waiting and waiting and waiting for the nurses to return and bring back the light.

Recovering from my bout of cancer in 2003, I did sleep frequently during the day, but I did not consider these periods to be naps, but more the body’s need to quietly go about the business of repairing itself. When having P.E.T. or C.A.T. scans during my subsequent follow up visits to Mayo, part of the process involved being injected with a radioactive dye, and lying as still as possible for an hour. They don’t want you to read or watch TV or to have any distractions, apparently to facilitate the circulation of the dye throughout the body. They put you in a small curtained room and turn off the lights. Nap time. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t. But when I did, it was reluctantly.

Occasionally now, when I take a break from writing and play computer solitaire, I’ll find my mind numbing to the point where I consider lying down for a few minutes. This blog entry is, as a matter of fact, a response to such an urge. But I find when I give in to it, I tend to wake up feeling as though someone had spiked my grog…hmmm, I wonder if that is where the word “groggy” comes from? (Digression, anyone?) Anyway, I awake more tired than when I’d lain down, and feeling strongly as though someone had slipped another day in there, somehow.

I love sleep. But sleep requires time to be fully appreciated. A nap is an unwelcome teaser for the night to come. If I want to sleep, I want to feel as though I’ve gotten my money’s worth.

A friend in Los Angeles had a ritual. As soon as he got home from work each night, he would lie down for 20 minutes…no more, no less…and wake up feeling as chipper as a bluejay. I never could understand how he could do that. Two of my Chicago friends schedule one or more naps a day and seem to be perfectly fine with it. I chalk it up to just one more thing in life that is beyond my ability to comprehend.

Certain well-known historical figures substituted frequent naps for the need to sleep more than a couple hours each night. Thomas Edison, I believe, was one. Small wonder he would invent devices (the electric light, the phonograph) that would tend to keep him awake.

For those who take naps, I admit a certain degree of grudging admiration for doing something I cannot understand, and curiosity as to why and how naps become not only pleasurable but necessary. Maybe it’s a form of addiction.

Time for a cup of coffee.

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, February 13, 2013

To Each a Dorien

I got my hair cut (long overdue) the other day, and decided that one reason why I wait so long between cuts is to avoid the ordeal of having to stare at the attic portrait of Dorian Gray in the mirror. My Dorien, bless his ever-protective heart, assured me, as he always does, that it is not a mirror, but a window into the next room, where my barber’s identical twin was working, with synchronized movements, on a much, much older and terribly unattractive customer.

Each of us has our own way of coping with the world, and Dorien is, to a large extent, mine. I’m truly grateful to him for helping me bail out the leaky little boat of my life.

Those whose boats ride high in the water, not constantly preoccupied with the endless swells of annoyance and frustration that eternally threaten to swamp those with gunwales almost at the water line, may have little need for a Dorien to help with the bailing.

I deeply admire those who simply live their lives and go about their business without the continual distraction of wondering why something is the way it is, or who can simply ignore the ignorance and stupidity of the world. Each of us possesses a degree of egocentrism to be used when occasionally wondering about our role in life, and help serve as ballast in stormy emotional seas. But some were given an excessive amount, so large as to be disruptive to normal functioning in the world. I am one of those. And for those like me, I strongly recommend a Dorien.

Everything, of course, is in the mind, and to create a Dorien requires a bit of practice. It’s very much like one of those optical illusions one sees from time to time, like the classic black-and-white silhouette in which one sees either a vase (the white) or two faces facing each other (the black). One element is “Dorien”, the other is “you”…and it really doesn’t matter which is which.

Dorien not only helps me cope with things, but is rather fun to have around. You can give to your Dorien whatever parts of “you” you wish. Roger, again, is the corporeal part of the team, Dorien is that part of me not restrained by physics or time. Roger pays the bills and moves about and goes grocery shopping and mans the oars of our little boat. Dorien is therefore totally free to do whatever strikes his fancy. He sits in the back of the boat and writes blogs and books.

This division of responsibilities has proven very effective…for me. While I was dealing with my bout with cancer, it was Roger who underwent the radiation and the chemo while Dorien told him stories and kept assuring him that everything was going to be all right. And it was. I’m sure the outcome would have been the same had Dorien not been there, but I am glad he was. And then, as now, Dorien’s greatest contribution to my life is in never allowing me to take myself too seriously.

The need for a Dorien is not so great for those who have another, separate human with whom they can share their life, but for those of us who do not, a Dorien can help to create a sense of balance. In my own case, whenever I do or say something totally stupid, something I immediately regret and curse myself for—which happens far too frequently—it’s Roger’s fault, and Dorien can look at it with a degree of objectivity Roger cannot. In such cases, when Roger is consumed with fury or frustration, Dorien is the voice of reason. And difficult as it may be for someone without a Dorien, it really works.

If you don’t have a Dorien but need one, just open your mind. He’s there.

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, February 11, 2013


As I was posting photos of my long ago (1955-1956) Navy service aboard the Ti—as the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga was known to those who served aboard herto my “Once Upon a Life—Whitehat Days” board on www.pinterest/doriengrey, I thought with a combination of awe, anger, frustration, pride, and sorrow of how far our society has come in regards to our reactions to being gay in America. And I cannot think of that subject without thinking of one of my shipmates, North. (We weren't big on first names in the Navy. I was “Margason,” he was “North.”) We both worked in the commissary department, charged with feeding the ship's 3,000-plus crew members—all men; women were not allowed to serve on warships.

I was a 22-year-old gay man with any 22-year-old's active libido. Yet, unlike my shipmates who were free to exercise theirs every time we pulled into port, and usually brag about it later, I dared not act upon mine for fear of having my homosexuality discovered and being kicked out of the military in disgrace.

I knew North was gay from the moment I saw him. Everyone new North was gay, as I'm sure most knew I was gay, but as long as you remained under the radar, as it were, other than the occasional snide comment, nothing was said. Everyone simply accepted North, and because he was a genuinely sweet kid, everyone liked him. The ship's personnel officer was also obviously gay; an unpleasant little weasel of a man with a small pencil-thin mustache and the perpetual glint of a predator in his eye.

And one morning, while we were at sea, North did not show up for work. No one knew where he was or what had happened to him. He was simply gone. Rumors swept through the commissary department and beyond. Was he hiding somewhere aboard? If so, why? Had he fallen overboard? Or jumped? The thing was he was gone without a trace.

Several days later, we pulled into Naples, and...there was North! He came aboard to pack up his things, and the mystery of his disappearance was solved. To this day, I can feel the fury I felt then.

He had been summoned to the Personnel office and told that a report had been received that a sailor in Norfolk had “confessed” to being a homosexual, and had given North's name as someone he had had sex with. The personnel officer assured North they had no intention of doing anything against him, but merely needed his signature on a piece of paper verifying the Norfolk sailor's story. And North...dear, sweet, innocent North...signed the paper! He was flown off the ship in the middle of the Mediterranean within an hour, lest he contaminate the rest of the crew.

North's story was not unique. There were thousands of stories like his. Thousands of honest, decent, good people who had volunteered to serve and possibly give their lives for their country. Treated with contempt, stripped of dignity, shamed and humiliated before their friends and families. How could we do this to our own people? It was incomprehensible to me then. It is incomprehensible to me now.

I every gay man and woman who ever served in our country's military knew...not only how wrong our government's attitudes and policies were, but that it was inevitable that they would—they had to—change. We were all Cassandras, seeing the future but not being believed.

Anyone who did not go through what I and millions of others like me did have no real way of comprehending what it feels like to realize that society finally recognizes that Cassandra was right.

I see photos, now, of service men and women in uniform openly embracing and I cannot find the words to adequately describe my reaction, other than, possibly “vindication.”

But mostly, I think of North.

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, February 08, 2013

The Controlled Mind

Beat me! Beat me!” cried the masochist.

No!” replied the sadist.

Don’t ask where that came from. Like a disproportionately high percentage of my thoughts, I couldn’t tell you. I wasn’t thinking of masochism or sadism (who does?). It was just there. It seems that whenever I’m not really concentrating on something specific, like brushing my teeth or writing a book, I have very little control over where my mind goes, or why.

I’ve often said I write these blogs to demonstrate that you and I have a lot more in common than you might think. And yet perhaps I’m deluding myself. Maybe it’s just my attempt to not feel quite so isolated from the rest of humanity as I sometimes do. I can’t imagine that your mind can be quite so chaotic. I always picture everyone else (which of course includes you) as being in far more control of their minds and their lives than I, and find evidence of that fact just about everywhere.

To everyone else—to you, as I imagine you—, the mind is a smooth-running machine: thought A to thought B to thought C. To me, it’s a vast pin-ball machine with me being the little silver ball caroming wildly from one thing to another.

I truly admire those people…no doubt you’re one of them…with almost total control over their minds and their lives; who see an objective at a distance of a year, a day, or an hour, and march straight toward it, totally undeterred by the maelstrom of distractions I find endlessly swirling about me.

I pass people on the street and look at them and know they are not like me. I can clearly see that they know what to do in any given situation. They never make stupid mistakes, or say stupid things they wish they hadn’t. They never get upset by petty or silly things. They have controlled minds, and part of me envies them for it, and part of me is terrified by the idea.

I suspect I associate a controlled mind with a lack of freedom. As annoying as my mental pin-ball game may occasionally be, I also delight in its randomness; in the constant surprises it provides.

The problem is that each of us goes through life locked within ourselves, filtering everything through our own experiences, and reacting according to them because we can only observe others. We cannot be them. We live among five billion other people, yet only have one true point of reference—our own. And we almost never stop to realize that each one of those five billion is also living individually within themselves. So all five billion of us assumes that it is a matter of “me” being here and everyone else being there, sharing some secret bonds “me” cannot understand.

The lack of a controlled mind is one of the reasons this particular “me” gets so little constructive done. I seem incapable of preventing my mind from coming up with out-of-nowhere thoughts. (A case in point: my mind just flashed to a stack of celebrity rag magazines I had the misfortune to thumb through at my part time job, and set me to wondering how or why actresses and models …female models…seem to think that posing with one hand on a hip makes them irresistibly sexy/seductive? Surely there must be a reason, or they wouldn’t do it. A man posed like that would be considered…well, you know. It must be one of those “you’ve got to be straight to understand” things. There are a lot of those.) And, to quote Linda Ellerbee, so it goes.

So, since you have a controlled mind and I do not, I guess we’re not as much alike as I thought.

Or are we?

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, February 06, 2013


Remember the commercial where the frizzy-haired blonde goes through the checkout lane, looks at her receipt in amazement, then runs from the store with her packages, yelling “Start the car! Start the car!” to her befuddled husband. She jumps into the car, they drive off, and she whoops with glee. Why? Because she thinks the store undercharged her. What a role model! Shouldn’t she have said something to the clerk? Don’t be silly! There’s nothing like cheating someone to really make your day, I always say. And if you run into anyone foolish enough to think cheating is wrong, just point them to that ad.

And I love the series of ads featuring various couples standing in their front yard saying “We owed the government $417,312 (or $20,000, or $6,918) in back taxes, but thanks to Screwem & Sons, we paid only $3.20.” Way to go, folks. How in the hell did you manage to get so far behind in the first place? Ever consider cutting back on your spending? (What? When you can in effect cheat your way out of your responsibilities? Nonsense!) Or you can file bankruptcy and leave your creditors holding the bag for the debt you incurred.

I know, I know…we all cheat in some way or another. We all fudge a bit on our taxes. Few people are noble enough to be totally honest in matters where to do so will cost them more money than they think is right or fair. There’s no harm in it, really. Is there? Anyone who rigidly obeys every law…many of which are ridiculous to begin with…is looked upon with mild scorn.

Being misleading is just a few steps below whit lies as a form of cheating, and is, to be honest, the foundation of the advertising industry. We’re totally used to the fact that only one tenth of one percent of what we’re promised in ads actually fully lives up to that promise. (The photos fast food chains use for their “Double-Triple-Piled-High Burger” bear absolutely no resemblance to what you’re handed if you’re foolish enough to go and order one.) The art of advertising photography is completely built on misleading prospective buyers. Ice cream is really lard, milk is watered-down Elmer’s glue, coffee is tea, and those little bubbles of freshness along the inner rim of the cup are created by using soap. The explanation that many foodstuffs do not photograph well…real coffee photographs like crankcase sludge…and that real ice-cream would melt under the heat of the lamps necessary to light it makes sense. But it’s still cheating.

Seen or heard those ads which say: “Emerging science suggests that Blexaplus-D may help reduce the signs of aging” or whatever. Now, that’s not cheating. They’re telling you the partial truth, but in a way which equals cheating. Look at it again. “Emerging (not established) science suggests (doesn’t say for sure) that Blexaplus-D may (not will) help (not completely do the job) reduce (not eliminate) the signs of aging (not aging itself).” Wonderful. I’ll take ten bottles/jars/tubs/tubes, please.

Loan companies engage in an oblique form of cheating those in debt. It’s cheating by omission, in not revealing what admittedly should be obvious but is not to those who don’t bother to think before acting. They’re more than happy to lend you money to pay off overdue bills, but they neglect to mention that not only will the bills you got behind on keep on coming each month, but you will have the additional burden of paying off the loan. Well, I’m sure you can take out another loan to pay off the original loan. It’s a vicious circle.
And each day we must carefully tiptoe our way through a maze of double standards, hypocrisy, contradictions, half-truths and outright lies. Is it any wonder we have a hard time coping? But it'll all get better soon. Really, it will. Trust me.

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, February 04, 2013

Domesticity, Yet Again

Robert Benchley, talking of an overseas trip, mentions a quaint little Spanish town, whose residents he describes as “simple, childish people, to whom cleanliness is next to a broken hip.” And oh, Lord, I identify with those people!

I’m not talking personal cleanliness…I am not a stranger to soap, water, a toothbrush, or a comb…but to my living conditions. I’ve touched on this subject before but was reminded of it yet again this morning when I was wondering where to install the feeding trough when I saw just what a pigsty my bathroom floor is. It is a very small bathroom: I can stand in the center of it and easily touch all four walls just by raising one arm not quite 90 degrees. It has a tile floor, and I do have a small throw rug. The cat litter box is under the sink. And I try to keep it clean. Really, I do. I have gotten on my hands and knees with a scrub brush and pail of water with Spic and Span, and PineSol, and SoftScrub and God knows what else. I have scrubbed until my arms feel about to fall off. But trying to clean in the tight confines around the toilet bowl (especially when I cannot raise my head to see what I’m doing) is a total effort in futility. When I finish, apart from having removed various spots and smudges, it is still a mess.

The entire apartment has the same tile floor—the exposed square footage of tile in the entry, the kitchen, and the bedroom are each only slightly larger than the bathroom. I mentioned earlier, I think, having been conned into buying a spray-cleaner Swiffer, which like all things advertised on TV looks like the best thing since sliced bread. Swish-swish, put on sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare of the gleaming, spotless floors. Right. The button to release the spray is conveniently located right under your thumb, so that when you push or pull the mop, your thumb cannot avoid hitting the button, and you end up spraying far more than you intended.

Each time I am foolish enough to use it—stubbornly refusing to remember the fiasco of the last time I used it—the only real difference I can tell between “before” and “after” is that my feet stick to the floor when I try to walk on it.

God knows when I last dusted. I simply am not aware of it. I never think of it. Every waking hour is filled with something, and dusting not only is not high on my list of things that must be done, it isn’t even in the footnotes. When I do dust, resenting having to take time away from more important things, within ten minutes I’ve forgotten that I’ve done it, and the next time I look, everything’s dusty again.

Living alone helps, I’m sure, as does having no visitors. My friend Gary comes up for coffee every now and again, but clean-freak though he is, he bears his disgust in silence. Had I someone to be domestic for, perhaps my attitudes might change, but I doubt it. When, in the past, I have lived with someone, I was generally lucky enough to have the other person be far more aware of such things and willing to take on the responsibilities. I have, regrettably, aged myself out of the likelihood of ever being so lucky again. Perhaps I could consider hiring a cleaning person, but I could not expect them to do much about the floors, which I see as a lost cause under any circumstances.

I really don’t enjoy being a slob. Truly I don’t. And I sincerely am ashamed of myself for being one. But it is easier to be ashamed of myself than to do much about it. Each of us must set his or her own priorities, and I have set mine. Cleaning my apartment is not one of them. Sorry about that.

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, February 01, 2013

The Sum of Us

Each of us is made up of so very many things: all the experiences of our lives, the people we encounter along the way, our reactions to each of those experiences and people in light of our personal outlooks and attitudes. But there are certain things which happen to us which stand out from the rest in helping to shape who we become.

I can think of several pivotal events in my life that have had a profound influence on who I am.

I've often wondered why my sexual orientation is so huge a part of who I am—much larger than probably the majority of other people I know or have encountered. Nearly everything I do or think is somehow related to my being gay. I have always used being gay as a defiance to the arrogance of the straight world. Thinking back, I can trace the roots of my being gay to two events. I'm not sure of the actual importance of the first, but I'm sure it had a definite impact on my attitudes toward females. When I was five years old, I was involved in an incident in which a little girl, in a story too detailed to go into here, inadvertently jumped full-force on my extended left leg while I was lying down, shattering it so badly the bone protruded from the skin. The emotional pain of that event lasted far after my physical recovery. It also contributed to my lifelong hesitance to engage in activities which might cause me physical pain.

A second major factor in my being gay arose from a mental trauma incurred in first or second grade, when a little girl classmate and I played “doctor” and showed each other what was between our legs. The shock and, to me, horror, of that revelation changed my life forever, and while I fully realize how unrealistic, unfair, and downright insulting it may sound to all the wonderful women I have ever known, to this day the very thought of female genitalia makes me physically queasy.

I find this incident a significant contrast to my encounter, within a year or two of the “doctor” incident, with a pedophile who approached me under a bridge near my grandmother's house. I still remember his exact words to this day. Nothing happened; I ran away. But I am intrigued by the fact that I was more fascinated by the approach than repulsed.

Everything in our life is interrelated and interwoven. My sexual orientation firmly established by the time I was six or seven, including sexual experimentation with a male playmate, the second major factor of who I tendency to self deprecation and self loathing...can be traced to an incident somewhere around the time of my encounter with the pedophile. It was mid-summer, and I was in the front yard, probably of my parents' home, happily singing Christmas carols. An adult (I can't recall if it was a man or woman) walked by and said sharply, “This isn't Christmas. Why are you singing Christmas carols in the summer?” And I remember feeling, somehow, utterly humiliated. I have never sung aloud, alone, again.

Self-confidence, a innate gift for many, was never one of mine, and what little I have has always been easily undermined. Even knowing that it was my reactions which did and do more undermining than the perceived cause does not lessen the effect. My dad's threat—which he made when I had pushed him beyond his limits and which he meant only as an admonishment—of sending me to the orphanage to which he himself had been sent for a short period when he was a child totally devastated me, and made me unsure of anything. And when, having left my tricycle on the sidewalk in front of our house when called in to dinner one day, I heard the bell of the tricycle ring while we were eating, and my father, not having heard it, refused to let me go outside to check on it—it had been stolen by the time I did—I became convinced that I was powerless over others.

Silly things. Small things. By themselves insignificant things. But in combination, just as individual drops of rain shape mountains, the incidents and experiences of my life, stirred by my attitudes and responses, and an infinite number of other tiny events have produced the human being I call “me.”

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 (