Friday, May 27, 2016


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 involves 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 do, sometimes I don’t. But when I do, it’s 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 laid 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 a 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.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Habits, Routines, and Ruts

I have not used an alarm clock in 40 years or more; I automatically wake up around 6 a.m., no matter how late I’ve gotten to bed, and no matter if there is a reason to wake up that early or not. On blog-entry days, I am compelled to have them posted by no later than 6:45 (even though I allow myself wiggle room at the bottom of each entry when I say they’ll be posted by 10 a.m. Central time), because I know I have a couple East coast readers who look at them before going to work.

We are all creatures of habit, and the only difference between habit and routine is the frequency with which it is repeated. The circle of routine, however, too rapidly begins to wear a path into one’s daily life which soon becomes a rut. You know you’ve gone from routine to rut when any disruption to the routine is viewed with resistance, anxiety, and frustration. The older we become, the deeper our ruts become until we have dug a rut so deep it is almost impossible to climb out.

Friday is laundry day. (Why Friday? Just because I always do laundry on Friday. I know that doesn’t answer the question, but if you’re looking for logic, you’re in the wrong place.) My apartment building is 11 stories tall, has 200 units, and a total of 5 washing machines and 5 dryers, one pair on each even-numbered floor. So finding a vacant machine when you want it is something of a game of musical chairs. The entire process, once I do find a machine, takes about an hour and a half per load, and I always manage to have two loads, which means that unless I want to drag the process out for hours, I try to do both loads at once, which involves finding two empty machines at the same time. So as a result, I try to get my laundry started by 6:45 a.m. before anyone else gets there.

The machines are operated by the kind of electronic plastic cards which have replaced keys in hotels. You can add money to the card at any time, and having not surprisingly lost my card a couple of times, I try not to keep too much money on it. This past FridayI got up, posted the blog, gathered the laundry, and then remembered that I’d used up all the money on my card the previous Friday, and all I had was a $20 bill which I was not about to splurge on a laundry card I could and probably would lose ten minutes after I recharged it.
I was rather surprised by just how this really minor incident seemed to throw the whole day into chaos, sending me figuratively running around in circles (ruts, anyone?) wringing my hands and muttering “Oh, my! Oh, my!”

Every morning put the coffee on, turn on the Today Show at 7 a.m., have a glass of V8 juice, a cup (well, half a cup, since I never, ever finish it) of coffee, and a chocolate covered donut. Why don’t I have cereal? Or an English muffin? Or fix an egg? Or make a pancake? Because I have a glass of V8, a cup of coffee, and a donut, that’s why. I tell myself it’s because of the 350 calories in the donut....something an English muffin wouldn’t provide. It is a rut I have dug from which I cannot climb out.

I write most of the day, with frequent and prolonged interruptions for emails and other distractions, so the time between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. is relatively rut-free. And I realize with mild horror, that it is the only time of my life that is.

At 5:30 each night I watch the evening news, then a series of TV programs which takes me until bedtime. I almost never go out at night. (Go out on a Thursday evening and miss Supernatural?? Unthinkable! Stop for dinner after leaving work Sunday at 6 and miss 60 Minutes?? Impossible!)

We reach the point where we take comfort in our ruts, and this is definitely not a good thing. I have got to break mine. I’ve got to! Maybe I’ll go to a movie tonight. Yes! I will! (But wait…NCIS is on at 7. Well, I’ll go tomorrow for sure.)
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/

Sunday, May 22, 2016


It is 8:45 a.m., and I am just sitting down for my morning coffee and chocolate donut, having a bit earlier had my glass of V8 juice, listening to a classical music station and trying to come up with a subject for tomorrow’s blog. I’m also wondering yet again why I do the same thing in the same order every day. I decide not to pursue that line of thought, since a little directional arrow in my head indicates that such ponderings lead to a downward slope, which I would prefer avoiding.

So, as so often happens on mornings like this, I cast myself upon what is called the “Stream of Consciousness.” From what I’ve been able to gather, for most people it’s rather like a leisurely float on an inner tube, gliding beneath a bright blue, cloud-dappled sky through grassy pastures where there is ample time to pause here and there to contemplate the scenery. Alas, my stream of consciousness tends to be more like a kayak ride through high, narrow, boulder-filled gorges where the looking up at the sky is seldom an option, since I have to alternately hang on for dear life or grab wildly at thoughts as they rush past with dizzying speed. As a result, when it comes to blogs, I don’t pick the subject so much as having one just sort of jump out of the water and land in my lap.

We are all creatures of habit, taking comfort in the familiar. The very real problem for me is that I tend to be so comfortable in it that I mildly resent any change in it. There are so many things I really should do; places I should go, people I should visit. I have a storage shed full of papers I am planning to give to my alma-mater, and all I have to do is drive up there, get them (though I fear I won’t be able to do it in one trip), and take it down to Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL. I’ve been meaning to do it for three years now, and I haven’t done it yet.

I should go visit my remaining relatives, all of whom live in the same general area as the storage shed. But I don’t, largely, I suspect, for the totally specious reason that I do not like reality. I do not like being forced to realize that things are no longer as I have them firmly planted in my head and heart. In many ways, reality terrifies me, especially those realities which are closest to me. The fact that my family is the very foundation of my life, and that they are the most important people in my life should dictate that I’d want to spend as much time as possible with them. But I don’t, because then I am forced to realize that the avalanche of time is already pushing me toward the precipice. Better to not see them, and keep them as they are in my mind.

I know, I know. I’ve never claimed to be like or to see things the same way as other people and were I to have Robert Burns’ desired “ability to see ourselves as others see us” I’m sure I would be appalled. Were I to be schizophrenic and given to hearing voices, I’m sure at least one would say, “Roger, you can’t live this way! You cannot pick and choose when it comes to reality!”

I beg to differ.

Routine (yes, I do remember that’s where I started this entry) provides me with something of a security blanket or a good luck charm. I can use it as a home base from which I can let my mind and my fantasies and my irrationalities wander at will. It can be something of a prison, but it is a comfortable one, and the bars are wide enough apart that my mind and heart can come and go as they please.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Coffee Time

Human nature fascinates me. I have only my own to go by with any degree of accuracy, and that which I can extrapolate from the actions of others. But I’ve never quite understood the optimism with which, having attempted to do something fifteen times and failed, I (we) are under the illusion that exactly the same thing done exactly the same way a sixteenth time will work.

On my way to “work,” I decided to stop at Panera’s, a coffee shop I almost never visit unless I’m with someone, to have a cup of coffee and a small pumpkin muffin the coffee shop insists on calling a “muffie”…an appellation just so cloyingly “cute” that I try never to ask for one by name, merely pointing and saying “One of those.” As always, the place was full of couples and singles, many of them working on their laptops, and all apparently having a very pleasant, relaxing time. I didn’t want to take out my own laptop, which I had with me, since I knew I’d not be there all that long, and decided to pretend I was just like all the others seated quietly and contentedly with their coffee.

The fact that, though I have an average of two to three cups of coffee a day, I never finish them and really am not, if truth be told, all that wild about coffee to begin with, is another matter entirely. Do I really think, the next time I have a cup of coffee, that I am actually going to finish it and truly savor the deliciousness of every sip? No matter. Everyone else seems to enjoy it, so I just go along with it.

I have never done sitting quietly and contentedly very well, so what made me even remotely think I could do it this time is a mystery. So I sat there, slathering little tubs of butter onto my…one of those…and sipping my coffee while really, really trying to be relaxed and comfortable. What’s wrong with me that I can’t do it? I looked around me. There were maybe six or eight other people sitting alone, minding their own business, taking their own time, apparently without a care in the world. What were they doing? Surely they had to be thinking of something. They couldn’t just sit there, thinking and doing nothing at all, could they? Then why did it appear that that was exactly what they were doing? Was nobody home behind the windows of their eyes?

I’m sure anyone looking through my own little hazel-colored “windows” would see ten thousand thoughts and ideas and things-I-should-be-doing-rather-than-just-sitting-theres bustling around, bumping into one another. Thoughts are as fleeting as smoke: if you don’t capture them and put them into words they become harder and harder to remember, and nine out of ten of them are gone forever, or trampled beneath a stampede of the thoughts that come directly behind them.

Obviously, my inability to sit still, to breath deeply and slowly, and float calmly along the surface of time is some sort of character weakness. I know I am undoubtedly missing out on the wonders of silent contemplation and meditation: Buddhists dedicate their lives to it. I would go stark raving mad within ten minutes. And I wish I could say that I envy people who can find deep fulfillment in doing nothing, but I honestly cannot. There’ll be plenty of time for doing nothing when I’m dead. I don’t need practice in it while I’m still alive.

There’s an ad running for an ocean cruise line which outlines all the wonderful things one can do aboard their ships, and it sounds great, until they add, as part of their list: “Or just do nothing at all.”

Nothing at all? I’m going to pay several thousand dollars to do nothing at all? What’s wrong with this picture? If they want to do nothing at all, let them stay home. Or better still, have them come have a quiet cup of coffee at Panera’s.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/

Sunday, May 15, 2016


My friend Gary and I recently went down to Navy Pier to see the annual Flower Show. It’s a big event and attracts busloads of tourists. Navy Pier is, I understand, Chicago’s premier tourist attraction, jutting a half mile out into Lake Michigan. The south side of the pier is lined with cruise boats of varying sizes and impressiveness for excursions along Chicago’s spectacular shoreline and through the amazing architecture lining Chicago River. On the north side of the pier, tour busses disgorge their passengers.

One or more of the tour busses brought a large number of severely handicapped children and teenagers. Gary and I were having lunch at one of the open-to-the-concourse restaurants, and I was just in the middle of bitching for the ten thousandth time about how terribly brave I am to put up with the terrible burdens of not being able to open my mouth wide enough to eat a hamburger, or tilt my head back far enough to drain a can of soda, or having to wait for the waiter to bring my coffee before I could begin to eat, since I can’t swallow anything solid without being able to flush it down with liquid, and watching other people do with ease what I can no longer do, and…when a group of the handicapped kids came by, many in wheelchairs, with their surely-candidates-for-sainthood counselors and attendants.

And I was immediately once again thoroughly ashamed of myself for my unmitigated gall in assuming that the sun and moon revolve around me, and for focusing almost entirely on my own petty problems. We all know that old saw: “I had no shoes and I complained until I saw a man who had no feet,” yet like so many absolute truisms, I—like most people spared true physical and mental challenges do—tend to totally ignore it until something like seeing someone with real problems hits us in the gut. I try not to pity these people: pity is, I feel, a form of condescension, and I have no right to condescend to anyone. For some of them to get through a single day takes far more courage than I will ever possess. But I am truly sad for them.

When I lived in northern Wisconsin, I would frequently see a man with his young daughter, who was probably just entering her early teens. I don’t know what condition afflicted her, but while she could walk, she was severely physically and mentally limited. Yet her father was infinitely patient, and loving, and always had a smile. My heart ached for him, and her.

And I’ve often told the story of the middle-aged man who delivered newspapers to my mother’s work. He was, as the condescending euphemism puts it, “slow.” Yet he functioned, and held down a job, and would never, ever accept money from anyone, other than the price of the newspaper…and even then, he would not take the money unless the person offering took the paper. He was, Mom found out, the sole support of both himself and his own mother. One day, one of Mom’s co-workers was having a birthday, and had brought a cake. Everyone was in the coffee room when the paper man arrived, and they insisted he come join them for cake and coffee. He was truly delighted, and at one point he said, happily: “This is just like a party!” And I still can’t think of that without wanting to cry.

Life is a party. And most of us have far more presents than we ever acknowledge. We ignore that fact at the risk of losing our humanity.

This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/

Saturday, May 07, 2016

In, But Not Of, Part 2

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 a homosexual…probably 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 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, but I always grieve for those who missed so much by dying before their time.

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 what amounts to survival skills, playing 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 “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 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 bitter 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 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, gets 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.

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 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 the inside, and who outside?
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

In, But Not Of

When I was very young, having one day seen God looking down at me while I was watching clouds, I was utterly convinced that I was very, very special and that I would one day do great and marvelous things. To some degree, I still cling to that belief. (It is sometimes a blessing to be unfettered by reality.)

My sense of being in but not of the world is a common theme for these blogs, mainly because I still retain the concept of “me” and “everybody else” being mutually exclusive. I have always lived in a state of extreme envy for what others can do…with such grace and ease…that I cannot. I watch clips of rock concerts where what I assume everyone else thinks is music causes everyone to rock and sway and thrust their arms over their heads, obviously having an absolutely wonderful time. Were I there, I would stand like Lot’s wife, totally immobile and excruciatingly embarrassed and furious with myself for not being able to “let go.”

I hate doing things which I feel call attention to myself, which is why I don’t dance. My assumption that anyone other than myself would notice me at all is an example of my perverse form of narcissism. And of course by not dancing while everyone else does, I…call attention to myself. I just can’t seem to win.

Of course the fact that I knew from age 5 that I was homosexual is perhaps the major factor in these feelings of not belonging. Well, they aren’t just feelings. I don’t belong. Surrounded by people with whom I could never really relate, never understanding what all these male-female interactions/courtships/rituals were all about…or caring…shaped my character and my life.

I’ve never wanted to be normal, and have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams on that one. I suppose a case may be made that normalcy, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder, and for as deeply as I hate and fear mirrors, I am constantly figuratively holding a mirror up to myself and never, never liking what I see.

Thank God that to balance all those things I want so desperately but do not have, I do have an exquisite sense of irony and the ability to keep my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. I almost never, even when I am ranting and raving and beating myself mercilessly about the head and shoulders with my perceived flaws, allow myself to take myself too seriously. It’s almost as if I were my own walking “in” joke. I have, and take full advantage of, the right to criticize myself mercilessly. But no one else has the right to do so. This has, throughout my life, caused innumerable problems.

I began, also as a child, to belittle myself simply as a means of beating others to say “I know my flaws; I don’t need you to point them out to me.” And it got out of hand. As I have reported a couple of times in previous blogs, my best friend in college once said, “Roger keeps telling people how terrible he is until they begin to believe him.”

And all this is compounded by the fact that there is so very, very much that I want to do, so very many things I want to be, so much I want to know, to see, to experience. On one level I know full well that no single individual could possibly do all these things in a lifetime. But Tony travels the world, and Wayne has a vast knowledge of literature, and Travis is physically beautiful, and Gary is unflaggingly kind and wise, Bil knows opera, and Franklin flits back and forth between his condos in Chicago and Ft. Lauderdale, and…. And we are again back to the world’s unequal division between “me” and “them.” “Me” is singular, “them” is collective, and I am hopelessly, hopelessly overwhelmed by comparison. On one level, I understand and accept all this, but down deep, where my timid soul peeks out from under the thick comforter of my memories, it is all utterly incomprehensible, and I totally overlook the good things in myself to ache for what I do not and never can have.

So I have accepted myself for who and what I am and for what I have always been and always will be and, concentrating far more heavily on my flaws than my gifts, I stumble on, so overwhelmed with the wonder of life that I can truly not see my own position in it. Though, catching a glimpse of myself while passing a shop window, I can sometimes convince myself for a brief moment that we are two separate beings, and that perhaps the reflection I see is really one of “them.”
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/