Posts Tagged ‘freedom


…be counted on to stand up.


Although this quote by Chuck Jones was written  in January of 1961, it is particularly pertinent to today.

“Today, we cannot envisage a protected world that does not include them all, and so [my] hope this year to all people everywhere is for a future–sheltered by the stars, sweetened by clean air, and above all fostering a climate in which no man can be commanded to stand up and be counted–but where every man can be counted on to stand up.” –Chuck Jones


the price of assimilation (and giving the olive trees a haircut)

in gardening news: the olive trees have had their yearly pruning.

in gay news: if you haven’t read alex ross’s recent history of the gay-rights movement, “love on the march” you should. (because, as your parent, i said so.) what has struck me the most about what he had to say (sort of like the proverbial 2 x 4 to the head–my new way of using a trite metaphor is by adding “like the proverbial…”) is the loss of gay cultural identity as a result of the sudden, quick assimilation of gays into the mainstream. “we’re just like you!” (only not.)

ross is quick to point out that gay men who came of age in the 1950s-1970s are probably the ones who notice the cultural shift the most. “what happened to our lives?” “i don’t remember wanting to be married or having anything remotely like the life of my heterosexual friends,” as they shake their heads at this sudden (equal rights movements are traditionally a slow-moving train) and unlikely turn-of-events.

over the years i have lamented the passing of so much knowledge, passing as in death, how AIDS decimated an entire culture. you don’t come across a 20 year-old opera queen that often anymore, now do you? (well, i’m sure there’s still one out there, in some remote corner of montana or kansas.) today’s young gay man doesn’t know who or what a ‘gypsy’ is any longer (a chorus boy or girl) let alone who gypsy rose lee is. they’ve grown up in the digital age, playing video games without the same cultural leaders i had as a young gay man, and even then my peers were moving away from the pansies and the nancys and the limp-wristed (light in one’s loafers comes to mind) stereotype that gay men of the fifties were depicted as and used as a defense mechanism (effectively or not.)

in the 1970s we weren’t being pigeon-holed by traditional ‘gay’ jobs any longer: waiter, florist, decorator, hair-burner; our lives were taking on new meaning with that battle won at stonewall, even the drag queens were more butch and ready to do battle at a moment’s notice. there was power in speaking out and not being afraid of retribution if you said, “i’m gay, queer, a faggot.” what do they say it now? oh yes, “i owned it.”

but we sneered at the conventions of the heterosexuals: marriage, children, and yes there were subsets of misogynists; the balls and chains of straight life seemed unnecessary and were certainly ill-fitting. it was nirvana and it was ours. now though, it seems we’ve lost that battle to be like ourselves in order that we may have the same rights our straight brothers and sisters enjoy. like i said, “look! i’m just like you,” only not. it seems to me that losing your cultural identity may be too steep a price to pay for assimilation. and yet, i demand that i have the same freedom to live as i please as you enjoy in this land. i would like it on my own terms though. is that too much to ask?


an old married (as if) couple

my partner (left, below) and i have been together for 30 years today.

then, at le jardin du luxembourg, paris

i can clearly recall the first time i saw you; standing against the wall at the bushes on halsted in your suit, tie undone, its knot playing peek-a-boo with a thatch of dark chest hair. that smile you gave me. then standing between my outstretched legs, did we kiss?

a week later, our first date, seated at the wooden picnic table at the back of halsted street fish market (so much of our lives in chicago took place on halsted they should name it after us — and you and you and you and you, you know who you are–and of course, the ghosts that haunt any love story that started in 1982), my friend joyce, the owner’s wife, sitting with us, her little girl rasp and giggle smoothing over any awkwardness there might have been.

but there wasn’t much, was there? we fell together and in love quite naturally, an “as if it were meant to be” moment if ever there were one. i laugh now at how you received a full body immersion with my friends; ralph and the french deaf theater group just a couple of weeks  later — taking over your apartment as you and i discovered just how small my little attic hideaway really was. but it didn’t matter, did it?

i believe we kissed. a lot. (there’s more, of course, but this isn’t that kind of story.) and we may have kissed some more, and held each other, and smoked a cigarette or two (or a pack, who remembers?) we drank wine, beer, cocktails–you a scotch, me a tequila gimlet — there were times when even that seemed unnecessary, the joy of being with each other a completely lovely high all its own.

and now, at our neighbor’s home for a cook-out

you taught me about the ‘do-nothing’ vacation, which i took as my birthright, and who knew getting naked on a beach could be so much fun? (what? you’ve never? darling, trust me, you absolutely must do it at least once, somewhere where you can go swimming in warm clear blue water, with white sand, a palm tree leaning from the tradewinds, it is to die for.) but had it not been for you i may have never had that experience.

we bought a house. that golden brick bungalow just north of pratt blvd. and i would walk to the touhy station to take the train downtown in the winter, and it never got tiresome, although i do think that summer’s were worse, that walk a sweat factory, suit, dress shirt soaked through, but i loved our home and our yard, and nicky in his kiddie pool playing with the water squirting out of the hose, and the clematis; oh god, do you remember that strip of earth between the sidewalk and our neighbor’s driveway that we planted with a gazillion bulbs and seasonal perennials that made it the most beautiful one foot wide strip of earth you’d ever seen. crocus, tulips, daisies, asters, and mums. iris, roses, and the vegetable garden, such bounty. just like our love.

our careers took off, you got into the art biz; we had an opportunity to live in paradise–your family came to visit and all of the wonderful friends we made there…and speaking of friends, have we not been lucky? all these years later and we still have so many: cheryl & sophia, bill & ralph, rosie and sister arlene, lenny, barbara, and joe, vicki, patricia & corey, sally and our dear charlotte, charlie & jerry; oh i know i’ll forget someone, so i better stop by saying we love you all, thank you for being a part of our life.

and now, we find ourselves here, warm and dry, loved by billy and joey; each of us with a lot less hair and a few more pounds, but here, together, and that counts for something, doesn’t it? i know it’s not always easy, but we always hang in there, find a way to make it all work.

thirty years. ain’t it grand?


sole survivor: the fetish of isolation

have you noticed?

you can’t turn around these days without being confronted by the lone young man (woman too, but more often than not, a man/boy) standing amidst the grandeur of a majestic landscape, possibly with mountains, a stream, a river runs through it, big trees, ferns and conifers, boulders, a canyon not unlike the grand canyon off in the far distance, the sky a cloudless cerulean, or the sky darkening before an impending storm/tornado/hail/sleet/snow; they’ll be naked from the waist up; they’ll be wearing a flannel shirt, a henley, a hoodie, a do-rag around their head, a knit cap pulled back from their forehead so their red/brunet/blond/black/hair can flop down over their eyes, which are misted over (if you can see them) with the grandeur of the moment; they’ll be bearded, tattooed, sleeves rolled up, front of untucked shirt tucked in, t-shirt hanging below, jeans/khakis/cargo shorts/shoeless, booted, sandaled feet dug down into the loamy earth, sand, sea, alone with nature, communing, supping from the cup of god’s bounty (if you believe in god, but i suspect that they don’t, being existentialists or worse, solipsists); they are not commanding nature so much as sucked into its vortex, for if you were to blink, their time on this planet would have passed and the landscape would have been virgin territory once again. it’s that kind of solitude.

it seems that young gay men (and adolescent girls) are particularly attracted to this kind of imagery and besides the obvious beauty of the image (for it is beautiful and i suspect that is what attracts the female of the species), there is a loneliness, a me-versus-them, an island of regret upon which the subject has found themselves. alone. all of which makes me wonder if these viewers, and rebloggers, appropriaters, and <3ers aren’t seeing themselves reflected back in the singular young man with his back to the camera (or in profile, he of roman nose, high cheekbones, snorting steam, a bull, a bird, a feather on the wind) alone amid such overwhelming beauty, the chaos of nature, its rhythm and contrapuntal stance, its heartbeat and breath, the finely muscled, the treasure trail leading down to an undefined whatever. they don’t seem to be about sex so much as they do about the isolation.

the isolation of the moment seems erotically charged, a mental charge more than a physical one. are we meant to identify with the moment or the message? the viewer (as well as the subject) doesn’t seem concerned about the how so much as about the why. that’s me you see there; do you see yourself standing next to the subject, holding hands? are you completing a scenario of your own fiction or imposing your desires on a subject that has rejected other humans in favor of nature? what do you think your success will be? is it beauty for beauty’s sake or man’s manipulation of the facts that you are enjoying?

what i see when young gay men post these images on their websites repeatedly, and this may just be me, but i see someone identifying with the loneliness of being gay (even when they’re out and proud of it.) i see the rejection experienced and in response the mental gymnastics a young gay man may have had to develop in order to live and function in a heterosexual world. the loneliness of secrets, of fear, of hate–all of which still occur far too frequently. there is nothing wrong with solitude or the seeking of solitude, but the fetishization of the imagery of isolation is akin to glorifying the object for the social activity that produces it.

i am not against this type of imagery. i often find it beautiful and haunting, although it is more of a sugar high than a nutritionally balanced meal. what i worry about and it’s possible i’m making something out of nothing, is that the continued usage of this kind of isolation imagery is a reflection of our (the gay man’s) struggle for equal rights. personally i don’t care if you ‘accept’ me for who i am, but what i demand is that i am granted the same freedoms under the law that you enjoy. i want to move among the peoples of the world on equal footing and occasionally stop for a moment in a golden glade, a sun-dappled path ahead of me and revel in that moment of isolated beauty.


moondance (harvest moon)

last night the harvest moon rose above our mountain-top aerie & got stuck in the yucca.  of course, it eventually unhooked itself from the spiny leaves & invited us to dance to its effervescent brilliance.

we bowed to its gracious invitation & twirled & spun & lept to its magical, ancient rhythms.  the freedom of the dance allowed our heart to beat in syncopated sympathy.  (van morrison joined us in song.)



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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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