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Susan and I went to a funeral yesterday. It’s not something one looks forward to, but a sweet friend had lost her Father, and we wanted to be there to lend our support and love for our friend and her family.

Our friends father (Bill) was a very sweet man. We didn’t’ meet him until the rages of Alzheimer’s had taken over his body and his mind; and yet his sweetness shown through.

I had an inkling this funeral was going to be different when we arrived at the church and there were white chairs set up outside. They were placed on a hillside with beautiful green grass surrounded by trees and flowers with a view of the San Diego Bay that was simply breath-taking. I’d never been to an outside funeral, but after today, I can’t imagine any other way of honoring a loved one.

From those who spoke, I soon understood this was a man who was loving and was loved his entire life. His wife, his children, his grandchildren and great grandchildren. Love, love, love. He loved being outside, loved camping, loved sunsets, loved ice cream and coffee, and loved being the family “tickle monster.”

One of his daughters started to speak about his courage and how he emphasized to her the importance of being still, and it was in that moment I found my mind began to wonder.

I began to think of the death of my parents. My dad in 2010 and Mother in 2012.  I thought of the lessons they had taught me, and what it is I still miss about them.  Some days the image of them is so clear I swear they are walking right beside me. Other days, I don’t feel them at all.  It’s those moments when I am “being still” that I feel them most of all. When I have my tea in the afternoon, sitting quietly on my patio watching the birds, sitting by the San Diego Bay knowing how much my parents loved to sit in the same spot some 30 years ago.  Dad’s ashes are scattered in this Bay so that every US Navy ship that goes in and out of San Diego has to pass over him.

The thing is, I never understood my parents – ever. I thought of this today as Bill’s children and grandchildren were speaking of him so lovingly.  I never understood some of my parent’s decisions, their beliefs, their grudges, their never wanting to talk of anything.  So many things were left unsaid, unsettled, unknown. I love them, I just wish…

I left this funeral with the understanding that life is most certainly meant to be lived. It’s meant to be shared with those who love you unconditionally. You’re meant to be still, to be tickled. You’re meant to watch the sunset, and eat ice cream and drink coffee. You’re meant to laugh and love and share your thoughts and dreams and desires .You’re meant to make memories that will carry on long after you’ve gone. This is what your life is supposed to be.

We walked away from the service on that beautiful hill to the Reception Hall where an ice cream social in honor of Bill awaited us.  Ice Cream, every topping you could think of, whipped cream, cherries, nuts, cookies and coffee. For the first time ever, I left a funeral feeling upbeat and hopeful.

As a side note – the pastor who spoke at the funeral had a voice that simply drew me in. She was kind and compassionate, and spoke in a way that wasn’t condescending or judgmental.  As the pastor was speaking, I leaned over to Susan and said: “If anyone could get me back to church, I think it might be her,”  And it’s been many years since I’ve spent any amount of time in a church.

Bill must have been smiling knowing that I had been still and was listening.

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I just spent a week in the bosom of my family – not by choice – but because my mother passed away suddenly and I went home to honor her memory and lay her to rest beside her Mother and Father.

To be clear – most of my family has no idea who I am.  I left the place of my birth and the people with whom I share a blood connection over 30 years ago, and most of them don’t understand why I left or why on earth I haven’t returned! In their minds-eye I’m whatever age they remember me being before I left the little village we called home.

Also, to be clear –

The discussion of my being gay seems to permeate conversations whenever I’m around some of these people with whom I share DNA. I don’t know why – it fascinates and sickens them at the same time.  I was hopeful since I was there to bury my mother they might lighten up on such things and simply let me mourn in some sort of peace the week I was there.

I was wrong.  Throughout the week – this was my experience:

I was told that my family loved me and that they wanted me to make an effort to be a part of the family once again.  They didn’t understand the whole “gay” thing, and they still believe it’s a choice I made, and the Bible still says it’s wrong – but – they want me to feel welcome and loved…

Yes sir – warm and fuzzy – that’s how I was feeling.

For the sake of peace and harmony – I tried to hug one of the Bible relatives to thank her for bringing a desert to the church for my mother’s service, only to have her recoil like I had a gun to her head. She couldn’t look at me and walked past my partner Susan as if she didn’t even exist.

Oh yes – welcomed and loved – I was feeling it.

I was also informed that there was no way they were going to stop eating at Chick-Fil-A and if that upset me – well that was too bad.  Besides – why should I care where they eat they asked me.  They don’t care where I eat. Even after Susan explained to them where the money goes and what the money does – They informed us that they wouldn’t be giving up their chicken sandwich, waffle fries and sweet tea for nobody!

And – by the way – why do I have to write so much about gay issues? And why am I making such a big deal out of it? And – Why do we gay people have big parades and our own Oreo cookie?

Lord… Give me strength.

I came to the sad realization that there are members of my family who are just hate-filled people who believe that their religion gives them the absolute right to treat me with no respect and condemn my sick little soul to hell.  So be it.  Condemn away…

I also came to the sad realization that there are members of my family who are content to stay un-educated and ignorant to the fact that there is a world that exists outside of the confines of their little village. A world filled with wonder and excitement and diversity.  A world where stuffing isn’t considered a vegetable and going to Chick-Fil-A isn’t considered a night on the town!

On the other hand – I came to understand that there are members of my family who love me with no strings attached. They love me for me; they hugged me to death and comforted me and made me feel safe. There was no talk of Chick-Fil-A or anything gay – I was simply cared for in the most loving of ways.

And my sweet home-town friends who were there for me – no questions asked, with smiles and hugs and more love than I could have imagined. These are friends of the heart – not friends of the road.

The world is filled with the Chick-Fil-A eating crowd – Bless them – and let them go.  I won’t stop writing or marching or protesting their ignorance no matter how they wish that I would – and that gay Oreo cookie? I’d send a case to every Chick-Fil-A loving member of my family – if the cookie really existed!

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I wonder if the people who go to Las Vegas know that the United States is facing an economical challenge. I also wonder if they know and understand that people are not supposed to have money to burn. I only ask this because I’ve seen a whole lot of people throwing money into machines and on tables and at scantily clad women while I’ve been in Las Vegas the past few days.

If I were not a person who read or watched television and only based my knowledge of the condition of the American economy on what I have seen the past two days; I would honestly assume that we were the richest nation on earth, we have no poor or homeless, everyone had jobs, everyone was secure, and everyone had hundreds and hundreds of dollars to just give away.

I sat with a group of older gentlemen this afternoon who were a-waitin for their “women-folk.” Yes, they actually did call them their “women-folk.” We were all in this amazing Parisian bakery inside the Paris Hotel and Casino.  I was eating this chocolate twist that made me want to do a little happy dance, as it was almost as wonderful as the one I had when we were really in Paris, France.  I was totally enjoying the decadence of it all without one ounce of guilt, when these gentlemen asked if they could use the extra chairs at my little table.

They were from Alabama, and they wanted to sit and wait for their “women-folk” who were shopping, would I mind if they just “sat a spell?”  How could I possibly refuse?

The liberal lesbian from California with three white men from Alabama with their “God Bless America” baseball hats, their fanny packs, and their “Bama” t-shirts.  What on earth could possibly go wrong?

Had I won any money they asked?  Yes, I had won a little right here in the Paris Casino.  What was I playing? The nickel Wheel of Fortune machine. Was I in Las Vegas on vacation? Yes, I suppose I was. Was I with my husband? No, I wasn’t married.  “A pretty little thing (which sounds like thang in that southern drawl) like you?”  “I just caint believe a man hasn’t laid claim to you.”

Now – at this particular point in time – I wondered if I really needed to make my gay-marriage, gay-rights stump speech.  Did I really need to attack these 3 old white southern men who were simply a-waitin for their women-folk? Would it make a difference? Would they even understand what I was a-sayin?

They didn’t give me any time to answer them as they started drinking their Parisian coffee and talking politics amongst themselves.  I started to eat my chocolate twist a little faster as I was sure the Republican rhetoric was going to force me from the table. I was thinking of what liberal comment I could make before leaving the table, and what gay image I could leave with them. I was preparing my little speech in my head when I heard one of them say: “I sure hope The President shows that Romney a thang or two in the debates. That poor white boy don’t stand a chance.”

I must have had this look of total shock on my face as these 3 men looked at me and apologized if they had offended me.  I told them that I was not offended on any level and I apologized to them for just assuming they were white, southern Baptist, racist, homophobic men from Alabama.  They roared with laughter and said that no they indeed were not, but their “women-folk” most certainly would fit that description!

I sat with these three men for another 45 minutes and we talked about more things than I could ever write on paper.  These men were sweet and funny and knew the ways of the world. They hated the south of the 1960’s and never agreed with the whole slavery thang. They aren’t fans of the Rebel flag, they don’t like re-hashing the Civil War, they believe in the freedom of and from religion and don’t believe it has any place in government. They think Paul Ryan looks like Eddie Munster and they called Mitt Romney: “Milk-Toast.” I’m not exactly sure, but I don’t think it was a positive thang.

They do not like Chick-Fil-A, they love, love, love college football and confirmed for me that football in the south truly is a religion. These men were WWII veterans, and their voices changed when they spoke of their service to this Country during WWII.  War has a way of defining the people who fight in it, and live to tell the tale. Their eyes filled with tears and they spoke softly of buddies who never came home and they told me that some 70 years later they have never really come to terms with the men they were told to kill. Indeed – war changes people.

I wanted to stay and meet the “women-folk” but I somehow knew that I would have absolutely nothing in common with these women, so I hugged each of these men, and went on my way.  I stopped at a bench, pulled out my journal, and wrote down everything I could remember from the past 45 minutes. It was like taking notes during a college lecture on history, religion, philosophy, sports, politics and human nature all in one course!

I will smile every time I watch an Alabama football game knowing that these three men are somewhere together cheering on their Crimson-Tide.  I will forever be grateful for their honesty, their kindness and the lessons learned in that Parisian Bakery in the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.  The jackpot I hit with these three men was far better than any I could have hit from a slot machine.

Roll Tide!

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Now that the Chick-Fil-A dust has settled a bit, do we all understand what the whole boycott thing was all about?

If you are saying; Religion – you would be correct.  If you are saying; Free Speech – you would also be correct.  If you’re screaming; Gay-Bashing – you would be correct. If you’re saying; Politics – you would be correct. If you’re screaming out loud; it was the Evangelical Christians – you would be correct.

This was about everything – except the chicken…

And what did we learn?  Well, we learned that the evangelical Christians of the Republican Party can pull their folks out of every little nook and cranny of this United States of America when it comes to bashing the queers.

We also learned that supporting a company who donates money to organizations that support the killing of gays in Uganda is far more important than human rights and respect in the United States of America.

We also learned that the American people are lazy. They don’t want to know the facts, they don’t want to be educated, they don’t want to have to discern the truth in anything.  They just believe what they are told by their pastors, and their political leaders as to what they perceive to be “the truth.”

What I know is this.  This was never about whether or not Chick-fil-A discriminates – for they most surely do not discriminate at the counter.  I was treated like gold when I used to go there. They were most happy to take my money with a smile and a “my pleasure.”    It’s where my money goes after it leaves the cash register that is the problem.

Dan Cathy – the owner of Chick-Fil-A – can say anything he chooses about gay marriage and he can stand on a mountain top and preach his gay-hating religion to the hordes of waffle fry eaters who will stand in line to listen and follow him until his maker comes to take him home, for that is his First Amendment right as an American.  However – when he takes Chick-Fil-A Company money and gives said money to organizations that support hate, discrimination, bigotry and in some cases the killing of people well, then he has crossed over the line of free speech. That’s more along the lines of hate-speech and that is not protected by the Constitution. That’s what this was all about.

See, it was never, ever about the chicken, it’s about what it’s always about.  This is an election year and nothing brings out that evangelical republican vote more than gays, guns and god.  It’s what I used to call the hater vote, and can now be known as the chicken vote.

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I spent the day yesterday walking the wonder that is the Las Vegas Strip.  There is this debauchery that just sort of hangs in the air here.  It was 111 degrees, and still people were walking from casino to casino, drink in hand totally oblivious to the heat.  Elvis was on the strip trying to make a few bucks by offering himself up for pictures, and there’s always the opportunity to see ladies and men in various stages of undress, anywhere you look.  It gives me a little glimpse into the world of fashion that I’d never even dream of wearing!

Inside the casinos offers you another glimpse into this debauchery of which I speak.  The craps tables were filled and the dice were being kissed and thrown, the blackjack players were throwing their chips on the pile, the Roulette wheel was spinning while chips were being placed on red and black numbers, and those slot machines were singing everything from The Theme from The Addams Family to Wheel of Fortune. Inside some of these casinos your sensory level is simply on overload from the moment you walk in the door.

Then there is the whole food thing…  If you can’t find it on the Las Vegas Strip, it simply doesn’t exist on the culinary scale of food that matters.  From the very expensive to the very cheap, it’s all here. The French pastries in the little shops at the Paris Hotel and Casino are my personal favorites, but that’s just me. I get a pastry, a nice cup of French coffee, and I sit in the little café and watch the world go by – literally.

Please don’t take what I’m saying as some sort of judgment on Las Vegas.   I am one of those people who happen to love Las Vegas.  I love the debauchery; it fascinates the hell out of me. In some sort of sick way, I fit in here. Absolutely no one cares that I’m gay or overweight or a liberal.  Those things are not even on the scale of things that matter in Las Vegas.  I like that, I feel at home here.

I know the image of Las Vegas is drinking and gambling of which I do very little of either.  I usually have one drink while I’m throwing maybe $40.00 at the slot machines, so I certainly don’t love to come here for either of those things.

I love to come here because there are things to see here that one can’t see anywhere else in the country.  I mean really, where else can you climb the Eiffel Tower, see original Picasso’s, visit a Botanical Gardens that is more beautiful that you could ever imagine, take a ride in a gondola, see a water show, watch a volcano erupt, ride a rollercoaster on the outside of a skyscraper, go to a mid-evil jousting match, and visit the statue of liberty – all in a 4 mile radius?  Come-on, what could be more American?

I don’t think I could live here, it is way too hot in the summer, and my senses need a rest from all the debauchery! I also believe if I saw it all the time, the wonder of it all would rub off. Kind of like seeing the man behind the curtain! (From the Wizard of Oz for those of you who might not know…)

I’ll be back in November though, for my 60th Birthday.  I’m going zip-lining over Fremont Street in old Las Vegas!

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This whole boycotting Oreo cookies isn’t really about the cookie – You know that, right?

This is all about hate and ignorance and for the most part it’s all tied up with the “God Hates Gays” bow.

My sweet, sweet friends have written and called with their words of encouragement and love, and they all tell me not to listen to these folks.  I know this logically; it’s just that my heart hurts when people are so very hateful and so quick to condemn me to their magical land of “hell.”

See, this is personal – this is my life – the life I was given to live. Contrary to what most Christians believe, this is not the life I would have chosen for myself.  I wouldn’t have chosen to live in a world so full of hateful, ignorant, “god-fearing” people.  I’ve been told that I’m “frozen in my belief” about homosexuality not being a choice, that there isn’t scientific evidence that would prove that people are born gay. To this I have to ask for the scientific evidence of this God you believe in.

What I know is my life – all 60 years of it.  I have always been attracted to women, even when I was told I couldn’t be. I tried to make myself be attracted to men, I really did – but the thought of – and the physical act of sex with a man – made me ill, even when I was told to enjoy it.  I don’t hate men; I am simply not sexually attracted to them. That’s all the scientific evidence I need.  Kind of like Christians praying for someone to be healed and they are… that’s all the proof they need that their God exists.  You can’t see it – but you know it’s there.

I just don’t understand why it matters who I love.  Why do you care? How does it affect your life? What does my loving Susan have to do with any of the lives of the hate-filled messages shown above?

Don’t blame Nabisco or my beloved Oreo for your hate-filled ignorance.  It’s not about either one of those things, but you knew that already, didn’t you.?

Rainbow Oreo

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I think I’m getting old.  Then again, perhaps I’m just sick of the crap…

On the Stephanie Miller show this morning they were mocking and making really sick jokes about the horrific flesh-eating incident in Miami Beach.  I actually like Stephanie Miller but, I had to turn the show off.   I found their jokes disgusting, and I wondered what was wrong with people when they can make jokes about something that is obviously not funny.  I mean, a human being was shot to death, and another human being is struggling to stay alive with no family to offer support and love.

What is funny about a homeless man?    And what is funny about a man sick enough to eat the flesh off of another man’s face?

I would think this would be a chance to address social issues, and things that are lacking in our so-called democratic society.  It would be a chance to address solutions and offer some sort of comfort and support for those who have absolutely nothing.  I have no idea what it’s like to live on the streets, but I do know I would never, ever mock or joke about those who do.  I always believed it was our responsibility to look out for each other, to do what we could to help and give comfort.  It makes me sick that we’ve become so cold and callous as a nation that we find humor in the sickest of human conditions.  Isn’t it enough that the man was living on the streets? Must you mock and joke about the physical attack on him?  What is wrong with people?  It’s like mocking the kids who ride the “short bus?”  Really? There’s humor in a disabled child?

Then again, I don’t know why I’m so surprised at this callous reaction to an obviously sick situation.  Look at what is our Presidential election…  It’s disgusting…  Both sides attacking the other – both sides trying desperately to “buy” the election with their precious super pacs. No one addressing issues that really matter.  This isn’t politics; this is just rich American hooey.

And who suffers?  Well, it’s the homeless man or woman, the homeless family, the unemployed, the folks living paycheck to paycheck who know they could end up in their car or on the street at any moment. It’s the elderly, and the mentally ill, and those who need constant care.

We don’t need jokes about how bad the human condition is in this Country.  We need people to stand up and say – this is wrong, we need to make it better. Instead of mocking and making sick jokes and giggling like a 12-year-old boy, put your time on the radio or television to good use.  Do good things, offer compassion and good will. Don’t spend precious time promoting hate and divisiveness.  It just makes you look small and silly, you know, like Rush Limbaugh.  If it was your Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, Aunt, Uncle, or you living on the street – well, just think about it…

Americans are better than this – Well; I still like to think we are better than this…

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