September 4, 2005
Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.
This morning, I biked over to the History Museum. There’s a quote that’s etched inside and outside the building that I wanted to use for a future blog entry or sermon. I spent the rest of the day focusing my energies, working out and helping a friend rehab his home.
Biking home tonight, I was thinking about everything that I needed to do or say about the fallout from Miss Bitch Katrina. I was also thinking about asking some folks who were thirty-somethings in the 1970’s what life was like for them back then, in-the-day.
Seeing the mess that we’re in today – I wanted to ask them:
What did you think, feel and do about the Vietnam War?I admit I was feeling all-full of judgmental wrath – ready to ask snotty, bitchy questions about decisions made in the past that are still plaguing us today.
What did you think, feel and do about Nixon’s abuse of the Presidency?
What did you think, feel and do about the oil crisis?
What did you think, feel and do about the growing unrest in the Middle East?
What did you think, feel and do about lingering racism in this country?
Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera…
I seriously wanted to know…know what their priorities were, if their priorities had changed, if they’d stayed committed to the causes that mattered to them at that one point in their lives…and what they think about what they did – and if they wondered if they made the right or the wrong decisions in their lives.
In trying to think of the questions I wanted to ask, I started to think of moments during the past 34 years when my life changed in a sudden and extreme way.
A few things popped to mind.
The day Christa McAuliffe and her fellow astronauts died, I was at home. It was a snow day, that day in January 1986. I was 15 and, of course, on the telephone (we didn’t have Instant Messenger back then). I was trying on some new clothes. You see, even though the buses couldn’t make it down the back roads of the rural area where I grew up, the UPS truck could. And I got a package from J.C. Penney, with some belated birthday presents.
I remember trying on an emerald green shaker knit sweater – the kind that had big wooden buttons down the front, talking with a girl name Leanne about how much we hated somebody. It’s not important whom we were talking about, even though I remember quite well. We were teenagers, so we hated everyone, except each other. Best friends forever…
Next thing I knew, the news was reporting that the Space Shuttle had blown up. I was glued to the television and on the phone for hours.
I haven’t spoken to Leanne for almost two decades now.
I remembered being alone, living in New York, watching television when reports started airing about a very disturbed and angry man opening fire on the Long Island Railroad. It was December 1993 and I was 22 years old. I was flunking school but was a grade-A party-mess. I decided that day that New York wasn’t the place for me, for a variety of reasons. I called my mom and told her I didn’t want to continue graduate school the next semester and that I needed to come home and dry out. It was a painful confession – but one that probably saved my life. Within months, I was home and within a year of that, I witnessed my father dying in an accident on our family farm.
CHALLENGE OF THE SUPER FRIENDS
My mind goes from somber to sordid as pivotal moments start stacking up with more frequency. Picture it – St. Louis, August 1997. My first computer. My first week online. My first online hookup.
He was a feisty, fiery, funny and furry man who had the entire series of Super Friends on tape. He invited me over to his place to play Hawk Man and Green Lantern. No Wonder Woman metaphor here, kids. Trust me, there are things I would do with a lasso or rope that Lynda Carter would never dare.
We arranged to meet at his apartment for an illicit rendezvous with an explicit interest in 1970’s cartoons as an excuse for meeting. I called my dear friend Kelly to see if he had the 4-1-1 on this fella (Kelly didn’t) but I told him where I was going (just in case). You see, as gay boys in their mid-twenties, we hated almost everybody – except for people like us.
I went over to this fella’s place and had a great time. Strolling home late the next morning, I turned on the TV and saw that Princess Diana had died overnight. The media is so sick, I thought – horrified by the Paparazzi, the media circus and the way Mother Teresa’s death (on the same day) was reported as an-almost casual aside. But I still taped Diana’s funeral on my VCR.
To this day still, I am prone to question my opinions about media and the legacy of those two women. And trust me, thoughts about sassy, sexy fellas into Super Friends (and UPS drivers) will cross my mind, from time to time
I was 26, then…and Kelly and I still chat at least once a week,
When I was 30 years old when terrorists struck on 9-11. I was in the midst of a very naughty conversation with a very special phone friend. We weren’t talking about anything we hated, but what we really, REALLY liked…
I looked up at one point in our very special conversation and saw an airplane hit the World Trade Center on my muted television set.
“Um….I have to go,” I said before hanging up the phone, zipping up my pants and dialing my dear friend Mary (who traveled to New York frequently) to see if she was safe. She has home – safe – and we sat and watched the crisis unfold, together on the phone, alone with our televisions.
The world shifted in ways that we still do not comprehend. In my early 30’s – knowing whom to hate and whom to like became a lot more complicated.
Mary and I still speak a couple of times a year, now that she’s left this country. And I don’t remember my phone sex buddy’s name.
A few hours ago, I was on the phone with my dear friend Ryan (a weekly, sometimes daily confidant) chatting about Celine Dion after she got all rowdy on Larry King in response to Hurricane Katrina. I was browsing the Drudge Report on one computer and online porn on another. My, how so many worlds can collide in such a short amount of time...
“How can I like Celine Dion?” he asked, truly stumped over the latest pop-culture turned-upside-down, confusing-as-shit event of the day. We were debating whether or not Celine had had an epiphany or whether he was having one.
And then he stopped abruptly. I heard an audible gasp, “Oh…my God…Rehnquist is dead.”
And my mind imploded.
I am 34 – and right now…right now…I have chosen that I will not write a post filled with surly, why didn’t you know better questions. Because right now, this country has one huge ass environmental nightmare to deal with – that is now coupled with two huge ass political/legal/social battles. On top of that, there’s an illegitimate war, an oil crisis, an uncertain economic situation and America has to face some of the most severe charges of racism that have ever been leveled against this country.
And now…now I am stumped. I mean really stumped.
So I can’t be all accusatory and snarly to those folks who came before me – and demand they answer my questions. Because the scope of the questions that confront me today are bigger than I admit than I can deal with. Perhaps the same is true of my predecessors, as well.
I’ll leave you with the quote that started and will now end my day:
The past is a dangerous place to visit. It is beauty…It is also a burden. It is where we go, many of us, to remind ourselves who we are and even sometimes to find out.The burden just got steep. Real, real steep.
– Eddy L. Harris
But the beauty is that I still have a lot of dear friends to call (for various reasons), to Instant Message, to e-mail, to help rehab homes, to dine with, to laugh with, to bitch with and so on. And I feel most fortunate that most of them will tell me that it doesn’t matter if the 80’s are back – emerald green shaker knit sweaters with big wooden buttons still suck ass.
And while today was spent analyzing the past and thinking about the future – I am, right now, only thinking of the present.
And right now, what I need to do is sleep, after I make a few phone calls. I hope somebody’s still awake.
And even if they’re not – I’m still calling my mother tomorrow, before I head out to volunteer for Katrina relief. It will be a relief to hear her voice – and see my friends at the Greek Fest tomorrow and the days to come.
I’m fortunate to have a home to go home to -- here and in Kentucky.
I’m fortunate to know I have friends and family – and I know where they are.
A fucked up situation for this country just got more fucked up – but I have to remember that I am fortunate.
And I cannot forget those who are not.
Looking up at my clock, I realize that when I began writing this, it was yesterday and that today was then tomorrow.
And isn’t that the way it always is…and always will be?
For me…and for everyone else, whether I like them – or not.