time

Suggestion For The Folks Over At Evolutionary HQ

From the moment we humans hit the ground we are hellbent on velocity:
scampering, toddling, running, and we’re off!

Then we hit a certain age and age hits back.
Everything takes longer. We slow to a crawl.

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Why do we start out fast – when we’ve got all the time in the world…
and slow down just when we begin running out of time?

 

Here’s an idea:

We should start out slow as children, and then speed up in our golden years.

Little kids would be much easier to catch.

And down the road – we might forget where we’re going – but we’d get there sooner.

Just a thought.

What would you put in the evolutionary suggestion box?

 

 

 

[045] Continuum

= Throwback Thursday =

In 1922, science fiction writer Ray Cummings put it this way: “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.” Makes sense. You drop an egg. A half-second ticks by. The egg smashes on the kitchen floor. Time separates the egg from its demise. And us from ours. But then… some wisecrackers came along and challenged our notion of time as nonsense. They plunked down this idea at the intersection of physics and philosophy: the past, the present and the future are all happening, together, all at once. The fabric of spacetime folds back onto itself and the point of contact – the now – is also the past and the future. It gets even more bizarre, but let’s leave it at everything-happens-at-once. And here’s a joke, because it never was/is/will be more relevant to any post I ever did/do/will do:

The past, the present and the future walked into a bar.

It was tense.

I cannot explain how the past, present and future can coexist. But… when I look at this photograph, I sort of get it. It’s not just that I remember exactly where this was taken or why we were there… it’s not that I remember the excitement of the moment… it’s not that I remember being there with Eileen… it’s not even that I remember thinking I can’t believe I’m wearing a t-shirt that says Homos For Hillary (it was a gift from my sister). It’s that this doesn’t feel like a memory at all. That 31-year-old me is peering out from this photo and connecting with himself, which is to say, with myself – the 51-year-old me. Him. Well, you know. The photo is just an artifact, but that moment is somehow contemporaneous with this moment.

My friend Eileen sent me that snapshot in a “happy Throwback Thursday” email today. It’s one of our favorite pictures of us together, and for so many reasons. First of all, we’re so young this is practically a sonogram. It was 1993. Eileen lived in Boston, I was in San Francisco. We met in Washington DC with entourages of old and new friends in tow. And we were there for two reasons.

This:
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And these two:
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Our pals Mario and Jim tied the knot (for the first time) waaaaaaaay back in 1993. Before it was legal. Or fashionable. Or even a thing. They married again in Connecticut in 2009. And their federal government finally got around to recognizing their legal marriage less than a year ago, when the Supreme Court tossed DOMA on the trash heap of bigoted legal history. So… the photo Eileen shared with me today triggers a cascade of memories and emotions and connections. That weekend in Washington was one of those times in my life where the personal and the public got tossed in a blender and puréed.

Americans gather in stadiums for sports. We gather on the Fourth of July for parades and fireworks. We gather at beaches and parks over Labor Day weekend. But I think it’s fair to say that most Americans have never marched in the streets – for any reason. And even fewer have traveled to the nation’s capital to join hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens to say, We’re here. We matter. And this is what we want. It is powerful stuff, putting yourself out there, using your body, your voice, your self… to try to change the world. Standing up, being counted. It is part of our birthright as Americans, explicitly protected by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution in the Bill of Rights:

Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting
the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;
or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,
and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
.

Ukraine ProtestThese are not abstract notions. Look at the horror unfolding this week in the streets of Kiev. Ukrainians have turned out en masse to protest the games being played with their lives by Russia and the EU. And the government has viciously attacked its own people, firing on them, killing dozens or hundreds, escalating the violence. It is a war zone, and the Ukraine is on fire. The US certainly has its problems – but Americans can march on their capital to demand change, criticize our leaders and their decisions… without worrying about being murdered by the police or the military. This is precisely why it is so important to fight for your rights when they are being denied.

So, there we were in 1993, coming from every corner of the country to demand equal justice under the law. Equal rights, not special rights. There was another component of this March on Washington: AIDS. Only a decade into the epidemic at that point. The dead already numbered in the tens of thousands. The gay community and its AIDSQuiltImg5allies had rallied magnificently to take care of our own. But the FDA was plodding along in the face of an ongoing disaster, taking entirely too long to approve new drugs and treatment regimens. ACT-UP was taking the fight to the government, and this March on Washington delivered a powerful dose of urgency to the Clinton Administration – then only three months old. Part of our presence in Washington that weekend was a massive display of the Quilt – the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt – on the Mall. I have never experienced more raw emotional power than the times I’ve stood in the midst of the Quilt. It is overwhelming, in every way: the crushing weight of the loss, the fierce love in every stitch. Tens of thousands of 3′ x 6′ panels; the dimensions of a grave. Handmade with heartbreaking intimacy, awash in tears. Each panel commemorates a person, a man, a woman, a child, a life… lost to AIDS, lost to a decade of murderous disregard and unforgivable inaction by our own government. The Quilt acted as a lens, gathering all of our grief and anger and loss and sorrow and focusing it like a laser beam of resolve: to be relentless in our demands to take care of the sick and to stop this disease from wiping out an entire generation, or more. To be recognized as human beings, to say We’re here. We matter. This is what we need.

Still, it would take another four years of constant pressure before the new class of anti-retroviral drugs was made available to combat HIV infection and the progression of AIDS. That was a huge victory, both medical and moral. But those were also the years when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) were passed by Congress – and signed, shamefully, in the middle of the night by Bill Clinton. Those were dark days for me, for mine, for this country. Little did we know it would only get worse with the cataclysm of the coming Bush years.

But the arc of history does bend toward justice… slowly… slowly. It’s messy. It’s a knife fight. It’s two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug. But you keep going. Because it’s your life you’re fighting for, and for the lives of those around you. And also for the country you believe in, even when it seems to have abandoned you. As Gandhi is said to have said:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you – and then you win.

The general perception these days is that the fight for equal rights for gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender Americans is just cruising along at presto-chango speed! But I’ve lived now through enough of that arc of history to know that the successes of the last few years could never have happened without the blood, sweat and tears of all the generations past, to the beginnings of the last century. We stand on the shoulders of giants: Larry Kramer, Cleve Jones, Harvey Milk, Margarethe Cammermeyer, Barney Frank, Annise Parker, Harry burstdownthoseclosetdoors.milkHay, Frank Kameny, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, Troy Perry, Bayard Rustin, Tammy Baldwin, Dan Savage, Urvashi Vaid, Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer, Ellen DeGeneres, Billie Jean King, Armistead Maupin, Eugene Robinson… hundreds of trailblazers… thousands of unsung heroes… millions of people living their lives in quiet dignity, waiting for the day when that dignity could speak with a louder voice. Many never saw that day. And that is why we never gave up, will never give up. If you’re a kid who feels different today, a wide path has been cleared for you – but you still might need to hear that “It Gets Better”. Because it does. Because we all came together, so many times, in so many places, across so many years, to make it better. We gay folk, the LGBT you hear so much about, have been ignored. We’ve been laughed at. We’ve been fought at every turn. And now, we’re winning.

It’s about time. And I wonder if this continuum of past, present and future means that an older me is on the future end of this party line. Are we like those hideous Russian nesting dolls? Wherever we are in our lives now, we contain all of our younger selves; we are, likewise, contained within all of our older selves. We just haven’t met them yet. It’s like temporal schizophrenia. Only better. Because there’s something comforting in the notion of the past and the future having a party.

Day 045 #100happydays

Once More Around

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

– Heraclitus

Anniversaries are the mile markers on the road of life. An anniversary reminds us to remember: something, somewhere, someone… in a way that acknowledges the passage of time. How many times around the sun since your birth, since you took that job, since you met your match, since you lost a loved one.

They can elicit joy or sadness, anticipation or dread. Anniversaries are marked with fireworks and parades. They are marked with the lighting of a candle, a walk on the beach, a reverie. And there are those we may choose to let pass without notice.

I received an email today reminding me of an anniversary I would never have been aware of. It was from WordPress:

wordpress.happyanniv

Well thanks, I guess – but wait a minute! I only started this blog a few months ago. What’s this “1 year” stuff? I jumped into the Wayback Machine (Gmail version) to see what I was doing with WordPress on 28 January 2013. And there it was. Mystery solved: I registered with WordPress one year ago today so that I could follow my friend Kimberly’s blog: UnorthodoxFoodie.com – a delicious mix of restaurant reviews, foodie notes, snippets of life in Los Angeles, wisdom, art, literature, gardening and her continuing adventures with compadre mysterioso: Cute Gardener. You don’t have to live in LA to enjoy Kimberly’s scrumptious writing, but I warn you: she makes your tastebuds yearn for so much more than that supermarket chicken you just dragged home for dinner.

While I was looking at my year-old email inbox, I was reminded how the timeline of that day unfolded, and of an anniversary that I am all too aware of today.

There was the flurry of emails to and from Lauren. Her husband Mac was in the end stage of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a hideous disease that slowly turns the lungs to stone. There is no known cause, no treatment, no cure (except lung transplant, for the few who qualify). Mac had been diagnosed two years earlier, and that first year post-diagnosis was more or less life-as-usual, with some shortness of breath. He could still play golf with his buddies in the inferno of a Scottsdale summer. No problem.

But, the next year (2012) would not be so kind. Mac’s ability to get oxygen became increasingly compromised. Thom + I, with our friends Mandy + Greg from London, converged on Scottsdale that March to celebrate my 50th birthday with Lauren + Mac. Six months later, we were all back in Arizona – this time to escort Lauren across the 50-year line.

4SeasonsSCO.arrival lunch.4Oct12

This group has always traveled extremely well. We go from lunch to pool to cocktails to dinner to nightcaps with military precision. Talking, gossiping, laughter – always laughter. This long weekend in October 2012 was no different. Except that we all knew, I think, that this would be the last time we would all be together with Mac.

Not four months later – one year ago today – I was Googling and calling hospice providers in Scottsdale to make sure Lauren had all the info on options available to her and Mac. But it was too late. He was already gone. And now, depending on how you slice it, this is the first anniversary of Mac’s death. Or the 52nd. Or the 365th. For Lauren, I know, there are times when that is delineated in hours, or heartbeats.

Even the tallest mountains seem smaller as you travel farther away from them. This is also true on our emotional landscapes, though the speed at which such distances are covered is not a constant. These are very personal journeys, and few rules apply equally. The simple truth is, time heals. Just don’t ask me when, or how.

Mac and I met in the late 90s when he and Lauren began dating. Or, we met in the early 80s, when he owned the West Fourth Street W4ST SaloonSaloon, just steps from my apartment in the Village. That was a favorite spot of mine to hang out by the fireplace on a winter afternoon. He and I often speculated about how our paths had crossed that long ago, and reminisced about that great neighborhood.

So, it’s hard for me to think of Mac today and think of him as gone. Because it’s so easy for me to hear him telling one of his ten thousand stories of his adventures in New York and the seemingly fictional characters he encountered. So easy to hear him laughing before getting to the end of his own story. It’s just so easy to remember him being happy. Here’s to you, Mac. Slayer of dragons. Teller of tales. Tender of bars. Duffer. Husband. Friend.

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