May 25, 2006

South Florida's Largest LGBT Organization
I drove the 14 miles to Compass, South Florida’s largest LGBT organization this past Monday night for a meeting with a group of older gay gentlemen. I was probably the oldest man at the meeting. I think most were sixty or seventy something. At the beginning of the meeting each of us took a turn to describe what we had done during the past week. The activities of these gentlemen were fascinating. Some spoke about attending a rooftop deck party to watch the fireworks at Sun Fest in West Palm Beach back on May fifth. Others described various club activities they participate in: horticulture, croquette, tennis, and karaoke. Still others talked about church activities, though several were Catholic and I can’t imagine remaining a member of a church that discriminates against LGBT people. All in all it was enlightening, and I will definitely go back.

I had discovered at the Compass website that this group of men was one of a number of lesbian and gay groups that meet on a regular basis at Compass. These include a group for black men, “Brothas Speak,” an HIV social group, gay youth, Lesbian women over 40, LGBT late teens and early 20’s, another for GLBT 25 to 40, and a group that makes panels for the AIDS Names Quilt project. There is no group for men and/or women between 40 and 65 – though it seems to me that age group would be the one struck hardest by the AIDS epidemic - and I find myself wondering why there is no group at Compass that includes all ages, genders, and both sexes. Just because I am interested in persons of the same sex sexually, doesn’t mean I don’t like others. Rebecca was my best friend! And, just because I’m old doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to offer to persons younger than myself. I doubt that 99.9 percent of young men would be interested in my withered old branch, but I have a mind and a great deal of knowledge about life, love, and the world in general to offer. In fact, one of the activities I enjoyed most here in the Palm Beach area during the past few months was Pride Fest precisely because of the cross section of GLBT people of all ages who attended. In the carnival atmosphere I was able to talk to several gay youths about their experiences as out teenagers at school and home. How fascinating to be alive at a time when teenagers can and do take the risks involved in coming out as lesbian and gay people! So, my concern is that we ourselves, LGBT people, maintain ageist, gender, and sex discrimination among ourselves at a time when our country and its’ people wish to write a constitutional amendment that would permanently prevent us from marrying and thus forming legal familial relationships.

Perhaps I should proffer my idea for an age, gender, and sex inclusive group to the powers that be at Compass, and see what kind of reaction I get.

Have a wonderful day, everyone.

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May 21, 2006

I went for a walk last evening, as I am often wont to do and found myself at the marina next door to my condominium. Last evening huge puffy pink, white, orange, and mauve clouds were floating majestically in off the Atlantic. They were reflected in the dark blue and purple water of the Intracoastal Waterway. High above the low flying cumulous strands of pale white and slightly yellow feathery cirrus clouds moved across the sky from the west. It was about seventy-nine degrees Fahrenheit with a lambent breeze blowing across the Intracoastal. The wafting air felt cool against the skin as I carefully walked out the dock on a long portion that runs on top of the breakwater. I feel a bit uncomfortable when I stroll out there as I experience vertigo due to my ageing sense of balance. However, I take my time because the views and sensations are worth the discomfort. There is a bench at docks end, and I always sit down there both to rest and to watch the boats come in. Every type of pleasure boat imaginable goes by. There are small boats with outboard motors and families out for an evening ride. There are larger boats with three 250 horsepower engines on the back and two decks that roar past churning huge waves behind. Usually one or two “monster yachts float by, their huge interior spaces lit for the evening, their rich passengers being served dinner and/or drinks on deck by a white coated waiter. There are boats of fishermen returning with the day’s catch. One or two skidoos race by on a cloud of water spray. Always there is at least one schooner, sails trimmed, gliding gently by powered into its birth by electric engines.

As the sun lowers too the horizon, boat traffic slows, the sky is lit to a deep crimson around a quarter of the Western horizon, the puffed, now darker mauve, lavender and pink clouds silhouetted against deep and rich blue hues at the zenith, shading to orange, salmon, and softer yellow at the northern and eastern horizons. Finally, as the sun drops behind the palms, oaks, and mansions across the Intracoastal Waterway colors begin to fade, lights come on in windows, and I lift my creaking carcass to begin the slow and careful walk off the dock.

Once I am back on solid land, I pick up the pace and stride more quickly trying to increase my heartbeat during the half-mile walk back to my condominium. I will report on future walks dear journal.

Intracoastal Waterway Sunset
…as the sun drops behind the palms, oaks, and mansions…

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May 17, 2006

It’s HOT!
Now I’m discovering the down side of South Florida. The sun is so strong I have to wear a hat or my baldpate turns a bright rosy red and peals within hours. Sore doesn’t begin to describe the pain and itch. The humidity is so high that it feels like I’m walking and moving through syrup. I sweat constantly, though my doctor tells me that is a good thing.

“It shows that you are healthy because your body is still able to react to the heat,” he says.

However, I also think part of the difficulty is caused by the fact that I was home in chilly Pennsylvania during the last of April and the first two weeks in May. My blood thickened in the algid North, and now I have to reacclimatize myself to the tropical weather down here. I am forcing myself to go out and shop during the hottest part of the day. I also go to the condominium swimming pool every other day, though I sit under an umbrella when not in the water. I continue my exercise program by going to a local gym on the days I don’t swim. I do a lot of slow stair climbing, and slow walking on the Elliptical machine. I also take a walk almost every morning just after sunrise though the temperature is usually hovering in the mid seventies. I force myself to go to the beach at least two times a week and sit on one of the benches placed beneath the palms looking out over the transparent aqua waters of the Atlantic. I also plan to do volunteer work at Compass two days a week. It’s an exhausting schedule for a person my age, but it means that I sleep like a log at night. I hope that the forced activity is also helping to keep my ageing body from deteriorating as quickly as it might otherwise.

As part of the research I had done in order to set up my exercise program I researched the following phrase on Google, “Exercise for the aged.” One site,"Be Fit Over Fifty, Inc." did offer actual step-by-step exercise programs for strength, shaping and sculpting, and cardio fitness among others. However, most of the websites that turned up on the Google list had images of 20, 30, and 40 somethings using equipment sold by the websites. There were even those claiming to sell machines that would remove fat and flab with no exercise. I was appalled!

My best advice to anyone wishing to improve their quality of life, and perhaps prolong it a year or two is to start with simple, basic exercises and progress with them until it hurts. And, I do mean hurt. As anyone training to play a sport knows – “no pain, no gain.” I’m not talking about knife stabbing pain. I’m talking about the burning sensation caused by profitable, strengthening exercise. If you can’t do an exercise standing up, try doing it lying down. In short, start where you must, but start, TODAY!

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May 14, 2006

Back to South Florida
I got back last evening, but didn’t have the energy to write you, dear Journal. Instead, I went straight to my cave-like empty bedroom – it has but two pieces of furniture, the bed and a lamp – and collapsed into immediate slumber. I spared no expense on the mattress, box springs, and bed frame, so I had only sweet South Florida aqua Atlantic Ocean and beach dreams.

The last time I looked at a clock it was 8:12 PM. I woke up this morning at 7:30 AM, so I slept over eleven hours. I was exhausted, though more from dealing with the situation in Lancaster than from the trip itself. Of course, I expected that Ruth would be difficult, and she immediately proved me correct by not speaking to me. I had to convey all messages through Samuel, her husband. It felt like she and I had regressed to second childhoods. Samuel would call me at THE BIG NEEDLE, and I could hear Ruth telling him what to say in the background.

“Hi Sam. What’s up?”

“Tell my father that we want to know how long he plans to keep his apartment at Pine Needle Manor.”

“We just wanted to know ….”

“I heard Sam. I’ve given notice. I must be out by the end of June.”

“Ask him if he gets any of the original sum back that we paid when we bought the place.”

“Did you hear that Isaac?”

“Samuel!” Ruth exclaimed in total aggravation.

“Yes. I heard. However, I have two points of clarification before I answer the question. First, we did not pay for my apartment here in the Big Prickly Manor. I did. Second, as Ruth and I were told by the Prickly Needle Corporation Management when I bought the place, I will get only 20 percent of the purchase price back when the next resident gets suckered into buying his/her death trap.”

“Isaac, you know we had only your best interests at heart when we convinced you to move to Pine Needle Manor. After all, the Pine Needle Care Corporation takes responsibility for your health care no matter whether you are able to live on your own, need assisted living or complete nursing care. Nursing care alone costs almost $45,000 per year these days. Heaven only knows what it will cost in another ten years.”

“I don’t plan on living another ten years, Samuel.”

“Tell him he’d better hope he doesn’t need to go to a nursing home.” Ruth said.

“You’d better hope…”

“I heard her, Sam. Don’t forget that I also have long term care insurance that I bought when Rebecca and I were in our early 60’s, back in the days when it was a relatively new thing. It’s costing me a lot less than THE PRICKLY NEEDLE does. I will be fine.”

And so it went. I finally got Ruth to talk to me the day I left, but I had to go to Orchard Hill Farm and beg her to unlock her bedroom door. After a lengthy soliloquy in which I assigned all blame to myself for the argument that she had caused, she cried, and I cried, and we made up.

So, here I am back in my new condominium in South Florida, and I’m on speaking terms with all my family. I’ve given notice at Pine Needle Manor that I will be moving out the last two weeks in June, and I’ve made arrangements with my grandson Adam to help me get all my things from THE BIG NEEDLE to Florida. I should be given some kind of award for planning and negotiating. Perhaps I should have been a member of the Foreign Service. I’d have made a good ambassador, though there has only been one OUT gay ambassador that I know of, James Hormel, nominated to be ambassador to Luxembourg by President Clinton in 1997. Of course, I could write a political diatribe about the Republican reaction to that. Part of their objection at the time was that Ambassador Hormel would use his position to advance the gay agenda. Of course everyone knows that we LGBT people have a life-style sales campaign in which we offer prizes like food processors and microwaves to the gay man or lesbian woman who is able to convert the most heterosexual children to our way of life. I jest, but the really frightening thing about this bickering over perfectly normal variations in human sexuality is that these crazed and divisive evangelical Republicans actually believe their own line of crap. Okay, so I know that their sick rhetoric will someday come back to haunt them. I also know that the God who they profess to own actually loves us all, each and every one.

Ah, well, now I’ve been totally sidetracked. I will stop. I won’t go on to a complete political diatribe. Not when everything is going so well in my immediate life. I refuse to get upset over American politics today, even though Mr. Bush and his evangelical mafia are bringing to a vote the 28th Amendment next month. You know, the one that would legalize and make permanent the nation’s need to discriminate against LGBT people.

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