December 30, 2006

Christmas in Pennsylvania Dutch Country

The direct flight to Philadelphia was fine. However, the walk through the airport in Philadelphia is interminable! Adam and Stephen took a personal day for Friday, December 22nd so they could leave Woodbury, New Jersey immediately after work on Thursday, meet me at the airport and drive me to Lancaster County. They were waiting for me at the luggage pick-up, so I had nothing to carry to the car, thank goodness. We talked nonstop the entire one and one-half hour trip home. However, having just recovered from pneumonia, I was exhausted and took a nap as soon as I could after arriving at Orchard Hill Farm.

The days leading up to Christmas were crazed! However, I did have a marvelous time. Ruth and I did not argue much because we weren’t allowed to. Each time one of us would start, Samuel, or Sam Junior, Nichole, or another family member interrupted with either an admonition and/or a distraction. It was a conspiracy because we were never allowed to be alone together for more than a few minutes.

Abraham and Naomi were strangely silent concerning Adam’s, Stephen’s, and my sexuality, though I caught Naomi squinting at the boys through furrowed brow, as though she were performing some queer (pun intended) telepathic evangelical exorcism on them. Samuel, as head of the house asked Abraham to say grace at several of the evening meals, and each of his prayers were short and sweet, including the part in which he asked God to bless every member of the family. However, Abraham did look as though he might cut and run when embraced by Stephen during introductions when he and Naomi arrived at Orchard Hill Friday evening.

It didn’t feel much like Christmas during my stay in Lancaster County with temperatures ranging from the low fifties to mid-sixties in the daytime, and the thirties to mid-forties at night. We did all the usual Christmas stuff, shopped, wrapped packages, visited family and friends, ate too much, and some of us drank too much. I managed to find some time alone to write this entry and another for my political journal, titled “I Told You So.” I also walked around the farm and took pictures of animals, out buildings, and fields. I’ve included one that I especially like with this entry.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were without snow, almost spring-like, but were otherwise better than perfect - more about that next time, dear journal.

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December 21, 2006

Christmas Trip

Ruth and Samuel called last night to tell me that I have electronic tickets to fly home for Christmas. I leave today and return to Florida on the 29th of December. I packed like a mad man last night, and I leave for the airport in an hour. I’m still a bit weak as I am recovering from pneumonia. However, I’m sure I’ll be fine. Abraham and his wife, Naomi will be there, as will Sam Jr. and his wife, Nichole, along with their children, Amy and Terrance. The visit should be most interesting because Adam and his partner, Stephen will drive me to Lancaster County from New Jersey from the Philadelphia airport. You see, Abraham and Naomi are evangelical Christians. Not only are Adam and Stephen living an evil life style that will surely send them both straight to hell, but I myself, Abraham’s father, a self-proclaimed gay man will also go straight to hell upon my demise. I have promised Ruth that I will be a good father, and that I will not bring the issue to a head. Never the less, this may well be a most stimulating visit.

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December 20, 2006

Charles Ray’s Art, Entrapment, Fear of Conversion,

and the Palm Beach County “Social Disease.” – Part II

Continued from December 17, 2006

Second, I looked for an artist whose work might illustrate, or at least demonstrate some of the same concerns as the feminist, Judith Butler. I found Oh Charley, Charley, Charley! by Charles Ray. Oh Charley, Charley, Charley! is about the limitations placed on the individual and artist by normative cultural presuppositions and the visual statements artists make about such standardized cultural limits. Ray, however, does not intend to place his work in opposition to these limits. Rather, he wishes to make them apparent.
Oh Charley, Charley, Charley! causes conflict to either a male heterosexist or homosexist position because it appears to be about orgiastic homosexual sex. Let me explain. First, the object appears to be the quintessential demonstration of male, homoerotic sex because there are eight intertwined nude male figures in the sculpture. As such, it is foreign and frightening to the male heterosexist, calling forth nightmares about power and violation. The male heterosexist’s distress is understandable, though limiting since it is founded upon the irrational fear that it is possible to be converted to a gay persuasion, in this case through rape. If that were so, why do most gay persons not fear the opposite? Despite the fact that our culture teaches GLBT persons to believe conversion to a heterosexual persuasion is desirable, by the time most are into their mid-twenties, their non-heterosexual identity is an accepted part of their person. In fact, this resolution of personal conflict has been identified as one of the stages of a non-heterosexual person’s adjustment to his or her sexuality in many coming out models. Kenneth M. Cohen and Rich C. Savin-Williams discuss many such models in “Coming Out,” in The Lives of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals. *1
The figures in this sculpture, however, are all self-portraits of Charles Ray, and Ray is a heterosexual male. Ray’s heterosexual identity denies the portrayal of desire and sex among these various selves, unless we conceive of the sculpture as a pre-oedipal representation of narcissism. If so, Ray would have been better off with one figure, and nine mirrors. Thus, Ray’s actual intent denies the homosexual fantasy the multiple image seems to indicate.
A closer look at Oh, Charley, Charley, Charley! will serve to clarify just how disturbing the work is to either heterosexist or homosexist position. The polychrome figures are a smooth even flesh tone. They are about to engage in sexual intercourse, both anal and oral, active and passive. Physical action, however, like in a Poussin painting, is frozen, as though a cold wind has pierced the space the sculpture occupies. The figures are locked in the moment, just before insertion, an encomium to fictitious sexual acts that will not take place.
Most importantly, however, Ray denies that the sculpture is about sexuality at all. Instead, he maintains that it is about a Formalist schema artists use to achieve unity within a composition through the repetition of form or shape. The work is thus engaged in a kind of static dance, both literally and figuratively. The figures are frozen in time and space, disconnected links, like a series of individual motion picture frames with no connection or motion. The figures resist interpretation, even as they twist and turn in suspended animation upon the floor, and they are about sexuality even as they deny it.
Oh, Charley, Charley, Charley! points toward the possibility that beneath our conceptualization of sexuality there lies neither heterosexual identity nor homosexual identity, but something else beyond that dichotomy. After all, Ray himself, as stated above, plays with the likelihood that the viewer will misunderstand his intent. The misinterpretation of artistic intent is in turn based upon a faulty apprehension of “normal behavior.” Ray leads us upon a zany obsessive-compulsive chase. Like a cat in its game of mistaken identity, he is chasing his own tail while we watch and wonder. Does he know what he is doing? His seeming obsessive-compulsive narcissism obfuscates the normative sexual concerns we, as viewers, bring to his sculpture.

Unfortunately, as Palm Beach County government “gay entrapment practice” demonstrates, our culture has neither the time nor the ability to work toward an understanding of it’s own obsessive-compulsive narcissism, and would rather place fear of conversion on gay and straight men on whom nature has called to empty their bladder.

*1 “Coming out” is the process by which a non-heterosexual person accepts his or her sexuality and discloses it to others, family, friends, and co-workers. Some of the models Cohen and Savin-Williams discuss are the following. Hooker, Evelyn A. “Male homosexuals and their worlds,” in J. Marmor, ed. Sexual Inversion: The Multiple Roots of Homosexuality. New York: Basic Books,1965, pages 83-107. Plummer, K. Sexual Stigma: An Interactionist Account. Boston: Routledge, 1975. Myrick, F. L. Homosexual Types: An Empirical Investigation, The Journal of Sex Research. 10: 1974 , 226-237. Elliot, P. E. “Lesbian Identity and Self Disclosure,” Dissertation Abstracts International. 42: 1982, 3494B . Fitzpatrick, G. “Self Disclosure of Lesbianism as related to self-actualization and self-stigmatization,” Dissertation Abstracts International. 43: 1983, 4143B. Hencken, J. D. “Sexual-Orientation Self-Disclosure,” Dissertation Abstracts International. 45:1985, 2310B. (Cohen and Savin-Williams, 117).

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December 17, 2006

Charles Ray’s Art,

Entrapment, Fear of Conversion, Judith Butler, and the Palm Beach County “Social Disease.”

Dear Journal,

The police entrapment incident I reported on December 14, 2006 has caused me to start thinking about sexual identity and cultural restrictions placed on individual’s identities, and the policing of sexual identity. Not for the first time, I wondered how often artists like myself have dealt with the issue. You know of my own concerns about identity and sexual identity. I have written about them extensively in the past. Entries in this journal concerning sexuality and identity can be found as far back as 2003. Be that as it may, I’ve decided to revisit some of these concerns in the attempt to understand how it is politically feasible for Palm Beach County to spend millions of dollars per year in the attempt to regulate sexuality at a time when property taxes in the county have jumped 80% in the past 5 years, causing middle-working-class families to flee South Florida.

First, I need to discuss Judith Butler’s feminist ideas concerning identity, sexual identity, and cultural imprinting of sexual identity in her books, Bodies That Matter, 1993, and Gender Trouble, 1990. She discusses the “performance” of sexuality and its limitations, and she claims that sexuality and gender are personal traits acquired from the culture in which one lives, the result of a process over which neither the individual nor society has much control. Rather, normative behaviors accumulate through a process described by Michele Foucault and others in which institutions and discourses acquire the power to prescribe normative human behaviors over time (I will look at Michele Foucault in another entry.). Thus, according to Butler, effeminate behavior is like a surface patina acquired from the culture. It is not necessarily the prerogative of either sex. It is a prescription for behavior that is taught to one sex. If a person of the other sex adopts that prescription as his own, his behavior is seen as transgressive.
Butler describes this process of cultural inscription in great detail and calls it the “reformulation of the materiality of bodies.” It is a complex process in which the individual learns to know himself or herself through the teaching of the culture in which he or she lives. Knowledge of self materializes when the individual receives powerful structures from the culture. These structures are acquired by individuals as they are performed in a daily routine. The routine and structure as received from the culture are not conscious. No persons decide in advance what these routines and structures are to be. They are developed in an oral tradition, in writing and discourses between and among many persons. Over time they become increasingly pronounced in the cultural milieu. Butler states that the entire process favors the heterosexual over any/other/all sexual identities. Furthermore, she indicates that identity, gender identity, and sexuality are understood to be similar in Western culture.

...but rather that the subject, the speaking “I” is formulated by virtue of having gone through such a process of assuming a sex; and (5) a linking of this process of “assuming” a sex with the question of identification, and with the discursive means by which the heterosexual imperative enables certain sexed identifications and forecloses and/or disavows other identifications (Butler 3).

Thus, Butler assumes that sexuality is similar to identity and that the “heterosexual imperative” delineates and limits individual identity. There are other feminists who also write about cultural inscription of sexuality, among them Luce Irigaray, the subject for still another journal entry.

I will continue with a look at Charles Ray’s Oh Charley, Charley, Charley! and how it relates to the feminist work of Judith Butler and police sexual profiling in Palm Beach County in my next journal entry.

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December 14, 2006

Danger in the Parks – Gay Entrapment(?)

I will publish this piece in both my journal, and Isaac’s Political Journal for two reasons. First, I am relating part of my daily existence here in Florida. Second, the situation I describe below reflects an administrative system that has distorted the purpose (to aid and protect citizens) of at least two major municipal institutions in Palm Beach County.

I always think that the police are here to help and protect me. I forget that the constabulary was created as an arm of local municipal government to control and regulate human behavior, and that the beginning of any honest police history must be filled with many a clash between ordinary citizenry and the police. Originally, the early American colonial British based watch system was fashioned in part with the responsibility to prevent public drunkenness. Later, in large cities the police forces were composed of hundreds of volunteers. Often convicts themselves, and or dull witted, they were called “leather heads” by ordinary American workers. The first paid police force was created in New York City in 1845 and other large cities were soon to follow. These police forces, recruited from the working class, were trained to think of themselves as better than their peers and during the late nineteenth century were used to control mobs, race riots, and strikes. The city bosses who were friendly to business concerns used the newly armed professional police to round up striking intoxicated (Irish) workers -thus the term “paddy wagon.” The confrontations often large in scale resulted in armed conflict. Thus, these police forces were used in service to big business, the rich, and the city bosses. They did not help the ordinary citizenry, rather they can best be understood as a militia used against the worker in class warfare.

I give this preamble concerning police history by way of explanation. You see, I just found out that one of my neighbors, a heterosexual male, was arrested last week for soliciting in a men’s room in a nearby county park. I will not divulge his identity because I have learned from past experience that doing so can hurt friends and family members. My neighbor, I’ll call him “Ted,” is not going to fight the arrest because the county police have sworn that Ted will not be prosecuted if he follows their directions explicitly. It seems there is an entire complex program here in Palm Beach County based on a profile of the “gay tearoom queen” (my term). Ted was told that over twelve hundred men in Palm Beach County have been “detained” under the program and that it is designed to help control a “social disease.” Ted has had to appear in court, and he will attend a “class” in which “experts” will teach him about the evils of tearoom solicitation including vandalism, blackmail, robbery, prostitution, and HIV AIDS. Ted must also have an HIV test. If he does these things, and stays out of all county public parks and other various particular locations throughout the county for 90 days, he will not be prosecuted. His name will not go on lists, including that of known sex offenders.

Now, do I believe the police are being honest and forthright with Ted? No, I don’t. Ted has been required to fill out many forms including one on which he had to admit to guilt that he can’t possibly have. The police have placed his car’s license plate number on file, and he has been given a list of all the places he may not go. These police requirements have forced him to tell his wife and child about the arrest so that neither should mistakenly drive the car into one of the forbidden areas.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this situation is that my neighbor was framed in a bizarre performance created by a trained undercover policeman, a very handsome and well endowed individual I am told, who stepped up to the urinal next to my neighbor, exposed himself and asked my neighbor what he wanted to do with the exposed tumescent part. My neighbor, shocked speechless, was then confronted by a second plain-clothes policeman who placed him under arrest. A third, uniformed policement stood outside the men's room. I’m appalled because such a program requires a huge expenditure. It is designed to profile a small population, but has mistakenly pulled in a person who does not fit the stereotyped profile, and I wonder how many times that has happened. Additionally, many persons must participate in such a program, from the top echelon of county administration, including trained professionals in several fields, the uniformed policeman, and the undercover agent. Each is receiving a salary. There are literally hundreds of county parks in this huge Palm Beach County. Do the police patrol all of them with handsome well endowed undercover agents whose purpose is to trap unsuspecting gay men? How many “experts” are paid on a regular basis to teach the special “classes” designed to mistakenly rid us of a “social disease?” How many court personnel are tied up with this ridiculous charade?”

I am appalled! Are we pursuing drug dealers with such gusto? Do we plan to hound organized car thieves with even a fraction of the energy, time and money required to fund this mammoth program designed to harass gay men? Is there a program anywhere to help the gay child thrown onto the street by his/her family to find housing, schooling, and a thoroughly supportive environment? I don’t thinks so, and I suppose there isn’t anything to do about it. Some angry and brave gay or straight man must confront the system by refusing to participate in this travesty, and so be prosecuted, dragged through the courts and the mud by a program with the intent to publicly display him as a deviant and incarcerate him. Who would be willing to do such a thing to himself?

Sadly, this is the state of liberty in Twenty-first century United States of America, home of the free and the brave!

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December 12, 2006

I watched from my porch as Discovery (STS-116) blasted off.

Sunday, December 10, 2006
I’m over one hundred miles south of Cape Kennedy. However, my neighbor Peter had told me that I would be able to see the launch easily, and sure enough, I watched from my porch as the horizon lit up and a line of light spread behind the many buildings to the northeast. The light got brighter and expanded into a rising slightly rounded and thick form then suddenly collapsed as a brilliant tiny white pencil like beam rose from behind. The Atlantic Ocean is directly behind those buildings though they block my view of it, and looking toward them, I was at the narrow base of a very acute triangle pointing at Cape Kennedy.

I had mistakenly expected to see Discovery climb above my head before fading. Instead, it slowly headed out over the Atlantic as it climbed, and the ascent became less and less apparent, it’s pencil shape concentrated to a brilliant splotch of light, the most intense object in the sky. Slowly, it lost all apparent motion and gradually faded, until a low scudding gray cumulous cloud covered it.

I had never thought much about the previous 115 launches - with the exception of the Columbia and Challenger disasters - because I wasn’t able to see them with my own eyes. This time, as I witnessed the heavenly ascent, I felt a connection to the seven members of the crew, a thread stretching thinner by the second as Discovery climbed toward its 250 mile high orbit at a peak speed of about 17, 000 miles per hour. I wondered how the seven crewmembers felt emotionally and physically as they ascended into the cosmos. Intellectually, I know that they were suffering the effects of multiple G forces as the shuttle rose through the troposphere and stratosphere, but how does that feel. I can only surmise, based on the subtle effect of accelerating motor vehicles and planes I have experienced. I know the astronauts are trained in accelerators so that they are use to the incredible force of 5, even 6 Gravities. However, more importantly I wondered if they felt any spiritual rush in addition to the physical pain and emotional charge of climbing toward the black velvet vacuum of space.

Is it possible that God might reach out to touch those of us who are able to physically transcend this wicked war torn planet, and what would that feel like?

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December 09, 2006


Sixty-eight Fahrenheit was the high temp yesterday, with drizzle and rainy gray skies. However, I’m not complaining. I talked with Ruth on the phone last night, and it was twenty-six degrees in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Ruth is still upset that I live so far away from her. She complained that I was here alone and sick in Florida, and she couldn't come take care of me. She suggested flying down to cook and clean, generally help during my convalescence.

"Ruth," I said. "I'm completely recovered and I'd rather have you and Samuel come to visit when I am at my best so that I can show you around Palm Beach County. There is so much to see and do."

I also had my visit with the doctor yesterday and he said, “You’re doing well, Isaac. Don’t expect to conquer the world immediately, but you’re recovering nicely.” A good report, I guess, but frustrating. I’m still taking a walk every morning and evening. I lift my little weights 2 times every day, but I don’t have energy left over to do anything else. I don’t even feel like reading much. Yesterday, Peter was talking about going out with friends, and I was actually envious.

I have cabin fever, and I’m bored!

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December 06, 2006

Feeling Better and More about Peter

I’m slowly getting my strength back. Yesterday was nasty, so I just cleaned the condo, and lifted my little weights for a half hour. However, this morning was magnificent, so I took a long walk around the entire complex. Hunky Peter joined me, and we talked about his school and work. He finishes his Masters Degree this Semester, so right now he’s buried in work. His thesis is done, and he has to go through a review board, or panel (I’m not sure what it’s called) next week. He finishes course work this week with finals next. With all that, he works 20 hours a week to help pay for courses and pay rent to his parents. And, he exercises 3 to 4 times a week. He looked tired.

I’m including another photo of our wonderful beach, clouds, and sunset here. I took it as I looked over a fence and through someone’s back yard.
Juno Beach Sunset #10

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December 02, 2006

Going for a Drive at Sunset

My cell phone is set to do this barnyard “cluck, cluck, quack” thing instead of a normal ring. I can’t possibly do the racket it makes justice in words because it is the most ridiculous sounding noise I’ve ever heard. Adam set it for me this past summer, and I don’t have the direction book that came with the phone and I don’t know how to change it. I am semi-illiterate with electronic devices, and have had to struggle with much help from Adam and Stephen to learn to use this amazing computer of mine.

Yesterday afternoon I was reading on the porch when my phone began it’s barnyard cacophony. Of course, being eighty-seven years old, I never remember to carry the thing with me, so I had to get up and home on the outrageously dissonant signal. It was in my pants, hanging in the bedroom closet, and of course had stopped its “cluck, cluck, quack” by the time I got to it. However, it is such a marvelous electronic device that I was able to discover that the call had come from Peter just by pressing a button - pressed again, and Peter’s phone was ringing.

“Hi, Peter. What did you want?"

“Isaac, I wondered if you’d like to get out of that condo for a bit, take a ride to the beach. The sunset’s going to be gorgeous, and you know how the clouds light up over the water sometimes.”

Juno Beach December 1, 2006

“Yes, I do. It can be spectacular. So, yes, I’d love to go.”

“Good, I’ll stop by in a couple of minutes.”

“Thanks, Peter.”

“Your welcome, Isaac.”

My wonderful young hunky neighbor showed up at the door in an International Male skin tight shirt and running shorts that made him look like a model ready for a shoot on South Beach, and I know my jaw must have dropped when I opened the door.

“I’m going to take a swim while we’re there.”

“Good for you,” I managed to get out with only one extra “g” fastened to the beginning of “good.”

We drove the short distance to Juno Beach, and I sat on a bench with my camera, while Peter ran down to the roaring surf and jumped in. I got some good pictures of the sky, water, and palm trees, but the sky wasn’t as spectacular as I’ve seen it in spring and summer. I’ve included one here, above.

Peter swam about in the pounding surf for about 20 minutes, got out just as the sun was touching the horizon, ran up the beach and steps to my bench dripping wet and out of breath. Oh my! The orange sunlight made the water on his smooth muscled skin sparkle and my heart gave a leap as I castigated myself for being such a dirty old man.

“Isaac, I can’t wait till you’ve recovered enough to go in with me.”

“Peter, even when I was in the best of health, I couldn’t have gone in with that raging surf.”

“Okay, so we’ll come to the beach on a calm day. Some days it’s like a big lake."

"Yes, I know. I’ve seen that. But, I can take a bit of wave action.”

“Good. It’s a date. Be prepared for me to call when the conditions are right.”

I know he didn’t mean literally, “IT’S A DATE,” but my heart jumped into my mouth, and I began repeating the mantra, “I will not make a fool of myself. I will not make a fool of myself. I will not make a fool of myself.”

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