Time Escapes Me (US)

The constructs of time have been debated by scholars for centuries. For me, these “constructs” are too cerebral for my little brain to comprehend. Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity stated, “time and space are not as constant as everyday life would suggest.” I only know enough about time to prompt me to get me where I need to go and when I need to be there. And like most people, time is something that we never have enough of. 

As a kid, I remember thinking about having an abundance of time and being bored because of it. Growing up in the 70s, my imagination and activities were fueled by my love for Saturday morning cartoons specifically the animated-series, the Super Friends; produced by Hanna-Barbera. My mother encouraged my older sister and me to go outside and play as a way of giving her time for herself. I didn’t mind, I would spend my time running around the neighborhood pretending I was flying and fighting monsters, bad guys, and occasionally my sister, like one of the caped heroes from my favorite show. 

That was then. Now the older I become, the more time I spend wondering and pondering about my life. I am officially a middle-aged man if you look at the numbers. In fact, my partner jokingly mentioned that we probably now qualify for senior discounts at certain businesses; a thought that never previously crossed my mind. I know that I’m not the only one making assertions about their state of maturity having recently made another trip around the sun. This year however, I’ve been confronted by a number of questions where there are no easy answers. Questions pertaining to my health (mortality), my career, and even the question of my and our purpose as global citizens. 

Time has made us complacent (intentionally and unintentionally), when it comes to engaging with others or taking action. For example, we say things like,”We should do dinner”, “Let’s do lunch,” or “I’ll do that tomorrow”, and more often than not, nothing ever comes from these proposals. I’ll be honest, I too am guilty of doing this, and I’m sure that I’m not alone. A short time ago I made a rare appearance at a club. I met this guy who was curious about the number of people I was being greeted by. He explained that he and his husband moved to Portland a while ago, but didn’t yet have a good network of friends. We exchanged digits and would text back and forth about getting together, but could never find the right time. In late July whilst texting about favorite fried chicken spots in Portland, that I learned via Facebook,that this friend died in his sleep. I too am guilty of allowing life’s distractions to interfere with my well and good intentions. My excuses usually include things like work, insufficient energy, lack of money, and even Eric (the hubster). With regard to Eric, he doesn’t ever prevent me from doing things, I sometimes just want to spend my downtime with him ❤. 

I have been thinking a lot about time lately. My recent birthday has caused me to seriously reflect on my life. Maybe I’m suffering from some version of a gay man’s “midlife” crisis. What makes this a gay man’s midlife crisis you may ask? Well, I’m gay in case you didn’t catch earlier hubster reference!  I don’t have any plans of buying a shiny new hybrid/electric car or suddenly running around with some young and muscled 20 – 30 something year old who’s looking for that “Daddy” figure; a title that definitely comes with this age. Personally, I would rather travel than deal with any superficial and temporary needs of someone’s fixation. 

Each morning as I awake, I wonder about the aches and pains that seem to appear out of nowhere for doing nothing out of the ordinary. I understand that our bodies can and do go through processes of shutting down over time, I’m just not there yet. I want to be around when we find a cure for the common cold, AIDS, and bad political decisions. Even as I write this piece, I’ll be heading to see the gastroenterologist later this week for a colonoscopy. The procedure is an important part of colon cancer prevention (Your courtesy Public Service Announcement). This isn’t my first time my ass gets probed (guys will know what I mean) but I hope to at least get a warm blanket and maybe a hug this time. With every check up I feel anxious, nervous, and even a little fearful. The question of whether cancer will again invade my body never really fades from my mind.

Eric has his dream job designing award winning homes. Even as a young boy, he would create home plans. He even made a wood-covered leather bound book to display his residential wonders. Once upon a time I did have my dream job performing (dancing, singing, and acting) in a variety show at a San Diego, California theme park (🐠🐙🐬+🌎) . It was joyous and physically demanding work. Sadly, it took its toll on my knees and very flat feet. I’m realistic, I don’t see myself dancing again in a show as I did some 30 years ago. What I enjoyed most, aside from the performances, was the positive energy we created. I also gained some amazing friendships too. My current job feeds my desire to do something good, just without the physical intensity. I also work with some talented, wonderful, and underpaid colleagues, but there are components of this work that make it feel uncertain and insecure. Is it too late to try and figure out what I want to do and be when I grow up? 

I view myself as a global citizen. In fact, my personal mantra is “Community-Motivated & Globally-Driven”. At one time in my life I was fortunate to spend several years living in Europe. While abroad, I traveled to other parts of the world and experienced some amazing and also harsh realities of our world. My life has been forever changed by these experiences and how I view myself in it, especially being a brown-person. Our foreign neighbors often know more about our American history and political climate than we do about theirs; not to mention the multiple languages individuals are required to learn. So what can we do to make us (U.S.) less insular and really be a global partner? Maybe it’s time for “US” to do better for preparing our kids for a future that has them thinking about their part in the world rather than just within their own cities, states, and country. 

These are just a few things that come to my middle-aged mind, and with the year 2020 less than 2 months away, only time will tell what the future has in store for US all. 


Liar, Liar, Couch on Fire!

Kids will say and do the darnedest things. I think the earliest memory of my first word was no. Not Mama or Dada. I was told that I was a cute child, and I was a tad mischievous too. When my Aunt Sally would visit, she would often catch me in an act of trickery and bad behavior (such as grabbing buttermilk biscuits when I wasn’t supposed to) which generally led me to get disciplined. I was probably 2 or 3 years of age, and for this particular infraction, it was usually a couple of smacks on the hand as a “warning”. I would retreat in an over-sized cabinet and pout. After about 15 minutes or so, I would quietly reappear and strike again. When successful, I would enjoy my forbidden contraband! When I was again caught, the punishment went from a smack on the hand to a spanking on my young and ample behind! 

When I began to understand that my actions led to certain consequences, I changed my behavior to minimize any negative reactions. Besides, I could no longer fit into any cabinetry and the tools of discipline had also changed to reflect my age and size. No longer was the swat or a rapid- fire spanking by hand the instrument of discipline. I, we, had graduated getting a whippin’ by belt, shoe, or even worst of all, the switch. The switch was usually the preferred tool of torment when I, or my older sister, really misbehaved. Yes people, in this Black, African-American household, corporal punishment was alive and thrived! There was no time out, sitting in a corner, or the suspension of computer privileges for us like there is for kids today. My mother had her hands full as a single parent and she strongly believed in the rule, “Spare the rod, and spoil the child”. She wanted me and my two siblings to be truthful, respectful, and courteous. Not just to her, but with other adults, and more importantly, towards each other. 

Sonya 10, Latonya 4, Me 9

When my mother married another military man, we soon found ourselves leaving the east coast and heading for Texas. Having only knowledge about Texas from the handful of western shows, we thought that we’d be living on a ranch and would be riding horses to school. We were living in San Antonio, TX and attending John Tyler Elementary school. Sadly, no horseback riding for us. In fact, we actually walked to school since it was only two blocks away. Truthfully, my two sisters and I were great kids for the most part. My youngest sister (Latonya) at the time, wasn’t really old enough to get into any trouble without being provoked by either my older sister or me. With my stepfather working on base and our mother working a part-time job, we needed to carry our share of the workload when it came to doing chores around the house. This sometimes even included cooking. Nothing too extensive or complicated, something simple like Kraft Hamburger Helper or even rice.

I remember one Sunday evening my mother and stepfather had a military friend over for dinner. Afterwards, we kids were assertively requested to go outside and play with Brutus, our loving German Shepherd Husky mix puppy. We didn’t view this exile or a punishment by any means and besides, they were going to be “talking” about grown up stuff. This friend of theirs must have been a smoker judging by the ashtray and matches that remained in the living room. It smelled of something else was being smoked and it wasn’t cigarettes! With my adult experiences today, I now know that it was a little herbal delight (weed, pot, ganja…you know what I mean) that was lingering in the air! 

The next day as we returned from school, my mother reminded me and my older sister that we had a few responsibilities to take care of while she and our stepfather were at work. I was responsible for cleaning up the dog poop in the backyard and Sonya, had to watch after Latonya and cook up a batch of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese before the parentals came home to finish up dinner. I really got the crappy end of the deal with the duties, but luckily Brutus didn’t leave too much of a mess in the yard. After I cleaned up, I headed back inside the house. Sonya was with Latonya in the kitchen measuring out the ingredients for the macaroni and cheese dish. I kept my sisters company briefly as they lovingly and patiently prepared this cheesy and zesty delight.

Out of boredom, I headed to the living room where the ashtray and matches still remained. At this point, I became fixated on the matches and did exactly what we were taught never to do, which was never play with fire. I struck a match and held it in my little fingers mesmerized by the smell of the sulfur and the color of the flame. I wasn’t paying attention to how close the flame crept towards my fingers. In a panic, I dropped the match in the ashtray and turned it over on the couch to prevent the smoke from alerting my sisters. I just forgot to check to make sure the flame was really out. I quickly retreated back to the kitchen as if nothing ever happened. 

What happened next really is a bit of a blur. I could still gaze in the living room from where I was seated in the kitchen. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted smoke where the ashtray was placed. When I reached the couch, the match had burned (melted) away a perfect circle on the arm of the couch. Oh, shit! My little brain was working in overdrive to concoct a viable story as I set the ashtray inside the hole, now burned down to expose wood, hoping that no one (Ma) would notice. All of this happened within minutes as I stealthily returned again to the kitchen with my sisters. Then our mother came home (cue impending doom track)! The very moment our mother stepped into the kitchen, she knew something wasn’t quite right. She asked what was burning. Being that we were in the kitchen, that would be the logical source of the scent. It wasn’t until she went to the living room that we realized something was terribly wrong. “Sonya, Junior (me), and Latonya get in here,” she growled!

The interrogation was short and sweet, “Who did this?!” We all said not me. Sonya further clarified that she and Latonya were in the kitchen and I claimed that I was there too. My mother knew someone was lying. Because no one owned up to this infraction, we were all punished. We each were spanked and sent to our rooms. I knew what I did was wrong, but was afraid of what my mother do if she knew I was really responsible. For years, even as we kids grew into our late adolescence, my mother would bring up the couch and our responses remaining the same. It wasn’t until about five years ago when we, now adult kids, were together to celebrate my mother’s birthday when the subject was again mentioned. Now towering over my mother, I proudly proclaimed admission to the deed. Yes, it was me and I was playing with matches! My mother smirked but had her suspicions. My older sister smacked me on the back of the head because she received a punishment for my refusal in telling the truth. We all laughed, and then my mother said to me, “Boy, don’t you ever think you are too big that I can’t throw you over my knee!” “That may be true, but you’d have to catch me first,” I replied.