I LITERALLY WANT TO SCREAM

This morning I looked in the mirror about thirty seconds after I got out of bed. I don’t know why. Well, yes, I do. It’s almost impossible not to in my bathroom. Why that mirror covers most of one wall, I don’t know. This apartment complex needs the Property Brothers to come in and fix things up.

I should have used skin moisturizers before it was too late.

I should have used skin moisturizers before it was too late.

Seeing myself in the mirror these days can be bad for my (mental/emotional) health. I don’t mind being oldish, but I mind looking my age. I’m a gay man who has never once in 70 years applied moisturizer or anti-aging cream to my face. It’s a little late to start now. And I’m still about 30 pounds overweight.

So an unintentional glance at myself in the mirror at 5 AM is startling. Unnerving.

People who know me will probably say, “You don’t look so bad at 5 AM. That’s how you always look.” Which is not helpful.

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!

The truest aspect of this Robert Burns poem is, of course, its title: “To a Louse.” (Ponder that and you’ll get it.) The gift of seeing myself as others see me might indeed free me from many a blunder. Or not.

I’ve been depressed the last couple of months more than usual. The cause is simple. I’m lonely most of the time. An oldish gay man living alone whose life-long communities of support are gone. No church (during my last few years as a church organist the purpose was more social/communal than religious). No full-time employment with an office in the hallway with other grown-ups’ offices. No family close by. No partner (not even a lover).

This is not a paean to loneliness or depression, or a self-pitying cry for help. Or any of those other psycho-babblish diagnoses someone might impose on what I want to say.

Richardson, Texas, public schools

Richardson, Texas, public schools

I have every reason to be a grouch. The experience of loneliness becomes more difficult and maddening as one gets older than it was naturally in one’s youth. So just grant me that. I have every right to be grumpy. It goes with the territory.

What I am most grumpy about is arrogant foolishness, that is, foolishness masquerading as correctness (political or otherwise).

donald trump and all the other members of his “party” who want to be my President. No thanks. I don’t want someone with a fourth-grade school-yard mentality and vocabulary maintaining any authority over me whatsoever. No one who literally believes a fertilized egg is a human being has any right to tell me or anyone else what to do; they can believe whatever nonsense they want, but I don’t want them forcing their religion on the rest of us.

Most of all, I don’t want a President who literally believes (literally, as in the authentic meaning of the word―”it is actually true”) that white men who speak English are better than anyone else―women, Hispanics, African Americans, Muslims, gays―you know the list.

Carly Fiorina is one of those people who literally believes a fertilized egg is a person. That’s OK. Let her believe what she wants as long as she doesn’t force her religion on the rest of us. But you know, of course, that she is the victim of fourth-grade bullying as much as any Hispanic child born in the United States of parents who are here without documentation. She’s the only one of the myriad “debaters” who is referred to by only her first name. We have Chris Christie, Ben Carson, and Jeb Bush, and tagging along while the boys play is Carly. Just Carly. (And, also in another lineup, just Hillary.)

A friend emailed me that he hoped African Americans in this country would take Ben Carson as a role model. So do I. There’s only one problem with that. My response:

When you know personally and have daily contact with an 18-year-old black man from the inner city (any inner city)―as I do―then I will say you have standing to make comments about Ben Carson’s story as an inspiration for black people. That’s exactly the same as saying, “I wish Nelson or Jay Rockefeller’s stories―being BORN billionaires–would inspire white people.” The institutionalized racism that destroys black lives barely touched Carson because when he excelled in school “there was resentment from his classmates at the predominantly white school.” (http://biography.yourdictionary.com/ben-carson.) All of the black students I tutor who are having an easy time academically went to “predominantly white” schools. ALL of them. Most black students I tutor who went to a predominantly black inner-city high school struggle academically, and if they were not athletes being used by the university for its own glory, most of them would not be there. If they were, they would succeed only by an enormous effort most college students can’t imagine. Carson―by the luck of the draw―went to a high school that provided an education.

I realize how ridiculous I sound. This is so close to “but some of my best friends are Jewish” mentality that I literally want to scream at myself.

So be it. I’m an oldish faggot who has never used skin moisturizers, so I’m allowed to be grumpy. All I want is for someone who is using our “political” process for personal aggrandizement to be honest, to be fair, to “get real.” Look themselves in the mirror when they are at their worst. See themselves as (some) others see them, not their sycophants.

Dallas, Texas, public schools

Dallas, Texas, public schools

“When ‘senescent’ approaches ‘senescence’”

Parry MY  LAST  FEW  POSTINGS  HERE  WERE  MISTAKES.  Literally! (a proper use of that word). I managed somehow to transfer the postings for my other blog to this one. Don’t ask. Perhaps the “process” of becoming old has become “being” old. I’m now setting things right with a post that is intended for this space.

In 1965 at the beginning of my junior year as an organ major in the School of Music at the University of Redlands in California, Dr. Leslie P. Spelman informed me that he could no longer be my teacher. I was too “unpredictable.” When he meant was that I was unruly, not genteel, too “out” as a young gay man (this was, after all, 1965—four years before Stonewall).

Anyone who knew both of us could have predicted this separation. I was furious, but took it in stride because the School was in the process of installing the new mechanical action organ (the first I had ever seen), and Professor Boese was responsible for it. Having studied in Europe he was anxious to have a tracker organ to teach on. I was excited to be one of the first students to play on the Schlicker. I gave the first student degree recital on it, my Junior Recital (Bach Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 548; and Hindemith Sonata II for Organ).

Although I was unpredictable (unruly and undisciplined), Dr. Spelman hired me as a work-study student, and a great deal of my work became sorting and boxing his music and books. He was not far from retirement, and was clearing his office.

He and I spent a great deal of time together, and he tried his level best to instill in me something of his appreciation for the arts and some understanding of the simple and gentle way of life of his Quaker heritage. I fear he was not markedly successful at either.

He gave me music scores and books. His copy of the works of Orlando Gibbons from the monumental Tudor Church Music series, the large volume with his inscription, “Paris, 1924” on the fly leaf, a purchase from his years as a student of Joseph Bonnet in Paris. A copy of the Frescobaldi Fiori Musicali, the Bonnet edition. An assortment of little-known organ music, for the most part gentle, unassuming works that I, for the most part, thought were next to useless.

One score he gave me I have kept these 50 or so years. I’ve played a couple of pieces from it in the past, but I’ve always thought the volume was, while quaint with its gray cardboard cover, full of music too sentimental to be of any value. I remember distinctly his giving it to me with some other volumes, telling me that someday I might understand and be able to play the music.

The gray cardboard-bound volume is titled “A Little Organ Book.” It is a collection of 12 pieces by different British composers written to mark the passing of Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918), head of the Royal College of Music. The 12 composers represented were either faculty colleagues, or composition students of Parry, or church musicians who performed his works.

Recently I’ve been learning those works. I have, perhaps, begun to understand this music. Pieces written to honor the memory of a teacher and fellow composer, and written very soon after his death, some of them apparently composed for his funeral. Given to me by my teacher.

For the past several months I have been unable to write either for this blog or for any other purpose. At the risk of seeming as sentimental as I have thought “A Little Organ Book” to be for these many years, I will offer a simplistic explanation. I am depressed. I am 70 years old and alone. This is not how my “last years” were intended to be (intended by whom? one might ask). I will write soon about my flawed thinking. It’s enough to say now that I am not alone, and I have several fulfilling and beneficial activities to keep me both busy and in daily contact with other people.

But I have not yet come to terms with this situation that may last another week or, if my father’s genes have anything to do with it, another 27 years.

And then, when I least expected it, on the music desk of my organ opened a lovely little musical work that my most important mentor told me when he was only a couple of years short of 70 that I would someday know how to play.

I get it, I think. “IV” by Alan Gray (1855-1935), organist and director of the choirs at Trinity College, Cambridge. For his friend Hubert.