Friday, December 14, 2007

Holiday Musings

[Something I wrote to a fellow gay-librarian who, like me, is basically unchurched.]

I was one of those odd ducks who was raised agnostic. My parents rebelled from their Southern small-town Methodist upbringing (they were born in 1932 and 1933, respectively) so my brothers and I never went to church except on a very few occasions when visiting relatives and the one summer they made us go to Sunday school (while they stayed home and read the newspaper...)

I converted (Presbyterian) after marrying Janet and belonging to very progressive, inclusive, social justice oriented churches in Ann Arbor and Atlanta was a very good thing. I stopped being a regular churchgoer after I came out, partly because back in those days it was more important to go out on Saturday evening and sleep in Sunday morning, partly because I never found a church that seemed quite right (MCC tends to be Much Too Charismatic for me, mainstream churches -- even those with big gay congregations -- still tend to assume that "you're just like us, marriage and monogamy, right, just 2 guys or 2 girls instead of 1 of each," i.e., they just don't get it...)

Any more I say I'm "Presbyfaerian," half Presbyterian, half Radical Faerie. I don't do dogma; I just know that the Universe, including us, is made out of love, and that love endures forever, and that my consciousness, in some form I can't imagine, will survive my body. (I'm also well aware that this thought system probably arises from my mammalian nature and that if I'd been hatched I'd probably have a very different point of view!)

And, yes, I like the lights.

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December 11th

Tuesday was December 11th, Jeremy's birthday. He would have been 37 years old, which is hard to imagine since I was only 36 when we started living together in 1994. I always wondered what he would be like at 35 or 40 but now, of course, he's forever 30.

Unlike previous years, I didn't mope on Tuesday. It occurred to me that his birthday was coming up but when Tuesday rolled around it took me a bit to realize, "oh, yeah, it's December 11th." I think not moping (for the first time in six years) is probably a good sign. I don't miss him any less than I ever did (and I still dream about him on a regular basis) but I've obviously become accustomed to his absence in my life.

When I saw Becky (Jeremy's mom) back in September, she said that this had been a particularly hard year for her, for no apparent reason. I'm inclined to think that it will be that way for me next year, when the amount of time he's been gone will equal the amount of time we had to together. But we'll see.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

John Robert Baylis, Sr.

He was one of David and Emily's maternal great-grandfathers, their maternal grandfather's father to be precise. He died (1963?) when Janet was just a little girl, long before I ever knew her family. An engineer who had worked on the Panama Canal, he helped design and construct the Chicago Water Works, which, apparently, recently constructed a memorial in his honor. Plans for the memorial were the subject of a brief radio report on Chicago Public Radio back in August.

Which I would have never known except that in my previous posting (Out and About in Southern California) I mentioned Janet's great-aunt Boo (her maternal grandmother's baby sister) and doing so prompted me to google other relations on her side of the family. In case you hadn't noticed, I LOVE the Internet!

David and Emily's other great-grandparents:

Pearl Ione Spencer Baylis, Janet's paternal grandmother (died October 1986)
Frank Johannes Ellicott, Janet's maternal grandfather (died before Janet was born)
Victoria Lyon Ellicott, Janet's maternal grandmother (died March 1987)

William Godbey Jasper, my paternal grandfather (died June 1984)
Grace Ewell Baker Jasper, my paternal grandmother (died before my 1st birthday)
Cecil Mann, my maternal grandfather (died when my mother was 4 years old)
Opal Grogan Mann Stewart, my maternal grandmother (died April 1981)

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Out and about in Southern California

[Naoyuki and I spent 10 days in Los Angeles and Palm Springs at the end of October / first part of November. Previous reports show up in my November entries; this is the last one on this topic. -- rpj]

Sunday morning in Los Angeles I went to Farmer’s Market for about five minutes. I probably would have hung out a bit longer except that most stuff was closed. For me it’s one of those iconic places. I first became aware of it when I was dating Janet and met her Aunt Boo (actually, Maybel Lyon, ca. 1900-1989), who came to visit Janet’s family (Aunt Boo was Janet’s maternal grandmother’s younger sister) in Pensacola from her home in Park LaBrea. She was already 80 by the time I met her and spent part of every day at Farmer’s Market.

The same day we had Hakata Ramen in Rosemead Naoyuki and I drove up to La Canada-Flintridge to visit Descanso Gardens. Occupying a natural “bowl” in the San Rafael hills, the gardens were established in the late 1930s when E. Manchester Boddy (pronounced “Boh Dee”) purchased the land and started importing camellias, Descanso’s signature feature, by the thousands. We were there at sort of an in between time but it was quite lovely even so.

On Wednesday we went to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels for an organ recital. The Cathedral is an impressively modern facility taking up an entire city block bounded by Temple, Hill, Grand, and the 101 Freeway. Before the concert we had a quick lunch at the Cathedral Plaza Café (aka the Galero Grill.) Under the direction of the Cathedral organist, Sal Soria, the Cathedral regularly offers free organ recitals most Wednesdays at 12:45 p.m. (At this point I’m afraid I’ve misplaced my info about the Swiss organist who performed while we were visiting.) And , yes, it’s a very impressive organ!

Our last morning in Los Angeles we took in the Murakami exhibit at the Geffen Contemporary (a silly name, if you ask me; it’s the MOCA venue in Little Tokyo.) I wasn’t well acquainted with Murakami before the visit and I can’t say, having seen the exhibit, that I’m particularly fond of his stuff, which seeks to flatten the distinction between high art and popular culture. The best thing about it was our tour guide, who, per the way they do things at MOCA, was extremely interactive. (Their emphasis is on “dialogic” tours, not canned presentations.) So we learned a lot from him and he learned a thing or two about Japanese traditions from Naoyuki, who pointed out the in your face nose-thumbing of some of Murakami’s work.

On the way to Palm Springs Thursday afternoon we stopped in Cabazon for about half an hour or so to visit our favorite outlet mall. I say “favorite” but we’ve gone enough times over the past 4 ½ years that I think we’re almost over it. Selection at some of our favorite stores doesn’t seem to be quite as good as it used to be and another fave (Club Monaco) has pulled out of the outlet business, at least in southern California. On the other hand, the new Columbia Sportswear store was nice and we picked up some good bargains there. We went back a couple of days later (Saturday or Sunday) and it was so crowded that we gave up after about 5 minutes!

We did more IN Palm Springs than we usually do, mostly because we were there during nice weather when it was pleasant to be out and about during the day time. We went shopping at Gaymart on Arenas, took in The Living Desert in Palm Desert, and hiked Tahquitz Canyon while the Pride Parade was going on. We also took in the Caballeros’ performance at the Palm Springs Convention Center and went to their after party at Wang’s in the Desert; the latter was amusing mostly because a somewhat tipsy (and handsome) fellow was just all about me, which prompted Naoyuki to assume that the guy was a hustler (from my point of view, he looked like a high school drama teacher, but who knows?) I enjoyed having him show me his non-existent tattoo!

Last but not least, there was our near brush with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, who presumably was ensconced in the big luxury bus in the parking lot of the Palm Springs Art Museum, where he was scheduled to perform that evening at a big museum fundraiser. We got there an hour before closing and the desk staff assumed we were there for the event, although they figured it out when we said “Brian Who?” A very nice collection although we barely skimmed it.

All in all, it was quite a nice vacation!

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