Sunday, February 28, 2010

 
You guys obviously did a bang-up job of wishing us luck. Ten hours after I posted yesterday from the Epping Public library, we were on our way to bed when the lights popped on, the fridge revved up and we were back in business. We'd been 46 hours without power which wasn't all that much, but I was very ready to get the power back.

It began Thursday night at 11PM when the lights flashed on and off for fifteen or twenty seconds, then failed completely. I felt my way to a flashlight, and got my way to bed. There was no sound except for the roaring of the wind. It kept accelerating to the point that I was hearing what people who have experienced a tornado bearing down on them describe -- a speeding freight train.

A year or so ago a tornado struck, causing extensive damage and one death in Deerfield, a town just to the northwest of us. I wondered if the house would withstand a tornado. I watched it being built; it's put together like a fortress but tornadoes rip such buildings apart all the time. Where would we go? Built on a slab, the house offers no basement shelter. I couldn't fall asleep -- every time the roar became louder and the trees whipped violently back and forth outside, I wondered if this was it. By 2:30 the winds had dropped sufficiently to let me sleep.

Friday night I slept at the beginning but came bolt awake at 3:45 and that was it for me. So last night after we'd played cribbage by three candles and an oil lamp, I was fading fast. But I perked up noticeably when the power came on. "So, now you'll be up all night on the computer", Fritz laughed and I said no, I'd just check my eMail and Facebook and come to bed. Which I did and I slept deeply all night.

With the power out, a reading candle behind the sofa with a pie tin reflector taped to a big metal office-style bookend.

Snow and ice melting into dish washing water in my French grandmother's big iron dutch oven on the wood stove.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

 
I'm in the library at neighboring town Epping, one of the very few that has its electricity back -- and that has wireless internet. Thursday night a storm spawned in the mid-Atlantic states came roaring in with torrential rains and winds of hurricane force. Just before 11PM, the power failed with 300,000 households and business blacked out. With trees down everywhere across some roads and raging rivers flooding others, the crews are having a job getting the power back.

We are a little better off than some, because we have both a wood-burning stove and and the Aga cooking stove in the kitchen that is always on and radiated a bit of heat continuously. We also had a good stock of gallon jugs of drinking water, because the pump from the well shut down with the power. We're living a Little House on the Prairie life right now just as we did fourteen months ago with the infamous ice storm that left some people without power for almost three weeks. We're hoping we don't repeat history.

We're melting snow for washing ourselves, our dishes and for flushing. We stood in the shower with two roasting pans of water warmed on the Aga -- one for washing, one for rinsing -- and laughed which is about the only thing one can do under the circumstances. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

 
A wrap-up of pictures from our time in Key West:

A banyan tree in the front yard of a house in the Truman Annex district. This handsome neighborhood, that includes private homes and condos as well as the Naval Station, is home to:

The Harry S. Truman Little White House, his beloved working R&R retreat from Washington D.C. The simplicity and lack of pretension of the building perfectly reflects the far less complicated presidential style of pre-Kennedy assassination America. In both D.C and in Key West, Truman walked through the streets frequently for relaxation and exercise, and there are photos in the Little White House of him casually driving a convertible car through Key West with the top down, crowds waving and gathering around.

Key West's extensive colony of feral chickens are seen -- and definitely heard loud and clear -- all around town; on the ground in heavily trafficked areas . . .

. . . and up on roofs and fences. Noisy fights between roosters broke out every evening outside the tall wooden wall around Big Ruby's Guest House. A sufficiently violent fight would lead to birds fluttering up onto the wall and facing off in plain view during happy hour.

A gold rod salvaged from the 1622 wreck of Nuestra Senora de Atocha, captive in a lucite case to prevent theft but allow museum-goers to put in a hand and lift it. The weight of these solid gold rods is startling. Gold and silver from the wreck were measured in tons and there was evidence throughout the hoard that smuggling was going on among all classes on the ship. Gold ingots without the requisite stamps embossed on them meant that there was no official trace of them on the Kingdom's records; they could be removed by those running the contraband when they arrived in Spain without fear of the ship's manifest giving them away.

Others without a taste for contraband had Inca artisans at cheap wages fashion gold into jewelry, which ounce for ounce was taxed at a far lower rate than raw ingots. The jewelry could be melted back down into ingots in Spain and sold at a price that guaranteed a big profit. This impressive necklace, however, never made it back to Spain when the Atocha broke up in a hurricane and and went down with all aboard.

A splendid condor dish of Inca craftsmanship and combined Inca/Spanish design elements. It's a rare piece, as almost all Inca silver was melted down into coinage. Along with the tons of silver ingots that comprised what the salvage divers called "a reef of silver" on the sea floor, the Atocha carried hundreds and hundreds of boxes of newly minted silver "Pieces of Eight."

This is a painting by Jim Salem that caught my eye. He has his own gallery on lower Duval Street. I love orange, properly used, and this just revels in the color. Prices on art in Key West are about twice what they would be elsewhere for comparable work which kept me from just putting my credit card down on the counter and arranging to have it shipped home. Fritz also reminded me that we have almost no space left for art on our walls. But every time I look at this picture I get a twinge -- it will always for me be "one that got away."

Friday evening -- our last in Key West -- we all planned on dinner at La Trattoria on Duval Street, just steps away from Big Ruby’s Guest House. Fritz and I had eaten well in Key West, and the guys we had come down from New Hampshire to meet had provided laughter and all the warmth that the weather hadn’t. The reservation was for 8:30.

We arrived on time and were told that it would be just a few minutes for the table to be cleared. A quick glance caught the party at the table for eight finishing desserts. We waited in the bar.

At 8:40, we were updated that the check had been paid. By this time some in our party had retreated back to the street outside to escape the crush inside. The next update was that the restaurant regretted the delay but was pleased to inform us that free appetizers would be served. No hint of movement from the guests at what was to have been at our table twenty minutes earlier. Comments circulated among us that avoiding this sort of delay is why reservations are made.

At 9:00 there were clear signs of discontent in the ranks. Dr. Michael (Spo Reflections), who had made the reservation, and I were standing by the hostess desk and I pointedly asked her if it were not possible to discuss leaving with the party at the table, something I have seen done politely and effectively many times. She stared past me into some vague space near one of the wine racks build into the wall. I knew then she was useless.

At 9:10, forty minutes after we were supposed to be seated we walked, clearly disgruntled with the ineffective hostess. On the corner we discussed the likelihood of getting a table without reservations at any decent restaurant in the area. We decided to rough it at a nearby pizza place, where the group’s accustomed good spirits returned. When we got “home” we were given a message from the restaurant, expressing deep regret for what had happened and giving us priority for any reservation time the next night. Whatever the others eventually decided to do, it was too late for us.

Several of us ended the night in Big Ruby’s hot tub, actually a large capacity in-ground pool with ledges and jets all around. After breakfast next morning, we kissed the guys good-bye and set out for the airport for our flight to Fort Lauderdale.

*******

We flew out of Key West as we had come, in a 19 seat prop plane that was an enjoyable ride. Huge areas of south Florida are neither land nor water but something unresolved and startlingly primeval.



And then, there are big expanses of an almost lunar-like landscape . . .

. . . which soon develops into what looks like beadwork at a first, quick glance but quickly comes into focus as tightly organized and laid-out subdivisions around artificial ponds.



In the heart of the luxury hotel district in downtown Fort Lauderdale, an early morning view across Sebastian Beach -- "the gay beach" -- to ships at anchor, waiting for the signal that it's their turn to enter Port Everglades to unload, perhaps take on new cargo, and set out to sea again.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

 

A visit to the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory was doubly a foregone conclusion: first, because this sort of thing is exactly what we love to do on vacation; second, because one of our friends who’s down here is Doug Taron (blog: Gossamer Tapestry) who is a major force at a Butterfly museum and laboratory in Chicago, with a specialty in the propagation of endangered varieties.

So, we headed off to the Conservatory after our visit to Papa Hemingway had ended. Being the celebrity he is in the world of insect studies, Doug was greeted warmly by Sam, the co-owner/operator/resident butterfly artist, who very kindly comped us into the heart of the operation –- the big all-glass conservatory.

Butterflies have a short life span –- some of them last only two weeks. Doug had hoped to arrange for a cutting of a plant whose pollen is the fountain of youth for one particular variety, extending its active reproductive life to five months. But it so happened that one worker mistook the Conservatory’s plants for weeds and destroyed them all. Cold weather has destroyed the desired plant at other butterfly sites, so Doug will have to return to work empty-handed.

The Conservatory is s magical place, its environment containing a wide variety of flowering plants and trees, flowing water in woodland settings with fish and other aquatic or amphibious animals, and birds carefully chosen to NOT feed on live butterflies. All serve a function in the life of the environment, including cleaning up the insects when they die.


The butterflies exist together with their visitors in the big conservatory, frequently landing on shoulders, heads and arms. These blue ones flashed brilliantly through the air.

Others landed at feeding stations placed at frequent intervals along the trails snaking through the environment.

A bit of insect camouflage.





Two miniature grouse, one very nicely disguised, on the environment's "floor."


Another butterfly resting on the back on one of the many turtles in the stream running through the exhibit.

Our other visit was to The Little White House of President Harry Truman, which is located on the Naval Base at the western end of the island. Truman was in a state of exhaustion at the end of his first year as President after having taken over unexpectedly from Franklin Roosevelt. His doctors recommended a working rest cure in Florida and the Base Commander's old building was chosen as his residence/office. The climate and atmosphere at the base worked wonders and Truman fell in love with the place, coming down from the capital ten more times during his presidency for working vacations.

The second time he arrived, it was to find the large house transformed by a Miami interior decorator who had created a relaxed, informal and comfortable but very chic suite of rooms for both domestic and official purposes. Truman's devotion to the place has led to its being made available to several later Presidents (Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter, Clinton) and other officials of various administrations to use for official business or simple vacations. Much of the final phase of the Second World War, the reorganization of the military (creation of the Defense Department; the integration of the armed forces which Truman insisted on despite overwhelming resistance by white Americans), and the rebuilding of war-devastated Europe was planned and implemented from this modest but very important building.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

 
We’ve just come up from happy hour at Big Ruby’s Guest House here in Key West to change for dinner. Happy hour is part of the room rental along with a custom cooked breakfast. It’s turning out to be ten to fifteen degrees colder here than normal. The day wasn’t so bad but tonight is somewhere in the 50s with a healthy breeze.

We arrived yesterday afternoon after a trouble-free but tiring trip down the coast: Manchester New Hampshire on U.S. Air to Philadelphia where we changed planes to Fort Lauderdale. U.S. Air operates the most cramped, leg room-free planes I’ve ever encountered. Combine that with the fact that people are trying to avoid the checked bag fees by bringing huge rolling suitcases on board that fill the overhead bins immediately, leaving no room for most passengers’ carry-ons and you wind up with an extremely uncomfortable flight.

In Fort Lauderdale we took a Continental twenty-seater to Key West, a prop plane that flew low, giving us splendid views of islands, boats and the shallow bottom of the Gulf of Mexico in the area of the Florida Keys. We arrived in time to join our friends for wine around the pool and a delightful dinner for ten at one of the better restaurants along Duval Street; this is our first time in Key West and we had a very pleasant introduction.

Today we had two tours on our agenda, the first being the house that author Ernest Hemingway owned and lived in from 1931 until 1940 when his second marriage collapsed and he decamped to Cuba with the woman who was the reason for the collapse. Originally built by a wildly successful merchant in the middle of the 19th century to be hurricane-proof (the walls are 18 inches thick and made of coral blocks cemented together—it has never been damaged by a hurricane in its 160 years), the house is a typical tropical mansion with wide verandas on both floors, high ceilings and gracious proportions.

Part of the dining room looking through the pantry into the kitchen.

The over-mantel painting in the living room, an aerial view of Key West from the 1930s.

Headboard of Ernest and Pauline Hemingway's bed. Made of two twin beds grafted together (queen-sized beds not being in existence at the time), the headboard is the garden gate with its gateposts of a 17th century Spanish monastery. Hemmingway adored Spain and much of the house is furnished with 17th and 18th century Spanish furniture.

There are forty three cats resident on the property, all direct descendents of the six-pawed cat one of Hemingway's children brought home one day. he was delighted with it and the tradition of cats having the run of the place began
Key West's lighthouse from the second story veranda outside the bedroom. Wags said Hemingway had wanted this particular house because of the light house's proximitgy--its light would guide him home after long nights of drinking down at Sloppy Joe's Bar.

Hemingway's studio on the upper floor of the carriage house that Pauline had converted into a guest cottage. He wrote from six in the morning until noon. The rest of the day was devoted to lunch, friends, fishing, dinner and Sloppy Joe's where he gathered character portraits and storied that went into his writing. More than half of his published work was written in this studio during the nine years he lived in Key West

A cat in the garden,

and another on the edge of the studio roof.

The second place on our agenda was the Key West Nature and Butterfly Conservatory. Pictures on Thursday.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

 
The phone rang just after 1pm Saturday:

Will: Good afternoon.

Buoyant, happy voice of my younger daughter: Hello – don’t even PRETEND you don’t know! I heard him call you last night.

We broke into laughter and that’s how I learned that she and her boyfriend had officially become engaged -- it had happened about fifteen minutes earlier. And he's a very good man. Details about the wedding, etc. are all to be worked out in the future. She’s ecstatic, and I’m delighted – I’m getting a second son-in-law!

********

Tomorrow morning we're off to Key West for the week, joining fellow bloggers Doug Taron and Spo aka Michael Rockwell, their partners and several of their friends. It's an annual gathering for them, but a first for us. On our way back north, we stop in Fort Lauderdale for the weekend to visit an old friend who has moved down there.


We'll be at
Big Ruby's Guest House. The laptop's going along. Pictures and impressions to follow.

Friday, February 12, 2010

 
The extended run of brilliant winter days that we’ve had since the last big storm has allowed us to do some outdoor work and has also meant a bonanza for electric production. During the first eleven days of February, we’ve had four that registered over 10 kilowatts, two over 9 and two over 8. The remaining three were between 1 and 6 without any days at 0, which happened several times in January.

One of the things we did was to hang a new bird feeder from one of our overhangs where squirrels can’t get at it. We found it while cleaning out the pantry down at Fritz’s old house. I spent a couple of seconds trying to decide whether I thought it was kitsch or folk art, coming down on the side of the latter along with a healthy dose of “what the hell.”


The feeder is meant to take oranges in particular. It was missing the dowel that holds the orange half in place but that was very easy to supply. It went up yesterday; the birds haven’t found it yet (Fritz says that the color red is supposed to attract them) but since it’s in a triangular formation with the standing seed feeder and the tree-mounted suet feeder -– and highly visible from both – it shouldn’t be long.

We have a goldfinch that is a regular diner at the seed feeder. He came in December with his winter coloration, a very pale grayish yellow, but is now developing a much stronger yellow for the coming spring. He’s the smallest of our regulars, even smaller than the chickadees, but I noticed this morning that when he’s in the feeder, no other birds will land there. The nuthatches, woodpeckers, titmice and chickadees will all share the feeder with each other, but they all approached the feeder and veered off when they found the goldfinch standing there. And the little guy stayed a long time, even when he wasn’t eating he just hung out, looked around and seemed to enjoy his status as he who must be left alone. Animal psychology is always fascinating to watch.

******

The amount of space being allotted to arts coverage in the newspapers that remain in publication has been shrinking seriously in the last several years. As this trend has increased, the number of truly literate, quality reviewers has shrunk as well, leading to a steeply downward spiral of fewer reviews and less arts coverage by fewer and less interesting, musically literate writers.


Photograph by Matthew Worden from Washingtonian.com

There are some exceptions: the remarkable and truly great Alex Ross, as well as Martin Bernheimer and Anne Midgette. It was good news, then, when Ms. Midgette joined the Washington Post and began a blog on the paper’s site to expand the reach of her print work. She does not limit herself to musical events in D.C. and environs, nor does she have to given the expanded reach of the blog.

Since the lifeblood of any art is new work, no matter that there’s almost always resistance to change and the advent of new styles, she recently took a look at how the production of new operas by Americans is faring in the current economy. While some companies have gone under, others are struggling, and still others have retreated to tried and true warhorses, it turns out that a fair amount of new work has been commissioned and is being prepared for performance:

New American opera
By Anne Midgette | January 29, 2010; 6:30 AM ET

For all of the effects of the recession, I'm impressed at the number of mainstage world premieres that are coming up in 2010 and 2011. So here, for the record, is a continuation of the informal list that began in the blog comments a few days ago, which I'll keep adding to as information comes in.


Madame White Snake by Zhou Long at Opera Boston (February 26, 28, March 2, 2010)
[I'm seeing it March 2. Madame White Snake travels to Beijing in October]

Elmer Gantry by Robert Aldridge at Florentine Opera (March 19, 21, 2010) (not a world premiere)

Shadowboxer by Frank Proto at Maryland Opera Studio/Clarice Smith Center (April 17, 18, 21, 23, 25, 2010)

Moby-Dick by Jake Heggie at the Dallas Opera (April 30, May 5, 8, 13, 16, 2010)

Amelia by Daron Aric Hagon at the Seattle Opera (May 8, 9, 12, 15, 16, 19, 21, 22, 2010)

Before Night Falls by Jorge Martin at the Fort Worth Opera (May 29, June 6, 2010)

The Golden Ticket by Peter Ash at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis (June 12, 16, 18, 22, 24, 26)

Life is a Dream by Lewis Spratlan at the Santa Fe Opera (July 24, 28, August 6, 12, 19)

Il Postino by Daniel Catán at the Los Angeles Opera (September 23, 29, October 2, 5, 9, 16)

Rio de Sangre by Don Davis at the Florentine Opera (October 22, 23, 24, 2010).

Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Ricky Ian Gordon at the Minnesota Opera (2010-11 season: April 16, 17, 19, 21 and 23, 2011).

And speaking of new American opera, I want to know when the Metropolitan Opera is going to get around to announcing some actual dates for performances of the commissioning program it announced back in 2006. Of the works then announced -- four years ago now; plenty of time to write an opera -- Rufus Wainwright's was already rejected by the program and performed last year in Manchester, UK; now, Nico Muhly's Two Boys, a later addition to the roster that was supposed to be a co-production with the Met, has been announced in print for ENO in 2011. Any Met dates for that? And what about all those other new operas we were promised? I'm sure the resonating silence on this topic is a symptom of recession woes; I wonder if they'll manage to evade those questions yet again at this year's season announcement.

Midgette is dealing here with major companies only. Smaller companies, like Intermezzo in Boston for which I design, premiere new work all the time. We not only present new work but we commission it. The next new opera we will produce is in preparation now.

Reading through the titles Midgette lists is revealing. The major source for new operas used to be overwhelmingly from plays, but also novels, legend and myth (most of Wagner), sometimes a major poem (Verdi's Il Corsaro from Byron) or original ideas (Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier, Ariadne auf Naxos; Wagner's Die Meistersinger). Many of the new operas these days come from movies. Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking is an outstanding example and there are a couple on Midgette's list.

Oh, to be able to fly all over the country to see some of these!


*******


Sunday, February 07, 2010

 
My record when sending comments or protests to elected officials is consistent -- I get a form note back thanking me so much for my concern, followed by a boilerplate statement detailing the politician's stand on the subject so that there's no doubt anything is going to change.

Nevertheless. I went to Senator John McCain's site today and followed the link to comment. A list of headings was provided, it being necessary to choose one before the comment would be accepted. While abortion/family planning was on the list, none of the headings dealt with gay rights, DADT, hate crime laws, or any LGBT issue. I selected the one called "not shown" and wrote the following:

Dear Senator McCain:

I am writing in regard to your recent statement during the hearings on the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. In the introduction to your comments, you said, "Many gay and lesbian Americans are serving admirably in our armed forces – even giving their lives so that we and others can know the blessings of peace. I honor their sacrifice, and I honor them."

You then went on to uphold what you yourself describe as a flawed policy, one that can lead to summary dismissal of those same gays and lesbians from the armed services should someone discover that they ARE gay or lesbian -- from admirable to pariah in an instant.

You admit, Senator, that these gays and lesbians are in the armed forces NOW (and we know from their writings and the writings of others that they have served for decades and probably for over two centuries back to the American Revolution) -- where was the lack of cohesion in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Viet Nam, Korea, WWII, WWI, The Spanish American and Civil Wars, 1812, the Revolution?

As to the concern over straight and gay personnel in intimate spaces, they've been together in those spaces, those showers, those perilous situations for the same two or more centuries; why is this suddenly a crisis now? You will have served with many gays and lesbians in Viet Nam, many of whom were prisoners of war who endured tortures and deprivations similar to yours -- were they any less heroic and admirable for being gay?

The last big scandal I recall in the armed forces was Tailhook, a strictly heterosexual affair:

April 1992
The Inspector General and the Naval Investigative Service issues a 2000 page report vividly detailing a drunken scene at Tailhook '91 where dozens of women were accosted and sexually molested. The report provoked more outrage and a call for more investigation.

In August of 1992 the Pentagon's Inspector General launched a set of investigations.

September 1992
The Pentagon's Inspector General issues a very critical report on the Navy's inquiry saying senior Navy officials deliberately undermined their own investigation to avoid bad publicity, and ignored the participation of senior officers at Tailhook

April 1993
The second part of the Pentagon's Inspector General report was issued and stated that the investigative files of at least 140 officers were being referred to the military services for possible disciplinary action for indecent exposure, assault, conduct unbecoming an officer and lying to Pentagon investigators under oath.
-from PBS.org

Not pretty, is it? All involved were heterosexual, including Navy officers who covered up, and interfered with the investigation.

Senator you are on record as having said that if the Joint Chiefs of Staff came out in favor of repealing DADT you would follow their lead. They have been joined by the Secretary of Defense, A Republican appointee, I note. I do hope you will keep your promise, that you will REALLY "honor their sacrifice, and...honor them" rather than accepting their sacrifices, including their lives, but abandoning them, allowing them to be thrown out like trash when the sexual orientation with which they were born is revealed. They are no less United States citizens, no less loyal and dedicated Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, National Guard and Coast Guard personnel. Like all members of the armed services, they are our nation's pride.

William F______
Faculty, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1975-2007

I haven't the slightest idea if he'll even see it. I just had to do it.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

 
There was weird and very pretty weather yesterday morning. Full sun was pouring in from the east and its light backlit the snow that was falling from directly above, making it glitter like a shower of silver sequins. Fritz and I tossed around the idea of a snowbow in the sky, but knew that since the moisture was all locked up, frozen in the snow crystals, that it really couldn’t happen. Or could it?

The morning had gotten off to an interesting start. I got up and fed the cat, then settled in at the computer to get my overnight email, check the Facebook page, and see what the New York Times had posted as the day’s top Music and Theater stories. There was a flash of movement over in the outside section of the Christmas tree (yes, it was still up but the ornaments had been taken down from the inside section). The movement was too big to be from any of the birds that had come to love having the outside half of the tree right by the feeders. A squirrel had climbed about five feet up and was sitting in a branch among the ornaments. Cute, I thought, and turned back to the computer.

A minute or so later a noisy little fight broke out. I looked over to see Starr inside and the squirrel outside having a boxing match down at window sill level, whacking away at each other harmlessly because of the two layers of window glass that separated them. Then I thought that it might be harmless for them but might be bad for the glass, so I went out and chased the little guy away.

Later in the morning, we looked at each other and said it was finally time to take the tree down. I cut the wires holding the inside half securely against the window wall and it went out the side window of the great room. Then we took the ornaments off the outside section to discover most of them were filled with water and ice from the many storms we'd had since putting it up in mid-December. The outside section came down OK and both halves were pulled into the woods.

We turned around and the house looked achingly bare. When we went inside we discovered that the birds going into the feeder would automatically spin around and head for the now-removed tree. Some veered off suddenly to find another roost to eat their seeds, some just collided with the front windows and then reoriented themselves. By today they they'd figured out the new game plan. But we're still missing the tree that reached up to the top of the cathedral ceiling and was such great fun.

*******

Thanks for this item to the invaluable Joe Jervis of Joe.my.God:


Excerpt from the speech by the Republican Senator from Georgia on why DADT shouldn't be repealed:

"In my opinion, the presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would very likely create an unacceptable risk to those high standards. It will lead to alcohol use, adultery, fraternization, and body art." -
Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

Oh NO - not . . . BODY ART. The horror! The senator is perhaps unaware that the American Navy has been heavily tattooed for about two hundred years, that my first exposure to tattoos was from seeing them on the former Army, Navy and Marine fathers of my friends on beaches, at back yard barbecues, etc. He hasn't a clue that tattooing spread into the general population FROM the armed forces, not the other way around. He also needs to brush up on his knowledge of the bonding rituals of the young adult male and, in many cases, female. He apparently thinks heterosexuals don't drink or have sex.

Senator and failed presidential candidate John McCain also warned against the repeal of DADT, although far more coherently than Senator Chambliss (less of an accomplishment than it might seem). What's interesting is that both Senators began their anti-gay rants by acknowledging that the armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are full of gays and lesbians; Chambliss said that they had served "valiantly", McCain that their service was "disinguished" and went on to say they had their nation's gratitude. In both cases these comments were followed by the dangers of repealing DADT because the presence of gay soldiers would lead sexual abuses, collapse of discipline and cohesion. ??!

Senators, listen to yourselves--you can't have it both ways. You shoot yourselves in the foot by saying that having gays will cause problems right after commenting that there are a lot of gays who have given valiant and distinguished service to the United States. And if McCain feels that they deserve the nation's gratitude, might they not also deserve the nation's respect, support, the kind of rights that straight America takes for granted, and not to be thrown out like trash if their homosexuality should become known? From distinguished to dumped, valiant to vile in the twinkling of an eye--that's teh DADT way.

Gays have been in the army and navy going back to the American Revolution. They were in the Civil War during which gay icon Walt Whitman knew them, nursed them and wrote of them in his poems. They were in World Wars I and II -- it is well documented that the foundation of San Francisco's gay population was soldiers and sailors coming back to the US from the war in the Pacific and deciding not to go back to the Corn/Bible/Evangelical Belts after they'd had a taste of male comradeship and sex while in the armed forces. Where was the loss of cohesion in these wars? Where were the massive cases of homosexual rape of straight soldiers? OK, Senator Chambliss, they fraternized like hell, because that's what happens in combat; you need your comrades and they need you. Oh, and the dread body art was everywhere, but we STILL prevailed against powerful enemies as we fought a massive war on two fronts.

I think it's more than "simply" DADT. I think the conservatives have begun to realize that allowing gays to serve openly in the military would be the thin edge of a very big wedge. Once openly gay and lesbian veterans re-enter society they are going to demand, and will thoroughly deserve, the full rights and protections of the law, and won't put up with being denied housing because they're gay or put out of a job because they're lesbian. The U.S. has always had a sacred bond with its veterans; when those veterans begin to be openly gay men and women embraced by the Congress and the armed forces, I could imagine the rest of the specious anti-gay initiatives falling by the wayside very quickly.




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