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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How To Tell If You’re Gay

I’ll turn 67 next month, and now that the heart transplant has allowed me a future, after last November when I thought I had none (I’d quit buying new clothes—why waste the money?—I already owned a perfectly good suit for my burial), I decided it was time to see if there the possibility of romance in my future. As readers of this blog know, I’ve had three major loves in my life: my ex-wife Charleyne (4 ½ years), David (4 ½ years) and Jerry (12½ years—when Jerry and I were together he worried there was a four-year expiration date coming). I’m pleased to say we’re all on good terms, and all three might attend my birthday party September 25th. Jerry and I broke up in 1997 (and someday I’ll post the story of the day he left, which was surreal), and while there were a few mini-romances since then, I’ve to learned to live alone and enjoy it. But, still, could I get it going again after all these years? I decided to join the local chapter of Prime Timers, a social group for aging gay men, and lately I’ve attended two of their functions.

At one of these, held in the late afternoon at a local gay bar, there was a young man who was celebrating his 39th birthday, and we got to talking. He told me he was married and that his wife would join him shortly, coming from her workplace. Why was he is a gay bar? I asked, and he replied that they were thinking about celebrating by having a three-way with a gay man. “Are you gay?” I persisted. He shrugged. “I don’t know,” he told me slowly. “I’ve thought about men for a long time, but only had sex with women. That makes me straight, right?”

As it happens, and as I’ve explained before (see “Marijuana and Me, July 11, 2010), I myself was once locked in the same room he’s currently pacing. I told him this, and then something about my escape from that room.

Plus, of course, I did have some advice for him.

First, I urged him, don’t let society, or religion, or your family decide the issue for you. This is your life, and it’s a major mistake not to play the cards that were dealt to you as well as you can. There are problems with coming out, but there are rewards as well.

Second, forcing yourself to be heterosexual if you’re not in fact heterosexual is a guarantee of trouble. Say, for example, you get married. That pretense will last for a long time, perhaps all of life, and if you finally blow the whistle on your own fumble, you’ll hurt a family you love.

I know. I did.

Third, the most important signpost of sexual orientation is paying attention to what the right side of your brain has to say about the issue. It’s the part of the brain involved in sex, sexual attraction, sexual performance, and it won’t steer you wrong. In dreams, for example, the right brain will guide you to what sexually interests you most. Or, walking along a street and observing people, notice who makes your head swivel with sexual interest: men or women? Or possibly both? If the latter, why then you’re bisexual. In a prior post (“Homosexuality: The Iceberg Theory,” April 25, 2010), I described the Kinsey Scale used to measure homosexual desire. It runs from zero (completely heterosexual) to six (completely homosexual), and individuals between those numbers are, in various degrees, bisexual. The five and six levels account for the “10% of the population is homosexual” statement that you often hear. I was once amused at the results of a scientific study trying to determine what object a group of men could identify first from a distance (and the men viewed hundreds of different objects). The winner was “naked running woman,” but for only 90% of the men was this found to be true. The scientists were puzzled as to why it wasn’t universal, but the study was done decades ago, and the answer in 2010 is neon obvious.

My birthday man in the bar listened seriously to my little sermon, and, to my astonishment, when I finished he shook my hand. “Very, very useful,” he said. I hope he’s right and I wish him well. I’m certainly not out to recruit anyone to homosexuality (and perhaps I should mention that I was not attracted to him—thankfully, my tastes have aged as I have, thus he was far too young for me), but a gay man lying to himself can cause no end of trouble for the many people he knows, starting with himself. And so, teacher that I am, I offer these tests as guidelines to anyone reading this who’s struggling with self identification. I wish them all well.

What I’ve said above applies to lesbian desires too, of course. But, as Kinsey found out, sexuality in women is a very complicated subject, and I say no more lest my lesbian friends descend on me with a measuring tape for the effigy.

Joining Prime Timers has had a happy beginning. Last Wednesday—hmm . . . how can I put this delicately?—it led to a renewal of an activity I’d thought was over forever. I’ll say no more about that either, other than yippee!
Related Posts:
"The Aging Gay Rights Activist," March 24, 2010
"Frightening the Horses," April 4, 2010
“Homosexuality: The Iceberg Theory,” April 25, 2010
“How I Lost a Gay Marriage Debate,” April 29, 2010
“Straight Talk,” May 10, 2010
“Marijuana and Me,” July 11, 2010
“The Thunderbolt,”September 3, 2010
“How To Change Gay People Into Straight People,” September 20, 2010
"How Many Homosexuals Are There in the World?" November 8, 2010
"Choose To Be Gay, Choose To Be Straight," January 25, 2011
"The Homosexual Agenda To Conquer the World," February 8, 2011
"Seducing Straight Men," March 3, 2011
"Coming Out: How To Tell People You're Gay," March 27, 2011
"Jumping the Broom: How 'Married' are Married Gay Couples?" July 17, 2011

"The Legacy of Homophobia," August 2, 2011
"Going Undercover at an Ex-Gay Meeting," September 19, 2011
"The Presumption of Heterosexuality and the Invisible Homosexual," October 2, 2011
"Gay Bashers, Homophobes, and Me," January 27, 2012
"On Being a Gay Sports Fan," March 9, 2012
"Sexual Labels: Straight, Gay, Bi," April 15, 2012
"The History of Gay Rights in Columbus, Ohio," June 4, 2012
“I Support the Right of the Boy Scouts To Ban Gays,” July 24, 2012
Straight People: Thanks From the LGBT Community,” November 20, 2012
“Gay Marriage, DOMA, Proposition 8 and the Mysterious Supreme Court,” January 15, 2013

“A Gay Hoosier Lawyer Looks at Indiana’s RFRA: The Religious Bigot Protection Act,” March 30, 2015;
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Best of My Library

Want to settle down for a good read? Well then, let me recommend my favorites to you: books I wish I’d never read so that I could read and enjoy them all over again. [I once saw a great cartoon where two robots are sitting on a couch, holding hands, happy tears in their mechanical eyes, looking at a TV where “THE END” is displayed, and one robot says to the other, “Great movie—let’s erase our memories and watch it again!”]

Of course tastes differ, and you might hate everything on the list, but pick and choose from the types of books you like to read and chances are good you’ll find a new favorite or two (and, if so, write me and tell me what you liked).

A. The Classics

Shakespeare is the greatest writer the world has produced to date. His plays are best appreciated when seen (or, for the sonnets, read aloud), but they can be happily read and gleaned for the treasures they possess. I came to Charles Dickens late in life, but that man is also a genius, and his books are terrific reads. If you don’t know Dickens, start with his masterpiece: “David Copperfield” (there’s a very good audio recording, unabridged, read by the multi-voiced Frederick Davidson). Perhaps my favorite novel of all time is Alexandre Dumas’s “The Count of Monte Cristo,” the best revenge tale ever penned. And if you’ve never read the original Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” do so and scare yourself good.

B. Nonfiction

So much depends on your interests, but here are the books that have fascinated me the most. Two by Walter Lord: “A Night to Remember” (the first, 1955, and still greatest of books about the sinking of the Titanic), and “Incredible Victory” (a jaw-dropping account of the WWII Battle of Midway). Dr. Lewis Thomas, one of a long line of splendid medical authors, explores the human race’s progress on this rock flying through space in one of his many beautifully written books, “The Fragile Species.” In a similar vein is “On Human Nature,” the 1976 groundbreaking study by the much-defamed Edward O. Wilson, and also there’s Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate.” They all weigh in heavily on the “nature” side of the "nature/nurture" debate, where I also lurk. “The Killer Angels,” by Michael Shaara, which won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize, though a novel, is a first-rate re-creation of the Battle of Gettysburg that will make you very glad you weren’t there. For an amazing book about the life of a doctor from India who moves to Johnson City, Tennessee, to practice medicine just as the AIDs epidemic erupts, read “My Own Country” by Abraham Verghese (who also wrote a wonderful recent novel: “Cutting For Stone”). Finally, I recommend the definitive biography of Joseph Smith as he works his way from early fraud to the creation of the Mormon religion, see Fawn M. Brodie’s “No Man Knows My History,” which is eye-opening, to say the least.

C. General Fiction.

I’ve just finished reading an impressive book: “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet” by David Mitchell, a tale of the Dutch trying to trade with the Japanese in 1799, a fascinating story where the page turning goes fast enough to hurt fingers. If you like really good historical fiction, almost no one is better than Thomas B. Costain. There are arguments about which of his books is the best (“Below the Salt” and “The Black Rose” are often debated), but I plump for his gigantic tale spanning generations called “The Tontine.” A tontine is a wager in which rich families contribute a lot of money to a pool, which then generates interest through an investment account, and the resulting sum is paid to the last surviving member of the contributing families (leading to major troubles as the survivors narrow down). One of the best reads of my life is Pat Conroy’s “The Prince of Tides” (ignore the dreadful movie, which spoils this terrific tale), and basketball fans among you might enjoy his terrifying true story about playing that sport, with his very sadistic father looking over his shoulder: “My Losing Season.” Another favorite read, but certainly not for everyone, is “We Need To Talk About Kevin,” by Lionel Shriver (a woman, in spite of her name), about what it would be like to be the mother of a Columbine-type killer. If you can take the bizarre subject matter, “Kevin” is beautifully written, paragraph by paragraph, and ensnares the reader in an incredible story that will have you reading all night. I’m also a big fan of Nelson Demille. Not all of his novels are terrific reads, but these, at least, are: “The Charm School” (haunting), “By the Rivers of Babylon,” (thrilling) and two books that should be read together: “The Lion’s Game” and “The Lion,” (over-the-top action and funny too) in that order.  Similar fun can be had by reading Ken Follett's "Night Over Water" and "A Dangerous Fortune."

Next we come to the Hornblower and Flashman historical novels. Read them all.

C. S Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series takes place around the time the British navy was battling Napoleon, and, read in chronological order (a good idea) takes our hero from “Midshipman Hornblower” to “Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies.” I’ve devoured the entire series three times in my life, loving it anew each read-through.

The same is true of the Harry Flashman novels by George MacDonald Fraser. The first book of this series was simply called “Flashman,” and George MacDonald Fraser presented it as if it were the actual memoirs of a British officer during the Victorian era. Supposedly Harry Flashman was the only survivor of the Battle of Khartoum in 1885. The book was taken seriously (in spite of its improbabilities), mainly because Fraser was a renown historian. But it was soon revealed to be a novel after all, and subsequently there are 15 or so in the series. Flashman is a scoundrel, a liar, a ladies man, a charmer, and by one coincidence after another he turns up at all the famous events of the period: the Crimean War (where, unwillingly, he's part of the Charge of the Light Brigade), John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, the Boxer Rebellion, the American Civil War (where Abraham Lincoln talks him into fighting first on one side then the other), Custard's Last Stand, etc. At all of these, in spite of his being a major coward, Harry Flashman ends up covered in glory. The footnotes are amazing reading, so don't skip them as they appear, one by one. I recommend you start with “Flashman and the Dragon,” which will give you the appropriate flavor of the whole series.

D. Mysteries and Science Fiction

Sherlock Holmes, of course, is the brilliant creation of Arthur Conan Doyle, and the four novels (start with the first one: “A Study in Scarlet”) and many short stories are worth being read and re-read throughout life. [For a very funny spoof of Holmes see Robert L. Fish’s “The Memoirs of Schlock Homes.”] Heir apparent to the mantle of best mysteries ever are the many adventures of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin so wonderfully told by Rex Stout, a genius himself; if you don’t know these books, you should—start with “Gambit.”

For science fiction I recommend the haunting book by Walter M. Miller Jr., “The Canticle For Leibowitz,” and the both troubling and amusing “Memoirs of an Invisible Man” by H. F. Saint (alas, the movie made from the book is only interesting for the first half, and then it goes disastrously off on its own unhappy way, causing me to howl in the theater—there were some comments about this from those around me).

E. Children’s books

I love the Freddy the Pig books by Walter R. Brooks (and so did my son when I read them to him). With wonderful illustrations they tell the story of farm animals in upper state New York who for some unexplained reason can talk, and who have amazing adventures, led by the poet/magician/newspaper publisher/detective Freddy the Pig. Start with “Freddy and the Bean Home News.” Very intelligently written, exciting, and funny—even adults will like them. I see that they're all available on eBay.

F. No-Brainers

Just for fun:

Dean Koontz is a very uneven writer, but “Watchers” is a masterpiece (made into four bad movies—why don’t they just film the book?). Edge of your seat all the way through. If you like that, try “Dark Rivers of the Heart,” another good read.

The Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich are a hoot. They’re nominally mysteries/thrillers about a female bounty hunter in Trenton, New Jersey, but really these are some of the funniest books ever written. Listening to the audiobook version of one of them (voiced by the amazing Lorelei King), I got to laughing so hard while driving that I missed my exit. The books are numbered, with “One For the Money” being the first, and the series getting weaker (but still enjoyable) now that the numbers are well into the teens (numbers eight and nine were the best).

Like funny science fiction/fantasy? No one is better than Terry Pratchett (where, once again, the audiobooks are terrific). He creates a world all its own in book after book, and keeps you laughing from the first paragraph on. Start with “Going Postal.” I’m also a fan of Christopher Moore’s books, see “Practical Demonkeeping” and “Lamb” (the early life of Jesus, told quite reverently, if with a large dollop of humor).

Carl Hiaasen (a Miami newspaperman writing wicked satires on the misdeeds of those idiots destroying Florida) pleases his readers with humorous novels exposing the foibles of evil capitalists and others. I think his best book is the first one: “Tourist Season.” In that one someone is killing tourists, one by one, so the “season” of the title refers to hunting. It’s over-the-top fun.

G. Others

I’ve written elsewhere in the blog recommending books on atheism (see “How To Become an Atheist,” May 16, 2010). For gay books I suggest the classic “Gay American History” by Jonathan Katx, and the two terrific re-creations of the events of the 1969 Stonewall riots that started the modern gay movement, both called “Stonewall,” one by Martin Duberman and the other by David Carter. For gay fiction you can’t go wrong with James Kirkwood (who wrote “A Chorus Line”)—see “P.S. Your Cat Is Dead” and “Some Kind of Hero.”

H. Ending
As soon as I post this blog entry, I’m sure to start slapping my head and thinking of wonderful books I should have recommended, but enough for now . . . with one final exception. I can't seem to resist adding that if you’re a reader of this blog who thinks I sometimes manage to tell an interesting tale, I refer you to my novel, “Imaginary Friend,” (, $15.00; see my post of June 22, 2010, describing this work of genius in some detail).  What can I say?  It's a great read.
Related Posts:
"Some Cartoons I've Saved," October 20, 2010
"Doug's Favorite Jokes," November 13, 2010
"Five Movies I Watch Again and Again," March 20, 2011
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Monday, August 23, 2010

About This Blog

I cannot tell you how much pleasure I get from writing this blog and then enjoying the tremendous response of its readers. Some of those responses are comments printed on the blog itself, others are verbal or sent through other media (Facebook, emails, etc.).

I started the blog because the publicist for my novel, “Imaginary Friend” (see the post of that title on June 22, 2010) said I had to do three things to enhance sales: set up a website, join Facebook, and start a blog. About this same time (November 23, 2009) I had a heart transplant, and when I got out of the hospital and was sufficiently recovered, I started the blog in mid-December. I finally did launch a website: (which deals not only with the book, but with selling my comic albums, “Strange Songs” and “Gay Songs,” and also promotes the purchase of the song “Big Birthday,” which I wrote with my son Clayton, and which is a nutty substitute “Happy Birthday” song for those ominous birthdays ending in zero (40th birthday, for example). Finally, I joined Facebook, but have yet to appreciate its storied charms.

But the blog has been a true joy! First of all, it allowed me to explain the heart transplant and its aftermath, including the development of a friendship with the donor’s wonderful mother and stepfather, and all this was important to a lot of people who love me. But once that task was accomplished, I explored other possibilities. The Whaleys have always been storytellers, and this blog is a forum for me to record my favorite memories, most of them funny (or scary, see "Bears," February 23, 2010). One topic spurred another, and I’ve had good fun linking the various threads, hoping to ensnare readers like spelunkers dropping deeper into a cave.

Of course there are stories that, alas, I cannot tell. Too personal, too private, too painful, or they would be embarrassing to others or (gak!) to me. Ah, but the temptation to write about certain incidents in my life which would light up the blogosphere, such as that night in Chicago where . . . well—harrumph—let’s just leave it at that.

Above all, I’m a compulsive teacher. By that I don’t mean just in the classroom—I mean everywhere and at all times, boy or old man, drunk or sober, at parties or funerals, in the grocery store line or even at the craps table in Las Vegas. Sadly, this is a talent taken to the level of vice, and I must sternly watch myself at all times lest I force knowledge on unwilling and trapped passersby. Take that craps table, for example. When my wife and I first went to Las Vegas in 1971, Charleyne suggested that beforehand we read some books about gambling. That proved to be smart, and consequently we learned what were good things to do at the blackjack, craps, roulette tables, etc., and what bets were equivalent to throwing one's money in the desert. Say you and I are strangers standing at the craps table next to each other, and as time passes we become friendly, laughing and talking as we share the vicissitudes of the game. When I see you making sucker bets, at some point I won’t be able to stop myself from saying something like, “Might I mention you’re making the wrong odds bets and losing money?” I'm usually taken up on that, and as a consequence you’ll be playing a smarter game, allowing me to shove my inner-teacher back into the cage from which he’d escaped yet again.

This blog has unleashed this mania anew and given it a great podium. Hence, Doug the Teacher has lectured on such subjects as superstitions, taking pills, homosexuality, making decisions, atheism, the fun of riding around with Benjamin Franklin, and so on. If not interested in these matters, just ignore me (as more than one student has done through the years).

My most fun with this blog is in telling stories, and particularly the humorous ones (“Dog Meat,” December 27, 2009, “Teaching English to Cats,” August 6, 2010, “Milking Cows,” June 8, 2010, etc.), or the ones about my family, ex-spouses, and fascinating friends. Perhaps the best post of all wasn’t written by me, but by my father, speaking to readers from the grave (“No Pennies in My Pocket,” July 30, 2010); many thanks to my sister, Mary Beth, for finding that terrific picture of the young Robert Whaley to go with that post).

One unhappy problem. The Flag Counter (posted on January 12, 2010) turned out to be very inaccurate, undercounting steadily, and not displaying flags from countries that did visit the site. On August 20, I added a new StatCounter, which also tracks visitors (including their city and country, and itself has flag replicas). Its use demonstrated that Flag Counter was missing huge numbers of visitors each day.  According to StatCounter I have around 700 unique visitors each month.  At that rate the real count at the end of October, 2010 should have been something like 7000, but Flag Counter hadn't yet reached 1600 at that point (and doesn't even have the flags counted correctly on its own chart, listing twelve on the chart, but if you click on the chart for more information, it then lists thirteen).  As of October 31, 2010, 56 countries have visited the blog! That amazes me!  Nepal?  I only vaguely believe Nepal exists, much less that someone in Katmandu is reading my blog!  I didn't begin counting visitors until mid-January, 2010, and since I sent out a major email when I first started the blog in December of 2009, there have to be 200 or more early visitors who went completely uncounted. For a discussion of why counting flags is important, see "Hans and the Flag Counter," July 5, 2010, and if you like, help him out with his quest. For a rough (and probably low) count of the visitors to the blog, click on "View My Stats" (top of each blog page) and then add 3000 to the number displayed. To see the countries or cities, click on the "Countries, States, Cities" tab in the column on the left. I wrote two emails to Flag Counter complaining about all this, but, annoyingly, never received a reply.  
In any event, many thanks to all of you who’ve taken the trouble to read my scribblings. I’ll try to keep things as interesting as possible in future posts, and if you have suggestions—such as adventures you participated in with me that are ripe for retelling, or subjects on which you wish I’d elaborate (“How did “Closure” go?”)—let me hear from you. That email address is

Related Post:
"One Year of This Blog," December 19, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

“Doug, Please Get My Clubs From the Trunk”

Mom (center) with winning bowling team
on TV in 1968
Both of my parents were athletes. Dad, while still in college, considered a career in professional baseball (as a catcher) until one bad day when he threw his arm out. Mom had been head cheerleader in high school (see “Bob and Kink Get Married,” June 2, 2010), but hadn’t played many sports until Dad and family were transferred to Japan in 1954, where she learned that a young Japanese maid would come in Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 p.m. for $10.00 a month (remember, readers, that prices were very different then—it was impossible to force more than $3 worth of gasoline inside those large American cars in 1954!). That’s when LeNore Whaley learned to bowl and play golf. Before we left Japan in 1957, she bowled the highest score a woman ever bowled in Japan: 270 (for which she rolled seven strikes in a row). Dad was her teacher, but she was an apt student and very, very good at whatever she tried (for their amusing softball adventure, see “My Competitive Parents,” January 20, 2010).

Dad was a good golfer, but Mom, compared to other women, was excellent, and the two of them were soon playing matches against any two men on Yokota Air Force Base, where we were stationed (outside Tokyo). Years later, when I was in law school, there was some event for which I and my fellow students were gathered in the apartment I shared with two other students, all of us with our dates, dressed up (I forget why), and Mom and Dad were for some reason present. Dad, ever the storyteller, got to discussing these long-ago golf matches, a twinkle in his eye. “Doug’s mother,” he told the assembled youngsters, “knew there was betting going on, but she didn’t know the amount, so she was shocked to learn that $400.00 depended on her making a downhill putt on the 18th hole.” [You can’t imagine how much money $400.00 dollars was in post-war Japan in the mid-1950s, where we four were existing on a Air Force Captain’s salary.] “She was furious,” Dad continued, “and while I was hurrying around moving leaves out of the path of her putt, she hit it, I jumped out of the way, it plopped in the hole, and we won the money!” Dad then paused and smiled. “Now you think I’d be pleased she made that putt, don’t you?” he asked, and we all nodded. “That shows you’ve never been married. She spent it six times.”

Throughout their marriage, Mom and Dad played golf steadily, and then over the supper table would replay the day’s events verbally. Neither my sister, Mary Beth, nor I (who both suffered through these meals) ever became golfers because we quickly learned that if we picked up a club we immediately received twenty lessons. But because of our parents’ involvement, which included some caddying by me, both siblings know a great deal about the game. And some of my fondest memories involve my mother and her great joy at the game, or remembering her come home all happy, still in her golf shorts, doffing her golf gloves as she came into the house, calling out, “Doug, please take my clubs out of the trunk.” When she scored a hole-in-one in Austin, Texas, in June of 1967, she went back to the course the next day and had her picture taken on the tee of the very hole on which this triumph occurred (see photo).

When I was in law school, Dad, ever curious about legal problems, asked me one day, “Do you think the following scenario constitutes manslaughter? Your mother and her female companions come up to the tee shortly after a party of men have vacated it, and after they get a good way down the field, one of the men turns and waves at them, saying ‘Go ahead, Girlies, and hit,’ at which point your mother tees up and tries to lay all four of them flat, not caring if she actually beans one. Suppose she killed a man. A crime? Well, counselor?” Both disturbed and amused, I wanted to know if this was a rhetorical question, and he said no. I had no opinion; criminal law is not my field.

LeNore and Robert Whaley also won the Bermuda International Amateur Couples Golf Championship one of the years they lived in Bermuda (see “My Year in Bermuda,” February 9, 2010), but it was a harrying finish. All during the tournament, where the couples alternate hitting each other’s ball, Dad was uncharacteristically horrible at putting. It was driving my mother nuts. She’d put the ball on the green, leaving him, say, a two foot putt, and after his stroke she’d have a three foot putt to deal with. The Whaleys were in the lead on the last hole of the tournament, and the same situation occurred: Mom’s lie was a couple of feet from the hole and Dad ominously stepped up to it, putter in hand. “I CAN’T LOOK!” Mom shrieked, and bolted for the clubhouse. “What if I miss?” Dad called to her, alarmed. “DON’T!” she yelled back as she disappeared. Happily, Dad did make the putt, and then teased her for days by bragging how his putting had won the tournament for them.

In her life, my mother garnered many awards for her athletic prowess, and here is a photo Dad took of her when she was at her peak.

[A side comment here about those Japanese maids. We had a couple of them before settling on a 18 year old named Mihoko, who was good at her job (cleaning, watching my sister and me, ages 9 and 11 in 1954, etc.), fun to be with, and quite a character. She loved to take baths, and once a day would fill up the tub and take her break, slipping into the hot water with loud sighs of contentment. Mary Beth and I became her friends, and went with her and family on trips into Tokyo more than once. Mihoko also had many stories from World War II, during which she’d been a mere girl. The most horrifying of these concerned her being taken by her family to the park to watch American airmen being decapitated.]
Related Posts:
“My Competitive Parents,” January 20, 2010
"Goodbye to St. Paddy's Day," March 2, 2010
“Bob Whaley, Boy Lawyer,” March 28, 2010
"My Mother's Sense of Humor," April 4, 2010
“The Sayings of Robert Whaley,” May 13, 2010
“Bob Whaley and the Best Evidence Rule,” June 26, 2010
“Bob and Kink Get Married,” June 2, 2010
“Dad and the Cop Killer,” July 19, 2010
“No Pennies In My Pocket,” July 30, 2010
“The Death of Robert Whaley,” September 7, 2010
"My Missing Grandmother," December 26, 2010
"Bob Whaley Trapped in Panama," January 21, 2011
"The Death of My Mother," March 31, 2011

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Sexy Promissory Note


This blog post’s discussion of the law has been updated in a subsequent post on this blog.  See “Mortgage Foreclosures, Missing Promissory Notes, and the Uniform Commercial Code: A New Article,” February 11, 2013, at


One of the subjects I’ve taught for forty years is called Commercial Paper (or sometimes Payment Law), and it concerns checks and promissory notes. The course is often thought of in student circles as a “snoozer,” but I’ve managed to make it interesting enough that my classes were well subscribed (and it doesn’t hurt that it’s widely tested on the bar exam). It’s easy enough to get the students interested in checks—they all have checking accounts (or debit/credit cards, which are also covered in the course), and much can go wrong with checks: how quickly you can withdraw deposited items, fees, forgery, stopping payment, bank failure, etc. But, alas, poor promissory notes are nowhere nearly as sexy as checks. The legal issues concerning them are usually two in number: what are the legal elements of a promissory note and what are the rights of subsequent holders of the note who want to enforce the note when it comes due. But of a sudden a new hot issue has arisen with promissory notes, and I’m getting emails and phone calls from all over the country as former students on either side want advice. I’ve given lectures on this topic in Ohio and Michigan, and this November in Boston I’ll be the leadoff speaker at the National Consumer Law Center’s Consumer Rights Conference with a talk called “The Sexy Promissory Note—Foreclosures and the Missing Note.”

Suppose that you bought a home in the last decade or so. Remember when at the closing you signed a frightening number of documents placed in front of you with little or no explanation of what you were signing? The two most important of these were the promissory note (in which you promise to pay the debt to the holder of the note) and the mortgage (which will be filed in the local real property county clerk’s office to create a lien on your property in favor of the mortgagee). [Side comment: people unversed in real property terms frequently confuse “mortgagor” and “mortgagee.” You, the new owner, are the person who is placing a mortgage in favor of another on your own property, so you are the mortgagor, and the bank is the mortgagee. When in the musical “Funny Girl” Barbra Streisand in the song “Sadie, Sadie” sings that she’s a mortgagee, she’s not—she’s the mortgagor.]

What happens to the promissory note? In the good old days it was kept down at the bank so that when the time for payment came the bank could present it to you, and, if you didn’t pay, could then use the law to foreclose on the mortgage lien. But during the feeding frenzy that the real estate mortgage community indulged in for the last decade, more bizarre things happened. The mortgages themselves were no longer kept at the originating bank, nor were the notes. Instead they were bundled together with many others and sold as a package to an investment banking firm, which put them in a trust and sold stock in the trust to investors (a process called “securitization”). The bankers all knew the importance of the mortgage, and kept careful records as to the identity of the entities to whom the mortgage was assigned. But they were damn careless about the promissory notes, some of which were properly transferred whenever the mortgage was, some of which were kept at the originating bank, some of which were deliberately destroyed (a really stupid thing to do), and some of which disappeared into the black hole of the financial collapse, never to be seen again.

Say you’ve fallen on hard times and can’t pay your mortgage (one estimate is that half the homes in the United States will have gone through foreclosure before the current crisis is over). Along comes the current assignee of the mortgage, say Octopus National Bank, and ONB files a lawsuit to get permission to foreclose on the property. Alas, ONB doesn’t have the original promissory note, but it does have a copy (sometimes). Usually there is no protest because usually debtors can’t afford to hire an attorney (and don’t think to call Legal Aid), and even if they are represented by counsel, in the foreclosure mill that most trial courts run it’s enough for the judges that ONB can prove it is the assignee of the mortgage, note or no note.

The problem with that is that the Uniform Commercial Code, which codifies the law of promissory notes in all of the states in identical language, clearly mandates that only the current holder in physical possession of the original promissory note can file the lawsuit. The mortgage is not the debt—it’s merely a lien on the property. The debt is the note, and until it is presented to the maker of the note and then dishonored, the debt is suspended and foreclosure is impossible.

Most lawyers and judges would rather slaughter hogs than read the details of the Uniform Commercial Code (“I slept through that class in law school” or “I never took that boring course”), and so many have perverted the law by, essentially, baldly ignoring the statutes on point. They might say a “copy” of the note is okay. It’s not. There might be one hundred copies of the note out there floating around, but only the possessor of the original is the proper plaintiff in a foreclosure action. They say that the clear transfer of the mortgage should be enough; it’s not, the UCC clearly states the note itself must be produced. The Code has a provision for proving up lost notes, but it has stringent requirements that Octopus National is not likely to meet.

Recently a number of courts have daringly followed the law and ruled that absent proof that the plaintiff bank has the original promissory note in its possession, it has no standing to file the foreclosure action. Who does? Why, whoever has the note. “But, your honor,” ONB will protest, “if we can’t sue and we can’t find the note, that means the home owner doesn’t have to pay the mortgage and can’t have the property foreclosed upon!” The answer to that is the home owner still owes the money to whomever possesses the promissory note. Indeed, the Uniform Commercial Code is clear: if the home owner pays the wrong person (Octopus National Bank) and the original promissory note turns up in different hands, the home owner owes the amount of the note to that person. Moreover, the home owner continues to have a mortgage lien encumbering his/her property, and therefore can’t sell the house without first coming to terms with the mortgagee’s assignee. To the bank's argument that a copy of the promissory note should be enough, ask any banker if he/she would be willing to accept a copy of check.

What should Octopus National Bank do if it can’t find the note? Why, get its money back from the entity that sold ONB the mortgage. “But that entity went bankrupt in the financial collapse!” ONB sputters, tearing its figurative hair. Well, that’s sad. But what it then ultimately means is that ONB bought a worthless asset, a business risk. [Another side note: would you believe that banks caught in this situation are forging promissory notes and filing suit on them? It’s shocking, but true.]

The uproar over this has been amazing, and suddenly the law of promissory notes is being litigated everywhere. I’m taking speaking engagements all over the country, and even though I swore I was done writing law review articles, I think I must pen one last on this topic, though I don’t know if I’ll have the courage to call it “The Sexy Promissory Note.” That sort of thing makes academia frown and purse its collective lips.

And if you know people facing mortgage foreclosure, tell them to demand the bank present to them the original promissory note they signed at the closing. Not a copy, the original. If the foreclosing bank can’t produce it, game on.

Related Posts:
“How I Became a Law Professor,” January 27, 2010
“The Socratic Dialogue in Law School,” January 31, 2010
“Clickers,” March 17, 2010
“The Summer Bar Review Tours,” June 15, 2010
"Mortgage Foreclosures: The Disaster of Unintended Consequences," October 27, 2010
" Update: Mortgage Foreclosure and Missing Notes," November 16, 2010
"Women in My Law School Classroom," January 8, 2011
"I Threaten To Sure Apple Over an iPad Cover," April 8, 2011
"The Payment-In-Full Check: A Powerful Legal Maneuver," April 11, 2011

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Douglas Whaley, Actor

Growing up, through all grades including high school and college, I did a great deal of acting. I even wrote plays and musicals, and they were pretty dreadful. I found a box of them recently, and shuddered as I glanced through them. But I suppose they were good training for learning to write, and prepared me for writing the comic songs I am proud of and that were later collected into an album called “Strange Songs” (about which more in a future post, though readers interested in exploring that madness can download a copy for $9 at

When I was in college I gave serious thought to going into the theater as a career, but decided on law both for practical reasons (say, money) and because I thought I could make a difference in that field that would be more important than just entertaining others. So I gave up acting except for the occasional law school production. Gilbert and Sullivan (see “A Fanatic’s Tale (This Isn’t Pretty),” April 11, 2010) wrote a one act comic opera called “Trial By Jury,” in which the plaintiff (still in her bridal gown) comes into court suing the dastardly defendant for breach of promise to marry, only to end up snagging the judge instead. The show is only a half hour in length, and, due to its many legal jokes, is perfectly suited for a law school production. In my 40 year teaching career I directed TBJ eight times at two different schools, frequently, but not always, playing the part of The Learned Judge (see photo below).

The Plaintiff reads the Judge's mashnote.
On retiring in 2004 I went back to playing tournament bridge (which my wife Charleyne and I used to do in the 1970s), writing novels (see “Imaginary Friend,” June 22, 2010), and getting back into show business. I first tried out for and received the part of Uncle Stanley in the Kaufman and Hart play “George Washington Slept Here,” at the Little Theatre Off Broadway in Grove City (a suburb of Columbus). Interestingly, my father when he was still in his twenties had played the same role in a community theater production in Pensacola, Florida, in 1947. It was great fun, and I was back!

Since then I’ve acted in seven shows, and directed three others (“The Curious Savage,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Closure,” a new play—see the post “Directing ‘Closure,’” June 5, 2010), and have been enjoyed it all. I’ve played many types of roles, and had the lead in three plays: “Deathtrap,” “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” and, incredibly, “King Lear.”

In “Deathtrap” I played the aging dramatist who’s willing to kill to create another hit play (see above photo), and the nine year-old boy that lives deep inside me was thrilled by all the action the play requires. I participated in five murders onstage and died twice myself, plus getting to use a garrote that squirted blood as it was wrapped around the victim’s neck (that’s what’s going on in the photo), shoot a gun, and even fire a crossbow!

In “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” another famous Kaufman and Hart comedy, I played the insufferable Sheridan Whiteside, a radio personality of the 1930s who slips on the ice when visiting an Ohio home during a book tour of the country, and is trapped there for weeks, so he brings the whole world into the household, driving the family who lives there into the madness that’s his usual life. I was in an antique wheelchair during almost all of the show (and onstage constantly), and since Whiteside is a control freak, my friends will all tell you it’s a role I was born for.

“King Lear” was the best, however. I’d played Brutus in high school, and Leonato in a local production of “Much Ado About Nothing,” so I knew the joy of performing Shakespeare, but nothing is as enriching as taking the stage as this doomed monarch. When rehearsing and acting Shakespeare’s lines one is constantly amazed at how rich they are, how beautifully phrased, how perfect, and—startlingly—how new meanings come to the forefront no matter how much you thought you understood the words when you first read them. I found myself slapping my head over and over with new insights into Shakespeare’s genius. In college I had two courses on Shakespeare, and have always been in awe of him. When my heart behaved so terrifyingly in 2005 (see “The First Time I Almost Died,” August 3, 2010), I began thinking about what I hadn’t accomplished in life, and I realized that I’d read or seen all of Shakespeare’s plays except six: the three parts of “Henry VI,” “Pericles,” “Cymbeline,” and “Two Noble Kinsmen.” So, sick as I was, I promptly ordered DVDs of each of the first five, and found an audio recording of the last play.

With close friends after the show---note the beard.
I performed Lear at a Rosebriar Shakespeare Company production in Groveport (another Columbus suburb) in late 2008 (it was directed beautifully by my good friend, Manny Flowers and had a wonderful cast). I was in bad physical shape then of course, but the show must go on. (I did have a guard carrying on my poor Cordelia’s body in the last scene, instead of doing that myself, as is traditional). At one point in the play, Lear clutches his chest and says “My heart!” and that terrified any number of my friends who were in the audience, including Charleyne who told me later she thought about jumping on the stage to see if she could help. But the only mishap that occurred was in one performance where Goneril, one of the king’s daughters, failed to make her entrance, and the other two actors on stage and I were involved in the nerve-wracking business of extemporizing Shakespeare (!) for over a minute until she finally hurried onstage (and, terrific actress that she is, was in tears backstage afterwards, apologizing again and again). But our improvisations must have been pretty good. I later asked a number of friends who were in the audience, and none of them had noticed anything wrong!

I’m next scheduled to play a British police inspector in a January 2011 production of the thriller “Night Must Fall,” and I can’t wait. There are few things in life as much fun as standing backstage opening night waiting for the show to start, your heart in your throat, worried about missing lines, wondering if you can get through it all not only without error, but performing well.

And then the curtain rises and you’re on.

Related Posts:
"Directing 'Closure'," June 5, 2010
"I Am an 89 Year-Old Jew," January 13, 2011
"Another Opening, Another Show: Doug is in Hamlet'," April 29, 2011

Friday, August 6, 2010

Teaching English to Cats

Eventually, my cat Mama (see “Mama, Biopsies, and My iPad,” May 19, 2010) became bored. At first she loved the games we played, such as chasing after objects I pulled across the floor or the crawling red bug created by my classroom laser, until she figured out I was maneuvering everything (she began watching my hands carefully, and not the mysterious bug, for example), at which point she totally lost interest (“How humiliating—I’m being manipulated! Me!”). Today if that little red bug runs in front of her, she yawns to show she’s been there, done that. I’d heard that cats living alone get neurotic, so, after consultation with my cat expert Pam (see above cited post), I decided to acquire a companion for Mama. Thus I went to a cat rescue operation called Colony Cat, and took home a three year old beautiful (and large) all grey cat who’d been found wandering about Columbus. As I exited from Colony Cat with this very friendly animal, the owner asked me what I planned on naming him. “I’ll let Mama name him,” I told her, “and my guess is she’ll call him ‘Hiss.’”
That proved prophetic. It’s been over a month now and the two of them have not yet bonded (though things are better daily). Mama, territorial, a year younger, smaller but fierce, is the problem. The other gentle cat, whom I’ve named Barney, is a get-along-go-along sort of guy, but Mama treats him like a burglar-cat and is forever attacking him with no provocation other than she’s noticed he exists. Mama and I have had discussions about this, and she fully understands that I don’t approve of her attitude. That doesn’t mean she’s changed much (she is a cat), but now she only attacks poor Barney when she thinks I won’t notice.

When my first partner David (see “Milking Cows,” June 8, 2010) and I were together we acquired two kittens, and we embarked on a project to see how much English we would make them understand. The results were remarkable. They learned about 50 words before their untimely deaths from feline leukemia at age one, within a week of each other (a very sad time). If you yelled one of their names out loud, only that one kitten would jump; but if you said “CATS!” they both would look both worried and, of course, guilty.

I embarked on a similar experiment with Mama, and she’s a fast learner. She can pick up a new word in two days of repetition. Of course it has to be something she’s interested in. In the beginning she understood only two words: “Mama” and “No.” This is not to say she obeyed these words (repeating: she is a cat), but Mama at least knew what the big mammal wanted. Since then her vocabulary has growing mightily. “Food” she added to her repertory almost on first hearing the word in association with an activity that it turns out is very, very important to her (and, if I’m using the word “food” in casual conversation I must spell it out lest she jump to the assumption dinner is unexpectedly being served). When I arise in the morning I know that the food bowl has been emptied overnight, and I plan to get around to the refilling task before long, but Mama urgently believes it’s her top priority to move me from the bedroom/bathroom area and into the kitchen to immediately remedy this dire emergency. Alas, I’m in no such hurry (her chances of starving to death being small), but she frantically takes every opportunity to nudge me in the direction of the kitchen. If I merely happen to glance in that direction she takes off running at lightning speed, as if to confirm that my presence is needed there (much like Lassie directing the family to where Timmy has fallen down the well). When, to her annoyance, I finally do emerge into the rest of the house, she scurries to rub up against me and then again speed-runs into the kitchen, meowing loudly enough to make pictures vibrate. When I look at her innocently and ask “Food?” she almost faints with relief that my thick brain has finally comprehended the crisis. As I prepare the food, she not only rubs repeatedly up against me, but even leaps as high as she can to bounce off my upper legs in an airborne maneuver inspired by feline ecstasy.

Barney is another matter. The sweetest of large and friendly cats, he’s dumb as a chicken. Though I say it to him perhaps dozens of times a day, he hasn’t a clue what the word “Barney” means. (Mama, meanwhile, knows only too well that I’m referring to her hated enemy.) Barney has only one goal in life. It’s not food (though he eats), it’s not play (though he plays), it’s being petted. And it’s important to him! Now! His attitude, administered with great charm and affection is: stop what you’re doing, and pet me, pet me, pet me. This sounds like it would be wearying, but I succumb (at least for a moment) more often than I bat him off the keyboard of my computer (or my lap if on the toilet).

But when I say he’s “dumb as a chicken,” consider his reaction to the cat doors. When I decided to get a cat, I had three installed in various doors so the cats could get to the litter box in the basement, and (after some internal debate, did I really want to sleep with a cat?) to the master bedroom. Mama figured them out in two days, and even though getting through them efficiently means leading with your head pushing against the top-hinged swinging plastic door, in the midst of her “feed me” frenzy she can run at full speed from my bathroom to the kitchen, and I suspect this velocity hurts her head. But, sadly, poor Barney, who’s been here a whole month, can take five minutes to make it from one side of the door to the other. Here is my re-creation of his thought pattern on contemplating the puzzle of the cat door:

“Golly, I must go to the other side. Something to do with this little swingy thing. And I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten through it before. Hmm. How did I do it?” He bats at it with his paw, and it swings open and immediately shut. “Wow! It opened—ahhh, it shut again. Damn. Now what?” He bats again with the same result and same looped thought process. This can go on for some time. Finally it occurs to him to stick his paw through the door and not withdraw it. “Good! It didn’t close. Now I can go through!” At which point he withdraws the paw in his excitement, the door closes, and he’s newly bamboozled. This is painful to observe, and it drives Mama into the other room, too disgusted to watch. But Barney’s getting better; last night at 4 a.m. it only took him two minutes to get through the bedroom cat door so he could then (loudly) do battle with the basement cat door on his way to the litter box.

Mama initially slept with me most nights, savoring in the warmth from my body (Pam says that all cats are “heat whores”). But when Barney arrived, as soon as I’d settle in bed and begin to read (I’m a late night reader, typically up until after 1 a.m.) he’d hop on the bed and explain to me the urgent need for a petting, after which he’d cuddle on top of my feet and fall asleep. When Mama first discovered he’d preempted what she thinks of as “her bed,” she stormed off in a huff, and I didn’t see her until she came bursting through the cat door the next morning with an urgent message about a food famine. The next night, however, she followed me into the bedroom and settled on top of my feet as soon as I started to read and, feeling smug, before her rival could get there. She was most annoyed when Barney, completely unaware of Mama’s displeasure, climbed into the bed and onto my chest and requested an immediate petting. I hushed her snarls, and eventually they both fell asleep in what has since become a three mammal bed.

Turning over at night, with two cats sprawled on top of various body parts, has become a delicate chore, and getting up in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom is a ritual that must be performed as carefully as a Kabuki drama. Neither cat moves at all if I don’t make a sound as I exit the bed and pad into the bathroom. But if I make the mistake of doing something different, for example committing the sacrilege of turning on a light (!), Mama is up in a flash. Never mind that it’s four in the morning, THE BIG MAMMAL HAS ARISEN AND IT’S TIME TO HERD HIM INTO THE KITCHEN! Thus starts the mewing, the running through the cat door, the rubbing of the ankles, and the pitiful “I’m starving” eyes. If I’m hardhearted enough to ignore all of this and return to bed, Mama exits, sulking, slowly through the cat door in a dark mood relieved only by hearing me get up for real much, much later. At that point her famine relief message resurfaces and she’s energized anew.

So, teacher that I am, I’m still experimenting with feline communication. Mama is my star pupil, and is doing so well I’m thinking about throwing in a Japanese or Spanish phrase just to see if she can translate that into Basic Cat. As for Barney, well . . . stayed tuned.
Related Posts:
“Dog Meat,” December 27, 2009
"Parakeets and Me," February 5, 2010
“Bears,” February 23, 2010
"Mama, Biopsies, and My iPad," May 19, 2010
"Milking Cows," June 8, 2010
"The Purring Heart," November 23, 2010
"The Dogs In My Life," April 18, 2011
"My Parents and Dummy," May 13, 2011
"Two Cat Stories: Mama and Barney in the Wild," July 9, 2011
"Zoo Stories," August 30, 2011
“Mama Cat Saves My Life,” October 23, 2011
"Stepping on Cats," February 8, 2012
“Snowbirding, My iPhone 5, and the Coming Crazy Cat Trip,” December 5, 2012
"Barney Cat and the Big Mammal Nightmare," January 7, 2013
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The First Time I Nearly Died

Up until my heart transplant in November of 2009, my heart problems nearly killed me a number of times. There was a particularly bad period from November of 2005 until February of the following year when my heartbeat became so erratic that (no exaggeration) twenty or so times every day I would feel a skipped beat or two or highly irregular thump in my chest or some other scary movement, and think, “This is the moment I’m dying.” Twenty times a day for over three months. That gets old. I found myself wearying of it all; “Just die,” I’d think. But a change of medication in February put my heart back into a regular rhythm, and, as is true of all of us, when the heart’s beating normally, one ceases to notice it. Life went back to normal.

But the first time I nearly died occurred in February 1978, when I was 34. I ruptured my appendix, but had none of the traditional symptoms. Instead I thought I had the flu—a rather bad case of flu, with fever, and vomiting, and cold chills. This went on for two weeks! I certainly would’ve died during this period since I couldn’t keep food down, but my good friend Mary Bush, who has a Master’s degree in nutrition and who has figured in these posts in the past (see “Escape From Hospital Hell,” January 17, 2010) saved me by coming up with a powder you could mix with water that provided a completely nutritious meal, and which I could keep down. But I was clearly failing, so on March 9th I was admitted to the hospital at Ohio State (where I teach law), and the doctors decided that exploratory surgery was called for.

The surgeon in charge was the amazing Dr. John P. Minton (I tried hard to find a photo of him for this post, but, alas, failed), one of the great characters of our time. He was a master surgeon with an enormous ego, a man bigger than life, and people either loved or hated him (when angry at someone's behavior during surgery, he’d been known to throw scalpels). Some of the nurses were thrilled to be working with him, taskmaster that he was, while others, on hearing his name, would spit on the floor and rub it with their foot. When Dr. Minton sliced me open at midnight he discovered peritonitis had spread throughout my entire abdominal cavity. I later learned he calmly informed those in the operating room, “This one isn’t going to make it.”

But, by golly, his surgical genius combined with what he called my “strong life force,” pulled me through. I spent four days in the ICU (reading a murder mystery), sore and tired, but bored—the scary part was that patients around me did die. My parents, much alarmed by all this, flew to Columbus from Dallas (where Dad was a prosecutor), and Dr. Minton greeted them by shaking their hands and announcing, “I’m the man who saved your son’s life.” Dad was both appalled and amused by that statement, and he and Dr. Minton subsequently got along well.

So did I. I have always dealt with hospital stays (and similar depressing situations—control freak that I am, it’s awful to be powerless) by humor, and Dr. Minton, as it happened, had a wonderful sense of humor. He would sweep into the room, his entourage of nurses, medical students, and other doctors in tow, and we’d have banter of various kinds until he left, much enjoyed by both of us and our little audience. While I was under his care it was publicly announced that I was a recipient of an all-OSU award for outstanding teaching (eight professors from various disciplines are chosen each year), and he bragged about that to everyone he knew who came into contact with me (which I didn’t, somehow, object to). Mostly I used my argument skills as a lawyer to try to persuade him to let me go home, and, after a month in the hospital, I won him over (probably less by my gift of gab than the fact that I’d finally produced a solid bowel movement).

Comes the final day, and Dr. Minton and his court arrive in his usual dramatic fashion. “Well, Professor, today’s the day,” he grandly announces. “Have I given you your discharge instructions yet?” I replied no, but pronounced myself oh so ready to receive them.

Most were mundane and passed by quickly without comment from me, but then he intoned, “No driving for two weeks.” I wanted to know why not. “Because,” he replied gravely, “if you had an accident, you’d be liable.” “Why?” I wanted to know. I knew that if you’re in an accident, you’re only legally accountable if you did something to cause the accident. Dr. Minton frowned at the question. “Just because . . . well, you would be.” Now I frowned. “Are you giving me legal advice, and, even worse, wrong legal advice?” I asked.

“Moving on to another topic,” he said, “No Sex for the Next Month!” At that I smiled. “Uh, gee, Doctor,” I said, “you’re too late, I’m afraid. You let me go home for one afternoon last Saturday, and David and I—how shall I put this?—had a good time, very, very gently.”

At this Dr. Minton (who knew I was gay) turned bright red. Standing suddenly, he hurriedly said to one of the nurses, “Give me the discharge papers and I’ll sign them, and we’ll get Professor Whaley out of here right away.” He shook my hand and fled the room.

Following that discharge there were complications. I developed a fistula, which Dr. Minton cut me open again in December to remove, and I subsequently had major hernia problems along the large surgical scar that ran (and still runs) up and down my abdomen. This led to four subsequent hernia operations before the problem was finally solved in 1995 (thus my ruptured appendix led to six major operations, and as a consequence of all this surgery on my belly I have no navel---which lets me win bets in bars---and this combined with the heart transplant chest scar and my tattoo makes me, shirtless, something to marvel at). The last time I saw John Minton was at a follow-up visit after the first of these hernia operations (in the late 1980s), when he picked up a syringe and, with me lying down on an examination table, belly exposed, prepared to draw from my abdomen some fluid that had built up around the incision. The syringe was enormous—looking like it was the sort of thing veterinarians would use on horses, large horses—and as the good doctor loomed over me, syringe poised, he paused and looked me steadily in the eye. Earnestly he said, “I don’t know if you have any influence on these things, but the man who’s going to marry my daughter is trying to get into OSU’s law school.” Laughing at his characteristic audacity (as he knew I would), I told him I didn’t have any such influence, but I’d mention the matter to the powers that be at the law school, and, satisfied, he plunged in and withdrew the fluid. His son-in-law subsequently was admitted (and was a student in my classes), but I doubt I had anything to do with that decision.

Sadly, John Minton died suddenly in 1990 in a bizarre traffic accident. He was sitting in a left turn lane, waiting for traffic to clear on a major Columbus thoroughfare, when a vehicle coming from the other direction lost control, flipped up in the air, and landed on top of his car. Dr. Minton lasted only long enough for some of his organs to be harvested for transplant. This wonderful man had died far too soon (he was only 56).

I owe him my life.

Related Posts:
"About That Heart Transplant," January 24, 2010
"My Heart Belonged to Andrew," February 17, 2010
"Another Letter to Andrew's Parents," March 10, 2010
"A Toast to Andrew," May 2, 2010
"Mama, Biopsies, and My iPad," May 19, 2010
"Rehabilitating Doug," June 12, 2010
"The Purring Heart," November 23, 2010
"1999-2001: A Dramatic Story, " December 15, 2010
"Naming My Heart," March 24, 2011
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013