Total Pageviews

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pronouncing "2012"

   .


Okay, it's very important that we all agree that "2012" is henceforth to be pronounced "twenty-twelve" as opposed to "two thousand and twelve"!  Why—you might ask, given all that is going wrong on this planet—is this issue important? 

It's for reasons of being vocally "green," of course!

Consider, blog readers, that "two thousand and twelve" has five syllables whereas "twenty-twelve" has only three.  Just three!  Tonight on NBC News as the announcers covered stories about the advent of 2012, the coming year was intoned using both possible pronunciations.  But the announcers who said it correctly (three syllables) had more breath and air time to get out two extra syllables, thus perhaps altering their careers for the better.  Nonsense, you may mutter—Whaley has lost it!  How can it ever make any difference?  But consider that this issue is not just a one year affair, but will go on for 88 more years (and has already plagued the past one, during which I shuddered every time I heard "two thousand and eleven").  Think of all those wasted syllables!  Zillions of them are coming!  It's horrifying!

This crucial dichotomy didn't arise last century because no one considered saying the mouthful that "one thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine" would have entailed (much less "1977" which would added two more syllables to the verbal landfill).  But the disarming convenience of "two thousand" has led us into sloppy temptation.  Avoid it, blog readers, I beg you!

Fortunately this syllable battle will not likely be an issue for, say, "2112," since "two thousand one hundred and twelve" will be too daunting for even the most committed of the current "two thousanders." 

In the meantime, the saner of us (the more "vocally green") must convince those wrongheaded people of the correctness of our cause, and fight lustily for "2012" to have only the three syllables that common sense demands it be allotted.

So, blog readers, correct your misspeaking friends (which should make you even more popular as you put their feet firmly on the right path) and send emails of complaint to NBC and like organizations if they fail to live up to modernity in this important logomachy.


Remember: Friends don't allow friends to be "two thousanders!"




Happy "twenty-twelve" to you all!

Friday, December 23, 2011

An Atheist's Christmas Card

    .
I actually sent out the card reprinted below at Xmas time in 2007, but I thought it might amuse you, so in 2011 I send it to all my readers.  Here it is:


FRONT:



INSIDE:

 
 
-------------------------------------------------
Related Posts:
“Catholicism and Me (Part One),” March 13, 2010
“Superstitions,”March 21, 2010
“Catholicism and Me (Part Two),” April 18, 2010
“How To Become an Atheist,” May 16, 2010
“Imaginary Friend,” June 22, 2010
“I Don’t Do Science,” July 2, 2010
“Explosion at Ohio Stadium,” October 9, 2010 (Chapter 1 of my novel)
“When Atheists Die,” October 17, 2010
"Escape From Ohio Stadium," November 2, 2010 (Chapter 2)
"Open Mouth, Insert Foot," November 21, 2010 (Chapter 3)
"Rock Around the Sun," December 31, 2010
"Muslim Atheist," March 16, 2011
"An Atheist Interviews God," May 20, 2011
"A Mormon Loses His Faith," June 13, 2011
"Is Evolution True?" July 13, 2011
"Atheists, Christmas, and Public Prayers," December 9, 2011
" Urban Meyer and the Christian Buckeye Football Team," February 19, 2012
"Intelligent Design, Unintelligent Designer?", May 12, 2012
"My Atheist Thriller: Another Book Reading," May 17, 2012
"'The God Particle' and the Vanishing Role of God," July 5, 2012
“Update: Urban Meyer and the NON-Christian Buckeye Football Team,” August 24, 2012
“Atheists Visit the Creation Museum,” October 4, 2012
“Mitt Romney: A Mormon President?” October 17, 2012
“The End of the World: Mayans, Jesus, and Others,” December 17, 2012

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Second Anniversary of This Blog: Greetings to the Planet Earth

  .


At this second anniversary of my first post, I start by thanking the thousands of readers who have visited this site.  Every day when I look at the list of visitors (who are identified in the stats by city and country only), I'm overwhelmed. 

As I explained last year on the first anniversary of the blog (see "Related Posts" below), this blog has unexpectedly changed my life.  It occurred to me the other day that my musings were really a form of autobiography coupled with my life philosophy and the outpourings of a compulsive teacher who (rightly or wrongly) has a lot to say on a wide variety of topics.  Then there are the stories I get to tell in final form (having told and retold them all my life).  I'm from a family of storytellers (the high-falutin word is "raconteurs"), and my favorite stories have turned into blog posts, one after another, detailing the adventures of my family, friends, partners, pets, and people I barely know.  Taken all in all—stories, philosophy, advice—this blog constitutes the most important writing I've ever done in my entire life (and this includes my large output of legal works and various novels). 

Why?  Because I know from the feedback I get that people like these posts, and some posts have been life-changing for my readers.  That amazes me.  When someone in Tunisia writes me that he's able for the first time to face his own homosexuality because of my blog, or a teenager in the United States writes to ask if he should come out to his parents even though they've announced they'll kill him if they learn he's gay (I said no, but told him to plan his escape route now), or someone in Jordan tells me that "Muslin Atheist" perfectly describes the hell that surrounds him, or one reader sends out dozens of copies of "Going Undercover at an Ex-Gay Meeting" because she thinks it should be mandatory reading, I'm jolted.  When I wrote my first post two years ago (pitiful thing that it was), I had no idea that I would end up communicating with the world. 

As of this morning, 156 countries have visited my blog since August 22 of last year (there were no accurate records for the first nine months of the blog).  Here is a list of the top fifty countries visiting the blog since then (each "Hit" is a visit by someone from that country, including repeat visitors):
[Click to Enlarge]
You can find the complete list of all countries by clicking on View My Stats under the StatCounter symbol at the top left of each page of this blog.  On the screen that pops up on the left Country/State/City/ISP produces this list of countries, or allows the reader to see a similar list of cities.  If instead of Country/State/City/ISP you click on Recent Visitor Activity you come upon a screen that lists every visitor to this site like this:

[Click to Enlarge]

Number of Entries identifies how many pages of the blog the viewer visited (each page contains about six blog posts).  Thus the visitor from Dearborn, Michigan, visited one page (which had on it the post about mortgage foreclosures), while the visitor from Iraq spent a lot of time on the blog since he/she visited seven pages of posts, staying on the final page for 2 minutes and 41 seconds.  The "0 seconds" on the entry for the Dearborn visitor means only that he/she did not move to a second page.  Here are the first 20 visitors from this morning (Dec. 17):


[Click to Enlarge]

These data record fascinating things about the visitors.  For reasons I can't explain a post entitled: "How To Impress People in a Conversation" is very popular in India, but nowhere else on the planet.  The posts having to do with sex—no surprise—attract visitors from all over the world.  Some people searching for one thing (such as "How to communicate with God") end up with something else ("An Atheist Interviews God").  There are quick visits, by which I mean that the visitor took one look at a post and immediately clicked away.  An example: someone Googling "sexy notes" would reach my post about preventing mortgage foreclosures because the promissory note is missing ("The Sexy Promissory Note"), not at all what he/she was looking for (even though it has a cute cartoon of a promissory note with its arm around a hooker).  The opposite of that is someone who stumbles upon my blog, likes what he/she finds, and reads everything.  A couple of months ago someone from Birmingham, England, read all that I've  ever posted, which took two weeks of reading.

The top three most visited posts as of yesterday:


In the beginning I wrote fancy titles for the posts, ones that seemed fitting for them.  My favorite post, for example, is entitled "Benjamin Franklin Riding Shotgun."  It has this conceit: suppose you are driving your car and all of a sudden Dr. Franklin is magically whisked from his own time and placed on your passenger seat.  What questions would he ask, and could you answer them?  This game, which I've often played when stuck in traffic, has interesting results, most notably (and humbling) that I can't explain to this great scientist much about the world of the 21st century, becoming stumped over and over by his questions.  The problem with this post is that its name tells so little, and that means, I now understand, that it gets ignored.  I've learned, therefore, to title the posts with Goggle searches in mind.  Thus a post entitled "How Many Homosexuals Are There in the World?" is found by its audience.

In the beginning of the blog, I wrote two posts a week.  But that has decreased in number this past year.  Why don't I post more often?  I simply can't write a post just to post a post.  If I’m going to write something, I must have something to say.  At the start I was overflowing with stories to tell and advice on many topics, but as I've fed my life into the blog, I've grown cautious of cheapening the quality of that which follows.  I suspect some posts will interest or entertain anyone who reads them ("Adventures in the Law School Classroom" for example), while others have a very limited audience ("The Ohio State Hospital Nurses: A Letter to President Gordon Gee"), but I want them all to be worth reading by someone.

Alas, there are some posts I can never write because they would detail embarrassing stories about people yet alive who would drop me as a friend immediately (and—damn it!—good stories thereby go untold).  Others would be too painful for me to relive or others to read.  Some (and, again, some real barnburners) are too salacious for the blog.  On the up side, I've learned to use Photoshop, and have a great time choosing images from the Internet, altering them, and using them as illustrations for my posts.  To see Old Doug having a good Photoshop time, look at "I Hate Meetings."  The image of the man in the stocks, for example, did not originally have a gag in his mouth.  Nor was the monkey in the "Zoo Stories" photo originally holding a pair of glasses.

Whenever I post a new blog entry, I put that fact on Facebook so my friends will know there's something new to read.  Otherwise, I don't use Facebook for anything.  If you, reader, would like to know when there are new posts, simply send me a "Friend" request, and I'll confirm it, even if I've never heard of you.  It would be a privilege to be your Friend, and I want interested people to know when new entries are posted to my blog.  Or send me an email asking to be alerted to new posts, and I will send out a mass mailing to that effect when one is available.  My email address (listed in my profile) is dglswhaley@aol.com.  Put the word "Blog" in the Subject Line.

[Click to Enlarge]
Mostly what I've experienced from writing this blog is the thrill of communicating with the world.  I have readers from countries I'd never heard of, like Brunei Darussalam (I looked it up—it's in NW Borneo)!  The thought that someone on the other side of the world is reading a post I wrote just last night is a wonder of this new millennium.  It frequently doesn't seem real to me at all. 


One final thought: of course I'll die someday (and my nephew Adam has been designated to post a blog entry so stating), but as long as Google itself doesn't fail, this blog will be available forever.  That's another startling concept about the whole improbable undertaking.

I end as I began.  Thank you all for reading these postings that I love so much to write.


-------------------------------------------------
Related Posts:
"One Year of This Blog," December 19, 2010
"Muslin Atheist," March 16, 2011
"Going Undercover at an Ex-Gay Meeting," September 19, 2011
"An Atheist Interviews God," May 20, 2011
"The Sexy Promissory Note," August 17, 2010
"Benjamin Franklin Riding Shotgun," May 29, 2010
"How To Impress People in a Conversation," October 10, 2010
"How Many Homosexuals Are There in the World?", November 8, 2010
"The Left-Brain/Right-Brain Life," January 17, 2011
"Adventures in the Law School Classroom," September 10, 2011
"The Ohio State Hospital Nurses: A Letter to President Gordon Gee," July 21, 2011
"I Hate Meetings," October 31, 2011
"Zoo Stories," August 20, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Needed: Readers of the Final Draft of My Novel "Corbin Milk"

    .



Since my retirement in 2004, as readers of this blog may know, I've gone back to writing novels.  My first published novel, "Imaginary Friend" (available on both Amazon and Kindle) has been selling well since I put an ad for it in the December issue of Free Inquiry magazine.  That periodical is produced by the Council for Secular Humanism, and has a subscription base of 17,000; the ad for my atheist thriller will run for six issues, through next year. 


My second novel, "Corbin Milk" is still a work in progress.  I'm very close to saying that the current draft is the final one, but I'm still uneasy about the ending.  Some days I think the ending is perfect and on others I'm not so sure.  I guess it needs a few more eyes and suggestions, so I'm asking readers of this blog if any of them would be willing to download the novel, print it out, and read it.  I'd much appreciate hearing whatever feedback they have (paying particular attention to that pesky ending).  I'm also wondering what the cover should look like.

The novel concerns the adventures of a gay CIA agent, a handsome and very smart bodybuilder named Corbin Milk, for whom the CIA finds the most interesting uses. I got the idea for writing the novel while reading an article in The Advocate, the news magazine of the gay community. The article concerned an anonymous Army captain who was riding slowly through the streets of Bagdad on a tank during the liberation of that city when he locked eyes with a handsome Iraqi man standing on the street. Though it could have gotten them both in major trouble with their respective communities, the two men had a great times thereafter on a number of occasions. Surely, I thought, the CIA would see possibilities in the fact that gay sex is very far off the radar in a heterosexual world. In that world men and women are constantly aware of sexual tensions between two straight people, no matter what the setting—even in church, for example. But that world is more or less blind to similar gay encounters.

Mata Hari

Various snippets of "Corbin Milk" have appeared in this blog (see "Related Posts" below).  "The Thunderbolt" describes how Corbin met George Yancy, the love of his life, at a party in D.C., "How To Change Gay People Into Straight People," detailes George's attempts to become a heterosexual, and "Choose To Be Gay, Choose To Be Straight" reprints a segment of the novel about how the five year-old Corbin Milk discovered he was gay.

The novel, which has some gay sex scenes (written without much detail and with a possible straight readership in mind), started out as a thriller, and does, indeed, have numerous thrilling episodes, but to my surprise it's really a love story about two people struck dumb with their attraction to one another.  This is particularly inconvenient for Corbin, since a serious romance interferes with and threatens to destroy his very successful CIA career.  I should also mention that there's quite a bit of humor in this complicated tale.

If you're willing to help me out, send me an email (dglswhaley@aol.com) with a "Corbin Milk" Subject Line, and I'll send the novel back to you as an attachment.  I don't see myself trying to publish the book much sooner than the coming summer, so there's no great hurry in sending your thoughts and suggestions to me.

I extend my grateful thanks in advance to any of you willing to read and comment on this work in progress.  I love the story and I'd like to make it better.

----------------------------------------
Related Posts:
“The Thunderbolt,” September 3, 2010
"How To Change Gay People Into Straight People,” September 20, 2010
"Choose To Be Gay, Choose To Be Straight," January 25, 2011
“Imaginary Friend,” June 22, 2010 (About my atheist thriller novel)
“Explosion at Ohio Stadium,” October 9, 2010 (Chapter One of "Imaginary Friend")
"Escape From Ohio Stadium," November 2, 2010 (Chapter Two)
"Open Mouth, Insert Foot," November 21, 2010 (Chapter Three)
"The Presumption of Heterosexuality and the Invisible Homosexual," October 2, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Atheists, Christmas, and Public Prayers

    .
The President Publically Praying

The duplicate bridge club to which I belong has an annual "Holiday Dinner" at this time every year which includes both a meal and then a large-field bridge game.  At this year's event I was seated at dinner next to one the players, an older woman named Donna.  As the salad was served she remarked to me, "Last year, right about now, we had to sit through an 'Invocation' that sounded a lot like a prayer, and I hope that won't happen again."  Amused and interested, I asked Donna if she was an atheist, and she nodded vigorously.  Just then a microphone-enhanced voice from the head table announced it was time for the invocation.  Donna snorted in annoyance, and as we were all instructed that at this time of the year we should all feel grateful for the blessings conferred upon us by "Our Lord," she continued to eat her salad in determined defiance of the message.  I did not bow my head, as most people in the room automatically did, and when I looked around I noticed quite a number of other bridge players who were similarly nonconforming, looking stoically straight ahead until the invocation ended and the speaker moved on to  announcements of club business (including applause for those who organized the event, which was dutifully given by us all).

What should atheists do during public prayer?  Is it offensive to ignore it as if it weren't happening, as Donna did?  If she were asked, I'm sure she would reply that it's offensive to presume that everyone should participate in praise of a deity many present don't believe exists.  The next day I asked a Jewish friend of mine if a public prayer at Christmas time that mentions "Our Lord" bothers Jews, or if they pretend that those words refer only to the God of the Old Testament.  He replied that Jews have a long history of going along to get along, and that offending Christians hasn't worked out very well in the past.

The world is changing, and the number of people who are not religious is increasing.  Customs that presume otherwise should be rethought.  If I were the person who was running a public event of this kind, I would work hard to say something that would be inspiring but would offend no one.  Something like "We thanks you all for coming tonight, and in the spirit of joy and good will towards all that pervades this season, we hope everyone has a good time and increases the friendships this organization has long fostered.  Now to club business . . . ." 

Is this the secularization of Christmas?  Of course it is, and it's appropriate when those gathered together are not there to participate in a religious ceremony.  In an actual church, a sectarian prayer to the deity of choice is expected and participation is rightfully mandatory.  But in a public gathering, a prayer to, say, Jesus Christ, is an announcement that other religious views must bow to this one.  That's either insensitive if it's done without thinking of how it will be perceived by non-believers or those of another faith, or offensive if performed with awareness and conscious disregard of those who are not Christians.  In any case, a public prayer seems to announce that those present must either join in the prayer or suffer the contempt of those who do.

The Whaleys, Japan, 1955
I was raised a Catholic in a family that celebrated Christmas in the traditional Christian way.  My mother always took my sister and me to midnight mass, where hymns of praise were sung by us all (though my mother's famous inability to sing would cause some stares).  I enjoyed this magical time of the year and our family rituals (some being traditional and others being silly things like Mom coming home from that late mass and making fried baloney sandwiches for the four of us while we badgered her into agreeing to open "just one" gift each, inevitably leading to unwrapping all the booty).  When my sister and I became adults, living far from each other, these traditions died out.  My sister and I now exchange Xmas cards, and that's it (my parents are both dead).  With my chosen family in Columbus—all of them non-sectarians—we have a traditional Xmas meal, and give gifts to the children, while toasting each other with eggnog and stronger spirits.  Human beings have had rituals at the time of the winter solstice since civilization began, and we've created our own version from many sources, Christianity being but one of them.  A good time is had by all as we rejoice in friendship and love.

What does an atheist do if he/she is at a private home and a prayer is said at the start of the meal?  In such a situation I take great care not to draw attention to myself.  If "Let's bow our heads" is commanded, I don't do that, but I do look down, and that usually suffices.  In such situations I'm a guest in the home of religious people, and I respect their right to celebrate their faith at mealtime.  If asked, I say exactly that.  But if someone pushes it ("Don't you believe in God?") I smile ruefully and confess that "Alas, I'm a nonbeliever, but I'm grateful to be included in this lovely meal," and then change the subject to something else. 

What should a non-theist do if asked to give the prayer?  In the rare situations where this has occurred to me, I demure ("Please, I'd rather not") and request that someone else do it.  If it is insisted that I lead the prayer, I promptly bow my head, my hands in my lap, and intone something like this: "We are very grateful for this gathering of friends and the fine meal that has been prepared for us.  May we appreciate the blessings life has sent our way, and rejoice in them."  Someone almost always then says "Amen," at which point I smile happily and suggest we eat.  In such a private setting I don't push my non-belief on others, and can only hope they respect my right not to lie and participate in a paean to a God that is not mine.

---------------------------------------------
Related Posts:
“Catholicism and Me (Part One),” March 13, 2010
“Superstitions,”March 21, 2010
“Catholicism and Me (Part Two),” April 18, 2010
“How To Become an Atheist,” May 16, 2010
“Imaginary Friend,” June 22, 2010
“I Don’t Do Science,” July 2, 2010
“Explosion at Ohio Stadium,” October 9, 2010 (Chapter 1 of my novel)
“When Atheists Die,” October 17, 2010
"Escape From Ohio Stadium," November 2, 2010 (Chapter 2)
"Open Mouth, Insert Foot," November 21, 2010 (Chapter 3)
"Rock Around the Sun," December 31, 2010
"Muslim Atheist," March 16, 2011
"An Atheist Interviews God," May 20, 2011
"A Mormon Loses His Faith," June 13, 2011
"Is Evolution True?" July 13, 2011
" Urban Meyer and the Christian Buckeye Football Team," February 19, 2012
"Intelligent Design, Unintelligent Designer?", May 12, 2012
"My Atheist Thriller: Another Book Reading," May 17, 2012
"'The God Particle' and the Vanishing Role of God," July 5, 2012
“Update: Urban Meyer and the NON-Christian Buckeye Football Team,” August 24, 2012
“Atheists Visit the Creation Museum,” October 4, 2012
“Mitt Romney: A Mormon President?” October 17, 2012
“The End of the World: Mayans, Jesus, and Others,” December 17, 2012
"The Great Lakes Atheist Conference, Tornado Survivor Rebecca Vitsmun, and the Wonderful Barbara Williams," August 27, 2013
"Why Even Believers Should Read My Atheist Thriller ‘Imaginary Friend,’" October 29, 2013
"An Atheist at a Believer’s Funeral," January 13, 2014
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013


Monday, December 5, 2011

Finding Bobby Startup

          .
Bobby Startup, 1960



My first three years of high school were spent in a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee, at Donelson High School (1958-1960), before my family moved to Virginia and I had my senior year there.  During those three years my best friend was Robert Newton Startup, who lived three blocks away from my family's house in Donelson.  We were the greatest of friends, spending huge amounts of time together, laughing, getting into trouble, learning to smoke and drink, climbing in and out of windows to escape parents, and more.  His note written in my copy of the 1960 yearbook mentions "the road block with the broken leg, the days you didn't go to school, and the secret of the attic," among other adventures.  "The days you didn't go to school" is a a euphemism for our frequent cutting of classes, and "the road block with the broken leg" must refer to some incident I don't recall having to do with the leg I broke while roller skating when I was sixteen.

My Yearbook Photo, 1960
But here's the secret of the attic:
My father, Lt. Col. Robert Whaley, was stationed in Nashville for this period as the Air Force's liaison officer to the Civil Air Patrol.  The CAP was a private organization of people with their own air planes who would go into the air to help in certain situations: disasters, looking for missing cars, etc.  Of course the people who owned such air planes tended to be rich, and my father was one of the most charming humans on the planet, so he got along well with them all.  One of them, who owned a business that imported liquor, would send Dad a case of Johnnie Walker Red Label Scotch each year at Xmas time.  Dad, a scotch drinker, would open it up with delight.  Bobby and I discovered that the case contained 18 bottles, but it was easy to rearrange the cardboard dividers so that it looked like there were only supposed to be 12 bottles.  We'd do this, and spirit away six bottles, which we hid in the back of the attic (which could be accessed only through my bedroom on the second floor).  Decades later I asked Dad if he'd ever discovered this teenage theft, and he smiled ruefully and said that "no, you got away with one."  Johnnie Walker Red was the first hard liquor that Bobby and I had ever encountered, and we became quite fond it.  Through the years when people ask me how I became a scotch drinker, I smile and think of Bobby and I clinking our glasses together in that attic as we learned to appreciate fine scotch.

High School Football

He was a terrific friend and when I moved away we kept in touch for a couple of years, but then, as these things happen, we lost track of each other.





SF Public Library
Flash forward to 1982.  As I've described before in this blog (see "Related Posts" below), I spent the 1982-83 school year as a Visiting Professor at the University of California Hasting Law School in downtown San Francisco.  That fall I was teaching the first year in Contracts and I gave the students a practice exam, with the grades I assigned not counting anything—the idea was that they could get used to what a law school essay exam looks like and how it's graded.  I handed back the much-marked-up bluebooks in class and then told the students that their grades were posted on the door to my office (with coded numbers used instead of student names).  They rushed from the class to go examine the posting, and that presented me with a difficulty: I couldn't go back to my office until the crowd had cleared (and no one wants to talk to students who've just gotten their first grades in law school, even ones that don't count).  What to do?  The answer was to park my classroom books with the law school's front desk and walk around the beautiful city of San Francisco for awhile.  When I stepped out onto the sidewalk I realized that the SF Public Library was just across the street, and, a lover of libraries since a boy, I promptly went in.  Wandering around I discovered something called the "Telephone Book Room," which contained telephone books from across the country.  Hmm.  Who to look up?

Bobby, of course.  I pulled down the Nashville phone directory and under the entries for "Startup" I was delighted to find out that Bobby's grandmother was still alive and living at the same address of old.  I wrote down her phone number and called her that evening.  When she answered, I identified myself and said, "I know you won't remember me, Mrs. Startup, but when I was in high school, your grandson Bobby was my best friend."  She laughed and replied, "Of course, I remember you, Doug.  You and Bobby used to sit in my kitchen and devour cookies."  My next question was to ask for contact information for Bobby, and her voice lowered.  "I'm so sorry to tell you this, Doug, but Bobby died of cancer this past summer." 

I sat there stunned as Bobby's grandmother explained that Bobby had become a high school principal, had married and produced two (three?) children, and had died in Houston at the large medical center there which specializes in cancer.  Tears in my eyes, I declined her offer to put me in touch with Bobby's widow, who, I reasoned, didn't need to hear from more mourners. 

I can't tell you how deeply this startling information affected me.  It's the oddest thing, but I was depressed for two weeks.  I hadn't seen or even much thought about Bobby for many years, but neither had I written finis to our friendship, and the fact that he had just died (at age 39!) was a blow that flattened me all these years later.

In the 1960 Donelson High School yearbook Bobby had written a long note.  It concluded with this statement: "I hope our friendship will always be." 


-----------------------------------
Related Posts:
"With Tim in San Francisco—1982/1983," August 6, 2011
"Adventures in the Law School Classroom" September 10, 2011
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On Being Lucky: The Second Anniversary of My Heart Transplant

     .




I was born in 1943, right in the middle of World War II.  It was a bad time for the planet, but it occurred to me about six months ago that children born in the United States during the war were demographically lucky.  The famous "baby boomers" were born after the war when the soldiers and sailors came home, and they created this gigantic population bubble that was right behind me, but I didn't have to compete with them.  When I was ready for my education, the schools were not crowded.  When I wanted a job, they were readily available.  When I decided to go to law school, there weren't hoards of other applicants, so I was accepted by every school I applied to, mediocre academic record notwithstanding.


Today, November 23, 2011, I celebrate the second anniversary of my heart transplant (about which I've written a good deal—see "Related Posts" below).  As I did last year on this same occasion, reflecting on this medical miracle has caused me to review things.  I've come to a conclusion I'd never appreciated before: I've been lucky all my life.

Exiting a movie a couple of years ago with a friend, he commented that the angst of family life that was the core of the plot was very much like his own unhappy childhood, and, he speculated, "We can all relate to that."  I shook my head.  "No, I can't.  I had great parents, a wonderful sister, and couldn't have asked for a better upbringing."  He frowned.  "Then you were lucky."  Thinking about this at the time, I concluded he was right, and the happy family life I'd taken for granted is rarer than I'd understood.

As I've explained in various blog posts in the past, other stokes of chance improbably came my way.  At Dad's suggestion I joined the Navy right out of high school, did two years of active duty (1961-1963), and then used the G.I. Bill to partially pay for both college and law school.  I received my honorable discharge in 1967, just as the Vietnam War hotted up and inactive recruits were being recalled to active duty—my law school roommates were worried about the draft yanking them out of law school (and making snide remarks about the monthly checks I received from "Uncle Sugar").  When I entered law school I was alphabetically seated next to the man who would eventually graduate number one in a class of 500.  Because we became immediate friends (and still are), I simply did what he did, and ended up graduating 14th in that same class, giving me a stellar academic record that set me up for the law school teaching career that dropped in my lap, completely unsought, a year and a half after I graduated.  When I bought my first house, the G.I. Bill also helped me pay for it.


In 1971, I married Charleyne Adolay, an incredible woman, and we have an incredible son named Clayton.  Both of them will be coming to Columbus to spend Thanksgiving with me and my local, much loved, chosen family—Clayton and his wife Maria are flying in from Seattle, and Charleyne is driving over from Indianapolis.  I've had two male partners, David and Jerry, and we're all still good friends.  David and I had lunch this summer when I badgered him to start selling things on eBay, and Jerry (who now lives in Las Vegas) sent me an email two days ago stating that my story about "Wake Up, Mr. Tree" (part of the recent "Potpourri #1" blog post) has mysteriously changed through repeated tellings (which, incidentally, I dispute).  So I've known both love and my own happy families.  Jerry and I once threw a party at which I suddenly noticed him in the kitchen talking to both David and Charleyne, all of them laughing at something.  I broke that up damn fast before they could get to comparing notes.

Things have gone very well for Old Doug on many other levels.  I've had a satisfying career as a law professor (publishing books used nationwide, being voted teaching awards, etc.), did my part for gay rights (getting in on the ground floor of the creation of one of Ohio's leading gay rights organizations), and, in a small way, have become a respected local actor.  I've published a novel, created an album of comic songs I wrote, played in bridge tournaments, and have an international reputation as an expert on Gilbert and Sullivan.  This blog, started in December of 2009, shortly after the transplant, has been the latest joy in my life, with thousands of visitors from155 different countries reading my eclectic musings.

All of this good fortune in life does not mean I've not known trouble.  As this blog explains in detail, I've had misfortunes (delayed puberty, major health troubles, etc.) and made big mistakes (see "Mama Cat Saves My Life").  "Luck", of course, sometimes means bad luck.  But I've gotten through all these things, and some of the recoveries were themselves lucky.

And then came the heart transplant of two years ago.  Oh, that was very lucky indeed!  Let me explain:


This past summer I was in the hospital making a quick recovery from the "Mama" incident, and one of the heart transplant nurses asked me if I would talk to another patient, named Jim, who was in a room right down the hall from me, waiting for his own transplant.  She said he was so ill that he was currently at the top of the waiting list for a new heart.  I was pleased to go talk with him, and Jim (plus his wife, who was in the room when I arrived) proved to be interesting, informative, and, given that he was clearly on the verge of death, surprisingly upbeat.  The Ohio State Ross Heart Hospital transplant doctors had recently rejected two proffered hearts because they didn't seem healthy enough.  Jim told me that in the past year Ross had lost two transplant patients on the operating table when the proffered hearts had failed to start.  This statistic amazed me.  Ross had only lost one patient to a bad heart in the five years before I received mine (I'd checked).  Jim said he thought the doctors were determined not to have that awful event reoccur, but he was hopeful a good heart would be found for him soon.  I wished him luck.  When I asked the same nurse recently if Jim had gotten his new heart, she said no, but that he'd been given a temporary mechanical heart regulator for the interim.

When I received my heart two years ago, I was not that seriously ill (I was sitting at home working at the computer when the call came), and, indeed, had been told I likely wouldn't get a heart until January of 2010.  It was just luck that no one more seriously ill than I was qualified for the heart that did become available just before Thanksgiving, 2009.  This heart was brought from a hospital one mile from Ross (proffered hearts can come from as far away as New York), and the doctor who retrieved it later told me that when he first saw it he said to himself, "This is a beautiful heart!"  It began beating as soon as the doctors started my blood flowing, which is rare; normally some sort of stimulation is required.  It's beating perfectly in my chest as I type this two years later.


Summing up this post: I've simply had incredible luck throughout my life, and only recently has this fact struck home.  I can only hope this good fortune continues, but if it doesn't at least I've had a great ride for over 68 years.


Finally, I also reflect today on the life of Andrew, the 27 year-old doctoral student in Philosophy at Ohio State, whose tragic death on November 22, 2009, permitted me to live.  Not a day goes by but I think of him with gratitude for his heart and sadness at his death (four people received five of his organs, and multiple others were given tissue transplants!).  I've become friends with his wonderful mother and stepfather, and my heart goes out to them and all his family on this anniversary. 



----------------------------------
Related Posts:
"The Purring Heart," November 23, 2010 (first anniversary of the transplant)
"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
"The Very Young Douglas Whaley," October 11, 2010
“My Competitive Parents,” January 20, 2010
"My Mother's Sense of Humor," April 4, 2010
"Douglas Whaley, Deckhand," December 22, 2010
“How I Became a Law Professor,” January 27, 2010
"I Married a Hippy," April 14, 2010
"Charleyne and the Giant Cookie," September 19, 2010
"The Aging Gay Rights Activist," March 24, 2010
"Going Through Puberty at Age 23," May 23, 2011
"The First time I Nearly Died," August 3, 2010
“Imaginary Friend,” June 22, 2010 (my novel)
"Strange Songs, Inc.," September 29, 2010 (my album)
"The World's Greatest Game [Bridge] Needs You," June 20, 2011
"Douglas Whaley, Actor," August 14, 2010
"A Fanatic's Tale (This Isn't Pretty)," April 11, 2010 (Gilbert and Sullivan)
"One Year of This Blog," December 19, 2010
"Mama Cat Saves My Life," October 23, 2011
"Potpourri #1," November 15, 2011
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Potpourri #1

      .

The following is collection of little pieces that, taken singly, are too short for a decent-size blog entry.  I call this post "Potpourri #1" on the theory that at some point there will be a sequel, possibly many.  Send complaints to stop this if you want no more.



1.  "Wake Up, Mr. Tree"


When Jerry and I were at the start of our twelve years together (see "Recidivist" in Related Posts, below), he was still in law school.  But three days a week he didn't have morning classes, while I did.  After we moved in together, I'd rise and he'd stay in bed.  When I commented on this, his reply was "I'm not getting up unless you can sing 'Wake Up, Mr. Tree."  This stumped me until he explained that when he was little (Jerry was born in 1959) there was a Columbus TV children's show called "Lucy's Toy Shop."  In each show the children would wake up a seven foot tall tree puppet by singing this song to it.  Since, alas, I didn't know the song, Jerry could pull up the covers and return to sleep. 

Lucy's Toy Shop

[Click to enlarge]
This was nonsense, of course, but the sort of whimsy that made our relationship interesting.  Hmm.  I had an idea.  I went to class that very day and announced to the 75 or so students, "I have a chance to play a great practical joke if I can learn to sing 'Wake Up, Mr. Tree.'  Can anyone help me?"  I was amazed that four students came up after class, formed a little chorus, and sang the song to me with much enthusiasm.  One of them, a former music major, came by my office and presented me with sheet music she'd written out of the song itself (see photo).  That evening, when Jerry was out, I sat at the piano and picked out the melody (I write songs, and have even put out an album of them—see "Strange Songs" below).  I rehearsed it a couple of times (it's certainly not complicated), and  the next morning when Jerry and I repeated the above dialogue for the second day, I promptly plunged into the song and sang it with some vigor. 

"How did you do that?" Jerry asked, jaw dropped. 

"I have mysterious talents," I replied.  "Get up."



2.  Sodomy in Arkansas


            Sam Price, who lives in California, is a friend of mine.  He has a discerning eye and quite a sense of humor.  Here is an example of both:


Letter to the Editor, San Francisco Sentinel, July 16, 1992

            In your issue of July 9, you quote the Arkansas definition of sodomy: "The penetration, however slight, of the vagina or anus of an animal or a person by any member of a person of the same sex or an animal."


            I would like to point out that if you take this statute to mean exactly what it actually says, you will reach two surprising conclusions:



1)  In Arkansas, sex between people and animals is perfectly legal, provided the person and the animal are of different sexes!


2)  In Arkansas, whenever two animals fuck, they are both guilty of sodomy!


                                                                                    Sam Price
                                                                                    Berkely, CA


A Crime in Arkansas?


3.  On Being a Chicago Cubs Fan

Wrigley Field in 1908
When I moved to Chicago in 1968 to begin practicing law, I often went out to Wrigley Field to watch the Chicago Cubs play baseball. This was a great time for the Cubs, with famous players like third baseman Ron Santo, pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, outfielder Billy Williams. and the manager Leo Durocher, though in both that year and the next the Cubs failed to advance to the World Series (again).  Sports aficionados among my readers will know that the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series in 1908, a longer championship drought than that of any other major North American professional sports team.  Known as the "Loveable Losers," they've routinely disappointed their fans ever since.  In 2007 and 2008, for example, the Cubs had wonderful baseball seasons (having the best record in all of baseball in 2007 as the regular season closed), but as soon as the playoffs started, the Cubs were immediately eliminated (sigh).  Season after season, I've felt like Charlie Brown as I've vainly rooted for the Cubs to finally restore themselves to the glory of 1908.  Sick at heart, I've now adopted a new rule: I won't start watching Cubs games after the first one unless they have at least a .500 winning record.  That rule has changed me from someone who would once watch around 60 games a year to someone who's watched only about three since 2008.  In 2011, the Cubs, with one of the biggest budgets in major league baseball, were awful.

            If you're a Cubs fan, people (even usually nice people) will make fun of you.  I regularly play poker with a group of lawyers (most of them former students) and when baseball season rolls around, I steel myself for the inevitable Cubs jokes.  They mostly root for the Cincinnati Reds or the Cleveland Indians, hardly exemplars of baseball renown, and it's depressing to have them snub the Cubs. 

            A couple of years ago, Free Inquiry, the magazine of Secular Humanist Society, had an article in which one of the questions addressed was whether atheists should proselytize their lack of faith.  The author (with whom I disagree) decided the answer was no.  He ruefully concluded that some people should be left with their illusions undisturbed, like "entrepreneurs, lovers, and Chicago Cubs fans."

            That hurt.

[For an update on this portion of the post see "My Sad Tale of Being a Chicago Cubs Fan," May 27, 2015; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2015/05/my-sad-tale-of-being-chicago-cubs-fan.html]
--------------------------------------------------------
Related Posts:
" How I Became a Law Professor," January 27, 2010
" How To Become an Atheist," May 16, 2010
" Recidivist: A Criminal Who Does It Again," September 10, 2010
" Strange Songs, Inc.," September 29, 2010
" Football Advice for Coach Jim Tressel," October 23, 2010
"The Marina City Party Crowd," January 13, 2011
" Basketball and Its Announcers," March 6, 2011
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013