Showing posts from January, 2011

I Am an 89 Year-Old Russian Jew

Well, not really, but I will shortly be on the stage portraying one. It all came about like this. A few weeks ago I was sent an email by Richard Albert, Artistic Director of the newly-created Columbus Civic Theater, asking me if I would be interested in auditioning for the part of the furniture dealer in a production of Arthur Miller's play "The Price." Since I had never communicated with Mr. Albert before, nor heard of the Columbus Civic Theater (this is just its tenth show), and, truth be told, had never even read the play, I was nonplussed by this unexpected email. Since I collect plays (I own thousands), I investigated my shelves and discovered I owned three copies (I've always been a great fan of Arthur Miller), so I sat down and read it.

"The Price" is a four-person play about two brothers and the wife of one of them who are faced with having to make a fast sale of their deceased father's old furniture, so they summon an 89 year-old Russian Jew …

The Duckball Team Goes to London

On Sunday, February 13, 1977, when I was still quite new to the gay experience (having finally come out the year before), I went to a Valentine Day Party here in Columbus, Ohio. Not long into the evening I glanced around and saw a man standing some distance away to whom I was immediately strongly attracted. By that I don't mean that he was beautiful or the epitome of my sexual fantasies, but simply that I knew getting to know him was very, very important. We were meant to be together. I know this sounds like "Some Enchanted Evening," and I can't help that. It just happened. I walked over to him and asked if I could borrow a cigarette (he was smoking, and this sort of opening gambit was very common in 1977, when everybody smoked). His name was David, and, luckily, he had the same overwhelming reaction to me. The Italians call this phenomenon "The Thunderbolt," and I assure you it's quite real. By the end of that week we were living together.

But there w…

Choose To Be Gay, Choose To Be Straight

I've been reading a book that explores Uganda's current attempt to pass the "Anti-Homosexuality Bill." The new law is quite sweeping: three years in prison for failing to report someone discovered to be homosexual, seven years for any sort of "promotion" (homosexual rights advocacy, including acknowledgment that homosexuality even exists), life imprisonment for one homosexual act, and death for "aggravated homosexuality" (defined to include sex while HIV-positive, sex with a disabled person, or sex more than one time). When the proponents of this measure (which is very popular) are asked why such a draconian penalty is appropriate, their reply always points to the demonic choice a "homo" (a current slang word in Uganda) makes to be gay. Besides, they point out, most Ugandans who learn someone is homosexual simply kill him/her, so the statute is actually a boon to the gay miscreant. Certainly if the statute is finally passed everyone in …

Bob Whaley Trapped in Panama

As I've related before (see "Bob and Kink Get Married," June 2, 2010), my father, Robert Whaley, left college in his senior year (the spring of 1941) to become a pilot in the Army Air Corps (which became the U. S. Air Force by war's end). He married my mother, LeNore, six days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and then spent six months in training before volunteering for a "special mission," which turned out to be flying drones from another plane over the Panama Canal to simultaneously test radio-controlled aircraft in tropical salt air and run live target high altitude training missions for anti-aircraft troops. This was not the sort of thing Dad had envisioned as his major contribution to fighting the Nazis, so he spent the war vainly writing transfer requests for combat duty.

In another prior post, Robert Whaley himself described some of his adventures in Panama, where he crashed a plane when the controls locked up while he was trying to fly …

The Left-Brain/Right-Brain Life

Here's a challenge: look at the display above and, as quickly as you can, say out loud the color of each of the words (not the word itself).  Try it.
Hard to do, right?  Why is it so difficult?  The reason has to do with how the two sides of your brain work, and in this exercise they are in conflict as they battle over the correct verbal expression.  

Or, consider this common difficulty:  you hop in your car, meaning to drive to the grocery store, but you're distracted by other problems and suddenly realize that instead of driving to the store you’ve instead been traveling the usual route to work.  Swearing under your breath, you turn the car around and head in the right direction.  What happened here?
In the 1970s I became very interested in the workings of the brain, and once I began reading how the two sides of the brain operate, what I learned has informed my life ever since.  Forty or more times each day (no exaggeration) I reference this dichotomy when addressing problems b…

The Marina City Party Crowd

In June of 1968 I graduated from law school and drove my little white VW bug to Chicago to begin practicing law with a major law firm there. I wanted to live downtown and walk to work (I sold the car on arrival), so I rented an apartment in the brand new Marina City Towers. The two Towers, amusingly shaped like corncobs, are sixty stories tall (an extension in the middle of each goes up another five stories for a penthouse), with the bottom twenty stories being devoted to parking. The towers, made of cement, border the Chicago River just where it empties into Lake Michigan, all of this a block away from Michigan Avenue and the famous "Magnificent Mile." Wikipedia has this to say about the buildings:

"Marina City apartments are unique in containing almost no interior right angles. On each residential floor, a circular hallway surrounds the elevator core, which is 32 feet (10 m) in diameter, with 16 pie-shaped wedges arrayed around the hallway. Apartments are composed of…

Women in My Law School Classroom

When I was in law school, women were rarities. They were clearly second-class citizens, treated very differently from the men (who were the "real" students). Professor Charles Alan Wright, who later represented President Nixon before the Supreme Court during the Watergate scandal, had an announced policy of not calling on female students ("I never ask a woman a question when I don't know what she'll answer," he explained to the chuckles of everyone, women included). Female students in law school, if interviewed about what it was like to be there, said things like "I know I'm taking a man's place, and so I have to be sure I'm deserving." There was the annual "Portia" award given to the female law student thought to be most beautiful; in 1967 now Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison was the winner, a fact I rather doubt is mentioned on her resume. There was nothing strange about this and no one questioned it. It was simply a different…

Fear of Public Speaking and How To Overcome It

Public speaking comes naturally to some people, but for many others it's a terrifying prospect to stand before a group of people and give a talk. I've made my living doing that, and I've learned a lot about what helps and what does not. This post is designed to give you basic tips on how to calm yourself down and make the best presentation you have in you.

In prior posts I have reprinted snippets of my novel-in-progress "Corbin Milk," which is about a gay CIA agent who uses the fact that he is gay to do undercover work for the agency. [See "The Thunderbolt," September 3, 2010, for more of his background and the short segment of the novel when he meets George Yancey, with whom he falls in love.] The portion of the novel that follows occurs when Corbin, having just completed a very successful assignment dealing with a Russian leader who was secretly gay, takes George home with him for Christmas to meet his family in Sacramento:

When George returned to t…