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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;]
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

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Good Sex, Bad Sex: Advice on Making Love


In this blog I've sometimes discussed things I'm bad at ["The Many Faults of Douglas Whaley," "The Only Course I Ever Flunked," and "Mama Cat Saves My Life" are just three examples—see Related Posts below], but I've always had a robust sex life, even---in my twenties---with women.  I once had a couple of dates with a man who lived in Cincinnati (well, "dates" is a euphemism here), and on one visit to that city he took me to a party of his friends.  As he introduced me to the small crowd, he frankly announced, "He isn't much to look at, but—wow—is he hot sex!"  I was both offended and flattered at the same moment.  That very evening I suddenly figured out that he made his living as a thief ("I can get you an almost-new TV at a great price!") and we parted company forever, hot sex be damned.

When it comes to making love I have the same philosophy mentioned in this blog for the following things: teaching law, impressing people in a conversation, and acting.  The guiding principle is this: try to see the whole process from the point of view of the other person (the student, the interlocutor, the audience).  When I'm teaching, what I'm engaged in is not performing for the class and trying to convince them what a good instructor I am; it's about their learning the things they'll need to become first class lawyers.  When I'm trying to impress someone I'm talking to, I don't hog the conversation but try to keep it focused largely on that person ("Is it true you are friends with the Governor?").  On stage I've learned that showing off my talents for the audience is a mistake; instead I should ask myself "What are they seeing, learning, feeling about what my character is experiencing?" 

Good sex comes from a similar focus on your partner's desires and reactions.  From the very first moment zero in on making the other person know that in your eyes he/she is sexy, enticing, overwhelming you with desire.  Start with a compliment along those lines.  If your partner is a beauty, say so, and say it again as you proceed.  If he/she is not beautiful, then concentrate on the trait you do find desirable ("You have the sexiest smile!") and highlight that.  Don't fake this—if you want to go to bed with this person there must be something about him/her that attracts you, or, if not, why bother?

But making love is not about talking.  It's a right-brain activity, purely physical, and realizing that and what it means is the key to good sex.  In this blog (see Related Posts below) I've written about using the right side of your brain more effectively, and nowhere is this more important than in the bedroom.  The left side of your brain is concerned with words and numbers—matters that have nothing to do with good sex.  But the right brain understands the art of the touch, what a moan of desire conveys, and the startling thrill of an unexpected move.  When making love avoid the usual (boring) way of doing things and ask your right-brain if there isn't something different, surprising, or amazing that your partner will find sensual and exciting.  Your right-brains should "talk" to each other through the sexual acts—a carnal conversation.

Should you begin fast or slow?  Well, the one rule about sex is that there are no rules when it comes to sex; do what is right for the moment and right for the two of you.  There are couples who want sex hard and heavy from the moment they see each other, and encounters between them start with clothes flying in all directions as bodies collide.  But usually a slow approach is best: a gentle touch, a kiss on the neck, a finger moving sensuously against an area that is rarely touched by another.  But whatever you do and however you do it, see everything from the point of view of your partner.  Is he/she thrilled by what is going on?  What will excite him/her the most?  Study your partner's reaction.  If you hear "YES!" muttered when you do something, keep at it, give your partner more, and then step it up a notch.  But if your partner is squirming, not happy, or distracted, do something else.  Pleasing your partner is the goal, so judge his/her receptivity carefully.  Should your partner make a suggestion or indicate by a physical movement what should happen next, go for that (assuming it's within your own desires). 

What about kinky sex?  Well, as I said in the last paragraph, there are no rules about sex (except the criminal laws against rape, etc.), but if you want to do something that's outside the norm get your partner's permission ahead of time—don't try it without warning.  You may be very surprised (even shocked) as to what your partner would really like to try.  Before the sexual encounter gets underway, bring up your proposed scenario.  Ask "Have you ever considered ______?" (filling in the interesting blank with the desired fetish).  Watch the reaction.  If your partner looks concerned or disgusted, drop it and make sure he/she knows it isn't going to happen.  But if you get a smile, a nod, or a suggestion on how to improve the fun, well, blog reader, game on!  Sexual adventurers can lead very, very happy lives. 

If you and your partner have made love many times and that part of your lives is getting stale (or non-existent) it's time to shake things up.  Mechanical, paint-by-the-numbers sex is bad sex.  Sit down with your partner and ask if he/she would be willing to try something new.  Suggest something yourself or—even better—ask your partner what he/she has always wanted to explore.  When trying to think of ideas, dig down into your own deep, dark urges.  Is that a scary thought, blog reader?  Why?  Assuming what you want to do is safe, sane, and consensual, why the hell not try it?  Let me also give you permission to explore possibilities you've never thought about.  Type "sex toys" into Google, for example, and a whole new world will open up for you and the person you love.  Are you too staid, too mired in your habits to consider doing this?  Get over it.

We don't train people in how to have sex, and that's unfortunate because it means that one of the most enjoyable things you can do on the Planet Earth must be self-taught.  It's easy to get bad advice or misinformation about sex from movies, TV, novels, conversations you heard or mis-heard in high school or on Facebook, and to settle for "common understandings" about what happens in a sexual encounter, or, worse, to treat sex as if it were a test you must pass.  If you think that sex is a routine event with routine actions that's wrong.

When making love, you and your partner are allowed to enjoy every moment.  Give yourself permission to do that and you won't miss out on one of life's greatest pleasures.
Related Posts:
“The Socratic Dialogue in Law School,” January 31, 2010
"The Many Faults of Douglas Whaley," March 31, 2010
"Douglas Whaley, Actor," August 14, 2010
“The Thunderbolt,” September 9, 2010
"How To Impress People in a Conversation," October 1, 2010
"Men, Women, and Pornography," December 10, 2010
"The Left-Brain/Right-Brain Life," January 17, 2011
"Seducing Straight Men," March 3, 2011
"Life's Little (But Important) Rules," April 23, 2011
"The Only Course I Ever Flunked," July 25, 2011
"Mama Cat Saves My Life," October 23, 2011
“The Thrill of a Touch,”August 14, 2012
"Fifty Shades of Grey: Corbin Milk in the BDSM World," December 26, 2012
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013