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Thursday, December 31, 2015

A New Motto: “I’ve Ceased To Care”

After we had known each other about two years my husband David and I were talking about some minor news item and he commented, “I’ve ceased to care.”  That sounded familiar to me and I must have looked puzzled because he smiled and added, “You say that all the time.”  Hmm.  That must be why it sounded familiar.

Since then I have noticed myself using it more and more, and it’s a handy little phrase to have at the ready whenever you realized you’re involved in something that’s a waste of time, no matter how promisingly it started.   Mutter “I’ve ceased to care” to yourself and you suddenly have the freedom to move on to something worth exploring.

The problem is that in the 21st century we’re constantly pounded by a blizzard of information in the form of social media, television, apps, news, printing on boxes, music, phone calls—the list is endless.  Much of this is fascinating and addictive.  Facebook, for example, which I used to scorn, can now reel me in like a fish, and hours later I look up and realize I’ve looked at one too many fascinating videos or discussions or startling ideas.  Sure there’s a lot of meaningless crap, but also the wonders of our civilization are presented seriatim until the brain rebels.  I find it very useful to blow the whistle on this by announcing to myself that I’ve ceased to care, at which point I rise stiffly from my current position and see whether my blood still knows how to flow.

But this experience is not limited to the internet.  I’m a longtime subscriber to Time Magazine, and I still find it informative.  But when I start into pithy articles and then realize that the article is going to go on for more pages than I want to read, the words “I’ve ceased to care” give me permission to skip to the next article. Extending this idea I’ve learned to snap off TV programs and even walk out of movies.

We only have so much time on the planet, and we should harvest that time so it is as productive and entertaining as we can make it.  Allowing ourselves to wade knee deep in trivia is messy, tedious, and embarrassing.

Of course you could say a number of other things other than “I’ve ceased to care.”   Some people routinely exclaim, “I couldn’t care less,” which is fine (I suspect it arose as a way of dressing up the simple comment of “I don’t care”).  The problem is that many people—even, alas, learned people—have shortened the phrase to “I could care less,” which means the opposite of what they intend (and annoys listeners who care about the English language).  [I’ve complained about this before; see “Picking Your Battles: The Meaning of Words”;]  The image below explains the difficulty. 

I was playing bridge at a tournament recently and Jane Witherspoon, a terrific partner whom I haven’t known long, between rounds was sitting with two men who were arguing in an animated fashion.  Seeing me coming, she rose to join me.  “What was that about?” I asked her.  “Oh,” she responded, “it was a disagreement on the origin of religion—but I’ve ceased to care.”  Then she smiled at me and we went off to play the next hand.

Related Posts:

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

“Picking Your Battles: The Meaning of Words,” July 3, 2011; 

“Pronouncing ‘2012’,” December 31, 2011;

“How To Stop Saying ‘You Know’,” April 28, 2012;

“Is It Okay Not To Use Proper English?” August 10, 2013;

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Happy Atheist

When I say “happy atheist” in the title of this post I don’t mean that all atheists are happy, but that most atheists are happy about being atheists.  Other than that attitude, atheists may be as happy or as miserable about the other aspects of their life as other human beings.

If you ask the public at large what atheists’ lives are like, you will get a list of adjectives, but I would bet a large amount that “happy” wouldn’t be among them.  If you ask atheists themselves how they feel about being an atheists, most would smile and say they feel fine, and are . . . well, yes, “happy” about it.

This might sound shocking or at least improbable to theists.  In the view of many religious people the only route to happiness is a firm belief in some sort of god or at least a spiritual existence beyond this world.  Asked what life would be like with no such belief, they usually envision bleak and sad drudgery.

From the atheist’s viewpoint the opposite is true.  A religious life is one spent wasting much of one’s limited time on this planet dealing with a fantasy: praying, going to church/synagogue/mosque, Bible/Torah/Quran studies, many meetings discussing various activities designed to buck up the religious model, etc.  Identify yourself as religious and family, neighbors, friends, associates, casual strangers will police you to see if you’re in compliance with the demands of your religion’s requirements for conduct, appearance, utterances, and much, much more.  And all of this—atheists believe—comes with no reward other than conformity with demands of those with similar beliefs and the warm fuzziness that some religious myths provide (your dead loved ones will someday welcome you into heaven, clapping you on the back and handing you a harp).

But when religious people die, atheists contend, the same thing happens to them as happens to nonbelievers: their existence terminates and it’s all over.  No god, no heaven, no harp, nothing.

Yes, theists get some comfort in believing in an afterlife, easing the path to one’s death.  But surely most theists also worry—even if they never articulate the thought—that their beliefs are wrong and maybe there’s nothing after life, so their “comfort” on their deathbed is muddied  by that possibility.  If this were not so why wouldn’t death always be an event to celebrate?  Why would survivors mourn for the dead if they have gone to a “better place”?

Consider then that atheists are free of all this metaphysical angst and can get on with making this life as pleasant as possible.  While doing so atheists have no time-consuming religious duties, so their lives contain more leisure for pursuing things worth enjoying here and now.  I have argued before in this blog that they even die well;

see “When Atheists Die,” October 17, 2010;

This morning’s newspaper contained a letter to the editor commenting that Stalin was a “practicing atheist.”  Hmm.  I don’t know what that means.  How do you “practice” atheism?  The writer is treating atheism as just another sort of religion, something one does.  But that can’t be true.  Atheism, by definition, is not for something, it’s against a belief in a god: a-theism.  Here the “a” is the same “a” as in asymptomatic, arrhythmic, asexual.  It denotes the absence of a belief in god, but doesn’t espouse anything in its place.  Some wag once commented that calling atheism a “religion” is like saying “bald is a hair color.”  I suppose what the writer to the editor meant was that Stalin headed a regime that forbade religious beliefs (hence “atheistic”)—and that, of course, is to be condemned by everyone.  I’m a lawyer and I strongly believe in freedom of religion.  I also believe that right includes freedom from religion.  Our courts have agreed: civil rights laws forbidding discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs protect atheists as well as theists.
The atheist movement doesn’t include a goal of forbidding religion (though it urges all people to think seriously about the wisdom of such beliefs), but instead concentrates on making sure that governments respect all beliefs about religion, including the right not to participate in religious practices.  Thus atheists can’t be fired for their non-belief, nor can their children be forced to pledge allegiance to God, nor can religious rituals (like prayer) be part of governmental ceremonies or public education.  Atheists do bring lawsuits to keep religion from spreading from the private sector into public affairs.  Just as Stalin was wrong to forbid religious practices, religions are wrong to insist that everyone bow their heads and at least pretend to pray in public buildings. I am furious when this happens to me, and even in private non-religious meetings I can fume at the presumption that everyone present is a Christian [see my blog post “Atheists, Christmas, and Public Prayers,” December 9, 2011;]

There are some atheists who do miss the social aspects of church activities, and these folks have begun organizing Sunday meetings for atheists where non-believers can hear talks and meet other atheists and discuss current problems that concern secularists.  I’ve not been to any of these gatherings, and I’m not going either.  I was raised a Catholic (see “Related Posts” below) and, unlike many of my fellows, I hated church, finding it pointless even when I was very young.  I’m told by atheist friends who attend these nonreligious versions of church that, good intentions aside, they are typically pretty dreary affairs.

Most atheists don’t join atheist organizations (though there are a lot of such groups, many doing important work to combat the excesses of religion).  Most atheists don’t even mention their atheism unless pressed, and sometimes even then they’ll lie and pretend to be theistic just to get along with neighbors or family.  Most atheists consider their nonbelief as a very minor part of who they are, but to the extent they think about it at all they’re usually happy they aren’t caught up in the religious trap.

And that’s what I meant by the title of this post.

Related Posts:

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

“Atheists Visit the Creation Museum,” October 4, 2012;

“An Atheist’s Christmas Card,” December 23, 2011;

“An Atheist Interviews God,” May 20, 2010;

“How To Become an Atheist,” May 16, 2010;

Monday, November 30, 2015

Go, Ben, Go: Why I Want Ben Carson To Win the Republican Nomination

[Click To Enlarge]

My husband observed the other day that it looks like Ben Carson is always stoned when he speaks.  That made me laugh because it’s true.  Ben’s soft, measured delivery is perfectly consistent with having just had a couple of deep tokes from a banger joint, and then struggling for coherence as he expresses deep thoughts. 

It would also explain some of those messy musings.  Witness his take on the total absence of homeless people:  “Nobody is starving on the streets.  We’ve always taken care of them.  We take care of our own; we always have.  It is not the government’s responsibility.”  You see?  In Ben’s world there are no starving people, so government shouldn’t create a problem where, by golly, none exists.

Or his take on homosexuality, which he says must be “chosen behavior” since men go into prison straight but come out gay.  And on gay marriage, which he conflates with bestiality and the practices of the National Man/Boy Love Association, which openly advocates pedophilia:  “My thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s a well-established, fundamental pillar of society, and no group — be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality — it doesn’t matter what they are — they don’t get to change the definition.”  Well, after a drag or two of good weed that all fits together.

[Adapted from a Taylor Jones drawing]

Ben is a man of science, right?  A neurosurgeon ought to understand biology, right?  But Ben doesn’t believe in evolution, nor does he understand even vaguely how evolution is said to work.  It just sounds like gobbeldygook to him, so he laughs and makes fun of anyone who could possibly believe such nonsense.  [Alas, this is true of many of the Republican candidates.]  For Ben Carson God supplies the answers and we need look no further than the Bible for guidance on all issues, evolution thus being clearly wrong.

Ben has also said that Obamacare, which he really hates, is more tragic for the nation than 9/11, and added another apt historical comparison: “You know Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control.”  He then doubled-down on this nonsense by commenting “I think what’s happening with the veterans is a gift from God to show us what happens when you take layers and layers of bureaucracy and place them between the patients and the health care provider. And if we can’t get it right, with the relatively small number of veterans, how in the world are you going to do it with the entire population?”

Strangely enough I do not fault Ben Carson for misremembering his own history (whether he was offered a scholarship to West Point, or met with Westmoreland, etc.).  All Ben is guilty of there is confabulation, a mental trick I’ve written about before that makes all of us mindlessly rewrite our memories and then believe them to the point where we’d pass a lie detector test [see “We All Are Brian Williams: Confabulation Muddles Our Stories,” April 20, 2015;].  Every single candidate running for the Presidency is guilty of this same confusion, as is everyone reading this, so I give Ben a pass on his faulty memory.

This presidential election I’ll confess to being something of a Yellow Dog Democrat.  The phrase refers to someone who’s so partial to voting for Democrats that if the Democrats nominated a yellow dog, they would vote for that dog.  Sure, on the rare occasion in my life I’ve voted for a moderate Republican, but that species has died out so I won’t have a chance to do that again.  And once or twice there’s been a Democratic candidate for some office so bad that I couldn’t pull the lever to support the jerk.  But for the 2016 election the Democrats aren’t running a yellow dog.  They’re going to run Hilary Clinton, and she’ll make a fine president.  I’m sure hoping the Republicans nominate one of the current clowns in the running, and Ben is my very favorite opponent for Hilary.  She’d stomp him flat, probably 90-10 in the final tally.  Hell, a good looking yellow dog would also likely beat him.  So my chant is "Go, Ben, Go!"  

In a future post I’ll switch to “Go, Donald, Go!” with similar (perhaps even greater) enthusiasm.

Related Posts:

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

“Ohio To Put Guns in Baby Strollers,” June 17, 2012;

 “Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade,” August 17, 2012;

“Killing the Filibuster and Letting the Majority Rule in the Senate,” December 31, 2013;

“How To Get Rid of Your Student Loans,” June 13, 2013;

“The Shame of Republicans in Congress,” March 23, 2015;


Why I Love Bernie Sanders’ Ideas, But Hope He Won’t Be the Nominee,” October 30, 2015;

Monday, November 23, 2015

Six Years Ago Today They Cut My Heart From My Chest

Yes, they did, and I assume they threw it away.  That Monday was, just like today, the Monday before Thanksgiving, the November 23rd of 2009.  I was dying of an enlarged heart, and had had atrial fibullation for over a decade, sometimes wondering if the irregularity of my heartbeat would cause me to collapse in front of my law school class. I was of course hoping not, but, you have to admit, it would be a hell of an exit.  However on that Monday I was still up and breathing after ten months on the transplant list, and happily sitting at my computer at 10:30 in the morning when the phone rang.  The pleasant female voice on the other end calmly said, “Mr. Whaley, we have a heart for you.”

Now, readers, that was the most startling sentence I’ve ever heard in my life, and my old heart started thumping in my chest as if it weren’t going to wait for the transplant, but escape immediately, say through the throat.  The doctors had said that I wasn’t likely to get a new heart (if at all) until 2010, some months away.  That seemed far off.  It was one thing to think “next year” and another to realize that TODAY—stay with me here—they were going to cut open my chest!!!!  They were going to cut out my heart!!!!  AND they were going to insert the heart of a stranger!!!!

By midnight I had a new heart and eight days later I was home.  Modern medicine works miracles so casually sometimes.

I have written about this incredible day before [see About “That Heart Transplant,” January 24, 2010;], so I won’t go into the details as I did then.  There are other tales in Recent Posts below that add much to the story.  Suffice it to say that in spite of setbacks [see “Mama Cat Saves My Life,” October 23, 2011;], six years later I’m in great physical shape and so very pleased to be alive as I awake each morning.

As Thanksgiving approaches I have much to be thankful about and many people to thank.  First, let me acknowledge the tremendous medical team (doctors, nurses, staff) who have so kindly and professionally brought this miracle to life, then smile at my wonderful family and friends who have done so much to make this journey both pleasant and exciting, and finally bow my head to my heart donor, Andrew (a mere 27 at the his tragic death the Sunday before transplants were made of five of his organs plus much skin tissue) and his family for whom what was my happiness was their nightmare.  In the photo below Andrew—quite the cook I’m told by his mother—was cleaning up after the feast he’d prepared for Thanksgiving in 2008 (his last Thanksgiving).  I’m not normally sentimental, but cannot look at this photo without instantly tearing up.  Even more amazing is the fact that in his teenage years Andrew had been in plays in Columbus and I’ve been on the stage with numerous actors who knew and remembered him fondly (and who were devastated to hear of his early death—they stare at my chest with a wondrous expression).

The biggest change in my life since 2009 has been my marriage on November 9, 2013, to David Allen Vargo, the wonderful Floridian I met in January of that year when I went to Fort Lauderdale snowbirding.  He’s a true joy, day after day, and we’ve created a very happy life together.  Our original plan was to return to Columbus, which he’d never seen, sell my condo here, and then move back to Fort Lauderdale, but things took a strange turn when he fell in love with Columbus, Ohio, four seasons, the condo, my friends, and our three cats.  In the end we took the condo off the market just as we received a terrific offer, and decided to stay put (to the considerable dismay of his many friends in Florida).  

David and I share many interests, primary among them being a love of theater.  He has, off and on through his life, been a professional actor/director, and in Columbus he’s appeared in numerous plays, lately attracting the attention of professional companies.  He makes his living as a graphic designer (having done that for over 15 years in Florida), working from home and lately returning to school [Columbus State] to absorb new programs and possibilities of the 21st century.  Each year we plan a trip to New York City to see shows and visit old friends, and are scheduled to do that this coming March during Spring Break (I will be teaching a course in Sales Law at Ohio State, and happily our spring breaks are identical).

The best thing about 2015 was the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v.Hodges, which took our New York marriage from being a legally tricky issue to just ordinary (yawn) marriage.  On the day the decision was handed down, by a great coincidence, the wonderful Craig Covey, one of the key players in the creation of Stonewall Columbus, our gay rights organization founded in 1981, happened to be driving to Columbus from his home in Detroit to spend the weekend with David and me, and his participation in the Buckeye Gay Marriage merriment was a special treat.  He and I were young gay warriors long ago.

Craig and Me in the 1980s

So on Thanksgiving this year David and I will climb in the car and drive to Indianapolis to spend the day and night at the home of my ex-wife Charleyne Fitzgerald and her husband.  There will be 14 people there, though, alas, our son and daughter-in-law elected not to fly in from Seattle.  David and I are bringing the pies, and a good time (and doubtless several extra pounds) will be acquired by all.

I wish everyone reading this post a terrific Thanksgiving.  May you have as much to be thankful for as I do.


Related Posts:
“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 Aging Gay Rights Activist," March 24, 2010;

“The Aging Gay Rights Activist,” March 24, 2010;

“On Being Lucky: The Second Anniversary of My Heart Transplant,” November 23, 2011;

Friday, October 30, 2015

Why I Love Bernie Sanders’ Ideas, But Hope He Won’t Be the Nominee

Five years ago Senator Bernie Sanders (I, Vt.) made an amazing speech on the Senate floor outlining how the rich have taken over the country and are ruining it for everyone else.  I thought it was a major wakeup call and so I recorded it and showed it to my friends.  It can be found on YouTube at   The speech will be familiar to those who have been listening to his current speeches as a candidate for the Democratic nomination, except since then things have gotten worse due to the Supreme Court’s outrageous Citizens United decision, which struck down limitations on how much the rich can spend on buying elections.  I endorse fully all of Senator Sanders’s remarks on the financial disparity existing in this country and how important it is to do something about it immediately.  With things as they are Congress is bought and paid for by the rich, and the current deadlock there will continue until this is no longer the case.  I also favor most, though not all, of Bernie’s other proposals on many topics.  He is smart, dedicated, and unwavering in pushing an agenda this country desperately needs to adopt.  I truly admire his logic, his intelligence, his commitment, and his talents at explaining the complexities of the mess we are in.

But it’s vital that we nominate a Democratic candidate for the presidency who will win the election and prevent a Republican from getting into the Oval Office.  A Republican president would partner with a Congress containing Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, driving a Republican agenda that gives what’s left of the country to the rich and does nothing to deal with the rest of the issues that need to be solved.  Every bit as important, the Supreme Court’s quasi-liberal majority hangs by two slender threads: the occasion support of Anthony Kennedy and the continued health of the four true liberals, one of whom, the wonderful Ruth Bader Ginsberg, is 82 and in delicate health.  One more conservative on the Court replacing her would give the foxes the key to the chicken coop, and out would go fair taxation, civil rights, and federal regulations controlling everything from safety to climate change to education to consumer protection (the list goes on and on).  This must not happen, and Democratic voters must make sure it doesn’t happen.

Justices Kennedy and Ginsberg at a State of  the Union Speech

Why won’t I support Bernie Sanders in spite of my admiration for his positions?  Let me give you a list.  Any one of these things alone would not be enough to keep him from being a strong candidate, but cumulatively they make his nomination a very, very risky proposition.  Here’s the list:

1.  He’s an announced Socialist.  Yes, I know that he’s a “democratic socialist,” a far cry from the basics of Marxism and communism, and that all the term really means is that he favors solving problems through the government, with his announced model being the Scandinavian countries.  But the term “socialist” has been mingled with “communist” for so long that to many voters subtle distinctions are lost and what they hear leads to images in their heads like this:

Even if the voters learn, in large numbers, what socialism is, they then will be told by the opposition that funding socialized programs will cost them a great deal more in taxes.  Based on 2012 rates this is true.  While the USA then had a top marginal tax rate of 41%, Denmark was at 60.2%, Sweden 56.6%, the Netherlands 52%, Finland 49% (although, surprisingly Norway was lower than the USA at 40%!).  Bernie will tell voters that this rise in taxes can be paid for by taxing the wealthy and (at last!) making them pay their fair share, but, alas, that depends on the cooperation of Congress (at which point we all laugh loudly).  I know that Bernie’s supporters are legion and strongly want this issue to go away, and they have clever ways of trying to help:

            Humor aside, electing a socialist President of the United States is no small step.  It is a major change—Bernie himself is calling for a “revolution”—and lots of voters will stick to the devil they know rather than the devil they don’t. 

2.  He’s too old.  If elected, President Bernard Sanders will be take the oath of office in January of 2017, the year that he turns 76, making him the oldest person ever to enter that high position (Reagan was 69, turning 70 shortly after being sworn in to his first term).  Bernie’s in good physical and mental shape now (as far as I know), but I myself am 72 and I know that septuagenarians like us can fall apart fast, we get set in our ways, we have more and more difficulty suffering fools gladly (an issue, see below, that Bernie already has major problems with), and the pressures of the toughest job in the world can land stronger and much younger leaders in major trouble with matters both mental and physical.  Ask any septuagenarian you know if this isn’t of some concern to them and most will say that it at least gives them pause.

3.  Bernie doesn’t play well with others.  In an article entitled “The Trouble With Bernie,”, author Mickey Hirten, who agrees with almost all of Bernie’s positions on the issues, says that he would make an awful president based on what those Vermonters who’ve had to work with him in the past experienced.  Hirten was the editor of the Burlington Free Press when Bernie lived in Burlington and was the state’s only congressman.  He dealt with him on a regular basis.  Hirten comments:

Considering that the Free Press' editorial positions were very liberal, reflecting the nature of a very liberal Vermont community, one might think that meetings with Sanders were cordial, even celebratory.

They weren't. Sanders was always full of himself: pious, self-righteous and utterly humorless. Burdened by the cross of his socialist crusade, he was a scold whose counter-culture moralizing appealed to the state's liberal sensibilities as well as its conservatives, who embraced his gun ownership stance, his defense of individual rights, an antipathy toward big corporations and, generally speaking, his stick-it-to-them approach to politics.

Hirten quotes others who know Bernie.  Chris Graf, long-time Associated Press bureau chief in Vermont: “Bernie has no social skills, no sense of humor, and he's quick to boil over. He's the most unpolitical person in politics I've ever come across.”  A Vermont weekly spoke with Bernie’s former staff members and reported that “They characterize the senator as rude, short-tempered and, occasionally, downright hostile. Though Sanders has spent much of his life fighting for working Vermonters, they say he mistreats the people working for him.”  Steve Rosenfeld, Sanders' press secretary during his 1990 House campaign, is quoted as adding: “At his worst, he falls prey to his own emotions, is unable to practice what he preaches (though he would believe otherwise) and exudes a contempt for those he derides, including his staff.”

In a recent Time Magazine column political writer Joe Klein had this to say concerning Bernie’s comment about Hillary’s “damn emails” during the first Democratic debate:

If you kept the Brooklyn accent and replaced “emails” with “bunions” or “heartburn” or “kishkes” (Yiddish for intestines), you could have been eavesdropping at any given Thanksgiving dinner of my youth.  All Jews have an Uncle Bernie . . . . [H]e was a humorless Old Testament Jeremiah, not the sort of person you’d want holding forth in your living room for State of the Union addresses or declarations of war.  He barely smiled.

4.  He has no sense of humor.  As Klein just noted and others quoted above agreed, Bernie has no sense of humor.  His attempts at showing otherwise, appearing on Ellen DeGeneres’s TV show and trying hard to joke, are painful to watch.  Imagine a President of the United States who grumps his way through his job and you see how such an attitude can be a major flaw.  Frankly, this is a deal breaker for me.

5.  He’s Jewish.  I think the American People are ready, or at least almost ready, for a Jewish president, but he/she had better be personable and charming or it’s a no go.  Bernie is not that attractive candidate (which is a shame given that Jews typically have a terrific sense of humor).  Sadly, there is still much anti-Semitism in this country, probably more than even polls can reveal.  In a close race the percentage of the population who would refuse to pull the lever simply because a qualified candidate is Jewish might be enough to swing the election the other way.

Conclusion.  None of these things, in and of themselves, would necessarily keep Bernie Sanders from being the best candidate in 2016 for President of the United States of America, but combined they are a dangerous political mixture.  If the Republicans nominate one of the clowns currently at the top of their polls (Trump, Carson, Cruz) Bernie would have a so-so chance at winning, but in all likelihood in the end the Republicans will come up with a more palatable choice (Rubio, Jeb, Kasich), and Bernie would be in major trouble. 

Hillary Clinton (sigh) has flaws, but she is obviously qualified—from day one—to be President of the United States, and is very electable.  She’s highly likely to stomp anyone the Republicans nominate.  Given the vital importance of keeping a Democrat in the presidency at least until there are more liberals on the Supreme Court and Congress is better balanced, it’s my opinion that making Hillary the nominee is the smart thing to do.  I wish Bernie Sanders well, but he’s not the best candidate for the job.

Related Posts:

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013,

“Ohio To Put Guns in Baby Strollers,” June 17, 2012;

 “Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade,” August 17, 2012;

“Killing the Filibuster and Letting the Majority Rule in the Senate,” December 31, 2013;

“How To Get Rid of Your Student Loans,” June 13, 2013;

“The Shame of Republicans in Congress,” March 23, 2015;

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

When Good Things Happen All at Once

We’re very much aware of periods in our lives when troubles mount and we’re overwhelmed by miserable events which pile one atop another.  As Shakespeare says, “When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions!”  We are less likely to take note of the opposite: those rare times when goods things also come in “battalions.”  I’m experiencing that now, and . . . well . . . it’s wonderful!  

There was a time in the early 80s up through the mid-90s when I was much involved in gay rights here in Columbus, Ohio.  I’ve written about this in other posts [see “The History of Gay Rights in Columbus,” ], and won’t go into detail here except to say that I was one of the people who helped found Stonewall Columbus, our LGBT organization, in 1981, and am proud of the work we all did in those days to make our city known as one of the most gay-friendly spots in the country.  Our gay pride parades started in 1982 with 825 marchers, and this past year around 400,000 participated (making it second in size in the Midwest only to Chicago).  Nowadays I am one of the old fogies who younger gay rights advocates sometime trot out as an exhibit, but in the past couple of weeks much of this history has come to life again due to a rare visit to Columbus by the wonderful Rhonda Rivera (these days she lives in Albuquerque). 

Rhonda is the reason that Columbus is so gay accepting.  She joined the Ohio State Law School faculty in the summer of 1976, and since we were the only two out gay faculty members we quickly became friends.  When Stonewall Columbus (then called “Stonewall Union”) began, I immediately asked her to help us, and she not only did that: she took over.  Rhonda is a force to be reckoned with: she bullied the law school into accepting gay rights, and then did the same to the governor, the mayor, and the President of The Ohio State University.  She organized everything, including a major response to the AIDS crisis when it came to Columbus.  While doing this she also made herself a power on the national scene.  I once told the San Francisco Chronicle that her name should be spelled “RHONDA!!!” [all caps, three exclamation marks].  We were on radio and TV shows together and with others such as the great Craig Covey, and because I always did what Rhonda told me to do I achieved some renown just by being in her shadow.

When she decided to pay us a visit this month at one point she stayed with my husband David Vargo and me.  Stonewall Columbus is creating a video series documenting its history, and they arranged a session in which they videoed an interview with Rhonda, then one with me, and then one with the two of us together.  It was wonderful reliving those fascinating (and sometimes scary) days, and I was quick to point out on camera that Rhonda was the reason that in Columbus gay men and lesbians have always gotten along so very well.

When I retired from fulltime teaching in 2004 I went back to doing things that I had done in my youth: playing tournament bridge, writing fiction, and acting and directing in theaters.  This has been a banner year for all of those activities.  I’ve written about the theater often in my blog, but let me mention recent developments in the other two areas.

I have now published two thrillers: “Imaginary Friend” (2008) and “Corbin Milk” (2014).  “Imaginary Friend” has been doing quite well, and recently I took out an ad in Free Inquiry Magazine, the leading journal for atheists, to publicize both.  This has led to a nice increase in sales.  I originally wrote “Imaginary Friend” because I was annoyed at how casually people will discriminate against atheists, and I wanted to show why that is wrong (even for devout believers).  To make the message more palatable I delivered it in the form of a thriller.  The book begins with an explosion at halftime at Ohio Stadium during a football game, and things spin out from there in ways that are both exciting and even funny, until we reach an ending reviewers on Amazon all thought was a major surprise.  Two weeks ago the Humanist Community of Central Ohio asked me to do another book reading from “Imaginary Friend” (it was the second book reading for them, the first being in 2011).  It was fun to read a couple of selections from the book (about a half hour’s worth) to an attentive audience that included my husband.  Even better, HCCO made a video of my reading, and posted it on YouTube, where, if interested, you can find it at   

I started playing bridge when I was in high school, and then when I married Charleyne Adolay in 1971 she and I played tournament bridge regularly.  A major goal of bridge players is to become a “Life Master,” which typically takes a long time since you must win points in tournaments: black points for club games, silver and red for some tournaments, and gold points for the biggest.  These points are not worth anything other than the honor of having earned them, but are a big deal among bridge players.  Since a player must travel a lot to play in some of the top tournaments it’s been estimated that becoming a Life Master costs around $10,000.  I have now earned all the points (over 350) I need except 1.83 gold points, and in two weeks I will play in a tournament in Louisville with my regular partner Lewis Rakocy, where I am almost certain to pick up more than enough points to finally become a Life Master.  This is the sort of thing that sounds crazy to those not involved in bridge, but I’m very pleased, and I called Charleyne recently to tell her about it.  She was thrilled for me (she is no longer playing in tournaments, but she and her husband are playing occasionally at bridge centers).

With Lew Rakocy (far right) at tournament

I’ve lamented on this blog before about the tragedy of being a Chicago Cubs fan, but I can proudly say that this year, to the surprise of all, they have made it into the postseason, and began well by eliminating the two teams—St. Louis and Pittsburgh—that had the best records in baseball (the Cubs had the third best record)!  I have been cheering mightily at each televised game, scaring the cats.

[Sherman's Lagoon; click to enlarge]

David and Abby

Speaking of cats, there is another happy development: David and I have adopted another rescue cat, this one a four year old totally black female (a “Halloween cat,” my nephew Adam pointed out), named Abby.  Our other two cats, Barney and Mama, are suspicious, but things are going well, and Abby’s a happy addition to our home.

Last Saturday I went with David to Ohio Stadium to see the Buckeyes beat Penn State, and everyone wore black because the uniforms of the players were (mysteriously) black just for this one night.  David had never seen a live football game, and it was a thrill for me to return to the Horseshoe (I’d had season tickets for twenty years when I was a fulltime member of the faculty, working my seats to three rows up on the 45 yard line) and to once again experience all the rituals that make being a Buckeye so special.

A Dark Night at the 'Shoe

Now add to everything listed above this: I have a wonderful husband, great friends, and am glad that my health is excellent as I reach the sixth anniversary of my heart transplant (November 23, 2009).  I smilingly announce that at this particular point in my life I can much appreciate that I’m a lucky and happy man.  I wish all my readers similar felicitous periods in their own lives.

Related Posts:

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013,
The Aging Gay Rights Activist," March 24, 2010,
“Just Published: My Novel ‘Corbin Milk,’ a Thriller Detailing the Adventures of a Gay CIA Agent,” April 18, 2014,
“The World’s Greatest Game [Bridge] Needs You,” June 20, 2011,
Stepping on Cats,” February 8, 2012,
“My Sad Tale of Being a Chicago Cubs Fan,” May 27, 2015;
“About That Heart Transplant,” January 24, 2010,