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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,” http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2012/06/history-of-gay-rights-in-columbus.html ], 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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpwXg4nBKSY&feature=youtu.be.   




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.







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Related Posts:

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013, http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-guide-to-best-of-my-blog.html
 
The Aging Gay Rights Activist," March 24, 2010, http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2010/03/aging-gay-rights-activist.html
 
“Just Published: My Novel ‘Corbin Milk,’ a Thriller Detailing the Adventures of a Gay CIA Agent,” April 18, 2014, http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2014/04/just-published-my-novel-corbin-milk.html
 
 
“The World’s Greatest Game [Bridge] Needs You,” June 20, 2011, http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2011/06/worlds-greatest-game-bridge-needs-you.html
 
Stepping on Cats,” February 8, 2012, http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2012/02/stepping-on-cats.html
“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
“About That Heart Transplant,” January 24, 2010, http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2010/01/about-that-heart-transplant.html  

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