Funeral for a friend.

Jeez, what a sucktastic Saturday. I spent much of it traveling to, attending and returning from a funeral. The husband of my former editor at Bridge (the one I still speak to and like) died suddenly, of an apparent heart attack. At 37. Everyone was in shock, and the funeral home was filled to capacity with very sad people.

Derek still seemed flattened, and I expect he will be for some time. The two of them made one of those unlikely pairs that somehow works perfectly — the curmudgeon and the happy sprite, with Derek, the journalist, playing the curmudgeon role. The good news is, he has lots of people holding him up, many of whom wore bow ties to the service, in tribute to the deceased, Jesse, who wore them often.

Anyway, it got me thinking.

I found this Twitter thread last week. Someone dug up Ross Douthat’s college writings and found, whaddaya know, he hasn’t really changed since 1998. He was a smug little shit then, and remains one today. I was taken by the one headlined, “The Cross and the Triangle,” sniffing over the appointment of a lesbian to an associate-minister position at Memorial Church, which I gather is an important one at Harvard. Young Ross was “opposed to homosexual conduct,” like his church and, he points out, many others. Damn liberals.

It was a reminder that roughly 20 years ago was an utterly different era in how we think about gay people in this country. One of the last funerals for a gay person I attended was during the AIDS era, when it was common for health-care professionals and even morticians to refuse their business. My friend Paul had to find a new dentist. I expect some of the funeral directors would have preferred ditch burials, maybe preceded by an open burn, like for zombies.

But of course AIDS was, paradoxically, also one of the things that started to change our thinking. I once asked one of my gay male friends, who came of age in the ’70s, how many sex partners he’d had in his lifetime. First we had to determine what constituted sex, and settled on any activity where one or both parties reached orgasm, since body fluids were what was causing the plague. He had to estimate. It was a big number. A big, big number, and fairly common for that era, at least for men. A few years later, he was the one in the casket, having been lovingly cared for through a horrible illness by a partner he considered a husband. It was common at the time to consider gay men infantile pleasure-seekers, incapable of true romantic connection with another human being. (This, even though every city and town, large and small, had its Fred and Howard or Bob and Steve, two “roommates” who’ve shared a house for decades and always decorate it so nicely at the holidays and invite all the auxiliary ladies to use it for their fundraisers. I knew one of these guys back in Columbus; they had a custom drape to hang over the mural of semi-nude Roman centurions lounging around in leather harnesses, etc., when the auxiliaries came through.) Seeing how they mourned their dead put that one to rest.

Anyway, back to the funeral. The woman who led the service was a lesbian, and her partner/wife was one of the eulogists, speaking of their “gayborhood,” and their “framily.” I’m so happy that people don’t have to live lies anymore, to be “confirmed bachelors” but actual husbands to other husbands, wives to wives. Life goes better when you have someone you love sleeping next to you every night, drinking coffee with you in the morning, and you don’t have to hide it.

I expect I’m now at the age when the funerals will come more often. We had a “celebration of life” last summer. Saturday was a celebration of life, too, only no one was feeling particularly celebratory.


Otherwise? I’ve got a big day of writing ahead, so I should wrap. A little bloggage:

Thanks to LAMary for this, a collection of social-media shots from the White House staff holiday party. Folks, I’m worried about Tiffany. Very, very worried. She doesn’t look well.

If you aren’t one of those who caught this charming story about an unlikely friendship between Charles Barkley and Lin Wang, enjoy it now. Who is Lin Wang? That’s what makes the friendship unlikely.

On to my friend’s arts-grant application. Happy start-of-the-week, all.

Posted at 11:41 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

28 responses to “Funeral for a friend.”

  1. Deborah said on December 16, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Wow, dying at 37 of a heart attack is shocking, how sad. Uncle J’s younger son died of aids in the mid to late 80s, he had lived in San Francisco, was a graphic designer, I never met him because he died before I came into the picture. Everything I’ve heard about him is that he was hilarious to be with, had a sharp wit and he was the apple of his dad’s eye, which was forward thinking for that day and age.

    Today was a good day in London, not raining (yet) and a little warmer. We went to a fabulous place that one of uncle J’s caregivers recommended, the Garden Museum It’s in a renovated old church, and I mean old, started in 1075 or something like that. William Blake lived down the street at one time and so did Charlie Chaplin, Captain Bligh is buried in the church yard. The exhibits were very interesting, lots of art. There was one room dedicated to Repton a landscape architect, there was a fantastic 5 minute video narrated by Jeremy Irons, who I understand is a huge gardener. They also have a top notch cafe, we had desserts and drinks at the end. The whole experience was totally worth it, we walked back to our hotel past the houses of parliament, Westminster abbey etc. In a couple of hours we go to the restaurant, Bibendum, which will cap off a truly delightful day.

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  2. beb said on December 16, 2018 at 1:25 pm

    I was disheartened to read about a priest at a funeral for a man who took his life felt the need to remind the survivors that in his religion suicides go straight to hell.

    The most appalling thing I’ve read this morning is that article about Jared Kushnar’s last negotiations with the Pallestinians.
    Someone has watched The Sopranos too many times.

    On the other hand I did enjoy seeing “Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse” a quirky, animated superhero movie. A heart-felt story, many funny lines and very relatable characters.

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  3. David C. said on December 16, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    My family never knew my uncle’s partner Dean until Don died. They were together for forty years. I think most of us knew Don was gay. I mean a Cook going to Studio 54 was a dead giveaway. We’re not a dancing bunch. It’s not for any religious objection, just an excess of reserve. I don’t think it would have mattered to anyone. Anyway, he was my favorite uncle and the week I spent with Don in New York is still one of the highlights of my life.

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  4. alex said on December 16, 2018 at 5:22 pm

    Being gay in Red America, I’m still trying to find my way in world of double standards where even though many people know what’s up, the social expectation is that I’m supposed to shield people from the truth lest they be skeeved out.

    I’m reminded of a phone call I received from an old college friend of my parents, a woman I hadn’t seen since I was a child. She had fallen out of touch with mom and dad but somehow found my phone number and asked me for theirs. Then she asked if I was married. At the time, gay marriage hadn’t yet become the law of the land, so I responded “Yes, although the state of Indiana might beg to differ.” She sounded disappointed and ended the call quickly. She also never contacted my parents.

    When I was candid with the mother of friend about my relationship, she shushed me and said she just couldn’t stand to hear about such things, although she is always happy to see both my partner and me and greets us with hugs and is always nonetheless warm and personable.

    Then there was the mother of another friend, with whom I’d always been open, who was writing letters to the editor decrying the fact that gay relationships were being called marriages. She insisted that she had no problem with gay relationships but calling them marriages was a bridge too far.

    I’m not sure why there’s still so much stigma for the older generation. You’d think they’d be past it by now.

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  5. Alan Stamm said on December 16, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    Such a delightful, glorious, twice-savored sentence this is:
    Life goes better when you have someone you love sleeping next to you every night, drinking coffee with you in the morning, and you don’t have to hide it.

    A simple truth. Love is love.

    As for Those Gatherings at this age, I attended two in the past three weeks (each for someone many decades older than 37) and recall the many reasons I adored past colleague George Weeks of Glen Arbor, Mich.

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  6. brian stouder said on December 16, 2018 at 10:03 pm

    When the subject (human beings who love other human beings of the same gender) arises in our household – as it occasionally has (as the young folks moved through high school and beyond)- my position has always been that I never decided to become interested/infatuated/involved only with people of the opposite gender; and I’d suppose that the same holds true for folks who become interested/infatuated/involved with people of the same gender.

    As for marriage and families and property and legal equity and fairness – one would like to believe that MLK was right when he stated that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”….and indeed – it seems we’re closer to that end now than, say, 50 years ago.

    Onward, eh?

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  7. Ann said on December 16, 2018 at 11:09 pm

    So sad about the 37 year old guy (Jesse, I looked it up, and I see they shared a last name). I’m glad they at least had that 14 years. My gay Chicago friends are reporting a rash of suicides, so that when I see a former client/colleague died I can only hope he wasn’t one. (So many people with HIV worked in the AIDS service sector that I often can’t remember whether I first met someone as a colleague or as a client–not at all unusual for them to be both) Meanwhile two friends just today were saying they weren’t sure they wanted to go on living. This is always a hard season and our present political climate doesn’t make it any easier. Hang on, friends.

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  8. Sherri said on December 17, 2018 at 2:23 am

    There aren’t a lot of sports celebrities that I could picture in a story like the Lin Wang one, but Charles Barkley is definitely one. He’ll always be one of my favorite players simply because of his nickname when he played at Auburn, the Round Mound of Rebound.

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  9. beb said on December 17, 2018 at 10:11 am

    The number of states that have decided to nullify their election results just keeps growing. Michigan and Wisconsin’s efforts have been well publicized. Less well reported ate the efforts for Florida’s Republicans to slow-walk of the citizen initiative to re-instate former felon’s voting rights, and in Utah the R’s with the help of the Mormon cult is restricting access to medical marijuana.Now North Carolina, which started this trend in 2016, has decided that if a new election is required between McCready (D) and Harris (R) because of Harris’s election fraud, the Republicans run a new candidate. Personally, I think that if there is enough evidence of fraud to warrant a new election, the election board ought to just disqualify Harris and certify McCready as the winner. People who cheat in something as important as am election should be strongly penalized to discourage cheating in the future.

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  10. Dave said on December 17, 2018 at 11:53 am

    Florida’s new governor, a Trump wanna-be, is appointing a Secretary of Education who was the Florida Speaker of the House, who was ruthless. He’s a big supporter of charter schools, his wife runs a charter school, Florida’s public education system isn’t very good as it is, if I had school-age children, there’s no way I would bring them to attend a public school in Florida.

    With apologies to JTMMO, I really don’t understand how some of these people who claim to be so religious developed such different views and think they’re doing the Lord’s work. Somehow, just as I believe the Founding Fathers would be, I think He’d be appalled.

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  11. Sherri said on December 17, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    My town:

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  12. Deborah said on December 17, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    This mocking is a thing over here

    Today has been laid back, we were on Uncle J patrol this morning, so we hung out in the hotel in the morning, he slept late. We gave his caregivers most of the day off. In the afternoon we took him to Covent Garden to meet them then we went to a huge toy store, called Hambly’s to buy a Christmas gift for my husband’s grand daughter. Wow, that wasn’t fun to do, the place was packed and noisy as you could expect. Then we walked around Regent Street, Saville Row, Bond Street, the Burlington Arcade, Picadilly Circus. We walked back to the hotel past Buckingham Palace for the millionth time, then we went to Marks & Spencer to buy groceries. My husband we’re eating in and my husband is cooking again. Our meal at Bibendum was exquisite last night but I didn’t eat much today as a result.

    Tomorrow is our last full day in London (that was fast) we have to go to the post office to mail Christmas gifts back to the states tomorrow, expecting long lines there. We warned everyone on our list that their gifts would be late this year because they’d be coming from London or Paris. Then it’s on to Paris on the Chunnel train Weds, really looking forward to that except rain is forecast for every day we’re going to be there.

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  13. Charlotte said on December 17, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    Things have changed so much that a few years back I got tasked with trying to explain the AIDS crisis to a bunch of 14 year olds at a local production of Rent. They Could. Not. wrap their heads around it (and not because they were 14). They’ve just always known gay people as people … Despite being Catholic, that was one prejudice my family never really had — but then I come from a long line of confirmed bachelors and spinster lady cousins living together and running settlement houses … also, the horse show world is full of gay couples. And my dad’s older brother, our lovely Uncle Jack (AIDS, RIP).

    The funeral zone is not fun — we’ve had a bit of a break, but the last 2 years in Livingston we lost a whole cohort. “God,” my friend Jim said at one of them. “I’d kill for a wedding after all these funerals. I’d even settle for a bris.” A joke which fell slightly flat out here in the goy zone … but one I still love. We’re beginning to lose all the parents of my Lake Forest cohort — my beloved few are still with us, but I’m putting $$ in an account for last-minute plane tickets.

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  14. Bitter Scribe said on December 17, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    I notice that Douthat’s college scribblings include the well-worn line, “Tolerance for gays means intolerance for others.”

    This is proof, as if more were needed, that what bothers gay-haters is not respect for tradition, or biology, or religion, or any of the other bullshit rationalizations they periodically trot out. What bothers them is that gay people exist. They’re enraged because gay people are now free to openly acknowledge who they are and whom they love—acknowledge, in other words, that they exist—without the full force of the law and society crashing down on them.

    BTW, in case anyone hadn’t already guessed, the Harvard Salient is the school’s conservative student newspaper. IOW, it’s one more vehicle for conservatives to claim, over and over, as loudly as possible, that they’re being silenced.

    Regarding HIV, its transformation from a horrible death sentence to a manageable medical condition is IMO one of modern medicine’s greatest triumphs—one that, curiously, never seems to get mentioned in lists of such triumphs.

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  15. alex said on December 17, 2018 at 9:54 pm

    Tolerance for gays means intolerance for others.

    Douchehat and company never had the balls to say the same with regard to race or gender or ethnicity or creed — he’d never have become a NYT columnist if he’d made a parallel argument for any or all of those — yet we tolerate him while knowing that’s exactly where he’s coming from.


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  16. Sherri said on December 17, 2018 at 11:46 pm

    I laughed.

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  17. jerry said on December 18, 2018 at 2:52 am

    Sherri @16 I laughed as well. Thank you

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  18. jerry said on December 18, 2018 at 2:58 am

    Deborah, Hamleys is indeed exhausting at Christmas. Always crowded and stressful. We haven’t been this year but always spare a thought for the out-of-work actors dressed in various costumes and shilling for customers on the pavement outside.

    When I was young on the top floor there was a massive model railway with multiple tracks which went all the way round the top of the staircase. I was told that the tracks are still there but they don’t run the trains anymore as it is too expensive. I must admit I miss it.

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  19. Dexter Friend said on December 18, 2018 at 3:15 am

    Charles Barkley, quite a dude…not allowed on the Olympic team that Knight coached because Knight hated fat ass players…Charles is a big-time high roller gambler and has spent time in Sheriff Joe’s tent-prison in Arizona for drunk driving. Also, an all-time NBA great player.~

    It is a big cheat when a person dies like Jesse at such a young age. I saw many much younger people dead in Vietnam, but had to file that away until I got home and slowly processed that whole thing in my mind. Just when I had a handle on it, a few friends died of suspected but unsubstantiated claims of Agent Orange poisoning. That kindled rage again, but not so intense. Imagine my surprise when V.A. doctors told me I also had symptoms, certainly caused by Agent Orange. As Chuck Berry told us, “it goes t’show ya never can tell.”

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  20. ROGirl said on December 18, 2018 at 5:18 am

    Woody Allen’s inspiration for “Manhattan?”

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  21. Julie Robinson said on December 18, 2018 at 11:03 am

    Not giving Allen so much as a click. Ugh.

    Charlotte, when my son was in Rent they also had a person there to talk about AIDS. They did a lot of trust exercises, and eventually a cast member revealed they were HIV-positive. Everyone in the cast became very close, and I think he would say it was life-changing as far growing compassion.

    The Barkley story was quite lovely, and as an aside, my family lived in Muscatine, Iowa, when I was three or four years old. All I remember is trying to follow my sister to school and being foiled because I was not allowed to cross the street.

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  22. Sherri said on December 18, 2018 at 11:38 am

    Sarah Taber has brought a whole new perspective to food and agriculture coverage, and here she writes about the food contamination issue and immigration enforcement:

    A new season of her excellent Farm to Taber podcast will be coming soon, but if you haven’t listened to season 1, I highly recommend it.

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  23. beb said on December 18, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    Conservatives like to play games with tolerance. If tolerance is good than one should be tolerant of intolerant people, don’t you see. Even if, or especially if, they are homophobes.

    As Charlotte observes kids today know too many gay friends to be homophobic. It’s a surprising turn-around for an old guy like me, but a good thing.

    The Henry Ford Museum has an interesting collection of real trains, including a massive coal-hauler. Recently they added a very large model train layout right next to their very large steam engine. There are three or four separate tracks, a well-developed village set, a tunnel and so on. They also have a small camera on one of the trains so you can watch it dive in and out of the tunnel. It used to be a Christmas only display but became permanent a couple years ago… Now I want to go to the Henry Ford Museum today….

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  24. beb said on December 18, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    The Slate article Sherri linked to is, I feel, mostly off base. It’s argument that the Trump Administration’s harassment of migrant works is what’s endangering the safety of our food supply. But I see it was the failure of management to do the necessary (and costly) things needed to ensure plants are grown in a disease-free environment. The problem is contaminated irrigation water. There are simple tests for E. Coli in the water. They do cost money, require a lab set up to incubate the samples as well as technicians to plant and read the samples. You also need people to go out to collect the samples as well as throw in packs of disinfection as needed. Basically this calls for a community wide Water Quality control program. And since businesses love to cheat on regulations it has to be a government program. So basically to ensure the safety of our food we need for the states to take control of agricultural water safety, taxing farmer for this service. The alternative is a multi-million dollar food recalls and distrust of certain kinds of foods (who among us would eat romaine lettuce without worrying?)

    The issue of the treatment of farm labor is a separate issue and one where I feel migrants have long been treated poorly despite the absolute need by farm owners for people to harvest their crops.

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  25. Bitter Scribe said on December 18, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    As Charlotte observes kids today know too many gay friends to be homophobic. It’s a surprising turn-around for an old guy like me, but a good thing.

    Same here. I went to a boys’ prep school where we were constantly calling each other fags, and the concept of an out gay student was unthinkable. Apparently Douthat and his ilk want to return us to those days. How utterly stupid and repulsive.

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  26. Sherri said on December 18, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    Beb, from what I’ve read, it’s not quite that simple. For one, she’s talking not just about this latest incident with romaine lettuce, but the increased incidence over the past year. Second, it’s all part of the same system. Treatment of farm labor isn’t separable from other parts of the system, but indicative of how the system works.

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  27. David C. said on December 18, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    Dr. Taber talked quite a bit in the first season about what makes a farm run well. Often it’s one or two people who are often undocumented. If those experienced people aren’t able to work and lead other undocumented workers, bad things happen. The slack is being taken up by prisoners. The prisoners are paid little more than slave wages. How hard does anybody work for nothing? Even if they did work hard, bringing in a crop takes experience and they don’t have it. In her podcast and on her Twitter feed, it’s quite obvious she doesn’t have much respect for farm owners. With tRump thinking safe food comes from McDonalds and KFC and otherwise you’re on your own, we’re in for a rough time of it.

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  28. Suzanne said on December 18, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    “If those experienced people aren’t able to work…bad things happen.” “How hard does anybody work for nothing? Even if they did work hard, bringing in a crop takes experience and they don’t have it.”
    Sounds like just about every place I have worked in the past ten years or so and I am not talking about farms. Get rid of the experienced people, pay the new people garbage, give them as little training as possible, then complain you can’t get good workers and wonder why everything is going to hell in a handbasket.

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