It was not just the recent passing of the 20th anniversary of the brutal murder of Matthew Shephard that made me think back on the story that we first published two years ago (below).  It was also the rise of hatred we have seen in the recent political climate.  Prejudice and hatred can also lead to violence and even to death for some.  What causes someone to hate so much that he is willing to beat up a stranger, a friend or even his own son for being gay?

Based on the story that is sad, painful and true  
Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Angel was a handsome boy who had a secret he desperately needed to keep. By the age of 13 he knew what he liked and by 16, he had a boyfriend. He spent a lot of time with his boyfriend and his cover was always that he was working on his homework. No one knew that his homework included kissing another teenage boy.

When Angel would return home from his after school “homework sessions,” he would have his boyfriend drop him off 2 blocks from his house so his father would not see him kiss his boyfriend good-bye. One day, however, his father was behind him on the street and saw the boys from a short distance away. When Angel realized his father was watching he told his boyfriend to leave immediately.

“Are you going to be OK?” the boyfriend asked.

“I don’t know but you won’t be if you don’t get the hell out of here,” Angel cried. He grabbed his guitar and got out of the vehicle. His boyfriend sped away. He knew his father hated gay boys. When he was 13 the father told him if he ever found out he was gay, he would put him in the emergency room. He feared that might include his friend too.

Angel’s father drove his car across the road to where Angel was standing, got out and shouted at the boy. “Who the F is that?  Are you a faggot?” Angel said nothing and this angered his father. “I’m going to ask you again, are you a faggot?” the dad repeated. Angel could not deny being gay, but he knew admitting to it could actually be deadly. So his father hit him full force in the chest and asked again.  Angel said nothing and took a beating right there in the street. No one came to stop the father as he punched the boy over and over. Finally, the father threw Angel’s guitar in his truck and ordered the boy to get in. It seemed he drove 100 miles an hour the two blocks home.

Once inside the kitchen, Angel was backed up against the stove as the father again demanded to know if he was gay. Angel remembered the emergency room threat of three years earlier and said nothing. That did not save him. His father wailed away on the boy’s face and chest and arms and stomach. Angel became sick from the pain as the father kept it up.

“How can you do this to me?” the father shouted in extreme anger. At that Angel had to respond.

“How can I do this to you?” Angel cried out through his pain. “Look what you are doing to me right now.” The boy had suffered through a beating that mere words could not adequately explain as the father continued to batter him on his handsome face and anywhere else he could reach.

Angel then started inching his way toward the sink while he was being hit. He knew his father would demand his phone and there were definitely pictures he did not want his father to see. There was a bucket of water in the sink and his plan was to drop the phone in the bucket. He did not get there. The father demanded the phone. After he took it from the boy he sent him up to his room. Soon the father arrived in the room and declared in an angry voice, “You will stop this. I did not raise a faggot in this house. Is that understood?”

Angel swallowed his pride. He was sick and bleeding and could not take another punch. “Yes,” he cried. At that the father left the room but warned he would be back soon. He had not seen the phone pictures yet, and had to go with Angel’s stepmom to pick up the step sisters.

The boy cried. He cried like he had never cried in his entire 16 years. He was in pain, he was bleeding and he was called a “faggot.” To Angel, being called a faggot was as bad as the beating.

He knew he had to get out. He could not call the police. His father was a cop. So he searched frantically for an abuse hotline number he got at school. He stumbled down the stairs and called. Shaking and in fear, he tried to urgently explain what happened before his father returned. The hotline operator sounded like an angel to the boy and asked if there was somewhere safe he could go. Angel mentioned the parents of a person he recently met. They got the mother on the phone and explained the circumstance.  Angel was instructed to pack some clothes and leave.  The friend’s mother would meet him a few blocks away on the corner.

Angel threw a few items in a bag and ran for his life.  His face was bleeding.  His stomach and chest were in severe pain and his legs were weak.  He tried to run but his legs did not seem to want to go.  It was the longest journey of his life. He wanted to go faster.  “Please get me there.” he thought.  When the corner was in sight, Angel willed himself forward.  He had to make it.  He truly felt his life depended on it.  But when he got to a liquor factory parking lot, he stumbled and fell to the ground.  Battered, bruised and bleeding, Angel could fly no further. There he lay wondering what would become of him.

His friend and her mother spotted him from the corner and ran to his aid. They helped him to her car and took him home. There she did what Angel could not. She called the police. They came and took one look at Angel and called for an ambulance. Angel’s father had successfully carried out his promise. He put his gay son in the emergency room.

The story does not end there. Angel recovered from his injuries. Things got better for him. In future years he was able to forgive the father who could have beaten him to death if there had been a little more time. Eventually, the father realized what he had done to a son he thought he loved, and asked for forgiveness. Now as a young adult, Angel has the courage to tell that painful story, because there is a lesson in it for teens facing danger just for kissing someone of the same-sex.

Note:  I did not know Angel or speak to him in advance.  After this story was written, I found him and asked him to read it.  He had not thought about it for a while so I felt bad for bringing it to him.  He said it was OK, and liked it.  “You captured the day pretty on point.” If you wish to see Angel tell the complete story himself, you can find it below. For more thoughts on A Coming Out Story and the Trevor Project, check out this past article.


When I hear songs from the past, I always remember them in context. I think about where I was when I first heard them or when I most often heard them. “Oldies” from the 60’s bring back images of doing homework in my bedroom with the radio on. Some songs conjure scenes of riding to or from school with friends and singing along with the radio.

I have always loved Broadway musicals and have been going to see them since childhood. Every show is frozen in time in my mind. My first musical was “Peter Pan” with Mary Martin. I was six and my five-year old friend had to be taken out of the theater because she was so terrified by Captain Hook.

I saw “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” as a teenager with my parents, the night before my father had major cancer surgery (he survived and lived for many years).


My favorite Broadway memory is seeing the show “Baby” when I was pregnant with my second child. The show follows several women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, just had a baby or just found out they can’t have children. I swear to God my daughter kicked for the first time in the middle of the show about pregnancy and babies! She has always loved musicals too, so maybe her connection to them started in utero!

Today, when we listen to our favorite radio channel, The Broadway channel on Sirius Radio, we reminisce about when we saw each show. We often argue about how old she was or what was going on in our lives when we saw this show or that show. She’s usually right.


One of my all time favorite shows has followed me through the different stages of my life. I first saw Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” when it opened in 1970. I was in college and saw it with my parents. It was revived in 1990 and I saw it again as a young mother with my first husband. Another revival was produced in 2010. This time I was a middle-aged empty-nester and saw it with my second (and current) husband. I hope I’m around for the next 20-year anniversary production.


Another show, “The Sound Of Music” has spanned the generations for me. I saw the original 1959 production, again starring Mary Martin when I was 10 years old. I became obsessed with the show and the music. I played the album endlessly. I can still sing all the songs. I read everything about the show and the cast and anxiously waited for the 1965 movie, with Julie Andrews as Maria Von Trapp. I became obsessed all over again.

Fast forward to the 1990’s. My daughter was around eight when I first played the movie for her at home. It was magical to see it through a child’s eyes again. She loved it so much we had to watch it over and over on the VCR. She too became obsessed with everything “Sound Of Music.” We even visited the real Von Trapp family resort in Vermont while we were skiing with the family. It is a love we still share. Someday I hope to share the same music with my grandchildren.

So when I listen to the Broadway radio channel, I’m not just listening to good music, or even familiar music. I’m taking a trip down memory lane. I’m reliving the wonderful time I’ve spent in Broadway and off-Broadway theaters over the years.

I don’t go to musical theater as often any more, in part because ticket prices have become so outrageously expensive. But my memories of songs, shows and theatrical experiences are as strong and happy as ever.


72-Garry and Marilyn in SturbridgeWe don’t get to see each other often. We’ve always lived several hundred miles apart, even when we were kids … but the distance didn’t matter as much back then. We were young, we had energy. We didn’t mind flying or driving.

Flying was a lot easier before terrorism became the biggest thing in the world. The roads were in better shape and there was a lot less traffic, so driving was easier. Gasoline was cheap before anyone noticed oil reserves wouldn’t last forever.

In the life of a family, ones cousins are often the people we know the longest and best throughout our lives. If you are lucky, and have cousins your own age whose company you enjoy, you get the  magical experience of remembering things together that possibly only the two of you remember.

72-roberta-closeup-sturbridge-070816_016At this point, my cousin and I are probably the only two people alive who remember playing with little iron toys that were kept in a special closet in Aunt Ethel’s apartment. Which was downstairs in that brownstone on East 96th Street in Brooklyn.

Four apartments, two up, two down. A flight of stairs in the middle. A hallway. Three siblings shared the building, plus a neighbor who had lived in that building with them … forever … or however many years that represented.

My mother’s two older sisters, lived on the second floor with their husbands. Until they grew up and moved away, other cousins lived up and downstairs too.

We remember together. Funny stuff, like how we were going to go into the desert to dig up artifacts. We remember this as we seek the shade on a summer day in Sturbridge.

We are married. We have children. I have a grandchild. We talk about who’s doing what. And retirement. And are glad that we still know one another and we can remember.


There was an article in the Sunday New York times Opinion Section a few weeks ago that caught my attention. It was titled “To Help Kids Thrive, Coach Their Parents.” It was written by Paul Tough and was an excerpt from a book he had written called “Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why.”The article cited a long-term study that started in 1986 and has followed the subjects continually to the present.

The study proved that children who lived in poverty did substantially better than their peers, into adulthood, if one simple thing was changed in their homes during their first three years of life: Their parents received coaching from trained researchers who encouraged them to play with and stimulate their infants, for example, by reading to them, singing to them and playing peekaboo. The parents were taught the importance of these face to face exchanges in creating attachment, warmth and trust between parents and children. This, in turn, helped create a more stable, nurturing environment in the impoverished homes, which are usually plagued by stress, neglect and instability.


It’s hard to believe that some people don’t know that they should talk to and play with their infants and young children. But if no one ever did that with you when you were a child and no one later taught you how important it is, how would you know?

The impact of this easy and low-cost intervention was off the charts. The study showed that the children who had the play counseling had higher IQ’s, less aggressive behavior and better self-control than the control groups. They also had better ability to focus, follow directions, interact calmly with others and cope with disappointment and frustration. In other words, they improved intellectually, socially and emotionally. All this just by receiving the kind of attention that most of us take for granted every child automatically gets.

dad & baby

It turns out that adults can be taught to create an environment that fosters success for their children. Why isn’t this being done in every poor neighborhood in the world? Or at least in this country?

This is particularly frustrating for me because my father proposed the same type of in-home interventions in the 1960’s and no one listened to him. My father was a well-known psychoanalyst, anthropologist and sociologist who stressed the importance of the first 3 years of life. He also did a study that showed how little stimulation and affection a large number of black children living in poverty in Harlem, New York, in the 1950’s were receiving from their parents. He suggested doing exactly what the 1986 study did – send in trained professionals to teach the parents how to give their children the kind of nurturing they needed to thrive.

mom reading

Guess who shot my father’s idea down? The “liberals” of the day and the radical Black Panther movement. They said it was racist to assume that black people didn’t know how to be good parents. It was also considered paternalistic and condescending to send (often white) people into black homes to “tell them” how to deal with their own children. My father backed away from the conflict that surrounded his proposal.

smiles for Mom

Now, 50 years later, the idea is being proposed again. Think of all the kids who could have benefited in all these years! With so much poverty, even just in this country, you’d think this article would have been front page news. You’d think that politicians, as well as educators and mental health professionals would be jumping on the bandwagon and yelling from the rooftops. You’d hope that large numbers of “family counselors” would be amassing to go in and make a huge difference in the lives of millions of children.

I haven’t heard anything yet. But I’m still waiting and hoping.

mom & toddler


JJ’s Night Out, by Rich Paschall

Jason was pacing the floor of the living room.  He was excited about his date night.  They were going to a new night club.  It had received nice reviews and he thought they could do a lot of dancing and singing.  Jason’s mom watched the pacing with a feeling of indifference, while his dad watched in what could best be described as “disgust.”

Soon Jason’s date would arrive. Jeff was a handsome young man who Jason had met at college.  Jeff fell immediately for the boy with the constant smile, and it did not take long for Jason to agree to a date.  After a short period of dating, they became constant companions.  Their friends began referring to them collectively as “JJ” since they always seemed to be together.

When Jeff arrived in his best preppy, all American look, he stopped in briefly to say hello to Jason’s parents and wish them a good evening.  Then Jason exclaimed, “Good night, mom,” and gave his mother a hug.  It was returned in half-hearted fashion.

“See you later, dad,” Jason shouted at his father who was standing quite a distance  away.  “Yeah,” his father returned with his most annoyed tone.  The father’s look was his best effort at contempt.  Jason just smiled and the boys set out for a night of fun.  They both hoped that some day Jason’s father would accept them as a couple.  Whether that happened or not, soon the boys would find an apartment, marry and be on their own.  They had their whole lives ahead and could not be too worried at whether they would find complete acceptance.  They had each other.  That was the main thing.

The two men enjoyed the new nightclub.  The music was loud, the drinks were cold and the atmosphere was electric.  Around midnight, Jeff leaned over and gave Jason a big kiss.  Since he was not prone to such public displays, Jason asked, “What was that for?”  Jeff replied, “Because I love you so much, my prince.”  At that Jason’s usual smile became even bigger.

At 4 am the phone rang at Jason’s home.  By the time his mother was awaken and realized it was the phone, the ringing stopped.  She started to drift off to sleep but 10 minutes later the phone was ringing again.  When she got up and got to the phone, it had stopped again.  The mother thought Jason forgot his key or was staying with Jeff.  “He really did not have to call about that,” she thought.  She waited by the phone another 10 minutes but it did not ring, so she went back to bed.

72-BW-Boston-Night_004Just as she was getting up around 7 am the front doorbell rang.  She thought, “This must be Jason.”  She put on her robe and walked to the door.  She opened it to find a uniformed police officer standing there.  Behind her was a man in plain clothes, but he was wearing a police badge on his belt.

“Are you Mrs. DeAngelo?”  the officer asked.


“And is Jason DeAngelo your son?”

“Why?  What’s wrong? What happened?  Tell me, what is it?” she blurted out, trying not to sound hysterical.

“There has been a shooting at a night club.  I am afraid your son was one of the victim’s.  We are sorry for your  loss, Mrs. DeAngelo.”
Jason’s mother stood there absolutely frozen to the spot.  She had been kicked in the stomach and her breath had been taken away.

“Is it alright if we come in and ask a few questions?” the plain clothes police officer asked.

For a moment Mrs. DeAngelo could not speak.  Her eyes began to water and her brain was numb.  She was transported through time to a place of unspeakable sadness.  It was a place where senses momentarily failed her.

“Would you like us to come back?” the man asked.

“No,” she replied.  “Come in.”

Mr. DeAngelo joined them in the living room.  He immediately knew what had happened.  He stood there silently.  His wife answered all the questions.

For the next half hour the two police officers queried Jason’s mom.  Did Jason go to the Club often?  Why did he go that night?  Was he with anyone?  Was he gay?  Did they know it was a gay nightclub and so on?  Mrs. DeAngelo answered as best she could.

Then they mentioned the name of the shooter which lead to a new round of questions.  Did she ever hear the name before?  Did her son know him?  There were other questions too but they all became a blur to Mrs. DeAngelo.  After a while, she was not even sure what she was saying.

The uniformed officer concluded by saying the coroner’s office would be processing the dozens of bodies over the next few days and they would be in contact with them.  Both told the parents “We are sorry for your loss,” as they were leaving the house.

Mrs. DeAngelo softly closed the door behind them.  She grabbed a framed picture of Jason off a table and sat down on the sofa.  She stared at the picture as a tear formed in the corner of one eye.  She tried to envision Jason’s happy face as a child and his boundless energy.  She remembered the time she called him “my little terrier” because it seemed he could run for hours and then come and lay down right by her.  She did not move from that spot for a long time.

Mr. DeAngelo recalled the look he gave the boys the night before as they left for the club.  It was the only thing he could remember.


Lewis Carroll is my favorite poet. In this, one of his lesser known poems, he offers commentary on both parenthood and aging. These days, I find myself relating in some weird way and since today is Father’s Day in the US …

I’ve included John Tenniel‘s original illustrations because I love them.

From Wikipedia:

The poem appears in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and is recited by Alice (Chapter 5, “Advice from a Caterpillar” which was Chapter 3 in the original manuscript, Alice’s Adventures Under Ground). Alice informs the caterpillar she has tried to repeat “How Doth the Little Busy Bee” and it came out all wrong as “How Doth the Little Crocodile”. The caterpillar asks her to repeat “You are old, Father William.” 


“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”


“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son,
“I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.”

“You are old,” said the youth, “As I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door—
Pray, what is the reason of that?”


“In my youth,” said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
“I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment—one shilling the box—
Allow me to sell you a couple?”

“You are old,” said the youth, “And your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak—
Pray, how did you manage to do it?”


“In my youth,” said his father, “I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life.”

“You are old,” said the youth, “one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose—
What made you so awfully clever?”


“I have answered three questions, and that is enough,”
Said his father; “don’t give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I’ll kick you down stairs!”


My new favorite show to binge watch these days is “Grace and Frankie” on Netflix. The cast is amazing – Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston in the leads. The supporting cast, particularly the four adult children, are also pitch perfect. The characters are fully and thoughtfully developed, the writing is brilliant and the humor springs naturally from the characters and situations.

G & F couples

The show begins when two 70-year-old men tell their wives that they are both gay, have been having a twenty year affair and are asking for divorces so they can marry each other. The Lily Tomlin (Frankie), Sam Waterston couple are Jewish, hippy, touchy feely, chanting, pot smoking flower children. The Jane Fonda (Grace), Martin Sheen couple are status seeking, uptight Wasps and Grace was a super corporate, super successful career woman. Now, the two wives, who are not fond of each other, for obvious reasons, have to move in together when the men take over one of the family homes.

grace and frankie 1

The issues are dealt with honestly and on a personal, emotional level. There is no hint of ideology or agenda (except for acceptance of gay marriage). You laugh at the straights as much as the gays, the hippies as much as the wasps, the older generation as much as the younger one. The relationships with the adult children are fully realized and quite varied so the humor always rings true there as well.

G&F men

The center of the show is the evolution of the friendship between the two women. It is beautiful and edifying to watch as they struggle to focus on their common ground and accommodate their glaring differences. It is a wonderful affirmation that people who are so different can bridge the gaps between them and forge a strong bond.I see parts of myself in both women so I’m laughing at myself a lot. At times I want to BE them and have a female friend who can share and support and help me cope and grow at the same time. At other times I just enjoy watching them deal with the major twists in the lives from the comfort of my thankfully “boring” life.

G&F women

Another reason I love watching this show is that it deals sensitively but bluntly with elder issues that are not often discussed. The retired women have to come to terms with their feelings of uselessness and invisibility. They have to find day-to-day meaning in a life without the structure of a full-time job or of a family to take care of 24/7. They talk about memory loss, arthritis and other indignities of an older body. There is also a lot of talk about vaginas and sex in your 70’s. Vaginal dryness has a whole plot line built around it!

Baby Boomers are becoming Seniors at warp speed. So there is now a big demographic of elders to sell products to and pitch movies and TV shows to. So expect to see more sagging bodies and forgetful minds on all forms of media. The Geriatric Baby Boomers are taking over so move over and remind me why I decided to write this blog.