IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR

The Class of South Pacific, by Rich Paschall

It seems like an odd thing to say to high school or college graduates, and yet we say it all the time.  Students are probably listening to graduation speeches in wonder, perhaps even shock at this notion.  There it is, however, an oft-repeated idea that older folks are selling to the young.

“These are the best years of your life,” some may exclaim.  Others may narrow it down to tell students, “You will look back on this as the best year of your life.”  The best year?

It was a long time ago, and I can not recall specifically what I heard at my various graduations, but I am pretty sure the idea was sold to me somewhere.  “How can this be?” graduates may ask themselves.  “What about the next 60 years?  You mean to say, ‘this is it’?”

Are these youthful years the best years of our lives?  Is this where we had the best times, best friends, best dances and concerts and music and well, everything?  The answer is a surprising yes, and no.

When I was in third year of high school I learned that DePaul Academy would be closing and we would all be shipped off to another area high school.  To be perfectly honest, I did not like this a bit.  Despite the tough discipline of my school and the fear of 4th year Latin, I wanted to go to a similar environment.  However, the school where I applied to go to for 4th year would not take any incoming seniors.  So off I went where they sent me, bound to make the best of it.

graduation

There were a few familiar faces at the new school, some were transfers, some I knew from grade school.  There were also dances and plays.  They had a fine arts department (something lacking at the all boys academy) and teachers who seemed to care about you as well as your studies.  I took drama, not fourth year Latin.  I came, I saw, I took something else.

The social activities meant more opportunities to make friends.  The interaction was an education itself.  Soon there was a group of us that hung together a lot, and some of us still do.

The most remarkable part of this transition was the “Senior Class Play.”  Yes, so many students wanted to take part, it was just for seniors, as in 17 and 18-year-old students.  I got the nerve to audition.  I have no idea what I sang.  Everybody was in the show so it did not matter that a hundred of us showed up.  We were going to do South Pacific.  I was rather unaware of it.

Aside from learning the art of theater (Project, Enunciate, Articulate, Stand up straight), I learned about the classic story of war, hate, prejudice and, of course, love.  Learning to play our parts was important.  We were commanded to be professional in everything.  We also learned a story that held a dramatic lesson in life.

I'm in this group, just left of center.

I’m in this group, just left of center.

When the movie starring Mitzi Gaynor, Rosanno Brazzi and Ray Waltson was re-released, we ran off to see it.  In subsequent years, we saw several community theater productions as well as professional versions of the classic Rogers and Hammerstein musical.  We grew to love the theater and the lessons that such musicals could bring to us.  We learned why fine arts were so important in the schools.

So we were fortunate. We had a positive experience and a good education.  We learned our lessons in the halls as well as the classroom, in the gym which was also our auditorium.  We signed one another’s yearbooks and held on to them like they were made of gold.  But was it the best year of my life?  If so, what about all the intervening years?

It is an interesting paradox that you can not adequately explain to an 18-year-old graduate.  Yes, it was the best year up to that point, and it will always remain so.  Nothing can ever take away those memories, so hopefully they are all positive.  Those lessons of love and life will influence everything from that point on.

While you are busy making new memories, a career, a family perhaps, and new friends, they will all be measured against “the best year of your life,” whether it is 18 or 21.  Some friends may be better, some lessons may be better, some experiences may be better, but they will all be measured against those moments in youth when you discovered who you were and where you were going.  The quality of future friendships must stand up to those already at hand.

South_pacific_bway_1949

If you have a South Pacific in your memory bank, you will tell people all across the (hopefully) many generations that come through your life how this was a great experience.  You may say it was best time ever.  If your younger friend looks sorry that your best times were so far back, remind them to enjoy what they have because it will be the springboard to everything else.  It will be their touchstone.

Every spring, without fail for these many decades, the change of seasons hits me like some great coming of age story.  My imagination calls up images of Bali Hai and I hear echoes of “There Is Nothing Like A Dame” in the distance.  I once again feel “Younger Than Springtime” and every night is “Some Enchanted Evening.”  Whenever I look back to the Class of South Pacific, I can also look forward with a lot of “Happy Talk” for everyone who will listen.

LOOKING BACK ON MY FIRST POST: WITHOUT BENEFIT OF CLERGY:

In a different context, WordPress asked us to share our first post. Well, actually, this isn’t my first post, but it’s the closest thing to the first I’ve retained in archives. Though I started blogging in February 2012, I didn’t really get into it until May. This was published May 22, 2012. It’s too long and rambling, but I’ll let it stand, minus a few typos.

Note that I’m away through tomorrow, so if I don’t answer comments, it’s because I did not bring my computer.


I was Jewish when I married Garry in a Lutheran Church. I said then … and I say now …  any God I might be willing to worship would not care what ritual was used or in what language we spoke our vows. I really believe everyone has the right to live life as they want, to have or not have children. Spend whatever day you consider the Sabbath doing whatever you want.

Travel your path and be glad.

All prayers are good prayers. Goodness is goodness, whether you believe in God or not. Faith is a choice, decency is a requirement. You don’t need a church to know the difference between right and wrong. Some of the worst people I’ve known were ardent church goers and some of the best were skeptics or atheists. I’ll bet that God knows who is who and is not fooled by how often you attend church.

Garry and I were married in his church on Long Island because he had a strong emotional attachment to it. I didn’t have any particular attachment to any religious institution, though still have an attachment to Judaism as a philosophy and as a moral compass. And as an ethnic identity: Yiddishkeit, as it were.

When we renewed our vows the first time, it was in front of a notary, but the next renewal was under the sky in our backyard by a minister of the Christian Reform Church. Maybe we’ll do it again and who knows who will officiate? We intended to renew our vows again for our 20th anniversary, but I was sick that year and I had other things on my mind. Hopefully, we’ll both be available for 25th. That seems like a good number for another renewal.

Marriage is a contract between two adults. It doesn’t require benefit of clergy. Any religion is okay and no religion is okay too. Unless you live in a theocracy and thankfully we do not … yet …you don’t need to believe in anything but your partner to get married.  I hate the theocratic trend this country is taking. I’m baffled as to how God and religion are suddenly the arbiters of what constitutes a family.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness …”

declaration_independence

The bit about pursuing happiness seems to have been lost along the way. Pity because it’s not less important than the rest. It may be the most important. What good is life and liberty if you can’t be happy? Gay, straight, old, young … we deserve the right to marry who we choose and be happy.

If we start defining the meaning of marriage, if we declare that marriage is sacred and exists entirely  for the creation of children, what about people who don’t want children? Are they the next group not allowed to marry? How about people who are too old to make babies? Can they marry? For too many years in a lot of states, people of different races were forbidden to marry … was that okay? They said that it was God’s decree too. Funny how it’s always God’s plan … no individual ever seems to be responsible.

You can interpret “God’s teaching” however you like, but if it’s so clear what God wants, why all the religious debate — not to mention wars — for thousands of years?

Gay, straight, or not entirely clear on the issue, marry if you want to. Or not. Be happy.

I have no opinion on an afterlife. I don’t know.  Neither do you. You can believe what you like but you don’t know anything because God doesn’t talk to you. Or me. Make this life a good one. It’s the only one you know for certain you’ve got.

Carpe diem, my friends. Carpe with both hands and don’t let go until you’ve squeezed that last bit of joy from your world!

SURVIVAL VS. VALOR – A FEW THOUGHTS

We were watching a rerun of NCIS, an episode from a few years ago. The victim had given her life to protect others and her country’s secrets.

“She didn’t have to do it,” McGee pointed out.

“No,” said Gibbs. “She had a choice. That’s what makes her a hero.”


My cousin is my oldest friend, though we don’t see each other much. We communicate a fair bit on the Internet but hardly ever in person.

“You’ve always been braver than me,” she said.

The context was a picture of me and Garry riding the Cyclone at Coney Island. There’s a camera at the first drop. Hard to resist buying a picture of oneself and others screaming as you go down the nearly vertical first drop on an 84-year old wooden coaster.

But brave? It wasn’t as if I’d volunteered to rescue someone from danger. I paid my money and got the best adrenaline rush money can buy. Not brave. Not heroic. Fun and I don’t regret it, but there’s nothing heroic about riding the Cyclone — at least not these days since they repaired it.

Maybe it was braver — more like stupider — when I was a kid. Back then, pieces of it would fly off while you rode the rickety rails at 70 mph. But I digress.

Some people have called me brave because I’ve survived cancer and heart problems and a myriad other life-threatening ailments (so far, so good). As it happens, I would have been just as happy to skip all of that and have a pleasant, uneventful life. For excitement, there’s always a trip to the Cyclone and doesn’t require years of recovery and rehab.

I’ve managed to slouch into senior citizenship still alive but hardly deserving a medal. No one gives medals for surviving. Nor should they. Saving your own life (and occasionally, dragging others with you to safety) is your survival instinct at work. It’s not valor. N0t bravery.

Staying alive is hard-wired into the DNA of all living things. Otherwise, life on earth would have long since vanished. It may yet.

My definition of bravery or valor is the same as Gibbs’. You make a willing and conscious choice to put yourself in peril for the sake of others. There must be a choice involved. Taking risks for fun, to make money, or because your imminent demise is the only other option isn’t courageous. It’s what we do to keep alive. Some of us are better at it than others, but that doesn’t change the essence of the experience.

Medal of honor from Obama

If you do it for fun, it’s entertainment. If you’re doing it for profit? It’s shrewd business sense.  If it’s choosing to live rather than die? That’s your survival instinct at work.

I have never done anything I would define as courageous. I’ve done exciting stuff, entertaining and fascinating stuff. I’ve gotten myself into tight corners — accidentally — and lived to tell the tale. I’ve occasionally put others ahead of me to help when I could. Never did I put myself in harm’s way to save another.

The best I could be accused of is doing the right thing when it wasn’t the easiest choice. You don’t get medals for that, either.

SURVIVAL – THE DAILY POST

THAT’S THE WAY THAT THE WORLD GOES ROUND – JOHN PRINE

While I was growing up, my world was entirely full of classical, baroque, and other “serious” music. No complicated reasons. I spent a lot of time studying and practicing the piano. Even then, there were only so many hours in a day, so it wasn’t until I knew I would never be a professional musician that I began to explore the world of “pop.” The Beatles were the first group that I truly loved. After “A Hard Days Night” (I loved the movie and the score), and “Rubber Soul,” I was a fan for life. Eventually, I added many other individuals and groups, as well as many other categories of music.

John Prine was a latecomer to my “playlist,” but he remains a favorite. Better known as the writer than the singer, there are a couple of songs that I particularly enjoy and always cheer me when I’m blue. It’s pouring rain right now. I mean, it’s coming down in buckets with thunder rumbling in the background. A good day for music. A bad one for any other plans we might have had.

Not everyone has heard of John Prine, but he wrote many songs. He sang them himself on various recordings, most of which I once owned on vinyl. Lo and behold, there’s a CD collection of his work available … just $10, double CD. I ordered it. Of course.

John Prine sings about life. He always had a sense of humor, too. He wrote great, witty lyrics, and singable melodies. What more do you need? Because to me, that’s music. A sentiment … several sentiments … to which I can really relate. John Prine. Singing one of  my favorites. Musical philosophy.

The meaning of life according to John Prine. He sums it up for me. Thanks John!

MUSIC – A WordPress Daily Prompt

PROCASTINATION – IT’S EARLIER WHEN YOU THINK

Procrastination? It’s not procrastination. Uh uh. It’s enjoying the freedom of unharnessed time. For long time-faceyears, I too was scheduled. Always short of time, but never late. Never missed a deadline. Always left the house early in case I encountered traffic. I used up my time making sure to have enough time.

But time is all in our heads. There’s always time and there’s always no time at all. I put off what isn’t critical, do what must be done now, and the rest? I’ll have another cup of coffee and a Danish, please.

I call and change appointments when I don’t feel like going. If traffic piles up? I’m late. I say “Oops, sorry. Hit some traffic.” The world keeps spinning. No one takes out a pistol and shoots me. Yet.

In the immortal words of Robert Heinlein’s Time Travel Corps from All You Zombies —

Never Do Yesterday What Should Be Done Tomorrow

If At Last You Do Succeed, Never Try Again

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine Billion

A Paradox May be Paradoctored

It is Earlier When You Think

Ancestors Are Just People

Even Jove Nods.

Priorities are important. I’ll get my leaky valve fixed. In time. I’ll get that book review written. Tomorrow. I’ll process some more of the pictures we took yesterday … later. After coffee. After I read, write and think a while.

There will be time. For the important stuff. Maybe there won’t be time for other things and, well … they just won’t get done. Because my hurrying days are done.

WHEN YOU HAVE NO HOME

Hope for Homeless Teens, by Rich Paschall

Yesterday we presented a fictional story about a gay teen tossed out of his home.  The story is based — in part — on elements I know to be true. Many other true stories of teens exist; kids tossed out by parents or who leave home in fear for their safety.

Where do they go?  What happens when you are a teenager and homeless?  Where is there hope?

Corey Nichols, a 15-year-old, became sick and was ignored by his parents who suspected he was gay.  He became desperate and suicidal. A friends’ mother rescued him, and she and her husband nursed him back to health.  When the boy returned home after the absence, he admitted he was gay but the episode took a scary turn.

The Gaily Grind reports “Corey claims when his parents and brother tried breaking down the bedroom door, he took refuge in the bathroom. After they had gone to sleep, he slipped out of the house, never to return again.”  The friend’s parents took him in and adopted him.  Corey’s biological parents did not contest the adoption.

“I want the world to know that Corey is a beautiful human being,” Mindy, Corey’s new mom, told Out In Santa Cruz. ”I want the world to see Corey’s pain and know it is not necessary.”

In the fall of 2014 The Huffington Post reported the story of Georgia teen Daniel Ashley Pierce.  He came out in 2013 but last year the parents tried to intervene, and it became violent.  The episode was caught on this shaky home video here.  Daniel stated on his Facebook: “to add insult to injury my step mother punched me in the face repeatedly with my grandmother cheering her along.”  Warning:  The video contains graphic content.

A friend posted the video and a Go Fund Me page to help with living expenses.  The video went viral, and there was an outpouring of support.  Daniel got his start and has since directed donations to Atlanta’s Lost N Found, a not-for-profit agency that help homeless LGBTQ youth.

In September 2014 Rolling Stone reported on the rising number of gay teens being tossed out by “highly religious” parents. The article states: “The Center for American Progress has reported that there are between 320,000 and 400,000 homeless LGBT youths in the United States.”  The figure may reflect (partly) youth coming out at an earlier age, encouraged by social media success stories.  Unfortunately, many coming out stories do not turn out well.

This “hidden epidemic” of homeless gay teens is quite troubling to Carl Siciliano, founder of the Ali Forney Center, the largest organization dedicated to homeless LGBTQ teens. “I feel like the LGBT movement has been asleep at the wheel when it comes to this,” he told Rolling Stone. “We haven’t been fighting for economic resources. How many tax dollars do gay people contribute? What percentage of tax dollars comes back to our gay kids? We haven’t matured enough as a movement yet that we’re looking at the economics of things.”

So it is a variety of organizations across the country that are dealing with this growing problem. Since gay is “unacceptable” in so many communities, we literally have a generation of gay children without homes.

Point Foundation:  The largest organization dedicated to providing scholarship money and support to LGBTQ students.  The need is great. However, they can only offer scholarships to 2 percent of the students who apply.

The Trevor Project: “The leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.”

It Gets Better Project: “The It Gets Better Project’s mission is to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.”

For more on any of the organizations mentioned above, just click on the name of the organization in the article.

Read more about the “hidden epidemic”: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/the-forsaken-a-rising-number-of-homeless-gay-teens-are-being-cast-out-by-religious-families-20140903#ixzz3WOcsK0WI
Follow: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook

LIVING A CALAMITOUS LIFE

Discounting failed marriages and bad investments, both of which count as major disasters, most of life’s problems are little things. Dinners burnt. Stuff you meant to pick up at the grocery, but forgot. Appointments missed. Fender benders, dents, dings, and forgotten oil changes. Tires that got old too fast. Appliances that stop working before you finish paying for them. Computer viruses and bad software.

problem solving dogs

Little things can accumulate into bigger things. If you forget enough appointments with your dentist, you lose the tooth. When you burn the holiday dinner, those accusing eyes at the dinner table can make you feel like the turkey at the feast. The Titanic was not sunk by a big hole in the hull. It was thousands of popped rivets that turned her into a sieve. And down went the big ship to the briny deep.

Speaking of the small stuff and a life of perpetual crisis, I have an acquaintance — an almost friend — for whom everything is the end of the world. Life is one huge calamity. She’s a Facebook kind of gal, so no matter what happens, she’s telling the world the sky is falling. On her. It’s personal. If it’s snowing, it’s to punish her. Ditto if it’s raining. (She’s the person who complains it’s raining in the middle of a drought.)

I thought about it one day after reading one of her posts. Her usual collection of followers were commenting on how she is the unluckiest woman on earth.

Is she? A few minutes of pondering made me realize I have as many bumps in my road of life as she does. On a bad year, probably more. Mostly, unless it’s serious enough to sink the ship of state, I fix the problem as best I can and move on.

panic button

So much of “disaster” is perspective, response, and perception. We choose how to deal with the stuff we encounter. I expect the airline to lose our luggage (or some piece of it), but I also count on them to find it again. It’s an inconvenience, not the end of the world. I try not to let it define our travels.

If every problem is a cataclysm, we are the boy who cried wolf. Our friends and family stop listening so when a really bad thing happens … no one is there.

Disaster – The Daily Post