What was I up to in December 2000?

These entries via the Web Archive (my old Angelfire site). Some names have been edited to conform with my later practice.

Saturday, December 2, 2000: Yesterday was World AIDS Day.

My little circle of friends has displayed over the past week an amazing range of emotions. We’ve had love gone wrong, love gone right…and so on. Quite dramatic really. Perhaps the dominant note, one way or another, has been love.:-)

I have, I must say, found December rewarding so far.

One of my circle has an anniversary coming up of one of life’s turning-points. There are mixed emotions involved, which I, perhaps, understand better than most. The person involved may read this, and he knows my thoughts are with him.

Sunday, December 3, 2000

I hope to dedicate December, one way or another, to love and understanding. Today it is the turn of my ICQ friend Atakan, a young (not gay) teacher in Turkey. He is quite a devout follower of Islam, but not a fundamentalist; indeed he found some elements of this site a bit shocking, but still talks to me 🙂 Given that here the popular image of Islam is coloured by media reports of extremism and violence, it is as well to reflect on the fact that this is a distortion. Here, for example, is what Atakan recently messaged me:

ATAKAN ALI 11/30/00 8:08 AM : “Be so tolerant that your bosom becomes wide like the ocean. Become inspired with faith and love of human beings. Let there be no troubled souls to whom you do not offer a hand, and about whom you remain unconcerned.”

ninglun 11/30/00 4:41 PM: That’s very beautiful. Thanks.

Tuesday, December 5, 2000

Continuing this month’s theme, here is a little-known poem written by a man for a man. The poet, J. Griffith Fairfax (1886-1976) served in World War I, where he was three times mentioned in dispatches. He practised law in Sydney after the war, returned to England, and become a Conservative Member of Parliament (1924-1929). My source is Lads: An Anthology of Comradeship, ed. Martin Taylor, 1989.

FRIENDSHIP

When I would summon words to sing for you,
The tenderness that draws us each to each
Seems over-wise and delicate for speech,
And what are words, a feeble folk and few!
Your hand in mine; enough that this be true;
Your heart to mine, and why should I beseech
The tongues of men and angels? They could teach
Little to Love, and nothing strange or new.

The silence; let the sound of all men’s feet,
And all the fret of voices touch us not.
Then Peace, in which these others have no lot,
And Time folds up his wings that were so fleet:
Your hand in mine; only the pulse should beat,
Your heart to mine, and all the world forgot.

Written of course during World War I. I thought to take it from obscurity, not that it is the greatest poem I have read, but the last two lines seem to chime with me somehow. What do you think?
And now to be really daring: this one is my own 🙂 Be kind!

In the coffee shop: 8 am.

They know him now–
The cute waiter with the biceps,
The slightly feral girl:

“Flat white?”
“Thanks.”

The old queen in the corner
Reading. Looks up
And smiles
At an empty chair.

He’s harmless
After all–
No madder than anyone else
In Surry Hills.

The regulars in bicycle shorts,
The professional man
Entangling eyes with his mistress.

Not bad places
Coffee shops.

Wednesday, December 6, 2000: St Nicholas Day.

This entry has so much of my heart in it I’ll leave it for a while–so come back in a few days! Or reread this one 🙂
It is not often that I find a book so moving that tears stream down my face as I read it, or that I skim because, while wanting to know what happens, I cannot bear the details. Such has been my experience while reading the second half of Tim Conigrave’s Holding the Man (Penguin, 1995). Tim Conigrave was an Australian actor (graduated from NIDA 1984) and writer; the book was published posthumously, as the author died in October 1994 (aged 35) of AIDS-related illness–his lover of fifteen years, John Caleo, had died on Australia Day 1992. The two began their relationship at a Catholic school in Melbourne in Year 11, when John was captain of the school football team. Holding the Man is autobiographical, and indeed I recognised some names in it towards the end, the second half occurring mostly in Sydney.

At first as I read I thought, “Oh yes, another growing up gay/Catholic boyhood story–not all that well written”, but I soon found my jaded cynicism unfitting. The book is very honest, and, given all the circumstances of its writing, a monument of courage and love. Sexy too–very much so in places. In a way it makes Martin Bauman, technically perhaps a better book, seem arid and over-intellectual.

Take just one sample. The two (in Year 11 at this point) are out one day, very soon after acknowledging the nature of their feelings for each other:

Our hands brushed again and his little finger hooked mine, but I wanted people to know we were in love so I took his whole hand. He turned sharply down an alley and we found ourselves against a wall. He looked around. ‘Not here, we can be seen.’ Another sharp turn down another alley. He took both my hands and leant against a large green roller-door. We were standing holding hands, looking. I think this was the first time that we had ever really looked at each other. Boys do not look at each other like that.

I reached out and touched his hair. He turned and kissed my hand. I moved closer until we were standing against each other. He smelt like soap and clean clothes. Gentle. Just holding and kissing gently. Little angel kisses.
If this had been it, if I had died then, I would have said it was enough.

…As we walked out of the alley and into Russell Street I looked back to where we had been…Then it dawned on me…’John, look where we were.’

His jaw dropped. ‘Russell Street Police Station!’

I pissed myself laughing but he didn’t seem very impressed.

Such a tender moment, with the wry smile at the irony of where it took place–what they were doing was totally illegal of course.

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Tim Conigrave and John Caleo

I have no such moment to recall, not at that age anyway. My “first time” was when I was 27 or 28, in circumstances both surprising and fraught, even perhaps to this day: nothing unprofessional in my role as teacher I hasten to add, in case any of you wish to make prurient guesses! My “coming out” moment was a public kiss many years later, probably around my 40th birthday. (I was interested to hear that my military friend from last Yum Cha began to “sail strange waters” (as I put it rather appropriately) at about the same time I did.)

If I were a Shakespeare play, it is fair to say I am now well into Act IV, probably even Act V. That time of year thou mayst in me behold… etc. And, as the sonnet concludes, so I try to live: To love that well which thou must leave ere long. When I find a kindred spirit, or a heart that beats in sympathy with mine, I cherish the experience all the more, but with (I hope) some wisdom born of age and experience: intensely yes, but cloyingly or stiflingly–I hope not. If anyone ever notices me crossing that boundary, by the way, tell me: it is an old vice of mine that I am only too aware of and am none too fond of.

Eleven, twelve years ago I had some dark times when, I have to admit, I was “half in love with easeful death.” I once even resolved, in writing, not to live beyond 50! (I am now 57!) As well I did not carry out my resolution, as I would have missed some of the best times of my life. The unexpected can turn up beautiful things as well as nasties–and sometimes we have to ride through the nasties buoyed up by nothing much but faith. And friends. One reason I appreciate PK, among others.

But a bad patch gone through, a turning of the corner, the pressure of a hand–so many things can give savour back to life.

A feeble, ill old age is not my greatest dream for the future however. Yet, what will be will be; if ever it comes to that I hope someone has the sense to put me out of my misery. At the moment life is sweet enough–and my only counsel to the young is to be more courageous than I was, more practical too–and not to fear the future too much. But of course to stay safe.

7.00 pm: I have taken the opportunity of having to correct an error to add some comments. Take the words “I love you”; some say them frequently and to all and sundry; I don’t–it is not me to do so. I have used the words to four people in the last ten years: one was my late mother, another a supportive friend. So that leaves only two. To me the words are a declaration of something very special. You will never hear me saying “darling” to anyone unless I mean it. On the other hand, I cannot condemn those who splash such words around indiscriminately–but I do cringe; perhaps I shouldn’t.

My second point concerns those who may think people like Tim and John were “judged” by God: “die, faggot, die” and all that. Bad theology as well as bad taste. In the Nimrod book discussed earlier in this diary, the author claimed those English men, women and children who died in the Indian Mutiny in 1857 were “judged” because the British pandered to Indian idolatry! How tragically stupid bigotry was then, and is now. If AIDS is God’s judgment, it is a very clumsy one to say the least. Are Africans especially evil then? By all means invoke the love of God and the mercy of God, but never pretend to know his judgments or his mind. Assuming you are a believer, of course.

Afterthoughts 7 December:

In case the thoughts on saying “I love you” above seem too puritanical, realise it is just me! Further, there are all sorts of people I actually love, in some sense or other. The important thing anyway is showing it in what you do, not so much in what you say, isn’t it? As to those few to whom I have felt moved to say “I love you”, it is not a synonym for “I own you”: anyone to whom I use these words hears them because I feel some kind of magic between us. The feeling will evolve over time, to be sure; but I haven’t regretted yet using the words to those few. What has led to the words and what has followed has been pretty damned special 🙂 On my part I will always give the best I have to that person, and always try to be open and sensitive to what is best for them. Needless to say, not being a saint yet 😉 I can quite easily fall short of what I would hope to be. But don’t we all? Also, I analyse too much!

There are stories behind all these thoughts, but I won’t tell them here. They are shared with a very select few indeed.

Buddha’s Enlightenment: Friday, December 8, 2000

I have decided today will wind up the “love” theme for a while; so maybe the next entry will be really vicious and bitchy 😉 However, in the meantime some more thoughts–bearing in mind they are just my thoughts, and not the last word on the subject.

You could call this A Romantic Old Queen’s Ten Ways to Experience Heaven on Earth–all a matter of taste really. These represent my taste. And that’s an important point. In my view self-esteem is an even more powerful need than sex. Not that there is necessarily an incompatibility between them, but we should always remember there is no blueprint for being a gay man (or woman). There are not certain things you must do or be before you are admitted to the “club”. Whatever is really outside your comfort zone is probably not for you. On the other hand, it does not do to be censorious of those, gay or straight, who act and think differently. So long as no-one’s potential for happiness is injured, so long as there is no subjugation of the other for one’s own ends, then all is cool as far as I am concerned.

So here is my list–and yes, I have been lucky enough at times to have experienced all of them: not constantly, as life is not like that, but often enough to encourage one to go on 🙂 If you are straight and reading this, you may well find you agree! I’d say what we are talking about here are human things, not just gay things.

1. Sharing the highs and lows of life with another, knowing your confidences won’t be betrayed.
2. Hugging and being hugged in such a way that the warmth of body contact is also the warmth of emotional contact.
3. Sharing simple experiences with a loved other–a meal, a drink, or just sitting.
4. Feeling the warmth of another through the night.
5. Seeing confirmation in another’s gaze.
6. A kiss that says more than words can, evaporating tensions or difficulties.
7. A touch that accepts you body and spirit–with all your faults.
8. A happy silence when words no longer seem necessary. (I tend sometimes to talk too much, filling such silences with unnecessary sound.)
9. Having one’s pain accepted, when one is down, without unnecessary probing. Most of us tend to probe; it is not always the best thing to do.
10. Sex, when the pleasure is truly shared–undemanding, celebratory, affirming. Such sex is more than physical release. Or, at times, no sex at all.

Sunday, 17 December, 2000

Yum Cha–the last one of the millennium–and James’ birthday. The food at The Golden Harbour was fresh and plentiful. PK (whose handover of the goods collected by the Gifting Tree takes place tonight), the Dowager Empress, James, Sirdan  and myself. A nice break.

Two days of school to go. The HSC results and UAI (University Admissions Index) results come out Monday and Tuesday and I am very interested to hear certain ones 🙂 The hopes, fears and aspirations of some involved in this I have got quite involved in–some I have known now for quite a few years, and others I have known more recently. I was reminded particularly of the events of the past year/months when I got a message from Shanghai Bob, who has been in Melbourne being interviewed for medical school, and saw the current note on Mitchell’s ICQ information.

Then the Annual Unemployment, and, a thought I am still facing up to, the inevitable move. Prior to where I am now, the longest I have lived in one place was my place of birth–seven and a half years. I have exceeded that record here in this little apartment in Surry Hills, but it very much looks as if that is over, with only the details and legalities to be arranged. That’s how things stood last time it was discussed anyway. A dream has died too, or rather the dreams of others have long since moved on, and no-one is to blame. Send positive vibes nonetheless please. Christmas I will probably spend with the Dowager Empress.

10 pm: Just back from the Carols Service/ Gifting Tree handover at Taylor Square, the major intersection in Sydney’s gay district. The Gay and Lesbian Choir were great (a colleague up in the back row), Vanessa Wagner (the master/mistress of ceremonies) very witty, the Mayor wonderful, and PK spoke very well. A lovely night. Fireworks at the end, the “Hallelujah Chorus”, and quite a crowd of gays, lesbians, and mums, dads and children. It was a night to remember with pleasure.

Earlier I had a bit of a hug and cry with Sirdan which helped no end. 🙂

2016: That crisis passed, insofar as the feared move did not eventuate. I was to be another 9-10 years in Surry Hills.

Monday, December 18, 2000

Thanks for the positive vibes (emailed) SH! Old friends are good. And so are newer ones–another message I got today 🙂 Guess we will talk soon anyway! Hmmm…after the weekend, things have simmered down and change (while necessary and ongoing anyway) is not so immediate in its effects as of tonight, compared with Friday night. They say a week is a long time in politics; seems so in domestic settings sometimes too.

And the HSC was good–well done everyone! The people you may have met through these pages did well–very well in some cases. 50% of those I was working with for ESL got top 10% of state in English! Shanghai Bob hit his target spot-on! One very hard-working person who really improved over the year (only speaking English a short time) did not quite get to his target, but all his other subjects were really good–so I hope he gets into his chosen course anyway. Delenio got what he wanted, I noticed. And Mr Rabbit  would have to be happy 🙂

The lovely Atakan messaged this from Turkey:

ATAKAN ALI 12/15/00 5:11 PM BE THANKFUL
Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

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