M came down to Wollongong. We went to the northern Chinese restaurant, Bei Feng, in Keira Street. I left my camera at home.
The food? Better than most I have had, including Chinatown in Sydney! M agreed – and he is Chinese! He described it as good home cooking, nothing fancy about the presentation.
Then we took a walk down Market Street…
The Congregational Church in Wollongong was officially established in October, 1855, and services were held in family homes. The first minister was Rev. George Charter, who had been a missionary in the South Seas. In 1856, it was decided to build a chapel for the growing congregation, and in August, 1857, the present church in Market Street was dedicated. Trustees of the new building included the Sydney businessmen, David Jones and John Fairfax.
Further towards the beach we came upon the old Wollongong Post Office, now a museum – and it was open.
We went in and had a good look around. There is a lot inside and in the yard.
On 2 December, 1816 Richard Brookes received a 1300 acre grant on the western perimeter of Lake Illawarra which he named “Exmouth”. The homestead he built consisted of split timbers such as stringy-bark, red gum and red mahogany with some wall plates of sassafras. After the homestead was dismantled some timbers were taken to Mt Brown where they were used for a shed to store grain and tools. With the construction of the southern freeway in 1968 the building had to make way for progress. The Society obtained the timbers and Ken Thomas set about constructing a typical stockman’s hut at the rear of the museum, completing it in 1979. Someone said that the flooring traditionally consisted of cow dung. This was one technique Ken was not familiar with. After advertising for information Forbes Historical Society contacted the Society stating that laying a cow dung floor can only be done in springtime whilst the manure was still warm. Ken diligently followed the instructions and laid a perfect cow dung floor.
The air raid shelter was built during World War II. The Museum building was then used as Government Offices. The air raid shelter is located at the rear of the building.
The Illawarra Historical Society has used the air raid shelter as a display area depicting various items used by the people of Illawarra during the war years, such as knitting patterns and sheet music.
Also on display are posters relating to the war years, a gas mask, an air raid warden’s helmet and hand book which would have been used during this time. In the corner is an old wireless set. A switch on the wall allows the visitors to turn back the clock and listen to recordings relating to World War II.
She was my GP – and M’s — for the best part of the last 20-25 years so I saw what she did up close. (I also coached her son in English for the HSC not all that long ago. This was taken from her place in the course of that.) See also Reflective of the 80s and 90s–others and myself for Lyle Chan’s story on Dr C.
David and I became much closer after I started collaborating with a doctor named Cassy Workman. Cassy and I together with Lois Johnson from ACT UP formed a radical AIDS treatment center masquerading as an ordinary doctor’s office. We ran our own clinical trials, recorded and analyzed our own data, and devised treatment regimes using drug combinations obtained by lying to the hospitals about what drugs our patients were really on – to circumvent a thinking-inside-the-box limit about how many experimental therapies a person could be on simultaneously. Our patients were clearly healthier than most. Some of it was due to the stealth combination therapy. Most of it was because we treated AIDS patients like normal people…
Since Cassy uncompromisingly gave her everything to every patient in front of her in every moment, it meant unpredictably long periods of waiting in the doctor’s office. A big part of my friendship with David came from talking to him while he waited his turn to see Cassy. He’d come with hilarious gifts for me, such as a compilation video tape of cartoons (eg. Son of Stimpy) and 1950s bodybuilding and soft porn footage. He also gave me a compilation cassette tape of campy songs, which I eventually understood was either a prototype or an offshoot of his “Toxic Queen presents …” and “Funeral Hits of the 90s” projects.
Humor – actually, sarcasm and bitchiness – was a key ingredient in David’s art. His works had titles like “Lifetimes are not what they used to be”, “Darling, you make me sick”, “AIDS victim dies alone – family profits” and “It’s my party and I’ll die if I want to, sugar.”…
On Facebook there is many a comment. For example:
GARY: There are more than a few who are still with us because of this Maverick
BRIAN: I’m another lucky one because Cassy hastled the shit out of the establishment, thanks Cas
DAN: Wow Cassy, what a legend, and a pioneer, saved lots of boys lives, when they would have been left by the wayside, myself included!!!
FRANK: Me too Lloyd, I would be long ggooonnneee if it wasn’t for Cassy…What a genius both medically and emotionally, an amazing support!!!
LLOYD: The stories we could tell…… Suffice to day her practice that was housed in the original Club 80 wasn’t called “Ground Zero Medical” for nothing…..
Her surgery in 2009 was near Taylor Square and Oxford Street. Fifty years and more earlier as a schoolboy I would pass through this area on tram or bus if ever I happened to depart school from Anzac Parade instead of Cleveland Street. This, thanks again to someone on Lost Gay Sydney, is what that was like.
Maverick MD update
That post on Lost Gay Sydney has attracted a lot of attention and many testimonies and stories about the “Woman Warrior” of Surry Hills and Darlinghurst, and a serious suggestion she be nominated for the Order Of Australia. I think she should be.
One sample recent comment from Pierre:
my partner had his old school doc being older than me at the time even my partners doc admitted to me @ the funeral that i was in good hands and i was — thank you Cassy i didn’t mind the 2 hours waiting
let’s face it boys every one was dying back then we all were on the pension it was a blessing to go there have a chat to the receptionist who was one of us talk to friends on the single bed & sharing our pains and sorrows what better dropin center could we have had than her clinic — so what is was not 3 stars it made us lucky to live this wonderful bitch of a life .
I checked the letterbox yesterday morning, retrieving a damp electricity bill. I was curious as this is for the winter quarter and that is always the most expensive one. I note that this time last year I averaged in this period 3.02 kWh, but got it down to 1.67 this year. How? Used very little heating. That, the bill informs me, is a 45% decrease!
And even though we have had a wet and at times very cold winter I was never really cold.
I paid with internet banking, but being now in my 80th year I found that I could barely read the vital Reference Number for a BPAY transaction!
OK, before I get to a couple of lunches let’s have some music. Do a search of this blog for the brilliant young performer Joshua Lee Turner and you will be mightily rewarded! Here is the latest.
Of that Josh wrote on Facebook:
Ooooooh man have I been looking forward to sharing this one!
Kelly [Oden — his wife] and I fell in love with this song during the pandemic, and this vision came to us of a dreamy evening park party as the backdrop for a video, which quickly spiraled into one of the most ambitious shoots we’ve ever done! This included calling up 6 incredible musicians, renting furniture, making a spread of food, recording a full band in the middle of a busy park, working with two camera ops for the first time (thanks to amazing channel alum, Leah Taub!) and generally hosting a party while shooting….
Now lunches. The aim here really is to practise using the camera on my new Nokia C30 smart phone…
So on Saturday I reached into my last Woolies order for the star chilled meal:
This is a funny time personally. Last night I slept rather badly, unusual for me. I woke around 4 am, though I did get off to sleep again for a while after 5, but broken sleep is never the same, is it? Subconsciously, I think, I must have been listening for the time M would usually return from work. He was just here a short time ago and tells me he is finding the new place will take some getting used to, and he also had not slept well. “It’s so quiet here,” he said. He liked my rearrangements and had a few suggestions too.
Twelve years is a long time in both our lives. Almost a third of his!
–1 August 2002
Any of you remember Doogie Howser on TV, the cute young teen genius MD who finished each episode writing up his computer diary? Intrigued me and seemed unlikely at the time. Well, here I am an online journal junkie (read them too) but not half so cute as Doogie was. Wonder what he is doing now?
Yesterday was just terrific, beginning with Yum Cha and ending with a steamboat that I cooked myself; I think M would have been proud of me. Actually it is dead easy–boiling water, the right ingredients, and just the right company–and I had all of them. Magic. And it provided tonight’s dinner as well…
Going to a play soon too, it appears. It should be a contrast to The Importance of Being Earnest, even if the production we saw was a touch, well, postmodern–a lot of gender bending and transgression of time periods, but it worked. More after I have seen the play, including its name, which I hold in reserve.
I prepared for the Department of Education the annual census of students from Language Backgrounds Other than English (LBOTE), the new jargon that quite rightly has replaced NESB, which always had a connotation of NOT doing something, as if they should bloody well have been brought up speaking English, so there (seeing as God does, and George W Bush almost does.) In 1997 our school had 571 such students out of about 1000; today it is 879. One in three students (at least) are from Chinese-speaking backgrounds. Quite a social change, though it is amazing how the same playground games go on, and the same classroom ones when the students get a slack moment–noughts and crosses, hangman, table-top soccer, and so on. One does however see more students engaged in games of Chinese Chess. In fact one sees them; I don’t think we did in 1997.
Social change (partly related to such phenomena as those I have just described) is the concern of much in this month’s Quadrant, which I have bought for a change, attracted perhaps by its delightfully mauve cover. There are some promising things: the poetry and short stories are always worth a look, even if they are not always the most exciting stuff around; there is an interesting-looking article by Sophie Masson (who had some comtact with us at Neos back in 1984-5) on M. le Pen; there could be more too. The bulk though struck me as being a sunshine home for the embittered intelligentsia. Really. I mean, in twenty years I may qualify to write for them myself! It is good to see people whose work I saw forty years ago still on the job, I guess. Harry Gelber, for example, seems to think we can understand 21st century Australia by reading the poems of Banjo Paterson and gazing at the paintings of Sir Arthur Streeton–just as one might understand modern Britain by reading Kipling (who wrote rather better than Paterson perhaps, but in a similar style) and gazing at the paintings of Landseer. Sad.
Ultra-conservatives find themselves doing contortions to make the world fit their preferred reality almost as much as Marxists used to. Their crustiness has a certain nostalgic appeal though, and I must repeat there are some articles of interest in this Quadrant, such as the exchange on religion between poet Alan Gould and that surprisingly common oddity, a Bible-believing scientist.
–5 August 2002
When your heart is in something there is not much you can do about it. How can you prove it to another? You can’t. You take it on trust. Or not. I don’t usually say things I don’t mean, or use important words loosely.
Intellectualising about it will do no good at all.
Even more concerning is the pain that the other person must have been feeling. Was I too imperceptive earlier in the day? That’s probably what I really should be thinking about.
Can’t report on the play–didn’t make it.
—Sunday 11 August 2002: not a good day
3 am: Not a time I am usually up, but I woke a short time ago, not surprising really, and have some clarity on yesterday’s events and their context. Some of what I wrote yesterday was unnecessarily self-centred, I now feel, so I have edited it a little now that events are gaining some perspective.
I do not choose to elaborate; it would be inappropriate, but if the message that I understand pretty much what happened, disturbing as it was, gets through this way that cannot be a bad thing.
Quite a few things add up really. It is not a problem that is down to me to solve, though genuine understanding and real friendship and a degree of objectivity, which I am capable of since I don’t have a hidden agenda in this regard, may, I certainly hope, be of use. Only experience can solve the problem, and in that area are clear limits which I generally would not transgress, and certainly would not in this instance.
At 3 am with no company but my own and my conscience, and a very strong sense of what I think is right and important, I am not about to write crap here: every word thus far is as trustworthy as human language can be.
Well, back to sleep. There is a lot to do tomorrow even if it is a day off.
* * *
…and later still!
M came and collected a few things just now; the new place is working out OK.
At the newsagent I collected the June/July issue of Philosophy Now which promised some relevant reading. A rather conservative article by Gerald Lang makes a defence of a limited moral relativism (see “Moral Relativism & Cultural Chauvinism”). I too am unhappy with a complete moral relativism, yet on the other hand the moral systems we have inherited are often based in religious and cultural practices of dubious currency, and lead to an arbitrary practice that is often quite sinister and dangerous. Witness the crimes and oppressions too countless to repeat here in their names. Yet NO morality is not possible. Nor is cynicism the answer. Lang has not solved anything but nor have I.
I have on reflection not always acted in life even my own principles, though I try to; if I lapse I either (if that is all that is to be done) walk away and learn from it, I hope, or (better) acknowledge it and attempt to redeem it. Sometimes the questionable act is the product of a mixture of motives, not all of them bad; one can sift through the motives and rectify them, or one can act from better motives from the point of error onwards. Exploitation of others for one’s own purposes is always immoral; to me relativism does not apply to that one, although it is still not as simple a concept in practice as that form of words suggests. Support of another’s self-esteem and human potential is, conversely, always good, though even there one can err in the way it is done.
Nothing is really simple, is it? Honest if fallible is all I can claim, and like any person moving through the changes of life, able to take account of circumstances and sensitive to them. I suspect recently I have fallen down in that last part, though I can say absolutely not in the first.
There is also a movie review of some interest, the upshot of which is to affirm how peculiar the 70s were in some respects; at that point I think the case of Mardi Gras is relevant. Aspects of it were a product of those times, and its relevance now is questionable. Perhaps that is really what happened to it. On the other hand, the movie apparently explores very sensitively the cost in human misery of an unreflective heterosexism, something this otherwise quite conservative reviewer endorses. Oh the movie? Together, directed by Swedish director Lukas Moodysson. Hey, now there’s a name!
—12 August 2002
It’s quite early again, but nothing as early as yesterday morning, that I find myself at the computer; in fact I have slept fairly well.
Here is part of a meditation I just found on Interlude, a site I find a comfort quite often when the world seems a bit awry. Here is an extract:
“The willingness to harm or hurt comes ultimately out of fear. Non-harming requires that you see your own fears and that you understand them and own them. Owning them means taking responsibility for them. Taking responsibility means not letting fear completely dictate your vision or your view. Only mindfulness of our own clinging and rejecting and a willingness to grapple with these mind states, however painful the encounter, can free us from this circle of suffering.”
Which is a bit Buddhist, but that’s OK.
Things are a bit tough right now.
* * *
To follow on from yesterday for a bit.
Morality obviously includes far more than sex; there is a range of interpersonal issues, and indeed recent corporate scandals, not to mention war and so on, raise yet more issues. At the interpersonal level my own bottom line is that each of us is entitled to his/her integrity, freedom of choice, self-respect and personal safety. Families at best are meant to foster that bottom line. In sexual morality one enters a minefield; the hard Church teaching that sex is somehow evil (and gloss it as they may that is what they have taught) and that the only legitimate sex is in marriage for procreation rather than pleasure is unsustainable, and even the Church itself very often backs off from that. That leaves a lot up to individual choices.
My own choice is very conservative. There are practices that some, gay and straight I might add, consider highly pleasurable, but I don’t. I have been rebuked sometimes and called boring, but it is what I am comfortable with and that is where I must stand. I have had delightful times of intimacy with those I have been in relationships with where sex is part of the program. At the same time I have had delightful moments of intimacy (but not sex) with some where sex is NOT part of the program. I like human contact, it can’t be denied. But love, friendship, affection and all that are the most important things, and we all need to experience these without feeling got at somehow. I think so, anyway. What do the rest of you feel?
* * *
Marcia [the Head Teacher English at SBHS] says I look tired, which is to be expected. Work is climaxing with the Trial this week, and a few other issues such as having to speak to the Parents and Citizens Association on multicultural matters next week, and some students who have pressing problems to be dealt with. But in its own way this is rewarding–assuming I survive of course.
It is particularly galling to know that I am being misjudged in another quarter, perhaps, which explains my tendency lately to argue so much on various issues (that we all have).
I now have more socks than you can poke a stick at, thanks to M. The soup is good. And I just had a phone call from Marcel Proust, who seems a decent guy.
Well I have dinner to get, and two essays to mark. There may be more lurking in my email!
—13 August 2002
My heart goes out to this student involved in the overambitious HSC English Extension course on postmodernism; email arrived yesterday and issue talked through in class today:
I was hoping to see you today (Tuesday) but due to my devotion to doing well in school I was unable to attend class. Nevertheless I was hoping to see you tomorrow after our lesson Period 4. I’m aware that you have other commitments and this may not be possible. If you could email me a reply tonight (if you get it tonight that is) it would be greatly appreciated.
Now to the heart of problem (n.b. this does not have to be dealt with asap), I’m having trouble with essay writing, not the actual writing cause I’m good at that, but grappling with ideas of postmodernism. I am not totally convinced by post modernism (as are many) but I understand enough (I have done extensive theoretical reading) to be completely unsure of what it really is. So when I am writing an essay describing postmodern elements (like pastiche and parody in the last task) I feel very inclined to keep making the point that this is a postmodern device. This is because I don’t believe that these are postmodern devices and although they are open to any interpretation by responders the postmodern descriptions don’t sit well with me. This amounts to an essay that does not flow well, as I can’t really get comfortable with the pretense that the text is postmodern. I find myself justifying, every time I make a statement in an essay, that the text is truly a postmodern text. Do I need to do this? or do assume that the marker is believing that the text is postmodern?
I need help in pinning down what the markers are looking for. Do you need to show that you know the texts are postmodern and these…blah blah… are the reasons why? (what I’ve previously been doing, without believing they are postmodern) Or do you show the various elements that are used by the composer and say that these are believed to be postmodern and then voice some kind of opinion on the issue? If I went through and identified all the aspects of the texts that tied in with (say) pastiche and gave textual reference in the way of quotes and compared it to my supplementary texts; does this answer the question (getting me full marks). Or do I make a commentary on the nature of these elements (which is what I naturally feel inclined to do) and get weighed down in the complex theory of postmodern philosophers.
I realise that postmodernism can be taken seriously or lightly and that authors don’t feel the same passion towards destroying the grand narratives that philosophers do, but I need to know what level I need to analyse at? Who do I look at when talking generally about postmodernism? do I talk generally about postmodernism? what questions would I not talk generally about postmodernism?
I understand that there is no definite answer to these questions (God I’m sounding postmodern already) but if you could throw me a line and show me the general direction it would help immensely. I’m sorry I lumped all this on you at one time, don’t feel pressured to answer it straight away, I’ll probably make it through the Trial all right if you need a long time. If you could answer even one of these queries then I would be very grateful.
It turns out his mother has a Ph. D. in Philosophy!
Since I am here, I do have to say I like Dimitri at the local coffee shop, where I felt I wanted to go so that normality might to some extent be restored. He is a very calm person.
Patrick Cook has good fun with the ALP this week in The Bulletin, almost as funny as his treatment of the Democrats last week, but not quite. I passed my time at the coffee shop reading that.
Yes, I know… but there are still things to be said
I have over the last few years said a lot about coming out, and the pain of my own life (as well as the positives) over the years up to that. When I finally did, I repeat (yes, I know, a sign of age) it was in my own terms. All I was recognising was an aspect of myself–my close relations would be with men. Not because I chose that, but because that was the way it is. I did make choices though. Some were prudential, but happened also to suit my sense of myself–such as avoiding sexual excess and exchanges of bodily fluids. I still think that I could not base a life around sex. It is too transient.
I am not a seeker of new bodies and new sensations. I have never had sex in a bathhouse, a park, a toilet, or any of the places some men find, well, congenial. I reject the necessity (what necessity?) of engaging in certain practices which others engage in. In at least one case this cuts me off from what someone I know wants from me, for although I am very fond of him, he and I would be sexually incompatible, as his tastes are quite different to mine. We continue to be friends however, as he is a mature person who realises what I have just said. (I hope! He sometimes reads this diary, and I do hope he is not hurt by this.)
I (and you) have a right to our choices, and a right to our bodies, and a right to our individual senses of self. I much prefer friendship anyway to passion; it was friendship not passion that sustained my recent long-term relationship after the passion had faded (as it does); essentially it continues, though circumstances have recently changed.
I have probably turned off a whole army of potential suitors now 😉 but it is interesting that since expressing such thoughts on my OUT profile (but more concisely) I have scored a few ticks. Apparently we are not all hedonists or sensualists after all.
I do feel I have taken perhaps too much emotional comfort from a source where giving such was more appropriate; at least I did also give (very much) — that is something, and did not merely take. My expression of my feeling may not always have been appropriate either. People do need to feel safe together though, don’t they? Even if they are safe, we should be sure they feel safe.
Such issues need to be thought of, and one’s own synthesis found; not necessarily a condemnation of those who think and act differently, so long as their actions do not encroach on the welfare of others. It does take all sorts, as they say.
—14 August 2002
I am, I have to say, more than a little happy tonight.
I suspect my sleeping problems are behind me, and have also come to realise that one can be mistaken about mistakes. 🙂
Good chat with Sirdan at the Irish Pub to round off the day, followed by a phone call only outranked in its uplift by one I had last night.
—15 August 2002
Yum Cha earlier today; the food was good as ever, especially the mango pudding. One determined certain limits through the experience today, ensuring a priority I had announced the day before. Reading King Lear this afternoon, a shared experience, enacted the reconciliation the play dramatises, and made the catharsis of last Sunday into something of a prelude to better times, confirming where my life is best spent right now. I am well pleased.
—Sunday 18 August 2002
Two things today.
First, last night I had to speak to the school’s Parents and Citizens Association on the subject of multiculturalism, a task I looked forward to with some foreboding, as controversies over the “imbalance” of the school have been raging (as you would know if you are a regular here) for most of this year. We have been a ridiculously frequent subject on the front pages of the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Telegraph, editorial columns, letters pages, talk-back radio (which I just correctly typoed as “talk-cack radio”!) and even TV current affairs shows. We even get a column in this week’s Bulletin courtesy of Catherine Lumby, who is actually quite right in the trend of her analysis of the power structures involved, though some may bridle at her mode of expression.
Usually there are between ten and twenty people at these meetings; last night there were forty, including, I am pleased to say, a greater than usual representation of our Chinese parents. Also present (at my invitation) were two consultants in multiculturalism from the Department of Education, one male and one female, and Tony Hannon, the 1st Grade Rugby Coach, whose coda to my speech endorsing the current school situation as something he loved carried some weight. I gave a dispassionate account of government policy, then pulled all stops out in my account of why there are so many students from backgrounds other than English, especially Chinese ones. Afterwards, one of the consultants hugged and kissed me (the female one) and declared herself a fan! The audience were won over; not one nasty remark or provocative question.
Thoughts had been sent my way at 7.30 and I am sure they arrived 🙂
My Anne Wilson Schaff Meditations for Living in Balance for yesterday was on, would you believe, “Expanding Our Horizons” by learning from other cultures! Serendipidous indeed.
Speaking of living in balance, I come to the second thing. I was fascinated to read Queer Scribe’s well-written but often very raunchy diary yesterday. Here is a very bright man, twenty years younger than I, whose libido is somewhat more active, shall we say, than mine tends to be:
Writing about insecurities and fears here always make me feel vulnerable, but it seems those are the entries folks most respond to. I have had several emails from readers—many of them gay men around my age—and it would appear I’ve struck a chord. (Or a nerve?) That makes me feel good, not only that I am not the only one going through (putting myself through?) this shit, but also that others out there might feel less alone too….
But more than that, there’s a terrific opportunity here. Because I have been depending too much on my body, my—for a thirty-six year old—youthful good looks. Although this is less true than it was, say, three or four years ago, still much of the sex I look for and sometimes find is a way of hiding, of keeping myself small, safe, apart. It’s time, again, to look at what might be underneath all that, at what, exactly, it is I’m hiding, or hiding from.
I suspect that what I’m hiding—and hiding from—is love. Big surprise eh?
—22 August 2002
It’s a while since I had a “sickie”, but I decided I needed one today. So here I am at home. I work part time anyway and can adjust my days to suit, up to a point. Mid-term is a time when the need for a “mental health day” strikes many a teacher, and the past few weeks have had their share of stresses. And triumphs, I hasten to add; but the only way I will break the back of the Trial HSC marking and cope with a few other things down the track is to take a little time out.
The stressors? Well, adapting to new circumstances at home–and that is going well really, and M has been terrific. Also, the pressure of taking over that Year 12 class had a cost, though well worth it. Some other dramas also occurred, but again the outcome has really been good. It all takes energy though, and that sometimes needs replenishing. I am aware too that I am not getting any younger.
Yesterday evening, I hasten to add, was one of life’s more wonderful offerings. I look forward to more of them. My Chinese cooking is improving.
Things are looking up for Sirdan too, who has a nice new place to live. He particularly complimented me on Sunday’s diary entry.
This post is for the evening of the 29th and the morning of the 30th of June.
Look at the evidence from 20 years ago, thanks to the Wayback Machine!
30 June 2002
Instead of going to Forresters in Surry Hills, we went to the Yum Kee in Chinatown and shared a meal of (somewhat modified?) Northern Chinese cuisine, the fish dish being particularly splendid. There was a new visitor from Taiwan via NZ, plus Sirdan, the Empress, Lord Malcolm, and Lord Bruce. The Crown Prince had logistical difficulties.
The Empress has lent me two books, one of which I have begun. It is Tariq Ali’sThe Clash of Fundamentalisms dealing with the current “War on Terror” and the Middle East. His perspective is clearly left, but none the worse for that; while lingering respect for the old communist regimes is a worry, what has come into play lately, the New World Disorder and the assorted insanities that drive so many, are as much a worry surely; also Ali is right: the USA is not the unmitigated “good guy” in all this. The book deserves reading.
Deserving watching (especially by those who wonder what trades unions might be for, and what exploitation actually means) is a documentary recently on SBS here in Sydney on the sweatshops of US Saipan. Read about it here. And get very angry.
1 July 2002
Yesterday after our Chinese lunch we adjourned to our favourite Irish pub, where the conversation eventually turned to the relationship between gay sons and their fathers, a relationship that often proves very problematic. A number of stories were told, some inspiring hope, others revealing sadness or tension.
In my own case, the issue was postponed as at nineteen or so I was closeted (without even knowing there was such a thing) and impeccably respectable. The major issue for my father, looking back on it, at that time was probably that his business and career had come crashing down around him and he was in fact economically dependent on me, at least for a while. I sense now how humiliating that must have been. I am now the age he was then, older in fact. Some years later he broke down mentally, so our subsequent conversations ranged from the bizarre to the mundane, and we never discussed my emerging realisation that I was gay, but I know he knew–don’t ask me how, but I just know.
My mother certainly did, and when at the ridiculously (but not uncommonly) late age of forty or so I came out to her, she was “accepting”, though she admitted not to understand. I have to say that my attempting to educate her by getting her to read Loving Someone Gay, a very fine book in its way, did backfire a little.
It was a case of my new-found zeal to be open was just a little misplaced. Nonetheless, in the few years left to us after that, my mother often delighted in regaling me with the latest gay gossip she, quite oddly, was well-placed to hear in the particular “sunset home” she was in at the time. (Her personal carer was at the centre of one of the most publicised gay “scandals” in Sydney during those years.)
That I was able just before he died to tell my father that I loved him and for him to tell me “I love you too, son” brings tears to my eyes even as I type this, but I am very glad it happened.
I had a call from my older brother when I arrived home. He lives in Tasmania, and his partner (female) of very many years died early this year. It turns out yesterday was her birthday, so he wished to talk to me, as I am all the immediate family he has left (aside from his own children, none of whom live close to him.) A few months back he and I met face-to-face for the first time in twenty years. I have never discussed my sexuality with him, but he knows; he certainly knew when he saw my living arrangements, but he knew before that. The hugs we shared that day matter so much to me; he is a laconic person, not a verbal junkie like me, so the hugs mean even more.
I have checked Google for resources on straight parent/gay son issues. There is a good column in Mogenic called Educate the parents, which has among other things this lovely one-liner: There is a big taboo about converting straight people to homosexuality. (Personally I think the chances of that actually happening are as good as your chances of getting kicked to death by a duck.)…
3 July 2002
Our friend Sirdan was admitted to St Vincents Hospital on Monday afternoon. That it is serious is borne out by his admission despite the current crisis affecting St Vincents and other major hospitals: Overcrowding in city hospitals worsened yesterday, with almost every major emergency department forced to turn away ambulances carrying patients who were not critically ill. He is suffering from an antibiotic-resistant infection that was causing him much discomfort even on Sunday, when the Empress advised him to go to the doctor next day, which he did with the result just described. He is apparently in good spirits, but I propose to confirm that for myself very soon.
Meantime the last diary has really set me thinking about my father, who passed away in 1989. I think I shall write something about him here soon.
4 July 2002
First off, Sirdan was quite chirpy yesterday afternoon, and only a part of him is afflicted–but it is a part he would rather keep. We wish him well. He has been in a lot of pain, but as of yesterday that had improved. His problem is certainly not to be taken lightly though.
Yesterday too I had an email requesting some good Australian sites for young gay people. The request came from a very remarkable young man in Texas, Garith, whose email acquaintance I made via a comment I left on his guest book at the currently beleaguered Talk City domain. His site had simply blown me away!
Our correspondence since has been sporadic, but enough to know he has not always had it easy, but what a man he is proving to be, in less than promising circumstances in some ways. Judge for yourself, for here are … some great quotes, as sent in the email yesterday:
“Because families are defined by love not gender. Because hatred is not a family value. Because equal rights are not special rights.” Anonymous
“The fact is that more people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason. That… THAT my friends, is true perversion.” Harvey Milk
“When religion sanctifies hatred, it lends to that hatred a special ferocity. Normal moral inhibitors are erased.” Johannes Cardinal Wildebrands
“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image, when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” Anne Lamott
“In man’s world, gold, diamonds and money are greatest in value…. in actual reality, dirt, water and air are of greater importance.” Garith
5 July 2002
I haven’t been able to see Sirdan again since Wednesday, but plan to at the weekend. If I go to Yum Cha (and I am not sure I will this time–the vibes may not be quite right) I will see him after, or maybe on Saturday.
Term has ended. I am taking on the Year 12 Extension English class for the HSC, following the sudden departure of Ms X amidst some drama. The topic: Post-Modernism! The text left to study is Australian David Williamson’s satire on the subject, Dead White Males (1995), and the class have already done the movie of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (a copy of which I have brought home from school) and John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman, which I must reread.
Speaking of Post-Modernism, one difference (totally subjective) that strikes me about the two books I mentioned last time is this: while PowerBook and The Monkey’s Mask both are Lesbian/Queer Literature and while both contain quite a lot of sex, in PowerBook this seems less foregrounded, less strident. PowerBook is just as ideologically committed as The Monkey’s Mask but somehow seems more–how can we say?–relaxed? I am really not sure of my ground here–just impressions. I should add that the verse in The Monkey’s Mask really is quite impressive in the range of voices it can capture–it is a verse novel, remember–and it works well. The story in The Monkey’s Mask is entirely more conventional; PowerBook is a palimpsest, a display of intertextuality, yet absolutely clear in its way. Psychologically and philosophically it is the deeper novel, yet wears this lightly.
I will return to Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady for healing drafts 🙂 Like the reasons for my reading it in the first place, it is a pure pleasure in itself, made more pleasurable by having been shared; there’s no need in my life for more than that level of pleasure and I am lucky to have known it.
A significant note: M cooked up some nice food tonight. You have to know me to know what that means… His life is looking good, and is his–and that is his gain over the past time, some of which has been hard. But I rarely talk about him, as regulars here know.
Got a note–quite a long one–from Garith in Texas (see July 4) who is not unhappy about being featured. His site has an unselfishness about it as well as a quite amazing maturity for a person his age. There is a lot there that could help those he seeks to help.
14 July 2002
30 July 2002
Went to the dentist and got a temporary filling and a threat of root canal therapy; so far so good, and I am hoping the antibiotics fix the problem.
M. moved today and the big rearrangement is well under way. He’ll be around though.
So it is 20 years since Michael moved to East Redfern! Unbelievable. We had been together in Elizabeth Street Surry Hills since 1992.
#Strongwomen. "I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful - for all of it." Kristin Armstrong