Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Leap of Faith

Few events are as healthy and potentially rewarding as a good midlife crisis. I should know. I'm in the middle of my third.

Taking a hard look at the aspects of life one does and does not like is healthy. Life is too short to spend much time being unhappy. Figure out what ails you, do what you can to deal with it and move on.

My first midlife crisis took place in Myrtle Beach one February back in the 90s. I added a few days to the front of a conference to enjoy time to myself, great seafood, and walks on the beach. My partner couldn't come with me...and I was glad.

It was bitter cold. Those lovely ocean breezes aren't nearly so nice in subfreezing temperatures. The hotel was far, far away from any commercial areas and I didn't have a car. I spent three days in my hotel room smoking cigarettes and writing in my journal about how my life sucked.

The constellation of my unhappiness revolved around my partner. We definitely weren't on the same page. I felt trapped. I knew what I had to do but fear of what the change would mean prevented me from taking action. So I simmered.

I got a call a few days after my return from a guy who'd apparently slept in my bed the entire time I was gone. He was in love with my partner and wanted me to know. I said he could have him and hung up. I met my partner at the door when he got home from work, asked for his key, and gave him an hour to get his crap and go. Crisis resolved.

My second midlife crisis was essentially a repeat of the first. I turned on the archiving feature of the yahoo account we shared. The very next day after work I found interesting and enlightening chat conversations between him and three different guys about how great hooking up had been. Can you say pissed?

I printed out the conversations, colored the damning statements with a yellow highlighter, stapled the pages together and presented the lot to him when he got home. Get out. The next day I changed the locks. Crisis resolved.

This time, the constellation of my unhappiness revolves entirely around me. Except for the choices I make, practically everything about my life is perfect. I have a wonderful partner, a job I love, two adorable little dogs, great friends and all the creature comforts. It comes down to putting on my big boy pants and doing what I need to do instead of what I want to do.

Were it not for the previous crises, I'd be more upset about my current dilemma. I can't worry about whether or not I can reach the other side. I'll never make it if I don't try.

Sometimes you just have to close your eyes, jump as hard as you can and hope you'll make it to the other side. I'm still eyeballing the distance and convincing myself I can do it. I'm going to need to shed some of this old baggage and then I'll be ready for the leap.

Until then (and probably even more so afterward), I remain...

The Crotchety Old Man, Prince of Gripes :-)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Endless Tasks

Endless tasks wear me out. As long as there is an end in site, I'm fine. Otherwise I lose my motivation.

I'm not talking about things you have to keep doing over and over again. Laundering dirty clothes, washing dishes and vacuuming the floor fall into this category. Yeah, keeping things clean is a forever task but every now and then it's all done. I can stand back, pat myself on the back for a job well done and relax.

Weeding is a borderline case. Yes, it is theoretically possible to eliminate every weed from the lawn and flower beds on my one acre lot. However, having never reached the mythical weed-free state in the last 12 years, for me weeding is an endless task.

The jury is still out on whether or not writing the book is an endless task. I haven't had time to touch it for several weeks but have been thinking about it a lot. After I finally got a chance to work on it again I completely reorganized the first 160 pages. Thanks, Terri and Mitzi for all your constructive criticism. Now if I can just figure out where to go with the rest of it.

Completing the family tree is another endless task. If records exist for a person you add to your tree, a green leaf appears next to their name. No matter how much time I spend clicking those damn leaves, more pop up. A hefty percentage of new leaves lead to new additions to the tree and still more leaves to click.

Before the search began I knew next to nothing about my family beyond my grandparents, and very little about them. When I started researching my heritage, each new discovery was cause for celebration. Now I groan, click the leaves and keep my fingers crossed hoping for a dead-end.

Thanks to a message from one of his descendants, my theory about the identity of my paternal great grandfather has been discredited. The three boys in question were married and/or away from the house in Paris when my grandfather would have been conceived. I'm grateful for the information but even more in the dark about who he might have been.

The mystery of my great grandfather leaves a big hole but is not the end of the world. I'm slowly but surely making my way back through the trees of my other seven great grandparents. Perhaps I'll stumble across more clues to his identity along the way.

Turns out, I'm descended from royalty. Once you hit a royal line the records go back forever. I've traced one line back to Charlemagne and another back to the Tudors and Plantagenets. That's right. Royalty. From now on, you can call me...

The Crotchety Old Man, Prince of Gripes

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Secret Revealed

Two years ago I stumbled upon Niecy Nash and The Clean House crew. Last year I got hooked on the darker and infinitely more interesting Hoarders. The genre-topper this year is Animal Planet's new show about animal hoarders.

Watching these shows has forced me to accept that I, too, am a hoarder. It's not animals. Vet bills for our two little chihuahuas are bad enough. Never is a word I rarely use but I know for sure I could never get used to the smell or the noise.

My thing is not hoarding collectibles, clothes, or crap from my past either. In fact, once you know the signs, my nearly spotless and clutter-free home betrays my hoarding like a house full of cats or old pizza boxes. I can't hide the truth any longer.

I hoard routines, habits and expectations. Over the years I've piled them up to the point nobody but me can maneuver through the narrow and treacherous pathways without getting hurt. I can't get out of bed without tripping over them and spend all my waking hours trying to stay on top of them.

Just like the people on the shows, if you drag something out from anywhere in the pile I can tell you exactly how I got it and why I need to keep it. Try to take it away and I'll get teary-eyed or throw a temper tantrum. It's who I am, dammit!

The winds of change are blowing. The time has come to clear out all the expectations. I've been told they're just premeditated resentments anyway--harsh words for any perfectionist to hear.

I've run out of excuses. I have to replace the bad stuff with healthy habits and routines. Never mind how much I love sitting on my ever-widening ass on the sofa watching anything but quality television. Never mind the heat, the rain, the shorter days, the cold, drive-through-windows and delivery drivers.

These routines, habits and expectations didn't accumulate overnight. Nope. They go way back. Making changes that stick will take time. I'm hoping my habit and routine hoarding tendency will work in my favor. Until then, count on me remaining...

The Crotchety Old Man

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Krema D'Crop

The straight community (and a lot of gays) think drag is about dressing up as a woman. It's not. I didn't get it either at first. My gay friends and I avoided drag queens like the plague. After all, it's people like them who give people like me a bad name. Right?

Drag is really about selling yourself as something you are not. It's a persona; an illusion--perhaps even an alter ego. The illusion requires more than just the right look. To pull it off you have to own it.

Consider Krema D'Crop. She has appeared in public exactly one time in the last 30 years. It started when my first ex- and I planned to dress up in drag for Halloween with J____ and D____, our best friends. We hit secondhand stores, consignment shops and garage sales in search of appropriate attire and accessories.

Krema settled on a lovely leopard-print blouse and a tiny little black skirt. We couldn't find everything we needed secondhand. Some things you sorta want to buy new. Krema opted for medium-to-large boobs, blond hair, and a pair of leopard print pantyhose.

Buying the shoes was the funnest part. While perusing pumps at the Shoe Carnival, a kindly salesclerk asked if I needed any help. I told him I needed the biggest thing he had in a black spike pump.

Halloween was on a Tuesday. We all had to work and decided to go out on Friday instead. The new bar where Levas's Restaurant used to be was advertising prizes for best costume. We were in it to win it.

J____ worked in a hair salon. When the big day finally arrived, most of his coworkers came to his house to help the four of us get ready. The girl who did our make-up worked for Glamor Shots. A real manicurist did our nails. J____ did all the hair.

Krema's transformation was the first to be completed. While practicing to walk in 3-inch heels, she discovered a wardrobe problem. That cute little black skirt kept creeping up over her ass, shattering the entire illusion. No matter how much she tugged and pulled that skirt would NOT stay where it belonged.

At the last minute, she swapped it for a lovely maroon number last seen on a bride's maid a decade or two earlier. Without the matching blouse, the leopard print pantyhose looked a little odd but beat the heck out of having to shave my legs. The pumps worked--that's why every girl has a nice pair of black heels.

Krema and company headed out for a night on the town. We had to park a mile away and walk down Upper Street. By the time we go to the bar my feet were killing me.

We got ourselves together, payed the cover and headed into the bar. Turns out, the big bash had been Tuesday night. Nobody was dressed up. Not a soul.

My three dragmates bolted immediately. No way they were going to be caught looking that way when nobody else was dressed up. Always one to carpe the proverbial diem, Krema decided to stay. Besides, she hadn't spent all that time and money working herself into a look for nothing.

Krema had the time of her life. When her glass was empty another drink appeared. Dozens of men of all ages vied for a spot on her dance card. People asked Krema to dance who wouldn't otherwise give me the time of day. She had a blast.

There was really only one awkward moment. The bottomless cocktail eventually forced Krema to retreat to the powder room. Every man should have to pee in pantyhose. Between the tight fit and the inch-long fingernails, she barely avoided inflicting serious harm.

Thanks in no small part to RuPaul and Lady Gaga, drag is suddenly the rage. As is so often the case, I was years ahead of my time. Waiting for the rest of you to catch up keeps me...

The Crotchety Old Man

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Characters in the Old Family Tree

An extensive family tree is mostly a collection of names, dates and places. Sometimes this scant evidence is enough to put together the skeleton of a person's story. Sometimes you can piece together a lot about the person from the records.

My great grandmother on my father's side of the family is the most intriguing person in my family tree. Ida Rupard was born in 1866 in Madison County, KY. Far as I can tell, she's the fifth of six children and the oldest girl. She was living with her parents (Laban and Elizabeth), Laban's mother, and siblings in 1870.

In 1880, Ida was 14 and the live-in servant of a family in Paris, Kentucky. The family included three boys, 18, 22 and 24 years old. I believe one of these boys is my great grandfather, born in 1885. It's a theory I can never prove. Would help to have the 1890 census but it was lost in a fire.

In 1900 Ida was the live-in servant of a family in Richmond, KY who had two teen-aged girls and an infant son. That same year, her son (my grandfather) is listed as an 8 year-old boarder living with a widow, her daughter, and her son and daughter-in-law in Foxtown in Madison County.

Ida was a cougar. By 1910 she had married Alex, ten years younger than her and was living with him, his three daughters, his stepdaughter (another child of Ida's?) and a boarder in Duncanon in Madison County. Alex's last name is either Hobbs, Keabler, or Keebler as each appears in the records.

In 1910 my grandfather was a laborer in Jessamine County living with a family who still has close ties to my family. Addie Saint John lived next door. My grandfather and Addie had two children (Clare and Grover). I can find no record of their marriage.

In 1920 my grandfather had a wife (Amanda) and was still living and working on the farm in Jessamine County. I can't find Amanda's maiden name or anything else about her--including marriage records. That same year my Aunt Clare and Uncle Grover were living with Great Grandma Ida and her husband, Alex, in Boston, Indiana.

By 1930, my grandfather had married Callie, the woman I knew as my grandmother. Ida was living with Alex in Dixon, OH. I think she died in 1938 but there's so little info on the death certificate I can't be certain it's her. What an interesting life she lived. I wish someone in my family knew something more about her.

My great grandmother on my mother's side of the family, Susan Douglass, became a widow at a very young age. Her sister, Mary, never married. The two lived together until they died and must have been quite a pair.

Susan Douglass (born 1877) claimed to be 19 in 1900 (vs 23), 30 (not 33) in 1910, only 37 (vs 43) in 1920 and 46 (vs 53) in 1930. Mary (born 1874) claimed to be 25 in 1900 (instead of 26), 32 (36) in 1910, 40 (not 46) in 1920, and in 1930, only 49 (vs 56). Isn't that a riot?

Susan must have been responsible for her sister's death certificate as it contains Mary's real age of 71. When Susan died in 1951 she was 74. Nobody knew her actual age but guessed her to be 71.

I wish my Mom's siblings were alive. They'd love to hear the truth about Great Grandma Sue and her sister. I'm sure they're laughing about it in heaven.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

You can kill yourself a lot of different ways. I'm not talking about suicide. Even in my darkest moments I've never seriously entertained the notion of taking my own life. For lots of different reasons I don't see that changing.

There were times in my salad days when I had a bit of a death wish. In some cases I was too dumb to know any better. In others I just didn't care. Either way I survived a lot of very risky behavior. Except for the emotional scars, somehow I came out unscathed.

Fast-forward a few decades. Now, slowly but surely, I'm killing myself. It's not the occasional risky activity. Today it's my lifestyle.

Not my gay lifestyle. Being a little more gay would, in fact, help. Going to the gym every day and dancing every night burns a lot of calories. Being that active would resolve a lot of the minor issues I'm dealing with today.

I used to be active. Once upon a time I spent long hours every Saturday and Sunday working in the yard and doing projects around the house. Here in Athens, unless you've got a death wish or a deep affection for heat and humidity, that's just not possible. You'll find my ever-expanding ass on the sofa in front of the television with my laptop open on the coffee table.

My lack of activity is only part of the problem. Diet is an issue, too--in terms of both quantity and quality. My favorite foods are steak, pizza, cheeseburgers, fried anything, every kind of bread ever made, potato chips, all the flavors of ice cream, the entire cake food group, and most pies--just to name a few.

When it comes to something I like, the law of diminishing returns rarely applies. If one is good, two would be twice as good and so on. If the law of diminishing returns worked the way it's supposed to, I wouldn't eat the entire sleeve or Ritz crackers, all 12 donuts, or the entire pan of brownies.

The key is of course, moderation. Unfortunately, I've never been a fan of moderation. When I'm in, I am IN!!! Doing things by halves is just half-assed. I'm pretty sure that's why I remain...

The Crotchety Old Man

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Product of My Environment

You already knew I'm maybe just a tad self-centered. Having kids might have taught me to put someone else first. But alas, I was never blessed with children. As I don't see a baby in my future, I will likely remain horribly self-centered for the rest of my life.

As those of you who know me already know, there are few things I'd rather do than talk (or write) about me. You'd think writing a book about myself would just make things worse. After all, writing a book gives me license to spend hours and hours focused on me.

Writing the book, contrary to what you might think, is helping. Just to be clear, I am NOT saying writing a book is the same as having a baby. No need to share graphic details of your own childbirth experience as evidence. I believe you.

The first time Dad asked, I told him my book would recount from birth how everybody had f*cked me over. Payback time has finally arrived. It's funny because it's true. The book did sorta start out that way. I am a product of my environment. To understand me you needed to know how my family messed me up. Right?

Writing about the way I remember things has helped me to see more clearly how things really were. I see with the 20/20 vision of hindsight and the wisdom of middle age how I've learned or been taught to react and respond to certain situations. I'm telling you it's eye opening!

The experience has been more than a little therapeutic. I've learned a lot about myself I didn't know. Now I'm hoping the book will sell enough copies to pay for the therapy I'll need to work through it all.

Toss in the research I've been doing on my family tree and the interesting reaction to my theories from various branches of the family and I'm telling you the last few months have been quite a little ride. I have learned one thing. Take a look at my family tree and you'll see I am NOT the only...

Crotchety Old Man
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