Saturday, April 30, 2011

Myth Buster

I just finished knocking out another chapter for my new book, Addicted. When I sit down to write my goal is to get through at least one chapter. Today's chapter was number ten.

Writing Glass Houses only took me four months. Since it's a true story, all I had to do was write down what happened. The problem was deciding what to include and what to leave out. Mostly I included everything.

By comparison, writing Addicted is a little more challenging and a lot more fun. I sit down to write with only a vague idea of the purpose of the chapter. Somehow, the chapter comes together--usually taking off in an unexpected direction.

Even when I have more time, ending a chapter usually forces me to stop writing. I have to let what I've written float around in my head for a while. The challenge is figuring out how to start the next chapter.

Sleeping on it helps. By the time I start writing again, I still have no idea where I'm going but know where the chapter needs to start. Some chapters come out easier than others, but eventually, I get to where I'm supposed to be.

Believe it or not, I still have no idea where the story is going. I'm not worried. The story is somewhere inside of me waiting to be told. All I have to do is keep writing and it will come out.

Before I started writing I thought you had to know the whole story before you started. That little misperception kept me from even trying to write for a good fifteen years. Busting that myth has been very liberating for...

The Crotchety Old Man

Friday, April 29, 2011

Today in My Garden

We're blessed here in Athens to have escaped the massive tornado that came through the Southeast earlier this week. We did have a tornado warning at 1:15 in the morning, but there was no sign of a touchdown anywhere in Athens. I feel for everyone impacted by the storm, especially those who lost loved ones.

The only damage we experienced from the storm is shown here. Just as the prettiest peony in my yard hit full bloom rain, wind, and the weight of the flowers bent all the stems to the ground. Next year I'm going to try to figure out a new way to stake them up.

Otherwise, it's rose season. I've already featured Knock-out roses and the plain but wonderfully fragrant Rugosas. I ordered these "groundcover roses" from one of the cheapy tabloid catalogs I sometimes get in the mail. They're quite robust--I cut them back to nothing two months ago. They're just starting to bloom.

These landscape roses are called Bonica. They're not fragrant, but the multi-bloom clusters keep going for most of the summer. The plants do well without any spraying or special care--a real plus in my opinion.

Annual dianthus are the other big bloomers in my yard this week. Technically tender perennials, these were planted last year. This week they've really come into their own. I have a lot of them but this picture really shows them off.

Spring flowers are fading fast with summer bloomers coming on strong. I should have a ton of lilies blooming in the next week or two, right here in the garden of...

The Crotchety Old Man

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Getting My Genre On

You may have noticed a drop-off in the frequency of posts here on the blog. The reason for the decline is that I'm spending every spare moment working on my first novel, Addicted. Regulars might recall the same thing happened when I got rolling with Glass Houses.

As Glass Houses is a memoir, the challenges I faced in writing it revolved around making sure the time line and events were accurate. A couple of times I got stuck. The struggles involved figuring out whether or not particular incidents--all part of my life history--were relevant to the story I was trying to tell.

I was also acutely aware that some fraction of the potential audience for Glass Houses were or would know the people I wrote about--especially me. Consequently, there were certain boundaries I wouldn't cross. People don't need to know everything.

Those who've read the book know I share a lot about my past others would have kept to themselves. To the best of my knowledge, everything I write about is true. But it's not the whole truth--in some cases I left a lot out.

With Addicted, those barriers and limits are gone. Writing without fear is liberating, exhilarating, and more than a little shocking. I've written just over 7,000 words (about 25, double-spaced pages) which include tons of dialogue and two sex scenes. I thought the first scene was graphic...until I wrote the second one.

It has never been my intention to write erotica. Yet just seven chapters into my first work of fiction, that's exactly what I'm doing. I can hardly believe it myself. Even worse, I'm already thinking about at least three other books along the same lines.

The stuff I'm writing now makes me blush. Before sending it off to a publisher, I'm going to have to come up with a nom de plume. Ain't no way I'm going to let folks know this stuff comes from...

The Crotchety Old Man

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Today in My Garden

The temperature and humidity are both in the 80s today. Even with the late start to the season, early spring flowers have vanished. Late spring and even a few early summer bloomers have stepped in to fill the void.

Last time I featured a dark maroon peony I got from Walmart. The package contained three eyes, allegedly of the same variety. This photo features a lighter-colored bloom from the second plant from the same package.

I tossed a package of California poppy seeds into the butterfly garden years ago. The original plants are long gone, but seedlings continue to come up and bloom. The bright two-toned yellow blossoms (sometimes white or solid yellow) close up after the sun goes down.

Below is the third peony from the package of three purchased from Walmart. I didn't realize until this year that all three plants are different. This one features single rather than double blooms which really highlights the bright yellow stamens.

I noticed this plant blooming just outside my backdoor in the vacant lot next door underneath the peach tree we claim as ours. I have no idea what it is or where it came from. There are probably half a dozen plants blooming, each a good three feet tall. If you know what it is, let me know.

Finally, the first bloom on my oldest peony. This one also came in three pack from Walmart or Lowe's but is the only survivor. The stems barely support the blossoms, especially after rain or a heavy dewy. The more it blooms, the more likely the stems are to break and fall to the ground.

The 2011 season has already been spectacular. It ain't over yet. The best is yet to come in the garden of...

The Crotchety Old Man

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Toil and Trouble

OK. That comment I made a few posts ago about having a blast writing Addicted? I take it back.

With the technical writing I've done for the last 25 years, the first few paragraphs are always the hardest. I breezed through the first and second chapters of Addicted and amazed myself with an ability to write dialogue that must have been hiding in a dark corner of my mind. So far, so good.

The next day I knocked out two more really good chapters. I blogged about my surprise at how easily the characters resolved the struggle I was having to get from where I was to where I wanted to be. The success must have gone to my head.

Yesterday I banged out a horrible fifth chapter. Nothing about it came easy. Instead of getting easier, each paragraph was harder to write than the one before. I wrote myself into a corner from which there appeared to be no escape.

Today I forced myself to work on the next chapter. The gum surgery I had last year was more enjoyable. But I labored on and pushed my way through, sentence by sentence until I finally ended up where I needed to be. Hallelujah!

The first four chapters are really good. The next two kinda suck, but got me from point A to point B. Writing them wasn't was work!

The lesson learned? Don't think, write. Keep writing and sooner or later, things will work themselves out.

Having reached point B, I'm now ready to jump into the meat of the story. The stage is set. It was a bumpy ride, but now Josh Freeman is exactly where I need him to be. The rest of the story lurks somewhere inside...

The Crotchety Old Man

Friday, April 22, 2011

Rubbing Elbows

To be a successful writer requires quite a lot more than simply writing a good book. Finding a publisher is just half the battle. Once the book is published it's up to the writer to promote the book.

Toward that end I've been trying to increase visits to Chez Crotchety. My foray into the world of Tweets and Twitter hasn't been very successful. Despite having more than 100 followers and regularly tweeting new posts to the blog, in the last month Twitter has produced a total of 14 visits.

Aside from blogging about my writing experience, I've shared the final draft of Glass Houses with about anyone who wanted to read it. In On Writing Stephen King suggests all writers are needy. He's right, which explains why I'm constantly asking those with the draft if they've finished and if so, what they thought.

Today Adrienne Wilder, my mentor and friend, invited me to join a couple of groups for writers on Facebook. What a friendly and loquacious bunch! They have welcomed me with open arms. I'm enjoying getting to know them and especially, checking out their websites and blogs--all of which make this blog look amateurish.

Regular visitors to my amateurish blog may have noticed changes to the blogs on My Blog List. I've added lots of blogs by writers from these groups, most focused on the books they've written and how to get a copy. Check them out and if you see something you like, buy a copy! Many offer electronic copies online for less than $5.

Getting to know real writers, through the writers group and now the Facebook groups has been and will likely continue to be an education. I'm impressed with the generosity of all the writers I've met online and in person. Hopefully, rubbing elbows with published authors will result in some of that success rubbing off on...

The Crotchety Old Man

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Don't Think, Write!

Thinking about writing a book? Well, stop thinking and start writing. Thinking is the single-biggest obstacle to writing a book.

I know this is true from experience. For years...make that decades...I thought about writing a book. During all those years of thinking I didn't get a single word on the page. Not one word.

In On Writing, Stephen King says writing a book is like an archeological dig. The story is there. The writer's job is to unearth it. Using plot to unearth the story is like bulldozing the dig--you'll get everything out, but the fine details will likely get destroyed in the process.

That was certainly the case with Glass Houses. Being a memoir, all I needed to do was write down what happened. Once I started writing it only took four months to finish. The story didn't really become visible to me until I was more than halfway through the book.

Frankly, writing a memoir is a lot harder than writing a novel. A memoir is based on a certain history. I spent a lot of time researching when things happened to make sure I got it right...or at least, close to right. I had to deal with a lot of problems too, like too many characters, being true to the characters without pissing anyone off, and masking the identity of certain individuals.

Last night I fell asleep trying to figure out how to advance the plot of my new book, Addicted. I knew where I wanted to go but couldn't figure out how to get there. The answer didn't come to me in my dreams, either.

During my "writing hour" today, I decided to divert from the plot with the introduction of a female best friend. Before the hour was up I'd written two more chapters that landed me exactly where I wanted to go. Even more amazing is that better than 85 percent of what I wrote today was dialogue.

Josh Freeman and Linda Delgado are entirely made up. Josh started out being loosely based on me, but now he's very much his own person. The idea for Linda came from my life as well but she, too, has become her own person. Like real people, there are things each character would and wouldn't say or do.

The first chapter I wrote today was about a phone call from Linda inviting Josh to join her at the swimming pool.The second chapter is about the conversation they had around the pool. Almost every single word in both chapters is dialogue.

Conversations go someplace. They have a purpose, even if it's just catching each other up on recent events. The characters, Josh and Linda in this case, drove the story in a particular direction which solved all the problems I'd created in my head thinking about how to advance the plot.

Writing Glass Houses was hard--a labor of love and sometimes painful remembering. I'm having a blast writing Addicted. There are no walls or boundaries, just Josh, Linda, and...

The Crotchety Old Man

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On Public Discourse

Last week I had to go to Atlanta, twice. Depending on traffic, the trip from my house to downtown can take anywhere from 70 minutes to three hours. Thanks to a fast trip home Thursday evening, my average time (one way) was about two hours.

Music--mine or whatever is on the radio--gets old. Listening to talk radio makes the trip go faster. My preference is something on National Public Radio (especially Fresh Air). If NPR is not an option I'll switch over to 95.5.

With luck The Clark Howard Show or Dave Ramsey Show will be on. As a personal financial management educator, it's interesting to hear what people are asking about. Sometimes I even learn something.

Other options are less enjoyable. The absolute worst is Neil Boortz. I don't object to his politics so much as his style. Last week he went on a rant about all the people who will blindly vote in 2012 to re-elect President Obama (all federal employees, anyone in a union, and all women--especially single mothers because they need the federal teat to survive). The only surprise was that he left gays off the list.

A listener called in to object, saying whatever Neil Boortz was paid was too much because he added absolutely no value to society. I happen to agree. Boortz blew up and said the caller was a low-wage-earning idiot, called him a communist, and made several other less-than-flattering remarks about the man's character. The caller never got a chance to defend his character--that's not how these shows work.

On the trip home I got to hear Mark Arum. I don't know who he is or what his claim to fame might be. Steroid use by Barry Bonds was the topic when I listened in. Arum suggested everyone would take a shot of steroids if it would enable them to reach a life-long goal. As an example he asked who wouldn't take steroids if it would guarantee winning the lottery.

Never mind it's a stupid comparison. When folks called in saying they would never cheat to get ahead, Arum said they were liars. Clearly he would do anything if it made him richer or more famous. Again, anyone who disagreed was called names without being given the opportunity to defend their position.

The next topic on Arum's show was the disappearance of a Muslim woman who turned up in another county and didn't want her husband to know where she was. Somehow, the fact she was Muslim made a difference. The majority of callers said horrible things about her based entirely upon her religious beliefs. Most of these hateful rants ended with a plea for her to find Jesus. Yeah...after what you just said I want to be more like you...NOT!

Sadly, this kind of one-sided ranting is what now passes for debate in our country. We should be ashamed. Intolerance, and prejudice are the tools of the ignorant and uneducated. I'd call them dumbasses, but you expect more than name-calling from...

The Crotchety Old Man

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Serious Writer

The gay publishing house where I submitted Glass Houses says they are only interested in quality works from serious writers. While quality is a subjective thing, the "serious writer" part means they expect more books to be forthcoming. In fact, they ask for information about works in progress.

I lied. At the time of the submission I wasn't working on anything. Rather than say so, I said I was working on a follow-up memoir focused on some of the addiction issues uncovered while writing Glass Houses.

It wasn't a barefaced lie. I'd been thinking about the follow-up memoir for weeks but hadn't written a single word. Due to the content, unless I wanted to get fired I had decided writing the follow-up wasn't going to be possible until after I retired.

My Aunt Judy (and others) have told me Glass Houses is a little raw. By raw they mean gritty. I talk openly but carefully about my past drug use and some sexual encounters. I felt comfortable doing so because the "true confession" stuff took place so long ago.

My lie to the publisher has been fixed. I have officially started writing my second book. Rather than a memoir, Addicted is a work of fiction about Josh Freeman and his addiction to relationships and sex.

Regular readers know I'm terrified of writing fiction. Just the idea of coming up with believable dialogue gives me nightmares. Or it did, until the incredibly talented Adrienne Wilder took me under her wing.

The turnaround moment came as I was reading Stephen King's memoir On Writing. Adrienne says it is required reading for any aspiring writer. The website of my publisher says the same thing. Even though I haven't yet finished reading, I have to agree.

Writing fiction is liberating. The story behind Addicted is loosely based on the same idea as the follow-up memoir. But because the characters exist only in my imagination, I don't have to worry about hurting anyone, incriminating myself, or getting the facts wrong.

Unlike Glass Houses, Addicted is primarily for gay or very gay-friendly audiences. It goes beyond raw and gritty to downright pornographic. The first 2000 words include dialogue and a graphic sex scene.

Who knew? A year ago the idea of writing a book seemed impossible. Now I have finished one and started a second. Just goes to show you anything is possible, even for...

The Crotchety Old Man

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Today in My Garden

Most my garden photos are taken an hour or so before the sun goes down. Today I went out at 3:00 to get some shots in full sun. Normally I have no trouble narrowing the field of photos down to three. Not today.

Years ago I planted some Beidermeir Columbines. The original plants and several generations since are long gone. The complex blossoms are among my favorites.

I have no idea what kind of peony this is. It's supposed to be a pink with single blossoms. The other two that came in the same package are pink.

I've planted half a dozen native azaleas. Three still survive--this is the only one that blooms. I think they get too much shade.

You've seen this combo before--in my last post about the garden. I'm in love with the deep red azaleas and think they look great with the pansies. That's one of the benefits of blogging--I decide what goes in!

This combo was featured in the last garden post, too. The Beauty Bush blooms look white but are actually a very pale pink. Beneath them you can just make out the amsonia blue star just coming into bloom.

Finally, a single white iris. These were growing in the lot when the house was built. I suspect my backdoor neighbors threw them over the fence.

And that's what's happening today in the garden of...

The Crotchety Old Man

A Serendipitous Set-Back

The local writer's group met last night. Unfortunately, we didn't get to discuss Glass Houses. You can imagine my disappointment.

As you'd expect from ole Crotchety, I was also more than a little pissed. With the exception of the delightful Adrienne Wilder, nobody was able to finish reading my book in time for the meeting. Bummer.

I was also disappointed that the two writers most like me in terms of style and genre weren't able to attend. One is familiar with memoirs and the narrative style I use. The other is starting her own memoir. I value everyone's feedback but was especially looking forward to hearing their comments.

Once we got into discussing the other submissions, my anger and disappointment faded. Hearing what everyone had to say about the pieces we're critiquing is interesting. I'm learning a lot about writing good fiction.

We did spend a few minutes talking about Glass Houses. Some members asked about other memoirs to read to become more familiar with the genre. I didn't offer any suggestions. In my opinion, originality and good writing are what make a memoir interesting. A good read is a good read.

The feedback from those who had read part of the book was positive. They think the structure is fine. That's a huge relief. As I've said before, I wasn't in favor of a massive reorganization of the book.

The group typically works with manuscripts 5,000 words at a time--3,000 if there are a lot of submissions for one meeting. At just over 110,000 words, my manuscript is longer than most. Depending on the number of submissions per meeting, we're talking 22 to 35 meetings for a full critique.

In the final moments of the meeting we came up with a new and improved plan for workshopping Glass Houses. After everyone finishes reading the manuscript--probably a month or so from now--we'll select the sections most in need of work for discussion at future meetings. This will likely cut the number of meetings needed by half if not more.

Things always work out for the best. I need to remind myself of this truth whenever I start blowing a fuse. No matter how often I think otherwise, the world does not revolve around...

The Crotchety Old Man

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Today in My Garden

The dogwoods are fading fast. We had a wind advisory over the last few days. All the dogwood petals look like snow in my back yard.

Ready for some red, white, and blue? Blue pansies, the darkest red azaleas I could find, and a white azalea (Girard's Christina) with enormous, lightly fragrant blooms. The red azaleas are just two years old--can't wait until they reach full size.

I had to include this picture. It's really hard to get a good picture of blue flowers. These blue delphiniums look great at dusk. I got them at Lowe's a few weeks ago. I doubt they'll return next year but you never know.

The flowers on banana shrubs are hidden deep inside the plant. I had to pull a branch back to get this photo. I knew they were in bloom because of the fragrance--like Juicy Fruit gum.

This is a close-up shot of the beauty bush in full bloom. The Knock-out roses behind it are at least seven feet tall. The roses are almost too plentiful but who's going to knock a rose that blooms all summer?

And that's what's happening today in the garden of...

The Crotchety Old Man

No More Leaf-Clicking

Nine months after signing on to, I've been able to trace my ancestors back farther than I ever thought possible. Not counting copying and printing charges, I've spent about $180. No telling how many hours I've invested clicking leaves.

Before, beyond my grandparents I was completely ignorant about my family tree. Not anymore. I've traced some lines back several hundred years and in a few cases, more than a thousand years.

Is the information accurate? Maybe. The more recent the person lived and died, the better I feel about the likelihood he or she is actually related to me. The farther back I go, the less confident I am about the results.

Learning about my ancestors has been interesting. Along the way I made some very interesting discoveries. I know more about my family history than anyone in the family, including things nobody wants to know.

My family tree research answered a lot of questions.It also raised a great many more. Unless traveling through time becomes possible, most will likely remain unanswered. Dead men (and women) tell no tales.

The curiosity that kept me clicking those damn leaves has been satisfied. In fact, I haven't clicked another leaf for a couple of months. After thinking about it for a while, I've canceled my membership to

I did export the file with all the records to a GEDCOM file. If I want, I can buy software (for about $25 I hear) that will allow me to upload the file to peruse the records in my family tree. For now, I know all I care to know about the origins of...

The Crotchety Old Man

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dog Training Disaster Averted

To sign Toodles (and me) up for classes, I Googled "obedience training" and my zip code. All the options but one were on the other side of town. With gas prices the way they are, I figured what the heck and went to the web page.

The trainer's business is called Sit Means Sit. I sent her an e-mail message about Toodles (including that she weighs five pounds), indicated the kind of problems we were having, and asked if she could help. She called me back a couple of days later, assured me she could help, and set up an appointment for a demonstration this coming Sunday.

Having committed, I returned to Google to see if I could find any reviews of Sit Means Sit. Boy did I. Turns out, Sit Means Sit is a franchise opportunity involving--get this--SHOCK COLLARS!!!

I pity the fool who tries to put a shock collar on my baby. I sent the trainer an e-mail asking if the training involved a shock collar and before she could respond, sent another telling her to cancel the appointment. I'd made other arrangements.

We're registered for Beginner Classes at the fabulous Pawtropolis starting April 28 for seven weeks. They offer a variety of training classes, doggy day care, a spa for dogs, boarding (which they call overnights), and more. You can even watch your dog via a webcam.

If the lessons go as well as I hope, we'll be dropping Toodles off every few weeks for Doggy Daycare. My partner is looking into classes for Tico, too. We want going to Pawtropolis to be something they get excited about.

Hopefully Toodles will learn to play with other dogs instead of screaming bloody murder. I hope so. If so, the folks at Pawtropolis will probably see a lot of Toodles, Tico and...

The Crotchety Old Man

Let the Waiting Begin--The Sequel

Since early March when I received a rejection e-mail from the agent of my dreams for Glass Houses, nothing has happened. I've shared my memoir with several more friends and joined a local writer's group. Barring unforeseen delays, we'll discuss my book at the writer's group meeting this coming Saturday.

I really don't know what to expect. People who have finished the book tell me Glass Houses is very well written and that they thoroughly enjoyed the read. The positive feedback means the world to me.

Two-thirds of the people I shared the book with haven't said one way or the other. I have no idea if they hated it and quit reading, never had any intention of reading it, or are just busy and plan to read it later. Wondering drives me crazy.

It would be different if I'd given them a book somebody else wrote. I might even feel differently if my book was a work of fiction. Given that it's a memoir in which I bare my soul, the silence is deafening and a little frightening.

I asked the writer's group to give me a thumbs up or down on the entire manuscript. Is Glass Houses OK more or less the way it is? Or do I need to go back to the drawing board to start over again?

My own opinion varies with the day of the week and whoever I last talked with about the book. More and more, however, I'm standing behind the book as it's written. Yeah it needs some editing--but not a major rewrite.

My friend Adrienne Wilder just received a contract and an advance for her latest book. I'm thrilled for her. Since she's already read my book, I sent her the query and one-page synopsis I'd sent to the agent of my dreams. Her comments and suggestions helped tremendously.

Today I submitted my revised query, an improved one-page synopsis, and the complete manuscript to a small, gay publishing company. I researched my options and believe this company is a good fit for me. The fact that at least two editors review every submission makes me feel better about my prospects with them, too.

Even successful writers receive a lot of rejections before they find a publisher. Since the editors will have theoretically read the entire manuscript, a rejection from this publisher will sting a bit more than the one I received from the agent of my dreams. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

In the meantime, I'll listen to what the writer's group has to say. If they give me the thumbs up I'm expecting, we'll figure out how to go about improving the manuscript. Getting a thumbs down from them would be a surprise, and likely result in a lot of push back from...

The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, April 11, 2011


Today I want to tell you about my little five-pound chihuahua, Toodles. She'll be two years old in a few weeks. She's the first dog over six-months old I've ever called my own.

To say I'm crazy about her would be an understatement. She feels the same way about me. Together we're quite a pair.

Mostly she's a good little dog. She's kennel-trained, and enthusiastically jumps into her kennel on command before I leave for work. She's great on a leash and loves going for walks. If she thinks a treat is involved, she will sit on command and on occasion, knows what stay means.

Sometimes I'll kennel her up but most nights she sleeps with me. She's taught me that when she goes to the foot of the bed, she needs to go Wait more than a few minutes and she'll poop in the bed. Now means now.

Unless she has to go really, really bad, she's not inclined to go outside if it's raining, snowing, or dark. I've learned that when she lays a certain way with a particular look on her face, it's time. Again, failing to respond in a timely manner is unwise.

I carry her out and set her down in the designated poop zone. She'll immediately assume the position and push one out. Then I have to pick her up--she doesn't like to walk in the wet grass to go back inside.

She's terrified of other dogs. She screams bloody murder until I pick her up if another dog comes within about five feet of her. She screams so loud the neighbors come running to see how badly she's hurt.

I'd take her everywhere with me if I could. Unfortunately, I can't. There isn't a soul on the planet I could leave her with, either--even my partner. Toodles has taken to screaming when he carries her outside in the dark. Unless she met them when she was a puppy, she won't let anyone else even come near her.

As much as I love her being a one-man dog, I had to do something. We start obedience school in a few weeks. Apparently Toodles has a few more tricks to teach...

The Crotchety Old Man

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Today in My Garden

I was maybe a tad late taking pictures caught up in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman. The first and last hour or so of light are best for garden pictures. These are a bit dark but you get the idea.

My delightfully fragrant beauty bush (kolkwitzia) started blooming today. You can see my ginormous Knock-Out roses to the right and azaleas in the background. The predominant smell in the area (like Pond's Beauty Cream) comes from my rugosa roses which unfortunately close up at dusk.

My azaleas will be at peak bloom sometime this week. The white Kurumes in the background were featured last week. These are a little orangey. I'll post a picture of a dark red variety later in the week.

These pink Rutherford azaleas are the biggest in the yard. Rutherfords are often sent as potted plants by florists for funerals. They're very lightly fragrant but it's the double blossoms that make set them apart from other azaleas.

Sorry about the dark photos. I'll try to get out a little earlier next time. Believe it or not, blogging isn't the only activity for...

The Crotchety Old Man

Friday, April 8, 2011


Dear Boy Scouts of America (local council),

Thank you so much for the invitation to the upcoming banquet to honor the Eagle class of 2010. Having received my Eagle some forty years ago, I know what it means to have accomplished this important goal. Particularly in this day and time, I'm glad young boys have the opportunity to participate in the character-building path to Eagle.

My involvement with Boy Scouts from 1969 to about 1979 was all good. I write about some of my experiences in Glass Houses, a memoir about my life. My time in scouts helped me to develop leadership skills, instilled a sense of pride in my abilities, and fostered relationships I maintain to this day.

Unfortunately, I won't be attending the banquet to honor the 2010 class of Eagle Scouts. Nor will I be sponsoring any of the boys to be honored at the banquet. Frankly, I'm surprised you even asked.

The Boy Scouts of America has made it quite clear there is no place in your organization for people like me. You see, I'm gay. In your organization that little tidbit of information overshadows my Eagle and all my accomplishments since.

Never mind that the character I developed through Boy Scouts helped me to survive an extremely difficult time in my life. Even with a pedophile for a scoutmaster I learned the value of being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. Until people with beliefs like yours convinced me I'd burn in hell for all eternity, I tried my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout law; to help other people at all times; and to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

My time in scouts shaped me into the man I am today. The integrity I gained through scouting prevents me from supporting yours or any other homophobic organization. It's a shame, too, I know many current scouts would likely be inspired by my story.

Until your organization changes its position and opens scouting to ALL boys, I won't be attending your banquet. No matter how deserving they may be, I can't provide financial support to the new Eagles, either. Please extend congratulations to them from...

The Crotchety Old Man

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Today in My Garden

My first clematis of the season started blooming a few days ago. I love them and have about a dozen different varieties. I think this one is 'Nelly Moser' but wouldn't swear to it.

My early azaleas are in full bloom. The red Kurumes are still too small to make much of an impression. The white Kurumes are about four foot tall. I love the small, double flowers and that they bloom first among the azaleas.

I couldn't get a good shot of everything together. This picture shows the clematis blooming behind Rutherford azaleas (the largest in my garden) beneath a dogwood. You can't see the red snapdragons and the just-emerging hostas. Oh well.

And that's what's happening today in the garden of...

The Crotchety Old Man

As Seen on Television

I'm not happy about a recent trend on television. Perhaps you haven't noticed. Let me give you some examples.

America's Funniest Videos bills itself as family entertainment. A significant percentage of the featured videos revolve around men taking hits to the family jewels, projectile vomit, and basketball-sized snot bubbles. None of this strikes me as entertainment, much less something for the whole family.

OK, the ball-bashing is pretty funny, especially when caused by some stupid act. Holding a pinata for a blind-folded three-year-old with a baseball bat is unwise. Ditto trying to ride your bicycle or skateboard down a stair rail. The clips are funny because the dumbass deserves the consequences.

Puking, pooping, and snot-sliming are not funny. AFV is just following the trend. Gross-out television is in. I don't know about you, but I don't see the entertainment value in grossing people out.

I blame the Jackass movies. Gross-out pranks, ball-bashing stunts, and general idiocy prevail. The latest version was filmed in 3-D. I haven't seen it--and won't--but I'd be willing to bet there is at least one projectile vomit shot.

Tosh.O would be absolutely hysterical if it wasn't for his gross out clips. Some are so gross all you see is the studio audience retching and gagging. Given the grossness of the clips we can see, I can't even imagine what the audience must be seeing.

Silent Library is about as bad. Some of the stunts are funny. The rest are either abusive or just gross. Eating or drinking nasty concoctions is a regular feature which usually leads to barfing from the contestant. Again, how is this entertainment?

I guess the next thing is a live show featuring projectile vomit into the audience. People will probably pay extra to sit in the puke seats. After the show you can have the star sign your puke-stained shirt.

Call me old-fashioned, but I'm not a fan of the gross-out trend. No doubt things will get worse before they get better. I promise you will never see projectile vomit or other gross-out clips posted here on...

The Crotchety Old Man

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Damn My Eyes

After a grade school vision test, I was hugely disappointed to discover my eyesight was fine. My disappointment was not about a desire to see better. Somehow I got the idea glasses would improve my appearance.

My parents and I never got the memo about regular eye exams. My next trip to the eye doctor was about six years ago. Increasing difficulty in reading small print drove me to make the appointment.

Following the exam the eye doctor told me to pick up some reading glasses from the drugstore. I did. Problem solved.

Last summer I went back to the eye doctor. My vision had deteriorated to the point that even with glasses, I couldn't read small print. The harder I tried the less I could see.

After several tests, the eye doctor said I needed to see a retina specialist ASAP. The clincher was my inability to see a dot on a piece of graph paper. Actually, unless and until I tried to focus on it, I could see the dot. I later learned this is a classic symptom of my disease.

The retina specialist performed several tests, including a number of scans. He told me I had macular degeneration in both eyes with a severe case in my left eye. Follow the link for a more detailed description but it is essentially a swelling of the retina caused by plaque deposits.

My vision, per se, is fine. My right eye is 20/15. The left bounces around from 20/15 to 20/30. Glasses don't help.

My peripheral vision is fine--the swelling interferes with my ability to focus. Without treatment I will eventually lose my ability to see details, such as words in a book and faces. There is no cure.

The treatment is an injection in the eye of Avastin, a colo-rectal cancer drug which shrinks the swelling. They numb my eyeball first. Still, getting a shot in the eyeball is only slightly less horrifying than it sounds.

I had to have the injections the first four times I saw the specialist. In February the swelling had gone down enough to skip the injection. Instead of a six-week follow-up, I didn't have to come back for two months. You'd have thought I won the lottery.

My two months was up this morning. I knew when my left eye tested 20/40 that I wasn't going to get a pass on the injection this trip. The scan turned up even more swelling than was evident on the first scan. Damn.

No part of the procedure hurts--it's just uncomfortable. The worst part is the wire clip they use to hold my eye open. Think Clockwork Orange. From prep to finish the entire procedure lasts about two minutes.

While waiting in a dark room for my eyes to dilate I've met a lot of senior citizens who share my condition. Most have had macular degeneration for decades. Unlike me, all are legally blind in at least one eye because there was no treatment when they were diagnosed.

Horrible is a relative term. Compared with losing my vision, the eyeball injections every six weeks aren't so bad. At least when I look in the mirror I still see the face of...

The Crotchety Old Man

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Sound of Silence

We had quite a thunderstorm here in Athens last night. I don't know what time the storm hit. Toodles woke me up to take her out around 11:30--it was windy and more than a little balmy, but the rain hadn't started yet.

If I'm asleep when it starts, thunderstorms rarely wake me up. Frankly I doubt even an earthquake would wake me from a sound sleep. I've even slept through a hotel evacuation that included fire alarms, door-pounding, and phone calls to my room.

Last night I woke with a start. The thunder and roaring winds didn't wake me. Like I said, noise almost never bothers me. Silence is another matter. I woke up when we lost our electricity. The silence was deafening.

The power must have gone off between 1 and 2 in the morning. I got up and walked around the house, peeking out the windows to see if anyone else had power. The people on the street behind us did, but our street was dark.

Back in bed the steady drip of the shower in the master bathroom kept me awake. Normally white noise from a small fan on the dresser masks the sound. Last night it was like Chinese Water Torture.

I tried to focus on the sound of the wind and driving rain. I worried about branches from the tall Georgia pines around our house coming through the roof. Then I thought about how much trouble re-setting all the clocks would be. That got me to worrying we would oversleep and be late for work.

Next my mind wandered to the contents of the refrigerator. Would that half gallon of yummy Mayfield ice cream be OK? Maybe I should go ahead and eat it. No, opening the freezer door would only make things worse.

Both dogs were restless. Normally I put them in their kennels when they get antsy in the night. I worried a tornado would hit the house and decided I'd rather have them with me.

For the next hour my mind rotated between the dripping shower head, the Caramel Sundae Crunch ice cream melting in the freezer, and where I would get coffee when I got up. In between I groused at Toodles and Tico to settle down after both apparently felt an intense need to thoroughly clean themselves. It was a long night.

Finally the storm passed. I put the dogs in their kennels. It was 4:30 in the morning. Now to sleep, perchance to dream.

But no, Toodles was intent on noisily rearranging the contents of her kennel. She clanked her metal bowls around and at one point, decided to try to dig her way out through the kennel's plastic bottom. Who knew five pounds of dog could make so damn much noise?

I drifted off to sleep just as the alarm on my partner's iPhone went off. He must have gotten up and set it while I was roaming the house. Had I known, I would have had one less thing to worry about.

Pulling the covers over my head, I tried to go back to sleep. Just as I was nodding off the power came back on. At least the coffeemaker would work.

Good thing. I can live without sleep. But doing without my morning coffee would have been too much for...

The Crotchety Old Man

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Anger Issues

I've come to believe anger is cumulative. Something happens to piss me off. Rather than dealing with it, I keep my mouth shut, stuff my anger somewhere it doesn't belong, and go on like nothing happened.

Sometimes expressing my anger is simply inappropriate. It's not OK to bite a coworker's head off for wasting my time in a faculty meeting talking about stuff nobody cares about. Keeping my mouth shut doesn't make the anger go away.

Sometimes expressing my anger is, at best, ineffective. Laying on the horn when someone cuts me off in traffic doesn't change a thing. Ditto flipping off the jerk who's front bumper is practically in my back seat. Given the number of people around here who carry guns, expressing my anger with these drivers could get me killed. So I don't.

In other cases there is no place to direct my anger. Politicians piss me off on a daily basis. I've taken my anger to the ballot box--none of my current representatives at the state and federal level received my vote. I won't vote for any of them next time around either. Calling them is a waste of time. Changing a position to win my vote would turn-off the people who will re-elect them next time around.

Sometimes expressing my anger is just a waste of time. Lots of people believe a bunch of bullshit that simply isn't true. Many have opinions on subjects about which they know absolutely nothing. They accept as gospel anything someone forwards them in an e-mail message, unless of course it's contrary to the crap they believe. Arguing with idiots is a fool's game.

Stuffing my anger kinda sorta works--at least for a while. I carry it around with me, keeping the lid on tight to avoid a blow up. You might see a little steam escape now and then, but mostly I keep it bottled up pretty tight.

The exceptions, unfortunately, are the people I love. For unknown reasons I seem to think it's OK to blow-up at the people who least deserve my anger. It's the thing I hate most about being...

The Crotchety Old Man

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fact or Fiction?

At my first meeting with the local writer's group, I really hit it off with one of the members. Adrienne Wilder writes urban fantasies about a world with dragon-human hybrids. Although I'm not especially an urban fantasy devotee, I find her work to be highly imaginative and beautifully constructed.

I sent Glass Houses to her after the meeting. She read it right away and met me for lunch a couple of days later to share her thoughts. We had a delightful conversation about her work and mine. I haven't yet decided if I agree with her suggestions, but I understand exactly why she made them.

The critical question is whether or not Glass Houses should stay a memoir or be reworked as a piece of fiction loosely based on my life. She also suggested starting in the middle with the earlier sections turning up as either flashbacks or recollections. Switching to fiction would also mean writing dialogue--lots of it.

I don't even know where to start. I'm such a linear thinker that starting in the middle is really hard for me to wrap my head around. The very idea of writing dialogue frankly terrifies me.

The convener sent Glass Houses to the rest of the group last week. Normally they only get 5000 words at a time. I want them to read the entire piece as is so they can help me figure out which way to go. A message to that effect was included with the manuscript.

We meet tomorrow night. I won't know if my book will be discussed until I get there and find out if everyone had a chance to read it. If not, we'll talk about it at the next meeting.

I'm really looking forward to hearing what the rest of the group has to say. I'm torn. I get what Adrienne wants me to do and why.

I'm leaning toward keeping it the way it is. I want people to get to know the innocent kid I was before they meet the reckless wild-ass I became. By the end, I hope the reader has a better understanding of...

The Crotchety Old Man
Follow CrotchetyMan on Twitter