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The Expansionist
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
 
67; and Advice for a Long Life
Today's very long post (7,800 words) relates to the elements of my reasonably long life, to date, that have produced my worldview. I am fine with people not reading this text if they are content with their own worldview, from their own history. Some people, however, might see something of their own situation in my circumstances, so find my experience instructive.

67. I turned 67 years old early last week. I was watching late-nite talk shows when I realized it was after midnite, so it was my birthday. I was actually born, I learned recently when I had to get a copy of my birth certificate, around 12:30pm, but I count any part of the day after midnite as my birthday. And I was delited. You wouldn't think a birthday would mean much of anything to someone 67, but it did to me.
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I have slowed down considerably of late, a function of colder weather as well as greater age, and don't get done more than a small part of my To Do list, for this blog and other things, on any given day. My short-term memory isn't what it ought to be, either, and I must sometimes make a point of saying aloud what I get up to do when I go into another room, so I have the memory of hearing what I said as well as of saying it and thinking it before that. (A recent study asserted that the mere fact of passing thru a doorway can work against remembering what you were thinking before you passed thru that door.)
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I consolidated all the To Do lists I had in the To Do directory ("folder" in Microsoft lingo) on my computer, and there were 256 distinct items in my new Master Consolidated To Do List when I was done. Some had subparts, but I didn't count those separately. I had the computer count for me by putting an auto-number field in one column of the 7-column table I use for to-do lists, just for a number.
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I have a few more items to add, that are handritten on paper, not typed into the computer. In that the list is in a table, I can have the computer sort the table in a number of different ways, as by area of life (personal, finances, Newark blog), urgency, or importance. Urgency and importance are not necessarily the same thing. I assign to things I really should do the number 100 in the importance column. Things that would be nice to do but are not important if I don't ever do them, are given lower numbers. I give really important matters numbers higher than 100. Now, things that I really should do, and sooner than eventually, can confuse the issue of urgency vs. importance.
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In the urgency column, I assign letters A to Z. I can have the computer sort first by the importance column and then by the urgency column. I can also have the computer sort by area of life to create separate lists for finances, blog/s, etc. Now all I have to do is print out the dratted lists and look at them!
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Resolutions. My personal New Year starts on my birthday, which is shortly before the end of December. I thus have a number of days to generate New Year's Resolutions before other people do. This year I won't have 'lose wate' on my list of resolutions, because I got down to my target wate, 175, and have stabilized around there for several months now. My two (older) brothers have also lost wate and are at, near, or even below their targets. I did it thru lots of soup, mainly eggdrop and hot-and-sour from my local Chinese takeout (China House on South Orange Avenue). I add broccoli, shaved carrot, meat/s, cooked noodles, and pasta stars into the soup, and sometimes eat the soup with the crisp noodles that come with it from the restaurant, or oyster crackers. I feed stale Chinese noodles, broken up, to the birds outdoors.
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I also drink a lot of juices, mainly for the potassium to fite muscle pains that old people (esp. but not exclusively old people) can get from a potassium deficiency. I mix carrot juice with the store-brand mix of vegetable juices that approximates V8, for a richer flavor, and hopefully for some help with eyesight, tho I now admit that I must get distance glasses. And I had thought, since my teens, that I was farsighted. Both Pathmark and ShopRite have a good house-brand vegetable-juice mix. Orange juice is also rich in potassium. But even with these vegetable and fruit juices, I still sometimes have debilitating muscle aches (pains, really) in my upper arms unless I also eat a banana or some dried apricots in a given day, and  take a potassium-supplement tablet. The potassium gluconate carried by, say, Walgreens, is a really feeble supplement, providing only 3% of the daily requirement for people in general. Old people may need much more than younger people, to fite awful muscle pains, inasmuch as utilization of potassium by older people may be inefficient. 8 ounces of carrot juice, v8 (in my notation, lowercase-v indicates store brand), or orange juice supplies 13%. Other sources of potassium include lentils and kidney beans.
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If I get enuf potassium, my muscle pains entirely vanish. By contrast, massage won't do a bit of good with muscle aches or pains that result from a deficiency of potassium (or magnesium; less frequently consequential). My brother Brian read somewhere that vitamin D can help the body make the most of ingested potassium, but only if the vitamin D is in higher concentrations than is found in the typical multivitamin. So I might also have to take two multis a day to get enuf vitamin D to make best use of my potassium intake.
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Younger people who can't get rid of muscle pains thru hot showers, baths, or massage, might try boosting their potassium. It might work wonders.
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I have been distracted from this blog for several days by Christmas-related tasks and the need to deal with long-delayed financial matters. I finally faxed in my mortgage-modification application — but one page of 17 did not go. The nice people at the branch of Bank of America in the South Orange Pathmark sent it twice, when the first try sent only 14pp. The second try sent only 16pp. however. I don't know if the one page missing from the second send was received in the first send, and won't know until BofA gets back to me as to whether everything is in good order in my application, and what I need to do next to save my house — without my having to try to get a reverse mortgage, an option only people 62 or older have for saving their house in this horrendous economy.
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I also need to tend to some home repairs. Two drop ceilings, first in my kitchen, then in the living room, actually did drop, from water damage. I have to see if my homeowners insurance will pay for repairs. There is a home energy conservation program I might also qualify for, to insulate my attic against heat loss.
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American society does make accommodations to the reduced circumstances of retired people, but there is a lot of inequity still. Social Security sent me the same monthly payment for three full years, without a single cent of increase, because the Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) is based upon a formula that might  be valid for working people but is assuredly not valid for retired people. I don't think it's even right for working people, because all kinds of expenses have increased in the three years at issue. Starting in January 2012, I will get an additional $41 — after three years of the same sum. That is to be a $41 monthly increase in four years, because there will be no further increase next year than the one in January.
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Think about that. That's less than a $10 a week raise in four years — total, not $10 a week each year, but $10 a week over four years. My Newark property taxes went up 16% this past year alone. My homeowners insurance went up 188% since 2009. The rich, who shouldn't get either Social Security (since they are already secure) or Medicare (because they can darned well afford to pay for private insurance) not only DO get Social Security and Medicare but (a) they get MORE Social Security than the poor and middle class, even tho they don't pay SS tax on every dollar of their income, which the poor and middle class do; and (b) they pay the same amount per month for Medicare that I do even if they receive 5X as much in retirement income as I do. And that is what the Government deems "fair". $97/mo. is a lot more to me than it is to them, but I pay the same as someone who has $80,000 (pardon me: $79,999) a year of retirement income. Disgusting. Next year Medicare will cost $99/mo. for me and for people who make 5X as much as I do. What is wrong with this country?
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The Occupy (Wall Street) movement may focus social attention in this coming election year, on the grotesk maldistribution of wealth that has developed in this country in recent decades. Most people have no idea how that happened. I know exactly how it happened. That's one of the advantages of being old. You know when many present problems started.
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The U.S. has been ravaged by a silent coup made by the rich and super-rich against The Rest Of Us in the "Tax Reform Act of 1986", which, alas, many stupid Democrats voted for during the monstrous Reagan Administration. Two features of that "reform" — Plutocratic Revolution, really — started us down the road to a maldistribution of wealth comparable to the worst Latin American oligarchies. The first was a drastic drop in tax rates for the rich. In 1978, the top bracket paid about 78% of their income in income tax. Now it is much less than half of that — if indeed they pay taxes at all, despite the Alternative Minimum Tax, which obviously does not work with the super-rich, tho it apparently has victimized people who are not rich.
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The second disastrous feature of the 1986 'reform' was a bizarre change that made the interest paid on consumer debt (credit cards, car loans, and such) NON-tax-deductible, while retaining the deductibility of interest paid on mortgages on up to TWO homes, one of which could — I kid you not — be a sleepover YACHT. And that is when the debt crisis began, with the Tax Reform Act of 1986 under Reagan. Each year since then, the poor and middle class have slid further and further into debt, as the outrageously high interest they are charged on consumer debt has accumulated rather than been discharged thru the tax code. We pay interest not just on purchases or cash advances, but on the interest that has piled up in our accounts. We are, that is to say, paying interest on interest — and late fees and overlimit fees. And that is why scores of millions of Americans are drowning in debt: because of the Tax Reform Act of 1986.
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I see the Occupy movement as today's version of the turbulent Sixties, the era of my youth. I was born just before the start of 1945. The Baby Boom began in 1946. But it is my group, born between, say, 1943 and 1950, that produced the manpower for the activism of the Sixties and early Seventies.
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The early Sixties were "Camelot", a wondrous moment of magic, when a handsome king and his gracious queen occupied a shining white palace in Washington, DC, and regaled us with wit, humor, and grace. We were on top of the world, the richest, most powerful country in the history of the world, with a brilliant, refined scion of a millionaire and his debutante wife giving deep, easy "class" to this greatest of nations. Then, some Communist madman shot our brilliant, beautiful hero, and we plunged into self-doubting madness. Never mind that the man who killed him was inspired by a profoundly foreign ideology, and perhaps even trained and sent on his mission of assassination by the KGB. We blamed ourselves. Good people are sometimes gluttons for unearned guilts.
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The Nation was roiled by wild, uncontrolled, unfocused grief, and by the stirrings of a new age that JFK had given hope to. Black people, women, Hispanics, and gay men were pushing for inclusion in what came to be known under LBJ, JFK's successor, as the Great Society, a Nation that was to be fair as well as rich, with power shared by all.
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The monsters in our midst did not, however, roll over and accept the inevitability of change. They shot back, literally, and major assassinations appalled and enraged us. We approached civil war, but had the good fortune to have as President a Southerner who accepted the need for change, and was able to strongarm his fellow Southerners into (apparent) submission on a whole range of issues of social and economic justice.
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When the war in Vietnam was ended by capitulation by Republicans — Democrats were the anti-Communists; Republicans were the co-conspirators in Communism, in Southeast Asia and in China — the Nation settled down, and worked to make the reforms of the 60s and early 70s actually work. Never in our worst nitemares did we foresee everything we accomplished then, and in the four decades before then, being undone in the second decade of the 21st Century.
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So now, another generation must rise in indignation and wake the conscience of the Nation, show everyone that the only "redistribution of wealth" that there has been in this country in recent decades is redistribution UP, from the poor and middle class TO the rich and super-rich. We thought the accomplishments of our generation, and of our parents and grandparents, were chiseled in stone. It never occurred to us that they could be reversed, and a powdered-stone compound could be pushed into all those engraved lines to erase them.
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Oh, the Founding Fathers of this Republic warned us that we can never rest on our laurels, and must never think that the forces of evil have been permanently vanquished: "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" is a principle basic to our civilization, whoever might first have said that cautionary sentence or any of its variants (and there is no universal agreement about that). But we didn't really believe that every step in human progress we have taken since the 1930s could really be assaulted and rolled back.
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As long as the destruction of our civilization was being done by stealth, the rich could get away with it. But when the Tea Party started demanding the reversal of everything we have done since the Great Depression, and Presidential candidates like Newt Gingrich started saying things like we should get rid of child-labor laws, we began to wake to the threat. Well, some of us have wakened to the threat.
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One of Thomas Jefferson's most famous, and radical, quotations is "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." We are now so 'advanced' — in our own minds — that we think we are a peaceful society, even as we only days ago ended one of TWO wars we were fiting at the same time, with endless fawning references across society to our military "heroes". The war against — not for — Iraq killed literally uncounted people, including as many as 1.25 million Iraqis. But we pretend that we are a nonviolent people. And we would like to believe that we can defend the gains of a century without bloodshed. Can we really?
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When peaceful Occupy movements are driven from public places by brutal police actions, can we really believe in the good will and decency of elected officials and police chiefs in local government? Will such police-state behavior crush the Occupy movement? Or can it rebound, adapt, and evade destruction, to achieve its ends, without turning violent? I have my doubts. Certainly the history of the United States is NOT one of peaceful change to any great degree. Whether it be Mississippi Burning-type murders, or the assassination of John and Robert Kennedy, Medgar Evers, and MLK, the great changes of the 1960s did not come peacefully. We must not naively believe ourselves more advanced now than then. In the 1960s we had only one (undeclared) war. We recently had two, and some people are pushing us for a third, against Iran. So I find it hard to believe that we can push back against the Radical Right without violence.
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Mine is the perspective of someone who lived thru the Sixties and Seventies, and who was indeed involved in a reform movement, the gay-rights struggle, starting in 1965. Think about the periods of great change in our history. From 1776-1781, the American Revolution established our independence, thru violence. 1861-65, Southerners attempted to secede from the Union, but were defeated, by horrendous MASS violence. From the 19teens to the early 1930s, various police departments and other elements of governments at the local and state (I don't know about the Federal) level participated in anti-union violence, beating and even shooting union organizers and strikers. In the mid-1950s to mid-1960s, civil-rights activists were subject to mob violence and police excesses. In each of these prior eras, what we might today call "progressives" prevailed, and society moved into a more civilized era.
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Starting in 1987, with the effectiveness of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, society started a massive regression, reconcentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands, and fundamental corruption of the political system, such that money now controls almost everything. Can we really undo 25 years of stealth-regression nonviolently? Or is it time for another violent period? 1776-81, 1861-65, 1914-32, 1956-64, and 2012 are separated by, respectively, 85 years, 49 years, 24 years, and 48 years. Other periodicities might also need to be factored in, such as depressions and wars, which contribute to internal stresses that can build up to domestic explosions. I am not sanguine that we can turn back the barbarians of the Radical Right without something very like the tumult of the Sixties — Nineteen or Eighteen.
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In any case, I'm a bit too old to man the barricades, tho I would like to join the crowds of the Occupy movement at some point.
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On a birthday, esp. in one's old age, a person may look backward in review of what s/he once wanted from life as against what s/he actually did. This is intensified in my case by the fact that I am sort of a member of a committee to organize the 50th-year reunion of my high-school class — MTHS '62 (Middletown Township High School, Monmouth County, NJ), for sometime this coming summer.
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I can remember some of the things I wanted to do, and be, such as a journalist traveling the world in a trailer (then; RV now) to report on underappreciated developments in the Third World. Or work a stint in the Peace Corps (created by JFK in 1961, when I was in my junior year of high school). In checking for the date of creation of the Peace Corps, I found a Wikipedia article that showed that JFK intended the U.S. to foment in the 1950s what only now, in the Arab Spring, has come to something akin to fruition. Kennedy wanted to bring the "backward Middle East" into the modern world as the first task of what came to be called the Peace Corps.
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I had always, from perhaps age 7, wanted to be President of the United States, and wanted to reawaken the Expansionist impulse that created a Confederation east of the Mississippi and north of the Floridas into a continent-spanning Union, and to inspire us to resume our national geographic growth, eventually to create world union under the Constitution of the United States. That Constitution did, after all, create 13 independent and mutually distrustful little countries into a great and dynamic Union.
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Then puberty hit me, and I realized that I was gay and my first responsibility was to help end the injustices to my own people. I did not want to run from my nature to be able to run for President. And so I devoted crucial years in my youth to fiting the good fite to change public perceptions of homosexuality. We are only now anywhere near the point where an openly gay man could run for President with any expectation whatsoever of being taken seriously. And I am now too diminished in physical energy to undertake such a run (unless I win, say, $205 million in the Megamillions lottery, so become able to hire a great team to do the grunt work for me). I'd have made the best President ever — if you don't think so, just ask me, and I'll tell you I would — but the Nation's bigotry wouldn't let most people even think of voting for me.
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That out-of-synch political aspiration is one of at least four instances in which my timing was just plain off. Well, it wasn't MY timing, but the timing of great events beyond my control.
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After I graduated from MTHS, I lived at home for three years, working first at the Middletown McDonald's and then (after I was fired by a boss because of a personality clash) in Manhattan, as a clerk-messenger for a documentary unit at ABC TV News, commuting by train from Red Bank (NJ; walking distance from the family home in the River Plaza section of Middletown Twp). In June 1965 I moved to an apartment in an owner-occupied brownstone on West 84th Street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive in Manhattan. Very nice neighborhood, and I could see NJ from just outside my building, and esp. from nearby Riverside Park.
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I had been rejected by Princeton University and Swarthmore College. My SATs were good, but my academic record had big bad spots because I was hit hard by Weltschmerz and the terrible condition of the world. I could not pursue my own narrow interests when things were so desolate on the planet. Good thinking. Well, actually, it wasn't so much thinking as feeling, something young people often fall prey to.
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I also needed to get out of New Jersey for two reasons. First, it did then and does now think too small. It is the "Un-New York", as 7Up was the Uncola. If New York was great, New Jersey had to be meager. If NY thought big, NJ had to think small. Whatever NY was, NJ had to be the opposite.
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As a young gay man, I also could not live in suburbia, because there was noplace to meet other gay men openly and wholesomely. Manhattan, by contrast, had a thriving gay community that I first discovered from a documentary on channel 13 (a Newark station stolen by New Yorkers) about the Mattachine Society — which I joined after moving to Manhattan.
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In 1967 I decided to go to college when I was working for a magazine in Midtown (then known as Atlas, later as World Press Review) and caught an error in something a senior editor had written, about the length of the U.S.-Canadian border. I pointed out the right length, but the editor was loath to accept that a kid who hadn't gone to college for even a minute could correct him. So I decided to get credentials so that if I corrected someone, they might accept that correction. I started college in a special, overflow, temporary institution within the City University of New York, the Freshman Program at the Graduate Center, on 42nd Street. There were fewer than 300 of us.
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At the end of that one-year program, those of us who chose to and were able to continue our college education, had to transfér to a senior college. I chose City College, which I could get to by bus from where I was then living, in a basement on Riverside Drive at 85th Street.
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Once I got to City, I made Dean's List and qualified for "independent study", but could not independently study anything related to Canada, as I wanted to do, because there was no one on the faculty who could serve as my advisor. I was only 300 miles from the Canadian border, in a major American university, but no one was available to serve as advisor! Since then, "Canadian Studies" departments and professors have popped up here and there, but I was ahead of my time. So that was another instance of bad timing/being out-of-synch with the times.
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The third was when I graduated from City College, and found that for the first time in seven years, demand for new college graduates was down. Great. So I couldn't find a job that suited my education. I was, however, involved in gay activism anyway, so could not have begun a "career" that would demand all my time and attention. I had publications to write, edit, and produce, first by mimeograph, then by xerox. On April 1st, 1969, almost two full months before the Stonewall Riots, I had formed a student organization at City College called Homosexuals Intransigent! (the italics are part of the name). It was the one organization for gay men only — in the Nation — and we were given hell by lesbians and "bisexuals" for that. We also demanded that voting members declare themselves homosexual if asked — not "bisexual" or straight or anything else. HI!'s militancy was out of synch with the prevailing fit-into-straight-society-at-all-costs thinking. Curiously, tho, straight people were much more accepting of our self-assertion than were other 'gay' organizations (publicly; I had favorable interactions in private with people whose organizations toed an anti-HI! line).
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HI!'s publications, which were mostly but not wholly written by me, were very well received, and produced various mentions in media. I got a column, for a couple of months, along with heads of other organizations, in a tabloid-size newspaper, Gay Power. I was interviewed by a man who was writing a book, then quoted extensively in that book, The Gay Militants, by Donn Teal. And I was quoted in other places, such as Randy Shilts's book Conduct Unbecoming, tho he took the quote from the first issue of our mimeographed newsletter, Homosexual Renaissance. He did not interview me.
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In November 1969 I had attended a conference of gay and lesbian organizations (ERCHO = Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations) in Philadelphia, at which a proposal was made by the Gay Liberation Front of New York University to establish an annual march commemorating the Stonewall Riots on the last Sunday of June. I proposed an amendment not to require a dress code ("homophile" demonstrations had theretofore required men to wear jacket-and-tie, and women to wear skirts-and-sweaters or such). HI! was a student organization, and many of our members might not even have owned a sports jacket or suit. The amendment was approved without discussion. Little did we know that the absence of a dress code would produce disgraceful attire and even total nudity that media would focus on to discredit our movement as a bunch of freaks.
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An interorganizational committee was established in NY, as host city, to plan the first annual march. I attended those meetings, probably every single one. In one such meeting, in the late winter or early spring of 1970, we decided to ask all NYC organizations to host events during the weekend of the march to bring in more out-of-towners than would travel to New York for a two- or three-hour march alone, just to go home again without more. We decided to call the weekend of host-city events by a single title. The first thought was "Gay Power Weekend". I didn't like that, so proposed "Gay Pride  Weekend", which was seconded and approved instantly, without discussion. And that is why events all over this planet today are called "Gay Pride" this and that. Because of me.
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No one has dared to challenge my very public claim, in an issue of HI!'s newsletter in 1971, to having offered that term as it is now used. It's almost 41 years since I made that claim publicly, in a publication distributed to many gay organizations. But nobody among my enemies from that time has expressly conceded that coinage to me and graciously consented to have me recorded in gay history for it. Quite the contrary, they have pressured Wikipedia to remove me from the list of core members of the organizing committee for the march, and from all mentions of me as having coined the term "Gay Pride". The Wikipedia article on that term gives no one credit, as tho who came up with the term is either unknown or unimportant. Still, my enemies have not intimidated everyone out of acknowleding my contribution.
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My friend and fellow gay militant, John Lauritsen, recently foned to say he had bought a video camera and wanted to interview me for an oral history of the major figures in gay history from the Sixties and Seventies. I said we could do it next time he travels to New York, or I could drive up to see him in Boston. (He used to live on St. Mark's Place in Manhattan, and attended various organizing-committee meetings, as at my apartment on the Upper West Side and the "other Craig's" apartment in Greenwich Village. Craig Rodwell was the other Craig, tho at the time I was the "other Craig", because he was much more famous than I, and still alive. He died in 1993, however, whereas I am still going. We got along fine, but he once observed that I don't come off in person as the militant my writing suggested. I told him there is a time and place for everything, and social mingling in gay bars was not, to my mind, the place to spout militant rhetoric.)
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The fourth instance of my being out of synch in a major matter occured after I moved, in June 2000, 35 years to the month since I had moved to Manhattan from suburban NJ, back to NJ, tho to a place I had never before lived in. I left a Manhattan apartment for my own house in the leafy, semi-suburban Vailsburg section of Newark.
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There was an ailanthus (sometimes wrongly called "sumac") tree growing in my front yard and dropping myriad seeds to the ground to pop up as seedlings all over the front portion of my front and side yards. So I wanted to cut it down.
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I had a nifty folding hand saw that worked wonders, so I used that. It successfully cut thru a trunk perhaps 8 inches thick. But even after I had cut clean thru the trunk, the tree did not fall. It turns out that woody vines (probably wisteria) were holding it uprite more than 10 feet above the point at which I had entirely severed the trunk.
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I pondered how to get the tree to fall without taking down nearby telefone and/or electrical wires. I climbed my ladder and made what seemed to me judicious cuts to the vines to bring the tree down. That worked, but as the tree fell, it knocked the ladder over. I then fell or jumped off the falling ladder, and when I landed badly, my right kneecap went sideways. Something was very wrong. That was on September 9th, 2001.
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I managed to get myself up the 16 outdoor steps and 13 indoor stairs to my bedroom, and to lie down to recuperate. I had never, in my prior 56 years, had anything go seriously wrong with my limbs or health, so I expected to recover with only bedrest. Two days later, I was awake unusually early because of all my bedrest, and about to watch Regis, when the TV showed live coverage of an airplane that had crashed into the World Trade Center. I continued to watch until after a second plane flew into the second WTC tower, whereupon I called my mother (in Middletown) to see if she had the TV on. She had. We weren't yet clear on what was going on, and while waiting for more info, she asked how it happened that I was up so early. (I worked evening or graveyard shift, so was almost never up before noon.) When I told her about my accident, she decided that I could NOT just wait around to recover, but had to get to a hospital.
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She and my sister Sue Ann, who was also living in Monmouth County at the time (tho she now lives in Long Beach, California), drove up in my mother's little Geo Storm (which is now my car), and she and my mother got me into the back seat, where I lodged firmly. Mother or Sue Ann had made calls about what hospital was available to tend to me, and we headed to St. James Hospital, then open in the Ironbound section of Newark, east on South Orange Avenue. As we approached the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, which was much closer, we saw a massive ridge of dark smoke on the horizon ahead, and helicopters landing on UMDNJ's helipad, evacuating people from the WTC disaster.
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To make a long(er) story short(er), the patella tendon in my right leg had either burst or detached from my shin, so needed to be mended, replaced, or reattached before I could walk normally again. Alas, like 47 million other Americans at the time, I had no health insurance, so could not have the operation in timely fashion. So for many months I walked with a flexible brace and (inflexible) crutches. When I found a full-time job with health insurance, I was able to have an operation once my health benefits kicked in, and had surgery about a year and a quarter after my accident. That was too late to restore full function to that knee, so, like millions of other Americans, I ended up partially disabled, permanently, because the United States, unlike all other advanced Western countries, did not have universal healthcare. It still doesn't.
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In April 2003, I had a second accident, in which my other patella tendon, connecting my left knee to the shin, also burst or detached, when I was merely trying to run for the first time after the surgery on my right knee, in order to get out of the way of traffic in crossing the street. When my left knee collapsed, my right knee (recently operated upon) hit the pavement, which reinjured that knee. So I had to have two more surgeries. The surgery on my left knee, thanks to health insurance, was done a week to the day after the accident that blew out that knee, and most function was successfully restored. The second surgery on my right knee, altho covered by health insurance, could restore that knee only to the condition that the belated earlier surgery had been able to achieve, which is much less than full function. The muscles in my thigh had atrophied and/or shortened.
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I now have Medicare. Had I had Medicare in 2001, I could have had my right knee repaired in time to restore most functionality, so when my second accident occurred both the left knee, involved in that second accident, and the right knee reinjured in that accident, could have been restored to almost full functionality. Again, I was out of synch with the times.
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Now we come to the fifth major instance of my life's being out of synch with my times, my retirement in the worst economic era of the past 80 years, longer than my lifetime. I was wrongfully fired from my job in Downtown Newark (ostensibly because of something I wrote on the Internet that had nothing to do with the job), but I did not sue because my principles forbid me to challenge the right of an employer to discharge an at-will employee for any reason, or for no reason. I might have made a case that I was really fired because the firm was afraid I might need further expensive surgeries (its healthcare costs were soaring year on year), or because I had just become 60. My firing might thus have been legally wrongful under laws about disabilities and age. But suing would have required me to spend a fortune on attorneys (fiting other attorneys, since I had been fired by a law firm), and would keep me chained to that unhappy incident for years. I wanted to put the past behind me and move on. So I didn't sue, but sought replacement employment thru a temp agency in Manhattan.
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Unfortunately, commuting to Manhattan entailed an awful lot of stairs in NY train and subway stations, so it was very difficult for me. When I turned 62, eligible for early retirement on Social Security, I decided to take the lower payout rather than face another four years of myriad stairs in miserable commuting.
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For the first couple of years, I was able to get by without much problem, thanks to an IRA that supplemented my Social Security payout. But COBRA (replacement health insurance for my former employer's health plan) cost a fortune, and it depleted my IRA at an alarming rate. I dropped it even before I became eligible for Medicare, because I was able to function adequately and was no longer falling down, almost ever.
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I became eligible for Medicare in December 2009, which cut my Social Security payout by $97/month. Then the City of Newark raised property taxes by 16%. Then my homeowners insurance almost doubled in cost. And in 2010 and 2011, Social Security made no  Cost Of Living Adjustment for recipients, so we got only what we had received all year 2009. Three full years have gone by without one cent greater payment from Social Security, even as everything else has gone up.
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Some cost increases have been camouflaged by manufacturers' shrinking the size of packages. The former standard, half gallon, of ice cream, is now a quart and a half! and a pint (16 oz.) of Häagen Dazs is now 14 ounces — for the same price. After three full years of this kind of merciless, hidden inflation, Social Security recipients are finally to get a tiny increase, 3.3%. That's 3.3% over four years. And Republicans are now trying to DESTROY Social Security entirely, starting with cuts in benefits. It's not enuf that we had the same meager payout for three full years. No, they now want to REDUCE payouts, if not to those of us presently on stingy Social Security, then to future recipients.
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Sixth timing problem. I went to real-estate school to get a salesperson's license, passed the course, passed the state test, and got my license — just before the housing bubble burst. I haven't made one cent from the hundreds and hundreds of dollars I invested in getting my license and renewing it twice. I hold out hope, however, that someone who is serious about wanting to move to Newark will work thru me and the broker with whom I have a referral arrangement, and I might eventually recoup some of my real-estate expenses.
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Let us review. When I got out of high school, I had to leave New Jersey (and the possibility, I did not mention above, of working in and then inheriting my father's real-estate and mortgage-brokering business) to find freedom as a gay man, and work in the gay-rights movement so that someday some OTHER gay man could run for President. During college, I couldn't do independent study because Canadian Studies had not yet been established. When I graduated college, there were few jobs for college grads. When I had very serious accidents, I had neither health insurance nor Medicare. When I retired, the economy collapsed, and Social Security recipients got no increase for the first and second times in history. And when I got my real-estate salesperson's license, the housing market collapsed. I just can't catch a break.
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I'm not bitter, however. It's actually funny to me that so much could go so wrong, by a few years in most cases, by over 45 years, and counting, in the case of social acceptance of gay men.
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Other things have gone pretty well. I got a college education on the cheap, because there was no tuition for the City University of New York when I attended, only various student fees, plus the cost of books. Kids today don't have that. So I lucked out in my timing there.
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My activities in the gay-rights movement gained me some fame — and notoriety, and enemies who have worked to prevent any public recognition to me, for decades.
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My activities for the Expansionist Party of the United States, which I co-founded, by fone, with a gay friend from Queens, got me into, first, Who's Who in American Politics, then Who's Who in the East, then Who's Who in America, where I have been for ten years. I haven't yet accomplished purposes like bringing Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands into the Union as the 51st State, nor Canada as the 52nd thru 58th states, nor the Philippines as three states, nor Mexico as another 10 states — etc., ever onward and outward, ultimately to culminate in world union under the U.S. Constitution. Again, I'm out of synch with the times.
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The Expansionist impulse was vitiated by the Mexican Cession in 1848 and statehood for California in 1850, which extended the U.S. realm "from sea to shining sea". Never mind that we didn't go north into Canada nor south into Mexico, Central America, Panama, Cuba, or Hispaniola. The thinking in 1848 was, "How could we possibly be injured by not annexing Mexico? How could an independent Mexico ever cause us problems?"
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I have had less success, but some recognition, for my efforts in reforming the spelling of English. My Fanetik system is one of the best-regarded spelling reform sites on the Internet.
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My fotoblog about Newark is fairly popular, given the relatively small audience for materials about Newark.
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So what might I have to complain about? Two things.
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First, I am sometimes confronted with the need to specify my marital status, with a choice such as "Single, never married". That is a standing rebuke. I have failed, despite innumerable intimate encounters, to ensnar...inspire some fine man to enter into a permanent relationship with me. That is nothing like unique to me, alas. The gay world has not been organized around permanency, in part because gay men are still not allowed to marry each other in most places, including my state, New Jersey, thanks to simpleminded bigots like NJ's Rotund Rightwinger, Chris Christie. A gay bar or coffeehouse attracts men of many different ages, types, and interests. Finding one man who is really suited to you on many bases is very difficult under such circumstances. Still, there have seemed, in my experience, to be some guys who were always attached, and others, like me, who were never attached. I am now in touch with my only "ex", from 1966. He lives in Vancouver, BC. He found me a couple of years ago thru the website of Homosexuals Intransigent!. We then spent a weekend together (as friends) in Montreal in summer 2009; and we exchange emails on isolated occasions. But we weren't really suited to each other long-term.
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The only other major regret of my life is that I have never had children. I'd have loved to have sons, many sons (I am one of six children, four boys and two girls). I'd have had to live a more 'responsible' life financially, working full-time rather than part-time, as I did to leave time for 'propaganda' for my various causes. But the only way I will ever have children now is if I win a great deal of money in the lottery and am still able, biologically, to father a child/ren. That would be great. I'm not about to try to clone myself, however, because there are things about me (such as my genetically defective knees) that I would want fixed by infusion of different genes.
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As I look forward again, having taken some time to look backward now, which I rarely spend much time or energy in doing, I have to think about things like Life Alert ("Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!") and other things that old people who live alone must concern themselves with.
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This time of the year (my birthday, Christmas, and New Year's all within less than two weeks), I must ask, "Has mine been a 'Wonderful Life'?" Yes and no. I have never been actively unhappy for more than a few hours at a time, in 67 years of existence. I have, alas, also never been actively happy for more than a couple of days at a time (mainly when I was with some wonderful man). I have done good work, in my various causes thru life, but never achieved the kind of fame that would add weight to my words.
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In "George Bailey" fashion, I can ask what the world would be like without "Gay Pride" ANYTHING.
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Is that contribution enuf? Of course not. But I'm still working. I haven't been updating this blog regularly of late, due to other demands, as, for instance, to update my Newark fotoblog regularly. I go thru phases of high energy and low, high aspiration and temporary burnout. But I always get back to work. Does my work amount to anything? Some does. But which of my works, if any, will continue to make a difference after I no longer can work, for no longer breathing (something that we in our upper 60s, or better, must think about at least now and then). Will my surviving enemies suddenly claim, the instant I am dead, that somebody ELSE coined the term "Gay Pride"? I wouldn't put it past them. But my mother died at 90. My grandmother, on my father's side, at 96. My enemies are not likely to outlive me. Good.



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