Jeffrey on… his birthday

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Jeffrey chats birthdays and getting older on the Interwebs

Jeffrey chats about his birthday today (forty-something!).

And thanks all those who sent birthday well wishes.

Thanks, folks!

Jeffrey, The Gay Groom

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Breathless

Inhale.

What do writers Marcel Proust, John Updike, Ann Radcliffe, Edith Wharton, Dylan Thomas, Samuel Johnson, Djuna Barnes, Elizabeth Bishop and your humble blogger all have in common?

We all had sex with Gore Vidal.

No, that’s not true.  Gore Vidal isn’t quite old enough to have had sex with Samuel Johnson.

In fact, we are all afflicted with asthma.

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition, in which the airways may unexpectedly and suddenly narrow, often in response to an allergen, cold air, exercise, or emotional stress (in my case all four).  Symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing.

Asthma is rather like knowing that at any moment a boa constrictor could wrap itself around your chest and squeeze.

That’s a good if well-worn (and dare I say homoerotic?) analogy.

An acute asthma attack is terrifying.  An excellent first person account of how horrific an asthma attack can be is found in John Updike’s memoir, Self-Consciousness.   Updike writes:

“An asthma attack feels like two walls drawn closer and closer, until they are pressed together… I thought, This is the last thing I’ll see.  This is death.  The breathless blackness within me was overlaying the visual world.”

An excellent description.

I’ve also tried to write of the horror of the asthma attack.   From my novel, Shirts and Skins:

The first attack happened at night.   It had seized Josh by the throat from out of the darkness, strangling him.  He woke up gasping for air.  I can’t breathe.  Arching his back with his stomach in the air, the boy strained to inhale and a sickening wheezing sound emerged from deep inside him.  His eyes bulged.  The room was dark, except for the glowing orange numbers on the clock radio beside his bed.  1:33.   Pushing himself up on his elbows, Josh gagged and coughed something thick and wet onto the front of his flannel pajama shirt.  His throat opened slightly and he sucked a small amount of air into his lungs murky caverns.  Terrified, Josh tried to call out to his parents sleeping down the hall, but could only choke out another loud wheezing gasp.  His legs kicked out wildly over the faded brown horses printed on his bed sheets until one foot connected hard with the wall beside his bed.  In the living room, on the other side of the wall, something fell with a thud and shattered with the tinkle of a thousand jagged shards onto the hardwood floor.

And does asthma affect the writer’s work?

Some interesting study has recently been done specifically on the asthmatic writer.  Two such writers, Marcel Proust and Elizabeth Bishop, have recently had their work re-examined through their asthmatic symptoms.  In Proust’s case, researchers have at their disposal a large amount of correspondence that details his respiratory illness and treatments.  Relying on such comprehensive information concerning Proust’s health, investigators have attempted to relate Proust’s fiction back to his respiratory illness.  One such example, “Proust’s Prescription: Sickness as the Pre-condition for Writing,” Lois Bragg and William Sayers study how illness, and particularly asthma, manifests as a number of extended similes in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.

I once gave (if I do say so myself) a brilliant paper in graduate school on Ann Radcliffe, the grande dame of Gothic fiction who died during an acute asthma attack in 1883, theorizing how she transformed the asthmatic symptoms that tormented her through most of her life (breathlessness, sudden violence, tyranny, nocturnal attacks, suffocation, darkness, constriction etc.) into an abundant collection of dark metaphors that became prototypical Gothic images.

(I specialized in Restoration and 18th Century literature.  You can imagine how useful that is in real life.)

Your humble blogger’s own asthma comes and goes.  I take medication everyday in an attempt to limit my asthma symptoms.

Luckily I have times of remission (often lasting months) followed by its inevitable (and at times depressing) return. Though, unfortunately, I never have completely normal lung functions even when in remission.

Like anything, you live to learn with it.

And though living with asthma can be trying, with the likes of Proust and Updike as fellow sufferers,  I am in grand company.  Which makes it a little easier.

Exhale.

Jeffrey, The Gay Groom

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Jeffrey on… 2016, Tahiti and that last 20 pounds

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Tahiti

 

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The Worst Christmas Gift Ever

The Gay Groom at age three on his backyard rink

This is a Christmas re-post of one of my most read blogs…

Continuing with my “Christmas in the 70s” series, I look back gifts.  Not the gifts I wanted and received like my pogo stick, the soundtrack album to The Sound of Music or my Stretch Armstrong (or even the ones I really wanted but couldn’t mention like an Easy Bake Oven), but the one I received almost every Christmas and never ever wanted.

Hockey skates.

With visions of NHL hockey contracts dancing in his head, each winter my father would stand out back of our house in the freezing cold and flood our lawn with a garden hose to make my older brothers and me a backyard skating rink.

My dear old dad wanted your humble blogger to be a great hockey player.  He had me on ice-skates before I was two years old.  The logic being, I suppose, that the earlier I was on the ice then the better skater I would become.

Sadly, for him, this was not to be the case.

Unlike my older brothers, I hated hockey. I hated the cold. I hated the big heavy uniform.  I hated the big smelly bag you carried the hockey accouterments in.  And I especially hated how hockey skates hurt my feet.  I told my dad that skating for long periods hurt my chest (my asthma not yet being diagnosed) but any protestations I made were dismissed by my father with a shake of his head as he would put those damned skates on my feet at the kitchen table each evening and then have me skate in circles around that backyard ice rink.

“You just need more practice,” he would say as he shoved me out into the cold.

On Saturday nights, he would have me sit in front of our huge Zenith color television and watch “Hockey Night in Canada.”  The little Gay Groom did not like watching hockey anymore than I liked playing it.  The games seemed to go on forever and I never really cared who won or lost.  To pass the time as they skated up and down and up and down and up… I would critique the colors of their uniforms:  loved the purple and gold Kings, hated the brown, yellow and orange Canucks, and decided that the Whalers needed a splash of crimson.

I would wait patiently for the end of the game when the camera would move into the locker-room and someone would put a microphone in the face of a half-naked husky hockey player with a bare chests and long sweaty hair.

In those days your humble blogger really dug those Montreal Canadians with their French accents.  Actually, your humble blogger still does.

When I was seven, the time came for me to join the city boy’s hockey league, just as my brothers had, where I played on a team called the Cardinals.

“Shouldn’t cardinals be in red?” I asked my dad when I saw my green uniform for the first time.

“Stop worrying so much about color,” he said.

And I was hopeless on the ice.  I tripped.  I fell over.  I slid on my face.  And at times I simply gave up and lay on my back staring up at the lights on the ceiling as others skated around me.  The lights are pretty from down here, I thought.

“Get up!” my father yelled from the stands. “For Christ’s sake, skate!”

I didn’t feel like it.

After a few games, I was not put on the ice much and spent most of the game sitting on the bench with Tommy Young who was also a terrible skater (and who, incidentally, I would run into at a gay bar a few years later) and discuss important things like Tiger Beat magazine.  Warming the bench with Tommy was fine by me.

(I should mention at this point that many gay men are great athletes and, particularly, great hockey players… and the Gay Groom’s own rottenness at hockey should be in no way seen as stereotypical of all gay boys.  There are excellent gay hockey players out there – I am just not one of them.)

On the drive home from the neighborhood hockey rink after a Cardinal’s game my dad was always quiet.  He was never one to mask his disappointment well and would look shell shocked as he drove (rather like he did years later when I told him why my roommate and I had rented an apartment with only one bedroom).

“But he was on skates before he was two,” he would say quietly say to himself.

When we got home he would make me put my skates back on and skate circles around the backyard rink in the dark.

“You need more practice,” he said.

One night after he made me go out in the backyard to skate circles I waited until I saw him looking out the kitchen window at me.   Then I stretched out my arms wide at my sides and, in the best Dorothy Hamill imitation my lousy skating skills could muster, I started to do big flamboyant figure eights on the ice.  As my father’s eyes narrowed I even managed to throw in a few tiny little jumps without falling.  The final spin never materialized properly but I still finished with a defiant “TA DA!”

It worked.  He flew outside in a rage running over the ice in his stocking feet and pulling me by the shoulder, threw me through the back door.

My dad never made another backyard ice rink.

And as for your humble blogger’s first and only year playing hockey with The Cardinals?  Now the only reminder I have of that unhappy winter is my team photo.

TA DA!

Jeffrey, The Gay Groom

Worst Hockey Player Ever?

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Jeffrey’s Annual Festivus Airing of the Grievances

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Jeffrey on… Xmas, Mustaches and Books

 

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Jeffrey Taking It Off

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Giving the Husband his Birthday gift

The husband asked for only one thing for his birthday.

So I gave it to him.

And so it goes.

Jeffrey, The Gay Groom

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I kinda already miss it

 

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Enough Already with the Christmas Tipping!

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And now a Gay Groom Classic…

Your humble blogger isn’t cheap.

He will gladly add 20% to his bill at a restaurant (even for mediocre service), let his cabbie keep the change of a ten-dollar bill for a seven-dollar ride, and throws his change in the tip jar at Startucks when getting a chai latte.

Now I don’t want to be a Scrooge and I hate to complain, but come December I seem to be tipping everyone and their brother.

Just who am I tipping?  I’m glad you asked…

First there is the Cleaning Lady:  The usual tip (or so I was told years ago) is an extra week’s salary on her last cleaning day before Christmas.  It is not, apparently,  appropriate to give one’s cleaning lady a gift of say, towels or fancy olive oil.  Cold hard cash is what is expected and it’s what I fork over.  Though it is the one day of the year when their work seems to be lacking.  You know you will be re-cleaning the toilet in the guest bathroom before your guest pop by Christmas Eve.  “Ah well”, you say as you dig in your pocket, “it’s Christmas”.

Condo concierge:  This is the cheerful guy that sits behind the desk in the lobby of the condo.  Tipping him costs me either a very good bottle of scotch or champagne every year.  Keeping the concierge happy at Christmas means that guests to your condo will be sent up quickly and you will know right when the package from Amazon arrives. A happy concierge will also unlock the security door when he sees you arrive with six shopping bags (and getting to your keys is difficult).  Your humble blogger forgot to tip the concierge once and paid for it the entire year with the cold shoulder whenever I arrived with armfuls of groceries.

Condo security:  Not to be confused with the concierge, security needs to be tipped as well.  We have about four full-time guys on staff at our condo (I think I can name one of them) plus a bunch of part-time weekend guys.  We are asked to contribute to a Christmas fund that is distributed in some way that, I suppose, is fair.  The suggested donation is 100 dollars.  If you don’t want to find your belongings gone when you get home from Palm Springs in February, tip security.

The Paperboy:  Though have you noticed delivering newpapers really isn’t done by ‘boys’ anymore?  It is now some guy in his 40s who I never see or hear from until a week before Christmas when I get a Christmas card inside my newspaper telling me his name, how great it was to delivery papers to me all year and that tips can be left at the concierge.

Personal Trainer: The 100 dollars an hour you’re shelling out for this torture isn’t enough during the holiday season.  Biff, Steve or Rocko will be expecting a tip after your last workout before Christmas.  Anything less than a hundred dollars and you will be paying with an extra two hundred crunches at the gym on December 27.

Getting your hair cut for Christmas?  Then many of you know you will be tipping nearly everyone in the salon.  You will have to tip your hairdresser, plus the shampoo girl, the girl behind the counter… and it’s double since it’s Christmas.

Did I forget anybody?  If I did I’m sure I’ll pay for it come January.

Jeffrey, The Gay Groom

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Jeffrey on… his first live Periscope

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Jeffrey’s first try at Periscope.

Oh, great, WordPress changed their editor again. Sheesh! Here I am trying my first live Periscope.

It was fun. Not sure how successful it was. :)

Jeffrey, The Gay Groom

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Je suis Paris

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Jeffrey at the Eiffel Tower

My heart goes out to the people of Paris, my favourite city in the world.

Allow me to simply post this video of German pianist, Davide Martello, playing John Lennon’s “Imagine” outside the city’s Bataclan theatre today.

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do;

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too.

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace.

#NotAfraid

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