Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween 2006

Went to a party at my friend Greg's house. His partner Steve (who was dear long time friend of mine) died of a heart attack this past March 14th at 53 years old, and this is the first party he's thrown since that time.

Kevin, the organist from the Methodist church that kicked me out in 1994 was there. He kept talking about how that church had changed into our local 'Six Flags over Jesus' church. Last Easter I rode my bicycle by that church on the way to my church (Unitarian Universalist) and remember thinking that it could have been an SUV dealership. Uncomfortable. At one point he asked me how long I was at Broadway (the church). I said from sometime in September of 1992 until 6:30p.m. the afternoon of April 17th, 1994. He stopped talking about church stuff.

Seems like Halloween is a very gay holiday - I mean, most of us gays are masters of make believe - but tonight I left feeling sad. I feel sad as I write this. I've been staring at this screen for some time, and I've decided to leave out other snippets of conversation that led me to this feeling. There were people there I knew, of course, and others that I didn't, but I felt apart and seperate and unable to bridge the gap that stretched like a desert between me and other folks.

I am, however, glad I went. Had I followed my usual instincts, I would have stayed at home and avoided the gathering. I figure that if I ever hope to have a satisfying social life (hopefully with a boyfriend in the picture) I'll have to mingle with gay people at some point.

I should have ridden my bicycle. Even though Greg's house is about 3 miles down a very busy, very dark highway, there is a back way to get there that is about 8 miles. It goes over an old iron bridge that spans an almost magical stretch of the Barren River. The reason I didn't ride is because the last time I rode that particular route, I was nearly wiped out on my bicycle by a herd of deer. That memory added to the certain prevalance of drunks on the road made me think the auto was safer. I still should have ridden the bicycle.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Curiosity, part II: A chance encounter

It seems that those folks practicing taiji were indeed curious about what the stranger knows, because a couple of days later I received a call from Colleen, one of the folks at the park, asking if I would still like to come to the park to learn with them. It turns out that I knew Colleen, as she studied Tae Kwon Do at a school I attended briefly when I thought my son might be interested in the martial arts. I didn’t recognize her, but she remembered me. I was grateful for the invitation!

So I went. It turns out that they are students of a local kung fu school, and during the recent International Festival our town holds, they met a Chinese woman who is a certified instructor in Yang Style taiji. She is here until January visiting her daughter, who interprets for her. She cannot speak a word of English.

It took just a few moments to realize this woman was the real deal. Her forms are beautiful & precise, and she knows all of them. Even though she is in her 50’s, she is as limber and as strong as any martial artist I’ve ever known.

She refuses to accept any money, saying that her visa won’t allow her to. She says that this is a way she gives back to the world.

So I’m scaling back my usual evening road rides on the bicycle, taking the time instead to absorb what this wonderful woman can teach me, which is a LOT.

There will be time to ride later.


I love this time of year. If I'm lucky, I have another 30 - 40 autumns to experience, and I don't forget that. The last two long bicycle rides into the countryside have just been stunning. My legs are conditioned to the point that riding 40 - 70 miles is easy, especially when travelling at a sightseeing place, so I'm not preoccupied with making it home. All I have to do is take in the beauty around me.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Last Wednesday a riding buddy Tom and I were heading out to take in the beautiful countryside and get a serious lose a lung workout in. While passing a city park I saw a guy and two women doing the Yang Taiji 24 forms and asked Tom to stop so that I could speak with them.

Me: Howdy! Could I join you for taiji practice at some point in the future? I'm on a bike ride now, but if you meet here regularly, I would like to come by.

She: Weelllllll.. she appeared hesitant and her body language said 'no'.

Me: No biggy. Y'all take care.

And so Tom and I took off on a most amazing and fun bike ride. Had the situation been reversed I would certainly have made an attempt to find out what the 'stranger' knew.

I'm always amazed at how incurious people are.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Writing this late at night, I barely remember the ride in this morning, but I took the Nashbar for the first time in a while. Good to feel the cool air on my face. Better than any cup of coffee (ok, I’m lying here. Some coffee is definitely better than any cold morning ride to work, but it sounded good, eh?). After work I returned a borrowed book that stretched out the ride a bit and took me by the route I use for the Unitarian church.

At the corner that intersects with Nashville road, a major route for cars, I always cut through a circular paved driveway. Today a van turned onto the drive while I was heading through it and an elderly gentleman rolled down his window. I stopped.

I told him that I use his driveway all the time, that I had never met him to ask him or thank him, but I wanted him to know how his stretch of paved driveway allowed me to avoid a short but dangerous stretch of road. I wanted him to know how thankful I was for the privilege of using it and how nice it was to finally meet him. (nyuck, nyuck, yuckity yuck, oh how i did go on and on!)

He found a space in my monologue and told me he was lost and was wondering if I could help him find Belmont Ave. Why yes, I told him. It’s right over there.


My Son's mom

I feel pretty lousy about the description of my son's mom in the previous post. Bitter? You bet. Honesty in my feelings requires me to leave it there, however. Hard, cold, unfiltered.

She had a strong role in the miserable part of my 30's.

I remember once telling her that if there was such a thing as Karma, she was going to have hell to pay. Right after I told her that, it struck me that her entire life was hell. Addicted (pills, alcohol, sex, you name it) and mentally ill from an early age, she lived a hell I can never imagine even on my darkest days.

For me to pile on the invective after her death... well, I'm not very proud of that.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A brief religious history of Woo

I realize the statement of not wanting to be ‘loved’ by ‘these people’ might have appeared a bit harsh. So here goes….

A brief religious history of Woo (btw, my life is much richer and waaaaay happier than this account would leave you to believe, but I warned anyone stumbling on this site of 'shitty first drafts' fairly early on)

1958 – Birth! I’m # 3 of 5 this order - Sister, Brother, Me, Brother, Sister.

1962 – After Birth of # 5, Dad disappears. My mother never remarries. We are raised by a single mom and her parents (my grandparents) who live next door. All of our meals are eaten at our Grandmother’s house. I remember her coming into our house only once in my entire life.

1963 – I remember my mom telling me that the president had been killed. It’s the first I know of death. At this time we attend a Methodist church where my mother is the organist/choirmaster. I have a vague recollection of the pipe organ there… a musty, wheezy thing.

1964 – I’m reading by now, the Laundromat we use has a sign that says ‘White Customers Only’.

1965 – We begin attending a Presbyterian church where my mother has a new job. I begin singing with the adult choir at 7 years old.

1968 – My first kiss with a girl named Crystal Barwick beside the honeysuckle vines
outside our 4th grade class. I had heard this was supposed to be a big deal. Eh. Most of the other boys are playing with the other boys, I like playing with the girls.

1969 – I find out the teenager who lived up the street, Michael Christmas, died in Vietnam.

1970 – I attend the Columbus Boychoir School in the summer (later renamed the American Boychoir school).

1971 – I begin piano lessons. I’ve taught myself for two years and my mother’s old college professor takes me on.

1972 – Late in my 14th year, puberty. Finally. Now I want to play with the boys. Well ain’t that fucking great. 9th grade gym class is pure torture. I come to believe that if I knew how to fight like the guy on Kung Fu, everything would be okay.

1973 – I start martial arts classes. I still want to play with the boys. I see my dad for 2 hours one Sunday. He’s just passing through.

1974 – I have a crush on Taylor Wells. I learn to play basketball so I can be around him. I can’t play basketball worth a shit. I hate myself for having sexual feelings for Taylor. He never knows.

1975 – At a church outing, I smoke my first joint. I suppress any notion that I might be gay within myself. I don’t share myself with anyone because I’m so afraid of what they might find out. A fag is something that you definitely don’t want to be. At summer camp that year I run into a completely different kind of religious person. A group of teenagers and their adult overseers introduce me to Jesus. I pray the sinner’s prayer and receive salvation. The remainder of the summer is a desperate, feverish study of the bible with the promise that since God can do all things, and since all I had to do was ask, that God would free me from homosexuality.

1976 – Freshman year of college and continual thoughts of suicide. Everybody has fucking girlfriends. I finally go to see a psychologist, Ken Caroll. He recommends a program of techniques for which they’ve had good success at conversion. At least I don’t want to kill myself when I think I could be straight. Ken probably still counts me as a success story. I lie to him because telling the truth would mean the Devil and his demons had won.

1977 – my first rock n roll concert ever. The Grateful Dead. 5/18/77. That’s a religious experience. Later that summer, as a camp counselor at the Christian camp where I was saved, I’m baptized in the holy ghost. Talking in tongues, healing services, church services where ladies spontaneously burst into tongues and someone else interprets, dancing in the aisles. I have the demons of homosexuality cast out when a young fellow named Shannon Smith lays on hands. It’s the beginning of two years of spiritual warfare. Me against the demons. Ever cute guy’s butt I see is the work of a demon at battle for my soul.

1978 – Horrible year. Constant prayer and bible study and guilt. Desperate for friends.

1979 – I venture out on a street known for gay men and go home with a complete stranger. I pray extra hard for weeks afterwards.

1980 – I pray for grades but do not study. The results are predictable.

1981 – My first boyfriend. 2 months. I flunk out of college.

1982 – I earn my black belt in Shaolin martial arts. I’m the senior student.

1983 – My mother loses her church job when it is discovered she had a man spend the night. Fucking Presbyterians. My martial arts instructor tells me not to come back. He doesn’t want a fag in class.

1992 – Fast forward! I’ve moved to KY, re-enrolled in college and graduated with a degree in piano (magna cum laude) and direct music for a Presbyterian Church. Oh yeah, I have a son now too. Evidently my penis works. I still think I can be straight. I still desperately want to be straight. Life would be easier, I think. (silly, eh?)

1993 – I’ve accepted a position with a Methodist Church. I’ve been coaxed back into a religious relationship with Jesus through the Emmaeus movement. Life is good. I’m in the closet but barely. I feel safe at any rate.

1994 - I’ve been asked to do the music for a Chrysallis gathering, the youth equivalent of the Emmaeus movement. A father of one of the participants ‘outs me’ to the church board and I’m summarily dismissed within two days, one week before my 36th birthday. He didn’t want someone with homosexual tendencies around kids, especially his kids, he says. An old friend, a wise man, my first boyfriend (the two monther), asks me why I continue to try and have relationships with folks who will never truly accept me. He tells me that nature will continue to serve up harsher lessons until I finally ‘get it’. My son’s mother, in the meantime, evil witch that she was (she’s dead now, found dead 3 days after Christmas, 2005 – she was horribly unhealthy) seizes on this moment to cut me off from seeing my son. She claims that I have molested him because I took a bath with him. He’s two months from being three years old. I have to go to court just to be able to visit my son. I fight tooth and nail.* Her lawyer, a Christian man, a deacon in his church, a partner in his prestigious law firm, represents her lying, drug addicted bi-polar alcoholic ass for free while I incur mountains of debt. It’s a surreal time when I actually hear folks calling into the local religious station to pray for me. These are folks who won’t talk to me directly but will air their prayers (and my sexual orientation) for a listener base of 100,000 people. Pray for his deliverance, their fervent pleas go forth. In the meantime, I’m proof positive that agreement in prayer doesn’t work.

*I grew up without a father. There was no fucking way i was going to do that to a child of mine. Unbelievably, one of my gay acquaintences suggested that i walk away from the 'drama'. i walked away from him instead.

1995 – I’ve missed my son’s entire 3rd year of life. It’s been a year that I’ve been severely depressed. Since being dismissed from my church (only two members called to see if I was okay) I go out to work and to the store, but that’s it. I’ve lost my religion, closed the door on a paradigm that will never accept me without violating its handbook. It is the very best decision I’ve ever made with regard to my mental health. Finally in the summer of 1995 I get to see my son. I start attending an Episcopal church here but only because it is ‘expected’ of me as a father.

1996 – I get custody of my son and there’s no way his mentally ill mother can contest it. I stop the ‘Christian’ church charade. Goodbye religious insanity. I wish I had never met you.

So, just in case you consider my request that Christians ‘leave me the fuck alone’ a bit harsh – you now have a little bit of history.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A fine autumn day!

The plan was to ride the Iron Bridge route today. I hadn’t ridden that one in a long time and I knew that it would be beautiful. My bike riding bud Tom W had indicated that he was up for a longish ride today and I was able to take the time off to do just that. Today was just perfect for cycling. It’ll be the last day in the 70’s for some time.

Tom had to pick up a package at UPS by 6, and since we both hate deadlines looming when we’re out riding, we stopped by UPS first. At that point we scrapped the original plan and decided to ride up Blue Level Rd. When we got to the top we would decide where to go.

We decided to ride the Clifty Hollow route in reverse, something neither of us had done. This is a hilly route with 3,200 feet of climbing in 40 miles, and Tom is a strong rider. However, we didn’t ride UP the steep side of Hammet Hill since we were already at the summit, but we did ride down the backside of that bad boy. It was the only other deviation. That is one seriously fine/fast/get yer blood going descent, and that’s why we did it! I topped out at 51 mph. YeeHah!

Taking the Clifty Hollow route in reverse was exhausting. The usual direction has longish screaming descents with short, ‘stinger’ climbs. The reverse direction, the way we went today, had short, steep descents that we didn’t dare to fly down because of their hazardous nature (how a cornfield has changed me!). Afterwards there were the tortuous, long ascents. The stretch of road from 626 to Hadley was especially brutal.

I read somewhere that you don’t really know a ride until you’ve ridden it in both directions, and that proved true with this one. Stretches of road that I usually rocket down were 1st gear slow, leaving me plenty of time to see entire sections for the first time. And what a great time of year to see the land! Everywhere…. COLOR! The misery of dead legs and desperate lungs was balanced with views which had, as friend described last night, ‘Postcard Jesus’ light. The sunlight streamed long, low and clear against a canvas peppered with golden yellows, reds, oranges… Mother Earth has dressed for Mardi Gras..... one last blowout before winter's Lent.

When Tom and I got to the Halls Chapel/ Jennings Road loop, I was shot, but I turned down that road anyway since I had never done it in reverse. I told Tom that my brain was making a decision that my body would regret - something that's happened often in my younger days, but never cycling related... anyway, this time it was worth it. There were moments when I seriously thought about walking some of those rolling ascents, but then I concentrated on turning one pedal over, then the other. Finally we reached the top and it was easy pedaling from there, with premier views of my city from the heights of Glen Lily road as payoff.

After I got home and cleaned up, the kid and I drove the car (horrors!), picked up Tom and headed off to a Mexican restaurant to pig out. Yummmmmmm. There is nothing quite like a good meal when extremely hungry.

What a good day.


I came here a good 20 minutes ago to make a post. Just after I turned on the hifi (a passion of mine... Tube amplification and Klipschorns.... sweetness!) Bach's French Suite #6 came on our public radio station.

Few things can move me like Bach played by someone who 'gets it'. I was lost in the beauty.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Just another bike ride

Everywhere the campaign signs are going up. Noticeably absent are Ron Lewis signs, but his challenger, the democrat Mike Weaver, has signs everywhere. I know precious little about the local candidates, but for the most part this town is run well. I will vote, I always do, but I can’t help feeling the hooks of corruption are set early and deep.

Tonight was our bicycle club’s last Pizza night until the new season starts. The days are short and the group ride was bound to be short, so I took a jaunt around the town to check out the ever changing view. I rode my old bike, a heavy, cro-moly steel machine with downtube shifters and side pull brakes, 36 spoke steel wheels, 27 x 1 ¼ – a familiar ride. It feels like an ever faithful friend. It is everything my Lemond Zurich is not, sluggish, crude, rusty and rough about the edges. I love the ugly ‘ole thing.

Tonight after I got home I had ridden 30+ miles. They passed quickly and I could have ridden much more, but it was time to get home for the night. As I passed the Kroger gas station I felt a strong sense of satisfaction that my car spends most days parked in the driveway. I feel for those folks who are still trapped in the car paradigm. This morning I rode into work in a light rain and cool temps. The rain on my face was delightful and the sounds of the wet morning sang me into work. I received some looks of pity from the drivers line of cars waiting at the light, but what they didn’t understand, and probably never will, is that I pitied them.

Over at MinusCar the ever weary debate that occurs when Christian doctrine and gay folk collide is rearing it's head. And, as usual, the issue of children are the catalyst. I'll avoid that debate because the floodgates of anger are already bulging. I don't want to be 'loved' by these folks. I want them to leave me the fuck alone.

Monday, October 16, 2006


Went on vacation to SC since last time, taking the ‘slow’ roads there. The goal was to limit my top speed to 55 mph and enjoy the scenery at the same time. Therefore we only traveled on the interstate briefly. On board were my 15 year old child, a 15 y/o friend of his and our dog Charlie, aka Mr. Woo, the amazing talking dog. All of this, our luggage and my road bicycle in a 1996 Ford Escort Station Wagon. I’ve come to appreciate this car. It’s no hassles for the most part, totally paid for and sound. It should last forever since I rarely drive it except for these long (ish) trips. But with all the cargo it was a VERY tight fit.

We took in the Cherohala Skyway, an amazing 45 mile stretch between Tellico Plains, TN and Robbinsville, NC. No commercial buildings whatsoever on this route, it winds and climbs over a mile high on pristine roads and affords stunning views on the southern side of the Great Smokey Mtn’s National park.

I kept wishing that I were on my bicycle. I was occupied with driving, which meant that I had to keep my eyes on the road and also on the traffic that often backed up behind me, mostly motorcycles, who were intent on getting from one place to another as quickly as possible without regard to the 35mph speed limit.

Taking the interstate @ 70+ mph gets me to my destination, my hometown, in 10 hours with a fuel economy of 32 mpg. Driving the slow roads (<= 55mph) takes 17 hours with a fuel economy of 39 mpg.

We took a couple of tents borrowed from a coworker since I knew we would be camping overnight in NC. When I rode RAGBRAI this past July I camped every night and had a blast. I decided that we would camp at least once on this vacation too. The kids had a great time. As far as I can tell, so did Mr. Woo. His tail was always wagging.

While in SC I searched out and went on several road rides with cycling groups and was not embarrassed by any of them. It’s difficult to figure out roadies sometimes. New riders (like I was) size each other up like dogs sniffing. At any rate I was able to keep up with their fastest riders even though I think one group was trying to drop me in an ‘alpha dog’ statement. My favorite group ride was with a couple of guys from Summit Cycles in Elgin, SC. They showed on a chilly morning and we took off on some beautiful routes through the sandhills. They were really strong riders but didn’t feel the need to pull the Lance wannabe schtick like the other group did. Next time I’m in SC I’ll get with them, for sure.

My next vacation will be a cycling vacation to Mammoth Cave Natl Park. I'm just not meant to go fast.