Welding…

My baby brother was a welder.  When I miss him, I pick up the tools and burn metal.  I build things that will last.  It’s a comforting illusion.  Eventually, the exercise is too poignant, and I must stop. Crying and welding do not mix.

Peace & Love,

STP

Coming Out in 1987…

STP circa 1987

It was the last day of high school for me in June of 1987. The final bell rang. The halls were crowded with screaming teenagers. Papers were thrown everywhere. Water balloon fights were starting in the parking lot. In the chaos, one of my classmates (I will call him “Rex”) walked up to me, shoved a note in my hand and then took off without a word. I couldn’t catch him before he left. The sheer joy and the chaos distracted me.

Rex’s note was folded meticulously. I put it in my pocket and joined the happy riot that had seized the school.

It was odd behavior for Rex to run off without a word. We had many discussions in English class that year and the prior two years. He was intelligent, witty, gentle and incredibly kind. In our final semester, our friendship deepened. We suffered through an English class taught by a truly abysmal teacher who worshipped hockey and openly hit on his female students. The girls sat in the front row (there was assigned seating) and got A’s on all their essays, while the guys were seated near the back and never earned better than a “B”. The teacher was disgusting, but Rex was cool. I probably would have lost my mind if not for him.

Rex’s history at the high school was odd. Every February, like clockwork, he would disappear for long stretches. Nobody knew where he went. He would inevitably turn up in March and have to play “catch up” on 3-4 weeks of work. Rex didn’t talk about his mid-winter absences, and, as a clueless kid, I didn’t think to ask.

Later that day, when I went home to change, I found Rex’s note in my pocket and opened it. I will now share the text of that note, omitting the identifying information. I hope I will be forgiven for this indiscretion, but it is important:

______________________________________________
Dear Steve,

This letter is very difficult for me to write. I know you are a wonderful person and will be able to understand. Well, I guess the only way to do this is to just come out and say it. I am gay. That’s not all, I am also in love with you. I have no idea what you are feeling or thinking right now. I pray that you can understand.

Please don’t feel angry or hurt. The last thing in the world I would ever want to do is hurt you. Don’t worry about my feelings. I don’t really expect you to feel the same way, I’m sorry to say. I’ve been hurt many times before but have always gotten over it. At the very least could we stay friends? I truly treasure our friendship and would be really hurt if it fell apart because of this. Please call me at [NUMBER OMITTED] or write at the enclosed address if it is easier. Thank you for understanding.

[SIGNATURE OMITTED]

[ADDRESS OMITTED]
______________________________________________

Here is the actual note…

My first reaction was shock. Utter shock. I had never given much thought to whether my classmates were straight or gay. Like most guys, I was preoccupied with girls and the mysteries that were concealed by their clothes. I gave no thought to other sexual identities. For me, the world consisted of girls I oggled and the ones yet to be oggled.

When I got over my shock, I felt incredible sadness. Rex’s note was heartbreaking. How scary was the world for a gay teenager? You couldn’t just ask someone out. No. You had to worry about the object of your affection HATING you for being attracted to them. While I was worried about girls saying “no” to me, Rex had to worry about being beaten up, shunned, vilified. Being a teenager was confusing and lonely enough, but my friend had to deal with brutality and rejection for simply being himself. The incredible unfairness of that fact burned into me. My life and my point of view were changed forever.

Rex’s note gave me two options: call or send a letter. Because I worked delivering flowers around the Detroit metro area, I had access to a huge, detailed map. [NOTE: For you kids, no, we did not have Google Maps back then.] I found Rex’s apartment on the map, got in the car and showed up unannounced.

Rex’s sister answered the door of a small two bedroom apartment. She did not appear to be much older than me and Rex. She invited me in.

Rex saw me and asked me to sit in his room. He was nervous. So was I. I told him that I had read his note and that I was NOT angry—I was flattered. I told him that I was attracted to women, but he was still my friend no matter what.

Rex was visibly relieved. What followed was a long conversation about how difficult his high school years had been. When he came out to his father, he threw Rex out—in 10th grade! He told me about the pain he felt when his father disowned him. Rex said that his father refused to talk to him anymore. Rex’s first suicide attempt was that February of 10th grade—he was hospitalized. And every year since, he would hit the same brick wall emotionally. I suddenly understood his February absences. Rex’s sister was his guardian and sole protector in this crazy world. Only one family member accepted him and loved him the way he was.

We talked. We laughed. When I left, I gave Rex a hug.

I wish I could say that Rex and I were able to maintain our friendship, but it wasn’t to be. He lived across town and worked in a movie theater. I stayed in Warren and worked construction jobs and attended Macomb Community College. After a few visits that summer, we lost touch. I lost touch with a lot of my high school friends during those years.

Nevertheless, my visit with Rex put the world into focus. And that focus has not changed over the last 27 years. Over that time, I learned that quite a few of my classmates came out after graduation. Many of them went on to have successful lives, loving partners (now spouses, Thank God!) and children. Their stories are heroic. They are heroic.

My focus, my moral judgment, on this is unchanged. People who are LGBT have a sexual identity that deserves protection, respect and equal treatment under the law. Folks who are LGBT do NOT need to be cured. They are NOT choosing a “lifestyle” anymore than I chose my hair color when I was born. Even if sexual/gender identity was a choice (which it is surely not), it is a sacred, entirely private choice that deserves the same respect we give to a person of faith. If you are free to choose your religion, surely you must be able to choose the person with whom you want to share your life! And what consenting adults do with each other behind closed doors is their own business. Period.

And please don’t quote the Old Testament to me, unless you are dying for a Biblical beat-down. The New Covenant does away with those morally questionable Old Testament rules about owning slaves, killing children and pregnant women for righteousness sake and dealing with the “impurities” of a woman’s menstrual cycle. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out Leviticus 25:44-46, Leviticus 15:19-30, Exodus 21:20-21 and Hosea 13:16. As Homer Simpson said (as he was getting ready to release a swarm of locusts in George H. Bush’s house), “It’s the pranksters’ Bible.”

And more than legalistic and religious arguments, we come down to love. LGBT folks deserve the acceptance, protection and love of their friends and family. To the bitter end. No exceptions.

To my LGBT friends: I stand with you.

With Great Love,
STP

Rules of the Blog…

For the sake of clarity:

This blog contains the self-indulgent musings of a man making sense of life’s lessons and the vagaries of the Universe. Here are my self-imposed rules:

1) I will NOT write blog entries dedicated to my friends or family without their express permission.

2) The exception to Rule #1 is if the blog entry involves the people who jointly donated 46 chromosomes or I am paying tribute to someone whom I admire or who has died.

3) If you tell me a secret, it won’t be revealed here or ANYWHERE.

4) If I talk about a case, I am ethically bound to get my clients’ permission first. Therefore, if I discuss a case, you can presume that this permission has been given. I take this very seriously. If someone needs my help, they can be assured that it will NOT be used as grist for this blog. Thankfully, much of what I do as a lawyer involves cases where the “little folks” need help, and they want their story told.

5) I use pictures that I own or those in the public domain.

6) I may occasionally use pictures and/or music of artists to create a derivative work (my blog) for entertainment and educational purposes.  I will NEVER use the aforementioned creations to make money of any kind, which leads me to Rule #7.

7) Perhaps most importantly, I am the sole creator and proprietor of this domain. I pay for it out of my own pocket.  I will NEVER accept money from a third party to influence, change and/or incentivize its content.  This is non-negotiable and an article of personal integrity.

8) I grant a license to all those who may find this blog useful as long as they quote it with an acknowledgement as a source.  The license is free but may be revoked at my discretion, at any time and without any reason or notice.  The primary reason for this is to prevent “big data”, “aggregators” and “search engines” from creating wealth with my content.

9) I am using this blog, in part, to wean myself and others from social networks that have largely failed to provide responsible civil discourse and have allowed hate groups and false news to proliferate.  These failures are the result of an utter lack of moral grounding and civic responsibility.  These failures are the result of monetizing speech for the sake of profit, while ignoring the racist and misogynistic implications of the underlying work of big data.  When nations and corporations can influence the emotional well-being and political world views of so many people, without consequence, without accountability, and behind a phony shield of “unbiased” algorithms created in the shadows, we live in dangerous times, indeed.

10) The final rule, and the intention of this blog, is to add something to the world. When it ceases to serve that purpose, I will stop blogging.  I expect that day to be the same as the day I die, but I have given up predicting the future.

Peace & Love,
STP

 

The Natural Order…

The Natural Order

There’s a lot of eugenics-type hate speech floating around social media and irresponsible search engines these days.  It culminated in Google being paid by a white supremacy organization to place their site at the top of searches for “holocaust denial”.

I don’t think I need to tell you where I stand on these groups or their messages of hate.  I will fight these forces of evil wherever I may find them.

Hate is not natural.  The natural order of things is balance and love.

Peace & Love,

STP

Future Detroit Tigers Pitcher?

I attended a Christmas luncheon and sat next to a young gifted athlete I know.  He was heavily recruited out of college.  He told me a story, because he knew I was from Detroit.  He is getting ready to play Spring Training games in Phoenix.

The Tigers were/are very interested in him.  One day two years ago, he was called up to Comerica Park to show the pitching staff his stuff.  He drove several hours and was very tired.  Nevertheless, he brought his “A” game and impressed the coaches.  When he walked into the dugout, an old man walked up to him.

Old Man: “You look great out there, kid.”

Young Pitcher: “Thank you, sir.  I was a little tired, but I loosened up at the end.”

Old Man: “You looked great to me.  Great stuff.  I hope you join us here.”

Young Pitcher: “Me, too, sir.”

As the old man walked away, one of the professional players on the Tiger’s roster who will remain nameless approached the young man.

Tiger’s Player: “Dude!  Do you know who that was?!”

Young Pitcher: “No, I am sorry.  Who is he?”

Tiger’s Player: [Points into the stands at the statues of legendary Tigers players] “He’s up there.”

The Tiger’s Player was pointing to this man:

Al Kaline

As lunch ended, I told the young man, “You know, if you join the Tigers, I am totally pimping you for tickets, right?”

He laughed.  I didn’t.

To be continued (I hope)…

The House Elf…

My sister-in-law, Anna, perhaps the most selfless person I know.

Long before I knew about Harry Potter, long before J.K. wrote those books, my treasured older brother, George, met and married, Anna.  She has earned the title “House Elf”, because she serves all and is as generous and hard-working a soul as this troubled world will ever see.  She has my eternal gratitude and love.

She shouldn’t wish me a happy birthday today!  Anna should put her feet up and relax.  However, we both know that isn’t going to happen.

Thank you, Anna, for your patience, love and forgiveness as we have shared so much in this life.  You know my pain today.  Because you are you…

Love Always,

Your No-Good Brother-in-Law

Birthday without You…

 

Jeffrey, Nana, Nick & Dad celebrating with a birthday lunch in Phoenix…
I know that phone won’t ring.  I know I won’t have dinner with you tonight.  I know you won’t be here on Christmas morning.

But…

Thank you both for all the happy birthdays.  And thank you both for contributing 23 pairs of chromosomes.  The product may be weird, wacky and wild, but I come by it honestly.

Love,

Your Son

Awake…

A teenage boy who is a friend of my son came out. My son’s reaction, “I didn’t think [he] could be more lovable.” It was an expression of total acceptance and commitment to his friend.

I couldn’t be more proud of the loving, accepting and morally upright people my sons have already become. They continue to teach me—everday—that people are fundamentally good and that hate is an artificial burden.

They are excellent teachers, my sons.  I credit Melissa for much of their wisdom and kindness.  I take credit for their inappropriate senses of humor and penchant for fart jokes.

But seriously…

My prayer today is that we may awake to compassion and love for each other.

Peace & Love,
STP

Aunt Betsy…

I make no bones about my admiration and love for my Aunt Betsy.  After finding the courage (and time) to organize over 6000 family photographs, I found many that radiated her sense of adventure, strength, beauty and intelligence.  She has raised some excellent children who will enjoy these photos…

Aunt Betsy and my cousin, Carmen “Kathy” Sawchuck before my parents’ wedding.
The Stunner

 

Aunt Betsy, mom and Aunt Carmen at my mom’s wedding shower.
Aunt Betsy and her Handsome Hansons flanked by cousin Kathy and Aunt Carmen.
This is dated October 16, 1987, but I have no idea where she is or what church is in the background.
Aunt Betsy and her mother, Carmen (known to me as “Grandma Portell”).
Aunt Betsy and mom.
The wedding rehearsal with Aunt Betsy and Uncle Tom. They were married to other people, but DANG they are good looking!
Aunt Betsy–the Adventurer getting ready to conquer Belle Craft Beach circa 1960.