Tuesday, June 30, 2020
The Spider and the Fly
by Mary Botham Howitt
"Will you walk into my parlour?" said a spider to a fly;
" 'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy.
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I have many pretty things to shew when you are there."
"Oh no, no!" said the little fly, "to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne'er come down again."
"I'm sure you must be weary, with soaring up so high,
Will you rest upon my little bed?" said the spider to the fly.
"There are pretty curtains drawn around, the sheets are fine and thin;
And if you like to rest awhile, I'll snugly tuck you in."
"Oh no, no!" said the little fly, "for I've often heard it said,
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!"
Said the cunning spider to the fly, "Dear friend, what shall I do,
To prove the warm affection I've always felt for you?
I have, within my pantry, good store of all that's nice;
I'm sure you're very welcome—will you please to take a slice?"
"Oh no, no!" said the little fly, "kind sir, that cannot be,"
I've heard what's in your pantry, and I do not wish to see."
"Sweet creature!" said the spider, "you're witty and you're wise.
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I have a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,
If you'll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself."
"I thank you, gentle sir," she said, "for what you're pleased to say,
And bidding you good morning now, I'll call another day."
The spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew, the silly fly would soon come back again:
So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner, sly,
And set his table ready, to dine upon the fly.
Then he went out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
"Come hither, hither, pretty fly, with the pearl and silver wing;
Your robes are green and purple---there's a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead."
Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue:—
Thinking only of her crested head, poor foolish thing!—At last
Up jumped the cunning spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour—but she ne'er came out again!
—And now, dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly, flattering words, I pray you ne'er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart, and ear, and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.
“The Spider and the Fly” is a poem by Mary Botham Howitt (1799–1888), published in 1829. The story tells of a cunning spider who entraps a fly into its web through the use of seduction and manipulation. The poem is a cautionary tale against those who use flattery and charm to disguise their true intentions.
About the Author:
Mary Botham Howitt was a 19th century English author who is best remembered for her famous children’s poem “The Spider and the Fly.” Her literary output was considerable and, collaborating on many projects with her husband, she had over 180 books to her name.
Besides her large output of fictional work Howitt also wrote factual books such as The Literature and Romance of Northern Europe, published in 1852, and two volumes of a Popular History of the United States in 1859. Her renown as a writer won her many awards including a civil list pension of £100 per year from April 1879.
Having converted to Catholicism late in life (she’d been raised a Quaker), she was selected as one of a delegation chosen to meet the Pope on the 10th January 1888. Unfortunately, within three weeks of this great occasion, she was dead. Howitt contracted bronchitis and died in Rome on the 30th January 1888 at the age of 88. She was remembered as a spreader of “good and innocent literature”, a description that appeared in her Times Obituary.
Monday, June 29, 2020
As a Southerner, I believe the South has the best culinary traditions in America. I know some people will disagree; they’ll say we fry too many things. And that’s true. We do fry just about anything edible. I grew up on my grandmama’s and my mama’s cooking; both were fabulous cooks. I use the past tense because my grandmama passed away, and these days, mama doesn’t cook a whole lot. In fact, when I’m home, I usually do the cooking. But what I cook, I learned from them. Also, I used to watch the Food Network religiously when it was more informative programs and not cooking game shows like it is now.
When I moved to Vermont, what Vermonters call food was a shock. It is often bland and poorly cooked. The fact is, when Vermonters make anything “fancy,” it has at least one of four ingredients in it: maple syrup, apples, cheddar cheese, or kale. I like apples, especially hard apple cider which they make exceptionally well. I also think Vermont cheddar cheese is some of the best you can eat. However, I prefer turnips or collards to kale, and I like thick cane syrup instead of runny maple syrup.
Many restaurants have a dish called “The Vermonter,” and they are all different; each one usually has at least two of the four ingredients mentioned above—if not all four. For me, those ingredients do not necessarily go together. For example, take this Vermonter: raisin bread, sliced ham, Vermont cheddar cheese, apple slices, and apple butter. Sometimes it comes with a side of maple syrup and sometimes people will even put kale on it.
Yankee pot roast, invented in New England, is supposed to be one of their most famous dishes, but every time I’ve had it, it was tasteless and under-seasoned. Food here is just bland. If you order an open-faced sandwich which should be on toasted bread with warm sliced meat and gravy, you get plain white bread (untoasted) with cold meat and gravy. Why can’t these people cook? It’s so frustrating. Their only good dish, poutine, they stole from Quebec, and trust me, Vermonters can even mess up French fries.
They do have decent Italian restaurants, but that’s because of the large immigration of Italian sculptors who came here to carve the many deposits of granite. However, nearly all other ethnic cuisine is the worst. I can’t find a decent Chinese restaurant, and don’t get me started on what they call Mexican food. Thai food is hit or miss as is Japanese. I hear the Vietnamese restaurants are excellent, but I’ve never liked Vietnamese food. Those are about the only varieties you can get around here.
Vermont did have one attempt at a “Southern” restaurant in Montpelier once. It eventually closed. It was not terrible, but the owner put a Vermont spin on the food. She tried to make it “fancy,” and it failed. Only the small group of Southerners I know who live up here really understood it was not “Southern.” There are few barbecue places, and truthfully, they are often fairly good, even if they use maple syrup in their barbecue sauce instead of brown sugar. Prohibition Pig in Waterbury is probably my favorite restaurant in Vermont. The only problem with Pro Pig is they refuse to take reservations. It is a small restaurant and the wait can be 2-3 hours. Bluebird Barbecue in Burlington is also good, but the one time I ate there, the air conditioning wasn’t working. It was unbearable. The restaurant was featured on “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives,” but they didn’t make barbecue for the show. They made ramen. WTF!
Anyway, that’s my diatribe on Vermont food. Every once in a while, you can find a gem amongst the rhinestones, but it’s rare. You know it's going to be bad when the state's emblem for their most famous food product looks like the bottom half of a man peeing into a bucket.
Sunday, June 28, 2020
Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls.
Have you ever had a time in your life when you felt overwhelmed by the things of this world? When life seemed so hard and no matter what you did, things just wouldn’t go right? Deep soul weariness: We all experience it, though in different ways and for different reasons.
Sometimes we can point to a significant factor, but often we can’t. Our weariness results from the cumulative, multilayered intersections of life’s complexities, bodily frailties, emotional heartbreaks, and the consequences of sin. During this pandemic, I suspect many people are feeling this way. Some people who have jobs and are working from home long to be back in the office. Then there are the people who have lost their job and worry when they will find another one in the current economy. Others live in fear of contracting COVID-19. Sometimes the despair surpasses understanding. We just know that we are feeling overwhelmed in our lives but have no clear reason.
Because our burdens are not simple, they are not relieved by simplistic platitudes (“Cheer up! Things are bound to turn around!”). But a simple promise can relieve a complex burden, provided we believe that the power behind the promise is complex and strong enough to relieve our heaviness. Let’s take a look at how we can turn to God in times like these. The passage above gives us promise.
The first thing that Jesus says to us is, “Come to Me…” We are allowed to come to God personally; there is nothing between Him and us. We should take our troubles to God as the song “What a Friend We have in Jesus” says:
What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful?
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy-laden?
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.
Second, He is inviting us to come. God wants you, in fact, Jesus wants to save us from our sins and woes so much that He died on the cross to prove it. Jesus didn’t have to come to this earth and die, but God’s love is so great, and He wanted us so much that He chose to come. All of this means: YOU ARE LOVED. Third, God lets us know who needs rest: it is those who labor and are burdened, but what does that mean? In this context, those who labor means those who are striving to do it all on their own and failing. I know that in my life I often try to do many things on my own. Sometimes that works, but sometimes we need help. When we are heavy laden, it is like our spirit, mind, will, and emotions cannot function because there is this weight on us that we try to lift by ourselves. It causes us to feel down, depressed, anxious, all those negative things that we do not want in life.
So, what does God say when we are weary? He will give us rest, and the best thing is He even tells us how, and it is by taking His yoke upon us and learning from Him. What is this yoke? Rest for our souls (our mind, will, and emotions). So, what does God give us rest from? Among many things, God can give us rest from hopelessness, anxiety, and depressions. There was a time in my life when I didn’t really believe this was possible, but God sent caring people into my life and with time, I healed and my faith was restored. I can’t say that everything is perfect now, but the despair I once felt has lifted considerably, and a lot of that had to do with my faith in God and the love of those around me.
God has good plans for our lives, and we can rest knowing that no matter what our life is like now, if we trust God, it will get better, but it may take time. Jeremiah wrote a letter to the Israelites during the Babylonian captivity, a period which lasted nearly a century, and said to them:
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
— Jeremiah 29:11-13
Sometimes God doesn’t immediately rescue us from suffering and hardship. Sometimes He may not fix a problem right away, and most of the time it requires patience on our part. The Israelites in exile felt despair, like we all do at times in our lives. These periods of hopelessness, anxiety, and depressions robs us of our ability to enjoy life and not only hurts us mentally but physically as well. That is not God’s will for our lives. God wants us to live a full life and is able to heal our minds as we take those steps of faith to find rest in Him.
So how do we find rest with God? We should do our best to be like Jesus to follow in his footsteps. I know it's cliche but just think: What would Jesus do? If we do that and truly understand what Jesus would do in a situation, we can feel good about ourselves and what we are doing. Remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
This passage of scripture, commonly called the Beatitudes, are the teachings of Jesus in which He instructs us that if we live according to the Beatitudes, we will live a happy Christian life. The Beatitudes fulfill God’s promises made to Abraham and his descendants and describe the rewards that will be ours as loyal followers of Christ. Each beatitude looks at different circumstances of life and how all Christians are blessed through their faith. Through the Beatitudes, Jesus teaches us about virtues and values in life that will result in blessings and rewards. These beatitudes are not singled out for specific people—they are blessings applicable to all Christians.
I hope that this will encourage all of us and give us hope as we face each day knowing that we are called blessed! No matter your current situation, age, job, or family life, if you apply the beatitudes to your life, you will experience a joy and be fulfilled in your life. The Lord “will give you rest.”
I want to leave you with the song "What a Friend We have in Jesus" as sung by the late Holly Dunn. Holly has long been my favorite country music singer. Sadly, she passed away back in 2016. However, she left with us her beautiful voice and her wonderful songs.
Saturday, June 27, 2020
|The Stonewall Inn, November 2019|
Last November while visiting my friend Susan in Manhattan, she took me down to Greenwich Village to see the actual Stonewall Inn. It was a special moment for me. One of the best pictures of me taken in a long time was taken by Susan of me in front of Stonewall Inn. We even went inside the bar, which was not crowded in the middle of the day, and it was one of the darkest lit bars I have ever been in. It was really interesting to see and experience. Fifty-one years ago today, the Stonewall Riots began when police raided the bar. The Riot continued for the next three nights. Raids of gay bars in New York City, particularly Greenwich Village, were not uncommon in the summer of 1969. What made the raid on the Stonewall on June 27 so different was that the patrons of the bar resisted instead of going peacefully.
Today, the Stonewall inn is a national monument. Often referred to as “the birth of the modern LGBTQ rights movement,” the bar was designated a national monument to LGBTQ rights in 2016. However, the historic Stonewall Inn is on the verge of closure after the coronavirus pandemic forced it to close for the past several months. The owners have launched a crowdfunding initiative to save the bar and community landmark.
According to the GoFundMe page, the owners said, “We are reaching out because like many families and small businesses around the world, the Stonewall Inn is struggling. Our doors have been closed for over three months to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of patrons, staff and the community. Even in the best of times it can be difficult to survive as a small business and we now face an uncertain future. Even once we reopen, it will likely be under greatly restricted conditions limiting our business activities.”
The owners continued, “We resurrected the Stonewall Inn once after it had been shuttered—and we stand ready to do it again—with your help. We worked diligently to resurrect it as a safe space for the community and to keep the Stonewall Inn at the epicenter of the fight for the LGBTQ+ rights movement. It has been a community tavern, but also a vehicle to continue the fight that started there in 1969. Stonewall is the place the community gathers for celebrations, comes to grieve in times of tragedy, and rally to continue the fight for full global equality.”
“Today, we are asking you to help Save Stonewall!” they wrote. “The Stonewall Inn faces an uncertain future and we are in need of community support. The road to recovery from the COVID 19 pandemic will be long and we need to continue to safeguard this vital piece of living history for the LGBTQ community and the global human rights movement and we now must ask for your help to save one of the LGBTQ+ communities most iconic institutions and to keep that history alive.”
As I write this, the effort has raised $211,095 of their $225,000 goal. The bar also has a separate GoFundMe to help pay staff who have been unemployed during the shutdown. Also, as I was writing this, $34,383 has been raised of $60,000 goal since it was launched in April. I know times are tough right now for many people, but if you can contribute, I ask that you do. I would hate to see this historic landmark be shuttered again.
If you want to read more about the Stonewall Riots, I did a number of posts about the early gay rights movement and the Stonewall Riots on this blog about ten years ago.
If by any chance you aren’t familiar with the term VPL, it stands for “visible penis line,” and if you are unfamiliar with the model in this picture, he is the Bel Ami model Lukas Ridgeston. Born in Czechoslovakia—now Slovakia—in his heyday, he was known as the “King of Gay Porn,” and one of the most beautiful men in the world. He was known for his piercing blue eyes, among other things. I do remember reading once (but could not find a confirmation on this) that his blue eyes were actually contacts. Though one of the most famous gay porn stars of all time, when asked, “ Do you identify as gay, straight, or bi-sexual?” He replied, “I always say I am sexual.”
Friday, June 26, 2020
Something interesting happened Wednesday night. Someone left a comment on WordPress, my backup blog site, on a post I wrote in 2015 about the song “Good Ole Boys Like Me” by Don Williams. The post had been inspired by a comment made by one of my readers the day before that the song reminded him of me. So naturally, I looked at the post from the day before; it was about the firing of English teacher and speech coach, Matt Eledge who had worked at Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha, Nebraska. Eledge was fired because he is gay and was making plans to marry his partner.
Little did I know then that 18 days later, I too would be fired from my teaching job. The official reason given was there had been “complaints” about me. No one would tell me who my accusers were or what their complaints were. I have always suspected part of the reason I was fired was because the headmaster and some others suspected I am gay. Later, I found out the headmaster had hired a new football coach. The school needed classes for him to “teach,” and they gave him mine. Supposedly he could teach history.
Karma is a bitch and came back and bit the headmaster in the ass, though. That football coach was neither a coach nor a teacher. He never won a single game. Also, parents did complain to the headmaster and the school’s board, but not about my role as a teacher; instead, because I had been fired. Several board members also complained to the headmaster about his decision. Even parents I had disagreements with over their children’s behavior respected my teaching skills. Many parents of former students lamented I had been replaced with an awful and lazy teacher who only gave out worksheets and never taught their kids anything. Everyone I heard from said with me, their children had actually learned something. Some of those parents, students, and other teachers still tell me today how much they miss me and what an asset I had been to the school. The saddest part was the drama program I had worked so hard to establish. It died when I was fired.
Things turned out for the best though. I got a new job and moved to Vermont, and my salary is more than double what it had been as a teacher not to mention now having retirement, sick leave, vacation time, plus health, dental, and vision insurance. I never had benefits teaching in Alabama. Technically, we did have sick leave and vacation time, but we weren’t really allowed to use it. I am in a far better place today than I was five years ago.
And if you are wondering what happened to Matt Eledge, he was hired at another school and married his partner, Elliot. He made headlines again last year when his husband’s sister donated an egg for a surrogate, and Matt’s 61-year-old mother was the surrogate giving birth to her first granddaughter.
Religious bigots and homophobes may sometimes close doors on us, but new doors open. Often, we are better for it. I have a good career now. Vermont may not be my ideal location—in many ways it is more rural than where I was in Alabama. But, Montreal is just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from where I live; Boston is only two hours away; and I can easily hop on a train and visit my friend Susan in Manhattan. And there are other advantages, too. I can go to LGBTQ+ events and not worry. Winter Is a Drag Ball in February and Vermont Pride in September are wonderful events. I now know drag queens I consider friends. Often, I go to First Friday, a monthly LGBTQ+ event hosted by my friends. I am freer in Vermont than I ever could have been in Alabama. Now, I just need to find a man.
Thursday, June 25, 2020
I want to thank everyone for their wonderful words of advice and encouragement on yesterday’s post. I’m still feeling a bit down and anxious over the argument with my mother. I can’t help it. Family can be so frustrating. I have lived with my agreement with my mother that I made when I came out, which was that I would not tell anyone else in the family I am gay. (I have not lived by the agreement that I would be celibate, that was just taking it too far.) While only my parents know for certain, I am pretty sure my aunt knows. I have a large collection of books that are stored in bookcases at her house. Many of those books are gay fiction or gay history that I had collected over the years. After I moved to Vermont, she took down all my books and built new sturdier bookcases. She then placed all of my books back in the new bookcases. If she didn’t notice a theme, then…. Anyway, I’m pretty sure she knows and doesn’t care. My aunt worked for a dentist that she admired and cared for a lot; he was gay and died of AIDS back in the 1980s. She has always seemed pretty accepting of things like that.
My biggest fear is not what my parents would do, but I do fear telling my sister because since she married a complete asshole in 1998, her in-laws have brought her over to the dark side. My sister used to be laissez-faire about most social issues. She just didn’t care, and she was never political at all. However, her husband and in-laws are extremely conservative, homophobic fundamentalists. She becomes more and more like them every year, so I fear if she ever knew I was gay, she would not let me see my niece and nephew. She and they are of that mentality that gay people cannot be trusted with children.
My only hope is that the world is different enough for my niece and nephew not to have the same prejudices as their family. They are growing up in a far more accepting world than I grew up in. They are growing up in a time when LGBT couples can get married, and we can’t be discriminated against in our jobs. Things are so vastly different than they were 20 years ago. (I know, there is still much to do, but we are getting there.) I hope they will have a mind for themselves about social and political issues. They aren’t old enough yet to really understand. All they know right now is that they love their Uncle Joe. I get to see the joy and excitement in their eyes when they see me, and I hear it in their voices when I talk to them on the phone.
All of my other close relatives have passed away. In fact, yesterday would have been my grandmama’s 97th birthday. I miss her so much. I think if I’d had the courage to come out to her, she would have accepted me for who I am. I may be wrong about that, but she would always listen to reason from me, even when she was unreasonable to everyone else. I had a connection with Grandmama unlike anyone else. If she had accepted me, as I believe she would have, she would also have been my advocate and told my parents they could go straight to hell if they didn’t fall in line. That may just be wishful thinking and a fantasy on my part. I will never know what her reaction would have been, but I have faith she would have accepted me.
I will make up with my mother at some point. She will probably have to be the one to call me, and if she does, she is likely to act as if we never argued. Denial is not just a river in Egypt to my mother, it’s a way of life. She has been in denial about my sexuality since she found out I’m gay. I always hoped that one day she would accept me, but she seems to have doubled down and is more homophobic than ever. It goes along with her faith which seems to no longer be the Bible but Fox News.
I have a fervent desire for something to happen that would discredit Trump and Fox News so badly that they would lose all of their support. They do more harm to American than anyone else. I hope that when/if that ever happens that people like Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, and all the other Republican idiots go down hard with them. You can also throw in the Rush Limbaughs, Franklin Grahams, and their ilk with it. The hatred in America needs to end, and November is the best time for that to begin to happen.
We need to have a great movement that will change the minds of Americans. We need something that will move America away from the right and teach the American people about love and acceptance. I just hope it isn’t a great tragedy. It will probably take the Rapture* coming and no Republicans rising into Heaven, but then they would say it was a liberal conspiracy.
*By the way, I do not actually believe in the Rapture (an event in which it is believed that both living and dead Christian believers will ascend into heaven to meet Jesus Christ at the Second Coming). It is nothing more than a postmillennialism belief/hoax dreamed up by the 19th-century theologian John Nelson Darby. I use it here in jest. The lawyer I used to work for always joked “I hope I’m standing outside when the Rapture happens. I don’t want to hit my head on the ceiling.”
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
|"For Your Boy" by Arthur William Brown|
|Vote for Joe|