Friday, May 28, 2010

Travel Plans Part 2

I have struck a couple of problems with the second part of my journey.  I prefer travelling by train rather than air and I do not want to drive on the wrong side of the road. I drove from San Francisco to Yosemite and back in 1997 and was terrified most of the way. Since then I have driven around Amiens in France in 2002 and 2007 as it was the only way to reach my Uncle's grave but again not something I entered into lightly.

As mentioned in the first installment I am flying from Munich to Chicago on September 22nd and have booked 3 nights there. I spent less than 24 hours in Chicago in 1999 and went up the Sears Tower but not much else in the way of sightseeing. It was November and a bit cold down by the lake.
Hopefully I might meet up with two readers of my blog there. I had wanted to travel by the Lakeshore Limited to New York but all the roomettes were booked out 5 months in advance and I did not fancy sitting up all night so am flying to New York on Saturday 25th.

There is a dinner for Brokeback Mountain Fans in New York that night and on Sunday I plan to attend the Episcopal Church of St Paul, Chatham and meet Rev Elizabeth Kaeton (Telling Secrets).

I will spend another 2 days in New York. After visiting for 3 days in both 1980 and 2007 I feel I have done the main tourist things so will need to consider  further what I will do in the big Apple this time.

 Then I commence a strange zig zag odyssey through New England. I will catch the train to Albany on Wednesday 29th and hopefully meet up with Fran. Then on the 30th travel by train to Springfield, Mass.  I have made a hotel booking there which cannot be cancelled although I think it may have been a mistake. I thought several days in Burlington, Vermont would be pleasant.  However the train arrives in Essex Jct about 5 miles away at nearly 9pm. There is a local bus but I may have to get a cab. I considered Greyhound but they travel through the night arriving 4am and the plane fare is ridiculous (3 times the fare from Chicago to New York).  Perhaps I could rent a car in Springfield for the journey up and back (372 km each way) but......

After 3 nights in Burlington, hopefully with some relaxing walks and lake cruises, I will return to Springfield by train and then a bus over to Boston for 3 nights.  I visited Boston in 1980 and liked it very much.
Then to Maine for 3 nights where MotherAmelia has kindly offered to accommodate and show me around (and I will meet a Church Dog)

Again there are problems with my next leg to Halifax, Nova Scotia. I originally planned to travel by ferry but it no longer runs.  Plane flights from Portland are ridiculous as they travel via Philadelphia and cost accordingly.  So I will need to travel by train back to Boston for one night and have booked the only direct flight from Boston to Halifax which leaves at 8am on Monday October 11.

Then my third stage through Canada begins.
There will be 19 nights in the USA plus another 2 in San Francisco on the way home

I have solved my problem. There is a day Greyhound coach from Springfield MA (changing at White River Jct) to Burlington AIRPORT and arriving just before 3pm. From there I can catch a shuttle to Burlington Downtown at a reasonable hour. I will return in the train.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Many Lights for Human Rights

Although I did not realise it at the time, this follows on from yesterday's rather personal (for me) post.
Last night I attended the AIDS Candlelight Memorial Service in St Paul's Cathedral, Dunedin. It was a miserable wet night so not surprising there were only about 20 people plus the choir present.
It was led by Rev Juan Kinnear, the Dunedin priest who is in an openly gay relationship and whose ordination was one of the many reasons I chose Dunedin to live.

I never attended a service in Sydney, mainly due to travel distance, but am sure it was never held in the Anglican cathedral let alone led by an openly gay Anglican priest. 

There is a photo in today's Otago Daily Times. It does not seem to be online so I have scanned it below.

I only had one close friend die of AIDS but of course knew many others slightly including two ex-students.  And thinking of my sexual activities in the late 70's and early 80's I am sure I was in contact anonymously with many others. 

The service began with the hymn "In a world where people walk in darkness, let us turn our faces to the light." I do not think I remember this elsewhere but have found it on Youtube.

I am glad the only light was candles as I could not sing for tears as I thought of all those who died and are still dying, mainly in Africa.

Let us light a candle in the darkness,
in the face of death a sign of life;
as a sign of hope where all seemed hopeless,
as a sign of peace in place of strife
For the light is stronger than the darkness
and the day will overcome the night,
though the shadows linger all around us, 
let us turn our faces to the light.

The choir sang Psalm 121 and Requiem Aeternam, music  by H. Walford Davies but most memorable was their Taize chant as they processed out and could be heard disappearing down the darkened nave of the cathedral.

Juan just gave a few reflections. First he remembered teaching in a school in South Africa and setting an assignment to write an essay on what the students would do after school and realising as he read them that very few of them would be alive by the time they finished their schooling due to AIDS.

Secondly he remembered the day the first person in his group of friends was diagnosed with AIDS and he said, and he was close to tears, just as I could say:

"I was not more moral, I was not more careful, I was just damn lucky"

Sunday, May 16, 2010


On Friday I saw the movie "A Single Man".   I was keen to see it as there had been a lot of discussion about it on Forums I frequent and I am a fan of Colin Firth (and not just because of the smouldering good looks of Mr Darcy).  I was disappointed that it did not open in Sydney until February (after I had left) and was not to open in NZ until mid-May.  I guess that is one downside of moving here. By the time movies are released here, everyone else has moved on.  The book has been on my shelf for probably over 20 years and I thought I had read it.  I considered re-reading it but it was sitting with nearly all my books in a shipping container for over a month.

I was surprised that none of the film seemed to ring any bells with me but now that I have started to read the novel, I believe that I probably never read more than a few opening pages.  It is very slow, just like the beginning of the movie, which I found disappointing despite Firth's excellent acting.  In fact it was only by the end of the movie that I began to feel I liked it.  The book also does not have any chapters which is off-putting to me who reads in bed before going to sleep and likes to have a chapter end as a goal to keep reading just a little bit more before turning out the light.

It has set me to thinking about the lack of a significant other in my life.
George (Firth) and Jim had been together for 16 years and it had ended with the tragic death of Jim not long before the film begins, leading to the day (the story only covers one day).  George spends much of the day planning suicide as he cannot live any longer without Jim. I will not comment more in case you have not seen it.

However it had me asking what is wrong with me.  I have had one significant relationship in my life  which lasted all of 15 months.
We met on November 24th, 1979.  My diary says "met Garry and brought him home"  He stayed the night. A week later I had a dinner party of 10 guys and invited him.  My diary says he stayed late.  Another week later it was just him for dinner on Saturday night and my diary says he left late on Sunday night but on Monday he rang me and I wrote "I am so happy".

Every day then either says "Garry rang" (he did not have the phone on at home where he lived with his mother so I could only ring him at work) or Garry stayed. He came to Christmas Tea with my family.

Throughout 1980 he was with me nearly every weekend.
In April I went to Europe as it had been already planned before our meeting and included my first attendance at the Oberammergau Passion Play.  He considered joining me for all but the play (by then booked out) but decided against it.  I was away for nearly 2 months and visited Greece, Italy, Spain and Paris ringing him about once per week.  He had to wait at my home for the prearranged call because he still did not have a phone.
Then in the 4th week away I spent a night in Freiburg, Germany and, ignoring my best intentions, visited a sauna and met a beautiful French guy.  I felt guilty but told Garry and he said the fateful words: "I did not expect you to give up sex completely while you were away".  That was carte blanche to me (it was pre-AIDS) as I went on to visit Munich, Amsterdam, London, New York  and San Francisco.

I was back home by mid June but things began to deteriorate as I felt stifled and, while I cannot find any references in my diary, I know I occasionally went out to gay bars by myself during the week although Garry continued to come to my place on Saturday night and stay until Sunday evening for most weekends of the year and occasionally stay during the week especially during school holidays. For Christmas 1980 we again had lunch with our own families but he had the evening meal with me and my mother.

It was in February 1981 that he wrote me a letter about my unfaithfulness and I was unable to promise to change.  We continued to go out together and even spent 2 weeks away in Queensland the following September but it was no longer the same and by 1982 he is no longer mentioned in my diary.

We still keep in contact. I had dinner with him and his partner before moving to NZ and had a long chat via skype on his birthday.  Our birthdays are 2 days (and a number of years apart) and he usually rings me as mine is first but this time I was able to ring him as he is not on skype so just sent a card and I was able to surprise him with a call.

While we are friends,  I have no regrets as I cannot see myself living with him today.
What does amaze me is that he was having new relationships within a few months of our breakup. About a  year later he bought a house with another guy (as we had planned). This fellow was intensely jealous and led to us seeing less of each other. I now know he beat Garry up.
There were 2 or 3 others before Garry met the lovely much younger man with whom he has now lived for over 16 years.

Meanwhile in the 29 years since, I have not met any man more than once. By 1984 the threat of this new killer disease, AIDS, cured me of the gay bars and one night stands which I admit I had found more exciting than a committed relationship.

People ask me how I can travel overseas alone for several months and my reply is that I have no choice.
I know many have just not understood how I could move to a new city in a different country where I knew no-one. However most of the friends I was regularly meeting just before the move I had only known for a few years and none were gay.
I have a few friends dating back 30 or more years (such as Garry) but, even before my move to NZ, I only saw them every year or so with, perhaps, a phone call every 6 months. Emails can be more frequent. Moving two thousand kilometres away does not change that.

But thinking of the movie and the strong feelings George had for Jim, I felt a little wistful and sad.

Yesterday I searched for my post on John Barrowman singing "I am what I am " Today I read the post on 'The Wild Reed' titled Dream song and there is John again, this time singing with another openly gay British singer, Daniel Boys, the song from the musical Chess, "I know him so well"
I do wish I had grown up in an era with openly gay singers, judges, politicians and even Episcopal bishops. Would I have been any different? Would I have found it easier to develop a committed relationship? Who knows? Anyway enjoy.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Keystone Kops strike again

They can no longer be called Keelty's Keystone Kops because Keelty has resigned but they are proving to be just as incompetent as before. The AFP (Australian Federal Police) had a major mass murderer, Dragan Vasiljkovic, in their domain.

He managed to give them the slip by not turning up in court the day his bail was denied. (He had been in court the day before but the AFP would not have thought to keep a watch on him).
After not being able to find him for nearly 40 days they decided he must have fled to the Netherlands and informed that country's  police.  It only took the Dutch police 7 days to discover his whereabouts and where was he?  Back in Australia. The AFP was probably too busy watching out for possible Muslim terrorists among the overseas doctors working here.

I do believe that people are innocent until proven guilty and do hope  Dragan Vasiljkovic gets a fair trial in Croatia but you would hardly be surprised if he was murdered.  But I think rotting slowly in jail would be a better end for him.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Various Musings

On another forum I saw this video posted describing homosexual life in San Francisco in the 1950's and 60's. I do not remember any item in particular that I would have seen on TV in those days. It was not often discussed while I was at school, certainly not in the circles in which I moved.   However I remember it as a shock when I realised in my first year at university that my feelings had a name and people like me were an object either of ridicule or disgust.  For a good living Christian youth, who would never even think of breaking any other law, this brought feelings of shame and self loathing. Even psychologists told me I would be a risk as a school teacher, in danger of succumbing to my feelings. I now know that was ridiculous, no more danger than a young heterosexual teaching girls. Of course, one or two do succumb but the vast majority of us have far more self-control.

Thank God those days are over in most of society except in sections of the church. In the 60's I would never have believed that homosexuality would be legal and there would be openly gay bishops, judges and politicians. Or that gay marriage would even be on the political agenda.

However I acknowledge, without going into detail, that I have been damaged by the experience. I do not want young gay people today to feel that they are disgusting and alien to their society. Shame on those church leaders who perpetuate this crime. To say that homosexuality is a choice is just so wrong as to be laughable. Like so many I did everything possible to change and that just led to greater misery.

However, after viewing this video and feeling a bit depressed, I visited The Soaring Impulse and listened to Maithri

I admire him so much but feel guilty that I do so little. I sent some money but really it is less than the cost of one night in a hotel on the journey I am planning.
Perhaps some others can help by visiting Possible Dreams International.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Travel Plans

I have finalised accommodation in Europe and am now commencing the US part of my journey.
The Round the World air fare has been paid (it sounded an awful lot in NZ dollars) and I am to fly from Dunedin to Sydney on August 7. 
I will, of course, stay with my sister and hopefully catch up with friends.

On August 19, I will fly to Bangkok staying in the hotel near the airport where I have stayed 3 times before (please red and yellow shirts, solve your differences by then) and onto Frankfurt on August 20, again staying at the same hotel near the main station as in 2008.

Then I will travel by train to Copenhagen, on the overnight ferry to Oslo and train again to Bergen where I board the Hurtigruten ship, MS Richard With, for 11 nights journey along the Norwegian coast and fiords to places like Tromso, Hammerfest and North Cape before turning around at Kirkenes and returning to Trondheim.
At Trondheim I will catch the train back to Oslo and have a good look as I stay there for 2 nights before continuing to Copenhagen for another 2 nights.  I visited both cities back in 1974 but would expect many changes since.

From Copenhagen I will catch the  train to Esbjerg then the overnight ferry to Harwich and train onto London.

I am quite excited to have just booked 3 nights at the Proms.

The night I arrive I have a program including Schubert's 8th (Unfinished) Symphony and Mozart's 40th plus some works by Schumann.  The following night is Monteverdi's vespers and then on the Saturday night I have a ticket for Proms in the Park. I do not have a Snowball's chance in Hell of getting tickets to the final night in the hall but will watch it on the screen from across the road.  However the park also has a pre-concert which will include Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Jose Carreras.

After 4 nights in London I am going to the Lakes District for 3 nights at Ambleside, hopefully relaxing with some walking after all that wonderful music.

Then there will be a rush by train with overnight stops back in London, in Luxembourg (to add another country to my list) and Mainz before meeting my friends from South Africa who started all this a year ago.
I met Kathy and Peter on the train to Oberammergau in 1980. We attended the Passion play together and later travelled part of the Romantic Road. We have kept in contact and I have had dinner with them twice when they have visited Sydney.

After the decision to have a 30 year reunion, we had a breakdown in communication and I went ahead and booked anyway. We established contact again this year but it was too late for them to gain accommodation in Oberammergau so they are staying at a nearby village and I will spend one night with them before going to my hotel in the town itself. Hopefully we will see each other at the play.

The day after the play (September 22) I am flying from Munich to Chicago and the second half of my epic journey.