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Our schools teaching LGBTQ issues….

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra Joy Kauffmann

Our schools have introduced a program to teach children about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-gender issues. Good. I applaud the program. If it’s truly successful I’m sure less people will suffer.

One school trustee has criticized the new policy, calling it ‘child abuse’. What? I hope he’ll be promptly replaced by a more forward-thinking, knowledgeable trustee. The man is ignorant and very much behind the times.

For the most part, when I was in high school during the early 1950s, we didn’t even know homosexuality existed. I certainly didn’t. There was an unhappy girl in our class who, by the way, excelled in sports — something most of us didn’t participate in unless we were required to.

“I wish I were a boy,” she’d tell me, her eyes sad as she said so. It WAS sad. I felt sorry for her. She was what we would now call ‘Butch’. (I remember her name but will not use it. If I still exist, she may too.) I do, however, think of her often and hope she found her place in life and became comfortable with who and what she was meant to be.

In those days many gay people married, not wanting to admit to their families, or at times even to themselves, who and what they really were. It was not acceptable. This led to unhappiness for everyone. Wouldn’t it be better if we were all free to be who we are?

Of course there are parents who still object to their children being taught about these natural differences in people, due to religious beliefs and/or backward traditions. That saddens me. We don’t choose to be born ‘different’. Who would? Life is difficult enough as it is. Why ask for the kind of problems those who are LGBTQ have been subjected to, and let’s face it, it is far from over yet.

I just attended a ‘Music in the Morning’ concert where we were treated to my favorite Tchaikovsky String Quartet. I recall reading Tchaikovsky was ‘outed’ and to avoid the horrible scandal which loomed over him, took his own life. Surely he had more music in him to compose. Our loss…..

tchaikovsky-kuznetsov-crop

Tchaikovsky

Oscar Wilde, that witty writer of plays and stories, was jailed because he had an affair with a man.

Oscar-Wilde-640x360

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

The inhumane conditions of jail at the time destroyed his health. His children were never allowed to see him and had no idea what horrible crime their father had committed. His son, writing about it years later in his book says when he finally found out, his reaction was: “That’s all?” He grew up thinking his father had committed murder or something truly awful. Broken physically, Wilde died shortly after his release.

Alan-Turing

Alan Turing, brilliant mathematician who broke the Nazi code

Then there was Alan Turing, the mathematician to whom we owe so much. He was the brilliant man who cracked the Nazi code, which not only served his country, but may have saved us all. How was he thanked? Arrested and disgraced for having a homosexual relationship, forced to undergo surgery to ‘correct’ what was ‘wrong’ with him, and finally, miserably, took his own life.

How many other great thinkers and creative people have we lost because of our stupidity? How many more need to suffer needlessly?

Good luck to our school board with this new program. More power to them.

FullSizeRender

Sign I saw at Chandra and Rafi’s home while I visited them in San Francisco this month.  I love it. I love them.

 

 

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‘The last time I saw Paris….’

photo by Susan Kauffmann

photo by Susan Kauffmann

9 a.m.: Installed on a bench, I’m pouring over the map of the famous Pere

Through the Chunnel, 1st class boring, regular class more fun

Through the Chunnel, 1st class boring, regular class more fun

Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Friends in England teased me about wanting to visit nothing but dead people. Indeed,

I had taken the Chunnel from London to Paris solely for this reason. It is where the likes of Balzac, Sarah Bernhardt, Bizet, Chopin, Isadora Duncan, Moliere, Edith Piaf, Marcel

The famous 12th century philosopher Abelard & his Heloise, at last united in death

The famous 12th century philosopher Abelard & his Heloise, at last united in death

Proust, Simone Signoret, Gertrude Stein and Oscar Wilde are buried. Here the 12th century lovers Peter Abelard and Heloise were finally united in death.

If I pay proper homage and breath deeply at the gravesides of these brilliant/talented people, I might even absorb a little of their creativity. I mark the location of each grave I want to see and select the most logical route along Avenue des Peupliers towards Bizet’s final resting place. Just in case no one else has, I tell him his opera ‘Carmen’ (which he believed ‘a definite and hopeless flop’) is popular, famous and beloved today, 130 years later.

Frederic Chopin's tomb, Pere Lachaise cemetery

Frederic Chopin’s tomb, Pere Lachaise cemetery

That duty dispensed with, I turn onto Avenue des Ailantes, looking for Balzac’s grave. What is this? Right between Bizet and Balzac is an ancient, moss-covered tomb with my own family’s surname on it! If I had a name like ‘Smith’, I wouldn’t have given it a thought, but my maiden name ‘Ruch’ is not common. My dad, who immigrated to Canada from Lithuania during the 1920s wasn’t in touch with family left behind, and none lived where I grew up in Montreal.

Was it possible? Could it be? Was I walking around with the same genes as the people in this very tomb? I drop onto a nearby bench contemplating this unexpected turn of events, giving thought to the family I have never known. Unbidden, tears run down my cheeks. I approach the tomb and run my fingers along the rusted gate. I peer within the dark interior, but nothing is revealed. Without flowers to leave behind, I pick up a small pebble from the ground and carefully balance it on the peaked roof as a sign of my visit. Perhaps it is still there today.

Sarah Bernhardt's grave at Pere Lachaise

Sarah Bernhardt’s grave

After whispering goodbye to the “Famille J. Ruch” ghosts, I continue on my way, but that tomb won’t leave me alone. I visit each grave marked on my map, yet questions continue to plague me. How many relatives survived World War II? Where are they? What are they like? Do we look alike? Do any share my interests as well as my genes? Would I like them if I knew them? Would they like me?? How do you locate family you don’t even know?

Later, by mere chance, a friend told me about a genealogy website. I found it, typed in my maiden name and – hey, someone else was looking for people with the same name. I immediately sent off an email to Amanda, who lives in Longmeadow, MA. (USA). We ARE related; our grandmothers were sisters. She has created a family tree and because we found each other, she was able to fill in a few blanks. Amanda sent me a copy. When it arrived, I quickly tore the package open and set to work taping all 20 pages together. There, in black and white, were names and locations of dozens of relatives — in South Africa, Australia, England, Israel, Canada, and the U.S. Some had been murdered during WWII. One, whose dear ones had all perished took his own life; some made it through. Their tragedies and triumphs are, in part, my own.

An inquiry went off to Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Could they put me in touch with any descendants of ‘Famille J. Ruch’? They didn’t respond, after all it IS a very old tomb. And, are Amanda and I alike? Well, both of us are writers…..

Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. Full of surprises

Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. Full of surprises

Death in the Afternoon

Muriel from BlogSpring is my favorite time of year — a promise of things to come. Like all promises, it isn’t always kept, but like a five-year-old, I keep believing this time my little balcony garden will thrive. So, two sunny days in a row and I was already cleaning up winter’s debris, checking on my struggling garlic planted in the fall, seeing which herbs barely survived, and putting in beans, peas and kale. “It’s too soon!” my more pragmatic friend warned, but I didn’t care. I wanted to be out there before the wasps arrive. (I’m a delicate flower —  allergic to their sting.) As for them, they LOVE it here. I’m convinced they’ve passed the word around to all their friends about how great I taste, and they’re also very angry with me.

Wasps love it here

Wasps love it here

Here I must confess, I’m responsible for the death of hundreds of wasps! Not “WASPS” (Women Airforce Service Pilots) or “WASPS” (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants), but wasps, the stinging, mean guys who are now apparently out to get back at me. How did this happen?

"WASPS" Women Airforce Service Pilots

“WASPS”
Women Airforce Service Pilots

I was innocently, diligently working away at my computer, when I glanced out my office window to drink in the glory of the mountains. There was this smooth, round, light-brown, globular-shaped structure about the size of a large grapefruit hanging

A wasp nest with entrance on the bottom

A wasp nest with entrance on the bottom

perfectly-centered and straight down from our building’s over-hang. Strange, I thought, I never noticed it before. I wondered why it was there and what its function was.

Like a female Sherlock Holmes investigating a mystery, I perused it with care, and, upon closer inspection, noted activity — much activity. Traipsing in and out of the entrance at the very bottom of the beautiful dome, for beautiful it was, were numerous tiny, busy creatures. Aliens? No, nothing that dramatic.

They were wasps, wasps with stingers! Hundreds and hundreds of them flying in and out their basement door. “Aha!” I declared aloud to the empty room, for Watson wasn’t here. “This smooth, round, light-brown, globular-shaped structure about the size of a large grapefruit hanging perfectly-centered and straight down from our building’s overhang clearly seems to be a — wasp nest!”

Was I scared? Did I panic? No! I was safely indoors

Was I scared? Did I panic? No! I was safely indoors

Did I panic? Did I cry out in fright? Did I scream for help? Did you hear me? Of course not! Sure, I am allergic to their sting, but they were outside and I was safely inside, so I was able to be courageous. The industry of the little devils was fascinating. My computer’s screen-saver had to kick in while I spent the next hour or so observing the goings-on out there. What an interesting thing to have so close to my window. I liked it!

“Well, if you find it so beautiful and interesting,” said the gal (somewhat incredulously) at our building’s management office over the phone when I called “Perhaps you’d like to keep it for a few days before I order an exterminator out.”

Was she kidding? Some years ago, after a wasp sting, my arm developed a plateau-like, angry, painful, red welt, which three weeks later grew larger, hotter, angrier, redder, even more painful and itchier. Medication was required to calm things down. No way! Fascinating as it was, the nest would have to go.

Wasp circular hotel rooms within nest

Wasp circular hotel rooms within nest

A calm, business-like exterminator arrived next afternoon, canister and long metal tube in tow. He sprayed right into the wasp “Home-Sweet-Home”. The displaced creatures flew about in a tizzy, hither and yon, while chunks of their beautiful nest collapsed and fell away, at first leaving the circular inner structure of hotel-rooms, built around a perfectly round elevator-like shaft, exposed.

The circular stairwell at the Hotel D'Alsace in Paris where Oscar Wilde spent his last days

The circular stairwell at the Hotel D’Alsace in Paris where Oscar Wilde spent his last days

It reminded me of the Hotel D’Alsace I’d visited in Paris, where Oscar Wilde spent his last days. I still remember looking up at that circular staircase that goes up and up and up….

Oscar Wilde, who died at the Hotel D'Alsace in Paris

Oscar Wilde, who died at the Hotel D’Alsace in Paris

Still safely indoors, I peered into those wasp hotel rooms, wondering if I might observe any improprieties in progress, but any amorous activities taking place had already been rudely interrupted, so I cannot tell you anything new about the birds and the wasps.

The exterminator looked at his work and saw that it was good. “When the wasps stop coming back in a day or two, you can knock the rest of it down.” he announced and left, not at all troubled by the murder and mayhem we two had planned and carried out.

In relating this grisly tale to friends, I found some confusion existed as to the social structure of wasp society. Some friends thought wasps, like bees, have a queen, others thought the life of a wasp was totally different. My encyclopedia said they are both right since there are so many species of wasps. The nest building kind apparently do have a queen.

Does that mean I’ve committed regicide???

Favorite sayings

Muriel2017

by my Chandra

It takes a village — to do a crossword. (my own)

If there is a heaven, there are bubble baths there. (my own)

The very purpose of existence is to reconcile the glowing opinion we hold of ourselves with the appalling things other people think of us. (Quentin Crisp, 1908-1999, openly gay writer, actor.)

Quentin Crisp

Quintin Crisp

He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends. (Oscar Wilde)

young Oscar Wilde

Young Oscar Wilde

Some cause happiness where ‘er they go; others, whenever they go. (Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900, gay poet, playwright.)

Worry is interest paid on a debt you may not owe. (? told me by my friend Sandy)

The greatest delusion about communication is that it exists. (?)

How long a minute is depends on which side of the bathroom door you are on.  (Zall)

The road of modern culture leads from humanitarianism via nationalism to bestiality. (Stefan Zweig, Austrian Jewish author, 1881-1942, committed suicide.)

Many amusing events occur in Egypt, but the laughter there can resemble crying. (great 10th century poet Al-Mutanabbi)

Go ahead, travel first class. Your heirs will. (Sign on a local travel agent’s wall)

I no longer have the time to be angry. (My wise friend Berta)

Everyone has a photographic memory — some of us just don’t have any film. (Steven Wright, comedian)

Creativity is our most precious gift. (my friend Ian Wallace)

Parents are the bones on which children sharpen their teeth. (actor Peter Ustinov)

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children. (Native American Proverb)

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844-1900, German philosopher)

Jan Struther

Jan Struther

If silence is golden, then speech is platinum. It spreads wisdom, dispels ignorance, ventilates grievances, stimulates curiosity, lightens the spirits and lessens the fundamental loneliness of the soul. (Jan Struther, 1901-1953, author)

A birthday is just the first day of another 365-day journey around the sun,. Enjoy the trip. (?)

You don’t have to believe everything you think. (?)

What your mother tells you now, in time you will come to know. (?)

To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom. (Bertrand Russell)

Burtrand Russell

Bertrand Russell

The time you enjoyed wasting is not wasted time. (Bertrand Russell, 1872-1970, controversial philosopher/mathematician/Nobel Prize winner for literature)

Democracy is the process by which people choose the man who will get the blame. (Bertrand Russell)

Thank you to all those who have passed on quotes I treasure. If you happen to know who wrote those I haven’t found the author of, please let me know. Enjoy!

From Susan Kauffmann: The obstacle is the path. (Zen Proverb)

From Bill Keuntje: I’ve learned not to play the notes with emotion, but to play the emotion with the notes. (Bill is a composer/musician)