From 2007-2009 I blogged on Eons, a social networking site for Baby Boomers. This is a selection from the blogs I published there.
SMALL TOWN ETIQUETTE
They say small towns are friendly places. They say that the people in them make more hospitable neighbors than cold anonymous city folk.
If you live in a small town but aren’t originally from there, you know it’s not that simple.
Of course, many people are friendly. Others are actually hostile; they’ll pointedly ignore you if you say hello. They’ll continue this treatment even after they’ve seen you around for twenty years.
Then you have those who are in between – they’ll greet you warmly if they’re alone, and snub you if they’re with friends. (Often their friends are the usually hostile folks).
And then there are those that you just can’t figure out at all.
Like this one guy who I see around all the time – a lean, bearded fellow, probably in his forties, who mostly wears a sleeveless t-shirt and dirty jeans, or a flannel shirt if it’s cooler. Sometimes he’ll give me a big smile and a warm hello. Other times, I’ll greet him, and he’ll scowl at me like he wants to hit me.
For years, I’ve encountered him regularly on the street within two or three blocks of my house. I kept wondering, what IS the story with this guy? Whether I said hello or not, it seemed equally likely that I’d offend him.
But one day I went to the convenience store on the corner, and I saw him at the counter, buying cigarettes. He broke into a grin, and said, “Hey, buddy, how ya doin’?” I said hi, turned to walk up the aisle toward the cold beverage refrigerators in the back – and there he was in front of me, scowling. I did a double take. At the same moment his expression softened, and I heard him cracking up with laughter BEHIND me.
I turned around, and there was the friendly him, still at the counter, laughing with the checkout girl. The hostile him was now laughing too, behind me.
That was when I finally realized that they were twins. They also both wore beards, short hair, and the same sort of clothes. This kind of thing probably happened to them all the time.
So that cleared up the mystery. However, it didn’t solve my problem.
I still can’t tell them apart. When I run into either one of them alone, I still have no idea whether or not to say hello.
© 2008 by Jack Veasey
SLICE OF LIFE
In a local steak house rest room, I heard a loud man supervising three toddlers. He bellowed, "Don't sit on that seat, some dirty M—F--ng C—S--ker from Iraq prob'ly just sat there." I felt a tightness in my chest and stomach, and didn’t relish the thought of encountering this guy.
When I emerged from my stall, he was giving them similar input on washing their hands. One of the three kids was a girl, who just looked at him wide-eyed, as if her head were a blank slate he’d just covered with scrawls.
I found myself face to chest with him (he was taller than me) and was surprised when he said, "and how are you this evening, Sir?" He even pasted a big beaming smile on his face.
He looked to be in his late twenties. He was dressed in a white sleeveless T-shirt, and his muscles and tattoos looked he’d acquired them in jail. He also wore painters' pants and white sneakers with long streams of toilet paper stuffed into them, trailing on the floor behind him. I got the feeling that his smile and elaborately polite hello were also somehow for the "benefit of" the children.
I figured saying anything “corrective” to him would have just provoked hostility. I smiled back, answered his question with one word, “OK,” and got out of there.
I had mixed feelings about not saying what I thought. And, speaking of thought, I wondered what the hell the mother of those children could have been thinking.
-- 2009 by Jack Veasey
MY DINNER WITH DRACULA
There really are people who consider themselves vampires. I've met two.
I'll share a story about one of them. I met him because he was a poet, active in the local poetry community, and we had mutual friends. He was unusually short, squat and oddly proportioned, kind of like a dwarf but not quite so small. (I'm 5'9" and the top of his head was even with my shoulders). He dressed in pretty ordinary clothes; he worked for the state in some nondescript office job by day. Not into the Goth look at all, though he did wear an unusual pendant on a chain around his neck. I recognized it as an ankh, which is an ancient Egyptian symbol for eternal life that shows up a lot in New Age books.
My partner does sound for theaters, and he got me free tickets for something called "The Passion Of Dracula," which I'd seen before many years ago off-Broadway. He had to run the board, so I needed to invite someone. I invited this "vampire" fellow, who I ran into socially a lot, to go with me; I figured it would interest him, and I was curious to hear more about the "vampire" trip.
Before the show we had coffee in a cafe across the street from the theater in Harrisburg (so he did drink other things). Right next to our table was a fishtank with only one fish in it -- a huge iridescent pink one with a gaping mouth that would lunge at the glass if you went too close to the tank. You could literally see its brain, which was oversized, veiny and pulsing, through a translucent lump on top of its head. It looked like some kind of creature from outer space in a 1950s B movie. It seemed to have it in for me in particular; I sat on the side of the table that faced the tank, and it kept staring at me. The counterman had told me, when I commented on the unusual fish, that they'd tried putting other fish in with it, and it had eaten them, so now it got to have the tank all to itself. My companion enthused: "cool fish!"
There was nobody else in the place except a thin, pale girl writing in a hardback journal at a window table. She was doing the Goth thing -- dressed all in black, rings in her nose and in a couple of spots on both ears, her short hair dyed bright red with a green streak in it. She kept looking at us nervously and then looking away. My "vampire" friend told me she was a "donor." After awhile she came over to talk to him. She ignored me completely and stared at him wide-eyed, with a kind of awe. She said she liked the ankh pendant he wore. She was clutching her journal to her chest, with the front cover facing out toward us, and I noticed it had the same ankh on the cover. Their conversation had buzz words in it whose meaning eluded me. After a few minutes she left, seeming more nervous than ever. I asked the "vampire" about his ankh. He pulled the bottom end of it off, and it had a sharp steel blade inside. It's apparently a very popular item in the "vampire community," used to draw blood from consensual "donors."
I asked him what vampires do in the way of health precautions. His answer was a little vague -- knowing the medical history of anyone you "partake" of, for instance, which I imagine amounts to just asking. They apparently don't actually bite, but use something to draw the blood -- like a syringe or clean razor blade -- and wipe the area first with alcohol. To me it still sounds fairly risky to either party.
They have some sort of document of ethics and safety called The Black Veil, which he told me varies a little between vampire groups but not much. Later I Googled it out of curiosity, and there are versions of it all over the internet. They also have so much lingo that you need a glossary to read about them, and there are vampire glossaries all over the internet too.
By the way, the Dracula show was a lot of fun. But it wasn't nearly as eerie as the discussion beforehand.
(c) 2008 by Jack Veasey
SMALL PA TOWN, 3 AM
It was about 3:30 AM this morning. I’d gone to bed not long ago, but I had fallen asleep. My natural rhythm makes me something of a night person. I’m also prone to insomnia, but I’m not troubled about it anymore – boring late night TV, preferably old sitcoms or B-movies, usually helps, so I just lie down in the living room. I check to see if infomercials will come on at any point, because they give me nightmares – especially the ones about exercise devices or real estate schemes, with their smug success stories of narcissism and greed.
But I was startled awake by a sharp rap on my front door. Somewhat disoriented, my first reaction was to feel a bit fearful. Having grown up in bad neighborhoods in Philadelphia, even in my current small town location I keep a baseball bat next to the front door. Before I opened the door I picked it up, and let it hang from my hand by my side.
I found a woman in her early sixties sitting on my porch step. She had white hair and wore a jacket and jeans. One of her shoes was missing, exposing a dirty white sock. Her eyes met mine and she said, “Can you help me?”
I dropped the bat and went out, stood over her, and asked, “What’s wrong?” She said, “I hurt my foot. I live right up the street at 218. I’m trying to get home.” I told her, ‘Hang on a second.’”
I went inside and put on my bedroom slippers. In my half-asleep state, I thought she wanted me to help her get home. I grabbed a cane I’d used when my bad back was worse, thinking it might help her to lean on it. When I got back outside, she said, “Do you drive?” (Believe it or not, I don’t. It’s a long story.) She said, “I need someone who drives. I think I broke my foot.”
My partner, who goes to bed at a far more normal hour, was asleep. Like an idiot, I went upstairs and told him what was going on. Though deeper into sleep than I’d been, he suggested the far more reasonable option of calling 911. I went downstairs and did just that. A young man answered, and asked me a distressingly long list of questions. (I kept thinking of the poor woman on my step all that time, not knowing what was going on). Finally he told me not to move her, and that he would send a policeman, and an ambulance would arrive soon after.
I went back out to her. In the few minutes before the officer arrived, she told me more of her story. She’d gone first to the one-story stone house across the street, catty-corner from ours. She’d fallen in front of that house, on her way up the street to visit a female friend who lived about a block west (it didn’t strike me in my drowsy state as an unusual hour to go visiting people).
The resident of the stone house was her friend’s son. I silently recalled waving hello to him when I’d checked my mailbox about two days before -- he’d glared at me as if I’d flipped him the bird. She said she’d crawled to his door, and he’d told her, “There’s nothing wrong with you. Get the hell away from here.” Then she’d crawled across the street to my house (thank God there’s almost no traffic that late!) She added that the pain was so bad she didn’t even try to walk on it, and that she thought she could feel bones moving around in her foot. While she was explaining all this with perfect clarity, I noticed for the first time the odor of beer wafting from her.
The police car pulled up, moving slowly in search of the address. I flagged him down. The officer seemed like a nice enough young man. He said an ambulance was on its way. As she told him her story, he asked where she lost her shoe. She said she’d lost it across the street, and he shone his flashlight on the lawn over there. I saw the shoe on the grass, and went to retrieve it.
I was feeling pretty cold at this point – I was in a T-shit and jogging pants – and asked the officer if he needed my help. The ambulance had just arrived. He said he didn’t. I told the woman I hoped she felt better soon, and she thanked me. I went back inside, and must have fallen asleep fairly soon after that, because I really don’t remember anything else.
The incident reinforces my impression of the guy who lives in the stone house, whose name I still don’t know, though he’s been there a while. I’m glad we were home (though it’s not like that’s unusual at that hour!) I’d like to think any of our other neighbors would also have helped her.
I keep thinking of things I should/could have done to make her more comfortable, like giving her a blanket. It can take me a long time to fall asleep, but once I do, waking up can take me awhile, too. I was out of it and not thinking very clearly, but I did the best I could at the time. I hope she’s recovering comfortably today.
OUR GAY MARRIAGE -- NO PAPER, BUT PLENTY OF LOVE
NOTE: I refer to my partner by the initials "SG" in this blog because his screen name at Eons is SoundGuy.
This blog is a work in progress. This weekend our church is having a service honoring its gay couples, and has asked us both to talk about our relationship.
It's a tall order trying to compress nearly 30 years together into an essay, and I don't consider what follows to be the last word on it.
The biological family is supposed to be normal, yet mine was anything but. I came from an abusive family. My mother was always in a chronic rage, so I had to move a couple of doors down to live with my maternal grandmother. Her husband and son, who lived with her, were both in a chronic rage that probably helped to inspire my mother’s, and my mother was constantly there anyway because everyone in the family was involved in operating “the stand,” a small cinderblock luncheonette on industrial Delaware Avenue right behind the house. Well, everyone except my father, who was a guard at a nearby brewery and was usually drunk. For the most part, they treated me as though they hated me – I was an embarrassment and an inconvenience at best. I couldn’t communicate with them about anything and they taught me nothing but how to be neurotic. I left home while still in high school.
SG was the first real family I ever had. Before I met him I was desperate to be loved and went from relationship to relationship with people who treated me as bad or worse than my family. And even when I experienced love – someone who accepted me as I was, someone I could trust with anything, someone who was always there no matter what – it took me years to soften, to allow, return and celebrate that love. For a long time I remained suspicious and surly. A writing student once asked me when adolescence ends. I told her for men, about thirty – for women I had no idea. I was joking, but in my own case it was a generous estimate. My midlife crisis lasted longer than most relationships, but SG saw me through it, three hospitalizations for disabling depression, the deaths of literally everyone in my family, and more. That’s love. And now we’ve been together longer than most of our friend’s grown children have been alive.
We met in the fall of 1978. SG answered an ad I’d placed in a gay newspaper where I was then working as an editor. He sent me a long , rambling, warm and wonderful letter – and a very tiny snapshot from which I couldn’t tell all that much. I rode out to meet him at the Lancaster train station – talk about a romantic spot, it was like a scene from a movie – and as I was getting off the train, I kept thinking, “I know I like him. I hope I find him attractive.” Then I saw him, and I kept thinking, “I hope he finds me attractive.” We’ve been together ever since, and I still think he’s pretty cute.
We’re mostly like any other couple, but there are differences. One night we ate at the local Burger King, and SG told the young man who waited on us to ring up one check because we were “together.” He’d been very friendly up to that point and said, kiddingly, “You make a nice couple.” SG said, “we think so.” The cashier didn’t say another word and his face turned to stone. When we left, I pointedly said to him, “You’re Welcome.” Gratifyingly, that Burger King is now closed.
Sometimes the difference is brought home more painfully – when I went to identify my mother’s body at a Philadelphia hospital I insisted that the morgue attendant let SG remain with me, and he told me later she was very rude to him. I was so grief stricken I could barely function, and didn’t notice at the time – or I would have given her a piece of my mind. At SG's mother’s funeral the minister tried to insist that I not be allowed to sit with the family. SG's sister put him in his place. It’s amazing how you sometimes find yourself having to face bigotry in situations that you think would naturally impel any decent person to go out of their way to be kind.
And the law is another matter. Though we’re longtime spouses, we’ve both had to lie on occasion – saying we were half-brothers – in situations where hospitals allow only relatives to visit. Until recently I was covered by SG's Blue Cross at his job – but when he got another job and we picked up our own Blue Cross, we learned that Domestic Partner insurance no longer applies. Blue Cross will only cover domestic partners if an employer’s group policy does. We now have to pay premiums on two individual policies. Imagine how a married couple would feel if they were told one partner was suddenly no longer covered.
Our straight friends regularly tell us of incidents where they respond to homophobic comments from coworkers and such by citing us an example of a gay couple whose relationship has lasted longer than half of “normal” marriages. But we only feel extraordinary when other people make us feel that way. We feel normal. We wish everyone could see the simple truth that we are.
(c) 2007 by Jack Veasey
SOME MOMENTS FROM MY GAY LIFE
Checking Out More Than Groceries
I had a nice surprise at the supermarket yesterday, and it had nothing to do with anything being on sale.
I was looking for the right jar of mild salsa when I saw a flamboyantly feminine young man pushing his cart up the aisle toward me. I said hello to him; he smiled and said hello back. I'd never seen him there before.
A lot of people say hello at our supermarket, but very few of the gay male customers do. Generally, whether in pairs or alone, they avoid your eyes if you too are gay -- as if fearful of outing themselves. So it was refreshing to encounter this guy. He didn't care if the whole world knew.
When I got to checkout, my new acquaintance was ahead of me in line. The clerk was a young guy I'd wondered about -- nice, good looking, a manly young guy but a bit more polite and articulate than his fellow workers. As I unloaded my groceries from my cart onto the conveyor belt, I could hear him telling my flamboyant friend which dorm he lived in. They were obviously making a date. He lowered his voice when he saw me, so I pretended to be narrowly focused on my purchases.
When his previous customer left and he started ringing me up, the clerk seemed a little embarrassed (apparently he still hasn't read me after all the times I've made a point of getting in his line). I went out of my way to be friendly, to convey without actually saying so that I had no problem at all with what I'd witnessed.
In the parking lot I found my partner waiting for me, blasting show music on the car CD player. The clerk's soon-to-be-date was pulling out of the nearby drive-through bank. With a huge grin, he drove past us and waved, elaborately wiggling all of his fingers as he did so. I was surprised he didn't blow us a kiss!
(c) 2007 by Jack Veasey
I never had any desire to get in drag myself. I've never found men in drag sexually attractive either -- when I was a young gay man "back in the day," I was looking for somebody like Kris Kristofferson, not Carol Channing.
But the bar in Philadelphia where I generally had the most fun was owned by (and named after) a man who looked (and sounded) just like Carol Channing, who hit on me relentlessly. I never dated him, but I did enjoy a lot of free drinks. It was called Miss P's, which referred to his drag name, Patti (as in his favorite singer, Patti Page. He couldn't manage to look like Patti (unless, as one of his MC's once wisecracked, "that doggie in the window was just her reflection!")
Zingers like that were delivered with affection at Miss P's, and intended to be all in good fun. Drag and camp were about to fall out of favor with a lot of people in the gay movement for awhile, but they were certainly friendlier and more fun than the sourpussed political correctness that was to dismiss them. I'm glad my introduction to gay life happened before that change.
I went to Miss P's partly because it was a place that wouldn't card you if you were a little underaged -- Patti liked them young, as they say -- but while people flirted with me a lot, it was all an expected part of the atmosphere. Patti and her customers were anything but predatory. They were protective toward me -- kind of, well, motherly, strange as that may sound. They were quick to warn me if a person was "bad news" (gay bashers would sometimes lurk outside, and undercover cops would occasionally visit the place), or to listen understandingly if some guy I'd dated a few times had broken my heart.
The main attraction was regulars dressing up as their favorite singers and lipsynching to their records. One very handsome black queen regularly mimed Shirley Bassey's melodramatic and mannered anthem, "This Is My Life," complete with Shirley's mile-high wigs, grand gestures and strange twitchy mouth. He really had her down, except for one thing -- his taste in gowns wasn't as tacky as hers.
Some people in the bar were more talented -- when Miss P was hostess, she would do her job as Carol Channing, and looked, moved and sounded just like her, speaking through a hand-held mike in her own Carol voice. She also amazed us a time or two with some genuinely impressive tap dancing (she had, as she put it, "great gams for an old broad!")
I remember those experiences very fondly. I got to see a couple of the great female impersonators when they came to Philly (namely Charles Pierce and Lynn Carter), who were great voice impressionists and standup comics as well. Pierce amazed me by moving from one side of the stage to another and acting out an argument between Bette Davis and Tallulah Bankhead, changing his voice and face lightning-fast. But those local boys lipsynching to scratchy forty five RPMs had a funky charm, and indomitable heart in a world where they could get beaten up for just walking outside. I'll never forget them. Some activists saw them as a backward embarrassment, but to me they were real heroes in gay history.
And they were not, as some feminists have contended, ridiculing the women they portrayed. They were honoring them with great respect and affection. Years later, as a journalist, I got to interview the pop singer Jane Olivor, a big favorite with gay men. I told her I'd seen a young drag queen "do" her version of Neil Sedaka's "One More Ride On The Merry Go Round" at Miss P's. Her eyes grew wide with surprise and she said, "Wow! I guess that must mean I've arrived!"
(c) 2007 by Jack Veasey
Isaac Asimov, A Pigeon, And Me
This started out as a post on “Hippies For Life,” on a thread about meeting well-known people. Somebody else had mentioned the legendary science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, and I chimed in with this. I added a little to it before reproducing it here. It does have a gay dimension.
A funny story involving Asimov: I never met him, but I did have a 15 minute phone conversation with him once. I was writing an article for the local Sunday magazine about the science fiction scene in Philly. It was in the late seventies. Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine was located in town, but Asimov just lent his name to it and occasionally contributed an article or story -- he had nothing to do with editing it. Despite that, my editor wanted to have at least a quote or two from him in the story, so he agreed to talk to me on the phone.
I lived in what was a very bad neighborhood at the time, 29th & Girard, in a big old house -- a former church -- with several other gay men. The house was owned by a fellow named Henri, an impresario who threw notorious Halloween parties at downtown hotel ballrooms. The party posters always said, “Don’t Come As You Are; Come As You Want To Be.” Henri was pretty much Philly’s answer to Tim Curry’s Frank‘N’Furter character in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” But despite the glitzy image, his house was in a horrendous location and was also falling apart. He’s since sold it.
One of the young neighborhood thugs, who hated gay people, had just thrown a rock through one of our windows. I was still rattled from this, but it was time to talk to Asimov. I called, he answered, and we began our brief interview -- and suddenly this pigeon flies through the gaping hole in the window and lands at my feet. It began walking in circles around my feet, making this burbling sound that they make. I was in bedroom slippers and was convinced it would start pecking at my feet, but it didn't. Meanwhile, hoping Asimov didn't notice the pigeon sounds, I tried to concentrate on the interview.
I don't know if it was because I was distracted, but I only got one quote I could use. Asked his opinion of the magazine that bore his name, he said, "the only thing I don't like about it is when I send them a story and they reject it!" Hard as this may be to believe, having met the very supercilious and prissy man who edited the mag, I accepted it as true.
As soon as we hung up, I caught the pigeon and tossed him back out of the window. I envied him his ability to just fly away.
© 2007 by Jack Veasey
When did you first realize?
It was a long time ago, but I remember it very clearly. It was the early sixties, and I was probably nine or ten. My parents had gotten rid of me for the afternoon by giving me the admission fee for Steel Pier, which had such attractions as the diving horse and the diving bell (not that Steel pier was a dive or anything!)
One of the things included in admission was a variety show in a small theater, which that day had comedian Shelley Berman as one of its stars. I was already infected with the show biz bug even at that early age, so seeing the show was the first thing I did. Being a
little kid, I didn't get all of Mr. Berman's jokes, but I found something about him very compelling as he stood there in his suit and tie getting people to laugh WITH him, not AT him. (Unfortunately, being a puny kid from a tough urban Philadelphia neighborhood, I already knew how to get laughed AT).
After the show, as I wandered around, I happened to see Mr. Berman coming out of the theater's back door. I went right up to him, to his surprise, and told him I liked his show. He smiled and shook my hand. He was wearing white shorts and what we would now call a tank top. He was tanned and had dark hair on his chest and arms, and looking up at him I got the strangest feeling -- heart racing, light headed. Then he took off and I stood there watching him walk away.
I knew even then that this swoon I'd fallen into was not just admiration for stand-up comedy. (Though I had similar feelings when, the summer after I graduated from high school, I met George Carlin. Him I got to talk to for about an hour. I wish I could say I'd gotten further than that!)
Anyone else care to share their earliest recollection of being -- um, impressed?
(c) 2007 by Jack Veasey
How did your family react?
My parents were working-class Irish Catholics. My father worked at various jobs. When I was small he worked at an industrial plant in the suburbs at a job that I remember thinking was "like Fred Flintstone's." Later he spent many years as the captain of the security guards at the now-defunct Schmidt's Brewery in Philadelphia. My mother often didn't work, but from time to time held jobs as a waitress or cleaning woman.
My mother had a tyrranical father, and a brother and a sister who were just like him. Always lots of yelling at our house. My dad and grandmother both drank to escape it.
We lived in a neighborhood called Fishtown, a rough waterfront factory enclave along the Delaware river. My grandfather operated a small cinderblock luncheonette that catered to the workers. Freight cars full of cocoa beans sat on tracks that ran right behind our house. The neighborhood was Irish, Polish and so racist that there was a book written about it called "Whitetown USA." Frank Rizzo was police commissioner of a notoriously brutal force, and then mayor. I went to a small Catholic schoolhouse right under the El, with only about 100 students in all 8 grades, and taught by St. Joseph's nuns who were still unbridled practicioners of corporal punishment.
As you might guess, this was not the most sympathetic place to grown up gay. The worst thing you could call somebody was "faggot," and somehow the other kids all knew to call me that long before I ever really had any idea what it meant. I thought I was the only one in the world, and surely doomed to hell.
When I reached my teens, my parents reinforced this -- particularly my mother, who told me repeatedly how ashamed she was of me. I remember once leaving her house with a date as she stood in the middle of the street literally screaming obscenities at us. I got out of there as soon as I could.
Then in my twenties I met the man I would spend the rest of my life with -- we're still together after 29 years -- he's known as SoundGuy here at Eons. And both my mother and father quickly changed their tune after meeting him. In fact, they quickly came to love him and accept him as family. He's such a sweet, kind and gentle man that it would have been hard to imagine them doing otherwise. Oddly, this didn't really translate into accepting ME, at least for my mother. Our relationship remained difficult throughout my life, but she was pretty much mad at the world, so why exclude me from that? But SG was just fine with both of them.
They're both dead now. After my father's passing I found a rather negative, old-fashioned used paperback book about homosexuality in his nightstand drawer. It was dogeared and underlined. I'd never really known how hard he was trying to understand. Ironically, the person whose approval I kept trying to get -- my mother -- was the one to whom I gave a copy of the very positive "Loving Someone Gay," a classic book for parents and relatives of gay people. She put hers in a drawer too -- so she'd never have to look at it again. If only I'd given it to my father.
(c) 2007 by Jack Veasey
I want to relate a couple of what I can only term "paranormal experiences." They both involve the death of loved ones.
A dear friend of mine died of AIDS complications in the early nineties. I'd just visited him in New York. Soon after that he'd gone into the hospital for what everyone thought was something minor, "just to be careful." I was sitting in a restaurant in Harrisburg waiting for SG when suddenly I got this overwhelming feeling of sadness about Gus. I couldn't get him out of my mind; it was as if he were suddenly there with me, looking me in the face. When SG got there I was shaking and weeping. He asked me what was wrong, and I could hardly talk. Our waitress brought me water and looked worried -- she thought maybe I was having some sort of attack. When we got home, I called the hospital to check on Gus and was told to contact the family.
The next day his girlfriend notified me of his death. He had gone into a coma from which he never awakened at precisely the time I was sitting in the restaurant. I later learned that two other friends of his had had similar experiences at around the same time.
The other experience involved my father. He was dying of cancer of the esophagus, and we had arranged part-time hospice care, with a worker spending time at my parent's home. The worker told me that my coming to visit him so much was making him hang on, and therefore suffer more, and it would be better for him if I stopped coming. (People have told me since that they find this horrifying, but my gut feeling at the time was that she was right, though it was painful to hear). My mother, meanwhile, was preoccupied with the idea that he'd die in the house, and then she'd have to live there with that memory.
When I got back to Harrisburg my friend Beverly called me, all excited because a friend of hers was visiting from England. This friend, whose name was Rachel, claimed to be a medium. She'd come to do a "platform demonstration" at a New Age conference at a local hotel. I met her because she was Bev's friend, and had my reservations about her credibility -- but found her charming and warm. I told Bev about the situation with my father and the hospice worker, and Rachel said, "did you tell your father that it was all right for him to go -- that you'd be okay?" I said no, and wondered aloud if I should go down there again to do so, because it sounded like a good idea. Rachel said, "No, don't do that. Just think about your father tonight, before you go to sleep. When you're asleep I'll come and get you, and we'll go see your father."
I did as she said. I don't remember having any dreams that night. The next day I learned that my father had taken a turn for the worse during the night, and had died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, leaving my mother in a way she could at least handle. I guess when we "went to get him" I must have mentioned my mom's fears, too.
Anyway, those are my stories. I'm always curious to hear the stories of others.
(c) 2007 by Jack Veasey
All rights reserved. These works may not be reproduced or duplicated in any way without the author’s written permission.