The Adventures of Apartment Life (Quick Update Blog)


I admire the view of the street and the empty grass parking lot. I hear vehicles driving by on the street and the neighborhood children playing outside. I notice the smell of barbecue coming from the neighboring apartment complex. The noise of a siren, coming from the nearby volunteer fire station, disrupts my attention for about thirty seconds. The sound of several passing fire truck sirens soon follows after the station’s winds down from its half minute blast. I attempt to divert my attention to whatever I was doing before that blaring sound interrupted my concentration.

I am surprised that I managed to grow accustomed to those sounds in the almost seven months I have been living in my apartment. As a matter of fact, there are times when they occur in that exact order! I’ve experienced all of those sights and sounds before. I usually thought nothing of them back when I lived with mom and dad. Why do they capture my attention now? I suppose it’s because I am residing in a place that was previously unfamiliar to me. It is a place I will manage to call home until I take up residence elsewhere.

The ability to live independently is essential for someone like me. Let’s face it, we all need our space for varying reasons. Probably the most important reason for my independence is because I know I am a gay man. I could not be more grateful for my parent’s who continue to be loving and supportive of me. Many gay people consider that a luxury simply because their biological families have been everything but that. However, there becomes a time in every gay man’s life when he must go out and explore this essential aspect of who he is as a person.

I would be false to say that apartment living has turned me into a brand new man. However, I can say that it has given me the courage to stop hiding the things that make me who I am. It’s hard for anyone to talk about sexuality when they are in their parent’s house, let alone express it openly. I currently display autographed pictures of Steve Grand flaunting his chiseled physique on my bulletin board. I hope to run off some pictures of my mom, dad, sister and my adorable curly tailed dog named Cinnamon to add to my display.

With that in mind, I know that living on my own comes with its fair share of responsibilities. I now have to keep track of adult things like rent, utility bills and making sure I take out the garbage before it stinks up the whole unit. I also know that I must focus on things like finishing my English degree at community college, finding employment and exploring career opportunities. These are what make independence more rewarding.

 

 

 

Christmas Is A Sad Season For The Poor (John Cheever)


You can find the full story on this article from the New Yorker Magazine.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1949/12/24/christmas-is-a-sad-season-for-the-poor

It is also found in the New York Times Best Seller “The Stories of John Cheever.”

(Pages 128-136.) 

Some of my classmates at my community college may not share my interest in reading more of the works by the authors I have read about in American Literature class. In this class, I was required to read works by authors dating from the Age of Realism through to the Post Modern era. Most people my age are not entirely familiar with short stories written by the late John Cheever. “The Swimmer” remains to be his most notable short story. A wealthy suburbanite male decides to take an unconventional method of transportation home via swimming pools owned by residents throughout his classy New Jersey county. He thinks this journey is going to change all of his previous failings and win the approval of people who already dislike him.

Cheever’s stories are known for their portrayals of affluence and how pretentious it can make those who are fortunate enough to live with it. However, one particular story “Christmas Is A Sad Season For The Poor” introduces a man named Charlie. He works minimum wage as an elevator operator in a swanky New York City apartment building. Of course, this means he has to get up and go to work on Christmas morning. He exhibits an expression of self-pity by claiming he is “the only one” who is expected to do so. The fourth paragraph provides some insight into why Cheever chose such a title for this story. Charlie utters many variations of the following refrain when he talks with the apartment residents.

“I think Christmas is a very sad season of the year. It isn’t that people around here aint generous – I mean, I got plenty of tips—but, you see, I live alone in a furnished room and I don’t have any family or anything and Christmas isn’t much of a holiday for me.

Naturally, most people would emphasize with someone who is in a similar situation to that of Charlie’s. Christmas is a very lonely time for many people. Finding coping mechanisms for such loneliness is essential for survival in a season that is ultimately supposed to be full of good cheer. Sometimes, we deal with such loneliness by unjustifiable actions such as lying to gain sympathy from others. He does just that when he speaks to Mr. and Mrs. Fuller. He lies about having two dead children and four who are still living. All of the apartment residents who interact with Charlie are sympathetic and empathetic towards him. His feelings of loneliness and sadness do not change.

The “woe is me” feeling is all too familiar for those of us who have gone through situations where it seems like complaining is the only way to cope. It seemed to work for Charlie. Residents shower him with all kinds of gifts as acts of kindness. The above takes place all the while being totally oblivious to the reality of his children being a pigment of his imagination. Just some of the gifts include eggnog, martinis, cocktails, a dressing gown, goose, turkey, pheasant, chicken, grouse, and pigeon. He drinks some of the drinks while he is on the job. Hilarity ensues after he begins to take Mrs. Gadshill down from the twelfth floor.

“Strap on your safety belt, Mrs. Gadshill! We’re going to make a loopty loop!”

Mrs.  Gadshill shrieked. Then, for some reason, she sat down on the floor of the elevator. Why was her face so pale; he wondered; why was she sitting on the floor? She shrieked again. He grounded the car gently, and cleverly, he thought, and opened the door. “I’m sorry if I scared you, Mrs. Gadshill,” he said meekly. “I was only fooling.” She shrieked again. Then she ran out into the lobby, screaming for the superintendent.

Drunken Charlie is now fired from his minimum wage job. This certainly does nothing for his sadness and loneliness. 

The excess of food and presents around him began to make him feel guilty and unworthy. He regretted bitterly the lie he had told about his children. He was a single man with simple needs. He had abused the goodness of the people upstairs. He was unworthy.

The final events of the story begin when he flashes back to the landlady in his apartment building. She is eating dinner with her family when Charlie knocks on the door. He offers presents to her children. He also gives her the dressing gown that was previously given to him. She accepts the offer. But, says to her children that they have received enough gifts. She encourages her children to bring the presents to the poor kids on Hudson Street. She says this as Christmas day is nearing its end. 

“Now, you kids help me get all this stuff together. Hurry, hurry, hurry,” she said, for it was benevolence for only a single day, and that day was nearly over. She was tired, but she couldn’t rest, she couldn’t rest.” 

This story can be interpreted in a few ways. The title reminds us how sad Christmas can be for people who lack the money to buy presents for their loved ones. I especially began to notice it’s portrayal of clashes between rich and poor. Charlie works a minimum wage job. Mind you, it is inside the elevator of a luxurious New York City apartment building. He has no choice but to interact with people who can afford luxuries which he can only dream of. Cheever enlightens readers about the impact it can have on one’s psyche. It made Charlie a perpetual victim who expected everyone to know about his misfortunes. Thus, it caused him to lie in a successful attempt to win the sympathy of the wealthy apartment tenants. It only provides temporary relief for his unhealthy perpetual victim complex. 

His face was blazing. He loved the world, and the world loved him. When he thought back over his life, it appeared to him in a rich and wonderful light, full of astonishing experiences and unusual friends. He thought of his job as an elevator operator – cruising up and down through hundreds of feet of perilous space – demanded the nerve and intellect of a birdman. All the contraints of his life – the green walls of his room and months of unemployment – dissolved. No one was ringing, but he got into the elevator and shot it at full speed up to the penthouse and down again, up and down, to test his wonderful mastery of space.

Finally and most importantly, those last few sentences remind me about the irony often associated with people who spend all of their time and energy to make Christmas more enjoyable for those who cannot afford it. This season only comes once a year. Like decorations, benevolence is placed in boxes and stored in the basement until next December comes around. I have tried to come up with a way, to sum up my writing about this story. All in all, I can say that reading it and interpreting it was time well spent. Charlie is a complex character. He is a con man who takes advantage of people’s kindness. Karma does come up to him. However, he looks back on his feelings of loneliness and tries to take a step in the right direction by performing an act of kindness.

 At the very least, he teaches us the right and wrong approach towards coping with the holiday blues. 

 

Stick To Your Principles (And Never Apologize)


I have declined from writing posts about this presidential election. My main reason is that I live in an area full of residents who practically worship our newly elected president. It has been almost five years since I came out as a gay man. After that, I never wanted to imagine that an elected official would try to overturn the successful efforts to say that the government cannot restrict me from my ultimate desire to marry someone who I love.

The United States of America has elected a man who has promised that he will overturn the landmark decision which ruled the Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional and pass a “religious freedom protection” act. I am in no mood to read article after article confirming those are indeed his intentions. Numerous social media posts have attempted to dismiss that our newly elected commander in chief could successfully roll back LGBT protections nationwide. Some of which have the audacity to scoff at my LGBT friends and think that we are “worrying too much.”

(Maybe you won’t “scoff” at me. But, probably have the temptation to dismiss the real fears of LGBT Americans as a result of Tuesday’s election.)

I would hate to jump to conclusions about anyone. But, the above comments are bound to come from people who claim to say they are “supportive” of me genuinely. To reiterate from my older posts, they know that I do not desire to marry a woman in some big church wedding. They are in complete denial of the fact that our newly elected commander in chief has promised to appoint Republican supreme court justices who will assist him in his efforts. These justices believe my lack of desire for a woman and a big church wedding automatically make me spawn of the devil. They say that such a truth does not make me any less of a human being who deserves love and respect. 

I am now laughably brought back to my memories of George Bush’s 2004 reelection. I was in sixth grade. We had a mock election. You can guess who the winner was. My classmates cheered when our principal made the announcement. Their expressions of joy, parroted from their parents, continued the bus ride home. My classmates stomped their feet and clapped their hands to the beat of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” They kept singing “Kerry will be defeated.” I certainly take this election much more seriously than I did back in 2004. It may be true that nothing has happened yet. But, there is no saying that it won’t now that we have a man in power who strives to overturn the progress we have already made. 

Donald Trump and Mike Pence have both promised to stick to the above principles. I, however, am sticking to mine. My LGBT friends should strive to do the same. Do not apologize for it. I do not deny that it can be hard to separate oneself from people whom I have known for my entire life. My sexuality may not define everything about me. But, I now know they are not worth my time if they refuse to change their mind about this essential aspect of who I am as a person. 

Most importantly, be careful who you decide to invite into your life. It doesn’t matter if you are casually cruising on Grindr. It does not matter if you are searching for that beautiful woman or tall, handsome man to call sweetheart. I am not trying to say that you should be afraid of meeting new people. But, know that people can disguise themselves as LGBT friendly. They hide behind that title before turning around and causing real harm to some of our most vulnerable citizens. It is now critical to be aware of your surroundings and protect yourself if anyone tries to hurt you. 

The events of this week are not going to stop me from sticking to my principles of not allowing people to hinder my right to be who I am. That does not go without saying that our nation has increased the potential for some very dark times. The only thing we can do about that is to keep fighting. 

Revisited: “No More Talking About Fans!”


Please note this disclaimer: 

I am not licensed in any of the professions that are intended to assist children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s Syndrome.) I wrote this post from my experience and knowledge. Please do not automatically take anything I write as an alternative to seeking a licensed professional who specializes in providing any help your child may need. 

Original Post From 2010:

https://dwarren57.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/no-more-talking-about-fans

Conscious knowledge of one’s character, feelings, motives and desires is the first definition that comes up when I Google the term “self-awareness.” I can agree with psychologists when they say people on the Autism Spectrum are prone to struggle with it. A classic example of this lack of self-awareness is perceived obliviousness to the child’s tendency to focus intensely on the particular details of an individual object. Its repetitive movement is one of the most common examples. Any psychologist who observed me would say the other trait is a textbook example of Autistic Spectrum Disorder, or, Asperger’s Syndrome. 

My narrow interests became evident to mom and dad when I was about three years old. There was something about a particular electrical/mechanical device that made my mind completely oblivious to everything else in the world around me. It’s ability to spin and move air was mesmerizing in and of itself. Yes, I am talking about the simple device known as a fan. Other adults thought it was cute when mom and dad informed them of “fan” being one of my first words. Mom and dad’s feelings of adoration changed to worry as my speaking vocabulary evolved into the ability to speak in complete sentences. It became a regular topic of conversation in our household. 

Of course, my parents should have worried to a certain extent. I am sure they felt the need to ask therapists about why my mind would become so focused on a simple mechanical device. For starters, fans are one of the most predictable electrical/mechanical devices you can find in any home or business. They serve one purpose. That is to move air. They do that through the repetitive movement of spinning around and around. That is all there is to it. The world, however, is nowhere near as simple. There becomes a time when we must face reality. The imaginary world certainly is much more desirable. But, it is imaginary and not real. 

John Elder Robison’s first book Look Me In The Eye is a memoir about growing up without an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (a.k.a Asperger’s Syndrome) diagnosis until he was in his mid-40s. A classic Autism trait is the tendency to change the subject of a conversation to something completely irrelevant. A selection from chapter 2 of his first memoir “Look Me In The Eye” brought back memories to my early childhood when I would change the subject to a random type of fan that I saw in any of the buildings my parents and I would frequently visit. 

I suddenly realized that when a kid said, “Look at my Tonka truck,” he expected an answer that made sense in the context of what he had said. Heere were some things I might have said prior to this revelation in response to “Look at my Tonka truck.” 

1.) “I have a helicopter.” 

2.) “I want some cookies.”

3.) “My mom is mad at me today.” 

4.) “I rode a horse at the fair.”

John Elder Robison, “Look Me In The Eye” 

Chapter 2, Page 20 

People typically perceive the abrupt tendency to change the subject of a conversation as an act of disrespect. Those who are not familiar with ASD may be more inclined to feel such a way. Robison continues to say that people expect replies that make sense and that are relevant the current topic of conversation. It shows that you are, at the very least, willing to listen to what they have to say and take it into account. It took some prompting from my parents, teachers and Autism professionals before I finally began to understand this social expectation. They used a combination of social stories, role plays and supervised interaction with my peers. Sometimes, prompting was the only way to get through to me. 

“Derek, we’re not talking about fans right now!”

My parents were right when they said that my obsession with objects like fans was just a phase. The regular social stories and prompts finally began to remind me that not everyone will be a fan of my previous love for fans. Writing this post made me look back on that memory. I compare it to the topics I am passionate about now and realize they are far more complicated than a fan that repetitively spins around and around. Nope. Not everyone is a fan of the fact that I happen to like and be attracted to men. I am not a fan of people who always feel the need to remind me of that. The only thing I can do is eliminate those people from my life and focus on those who are genuine “fans” of me.

Like anyone else, I try to smile when I look back on my childhood. I do that anytime I see something that reminds me of those days when I was the little boy who was a fan of fans. One particular example is the Lexington, Kentucky-based company Big Ass Fans. (I cannot think of any other way to make it abundantly clear what you specialize in.) Little reminders like that give me a unique perspective on life. It shows that people may not always be fans of the things that make us different. Despite that, it gives us the potential to find how we can use those things to make a difference in the world we live in. 

Autism Spectrum Disorder:

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/autism/autism-spectrum-disorders.htm 

18 Ways To Tell If Your Child Has Autism:

http://thestir.cafemom.com/toddlers_preschoolers/125535/18_ways_to_tell_if

Computing Workshop Facebook Page:

https://www.facebook.com/computingworkshop/?fref=ts

Social Stories:

http://www.educateautism.com/social-stories.html

Big Ass Fans

http://www.bigassfans.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would You Date Someone on The Autism Spectrum?


I subscribed to a subreddit called “Ask Gay Bros.” It is a subreddit where gay and bisexual men can discuss the ins and outs of life. (Incase you have not realized, yes, I am gay!) Life with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s Syndrome) has made it incredibly hard to meet other people. There is no way to summarize how this condition affects my mind in just a few sentences. I took that into account when I decided to submit my first post on “Ask Gay Bros.” The post went as follows.

I was curious about what men would think about the idea of dating someone who experiences similar struggles to me. I was pleasantly surprised when most of them said yes. However, there were a few users who said no. One of them happened to have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

I tend to agree with this user. My mom and dad insisted on enrolling me in social skills groups like Wesley Wonder Kids during my teenage years. However, I look back, and I realize learned some valuable lessons. These lessons came from both the staff and my peers in the program. I have always agreed that age appropriate social skills are essential for success in academic, professional and personal social situations. There are plenty of things about myself that people may find enjoyable. For example, I am intelligent, and I like to share that through my writing. People have said that my writing does resonate with them. However, I also have my fair share of quirks that people may describe as anything from frustrating to annoying.

I learned that valuable lesson at one Wonder Kids group meeting. It was time for each member to share any news from their lives that may have developed in the previous week. I rolled my eyes when it became time for one particular person to speak. Let’s just say that he was someone who could not seem to grasp the meaning behind “enough is enough.” We will call him “Gregory Grossout.”  His superior speaking vocabulary, dirty clothing and body odor quickly became the least of the traits that made me feel socially restricted around him. Here is the gist of his lovely news story. 

Gregory Grossout: I had an ingrown toenail! It was gargantuan! It grew back after I had it removed. I had to go to the pediatrist a second time. It started spewing yellow substance called pus. (Everyone begins to cringe and express disgust for his graphic revelation. He then continues, oblivious to their discomfort.) It hurt so bad! The doctor said it was the most puss and blood he has ever seen!  

(The staff leader finally interupts him by addressing the entire group and correcting his behavior. He is also trying to keep his composure.) 

Staff Leader: Okay, you can stop right there! By a show of hands, how many of you are cringing right now? How many of you did not want to hear about the details of his surgery? (He quickly pauses and turns to Gregory.) 

Staff Leader: Gregory, everyone raised their hand. You could have been much more general about it. “I had a minor surgery last week. It had some complications and I had to go back to get them fixed” would have been far less cringeworthy. 

(He still could not grasp the repulsed expressions of everyone in the room. He continued with an attempt to claim that revealing every single detail was absolutely necessary.) 

I agree that to assume this person is lesser of a human being would be far too hasty and judgmental. Nonetheless, that was my default assumption anytime I encountered such a situation. I did that while simultaneously being oblivious to my tendencies which made people believe I was socially inept. I now know that I must control those tendencies if I want to be successful in the dating world. Admitting that I am on the Autism Spectrum is bound to decrease the already limited gay dating pool. I hate to go all cliche, but, that is how the cookie crumbles. I cannot force someone to be attracted to me. I most certainly cannot force someone to love me. 

I answered “no” to my own question because Asperger’s Syndrome is a very individualized disorder. Grey’s Anatomy failed to realize that when they wrote the portrayal of Dr. Virginia Dixon. I experience difficulty “reading” other people. But, that is the only thing I have in common with most people who have this condition. That does not make me any less aware of the challenges most people with “high functioning” Autistic Spectrum Disorder experience in adulthood. Most importantly, I know that I am more than capable of loving someone. That is all that truly matters! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Reflections On The Shooting At Pulse Nightclub


I still have not fully come to grips with the events at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Those sentiments do not just hold right for the shooting itself. It holds true for how our world has responded to the deaths of 49 innocent people and sending more to hospitals with serious injuries. People like Arizona pastor Steven Anderson, California pastor Roger Jimenez, and Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick have used this tragedy to promote their hateful agenda. We have much farther to go! 

Reading about such self-proclaimed “men of God” have brought me back to a post from back in late April. The post, titled You Should Be More Discreetexpressed strong opposition to those who have insisted on “discreet policing” me by saying that I have should have lived my gay life in secret to avoid offending people who thought that homosexuality is icky. I indicated that it did not just come from loudmouth pastors like Steven Anderson. It came from individuals who claimed to be okay with the truth. Marrying a woman in a big church wedding will never be the ideal life for me. 

Is this going to become a new trend for the future? Will misguided, angry and hateful people with bad intentions look up to the perpetrator as a martyr? Will they try to succeed in following his footsteps? My definition of a perfect world would be a place where the answer to both of those questions is no. Tragically, that is too much to ask. I have watched report after report. Like everyone else, I have one ultimate question that we will never know the real answer. Why would someone commit an act so calculated, violent and hateful? 

For me, the news reports are the worst things about this tragedy. I especially feel this way when I watch interviews with survivors who describe their horrific ordeal in detail. I can only view so many of those before I shiver and cringe after thinking about what would happen if someone were to open fire at any of the local businesses that I frequent. It is one thing to have to worry about such an event reoccurring at my local movie theater or grocery store. It is another thing to have to worry about it in a business that prides itself on being inclusive of the LGBT community. 

The events at Pulse Nightclub were one of the most brutal examples of how real anti-LGBT violence is. How can we LGBT folks overcome the fear of being targeted again? I am sorry to say that I don’t have a definite answer to that question . Even admitting the fact that I am gay runs the potential risk of being harassed, beaten or killed in some places throughout our United States of America. That does not mean I am going to lay in my bed cowering in fear of the things that make me stand out from everyone else. 

I cannot answer the above question by myself. But, I know there is power in numbers. I feel there is one more question that needs to be answered. 

1.) What will it take to introduce and pass legislation which will ensure that violent crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity are punished to the fullest extent of the law? Pennsylvania is just one of the states without hate crime laws without that specifically include either of those categories.  

http://www.phillymag.com/news/2016/06/21/pennsylvania-hate-crime-laws/ 

You can tell that this was not an easy post to write. I don’t think I, or anyone else, will be able to fully process our thoughts about the horrific tragedy at Pulse Nightclub. Like I said, there is power in numbers! We must all work together in reminding our nation that anti-LGBT violence is an epidemic. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brief Reflections On The Shooting At Pulse Nightclub


It happens every time there is a mass shooting. We sit and watch the television in hopes that the death toll will not continue to rise. Details about the perpetrator and possible motives start to fill social media. Everyone is desperate to know the real answer. Why would someone commit an act so violent, evil and hateful? It was hard to keep my emotions in check when other gay people have said they no longer feel safe at bars, nightclubs, and events that are supposed to be safe places.

I cannot form words regarding today’s events. So, I am going to leave you with a song by somebody who I truly admire. Steve Grand’s “We Are The Night” reminds us that “it’s our time” and “we will rise.” There are plenty of things regarding today’s events that are bound to make us burst out in anger and sadness. Despite that, we must do everything in our power to push for the chance we want to see. Because we just want to be free!