Friday, August 31, 2007

Rojo's First Birthday - August 31, 2007

Today we celebrate Rojo's 1st Birthday (though we don't know his exact date of birth). He's been a delightful pup - accepting of the "abuse" our 8 year old has given him, being flexible to the whims of all of us and just being an enjoyable member of our household. He's a sociable - Doofuss - looking back on walk and running into things, with no concern - moving immediately into the next moments of his life. He loves the attention of people and dogs and sometimes overwhelms others, because "subtlety" is not exactly his middle name.

I took him on his first walk by our pond and enjoyed seeing a beaver and a great blue crane. Later on we "woofed" Happy Birthday to him - as he alternately enjoyed the attention and looked very puzzled.

Happy Birthday Rojo!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Being Open with Other Men - My Penis and Me

I have tried off-and-on over the past 26 years to connect with other men in a variety of ways. The Pro-Feminist Men’s Movement has helped me significantly, particularly in the 1980’s. My first men’s gathering was so meaningful for me that I helped coordinate the planning for another one which was very successful.

In 1983 I moved to Madison, Wisconsin, USA. I went with a number of fellow members of the Madison Men’s Center to the Upper Midwest Men’s Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota in October, 1983. We were greatly inspired by Andrea Dworkin’s first speech to a predominantly male audience. Out of the initial efforts of eight of us, we formed Men Stopping Rape, Inc. of Madison which did some incredible work helping share and educate men about rape related issues in the Mid-1980’s and beyond.

Fathering my son in the late 1980’s as well as moving to Oakland, California (where of financial necessity I began working full-time) curtailed most of my activist work. A few years ago I joined a men’s support group in the Bay Area which helped me connect with men in some ways and frustrated me in other ways.

I have found it hard to connect at a deep level with other men. To a large degree my issues may relate to how alone emotionally I grew into adulthood from my childhood. It is hard as a man to connect with others at a deep emotional level. This is of course doubly hard when one hasn’t learned to connect deeply within one’s birth family and with peers.

Recently I’ve read a lot on various blogs related to (heterosexual) men and our sexuality. Though I have had male lovers in my distant past, I would at a minimum identify myself as: “straighter”. Much of what I’ve read has fascinated me, both where I’ve found commonality and differences with other men.

Though it feels scary to talk about my own body as well as my feelings and life experiences, I would like to share some of me. I hope that over time more other men will be honest and share more of who they really are underneath the webs of silence, as well as varying levels of dishonesty (at least among some of us).

I grew up feeling very alone as a child. I was a tall, awkward young boy who rarely had playmates. I remember visiting the houses of others with kids to play with. I don’t remember having a “best friend” as a child. I loved sports. I had season tickets (alone) at Purdue University (men’s) basketball games starting either at age 7 or 8 and walked alone close to one mile to the (night) games. My parents and younger brother had no interest in sports. I was in swimming classes and for several years a youth Saturday morning sports program. Though I enjoyed much about physical activity, I wasn’t good at everything I tried.

I remember first being aware that I was developing pubic hair just before my 12th birthday when we were in Israel. Moving into adolescence I don’t have a lot of clear memories in many areas related to my growth. I remember being 13 in the summer of 1964 away from home for the summer having a peer group of at least two boys and I think two girls. I remember having a crush at one point on Betsy Linton from Philadelphia, but I don’t remember being with her alone or any reciprocal feelings on her part.

After my father’s death later that year my grades in school went up significantly. My abilities at running improved as my physical growth slowed, though I never was a great runner. I went to several dances at the beginning of ninth grade, but simply sat on the sidelines alone and didn’t know “what to do” with others. In the late fall I was terrified when a female classmate asked me to go with her to a Sadie Hawkins (“girls invite the boys”) dance. I declined the invitation. The summer ninth grade I asked the same girl out for my first date. The experience was traumatic for me. I don’t know what I expected, but I found that we seemed to have nothing in common.

During the 10th grade I had no dates and went to no dances. In the 11th grade I began dating Carol Denenberg, a 9th grader, whose family I knew. Late that school year I found out that we had “split up” without my knowledge. She was with another classmate. Though I held Carol’s hand, I never kissed her. I was na├»ve!

Late in the 12th grade I briefly had another girlfriend who I kissed – she was 19 and I was 17. Shortly after I graduated from high school I lost my virginity (technically at least) with another young woman who was also older than me. I was scared and inept and ejaculated very quickly. I’m sure that I gave no pleasure to my partner!

It wasn’t until I was in my last semester of college that I had sex feeling like I had significant control over my penis and the sex itself. Sex was still focused completely on penile-vaginal intercourse. I remember waking up with my girlfriend – having sex – and not remembering how it started. That was a thrilling feeling!

As a teenager I was certainly a slow learner! I had no peers to discuss things with – certainly among boys we didn’t talk. The world of “girls” was a mystery to me. My “relationships” lasted weeks and I didn’t know my “girlfriends” very well. Occasionally I had fairly platonic relationships that lasted a little longer, but lacked closeness.

I remember being 19 years old and discovering masturbation for the first time while taking a bath. I’d been with several female partners having “sex”, but hadn’t masturbated previously. My high school class was “The Class of 69” – but I didn’t have a clue about the sexual meaning of that – which was obvious to most of my classmates.

As a teenager my sexuality was probably most vivid in “wet dreams” when I ejaculated. I didn’t know much about them and didn’t get pleasure from them. The other part of my “sexuality” was waking up in the morning with “piss hard-ons” some of the time, which went away when I went to the bathroom. Pretty boring!

Reflecting back upon my early sexual development it seems congruent with the distance that I had from my peers and parents. We didn’t have television because my father felt it would keep us from reading a lot. Dad never talked with me about sex. Nudity in our household was accepted but sexuality seemed distant. It wasn’t that anything was “forbidden”. The emphasis in our lives seemed to be on being “good, upper-middle class Jews” who achieved. As an 11th grader I lettered in track and cross country, was in the band, the orchestra and the dance band and was taking college economics classes at Purdue University with juniors in college. I had no social connections beyond the brief time with my girlfriend at dances, movies and similar.

At 20, I was floored when my mother out-of-the-blue – asked me: “George, are you a virgin?” to which I replied “no”. She said: “Good, your father wasn’t a virgin either and I was very glad of it.”. That was the end of my single “sex” conversation with my mother.

At 25 I had my first lasting girlfriend and we were married about eight months after we first dated.

In my 30’s and early 40’s I first really discovered my sexuality in positive ways. Because of the influence of Feminism in my life, I moved very clearly away from a focus upon “performing” with my partners. I didn’t mostly focus upon my penis and “routine sex”. When I had good sex it was a time of celebration with my partner, losing track of time and place and other “realities”. It was being in the gentle sexual touch we shared.

There was no correlation between time, orgasms or similar and “good sex”. Good sex was simply a wonderful few hours of being with a partner I loved making love with.

Little did I know how good I had it in those days at least sexually. In my mid-40’s I began to notice an increasing inability to get and sustain erections, particularly with a partner. Nothing physiologically was “wrong” with me – from exams with my doctor.

In 1998 – I was jarred into reality when I really “couldn’t get it up” repeatedly – I couldn’t deny to myself the issues that were moving gradually in my body. The only ways that I could really feel my sexual connection with my penis was when masturbating. Gradually over time even that has varied in how difficult it is to orgasm or get partially erect. Often when I do orgasm it isn’t with a very erect penis.

It may sound crass and silly, but it really is a weird and discomforting experience to not know – without touching one’s penis with one’s hands, whether and to what degree one has an erection. It is a strange feeling to feel very aroused – and then to find out that one isn’t erect at all. It is confusing to occasionally be erect and not to know it. Gone too are the piss hard-on’s except once recently – which pleasantly surprised me.

After some years and pressure from my second wife, I began trying to use Viagra. It seemed helpful at first and gradually became more inconsistent in effectiveness. Viagra, to be effective (for some at least), needs to be taken on an empty stomach. It’s hard to be spontaneous at all on a weekend to need to plan to have sex at least 4-5 hours after eating. When one’s partner isn’t a morning person and doesn’t want sex on a weekend morning generally, it’s hard to find a time when Viagra will work effectively. I didn’t realize the effects of food until my doctor referred me to a urologist at my request. After seeing him, I wrote my doctor to suggest telling other Viagra patients the food issue.

Most recently I went to another urologist who pleasantly shocked me. She suggested I try something and a few minutes later I injected my penis with a solution (Trimix) which brought about an strong and lasting erection within a few minutes. Unlike Viagra it didn’t seem to depend a lot upon my mood/emotions and other things. It felt much more like I used to feel before my mid-40’s. I masturbated after I got home feeling Very Much Better than I had felt in a long time when masturbating. After masturbating I still had “strength” in my cock which gradually lessoned over the next half hour or so.

Since then I’ve had mixed success with Trimix. It’s moderately expensive. It doesn’t necessitate not eating before it. The solution needs to be refrigerated. I overcame my fright at injecting myself. My partner hasn’t taken to it. For now - it'll be not tried anymore.

I can and do enjoy my sexuality! Feminism thankfully has given me a base to recognize that I’m not my cock. I can enjoy the feelings I get and get aroused (if not always within my penis). I can have orgasms fairly regularly, but I can’t generally have successful intercourse with my partner.

I’m not seeking sympathy from others! I do hope that other men will share their sexual lives particularly when they have issues – as I’ve had in my life. It’s not like this kind of thing is talked about more than the Viagra ads and ads for seeing high priced doctors who promise to make us “whole”.

In some ways what I feel relates to the increasing aches and pains that I feel in my mid-50’s and other ways that I feel myself aging. In other ways it feels different. It feels sad to get excited when I feel my cock – tingle a little and react – as it did quite frequently when younger –and now does perhaps 1-3 times a year – in normal day-to-day life.

I never felt that because I felt mild or stronger feelings in my cock, that it meant anything in of itself. I never “needed sex”. Physiological sexual feelings sometimes came from feeling sexual excitement and sometimes just “happened” – for no apparent reason.

It feels ironic that as I grow and presumably am maturing in some important ways in my life, my sexual being faces limitations far more significant than the lessoning of sexual activity that many men feel as a “normal” effect of aging. I presume that with the popularity of Viagra and sexual-healing clinics for men, that I’m far, far from alone in my issues.

I can only imagine that many, many other men must feel very alone and inadequate when they find their penis weakening sexually as I’ve felt. It didn’t feel good when I got up the courage to share what I was feeling with my men’s group several years ago and found that the others couldn’t or wouldn’t relate to what I expressed. They let me talk, but clearly much of what I said made them uncomfortable.

I hope that as men others are doing a much better job than I did relating to each other in our various lives as: sons, fathers, uncles, cousins as well as best friends, good friends, workmates and our other life roles. Gay men may have issues I don’t face. We each have our own issues.

I’m thankful for much in my life! I accept my penis as it is. It gives me pleasure as well as doing its other functions as advertised.


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Reflecting upon the Minneapolis Bridge Collapse

When I think now of the tragic collapse of the I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis now I think of a way of life we live in and look at in the U.S. today. My visions are not of one bridge or many bridges, but rather of how we look at our infrastructures and economies in general as well as how we see our connections as "people" together and separately.

I remember being in Switzerland as a child and hearing my parents talk afterwards of how the Swiss were planning the highways, train system and similar for the coming decades to meet the perceived needs of the country for the long-term future. I also remember being in Israel 25+ years ago and hearing how then (at least) it was not possible for people to speculate investing in land around the major urban areas to profit from and control the economic development of the country.

In the U.S. we far, far most commonly live in a variety of worlds of what I would call "smoke and mirrors". Our major corporations often must look for short-term profits, else their leadership will be replaced. Our large industries of the past such as the automobile industry have huge numbers of retiries who are dependent upon health benefits and pensions that seemingly will not be payable for the long-term.

We have plenty of long-term needs in this country for things that are being deferred or otherwise underfunded including our bridges and highways. We have necessary immediate needs such as the funding of our wars and military. We also have bleeding cancers such as our healthcare system and our general system for our military veterans where we never seem to solve the basic issues that remain unpaid for and not planned for.

I am 56 years old. My generation is beginning to "get old" and be replaced in the workplace by my 20 year old son's generation. Twenty to thirty years from now those who are working are not going to want to pay for the healthcare and other needs of my generation. We should be saving as a society for the debt needs of the future.

Some individuals are saving for the future. As a society though we are borrowing and deferring things to the future - both individually and within our government entities and similar.

The solutions to many of our problems are both complex and simple. We need to end the power of those who look at our lives through microcosms of "looking out for themselves" (only) and seeing life in naive visions of the past (fictional) worlds of the past.

We live in a world now where many people have many major health needs in some cases related to lifestyle choices that they make, but in other cases related to luck. We can not afford indivually to pay for the huge costs of cancers, birth defects, diabetes, heart conditions and many other ailments.

We live in worlds of many people who are not super wealthy and can not afford to pay the huge costs that exist for housing, healthcare and other major expenses in their lives. We need to change our taxation systems so that those who have money pay sufficient taxes to support our needs for now and for our future lives in the coming decades.

We need to recognize that "we" are people who are not Mostly White, Christian, in their 20's, 30's and 40's, Heterosexually Married with 2 Children, in good health, while some of us are that way and we all need to figure out better ways to live together.

In our current worlds we have the ability to dialogue and work together through our politicians, schools, places of worship and in many other places. It is hard, but we need to start working out our problems from the local level to national and international levels of our lives.

We have many things we an improve in our society. We can have a rational healthcare system. We can have a political system which isn't controled by "payoffs" to politicians and others to get short-term and long-term gains for the few at the cost of the many. We can help families raise healthy children who get healthcare, education and a way-of-life that celebrates the natural beauties of our lands and our spirits and hearts, rather than simply - television, video games, professional sports - and a craving for that which we never seem to have - the "beauty industry" of the perfect bodies of thinness and whatever - in the distance beyond.

Getting there is difficult - we need to try!


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Impeach GW - Why Focus There ?

It was invigorating recently while in the Midwest in Madison to see so many: "Impeach Bush and Cheney" lawn signs in the neighborhood I stayed in.

I then return(ed) to a world where the Republicans and a few Democrats in Congress repeatedly rebuff most everything that might pressure GW to change his policies.

Until or unless far more people feel that they are negatively effected by The War in ways that really threaten the complacency of those "middle of the roader politicians" it seems likely we will continue to have posturing and more games, but no real change. People oppose the War - not because it "is wrong" but because we're not "winning".

Pressure on impeachment seems good only as a "cheerleading" towards a much larger cause. GW deserves to be impeached, but others have let him and his cronies do so, so much damage and have often been complicit in what has happened.

I hope that in September Congress will begin to really move to push GW. I fear that the Republicans will continue to speak out of both ends of their mouth, feeling that they'll not pay a price in the 2008 elections.

Time will tell both as to what will happen this fall and in 2008.

I hope for the best. I'm cautious in wondering both if the Democrats will blow things as well as wondering IF 2008 proves a great year for the Demos, if they'll really be effective at changing things for the better. GW being out of office should be an addition by subtraction, but that isn't enough. The Supreme Court alone will be a thorn for decades.

I hope that my cynicism proves short-sighted. I hope that more younger people will do more and that the changes in our lifetimes will finally move towards a better path in various ways.