18 December 2009

Happy Solstice!

I watch Seamus, the shamrock I bought on St Patrick's Day, follow the sun across my kitchen table. He's folded up now, but during daylight hours his leaves open and tilt toward the natural light streaming in the window. And if I turn the pot 180 degrees, within an hour the leaves will have moved to stretch toward the light again. It's remarkable and beautiful to watch this houseplant, root-bound but hardly immobile, react to environmental stimulus.

I've named him and I talk about his actions, but it's neither conscious or desirous, of course. I don't understand what's all involved to make this happen - for a plant in a still room to "reach" toward sunlight - but if Seamus "knows" when it's sunny and responds on a biological level, well, why shouldn't we? Why shouldn't the shortening days and lengthening nights have some effect on us, too?

Nearly every culture of which we're aware thought there was an effect, and had some celebration around this time of year. Ancient people everywhere, including my ancestors in the high latitudes in Europe, studied the heavens and noticed that after the harvest, year after year, the days would get shorter, and shorter, and shorter, until they didn't anymore - and then, slowly, the days would get longer again, and light would return. This was often taken to be a sign that spring would eventually return as well, that the cycle of the universe had not been interrupted.

And most cultures had festivals of this time, and most of the festivals had lights - that's what we humans were celebrating, after all, the growing light bringing us growing hope of warmer weather, of future harvests, of the old year being over and the new one starting.

The solstice (sol stitium, or standing still of the sun) was originally on December 24 in the Julian calendar (the Solstice got moved to the 21/22 of December when things got moved around with the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar). December 24...  remind you of anything?

The odds of Jesus being born on one of the most significant of the Pagan holidays is, well, 1/365; many accounts put his birth sometime in the spring. The earliest record of Jesus' birthday being 25-December comes in 171 CE (which seems odd - why wait so long to record the date of birth when so much else was recorded about the guy?).

Doesn't matter. the solstice is a beautiful holiday and if some johnny-come-lately messianic cult wants to horn in on the action, well, why not? The more the merrier.

Even if some of those newcomers insist on trying to crowd out everyone else with the inaccurate statement that "Jesus is the reason for the season." No, he's not. The solstice is the reason for the season. I suspect many Christians think about it as the "Let's-celebrate-the-life-of-the-guy-who-lived-a-few-thousand-years-ago-and-said-some-nice-things-about-trying-to-be-decent-to-each-other" time. Okay, great - but then don't pretend you're the only ones who can celebrate this time of year, or that you invented it, or that this time of year is really when dude was born. You're not, you didn't, and it wasn't.

Humans, like many other organisms, notice the path the sun seems to carve through our sky, and we record how many hours and minutes it appears to be gone from where we sit as our tiny blue orb tilts and wobbles through the vacuum of space. So why shouldn't we rejoice when the nights finally stop getting longer, when the days finally stop getting shorter, when we have empirical evidence to support the hope that, no matter how crappy everything else might be going, some sense and rhythm has been maintained in the natural order?

So, fellow bipeds, chins up! Build a fire, light the candles, turn on the lights on the tree and around the windows - we know that days are getting longer very soon, and that light will return, and that with it, eventually, warmth.

And just because we know why this happens doesn't mean that it's any less remarkable, or that the season can't have wonder and mystery and renewal and peace.

And so may the growing light bring us growing hope for brighter days, in all senses of the word. And may we all find reason to celebrate this Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule, Kwanzaa, and New Year - and light and warmth and new growth.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

15 December 2009

We who laugh last...

Case 1: During the Dreyfus Affair, which ripped France apart in late 1800's, the institutional Catholic Church was at its odious worst, using its mouthpieces in the press to slander, calumnify and lie against Col. Dreyfus, his supporters, and "the Jews." At the time, the church's position in Republican France was near-unassailable - the institution had recovered from the secularism of the Revolution era and through the Bourbon restoration had regained much of its wealth, authority, and centrality in public life and civil society. By lying - and let's be clear, some members of the Church hierarchy lied and lied and lied through the Dreyfus Affair, accusing defenders of the wrongfully accused Dreyfus, an Alsatian Jew, of being members of a Jewish conspiracy with the Freemasons (oh, yeah, cuz the Freemasons were so down with the Jews?) - and leading hysterical denunciations of Dreyfus in the press, the Catholic right helped to preserve the French Republic. The Dreyfus case roused the French left, invigorated those who believed in the rule of law, including Emile Zola, and lead to a broad coalition of Republicans, secularists, intellectuals, and Jewish leaders, to invigorate the French Republic and to once and for all pass a law for the Separation of Church and State that is still on the books and enforced.

Had rightist members of the Catholic Church hierarchy not waded in so deeply to the Dreyfus Affair, might the institution not have been so tainted and been able to preserve its privileged position in French government and society? Who knows? It does seem at least likely, however, that the zealotry and ignorance - in every sense of the word - of the anti-Dreyfusards made making the case against them even easier, made de-establishing the Catholic Church easier, and made the final legal step of the secularization of French society, begun in 1789, finally complete. Last laugh? Not the liars, calumnifiers, bigots and churchmen.

Case 2: In 1992, when I lived in Colorado, the voters there approved a statewide amendment - Amendment 2 - banning any local gay rights laws. At the time, there were a total of two, in Denver and Boulder, and Vail was thinking about one. This wasn't to outlaw gay marriage - that couldn't have even been considered at the time - this was an initiative lead by Christian fundamentalists in Colorado Springs to nullify the efforts of OTHER municipalities to extend the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to all of their citizens, i.e., to make it illegal to fire someone because they were gay, to deny housing to someone because they were gay, etc. (Yes, in Colorado in 1992, outside of Boulder and Denver, I could be fired for being gay. And the good Christians in Colorado Springs wanted to keep it that way. Because you know, if not, I might go recruiting. Who knows what they are thinking? They think that dinosaurs and humans are co-contemporary, so really...)

Amendment 2 passed. For the first time in my life, I woke up with fewer civil liberties than I had when I went to bed. This wasn't theoretical, this was real - I lived in Denver, and a majority of my fellow Coloradans thought that I should be able to have fewer protections under the law than they had.(*1) The Mayor of Denver, Wellington Webb (an African American who had been courageous in opposing Amendment 2) and the Governor of Colorado, Roy Romer, attended an anti-Amendment 2 Rally on the steps of the State Capitol the next weekend, and there was a huge throng of people out to protest its passage.

There were lawsuits brought, and they went to the Supreme Court in a case called Romer v. Evans (they named Romer as defendant since he was Governor, despite his strong opposition). On May 20, 1996, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that Colorado's Amendment 2 was unconstitutional (duh) - saying:

Its sheer breadth is so discontinuous with the reasons offered for it that the amendment seems inexplicable by anything but animus toward the class that it affects; it lacks a rational relationship to legitimate state interests.

[Amendment 2] is at once too narrow and too broad. It identifies persons by a single trait and then denies them protection across the board. The resulting disqualification of a class of persons from the right to seek specific protection from the law is unprecedented in our jurisprudence.

The religious leaders of Colorado Springs, by attempting to deny gay folk in two municipalities in Colorado equal protection under the law, initiated a case that lead to the Supreme Court de facto declaring that equal rights are equal rights, instantly making null the legal basis of Bowers v. Hardwick (1986 - the infamous Supreme Court decision upholding the state's interest to make sodomy illegal) and giving a very strong basis on which to challenge it. Lawrence v. Texas (2003) did just that; all sodomy laws in the country were overturned in a single stroke. Further, there is now an extant Supreme Court decision recognizing that animus toward gay folk isn't enough reason on which to base a law, that gay folk are a protected class due to such animus, and that while not cited as such, created tremendous momentum for the gay marriage movement.

And in May, 2007, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter signed into law a non-discrimination ordinance protecting all Coloradans from discrimination in public accommodation, housing and employment regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression. State wide.

Last laugh? Not the liars, calumnifiers, bigots and churchmen or -women.

I thought of all of this with the news out of Houston and New York and Uganda this week. It's heartbreaking, what religious folks do in the name of Christ to deny equal rights to gay folk, through lies and laws, with fear and murder, around the world. But this is what religion does - it otherizes, it twists, it corroborates or instills fear, it placates inquiry, it satiates base tribal needs - as it always has, from Dreyfus, from the Middle Ages and the Jew-baiting for the plague (never mind that Jewish neighbors were dying in the same numbers). But it doesn't win. Clemenceau, a rabid and raging atheist, became French Prime Minister and the Civil Law of 1905 got passed. Coloradans did the right thing and got a state wide non-discrimination law. Houstonians ignored the calumny of religious leaders about a lesbian candidate for mayor and elected her. New Hampshire gets gay marriage - the full thing - on January 1st. New York doesn't, yet, but will - can we really doubt that?

So when we get despondent about all of the news from the struggles on gay marriage in this country, just think - in 1992 in Colorado some bigots thought they'd tell the Cities of Denver and Boulder that they had to discriminate against their gay neighbors, and now there is a state-wide law protecting gay folk; beginning in a few weeks there's one more state, New Hampshire, in which I'll be able to get married.(*2) No gay kid growing up in Houston thinks he or she is the only one in the world, or that his or her life choices need to be circumscribed by who he or she is.

And in Uganda? Well, that road is longer, and darker, no question. But think of Colonel Dreyfus in prison, and think of who might be Emile Zola or Wellington Webb or Annise Parker.

And maybe some gay kid in Uganda will, like many before her or him, have the last laugh.

(*1) And this is not theoretical. While living in Long Beach in 1999, Arnold and I decided to move in together. When I told my landlord that my boyfriend was moving in with me, he told me that I'd have to move. Nevermind that my neighbors were an unmarried (straight) couple; or that every other unit in his 4-unit walk up had two or people living in it, none of whom were married - we couldn't live there. Well, in fact, thanks to California law (and the fact that Arnold used to work for fair housing Long Beach), we could. These things happen, all the time, everywhere - it's not theoretical. In which one of the Beatitudes does Christ say to disposses the housed, again?

(*2) No, not that anyone at Bren's Left Coast is asking or being asked - just sayin'

11 December 2009

Stories from the week -

Here are some things I noticed in the news this week -

  1. Yay, Team! Once again, human discipline, effort and commitment has led to a scientific breakthrough with the potential to ease human suffering and prevent death. Which disease? Sickle Cell Anemia. As reported in a story in the LA Times:
    "Researchers have for the first time performed a successful bone marrow transplant to cure sickle cell disease in adults, a feat that could expand the procedure to more of the 70,000 Americans with the disease -- and possibly some other diseases as well."
    How great is that? Go scientists!

  2. So let's see - Vietnam (per capita income: US$1024) has made a commitment to build high speed rail, and California (per capita income US$38,900) can't? As reported in the Japan Times, Vietnam has decided to go with Japanese technology in building their high speed rail system, beating out the German/French consortium. Political will is easier to muster in a one party state, no question, but the lack of will to seize the future here in California is troubling. The wealth of California has been built on innovation - the world's best university system from the 1960's to the 1990's, the University of California holds 11,000 patents and has acted as an incubator for scientific, pharmaceutical, and of course information technological advancements (together, fine, with Stanford, CalTech, and the Cal State system). We used to do things big here in Cali, and we are slowly killing the goose that laid the golden eggs of our culture, society and economy by strangling the funding for the higher education system here. It's a shame - we've we've lost our commitment to educational excellence and access for all Californians, and we've lost our will to seize the future. We've lost our nerve. And Vietnam, and other countries and cultures around the world, are not going to wait for us to get it back.

  3. Ah, religion (take 1). As reported in the SF Chronicle, it seems that the huge influx of cash coming into Somalia is throwing the economy out of whack, and many of the poor, young, male pirates who are now awash in cash and buying trucks and sex and drugs are no longer living a virtuous lifestyle. The thoughts of one religious leader?
    "That is what is worrying us, a lot more than the risk they pose to the foreign ships and crew." Nice. Nevermind that people are getting threatened and that kidnappers are using the threat of murder, or actual murder; according to one mosque leader, the real problem is the dissolute lifestyle that the newly wealthy are living. What is it with religious leaders worried about sex and dissolution more than human life? Seriously? Read the story here.

  4. Ah, religion (take 2). So in Uganda, homosexuality is illegal now. And if you know someone who is gay and you don't report them as gay so they can be put in jail, well, then you can go to jail too. You don't have to have sex to be labelled homosexual and put in jail, you just have to BE homosexual. So that's nice. And guess who is helping get this initiative passed? Religious leaders, of course, lying about gay people and our lives to spread hatred and misinformation. None other than Pastor Rick, whom Obama invited to preside over the inauguration, had ties to Ugandan Christian clergy pushing the bill. As reported in The Week and elsewhere, Warren and other American religious leaders, including Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams, who wrote "The Pink Swastika" which argues that homosexuality led to Nazi atrocities. They all had or currently have ties with Ugandan clergy who were pushing the bill (because whenever people spouting superstition, hatred and fear need ideological cover, to whom do they turn? Religious leaders. Inevitably.) Check this out:
    "Homosexuality is infectious," says Ugandan Anglican Bishop Joseph Abura in Spero News. "But gays and their sympathizers want to export it here, to spread their satanic 'gay agenda.' Uganda must pass the anti-gay law to stop them, and others who 'want to uproot or bend our cherished traditions and values. For some Anglicans, vices are now virtues.'
    Sing it with me: "And we'll know they are Christians by their lies, and their fear / Yes we'll know they are Christians by their hate." In final passage, the Ugandan law was diluted - it's no longer a capital offense to be gay, just an imprisonable offense. You no longer will get executed for being gay, just thrown in jail. Jesus must be so proud.

  5. Ah, religion (Take 3) - it's really like fish in a barrel this week. Mayor Russell Wiseman of Arlington, Tennessee (population 4000, up from just 1500 in 1990 according to the US Census), a fast growing ex-urban community 30 miles outside of Memphis, is mad at our President. It seems that he sat his family down to watch the Charlie Brown Christmas Special and Mr. Obama was giving a speech at West Point about escalating the war, which preempted it. Naturally, Mr. Wiseman called Mr. Obama a Muslim, said it was all by design, and called it "total crap." The Facebook posting, sic's and all, is here:
    "Ok, so, this is total crap, we sit the kids down to watch 'The Charlie Brown Christmas Special' and our muslim president is there, what a load.....try to convince me that wasn't done on purpose. Ask the man if he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and he will give you a 10 minute disertation (sic) about it....w...hen the answer should simply be 'yes'...."

    Mr. Wiseman (and does anyone else wonder if maybe he has some ancestors who members of the Tribe, hmmm?) went on to say some more great stuff, here quoting further from the Memphis Commercial Appeal story on it:
    In Wiseman's extensive thread that attacked the president, his supporters and Muslims, he stated "...you obama people need to move to a muslim country...oh wait, that's America....pitiful."
    At another point he said, "you know, our forefathers had it written in the original Constitution that ONLY property owners could vote, if that has stayed in there, things would be different........"

    Setting aside the abuse of periods of ellipses and the grammar confusion, where does one start? I'm sure the church he goes to every weekend nurtures his good Christian belief that Obama is a Muslim and only property holders should be able to vote. Let's not ask him about whether all the queers should be rounded up and put in jail, shall we?

  6. And because Bren'sLeftCoast likes to end on a positive note, and because it was a tough week, news-wise, let's just end with a picture of the beautiful Southern California mountains with more snow than I've ever seen on them, from Tuesday. (Photo taken by Genaro Molina /Los Angeles Times)

And here's to a better week ahead.

10 December 2009

Screw the South / Dig the South (2 of 2)

I have now passed the one year anniversary of beginning this post - it was one of the first that I started - and it's time to finish. (Not finishing has been holding up some of my other writing, so this might be one I just need to move off my mental plate, as it were, to make room for the next course.) Criticizing the South has been very easy for me; finding things to praise, Sisyphean. Whenever I'd get some momentum on this I'd come across a story like the town in Alabama with two proms, one for whites and one for blacks; or the Justice of the Peace in a Louisiana parish who wouldn't marry blacks and whites; or the tweaks made to Ole Miss fight song so that their students - their STUDENTS - don't chant "The South Will Rise Again" at its conclusion; or the mayor of a small southern town shows the world his particular brand of crazy as he posts the following on his Facebook account: "Ok, so, this is total crap, we sit the kids down to watch 'The Charlie Brown Christmas Special' and our muslim president is there, what a load.....try to convince me that wasn't done on purpose." (And no, I'm not making that up.)

Yeah. Fish in a barrel for the "I hate the South" post.

But it's been more than that delaying me, too - I have had to countenance my ambivalence about the South, and Southerners, and fundamental aspects of my character and what I believe. I possess many of the traits of a stereotypical Southerner, and though I revile the region's fetishization of a simulacra of history there is much about the region and its people that I admire and even share. In undergrad, playing euchre one time with roommates with the Indigo Girls singing "Southland in the Spring Time" on in the background, the line "When God made me born a Yankee he was teasin'" made one of my roommates say "That's you, pal."

And he was right, I do have a Southern sensibility. I was raised to always answer a question from my parents or any grownup with "Yessir" or No sir," "Yessum" or "No'm" - it was so engrained as to be almost muscle memory, and a hard habit to break when we moved into town. Our speech was Southern - or mine was as I spoke like everyone in Fowler spoke, speech languorous and laden with diphthongs (mayzhure), and long "e"'s where most people pronounced clipped "e"'s or "i"'s (passeengers, deeshes) and strong emphasis on initial syllables (INsurance, XEErox). There was a strong deference to authority, and a clear sense of how to behave in public and in public interactions. When a lady enters the room, you stand. You hold doors open for whomever is behind you. You take off your hat inside. Bad manners would get you sent to the car. But those aren't really Southern traits, are they? I suspect many Midwestern boys, or California boys or any American boys growing up in the 1970's had at least some of the same shared parenting and manners; maybe it's just that the south is more conservative in this as in everything else, and more of it stuck there?

Recently when I was having breakfast at the little restaurant up the street from my office in downtown Palo Alto. Two lovely, grey haired women of a certain age came in and were a bit befuddled by the ordering protocol. When speaking to each other, not loudly or in an emotionally exhibitionistic sort of way, but with their indoor voices, it was clear they were Southerners. The young woman behind the counter was deferential, sorted them out, and then asked "Do you mind if I ask where you're from?" The ladies were from Tennessee and the barista was from Texas and there was an instant bond. They were soon talking like old friends, yet there was a ritualistic form to their exchange almost: the younger woman making her query, making a claim to a shared cultural membership, making small talk about their trip - it was unhurried and generous. (The following Saturday the Tejana was working and a lovely, grey haired lady of a certain age ordered right in front of me - and couldn't have been ruder. She didn't make requests, she made imperious demands; she was brusque and loud; she was unsatisfied with the answers to her 63 follow up questions; the exchange could not have been more different. The barista, after the Palo Altan empress had moved to her table out of earshot, visibly slumped and said to me and in general to the air around her, "Why couldn't she just be a little nice?" Excellent question.)

I have been in the South more since I started dating J (June '08) than in all of my previous life combined, if we accept that coastal Florida isn't the South. I've now been to South Carolina for the first time, and I've driven through non-interstate parts of Georgia, North Carolina, Louisiana and Tennessee as well. I have a 1992 Road Atlas - a Marquette graduation gift - in which I've highlighted every road I've driven in the US, and before this year there were huge swathes of the South with no color. Airports? Yes. Driving? Not until recently.

And I have found I really loved it. My skepticism would melt when I'd walk into a diner and be called "hon", or when I'd hold a door open for an elderly lady and she'd pause on her way through and look up at me and say "thank you, young man," or when I would revert to childhood habits of appending "Ma'am" and "Sir" to the end of most replies and get no funny looks. It's how I was raised to be, and it's comforting to be in a place where those manners are reciprocated and where social interactions are facilitated with an expectation of the acknowledgment of the other.

And what I've learned from these past two years is that of course the South is not monolithic; that there are some Democrats and even Liberals; that the races do mix in many places without enmity; that gay folk can be out in more places than just Atlanta, New Orleans and Memphis.

In Columbia, South Carolina, out for a nice dinner with J, I saw more inter-racial couples and more mixing of white and black folk generally than I remember seeing in Milwaukee or Chicago or Indy; and on top of it I had one of the best meals of my life. We were at Diane's on Devine, a place I found by doing a search for "romantic restaurants Columbia, SC." (If you're in Columbia - GO! Great, great meal.) We got there late-ish, most tables were at the dessert and coffee stage when we got our menus, and we got a table in the middle of the room as all the booths were taken. No one rushed us, no one gave us attitude.

Shortly after we'd been seated, a gentleman standing by the bar saw someone he recognized across the restaurant and strode to greet him. "HOW YA DOIN', OLD FELLA!" he boomed, before dropping back to his indoor voice. Seeing my eyes widen, JTB said "That's one thing I'm going to miss about the South, that hearty greeting and friendliness."

Our servers were absolutely fantastic - one was a Colts fan who was enrolled at Univ of South Carolina, the other had just moved back to her native South Carolina from San Francisco. The diners over behind J were out for their anniversary dinner, the couple behind me had been married 38 years and had just celebrated their anniversary the week before, and the young couple over my right shoulder, well, now they've got a wedding to plan since she said yes. An unusual set of circumstances (and one that led me to a peremptory and joking "don't get any ideas..." from me), sure, but the way that folks were getting along and talking story, as they say in Hawai'i, was beguiling.

At the other end of the dining spectrum, the Waffle House off exit 55 in Lexington, SC, is where JTB and I had breakfast the morning I left. Everyone knew each other and there was a lot of heartiness and jawing. One regular, smoking in the corner, ordered jam for his toast and a waitress yelled back at him from 15 feet away "What happened, Wheeler, you fall off the jam wagon, too?" Wheeler didn't look like he said no to much. It was the kind of place to which I bet I could go twice and people would recognize me, three times and I'd be "their Yankee." A few tables cleared and one of the employees who was working our area asked about J's ring, first, and then lowered his voice a little bit and asked "Are y'all family?"

"Yup, we are," I said.

"I thought maybe. Y'all in town for Pride?"

"No, we're not. " Pause as I thought about how to explain why we were in Lexington, South Carolina, and then, "Wait. Columbia has a Pride?"

"Yup, it's a big one, too - RuPaul performed at it last year!" His personal pride and excitement was evident.

You coulda knocked me over. And then he told us about his boyfriend, who was working back in the kitchen, and their house, and if we hadn't had to leave I'd'a bet we'd'a had invitations to a barbecue before long.

I like that friendliness, and as I've thought about these things and my feelings about the South over the past year in an attempt to write this, I've realized that by temperament I am not ironic or detached; that my intellectual and social stance is engagement, les mains sales; and that my default setting for public and social interactions is conservative - manners, respect, and awareness of communal expectations. This has surprised me, given my deep distrust of class and class markers (I once inveighed for 20 minutes on how wearing nice clothes to an event like a wedding reinforced socioeconomic strata, and I still believe it - and don't get me started on college bumper stickers; in most cases I find them as tacky as the guy in the 90s who would wear a different Hard Rock sweatshirt every week - "Reykjavik" or "Nagoya" - to show his ability to spend money).

Maybe it was all of those years in Japanese and Hawaiian culture - where one avoids being direct to avoid being rude, where knowing the social markers and how to behave is important - that has affected my perception of these things. There are similarities to Hawai'i, I've thought that before, particularly with New Orleans and Hawai'i. Food is important. Work is a means to an end. Neither culture is linear or time-based, they are relationship based.

In any event, I do believe that in the South people know how to behave in the public sphere. And no, it's not just in the South where you can experience this. My buddy Dave, a native Minnesotan, and I were in Milwaukee recently, and we both commented how if we were in Cali or South Florida the food would have been twice as expensive, half as good, and served with a side of surly.

I don't mean to idealize it. There was a reason that server at Waffle House was so excited about Gay Pride, a reason that a Californian may have forgotten. That crazy mayor in Tennessee has a lot of supporters. Some of the worst service I've had in the last year was at Rock'n'Bowl in New Orleans (much mitigated by the cheapness of the beer and the quality of the Zydeco band and, let's face it, being able to bowl).

The flip side - well, I've already written about parts of the flip side, but Southern culture can be tribal, insular, suspicious, superstitious and mistrustful.

But there is a strong regional culture that has been maintained in this national media age, and there are things about it that unquestionably contribute greatly to our national character. And in spite of myself there's a lot about it I really like.

But for now, I'll keep Senators Boxer and Feinstein, thanks.

09 December 2009

Nothing gold can stay

I don't know what to say or how to write this, so I'll let the obituary speak for itself.

Steven McClure, 39, of Huntsville passed away Monday.
He is a 1988 graduate of Grissom High School and attended Auburn University. He resided in Colorado before returning home to Huntsville.

Survivors include his parents...; brothers...; sister...; nephews...; nieces...; partner ...; and dear friend...

The memorial service will be at 4 p.m. Friday at Laughlin Service Funeral Home.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Greater Huntsville Humane Society or to the ARK.

This is the Stevie about whom I wrote in a previous blog entry. I was listening to iTunes when a song came on that reminded me of him: Waiting for That Day, by George Michael. He used to chant the coda to me, "You can't always get what you waaaant...," when I'd be whining about something.

And on a whim, thinking about him, I Googled him. His death notice was in the Huntsville paper only two weeks ago.

Since readers here got to know something about him, I thought it only appropriate to share the news, and to say that the world is diminished by his loss.

I remember him as a fiercely decent man who was smart, and beautiful, and innately attuned to exposing injustice.

I am at a loss for words.

He was 39.