saltgrass tales (by GP Morris)


GP Morris is the son of my father’s brother Ray. He is a graduate of the University of Texas in Austin. He has lived in or around Houston, Texas all of his life but has a son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter living in Seattle, Washington;  a daughter, son-in-law and another granddaughter live in Tyler, Texas.  He recently began a journal of stories for his grandchildren and sent several to me. This is my favorite to date.

milky way
Lying on my back, I could see him through the slats.
He was doing the same. A smile on his face.
It was bright inside and out. He got up and
grabbed the top rail with both hands. He rocked
back ’n forth. He was laughing.
He bent down and picked up his bottle. Holdin’ it
above his head…rockin’ on his feet. Something was
about to happen. I quickly drug my bottle to the far
corner and started drinkin’.
His crib was four feet away. He flung his bottle
across the room. It clipped the top rail of my crib,
spun and shattered. He was still laughing.
My mouth clenched a nipple attached to 1/2 a
bottle. Milky shards of glass strewn about my crib.
Hot and sticky…all shapes and sizes. Sparkly wet in
the sunlight I put one in my mouth.
At that moment she opened the door. She calmly
took the glass from my mouth, gently inspected my
mouth and said, “No blood”. In one motion she
scooped me up, held me close and quietly sobbed.
The salt of her tears mixed with the milk on my
face. She turned around. He was crying.
She picked him up and we were three. She did not
put us down for an hour.

Gene and his twin brother Dean surrounded by their Morris cousins

Stay tuned.

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, politics, racism, Reflections, Slice of Life, sports, The Way Life Is | Tagged , | 6 Comments

nobody says it better than Serena


This past Tuesday night I spoke at Chris Maw’s monthly social Words and Wine which brings authors and readers together in an informal setting for food, wine, and friendly interaction. My thanks to a friend of many moons, Fred Quattlebaum of Modern Family Asset Management, for sponsoring the event and to musicians Marty Lopez and Julien Kaprino for providing great entertainment. I was invited to talk about my newest book, Four Ticket Ride, but whenever I speak about my writing, my thoughts turn to truth and equality.

I read while…

 

…Pretty’s smile sells books!

At her press conference this past Saturday following her loss in the finals at Wimbledon, Serena Williams was questioned about why she lost. Although she tried to say her opponent played a brilliant match, the members of the press wouldn’t let it go. They asked her if she thought her lack of match play in 2019 had hurt her, whether her role as a mother took too much time away from her tennis, and finally someone said they heard Billie Jean King wondered if she spent too much time supporting equal rights or other political issues.

Serena’s quick response to that question was “The day I stop supporting equality is the day I die.” I can identify with her answer because I’d like to believe my actions to support equality and social justice are two of the dominant forces of my life.

My first understanding of how it teels to be treated as a second class person came at an early age and became the impetus for my lifetime support of equality, too. My dad gave me the vision of looking at the whole world as my territory. Nothing should be impossible if I set goals and then worked hard to achieve them.  There were no limits, according to him. When I entered the work force at the age of 21 in 1967, I learned very quickly that there were, indeed, limits.

Limits were imposed by powerful men in positions of leadership in the places I worked from Houston, Texas to Seattle, Washington to Columbia, South Carolina – men with tanned skins and silver hair who sat behind large impressive oak desks, men who saw me despite my impeccable credentials as lesser than my co-workers whose singular good fortune was that their gender and the color of their skin made them superior to me in the eyes of my bosses.

It was a rude awakening for me to find out that my dad had been wrong. But that rude awakening changed my life as I took part in the battleground for ratification of the equal rights amendment here in South Carolina in the 1970s, my involvement in the civil rights movement in Columbia in the 1980s and eventually coming to the most passionate cause of my life: the LGBTQ movement for equality in the 1990s. I want to be able to say with Serena that the day I stop supporting equality is the day I die.

For me, writing has been my platform for supporting equal rights during the past 13 years. For ten of those years, I have had the most fun as a blogger on my wordpress blog I’ll Call It Like I See It. When I finish a blog, usually after many re-writes, all I have to do is click on the word publish and my words fly through cyberspace to readers who either choose to follow me or randomly read my posts whenever a topic interests them. One observation I’ve made about my readers is that you all are far more interested in Pretty than you are in my political commentaries.

I saw a segment about the author, vlogger and you tube super star John Green on Sixty Minutes this past Sunday night. John Green, the author of the Fault in our Stars and a ton of other titles has a Twitter following of more than 5 million. My blog, I’ll Call it Like I see It, on the other hand, has 1,700 followers. Thank goodness my daddy also offered me the good advice of never comparing myself to others. Some people will be better off and some people will not, but that’s not how we are measured.  In spite of that advice, I will do a small comparison.

I am thrilled that in the first 6 months of 2019, I’ve reached people in more than 60 countries from Argentina to Vietnam through 36 posts with nearly 5,000 hits. My top five countries for followers are the US, the UK, India, Canada and France. Small potatoes to John Green, but quite an amazing audience for a little girl from deep in the piney woods of Grimes County, Texas who grew up in a time where her family’s only communication device was a two party telephone line that her grandmother on her daddy’s side used for spying on her neighbors.

Truth telling is a lost art.  Honesty is no longer a virtue nor is it admired by everyone we come in contact with.  Nonfiction writing lacks the pop and sizzle of fiction, although I like to think sometimes it’s a close second.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is the scene where the tortured son Brick played by Paul Newman discussed his problems with his father Big Daddy played by Burl Ives. Brick blamed his alcoholism on mendacity which he claimed affected everything in the universe but especially the family he came from.  Big Daddy wasn’t so sure about that claim, but I have to say Brick just might have been on to something powerful. I was so impressed with this idea that I devoted a chapter I call Human Frailty and Mendacity in my latest book Four Ticket Ride to the concept.

Ideas for writing come to me in random places, but what I can promise you is that I try to bring truth telling to every piece I write.

Stay tuned.

P.S. Thanks so much to everyone who bought my books from Pretty Tuesday night – we almost sold out! I loved meeting you all and look forward to seeing you again in November.

P.S.P.S. Thanks to our friend Saskia for taking pictures.

 

 

 

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all my happy trails lead to Pretty


I Wonder if Columbus Kept a Journal

(chapter one from Four Ticket Ride)

In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Five hundred years later in 1992 the maiden voyage of the Space Shuttle Endeavor began when the spacecraft was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Seven astronauts were aboard; the flight lasted nine days and was successful on several missions including the first time three astronauts walked in space together. 1992 was also an election year with President George H.W. Bush running for re-election in the U.S. against Bill Clinton and Ross Perot. The UK also had an election, but no news was more important in that part of the world than the breakup of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

The USA Mall of America opened its doors in August, 1992 at a time when the average income in the United States was $30,030 according to The People History. The Summer Olympics were held in Barcelona, Spain and the Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. The North American Free Trade Agreement better known as NAFTA was signed by President George H.W. Bush in December, 1992 a month after he lost his bid for re-election.

I was 46 years old when I voted for Bill Clinton in the 1992 election. I was in the third year of a new career path as a financial planner for Jefferson Pilot Life Insurance Company in Columbia, South Carolina, my home since 1972. In other words, I sold life insurance on a commission basis along with annuities and mutual funds to sweeten the deals. I was barely surviving financially and nowhere even close to the average annual income for U.S. citizens. I had to borrow money from my mother that year to pay my bills and keep consumer credit card companies happy.  Something had to give.

I was also madly, passionately infatuated with a pretty, fun, smart female client thirteen years younger than I was. We had loads of fun and sex whenever we were together, and that affair which began in 1991 carried an additional element of danger because we were both in long term relationships with other women. This, unfortunately, was a pattern I had established in my early twenties for my interpersonal connections that seemed to fit the sociological profile of serial monogamy. I was in my third long term lesbian monogamous partnership; the first two both ended with my infidelity. Add early onset menopause full of hot flashes to the mix, and I was truly a hot mess.

Recently I discovered a journal of mine from that time period. I was amazed at the contents. The entries were dated in the month of February, 1992. By this time my partner and I had split.  She had found my indiscretion at the end of 1991 through a phone bill that was clear evidence of what was going on in my affair. After six years together, she told me to get out and think about what I wanted in my life. One of our dogs, a Westie named Sassy, and I moved into an apartment not far from our house.

1992 was twenty-six years ago now so I have a few memory lapses, but I get exactly what was happening through the journal which was a day by day response to prompts from a self-help course taught by one of the popular gurus of the 1990s. Regardless of the creator of the course, I must have been desperate for help and unwilling or unable to consult a therapist. I would have been afraid to discuss my problems with someone who might judge me for being gay. I was out to some friends and family but not out at work and in many ways still struggling with internalized homophobia. The journal showed a gradual progression of self-awareness.

My journal was called the “Success Journal” – 20 days to success.

Day 1 – February 20, 1992

Two things to do that will improve my quality of life:

  1. Take bottles for recycling. *
  2. Buy 10 pound weights for exercise program*

 

*Done February 21, 1992 (with no noticeable improvement in my quality of life)

Day 2 – February 21, 1992

Four things I have not done that I want to do:

  1. Lose 12 pounds
  2. Separate from relationship (can’t do – see day 4 for revision)
  3. Coming “Out” to family and others
  4. Being financially wealthy

Days 3 and 4 were focused on Controlling my Destiny around the four things I had not done but wanted to do.

The losing 12 pounds never happened in the past twenty-six years although I faithfully made it my number one New Year’s resolution every year. I dishonestly changed wish #2 on Day Four to why I needed to stay in that relationship because I was afraid to make a change. Not too many days after Day 20, the Final Breakthrough Day, Sassy and I left the apartment and returned home where we stayed for twelve more years until my partner found someone new. Karma was alive and well.

I defined being financially wealthy in 1992 as buying new golf clubs, buying a new car, repaying the loan from my mother and paying off my credit cards (the order was vague); and having a maid, cook and gardener. I’m fairly certain I got the new golf clubs.

I will omit the discussion of empowering and disempowering neuro- associations, pattern interrupts, overcoming fears, and the next 18 Days to Success except for two poignant revealing passages in the journal.

Why I must come out to others:   (Day Four – February 23, 1992)

  1. I can be whole
  2. I can be honest
  3. I can be free of secrecy.
  4. I can be in control of my life.
  5. I can be healthier.
  6. I can be stronger.
  7. I can have energy for other parts of my life.
  8. I can be more at peace.
  9. I can be happier/more content
  10. I can know my friends.

As long as we are invisible, we are vulnerable.

The personal costs of the closet were the most important lessons I learned from my 20 Days to Success Program. I believe acknowledging those lessons in the winter of 1992 speeded up my coming out process that prepared me for the personal epiphany in the March on Washington the following year in April, 1993.

On Day 10, the day for Setting Goals, I wrote “I would love to write a book!” In 1992 that goal seemed as unlikely as having a maid, cook or gardener but in 2007, fifteen years later, my first book Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing was published.

Was my “Success Journal” a success? That’s a tough one for me. Are journals important for writers? That answer probably depends on the person, but journals indicate the compulsion writers have to record their experiences. This journal was only one of several I’ve started through the years, but periodically I open it to read about that middle-aged menopausal woman struggling to become a whole person.

(Thank goodness for Pretty who rescued me from myself 8 years later in 2000 and encouraged me to write that first book. Wow – all my happy trails lead back to Pretty.)

Stay tuned.

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happy 4th? not according to the immigrants who founded our country


July, 1776

(image from Deseret News, July 04, 2014)

(image from Deseret News, July 04, 2014)

I find it impossble to say the words Happy 4th. this year when there is no real life, no liberty whatsoever and certainly no successful pursuit of happiness for the thousands of asylum seekers illegally and immorally detained in subhuman conditions on this 4th. of July in detention centers scattered across the United States of America. I see no forgiveness for our trespasses against these people crossing the Rio Grande River whose only crime is seeking the same freedoms our ancestors sought when they crossed the Atlantic Ocean.

As gigantic military tanks roll across the mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial with the Blue Angels and Air Force One doing flyovers during a ceremony suspiciously remininiscent of dictatorships flaunting military might instead of a country that is celebrating the unalienable rights of all people, I wonder whether the time has come when the Declaration of Independence is no longer a supreme expression of our profound belief, but merely a cuiosity in a glass case.

Happy 4th? Not this year.

Stay tuned.

 

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one woman’s bucket list is another woman’s good life


me and my best friend Charly enjoy Pretty’s bucket list

Pretty’ s bucket list got one wish lighter this summer with the nearly completed screened in porch in our backyard. We had a screened porch with a wonderful squeaky wooden swing in the first house we bought and lived in together. During the first nine years of our marriage we were way too busy for swinging though.

Fast forward ten years, another four houses, and now too tired for swinging we are one door short of another screened in porch. Pretty is ecstatic to have her pool and porch waiting for her whenever she takes tiny amounts of time away from managing her antique empire to enjoy them.

I, on the other hand, have only the Evil PT sessions to interrupt my porch sitting and playing in the cool pool this summer. Poor me.

I thought about making a bucket list of my own but then decided why bother when Pretty’s list is working fine for me.

Charly advises when the heat gets to be too much,  head for the porch

Stay tuned and stay cool.

 

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Daddy and his dogs


Lordy, Lordy – my daddy loved his dogs.

Daddy with his bird dog in his lap, his open Bible on the table, 

and his hunting gun leaning in the background

The first and last memories of my daddy always include his love for his dogs, his family, his church and public education; and I’m pretty sure I have those in the right order. He was an outdoorsman, a quail hunter during season so the dogs we had were supposedly purebred pointers, but they never succeeded in the field because they couldn’t get used to the sound of guns since they spent their lives indoors sitting in his lap.

Daddy and his dog Dab watching a Longhorn football game on TV 

Daddy holding Seth while Dab relaxes in his own chair

This is how I remember my daddy – impeccably dressed in coordinated shirt, tie, jacket and slacks on his way to work or to church, but never too busy to say goodbye to one of his dogs.

My daddy, Dr. Glenn L. Morris, died way too young at the age of 51 on June 30, 1976. I remember him on every Father’s Day and all the days in between – still.

Cancer was the culprit for the loss of my father, and yesterday cancer claimed a friend of ours, Consuelo Heath, who also waged a long brave battle against this disease. Pretty and I send our sympathy and love to her wife Lynda Parker. Rest in peace, Consuelo.

Stay tuned.

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road trippin’


To say my mom and I had a complicated connection is an understatement. What I am grateful for, however, is that neither of us ever gave up on the other; and occasionally we set aside our differences, however briefly, to share a common interest. Like, for example, the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas. I found these pictures she had saved from a rare combo family experience fifteen years ago that triggered a flood of emotions as I went back in my memories to a time when Pretty and I made one of many visits to Texas to see my mother (this one after we had been together four years),  a time when none of us knew my mom was three years away from living in a Memory Care Unit in Houston, a time when we all agreed visiting the Bush Library together would be fun.

small note: Mom never would drop the “h” in Pretty’s name

I had a higher than usual anxiety level planning the trip of nearly a hundred miles from Mom’s home in Richmond, Texas to the Bush Library in College Station. After all, my mother, my wife and I would be in the rental car I had picked up at the airport in Houston – close quarters for the day trip. I needed everything to go off without a hitch, but a hitch was waiting for me. The rental car had a flat tire just 40 miles up the road.

Pretty and Mom all smiles when we discovered the flat

Smiles turned to frowns while we waited for roadside assistance,

but eventually we were back on the road to College Station

Pretty and I love a presidential library – even one located in Aggieland

Mom quickly lost interest in the library

so we spent time wandering the grounds outside

my mother and me in black and white – as we often were

lunch break, anyone?

Although neither Pretty nor I would ever say the George Bush Presidential Library made our library favorites list, the road trip was a memory maker, as my mother would say.

The future belongs to those who refuse to put aside the past; you can quote me on that.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

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Vive la France! D-Day, the donald, and the drop shot


The French have it all this week: 75th. Anniversary of the Allied invasion in WWII that began on the beaches in Normandy on June 06, 1944 (commonly referred to as D-Day); an American president on the continent who truly can’t stop himself from revealing his ignorance of, oh well, just about every nasty thing he finds to tweet about on an hourly basis; and the final week of the 2019 Roland-Garros tennis tournament, the second Grand Slam event of the year which finds familiar names in the men’s semi-finals and fresh faces in the women’s semis.

I am swept along by the stirring images of the American cemetery in Normandy, the stories of the amazing four women ages 92 – 99 known as the Rosies who were not only the Riveters but also the draftswomen and/or anything else needed, these four women representing all the women who worked building the planes, ships and bombs necessary for our soldiers waging a war in Europe, Africa and the Pacific. These women are in France for the D-Day Anniversary remembrance and will bring their memorie as well as their flowers for one of the crosses in the cemetery which belongs to a brother by his sister who has never had the opportunity to visit his grave. Tom Brokaw will also be on this site as he pays tribute one more time to the fallen soldiers of WWII who inspired his book in which he named them our Greatest Generation.

One of the women who wins the French Open this year will be a first time winner of a Grand Slam. The names of the four remaining women in the draw will be familiar only to those who follow women’s tennis regularly: Ash Barty of Australia, Johanna Konta of Great Britain, Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic and seventen-year-old Amanda Anisimova of the USA. These remarkable women managed to eliminate more familiar  tennis names like the Williams Sisters, defending champion Simona Halep, #1 player in the world Naomi Osaka, Madison Keys, Sloane Stevens, and 108 additional competitors who fought their hardest on the clay courts but lost to better players on a given day.

The men at Roland-Garros are also down to the final four, but their names are not only familiar but famous. Roger Federer of Switzerland meets his long-time rival Spanish clay court warrior Rafael Nadal in a much anticipated semi-final match. Federer has won 20 Grand Slam tournaments to Nadal’s 17. The Serbian Novak Djokovic has 15 Grand Slam titles but came into the French as the winner of the previous three major tournaments so a win for him would put him in a category all his own. Austrian Dominic Thiem will play Djokovic in the other semi-final on the men’s side. The French got the final four men in the correct order, but who could have predicted the women’s semi-finalists? I can’t wait.

Last  and definitely least, an American president trolls the international twitter space with irrelevant nonsense and makes his trip for D-Day a public relations nightmare for his staff and everyone he encounters on the other side of the Pond. I felt sorry for the Queen during his toast at the state banquet. She looked like she was wondering if her dogs would be more entertaining than this presidential impersonator from the Colonies. Poor Queen Elizabeth. And can anyone really believe the British royalty told the president to bring his whole commoner family for dinner?

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home (Happy Pride!)


In June, 2017 I shared my excitement about the upcoming publication of Southern Perspectives – the cover was all I had back then – but I could see the finish line of a very long journey. Two years later I am still excited about this collection of intimate personal stories that reminds all of us to never give up on our potential to change the world for good.  Onward.

Coming this December – a Must Read!

Read the intimate personal essays of 21 native or adopted South Carolinians who contributed significantly to the organizing of the queer community in our state from the AIDS crisis in 1984 to marriage equality in 2014.

http://www.sc.edu/uscpress/books/2017/7813.html.

Jim Blanton, Candace Chellew-Hodge, Matt Chisling, Michael Haigler, Harriet Hancock, Deborah Hawkins, Dick Hubbard, Linda Ketner, Ed Madden and Bert Easter, Alvin McEwen, Sheila Morris, Pat Patterson, Jim and Warren Redman-Gress, Nekki Shutt, Tony Snell, Carole Stoneking (deceased), Tom Summers, Matt Tischler and Teresa Williams answer the questions surrounding the reasons for their activism in a conservative state in the South during a tumultuous time in American politics when many people assumed the only activists in the queer community lived in San Francisco or New York City. These folks chose to remain committed to home instead of fleeing South Carolina. Why?

Although the book isn’t scheduled for release by the USC Press until December, I couldn’t let the Pride month of June (or the Obergefell Supreme Court decision two-year anniversary this week) go by without sharing my excitement over this book which has been in the making for the past 4 years. Harriet Hancock was my original creative impulse for undertaking the project and has been with me every step of the way toward the ultimate goal of collecting and sharing these stories.

I am grateful to all contributors for their unwavering willingness to participate, to Harlan Greene for a wonderful foreword and to the USC Press for their commitment to “home” authors.

Happy Pride!

Stay tuned.

Please contact me at smortex@aol.com if you are interested in obtaining a signed copy of Southern Perspectives.

 

 

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who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?


Apparently everyone.

The Democrats allow the Big Bad Wolf to ignore congressional subpoenas under the guise of special privileges for Big Wolves. Not just for himself but for anyone who they demand appear before Congressional committees on the second Tuesday of the third week in the fifth month under a full moon. Everyone knows wolves can’t be expected to testify about anything when there’s a full moon.

For verification, ask the Big Bad Wolf Teddy Bear who will agree that the Big Bad Wolf is always right so don’t nobody go up in that Congressional Hill to testify. I’m saying, don’t nobody.

And nobody does.

Meanwhile, the Republicans just lay low – so low they can’t see past their fear that the Big Bad Wolf will eat them in a primary down the road. That’s low.

Where in the world is Little Red Riding Hood when we need her? Oh my goodness. I see her walking down the lane right this minute. What’s that she’s saying? I can’t hear her until she gets closer.

“Tra la. Tra la. What’s the matter with you Americans? Impeach the Big Bad Wolf and get that chaos creating limelight loving immigrant child murdering racist S.O.B. out of the White House.”

Tra la. Tra la. I couldn’t agree more with you, Little Red Riding Hood.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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