Monday, May 2, 2011

Look to the Rainbow

Look, look, look to the rainbow.
Follow it over the hill and the stream.
Look, look, look to the rainbow.
Follow the fellow who follows a dream.

--Songwriters: Burton Lane & E.Y. Harburg
Click here to hear Petula Clark sing "Look to the Rainbow." (Petula Clark played the role of Sharon McLonergan in the 1968 film version of "Finian's Rainbow," along with Fred Astaire as her father and Tommy Steele as Og the Leprechaun. You can read about the movie on the imdb web site.

The year 2011 has not been a kind one in many ways, and I've pretty much kept silent through the first third of the year. I hope that is at an end, now, and I'll try to explain just why I've been so down.

It started with my eyes. I was going blind due to cataracts in both eyes. We tend to take our eyes for granted, even when we watch someone else, someone near and dear to us lose their own eyesight. My mother, who loved to read and who knitted, crocheted and did very intricate needlework, developed glaucoma and macular degeneration. My dear friend Don, the first boy I ever had a crush on, has a hereditary disease that causes the males in his family to develop macular degeneration at an early age. I, myself, have worn glasses since I was in fifth grade, but somehow I thought I was exempt from further eye problems. Ahh, but it was not to be.

I first noticed problems this past fall. Even though I was wearing a prescription that was just a year old, my vision had become imprecise, to say the least. By winter, I was having trouble seeing when driving at night. On-coming headlights blinded me. I stopped driving at night, which also forced me to stop singing with the Missoula Gay Men's Chorus as I was afraid to try to get across Missoula in the dark, and I was beginning to have trouble reading the music.

At last I broke down and set up an appointment with my optometrist. I wasn't going crazy, but I was going blind. I had cataracts in both eyes, and I'd need to have them surgically removed. We set a date for me to meet with the surgeon, the doctor my optometrist told me he'd use if he had the need. Meanwhile, reading was becoming difficult as was working on my computer. As for photography, well I just about gave it up. I was having to rely on my camera as I couldn't tell through the viewer what was and was not in focus. Loading the pictures onto the computer and blowing them up didn't help, as I still couldn't bring things into a sharp focus. I gave up on writing for the same reason. No sharp focus, except the constant fear of complete blindness.

Me at 15.
Taken July, 1965 on Waikiki, Honolulu, Hawai'i

Then the Montana Legislature opened its ninety-day session, and it quickly became apparent that one of their main foci was going to be the repeal of Montana's Medical Marijuana law. Never before had the Legislature overthrown a voter-approved initiative. As the session wore on, it became apparent that we were dealing with a group of people who fit the old saw, "My mind is made up, don't confuse me with facts." My own personal facts included the large number of people I had come to love who were able to live their lives more fully through the powers of this illicit herb. And I have to admit that repeal of the law would most likely cause me to face bankruptcy and the loss of property that has been in my family for almost sixty years.

As the Legislature became more and more obsessed with repeal (there were several reform bills presented, some of which I could have easily supported), the reform bills were tabled or ignored, and repeal was the only thing the Republicans would consider. When they finally pushed through the repeal bill, the governor vetoed it along with many other bills the governor described as "bat-shit crazy." In a last minute action, the Senate wrote a "reform" bill and pushed it through, having to set aside their own rules to get the bill passed. The House then had to set aside their rules to accept the bill, and proceeded to make a bad bill even worse. I won't go into all the intricacies of the bill. The original version was forty-nine pages long. The stated purpose was to reduce the number of medical marijuana cards in Montana from the present number of approximately 30,000 to a mere 2,000. No one knows what inspired that figure. The long and short is that anyone who had a card for "Chronic Pain" would lose the card on July 1st. All stores would have to close by July 1st. Patients who still had a card after that date could grow their own, or have someone else grow for them, as long as the grower gave them the product and didn't charge for it. And a grower could only grow for three people at a maximum. Kevin and I have over three-hundred patients we provide for. This law puts us out of business.

I'd go to work in the morning, and face the fear and anger of our patients. That in turn would get me upset, raising both my blood pressure and my blood sugar levels. By the fall of 2009, I had succeeded in getting my glucose levels down from a high of 350 to almost normal levels. My doctor was quite pleased. Now, my monitor showed that I was back up into the 300s. I stopped using my monitor. It just added to my tension. I also stopped going to work.

The Legislature adjourned April 28th. The Montana Legislature meets for a maximum of 90 days EVERY OTHER YEAR. Unless a special session is called, they will not meet again until 2013. In their final days, they handed the governor Senate Bill 423, the so-called "reform" bill. On Friday, April 30th, the governor announced that while he thought that parts of the bill were unconstitutional, and that none of the bill really addressed Montana's problems, he would allow it to go into law without his signature. We are out of business as of June 30th, unless we get a last-minute reprieve. The reprieve can come in several forms, but the easiest (if not the most likely) is that the governor will have a change of heart and veto the bill. He has one more week in which to do that. Failing a veto, there will be a petition drive to get 75,000 signatures across the state asking the courts to nullify the bill. That will be harder, and it depends on the courts agreeing with the petitioners.

Was I ever this young?
Taken in August 1966 at the California State Fair, Sacramento

Finally, in all this mess, we have the actions of the Federal Government. The Bush administration (GW Bush, that is) had made no bones about prosecuting marijuana users and providers, even in states where medical marijuana was legal under state law. When Obama was elected, he stated that it was a misuse of federal funds to prosecute people acting under the laws of their own state. His Attorney General, Eric Holder, issued a written memorandum saying exactly that. So we were told. Then Obama appointed a known anti-marijuana zealot as head of the DEA. Since Obama's inauguration in 2009, the feds have prosecuted over 100 marijuana cases. Contrast this with 200 prosecutions during the entire eight years of the Bush administration. My only conclusion is that Obama and Holder lied to us. As we watched, federal agents raided shops in California and Colorado. On one day in Montana, the DEA, ATF, and Homeland Security agents raided fourteen shops in Montana alone, seizing computers, files, product and destroying hundreds of living plants. The U.S. Attorney for Montana sent a letter to the Legislature saying that the feds would prosecute state employees who issued medical marijuana cards. The U.S. Attorneys in Washington state sent a similar letter to governor Christine Gregoire. In other words, the federal government is back to its tricks of blackmailing the states. Just as they did with the 18 year old drinking age, seat belt laws and the 55 mph speed limit, the feds are saying "Do it our way, or we'll get you." I seem to remember hearing about something similar happening 150 years ago.

Our governor's announcement last Friday threw me into a deep funk. I got through Saturday, somehow, and Sunday. On Sunday, two things happened. First, Kevin likes to watch the Encore Westerns channel. Now me, I don't really care for westerns, so I retired to my study to set up my new Epson Perfection V500 photo scanner. At one point, I went downstairs and found Doris Day singing "Just Blew in from the Windy City." Now I don't care for westerns, but I love musicals (I am a gay man, after all), and I joined Kevin in front of the TV. I'd never heard of the movie "Calamity Jane," but it stars not only Doris Day but Howard Keel as well. There was a recurring theme that sounded an awful lot like "How Are Things in Gloccamora," from "Finian's Rainbow." The Gloccamora theme recurred so often, that I felt the music had to have come from the same composer. As it turns out, the Finian's Rainbow songs were written by the team of Harburg and Lane while the Calamity Jane songs were written by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster, but if you know Finian's Rainbow, watch Calamity Jane and tell me I'm wrong in my impresion.

Me at 46. Was I hot or what?
Taken in May, 1996 in Astoria, Oregon

The one song that I knew from "Calamity Jane" came near the end, "Secret Love." On youtube, there's a clip from the movie with Doris Day singing this song. The movie is a fun ride for all, and we do have a connection in that Calamity Jane lived for a while near my home town of Laurel, Montana. James McLaird wrote a biography, Calamity Jane: The Woman and the Legend, with one chapter on her life in Montana. You can read excerpts from the book on-line. You can read about the movie on

Between the outright exuberance of the movie, and the pleasure I got from going though my drawer full of slides taken both by my father and myself, and starting to scan them onto my computer, the funk began falling away from me. I've now added eleven classic movie musicals to my Netflix queue, and so far I've scanned some 120 photos and slides. I know I have to keep busy, and stay in a creative mode if I'm to survive. And all praise to Gloria Gaynor, I Will Survive.

I apologize for crying on everyone's shoulder in this epistle. It is my firm intention to get back to writing on a regular basis, and on that subject, I've now added 11. Phillips County to my Montana counties blog, and will next be working on 12. Hill County. I plan to have all 56 counties photographed and written about before the world ends on October 21st of this year. (Note that Judgment Day is May 21st, but if you read far enough into the screed, you'll see that the world ends on October 21st.) The photos I've included in this post all stem from my slide scanning yesterday. And since this post is all about me, so are the pictures, with the exception of the one at the very end, which I took on March 21st, 2011 on our way into Palm Springs, California.

Now the song "Look to the Rainbow" has been sung by everyone from Barry Manilow to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Here's Aretha Franklin's version, which she dedicates to her own father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin. Finally, I would recommend the Finale to "Finian's Rainbow," where you'll not only hear Petula Clark, but also Fred Astaire singing "How Are Things in Gloccamora."

Oh, and my eyes? I've now had surgery on both eyes. The cataracts were removed and artificial lenses implanted. For the first time since fifth grade I can see clearly at a distance without glasses. I still need them to read, and middle distance, e.g. computer screens, are fuzzy even with the reading glasses. BUT, I can see, and that's a plus.

Rainbow seen just outside Palm Springs, California, the gayest city in the world


Michelle Rae Deon said...

Hello i have finally read ur Blog i like it and as for the pic of the leather jacket we can never go back only forward lol i love the blog its great

Your Fav Drag Queen

Don said...

Hey Bryan:

Thanks for the update, and I send love and hugs to help brighten your day!

Your first crush,

PS Love the Waikiki pic!!! :-)

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