Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Quote of the Day

"The universe is made of stories, not atoms."

—Muriel Rukeyser

Monday, May 09, 2011

Mother's Day at the Rhododendron Gardens!

Mom, Jordan, Gus, and Me:

Friday, May 06, 2011

Double Trouble

For those who want a little extra horror tossed into their Donnie Darko mix, give Heartless a try. And for those who have been waiting for a Grimm Brothers fairy tale that channels Run Lola Run and is set to a Chemical Brothers score, look no further than Hanna. These are two of the best movies I've seen in a long time, and I saw them on two consecutive days this week. It was a good week for movies in Nathan Land!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Awesome Response from the Librarian at Big Foot

Dear Readers,

Thanks to Len Shapiro's suggestion -- which gave me just the boost of needed confidence -- I phoned Big Foot High School's librarian, Sally Watson. (See my blog post dated Monday, May 2nd -- this is the "sequel" post.) And guess what? She was just terrific. She hadn't even received the email I'd forwarded her, the one originally sent to my old English teacher Elizabeth Lochner; it must have been sent to Sally's spam filter.

Sally was enthusiastic and kind, and told me to plunk It Gets Better in the mail and she'd gladly put it on the shelves. She told me she was just doing some "upkeep" of various shelves & sections and recently updated the LGBT section. She asked if I'd have the time to peruse Big Foot's library selection online and then make suggestions for future purchases for LGBT material for Big Foot.

See, goodness and rightness and lightness shine over us all the time, unexpectedly. And this was a good lesson for me too: rather than pondering the worst (the email being deleted with disdain) I could ponder the best possible situation. We all have our hurts that linger, those threads that wrap around us like marionette strings.

Here's what I sent Ms. Watson today:

Hi Sally,

Thanks for the chat today, your willingness to be open hearted and listen, and your offer for me to peek at your library selection and make suggestions for LGBT teens. I will do just that and be in touch.

And in the meantime, I'm mailing you a copy of It Gets Better. It will be wonderful to have this book on your shelves at Big Foot.

All my best to you this Wednesday,

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Passage of the Day

“…Sempere had not set foot in a church since the funeral of his wife, Diana, to whose side we bring him today so that they might lie next to each other forever. Perhaps for that reason people assumed he was an atheist, but he was truly a man of faith. He believed in his friends, in the truth of things, and in something to which he didn’t dare put a name or a face because he said as priests that was our job. Senor Sempere believed that we are all a part of something and that when we leave this world our memories and our desires are not lost but go on to become the memories and desires of those who take our place. He didn’t know whether we created God in our image or whether God created us without quite knowing what he was doing. He believed that God, or whatever brought us here, lives in each of our deeds, in each of our words, and manifests himself daily in all those things that show us to be more than mere figures of clay. Senor Sempere believed that God lives, to a smaller or greater extent, in books, and that is why he devoted his life to sharing them, to protecting them, and to making sure their pages, like our memories and our desires, are never lost. He believed, and he made me believe it too, that as long as there is one person left in the world who is capable of reading them and experiencing them, a small piece of God, or of life, will remain. I know that my friend would not have liked us to say our farewells to him with prayers and hymns. I know that it would have been enough for him to realize that his friends, many of whom have come here today to say goodbye, will never forget him. I have no doubt that the Lord, even though old Sempere was not expecting it, will receive our dear friend at his side, and I know that he will live forever in the hearts of all those who are here today, all those who have discovered the magic of books thanks to him, and all those who, without even knowing him, will one day go through the door of his little bookshop, where, as he liked to say, the story has only just begun…”

From The Angel’s Game, Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Monday, May 02, 2011

It Gets Better

So I shot this email off a week and a half ago, and have subsequently forwarded it to the librarian at Big Foot. No response yet. What shall I do, faithful readers? Send the book anyway? Call them up? Let it go? Hmm.....I just want to make sure it gets into the right hands.

Ms. Lochner,

It's Nathan Buck here, your former student and fellow bookworm. I'm currently living in Portland, OR -- came out here to get my MFA in Creative Writing almost 8 years ago and decided to stick around afterwards. I work as a Development & Volunteer Coordinator at Our House, a residential facility for people living with HIV/AIDS who also live below the poverty line, but also continue on with my secret double agent life as a fiction writer. Yep, I get up at 5:00am Monday through Friday to plug away at my fiction, and just finished a novel that I've started sending out to literary agents. Keep your fingers crossed.

Life is pretty grand these days, overall: my mother moved out here a few years ago, and Jordan -- one of my younger brothers -- is moving out to Portland next week after stints in Alaska and the Lake Tahoe area. Aaron lives with his girlfriend in NYC, and I jokingly refer to them as a New York "power couple" -- they both have great jobs in the fashion industry, live in Park Slope, and have two really cute pugs. As for me, I'm involved with a wonderful man, Gus, who is in the book industry -- thus, there's plenty of fodder for discussion. And tons of books on our shelves.

Have you heard of the It Gets Better project? (http://www.itgetsbetter.org/). You can read about it on the website to gather more info., but it was jumpstarted by advice columnist Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller after the string of gay teen suicides last year, prompted by bullying. The movement has taken off like a storm, and there are just thousands of great videos to watch. They are stories from LGBT men and women from all walks of life, talking to queer teens and telling them that life does, indeed, get better after high school (and even during, with the right confidence and encouragement). Mr. Savage and Mr. Miller were giving a talk and Q&A at Powell's, the famous independent bookstore here in Portland you may have heard of, and I was so touched by their words and insights, as well as by the questions and comments from the crowd. See, these two men have taken some of the videos as well as brand new essays and compiled them in a book, also entitled It Gets Better. The videos/essays they shared were filled with heart, darkness, warmth, bravery, humor, wisdom, and empathy. At one point during the evening, the men encouraged audience members to buy a copy and send it to their high schools.

Which brings me to why I'm writing: I purchased a copy of the book and would like to send it to Big Foot to be included in your library (and more power to you all if you already have a copy, or copies, in stock). Growing up gay is so, so tough, especially in small towns like Walworth and Lake Geneva. As a gay man, I look back at my memories of Big Foot and -- while I won't share too many details here -- I will say that I was bullied and harassed on a daily basis for four years with little or no support from teachers or the rest of the administrative staff. In fact, I even had certain staff members tell me that I was bringing it on myself and that "if I didn't act that way, the other kids won't pick on you." I never seriously contemplated suicide, but I did go to many dark places inside myself and it took me leaving that small town and moving to college to really start to understand who I was, and that I wasn't alone. In fact, there was a whole world and community of kindred souls for me to be a part of. How freeing! What a rush of hope and love!

I haven't kept up with Big Foot over the years, and maybe I'd be surprised -- and touched -- by all the changes and policies in place to ensure that LGBT teens of today's generations don't have to suffer and go through what I experienced back in the '90s. That being said, I want to do my part to be part of this change, and as stated I would like to send a copy of It Gets Better your way. I thought of reaching out to you first, since you and Ann Addie were two of my biggest inspirations, and I still think back so fondly of you both. I did take a peek at Big Foot's website and have noted that Sally Watson is the librarian. Would it make sense for me to contact her directly, or would you like me to send the book to your attention and then you could pass it along along to Ms. Watson? Let me know best to proceed so I can get this essential and potentially life-changing book in the right hands.

Be well, and thank you for some great memories of English classes. I look forward to hearing from you, and you have my permission to share this email with others if you'd like.

Warm Regards,
Nathan Buck