SOME GRAND MUSIC

Although he lives in the Chicago area, there does not seem to be much opportunity to see Steve Grand here. Last year I caught a rare live performance at a local club.

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Just Steve and the Piano, Rich Paschall

Perhaps if you are lucky, you get to meet one of the celebrities you write about. Maybe it is easier in a big city where celebrities will often pass through.  Even then, meeting them at the venue or bumping into them on the street would seem rather remote.  I guess it happens.

Steve Grand lived in the Chicago area and actually worked in the neighborhood.  No, I had never met him.  Before his break-out album, All-American Boy, I had never heard of him so if I passed him on the street, I would not have known anyway.  If you have been following this space, you may have noticed the articlepresented here on his music.  You certainly would have remembered the publicity photo.

All-American Boy All-American Boy

In a city like Chicago you might think there would be plenty of opportunities to see a…

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RICH PASCHALL – A CHRISTMAS SURPRISE: ORIGINAL FICTION

It has been three years since I first stopped in at SERENDIPITY with this “A Family Plus One Holiday Tale,” and for some reason Marilyn Armstrong has allowed me to come back once a week since then.  I am grateful for her support and the opportunity to share some stories on her blog site. Here again is my Christmas short story.

 

A Christmas Surprise

A family plus one holiday tale

by Richard Paschall

Tree Lights 14

Kyle was coming home for Christmas. He was bringing with him his college roommate. The boys met during freshmen year and became fast friends. Somehow they maneuvered the dorm manager into assigning them to be roommates for sophomore year. There was no one on earth Kyle would rather spend time with than Michael. So he was glad Michael agreed to come to dinner on Christmas Eve. This was in exchange for Kyle agreeing to go to Michael’s parents’ house on Christmas day for dinner. Michael was going to make a big announcement to his parents and of course Kyle just had to be there.

Kyle’s father had slipped into a den on the east side of the house. All of the family noise was a bit more than his reserved nature could take. Kyle’s sister, Mary, who was 8 years younger than Kyle, was louder than usual and no matter how many times grandma told Mary to “quiet down,” things did not get any quieter. The threat of Christmas carols by Mary and Uncle Roy was enough to drive dad into the den. There he immediately made haste to the bar where a glass of sherry seemed to be in order. Dad only drank a sherry on special occasions and this certainly was one of them.

It was dark now and the neighbors across the street had turned on their Christmas lights. Almost everyone on the block had a nice display so the street was well-lit. Kyle’s dad was drawn to the window to see the lights, look at the gentle snow flurries and enjoy a moment of peace. As he stood there sipping his sherry and waiting for Kyle to appear, he finally spotted his only son walking quickly down the street with another young man right behind. As they got to the walkway that led up to the house they stopped to exchange a few words. Then a sight took dad’s wondering eyes totally by surprise. Kyle kissed the other boy. It was not a short kiss, but long and passionate which they both seemed to enjoy.

Soon Kyle rang the doorbell just to announce their arrival before he put his key in the lock and opened the door. Off the entrance way on the left was a door to the den. Kyle’s father was standing in the doorway just staring at the two. Kyle’s mom came through a big archway on the right that led to the living room. Mary was close behind and eager to see her brother and his friend. Uncle Roy and grandma did not vacate their seats. They knew the rest would join them soon.

First Kyle walked over to his father and said, “Dad this is my room-mate, Michael.” The roommate held out his hand and the father shook it. “I am pleased to meet you, sir. Kyle says such wonderful things about the family.” Kyle’s dad just sort of nodded at that, while studying this stranger in his home. The silence was out of character for the head of the household and a bit of a surprise to everyone except Michael, and that is only because Michael did not know him.

Then Kyle introduced Michael to his mother and his “little brat sister” Mary. Michael held out his hand to each in turn but the little brat held out her hand instead as if he was supposed to take it and kiss it, so he did and she squealed and ran from the room. At that Kyle’s mom offered to introduce Michael to the others. Kyle’s father then announced to all, “We will join you in a moment.” With a more serious tone, father said, “Kyle, would you step in here for a moment, please?” This was not a question but rather a command of the type Kyle knew was not good. As the father retreated into the room Kyle followed. Before turning around dad said, “Close the door.”

Kyle only took a few short steps in before his father turned around. He looked at him as if he had never seen him before. It was the strangest look Kyle had ever seen from his father. “Kyle, is there something you should be telling me?” the “official business” dad said in an odd businesslike tone. Kyle figured it was some sort of trick question but knew he should answer it anyway.

“No, dad. I don’t think so.” This clearly was the wrong answer. His dad did not say a thing but his body language spoke volumes and Kyle became as nervous as a first grader who has been caught stealing Oreos from the kitchen. Now the master of the den, the commander of the car keys and the payer of his tuition walked slowly to the window, looked around the outside and turned to Kyle.

“You know, son, that there is a great view of the neighborhood from this window. You can see all of the beautiful Christmas displays across the street. You can see a nice Christmas snow flurry. You can see everyone walking down the sidewalk and turning up the walkway toward the house.” At that Kyle’s father fixed his sights squarely on Kyle and said, “So now is there anything you should tell me?”

Kyle stood motionless as his dad threw a stare at him that went right through and hit the door behind. It took Kyle almost an entire minute before he realized what his father had seen from the window of the den. All the while, that whole long minute of time, Kyle’s father stood there waiting. Kyle wanted to begin “I’m sorry dad…,” but nothing came out of his mouth. He was so nervous and so afraid of his father’s reaction that he could say nothing. It is not that he wanted to be silent, he just couldn’t speak. Fear of saying the wrong thing paralyzed his tongue for the moment. Finally Kyle’s father just nodded that same nod he gave Michael when he was introduced, walked around Kyle, opened the door and walked across the foyer to the living room.

Kyle was knocked off his spot when his mother’s voice came floating into the room. “Kyle, don’t be rude. Come join your guest.” Kyle shuffled across the hall and searched around the room for Michael. He did not look at anyone else as his eyes avoided everyone but Michael. At that moment, with a room full of family, he had no way of telling his mate that he needed a hug and he thought he might need to cry. After a little small talk by grandma and Uncle Roy, Kyle’s mom asked them all to go to the dining room. Christmas Eve dinner was ready.

“Michael, you sit right there next to Kyle and Kyle will sit next to me. I have this end of the table and Kyle’s father will carve things up at that end of the table. Uncle Roy will be there next to you and grandma and Mary will be on the other side.” At that the little brat sister ran around the table and dropped herself on the chair opposite Kyle. She looked at him with a smirk as if she knew his little secret and was going to blurt it out if he did not stop calling her a brat.

Everyone sat in silence until Kyle’s mother looked down the length of the table and said to her husband. “Sweetheart, will you say grace for us?” There was a long, awkward pause before he said, “No. Tonight Kyle will lead the prayer.” At that instant Kyle prayed that something, anything that made sense would come out of his mouth. All eyes were on him as he began, “Bless us, oh Lord…” The words that fell out of Kyle’s mouth were for blessing and thanksgiving, but in his heart he was praying for acceptance. That became the only gift he truly wanted for Christmas this year.

Blessing

I was recently thinking of those who seek their parents blessing, only to be turned away.  On St. Valentine’s Day you offer your heart to those you love in hopes that you will be accepted and blessed in return.  The article below originally appeared on this space two years ago.  I thought it was a good time to repost. 

As I was making my way around Word Press yesterday looking for interesting blogs where I could leave comments, part of the Zero to Hero 30 Days to a Better Blog exercise, I came across The Open Closet, so I went in to take a look.  The first post I encountered was titled Blessing.  It is about the role a particular song played in the author’s coming out process.

“I know this song,” I thought immediately.  I was certain that it was one that my cousin posted last year on facebook when she surprised some of us by speaking of coming out.  It has a powerful lyric and speaks strongly to the emotions felt by the author.  The video was of low quality picture but had good sound.  It featured the composer at the piano and “The Broadway Boys” took over after the first verse and brought the message home.  This particular video has not exactly gone viral, but is worth a look nonetheless.

When someone falls in love and wants to spend the rest of their life with someone, they frequently look toward home not just for support, but for blessing.  It can not be understated how adult children still want and crave the blessings of their parents for the love in their lives.  In a certain way, it validates what the “child” is thinking and feeling.  He or she wants to know it is OK.  That he is supported.  That he (or she) and his or her love is also loved by the parents.

In a powerful scene in Fiddler on the Roof Tevye, the father, is told by the daughter that she is not asking his permission to be married, but rather his blessing.  This is a cultural shock for the time period but demonstrates what children have always wanted from their parents, their blessing.  Why should it be different for a gay man or lesbian?  They still want the love and the blessing of the parents.  If they can not bless the union, then they risk hurting the child and missing an important moment in life.

Rather than leave the Scott Alan version for you, I thought I would choose the one I saw on You Tube last year.  You can find the link to the Scott Alan version above or drop into The Open Closet.  This cover version of the song is beautifully captured in this video.  Listen to the words as well as the beautiful voices.  I think you will be moved.

EVERY SPORT NEEDS ONE

Because the “gay athlete” stories never go away, here is a reblog of a story from last year at this time.

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The Openly Gay Athlete, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

If you have read any stories about gay athletes in professional sports you would certainly know about it.  That’s because no matter how often it has been stated, any article that mentions a gay athlete will state that he is “gay” or even “openly gay,” as if telling you he is gay is not enough.  I guess if you tell the press you are gay, then you are pretty open about it, and you certainly can’t take it back.  Reporters follow around openly gay athletes just for the purpose of asking them what it is like to be openly gay and play ______ (fill in the sport here).  I wish just once the athlete would respond that it is the same as being “openly heterosexual.”

Perhaps they should ask the reporter what it is like to be “openly heterosexual” and asking…

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ALL-AMERICAN BOY – RICH PASCHALL

Steve Grand has been invited to perform at many Pride events this year. The All-American boy has even gone overseas to Latvia and Lithuania to perform.

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Steve Grand music, Rich Paschall

What do you think of when someone uses the term “All-American Boy?”  You may immediately think of someone who is quite handsome.  He may be “clean-cut” and “wholesome” looking, that is to say he is neat and well dressed.  Your image may include someone who is athletic.  He may have a body that is “buffed-up.”  It may be a young man with a glowing smile and pleasant personality.  An All-American boy can be a variety of handsome and talented things to the person thinking on this term.

Steve Grand is all of these things.  In addition, he is an excellent singer, songwriter, musician.  His musical talent alone is enough to impress, but when combined with his good looks, he definitely comes across as the quintessential All-American boy.  His image as a performer both supports this and makes it unique at the same time.

All-American Boy All-American Boy

Steve…

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WHO ARE YOU? FAMILY TO STRANGER, OVERNIGHT

Since it is “Pride Month,” I thought it was a good time to replay this story.

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A family of strangers story by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Russell was home from the university, perhaps for the last time.  He finally graduated after four and a half years and a double major from the School of Business.  He lived at school each year and came home for the summers.  Now his plan was to get a job, save a little money and move out.  His college roommate would soon become his roommate again, if they could arrange it.

Russell’s parents, now in their 50’s, never seemed to change.  To Russell they always looked the same and acted the same.  Russell’s father was a hard-working, quiet guy whom everyone liked. His mother was also hard-working and dependable.  They seemed to naturally know which household chores to perform without ever talking about it.  Russell sometimes thought they held secret meetings to plan out the details of their lives, Russell’s included.

After…

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SNOW HATE – By Rich Paschall

Another Harold! I wonder how often I used that name. Since we are in the midst of a blizzard here, I thought it would be a good day to reblog this.

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A NO H8 story by Rich Paschall – Sunday Night Blog

The door bell startled Harold.  He was not expecting anyone on a snowy Saturday afternoon in January.  He moved quickly to the front door and opened it to find his teenage grandson.

“Hello grandpa,” the boy blurted, “I came to shovel your snow.”  At that Billy grabbed a shovel from just inside the front door and went immediately to work.  Harold closed the door and watched him through the glass in the door.  Billy attacked the snow like he was angry at every single flake that fell from the sky.  The look on his face and the force at which he threw each shovelful of snow concerned Harold.

75-BigSnowHPCR-9

He went directly to the phone and called Billy’s parents.

“Hello,” came the voice of Harold’s daughter-in-law.  Madeleine was sweet, nice looking and ultimately clueless.  Her small social circle was her main…

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RICH PASCHALL – A CHRISTMAS SURPRISE: ORIGINAL FICTION

It has been a year since I stopped in at SERENDIPITY with this “A Family Plus One Holiday Tale,” and for some reason Marilyn Armstrong has allowed me to come back once a week since then.  I am grateful for her support and the opportunity to share some stories on her blog site. Here again is my Christmas short story.

Rich Paschall of SUNDAY NIGHT BLOG has graciously agreed to collaborate with me on Sundays. You will get a taste of his rich and beautiful prose, some of which you have already seen here because I love his work and have reblogged quite a bit of it over the past year. But it will also give me a much-needed day off. I’ve been writing every day for almost a year and I admit, I could use a day to recharge my aging batteries. It’s a win-win. You get some great new fiction — or whatever Rich is in the mood to offer you — and I get to enjoy a little breather.”

– – – – –

A Christmas Surprise

A family plus one holiday tale

by Richard Paschall

Tree Lights 14

Kyle was coming home for Christmas. He was bringing with him his college roommate. The boys met during freshmen year and became fast friends. Somehow they maneuvered the dorm manager into assigning them to be roommates for sophomore year. There was no one on earth Kyle would rather spend time with than Michael. So he was glad Michael agreed to come to dinner on Christmas Eve. This was in exchange for Kyle agreeing to go to Michael’s parents’ house on Christmas day for dinner. Michael was going to make a big announcement to his parents and of course Kyle just had to be there.

Kyle’s father had slipped into a den on the east side of the house. All of the family noise was a bit more than his reserved nature could take. Kyle’s sister, Mary, who was 8 years younger than Kyle, was louder than usual and no matter how many times grandma told Mary to “quiet down,” things did not get any quieter. The threat of Christmas carols by Mary and Uncle Roy was enough to drive dad into the den. There he immediately made haste to the bar where a glass of sherry seemed to be in order. Dad only drank a sherry on special occasions and this certainly was one of them.

It was dark now and the neighbors across the street had turned on their Christmas lights. Almost everyone on the block had a nice display so the street was well-lit. Kyle’s dad was drawn to the window to see the lights, look at the gentle snow flurries and enjoy a moment of peace. As he stood there sipping his sherry and waiting for Kyle to appear, he finally spotted his only son walking quickly down the street with another young man right behind. As they got to the walkway that led up to the house they stopped to exchange a few words. Then a sight took dad’s wondering eyes totally by surprise. Kyle kissed the other boy. It was not a short kiss, but long and passionate which they both seemed to enjoy.

Soon Kyle rang the doorbell just to announce their arrival before he put his key in the lock and opened the door. Off the entrance way on the left was a door to the den. Kyle’s father was standing in the doorway just staring at the two. Kyle’s mom came through a big archway on the right that led to the living room. Mary was close behind and eager to see her brother and his friend. Uncle Roy and grandma did not vacate their seats. They knew the rest would join them soon.

First Kyle walked over to his father and said, “Dad this is my room-mate, Michael.” The roommate held out his hand and the father shook it. “I am pleased to meet you, sir. Kyle says such wonderful things about the family.” Kyle’s dad just sort of nodded at that, while studying this stranger in his home. The silence was out of character for the head of the household and a bit of a surprise to everyone except Michael, and that is only because Michael did not know him.

Then Kyle introduced Michael to his mother and his “little brat sister” Mary. Michael held out his hand to each in turn but the little brat held out her hand instead as if he was supposed to take it and kiss it, so he did and she squealed and ran from the room. At that Kyle’s mom offered to introduce Michael to the others. Kyle’s father then announced to all, “We will join you in a moment.” With a more serious tone, father said, “Kyle, would you step in here for a moment, please?” This was not a question but rather a command of the type Kyle knew was not good. As the father retreated into the room Kyle followed. Before turning around dad said, “Close the door.”

Kyle only took a few short steps in before his father turned around. He looked at him as if he had never seen him before. It was the strangest look Kyle had ever seen from his father. “Kyle, is there something you should be telling me?” the “official business” dad said in an odd businesslike tone. Kyle figured it was some sort of trick question but knew he should answer it anyway.

“No, dad. I don’t think so.” This clearly was the wrong answer. His dad did not say a thing but his body language spoke volumes and Kyle became as nervous as a first grader who has been caught stealing Oreos from the kitchen. Now the master of the den, the commander of the car keys and the payer of his tuition walked slowly to the window, looked around the outside and turned to Kyle.

“You know, son, that there is a great view of the neighborhood from this window. You can see all of the beautiful Christmas displays across the street. You can see a nice Christmas snow flurry. You can see everyone walking down the sidewalk and turning up the walkway toward the house.” At that Kyle’s father fixed his sights squarely on Kyle and said, “So now is there anything you should tell me?”

Kyle stood motionless as his dad threw a stare at him that went right through and hit the door behind. It took Kyle almost an entire minute before he realized what his father had seen from the window of the den. All the while, that whole long minute of time, Kyle’s father stood there waiting. Kyle wanted to begin “I’m sorry dad…,” but nothing came out of his mouth. He was so nervous and so afraid of his father’s reaction that he could say nothing. It is not that he wanted to be silent, he just couldn’t speak. Fear of saying the wrong thing paralyzed his tongue for the moment. Finally Kyle’s father just nodded that same nod he gave Michael when he was introduced, walked around Kyle, opened the door and walked across the foyer to the living room.

Kyle was knocked off his spot when his mother’s voice came floating into the room. “Kyle, don’t be rude. Come join your guest.” Kyle shuffled across the hall and searched around the room for Michael. He did not look at anyone else as his eyes avoided everyone but Michael. At that moment, with a room full of family, he had no way of telling his mate that he needed a hug and he thought he might need to cry. After a little small talk by grandma and Uncle Roy, Kyle’s mom asked them all to go to the dining room. Christmas Eve dinner was ready.

“Michael, you sit right there next to Kyle and Kyle will sit next to me. I have this end of the table and Kyle’s father will carve things up at that end of the table. Uncle Roy will be there next to you and grandma and Mary will be on the other side.” At that the little brat sister ran around the table and dropped herself on the chair opposite Kyle. She looked at him with a smirk as if she knew his little secret and was going to blurt it out if he did not stop calling her a brat.

Everyone sat in silence until Kyle’s mother looked down the length of the table and said to her husband. “Sweetheart, will you say grace for us?” There was a long, awkward pause before he said, “No. Tonight Kyle will lead the prayer.” At that instant Kyle prayed that something, anything that made sense would come out of his mouth. All eyes were on him as he began, “Bless us, oh Lord…” The words that fell out of Kyle’s mouth were for blessing and thanksgiving, but in his heart he was praying for acceptance. That became the only gift he truly wanted for Christmas this year.

ANGEL COMES OUT

A story I wanted to write for a long time became my most viewed story of the year by far.

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Based on the story that is sad, painful and true, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Angel was a handsome boy who had a secret he desperately needed to keep. By the age of 13 he knew what he liked and by 16, he had a boyfriend. He spent a lot of time with his boyfriend and his cover was always that he was working on his homework. No one knew that his homework included kissing another teenage boy.

When Angel would return home from his after school “homework sessions,” he would have his boyfriend drop him off 2 blocks from his house so his father would not see him kiss his boyfriend good-bye. One day, however, his father was behind him on the street and saw the boys from a short distance away. When Angel realized his father was watching he told his boyfriend to leave immediately.

“Are you going to be OK?”…

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Learn to hate

“You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear…”

Small children will generally play with anyone and anything they find.  They do not know about hate and fear until they are taught.  Another three-year old is just another three-year old, unless an adult grabs him away and admonishes the child not to play with the other child because he or she is “different.”  That can mean many things to many people but passing along hate and fear is what society is good at doing.  If it was not good at it, then why is there prejudice and hate?  The three-year old can learn to become the schoolyard bully by the age of 8 if given enough instruction.

Teaching fear and hate does not need specific lessons or a handbook.  Adults can simply pass it on through mean jokes, name calling and hateful talk amongst one another.  Kids will get the idea real fast who they should hate.  They want to fit in with their relatives and the social circles they find themselves in, so they will quickly learn to mimic the hate and name calling they hear.  By the time they are teenagers, they might be so full of hate, they are able to beat someone to death.

‘You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear…”

Perhaps mom or dad will be quite pleased when they learn their little Johnny can repeat some of the evil jokes they themselves have told.  It might be amusing to hear their boy ridicule someone he met at school that is different.  They may feel a sense of pride that their son is just like they are.  This only reinforces the prejudice and hate.  Everyone wants to be accepted for who they are.  Imagine the good feeling a child can receive when they realize that parroting back the hatred they hear brings joy to the adults around them.

“You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade…”

There are a whole variety of things that children can be taught to hate.  I could put quite a list here if I think about it long enough.  It’s not just skin color or different eyes, it might as well be hair color, or glasses or clothing.  We can type, or should I say stereotype, just about anything.  Maybe if you just sound a little different you are someone to hate.  Your speech might indicate you are from another part of the world or the country or perhaps just another part of the city.  If a child learns early enough, he/she can hate a wide range of people.  It has to be done early, however, before a child learns to think for himself.  If you wait too long, the child may learn to rebel against the hate.  He may end up to be one of those teenagers who brings home different types of friends.  He may speak about peace and love.  He may join alliances at school that promote tolerances.  He may also be bullied
rather than be the bully.  What would some parents ever do with a child like that?

“You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!”

When I was in high school our class put on the play, “South Pacific.”  It is the 1949 musical about fear and prejudice on a south Pacific island in World War II.  When it seems nurse Nellie can not love a Frenchman on the island because of his colored children, she can not explain why.  It is just something she feels.  When the Frenchman comments to a Lieutenant that he does not believe these feelings are born in you, Lt. Cable replies, “It’s not born in you.  It happens after you’re born.”  He then sings the song “Carefully Taught.”  I thought the song was way ahead of its time, even decades later when I first heard it.  Emile de Becque who left his homeland to escape prejudice tells the lieutenant, “This is just the kind of ugliness I was running away from.  It has followed me all this way.”

The play was an important lesson for me.  I had already started to learn the damage of hateful jokes and hateful people.  I guess many of our generation did learn the lesson, but apparently not enough.  Prejudice and hate continue to get passed down.  High profile hate crimes, hate crimes legislation and Public Service Announcements can not begin to eradicate the hate and fear that begins in the home.

I thought all about these things when I realized that the anniversary of one of the most brutal hate crimes of our times is today, October 12th.  It was 1998 when Matthew Shepard was beaten bloody with a 357 Smith and Wesson, “pistol whipped,” and left in a field to die.  The sheriff of Laramie, Wyoming, tells the story of the crime, not for sensational reasons, but because it needs to be told.  Matthew was one of those people who was different and consequently, others were taught to hate him. What was different about Matthew that brought out the hate others had learned?  Matthew was gay.  He was also a young man who should have had a long life ahead of him.  Hate took that away.