Monthly Archives: September 2019

Meanwhile, Happy Birthday, Mom!

I live in my own little world

Dawna Melene Brinley KirkToday would have been my mother’s 88th birthday, according to her.

She claimed she was born in 1931.

She wasn’t.

She was born in 1935.

But I didn’t find out about that until May 11, 2019.

I have copies of my dad’s high school yearbooks. His picture is in them. My mom’s is not. Now I know why.

However, at classmates.com, one can find yearbooks for just about any school in the United States for any year. Presuming that my mom was born in 1935, I went searching for yearbooks for Kingsville, Texas, for 1950-1953, and found one with Dawna’s picture in it (right).

My mom—I’m going to call her Dawna from here on out that since that is her name, and mom just doesn’t sound right since I never had any mom relationship with her—died in 2012. It was all those death notices, burial notices, and memorial notices that I found online while doing genealogical research that got me to digging deeper. I wasn’t necessarily interested in the genealogy per sé; I was more interested in any medical information I could find concerning both sides of the family.

I have been estranged from both sides of my family since 1993-1994 so I could not answer the doctors’ questions about family medical history.

Dawna’s side of the family are Mormons ,and dad’s side are Catholics, so when I came out as gay to everyone during those two years, well, they came down on me hard, sending me some of the most despicable stuff I ever had read.

Finally, after reading Louise Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life, I quietly said goodbye to everyone and simply ceased communications with them. It was this sentence that convinced me of the way to move forward in my life:

You did not have a choice into which family you were born,
but you have a choice now as to who is in your famil
y.

When I was in Ogden, Utah on May 11, I looked up my maternal grandfather since I knew he lived in the area. My favorite aunt & uncle (dad’s side, but Southern Baptists in 1993) came down on me the hardest.

Douglas E. BrinleyMy maternal grandfather—we’ll call him Dr. Brinley since that’s his name—was number two. Dr. Brinley is retired from Brigham Young University where he taught marriage courses, conducted marriage seminars, was a marriage counselor, and authored many books on marriage. Do a Google Images search on Dr. Douglas E. Brinley…. Yep, that’s my maternal grandfather and all his books on heterosexual marriage and families. Many of his books still are for sale at amazon.com.

While I was visiting with Dr. Brinley, he told me that Dawna was pregnant with my oldest brother when she & dad got married on January 27, 1951. (Interestingly, my wise old grandmother, dad’s mom, was born on January 26.) When they found out that Dawna was pregnant, they ran off to Mexico to get married. Back in the 1950s, though, Mexican marriage certificates were not recognized in Texas. With that discovery, they ran off to Comanche, Oklahoma, just across the Texas/Oklahoma border, and got married again. I’m thinking, if you’re going to get married, just get married already. Sheesh. Of course, times were a wee bit different then.

I had noticed in all the genealogy records that Dawna’s birth date was always shown as “about 1935.” Well, in my mind, “about 1935” for online records could, of course, be 1931. In several instances, I attempted to add the correct information for Dawna being born on September 30, 1931. That specific edit never stuck, although other edits I made did. In some instances, people unknown to me changed my edit back to “about 1935.” I found that interesting but not worth exploring further.

With my visit to Dr. Brinley, though, suddenly it made perfect sense why Dawna would lie (for 61 years) about her birth date and why it was always shown in the records as “about 1935.” Everyone knew exactly when she was born, but if we do the math, we find that my dad, born on January 15, 1930, was 21 years old. Dawna, born on September 30, 1935, was 15¼ years old. In other words, dad was a statutory rapist.

When I came home from Utah, my curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to do the ancestry.com DNA test. The results showed that I definitely was Dawna’s child, but who my dad was is not quite definitive. I’m definitely related to my living brother, but excepting him, it seems that I’m more closely related to my oldest uncle—I’ll call him Charles; you know why—on my dad’s side. Ancestry hints that one of his children likely is my sister. His other children are hinted at first cousins or siblings.

I know that DNA inheritance is only partially inherited and can even skip complete generations, but still….

If we do the mathematics for human pregnancies, I was born on March 11, 1955. Nine months previous to that would seem to indicate that I probably was a June 14 Flag Day conception. That would be super since my dad was in the Air Force! Patriotism! Gotta love it! However, dad was stationed in Korea at the time, as well as six months previous to my conception and six months after. Maybe patriotism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be….

If we take this a little further, we find that Dawna was living with my dad’s parents at the time. Guess who else was living with my dad’s parents? Yep. My dad’s three younger brothers, all still in K-12 school. I’m thinking that Dawna got lonely and Charles comforted her, so to speak.

John Ancel Kirk, Jr.My (supposed) dad (right) committed suicide on January 15, 1961. He was working for Missouri Pacific Railroad in Palestine, Texas. They found his body in a box car on January 18. Interestingly, January 15, is my second oldest brother’s birthday. So here’s how I am picturing this going down:

We’re having a birthday party for my brother. Dawna and dad get into a fight (Dawna already was a great drinker at that time, according to hearsay), and Dawna blurts out:

Ha! Russel’s not even your son! He is Charles’s.

I think hearing from your wife that she and your younger brother were sexually intimate, that said sexual intimacy resulted in a child, and then doing the math to confirm that Russel could not possibly be your child, could be quite disturbing. How would one live with that? Obviously, my dad decided that he couldn’t.Charles, Rodney, & Doug Kirk

DNA evidence, as well as a lot of circumstantial evidence, seems to indicate that Charles is my dad. The picture at right is of my supposed dad’s three brothers; Charles is at the left.

Charles is the only uncle on my dad’s side who still is alive.

I’m thinking about sending him a Father’s Day card in 2020.

If I do, should I sign it?

“Love, Your Son, Russel.”

Maybe I’ll leave out “Love,”….

Meanwhile, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!

Happy birthday!

When you wish upon a star….

Did you know?

It’s no secret that the world loves stars. After all, “When you wish upon a star….” More:

Look up at the stars and not down at your feet.
—Stephen Hawking

Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground
—Theodore Roosevelt

The sight of stars makes me dream.
—Vincent Van Gogh

I will love the darkness for it shows me the stars.
—Og Mandino

Look at the stars. See their beauty. And in that beauty, see yourself.
—Draya Mooney

There wouldn’t be a sky full of stars if we were all meant to wish on the same one.
—Frances Clark

I would be willing to stake my reputation (what reputation?) on stars being the number one shape of Mother & Father Natures beautiful flowers. Indeed, stars are a significant portion of my book, Nature’s Geometry: Succulents.

Cover of "Nature's Geometry: Succulents" by Russel Ray(Book is being sent on Monday to publisher for printing
and should be available for purchase around November 1, 2019.)

I am not ashamed to admit that stars happen to be my favorite flower shape, especially when the star is extraordinarily well pronounced, as in these two pictures from this past week of star flowers in my gardens:

Stapelia gigantea
Stapelia gigantea

Stapelia grandiflora
Stapelia grandiflora

Stapelia gigantea by far is my favorite flower ever. The flowers are up to ten inches in diameter, somewhat hairy, feel leathery, and just look like something that an alien Mother & Father Nature might come up with on a star millions of light years away from us.

These two flowers, particularly Stapelia gigantea, attract flies for pollination like today is going to be the last day on Earth for pollination opportunities. They do this by smelling horrible, like rotting flesh. As a friend of mine said, “Lovely….”

Although mine attract flies, I have not yet smelled any rotting flesh, and I even have stuck my nose deep into the flower, after shooing the flies away, of course. I used to think my nose simply wasn’t working properly, but I can smell pizza, Mexican food, and margaritas from miles away. Maybe I just don’t have any “rotting flesh” sensory cells in my nose. Yeah, that’s it.

Stapelia gigantea flowers are so big that it is easy to sit and actually watch the big flower buds open and attract flies. In 2019, I had 23 flowers on my one Stapelia gigantea (there are 17 so far this year), so I started doing time Stapelia gigantea flower lapse photography last year.

Following is my best time lapse video from last year. Note the number of flies enjoying their time at the buffet. This video is 5 hours of photos taken every 5 seconds (3,500 photos!) and condensed into just 1 minute and 4 seconds. The flower on the left opened the previous day, and the middle flower will be opening in the video.

And now you know….

Did you know?

A friend of mine, Kelly Griffin, is one of the world’s foremost hybridizers of aloes, which means he creates new plants without the approval of Mother & Father Nature. When one creates a new plant, one gets to name it. Some of Kelly’s hybrids named by him include:

Aloe ‘Bright Star’

Aloe ‘Christmas Carol’

Aloe ‘Coral Edge’

Aloe ‘Draculas Blood’

Aloe ‘Raspberry Ruffles’

Aloe ‘AJR’

Aloe ‘Papa Woody’

Mother & Father Nature sometimes create hybrids on their own, so simply calling it a hybrid in the plant community doesn’t work because people want to know if it’s a natural hybrid or a human-created hybrid.

There are two ways to write the name of human-created hybrids, one using cv. to mean cultivar, and the other to put the name of the cultivar in single quotes.

Sometimes hybridizers name plants after people (‘Papa Woody’). Other times they name them because of what the plant looks like or what it reminds them of.

One of the more interesting cultivars in the plant world is this one:

Lophocereus schottii cv, Big Penis Cactus

Its name is Lophocereus schottii cv. Big Penis Cactus. It’s a name that is difficult to say in polite company and, perhaps, not safe for viewing at work.

I had four of these plants until I gave one away yesterday to a friend who owns a plant nursery. The following picture shows the other three, with the small one at right being the one I gave away. The middle plant is about four feet tall.

Lophocereus schottii cv. Big Penis Cactus

And now you know….

 

Double R Creations & Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos

Movie Review—Amistad, a Steven Spielberg film

Amistad

Amistad, a Steven Spielberg film starring Morgan Freeman, Anthony Hopkins, Djimon Hounsou, and Matthew McConaughey, was released in 1997. I did not know about the film until a few days ago. At first I could not believe that because I have liked every Steven Spielberg movie ever made, and Morgan Freeman is one of my all-time favorite actors. However, 1997 was in the midst of what I call my lost decade, ten years in which I lost track of time, lost track of music, lost track of movies, pretty much lost track of life. So here I am, trying to catch up on everything.

Amistad is a long movie at two hours and thirty-four minutes. The subject matter, the slave trade in 1839, is not a matter to take lightly. In great Spielberg tradition, the visual effects were, well, too visual. I had to take a 24-hour break about halfway through the movie.

Movies like this one which are based on true events and show the most evil side of humanity used to leave me wondering how people could be so evil to other people, but now, with Twitler in the White House, it seems evil is not necessarily back (was it ever gone?) but certainly it is out in the open, and welcome.

Morgan Freeman got top billing but I think he wasn’t the lead in this movie. I’d have to give that position to either Djimon Honsou or Matthew McConaughey. Honsou was the leader of the captive slaves and McConaughey was the defense attorney working to get the slaves freed, a task which he ultimately was successful. A lower court ruled in favor of freeing the slaves and returning them to their home in Africa, but President Martin Van Buren appealed the lower court’s ruling to the Supreme Court. McConaughey sought help from a former president, John Quincy Adams, then a member of the United States House of Representatives, to argue the case in front of the Supreme Court. Anthony Hopkins played John Quincy Adams.

The acting was superb, which I figured it would be since Spielberg requires the best from the best. The ending was excellent—bravo to the British!

Overall I can highly recommend Amistad with the forewarning that there is a lot of full frontal nudity, both male and female, and a lot of cruelty that will make you cringe. Be prepared to take at least one good break during the movie.

Double R Creations & Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos

The Ocean Institute at Dana Point, California

Out & About       Halls of History

On September 6, 2019, I was in Dana Point, California, for the 35th Annual Tall Ships & Ocean Festival hosted by the Ocean Institute.

Surprising to me, although I had been to Dana Point, it was on a technicality: I had driven through it on Pacific Coast Highway. I never had stopped to go exploring. This time, I did. There is lots to do in Dana Point, but I do admit I was more interested in the harbor and the Ocean Institute. In the picture below, at the bottom center, several masts from tall ships are visible. That’s the Ocean Institute, at the bottom of the cliff.

Dana Point, California, harbor

The front of the Ocean Institute was undergoing repairs and renovations, so I chose not to take a picture of all the fencing. I suspect you’ve seen fencing before. It’s usually not pretty. It wasn’t. Here’s a picture of the landlocked back side, though:

Ocean Institute at Dana Point, California

Although it is the landlocked side, it is the side that faces the Pacific Ocean, which is why there are so many trails through the vegetation there. People want to see the mighty Pacific, and it’s no wonder with views like this:

The Ocean Institute is located at 24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point, California. Its mission statement:

Using the ocean as our classroom, we inspire children to learn.

The Ocean Institute was founded in 1977 and educates over 100,000 children, teachers, parents, and visitors each year through over 60 programs on marine science, maritime history, and outdoor education. It occupies 2.4 acres  and also is adjacent to a State Marine Conservation Area.

“Immersion-based field trips” sponsored by the Ocean Institute range from one-hour science labs to multi-day programs at sea and at the Lazy W Ranch in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains. Programs are designed to maximize immersion, spark curiosity, and inspire a commitment to learning.

There are state-of-the-art teaching labs, including the awesome Maddie James Seaside Learning Center, and two historic tall ships, the Pilgrim and the Spirit of Dana Point. I got to take a 3-hour ride in the Pacific Ocean on the Spirit of Dana Point on September 6.

Passengers on the Spirit of Dana Point

The Pilgrim is a full-size replica of a hide brig, i.e., a brig participating in the California cattle hide trade for her Boston owners, Bryant & Sturgis. The original Pilgrim was built in Boston in 1825 and sank in a fire at sea in 1856. It weighed 180 tons and was 86½ feet long.

The replica was built in 1945 in Denmark, originally as a three-masted schooner. It was converted to its present rigging in 1975 in Lisbon, Portugal. Its deck is 98 feet long with a beam of 24.6 feet, a mainmast height of 98 feet, and a net tonnage of 64. In September 1981 it became part of the Ocean Institute.

Full size replica of Pilgrim, Ocean Institute, Dana Point, California

If you’re a film buff, the Pilgrim might look familiar to you since it was used in the 1997 film, Amistad. If you’re a history buff, Amistad should be on your list of films to watch. I have not seen it and did not know about it until this blog post, which was another surprise because it was directed by Steven Spielberg (one of my favorite directors) and starred Morgan Freeman (one of my favorite actors), Anthony Hopkins (who can forget Silence of the Lambs), and Matthew McConaughey.

As an aside since I’m a graduate of Texas A&M University, Matthew McConaughey now is a Professor of Practice in the Department of Radio-Television-Film in the Moody College of Communication at my arch rival, the University of Texas at Austin, where he graduated in 1993.

Amistad is a historical drama film based on the true story of the events in 1839 aboard the slave ship La Amistad, during which Mende tribesmen abducted for the slave trade managed to gain control of their captors’ ship off the coast of Cuba, and the international legal battle that followed their capture by the Washington, a U.S. revenue cutter. The case was ultimately resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1841.

The screenplay was based on the book Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American Abolition, Law, and Diplomacy by historian Howard Jones. The case, United States v. The Amistad (1839) is quite interesting, perhaps the most important decision regarding slavery before the Dred Scot decision in 1857.

The movie is not available on Hulu or Netflix, but I did find it on YouTube for $2.99. As soon as I finish Altered Carbon, I’ll be watching Amistad.

The Ocean Institute also owns an oceanographic research vessel, the Sea Explorer.

Sea Explorer of the Ocean Institute

My Photoshop eye was quick to see that with just a few minutes of work, I could rename the Sea Explorer:

Sex Explorer

Double R Creations & Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos