Monthly Archives: January 2020

Words matter


My wise old grandmotherMy wise old grandmother never finished first grade. Her father had died, and she had to hit the fields to help ensure that the family had crop to harvest and sell. I find that amazing considering all that I learned from her.

One day when I was 11, I had a conversation with her that went something like this:

Me: Can I go over to Jim’s house?
Her: I don’t know. Can you?
Me: I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking.
Her: Are you sick?
Me: No.
Her: Can you walk?
Me: Yes.
Her: Then I guess you can.
Me (as I turn to run out of the house): Thanks!
Her: Where are you going?
Me: Over to Jim’s.
Her: I didn’t say you could go anywhere.
Me: Yes you did!
Her: No, I did not. Sit down.

I sat.

After a 5-minute lecture on the importance of words and how words matter, and the difference between Can I? and May I?, I asked her, May I go over to Jim’s house? She answered, Yes, you may.

I bring this up because 54 years later, I still believe in the importance of words, that words matter.

Yesterday on Facebook I posted a link to an article titled,

Your Homophobia Isn’t A ‘Difference Of Opinion,’ It’s Hate.
Don’t tell me, a gay man, just to accept that some people want me dead.

Here is the conversation:

Person 1: I would say more ignorance than hate. These things are often passed on from parents. And they have not been exposed to the beauty there is in all types of people – gender, race, or sexual preference. And, that is sad.

Me: Or sexual orientation. “Preference” indicates a choice. Words matter.

Person 1: Whatever, you know what I mean, Russel. Everyone has beauty and importance them. It is time that people realized it.

Me: I cannot agree with “whatever.” My life is important to me, and when people like Mike Pence want to kill me because of my “choice” and “preference,” well, words matter.

Person 2: Person 1, big difference between preference and orientation. I get the feeling that you don’t understand the difference (e.g, “whatever”).

Person 3: It’s definitely ignorant but it is also hate. The hate is the dangerous part that is sweeping across the globe right now. The hate is the flame that Trump and his minions are throwing fuel on. It is the hate that Bolsonaro and the lumber barons and miners use as they torture and destroy the indigenous people of the rain forest. It is the same hate that Boris Johnson inflames the people with bats to beat lesbians on the streets of London. It is the same ignorance and hate that we remember on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Hate of the other: gypsy, Jew, homosexual, Catholic, neurodiverse, mentally ill, physically disabled, African, African American, South American, Native American, Mexican, Puerto Rican, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, left handed, Muslim, Iranian, Syrian – any group that the masses can be made to hate so they can be manipulated. You know what they are capable of. We have come to a time in our world where we must take a stand. Whatever is not enough.

Person 1: Russel and Person 2- of course orientation. Thanks for the correction.

I have no problem with preferences. Preference is a choice. I prefer margaritas, you prefer wine. I might not agree with their preferences but I’m not going to argue with anyone over them.

Since 1993-94, I have been estranged from thousands of relatives on both my mom’s side (Mormons) and dad’s side (Catholics). None of them could accept my “preference,” and none of them were willing to continue to love me. So we split. No problem. They prefer their religion. I don’t. But I also don’t want their preferences in my life. It’s not like pineapple on pizza, or not (NO!).

Another phrase that irritates me is “gay lifestyle.” A few years ago a Mormon relative with whom I had grown up in Kingsville, Texas, contacted me. She said she was aware of my “gay lifestyle.” Well, here’s a representation of my gay lifestyle:

I get up each day, shower, dress, eat breakfast, brush my teeth.
I feed Little Queen Olivia.
I go to work.
I take a lunch break (pizza, without pineapple!).
I go back to work.
I get off work.
I come home.
I eat supper.
I check Facebook, news, and sports.
I pay bills.
I play with Little Queen Olivia.
My husband comes home.
We kiss hello.
Husband checks Facebook, news, and sports.
We kiss goodnight.
Repeat daily.

O.M.effin.G. That’s so gay!

When I came out to all my relatives and friends in 1993-94, many asked me, “How long have you known you were gay?” and “When did you decide you were gay?” and “What made you gay?”

Well, back when I was pseudo-religious, I thought God made me gay because God made me, and the Mormon and Catholic religions taught me that God doesn’t make mistakes. Maybe making about 10% of his/her creations gay was his/her form of birth control?

If we substitute “homosexual” for “gay,” I’ve known since about the age of ten that I was homosexual. I was always more interested in the boys than the girls, and it was far more than “boys will be boys” and “girls will be girls,” far more than getting cooties from the girls.

When my friends brought Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler to school, I was right there with them looking at the pictures (Ooopsy. I mean, reading the articles). However, while they were looking at the women, I was looking at the guys. Hustler was the best because it showed full frontal nudity for the guys. I was a Hustler fan, and it was easy to fool all my friends with my heterosexuality….

We were getting aroused over different things. It wasn’t something that happened overnight. It just naturally happened, and I never really questioned why it happened.

I never decided I was gay. I did decide to try not to be gay. I did that for 38 years. All it did was cause me to be a mess mentally. I’m kind of surprised that I survived, but I did.

With Twitler in the White House and his Crime Family, supporters, and enablers doing everything they can to ostracize people like me, yes, I’m going to speak out when and where I can in a forceful yet respective manner. It’s the least I can do to ensure that people like me never have to live like I did the first 38 years of my life.

The little monster


I have been spending a lot of time cataloging and organizing pictures, so I don’t have much to say today.

When I don’t have much to say, I let pictures do the talking.

So here are some recent pictures of the little monster, Little Queen Olivia.

She’s been with us for six months now and is as crazy as ever.

Little Queen Olivia

Little Queen Olivia

Little Queen Olivia

Little Queen Olivia

Little Queen Olivia

Little Queen Olivia

Little Queen Olivia

Little Queen Olivia

Little Queen Olivia

Which is your favorite picture of the little monster?

Fighting depression

After a lifetime of working and volunteering, I find myself really depressed after retiring on December 31, 2016. Since I was self-employed for 90% of my working life, I had to become an expert in many areas related to business: marketing & advertising (they are different), accounting, actual work, taxes, customer service, and negotiating, just to name a few.

I am endeavoring to do a few things that I have always wanted to do, such as publishing a book. I finished my first book, Nature’s Geometry: Succulents, in October 2019.

Cover of "Nature's Geometry: Succulents" by Russel Ray

I worked on it 12-18 hours a day from mid-June to October. It kept me busy and out of trouble.

Spiny Succulents, by Jeff MoorePrior to that, I did the final editing and design layout for Jeff Moore’s fourth book on succulents, comprising 350 pages and about 1500 pictures.

I started that on January 28, 2019, and finished in mid-June. I think I worked on it for 18-24 hours a day because I did pull a couple of all-nighters. It was like I was back in college albeit without the keg parties.

United States SSS mapJanuary 28 through October was the only time since retirement that I have not be depressed on a daily basis. Those months caused me to realize just how much I love reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, not to mention photography. Late last year I hit upon the idea of writing another book, to be titled SSS: Southwest Succulent Staycation. I would explore finding succulents in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah. Those four states pretty much take in the southwest United States.

The problem I immediately ran into is that they are four big states. It’s not like the northeast where you could go to eight or nine states all in a week or less. To explore these four big states and get appropriate material for my book would take a year or two. Just finding the places that I need to visit already has taken all of January, and I’m nowhere near finished.

When I have a significant problem to work on, I take a nap. These are not your normal naps, though, because I don’t fall asleep. The problem weighs on my mind. It’s kind of like daydreaming.

A couple of days ago I took a nap in order to work on this problem and came up with what I think is a brilliant idea.

There’s no doubt that a book covering succulents in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah is going to be a pretty big book, taking a pretty long time to complete, and costing a pretty penny.

My nap showed me that I could make four books, and instead of huge 8½x8½ books or larger, I could make “pocket books” (4.25″ x 6.75″) which would be better for actually using them during your staycation. The pocket books would cost less money and provide me with something to do immediately since I can easily create California’s book starting today.

My Nature’s Geometry: Succulents book has landed me on the cactus & succulent club speaking circuit, and publishing four more books instead of one book would keep me on the circuit. Second and third editions could keep me going for many years, and having five books to sell instead of one or two keeps clubs happy. They like variety, having choices.

I also can work on four books simultaneously since I do have enough pictures from all four states to give me a good start. Working on four books, traveling on the speaking circuit, and traveling to get pictures of places I have not been definitely could keep the depression at bay.

Of course, I would miss my husband and Little Queen Olivia while I was traveling. The lazy ass cat will never know I’m gone….

Little Queen Olivia

Out & About—Slab City, California, public library

Out & About

One of the nice things about libraries here in California is that almost all of them have a “Friends of the Library” association, taking in book donations and selling them to make money for the library. I have bought many books from Friends.

Here is the public library at Slab City, California:

Slab City, California, public library

Here is their Friends of the Libary:

Friends of the Library at Slab City, California

Dolphins killed Jesus

Out & About

One of the “neighborhoods” of Slab City, California, is East Jesus.

Its complementary neighborhood is West Satan.

East Jesus and West Satan don’t get along. No surprise there, but since the leader of our photographic expedition was wearing an East Jesus shirt, we decided to skip West Satan. Consequently, all I have to offer you today is pictures of the East Jesus sculpture garden, obviously Slab City’s “tourist trap.”

For your visual entertainment:

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

A Smith Corona Coronamatic.
This was my first electric typewriter.
I would have kept mine if I had known
that some day it would be a museum piece.
East Jesus sculpture garden

I’m worried about his followers

Out & About

Yesterday I went to Salvation Mountain.

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain location

This was my sixth or seventh trip to Salvation Mountain since 1993, but I was always alone, so I never exited the car and walked around.

I did not feel safe.

Yesterday I was with a group of seventeen photographers…. There’s power in numbers.

I felt safe.

Not completely safe.

But safe enough to get out of my car and take pictures.

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Is it odd that I don’t feel safe in the midst of Bible Thumpers, especially those spouting “God Is Love?” On the surface, yes, I think it is odd. The underlying reality, I believe—

—and as my wise old grandmother told me,
“You can’t argue with someone’s beliefs
because their beliefs are not always based in reality.”—

—is that these people will do just about anything to protect their beliefs, and they often are not sane, sober, or interested in other beliefs, not to mention opinions, facts, science, truth….

Armed & bitter libertarian drunkards live here

Salvation Mountain is a “hillside visionary environment” created by Leonard Knight (1931–2014) in the California Desert area of Imperial County. Knight started it in 1984 when he was 53. Although there are many Bible verses painted on Salvation Mountain, its main philosophy is the Sinner’s Prayer. Knight’s version of the Sinner’s Prayer seemed to be the following because it was everywhere!

Jesus, I’m a sinner.
Please come upon my body
and into my heart.

Sinner's Prayer

What little research I could tolerate doing this morning on the Sinner’s Prayer indicates that it’s just another of those beliefs. In this case, even the Bible does not contain any reference to the Sinner’s Prayer. It’s all made up gobbledygook even beyond the fairy tales in the Bible.

Salvation Mountain is the “showpiece” of Slab City. Other parts of Slab City include the “neighborhoods” of East Jesus and West Satan. I’m pretty sure I would  be living in West Satan.

We didn’t make it to West Satan yesterday. Seems the West Satan folks and the East Jesus folks weren’t getting along…. Where’s God’s love?

All residents of Slab City are “squatters” and seem to be paranoid about government, technology, and science. However, if you want to donate to their paranoia, they have an email address and they do take PayPal. They also have a Facebook page. Am I the only one who sees the irony here?

East Jesus PayPal

I do find it interesting that for a “city” propounding God’s love, there was a lot of non-love exhibited throughout Salvation Mountain, Slab City, and East Jesus.

Slow the fuck down

I'll have them all shot

More irony (my belief)
No stupid people

No fucking parking

In 2000, The Folk Art Society of America declared Salvation Mountain

a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection.

In an address to the United States Congress on May 15, 2002, California Senator Barbara Boxer described Salvation Mountain

as a unique and visionary sculpture… a national treasure… profoundly strange and beautifully accessible, and worthy of the international acclaim it receives.

In December 2011, the 80-year-old Knight, suffering from dementia,
was placed in a long-term care facility in El Cajon, California (where I live!).
He died there February 10, 2014.

In 2012, a public charity, Salvation Mountain, Inc., was established to support and maintain Salvation Mountain.

I found the question mark in this little section of Salvation Mountain to be quite interesting:

Bible Jesus Loves ? You

I’m not worried about whether or not Bible Jesus loves me. I’m worried about the followers of Bible Jesus….