Love's Gay Fool. Autobiography of John Alan Lee.


Chapter 21. A happy marriage.


January 5. Today I returned to the college after a month's break, and this term I need to be in my office only two days a week. What an incomparable occupation!

January 8. Last night I slept in the garden cabin. High winds blasted from the lake into our woods, producing a sound I love: the unmistakable whine of spruce trees.

January 10. I'm stunned by Dane's harsh accusation over breakfast: "John, you are the biggest obstacle to my personal growth." Is he blind to his growth over nine years? He has evolved from a post-teenager less mature than my son, to a "married man." Does he mean that I block his desire to grow in a direction different from the one I've encouraged? In that case he is correct. Johanna says: “Accept it, John, Galatea never is grateful to Pygmalion.”

One of the most beautiful sights to greet visitors to Kairos is a very gay stained glass window.

January 20. On seeing a version of Martin Luther King's childhood, I have one of those Ah-ha realizations: For years I've thought it contradictory to be heavily involved in moral causes, when I do not like most people. But it is no contradiction at all.

Good causes have prevented me from becoming a totally selfish hedonist. Without moral causes, I would spend my money on myself alone, a consumer like most others. I worry that there is a potential psychopath locked inside me. I show some clinical symptoms: “easily bored, glib, promiscuous, having difficulty with empathy, needing ego stroking, endeavouring to charm and manipulate others.” Only the healing grace of SCM experiences tipped the balance against the more alarming signs: “callous, lying, conning, secretive, parasitical, abusive.” These I am not.

January 21. I'm making a computer summary of all my journal entries on Dane and myself, for two reasons: to get a better handle on what this marriage means to me, and to allow Dane to see that I do not record only negative stuff about our marriage, as he so often hints.

February 10. Dane is reassured that I've made numerous positive journal comments about him over the years. He's started therapy with Michael, a therapist recommended by Johanna. Married life is going well again.

February 19. In a moment of inspiration today, I called Dane at his office to meet me at 5 PM for a drink, followed by excellent Russian food at The Winter Palace , then a play.

March 7. Dane likes his therapist, and I see results already. His tight inner spring is relaxing.

March 25. A dulcet spring day in the garden. Our party went well. After the guests were gone, Dane and I talked about friendship. He concedes I am his only trusted friend. (I am also his executor).

May 12. Dane is cheered by the new meshing between us; his powers grow as mine decline, thus we get nearer. He cheerfully took the plastic sunroom down all by himself, swaggering about as if he were Prince Henry ready to grasp the crown from his dying father.

May 15. The Canadian Gay Archives called with news that Franz died last December, at 45 years of age. I'm mortified that he did not call me in his final days, to say goodbye. Probably his body was badly ravaged. The CGA asked if I have any objection to public viewing of my love letters, which are among the papers Franz left to the Archives. "Not at all – I have nothing to hide."

June 3. I've just told a lie, and worse, to a fine Quaker, Fred Franklin. He has kept the jail visiting programme going for years almost single-handedly, and he wanted me to come and give one of my talks. I claimed I had another engagement, when I do not.

I was there two months ago and came away feeling stupid. I'm not making any difference, except possibly to Fred, and I don't have sympathy with the prisoners. I've been doing jail visitation for fifteen years (and may never have mentioned it before). I even got my photo in the papers over a public condemnation of the Don Jail. I learned one thing from this activity: most of the prisoners are there as a result of their own deliberate choices, yet few feel remorse. They are signal examples of Berger's "bad faith" – refusal to take responsibility for one's own actions. Instead they accuse parents, society, or even bad luck in getting caught.

June 4. Dane has left his corporate job, and will now work for the Toronto Hospital. At last a job worth doing? He got a two-week break between jobs, and we're spending it at home, painting and gardening.

June 10. Today Dane and I attended a $150-a-plate gala organized by June Callwood to fund an AIDS hospice. Many celebrities were present. Additional funds were raised by "taxi dance" (selling opportunities to dance with celebrities after dinner). At first only heterosexual couples took the floor, yet a good portion of the crowd was gay. I “bought” famed comedian Tom Kneebone, who danced with me: the first same-sex couple on the floor. Tom took it in good humour.

Dane and I danced, and June congratulated us for being so open. I introduced her to Dane. She was keen on him because she needs computer skills on the Hospice committee. Dane has finally found a good cause to support – not least because he'll rub elbows with bigwigs.

A centre-piece of the garden party: giant iris against the summer sky.

The white quartz hills of Killarney, Ontario.

June 22. It's hard to believe that an hour ago eighty people thronged in our garden, and a chamber orchestra played. What elegance! Since I read Katherine Mansfield's The Garden Party as a boy, her image has captivated my imagination. It's a thrill to come from low beginnings to this day. It was our second garden party in ten days. We held a party for the Sierra Club, with MP Svend Robinson as guest of honour. He stayed on after others left, to ask us how we manage a "public" stance. He’s debating whether to become the first Member of Parliament to go public.

July 1. Our ninth anniversary. Dane's card assures on the outside: "I love you for your mind,” and inside: "your dirty dirty mind." He added: (I've edited his well-intentioned poetry)

      In nine years, we've merged like two hot stars;

      Moved apart, circled warily, and again combined.

      My love for you is strong and unending;

                              Your lover, family, friend, Dane

With deliberate irony I chose this day to join the Dying with Dignity Society.

July 21. Home from Killarney with Stuart, my teaching and research assistant. He is a keen and sociable camper, doing his full share, and he is quickly learning canoe skills.

July 28. I've spent today staring at the Cyclops’ eye of our little Macintosh MacPlus (1000K!), composing an academic journal article about the seal hunt. I surprise myself by continuing to publish, even though I no longer believe there's any benefit. It was a solitary day; the phone did not ring. No friend to say "just thinking of you." In this computer age each person is sitting on a lonely island with a keyboard.

August 25. Some feedback by my son: he meets former students of mine, and they comment on my "arrogance" or at least my "self-assurance." Fair enough. Those closest to me realize that I must act as if I am assured, even when I feel a deep inner uncertainty. [Here’s one of the places where several early readers wanted “more self-analysis.” But I wasn’t in a mood at the time to question my “presentation of self,” as we sociologists call it. It worked for me, for a very long time, and that’s what mattered].

September 1. Imagine! In six years the $80,000 mortgage on Kairos – plus $30,000 in interest– is fully paid off. Thus our Declaration of Trust evaporates, because Dane's "rent" no long helps to pay off my mortgage. Today we signed a new Agreement about the share Dane has already accumulated.

After all these years, Dane seems willing to show gratitude. Our new Agreement will be: 1) Accumulated capital each of us has invested in the house: Dane, $1 5, 0 5 0. 00; myself $ 1 5 9, 1 9 7. 2) Inclusion in our operating costs of a "payment to ourselves" of 5% interest on this capital. 3). We will treat the house as if we were renting it, and divide our shelter costs half-and-half. 4) The deed remains in my name. If I sell the house, each will get back his capital amount, and the remainder will be divided in proportion to payments of "rent" from 1980 to now.

September 10. Home from the wilderness. We canoed down the Temagami River and up the Caribou. We ran the rapids without dumping, found terrific campsites, and suffered only one day of rain (thanks, Hermes!)

September 26. Montreal: I visited Yvan Corbeil at his home. He walked with canes. Workmen were scurrying about, installing an elevator. A wheelchair stands ready for the day he loses the use of his legs. What grievous fate for such an admirable man. One more reason to appreciate my good fortune.

I dined with old fling Nelson Carry, now the manager of a sex shop. No career as photographer after all.

October 6. Dane picked up an STD from one of his tricks and passed it on to me. Dr. M. was kind, helpful, and tired as ever. He is trying to numb himself against something, but won't say what. [He soon died of AIDS].

October 29. Dane is terrified of Death: "A healthy 42-year-old manager just hired at the hospital took a week's vacation between old and new jobs. Today we got a call: he died of a sudden heart attack, on a beach."

October 30. I arranged a Sierra Club debate between environmentalist Professor Evernden, and Lois Wilson, former Moderator of the United Church. Only my provocative sallies kept us going. I taunted Lois: "Would you use the very last baboon on earth to transplant its heart into a baby human in danger of dying?" Yes, she would.

November 9. Classes are in good shape, well thinned out – 24 left of 72 starters in education, and 9 of 36 in law. My chairman is infuriated by the way I cull my classes.

November 27. Dane has thrown himself into work for Casey House AIDS hospice and I haven't spent one evening with him this week. From one extreme to the other: years without a cause; now he hardly comes home.

December 6. Tonight Robert, the boy Jean and I fostered back in the Sixties, came for dinner. He claims to be "in the import-export carpet business" (truthfully, hash from Morocco). His big hope in life is getting his hands on a painting owned by his aunt, a "real Monet." He knows nothing about Monet except that he means Money. At least Robert has apparently survived without killing or maiming anyone. He is gay, and lives alone.

December 11. Dane moaned tonight: "I wish I had your zest for life."

December 29. Costa Rica. We're here for a rain-forest vacation. In Monteverde, a Quaker-pioneered settlement, I skipped a nature walk to help a local Friend electrically wire his simple home. I also visited the Clerk of Meeting. In the Fifties some American Quakers fleeing conscription came to Costa Rica because it has no standing army. Most of their children have left for the States, in search of a more exciting life.


February 24. Home from Reading Week, spent in California. In Los Angeles I visited Brian Miller, conducted a terrific interview with Don Bachardy, survivor of Isherwood [my article was published in the New York magazine, Christopher Street ], visited the gleaming villa of the Getty Museum, and spent a ripping evening with Laud Humphrey [famous gay sociologist]. In San Francisco I enjoyed great times with Steve Murray, and a good lunch with John de Cecco.

March 5. I've just coped with another round of nonspecific urethitis. I'm not being careful enough in fucking. Dane and I have decided we're probably both HIV positive anyway, so we never use condoms.

A garden sculpture under construction in my workshop.

The garden of Kairos is studded with statues of beautiful men, created in my winter workshop.

The design of our tenth anniversary rings.

March 12. Yesterday I visited Don Barlowe, who now has advanced AIDS and is confined to bed at home. Surgeons don't want to work on him and hospital space is in short supply. His young lover, Jim, is under great stress. I hugged Don warmly as I left, my own emotions in turmoil. Is this my future fate?

Today my guest at Intro Soc was Superintendent Don Banks, who ran the gay bath raids. How's that for running an open classroom?

April 2. News came today from SSHRCC about renewal of my research grant. The reviewers approved the proposal, but declined to shell out more money. They acknowledge that I've produced ample papers out of my previous grants, but because there are so many younger applicants, they encourage me to "seek funding elsewhere."

April 14. I've decided that not having my grant renewed is Fate’s signal to extricate myself from the game of academic publishing. I have a lot of work "in the pipeline" but I’ll start nothing new.

April 20. Christopher Street welcomed my article on the 33-year relationship of Isherwood and Bachardy with a glowing note from editor Tom Steele: "I know and admire your work.”

May 11. Exams are all marked, thus completing the academic year's work. I've launched a new house project, installing a two-person jacuzzi in the old "dressing room."

May 30. The month of May has brought great joy in my own skills. I've played wrecker, mason, carpenter, glazer, plasterer, electrician, plumber, and of course architect and general contractor. I've done no intellectual work all month.

June 30. Don Barlowe, age 40, is near death. He often loses awareness of who he is, or who I am, as I sit by his bed.

July 16. TENTH ANNIVERSARY PARTY. We postponed to avoid Pride Day. Twenty good friends, from Jean and Peter to Stuart and Lisa, were here today. We exchanged new rings made by a Toronto goldsmith, from a design I created. Each ring is a 1/4 inch-wide gold band, with repeating tree symbols. Twice, between the trees, our two cockers are seen, nose to nose. In the other two intervals, two figures are in a canoe, paddles raised for a stroke.

[A 1999 Japanese movie, After Life, supposes that each of us may select one hour from life, which becomes our sole memory for eternity. I would select the hour when Dane and I renewed our vows with rings].

July 28. I'm home from a three-day canoe trip with Stuart. He's still a tenderfoot but really puts his heart into it. Oh, that Dane might do the same!

August 16. On a canoe trip with my son, a bracing wind against us on Lake Temagami caused me to misjudge our location, but Peter got it right. Thus he finally got the experience every son must savour: proving his father wrong, with witnesses. We found a forester, and he verified Peter's position.

September 17. Today I picked thirty quarts of apples from my trees!

September 30. I've received congratulations from my auto insurance company for a lifetime of no-claim driving. They ask what makes me a safe driver. I'd hate to tell them: I use both feet to drive, against all the rules. Several times my habit of braking with my left foot has saved precious seconds.

October 16. Dane and I made a Thanksgiving canoe trip with five others, through the north end of Algonquin park. The lake's edge was rimmed with ice early in the morning, but bright sun warmed the day. We shared a scrumptious turkey dinner at the campsite.

October 17. "Depend upon it Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it wonderfully concentrates the mind ." Samuel Johnson, 1777, age 68. Tonight I had a brush with waiting Death. I met Terry D, a man with whom I had sex five years ago. He now has advanced AIDS. He was already infected when I tricked with him, without using a condom.

What remains to be enjoyed, in the "fortnight" left before my hanging? Egypt. An Arctic canoe trip. As much good theatre as possible. Making friends. More music in my life. More good times with my son Peter.

I must make a careful daily review, to resist mindless distractions. Robert Louis Stevenson warned: “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty to be happy.”

October 30. Don Barlowe is ready to die but has no means of giving himself a death with dignity. I must find a way to help.

December 2 . Don took my advice and spent the money he'd set aside for a wake, to invite fifteen friends to party with him while he still has some clarity. He’s bed-bound in the living room but his nurse keeps his morphine in the bathroom. She was not at the party, and “somehow” the morphine got to Don. Who could tell how it moved? [A few hours after the party, Don was dead].


January 7. More than one hundred attended the memorial for Don. I choked in tears while reading his favourite Dylan Thomas poem, Do not go gentle into that good night. It would not be my choice; I do not believe that "old age should burn and rave at close of day, rage against the dying of the light." I decided at age thirty that I want to welcome Death as a friend.

January 9. O great Hermes, we are about to take our longest journey. We pray you be with us; give us good passage into safe and quiet havens, and guard us from all illness and disability.

Hermes answered my prayer with a curtain of waterfalls down the canyon of the Milford Track.

February 4. Home from New Zealand. Hail Hermes! What an incredible trip. There were no hitches of any kind. We were in top health and enjoyed unbelievably good weather.

We arrived in Auckland, New Zealand after a comfortable flight, to be met by the ten others we would travel with, and our guide, Judd Davy. He became a true friend and helper, readily displaying his free spirit and easy comfort with two gay men.

Our most memorable experience in three weeks of walking rain forests, volcanoes and glaciers, was the Milford Track. The best day was in the canyon. The Milford canyon walls are topped by shallow tarns which overflow during rain to create hundreds of temporary waterfalls. I publicly requested rain from Hermes. Other tourists mocked, but sure enough, we got a steady light rain, sufficient to create curtains of downspouts on both sides.

Back in Los Angeles, we enjoyed dinner with Don Bachardy and his new lover. Don has taken Chris's role of older partner, applying all the lessons he learned to build a relationship with a much younger partner.

Our cruise ship on the Nile.

On board ship, the passengers celebrated with a costume dinner. I pushed the envelope more than most.

February 5. Today, after an unusually fierce tirade from Dane, my excessive candour led me to show him my new article in The Psychology of Love, published by Yale. It reads: "I have studied love because it is my life's most difficult problem. Although I have made much progress, the "impossible dream" of a truly fulfilling mutual love remains a goal I have yet to achieve."

I assured Dane: "You could become my dream, if only you'd show more good-heartedness." Perhaps it was not good-hearted, and even stupid, to show him something he would otherwise never read.

February 16. Last night nature blustered in all her glory. I slept in the garden cabin, and woke to a bespelled world of drifts and snow-bowed branches.

February 19. I can't believe how many articles I've got in the pipeline: Canadian Journal on Aging, Alternatives, Human Relations, Generations, Journal of Homosexuality . I've been supervising two research assistants since last September. They worked full-out while I was in New Zealand. All this work is consuming old grant money. When that runs out, I will not launch anything new.

February 25. Constant changes and surprises! Dane was in bed waiting for me, cleverly self-restrained, when I returned home from an Amnesty benefit. He still cares.


A statute of Abu Simbal towering over me.

The temple of Hatsheput in the Valley of the Kings.

The forest of columns at Karnak.

I climbed partway up the great pyramid, and gave up.

March 18. Egypt. I'm on a three-week cruise on the Nile. Cairo is a madhouse of congested traffic. People accustomed to driving camels across trackless desert now drive cars without regard for lanes or lights.

March 20. Beyond a narrow strip of green land clinging to the Nile, sand dunes stretch to the horizon. At least Egyptians have the good sense to build their houses on the sand. We pave Niagara's fertile acres.

March 22. Abu Simbel. From the air, you see mighty figures against the rock cliff. From the ground you are humbled by the timeless power of Rameses II, grandiose in stone.

March 24. Philae, last refuge of paganism in the newly Christian Mediterranean world; Trajan was the last Roman emperor to worship pagan gods here. Today a Wiccan group is gathered here in worship.

March 28. We have passed El Kab, where 5000-year-old mud walls still stand. That's how little it rains here.

March 29. We are now double parked at Luxor. There are so many cruise ships they have to park two and three abreast at major sites!

Our guides roused us at 4 AM this morning for breakfast and a boat trip to the Theban ruins. Even at 5 AM we were not the first at the tombs. When we returned there were more than 80 buses!

While in the valley I bought a small eushabti figure from a sly and secretive worker. He started at $800 and settled for $80. Barbara and Magdi, our Egyptologists, say it is probably genuine – stolen from a dig.

Karnak temple: tonight I revelled in a memorable sound-and-light show which made me feel like a pilgrim at an ancient festival. What an overwhelming forest of columns!

April 6. A scary experience at the airport, but Hermes is still with me. It’s unlawful to export ancient artifacts without a licence. I wrapped my contraband eushabti in tissue and hid it in the farthest recess of my first-aid pouch. An official searched my suitcase. My heart sank as he opened my pouch to look inside. He did not delve deep.

At mail call this morning, I rejoiced to receive a letter from Dane. He actually missed me while eating Sunday dinner alone! He's been giving our Hermes shrine lots of flowers.

April 14. When Dane picked me up at the airport I greeted him: “You are my only reason for living. The rest of my agenda is complete.”

May 3. I was so occupied with supervising my two assistants today that I didn't get into the garden at all.

May 15. The highlight of our weekend was a threesome with Matt. I built a platform in the dining room. He danced while we ate dinner, got stoned, and moved to the new dungeon.

July 5. Dane and I joined an Out and Out canoe trip for the four-day holiday. I did not enjoy the approach of these gay men to wilderness. Most are not out at all –- not out of the closet, and not really out in the woods. Forest fairies or woodland wimps would be more accurate sobriquets. Their pace was miserably slow: breakfast at ten, on the water by noon, paddle for a couple of hours, quit for the day, and stay up drinking until midnight.

July 7. Chris Larkin is dead. He mailed me a long letter just before ending his own life. He was suffering from KS, (skin cancer from AIDS), and woeful at the loss of his physical beauty.

July 23. In The Road to Mecca a boy is told by his father to jump from a height: "Don't worry, I'll catch you." But the boy is allowed to fall to the floor, and warned: "The world is like that."

August 6. Stuart's wedding was a spectacular festival of Jewish family and culture. He was radiant and blissful. I was honoured by both his parents, who alluded to me in their speeches as his "mentor."

August 12. Tonight Dane did me a big favour by installing Microsoft 3, but spoiled the effect by gratuitously comparing me to a stupid client. I'm stunned by his sudden squalls of anger. What a volcano!

August 14. A man is looking at Jesus crucified, and asks: "What father would allow that to happen to his son?"

August 16. I'm fraught with anxiety over not enrolling in the university pension plan years ago. The die will be cast in a few days (when I reach age 55, the last chance to enrol). Should I abandon my conviction, that I would not live to 65? NO!

September 6. Home from a ten-day canoe trip. Hermes granted good fortune, especially considering our stupidity. We enjoyed six beguiling days in Quetico. The loveliness of one site defies description; I can only say “a sacred grove of cedars on an island between two falls.” There were two nights of biblical storms, with lightning strikes very close. We survived a couple of rough portages, and ran some exhilarating rapids.

Alas, we lined the canoe right into a souse hole. I wanted to line along the shore, but Dane insisted on letting the canoe go out further, beyond our reach. Down it went, with all gear on board. It threatened to break up on a rock. I started to wade out into the river, but Dane grabbed me and burst into tears: "It's not safe!"

We managed to keep hold of the front rope and heaved with might-and-main to drag the canoe along the bottom of the river. We succeeded, but ripped the gunwales off the shell of the canoe all the way back to the yoke. Much gear was lost, including our cooking equipment, but some essentials, including the paddles, were floating nearby.

We dried the canoe in the sun, wrapped it round – from gunwales to keel – with duct tape, and set out for our gear. We found some washed ashore, including a little food, and our map.

Autumn bliss on the Black River.

We headed out of the park by the shortest possible route, and managed to reach our car in two days (compared to six days going in). We survived on slim rations, and the dogs did not eat at all.

In short: high adventure, no injuries, no damage that can't be repaired. Hermes be praised!

September 11. A new term. No more assistants to keep busy, no new academic projects. I've joined a gay square dancing group. It's great fun though a bit confusing, with some men dancing the "girl's part." My sculpture classes begin soon at the ROM, and a film series.

September 13. Home from a cheerful two-day trip on the Black River with Peter. Excellent weather, leaves in flaming colour, and bright sun.

November 5. I enjoy building sets at Alumnae Theatre, where I'm now a volunteer stage carpenter. Theatre people are pleasant to work with.


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