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


Chapter 30. Ye gods, I'm still here!

John and Johanna
Johanna and myself.


January 2. Lionel took me to the latest in gay nightclubs. It has everything: bar, dancing, stage show, hustlers, even tiny on-site bedrooms for quickie sex. It’s a one-stop gay service station. I liked the old discos better, especially when they played slow music.

January 6. It is a struggle to be sufficient enough to myself that I need no one as a mate. The only way I can say YES to life is to marry myself. End of journal 50; I thought it would be my last.

January 13. A new housemate: Doug. He is desperate to find a place, having surfed his last friend’s couch. His views are diametrically opposed to mine on almost every topic. He can be a paying guest while I continue my ad.

January 20. As I walk in my winter garden and hook rug in a sunny bedroom, I quietly wish for my end. Doug is no companion, just a presence. Would May 24 be a good time to terminate? It’s the ancient festival of Hermes.

January 24. Saw the movie Milk, alone. I’m pleased that I was publicly gay at the same time. And lucky I lived to tell about it.

January 26. Sent Allan and Charlie a proposal to create a network to hide war resisters. It’s mostly a way to be useful.

February 1. At dinner, Johanna asked: What part of you is still trying to find a reason to go on living?

February 7. Today I told Doug as gently as possible: “this is not working.”

February 10. A great day. A TV crew of seven were here all morning. I was able to keep talking and joking about a Chosen Death. It’s a promotional show for DWD.

February 17. I gave Doug a refund, so it has cost him only $50 rent and $40 food to stay here for 30 days. He removed his carful of stuff without protest. Once again, I have escaped.

February 23. Angus has a serious infection, and must have an operation. Deep anxiety!

February 25. Angus is recovering well. Peter and Laura called, to talk about lateral thinking, which I taught Peter as a boy. Peter is a happy father.

March 2. My last public talk? I told The Fraternity  how Toronto gays survived before decriminalization, by a system of “queens” with safe houses. On TV a profound Miss Marple line: It’s very dangerous to believe other people. I haven’t done it for years.

March 6.  Betsy (the Anderson daughter of Howland House days) was here to interview me on the House, which I’ve already described on this website.

March 16. I’m feeling aware of how long I have paid attention to the Holocaust, starting with Mr. Bean in Grade 8, then visiting Dachau in 1956, through to recent media like The Pianist, The Forger, and similar docs. Ordinary people can be slowly seduced into utmost evil.

March 20. Spring again. I crawled into the tight space of the lower greenhouse to repair a ruined drywall. Jo says “Please don’t do things like that alone.” Started the fireplace, a sweet annual ritual of Kairos.

April 6. A fine dinner visit with Joe, Bob and Bruce, but when I got home, the front door lock would not open, leaving me no choice but to kick the door in. I was wearing my paratrooper boots, part of my once-renowned leather outfit. Another narrow escape,

April 8. I’ve managed to install a new deadlock, a tricky bit of work I haven’t done for 20 years. I’m not senile yet. How absurd life is, to have so many skills, yet have no one to share them.

April 11. Johanna kindly drove us to Alex’s 70th birthday party. I wore my best suit, with Peter’s wedding vest and tie. My pants still fit, thirty years later.

April 16. Great visit by Ruth Malloy, Quaker. She’s writing a record of my “spiritual journey.”

April 23. What a chasm we must bridge to remain sane - from the poetry of Wordsworth to the most horrendous TV news in just one hour.

April 25. Today I built and hung a glass door to the patio, entirely out of second-hand material, even the hardware. It is ugly but quite practical.

May 1. Finally, an answer to Johanna’s question of February 1. Schadenfreude is the main reason I am still alive. Schaden means hurt or injury. Freude, of course, is joy. A simple definition is “malicious joy” but there is much more to the concept. I take a naughty delight out of watching fellow humans make such a cock-up of almost everything, and of being correct so often in my predictions. Example: the failure of leadership to realize that we do not need growth to end the current financial debacle. GROWTH ITSELF IS THE PROBLEM.

May 10. Today I finished C. Schonhaus’ The Forger  for a second time. It’s a heartwarming true story. Lionel came for dinner and brought gifts of wine and honey. My tax return has been accepted; after half a century I can still calculate my taxes to the penny.
May 21. When a TV program reminded me of decades of camping, I felt compelled to talk to someone, so I called Charlie D. He also needed to talk, yet called no one. Emotionally, who is the stronger?

May 24. Sometimes life is still fun. A delightful play with Johanna, then dinner.

May 31. Reading my written journal for my 51st birthday in 1984, I see that I did not burden website readers with a miserable observation I made that day: At 51, I already know what it is to be old and alone.  That was 25 years ago!

June 3. I visited Joe’s art show, and tonight walked my garden in quiet outdoor lighting. My life still holds magic. “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty to be happy.” (R.L. Stevenson)

June 12. David is closing his local store, forcing me to drive my car to get groceries. Tonight, the Netherlands Ballet; a great treat.

June 18.  Lionel here for dinner then drove us to Xtra’s 25th anniversary party. I stayed only 40 minutes, warmly greeted but feeling quite out of place.

June 21. Summer solstice. I met a sad wage-slave who has been a security guard all his adult life. Not a good housemate match. Peter called with Father’s Day wishes.

June 24.  My postman and his wife came to dinner. They gave me a fine Chinese cutout. My greenhouse seedlings are finally down to 100.

June 28. During a cheerful call from Peter. he realized his rented cottage does not allow Angus, so I can avoid the long drive. His family will visit me at Kairos. My tooth pain is back.

Canada Day. 32 years since meeting “Dane,” whose death makes it possible to reveal his name: Devon John Stutt. He was the great love of my life and I am finally at peace, able to return his photo to my living room.

July 15. Lawrence gave me a great treat: a production of Loot by Joe Orton.

July 17. Today I harvested a litre of raspberries, a task which once gave great joy, but now there is no one to share, so the joy is more than halved. I am swept with waves of melancholy.

July 21. After several close calls, I’ve built handrails on all stairs in the garden, to avoid falling,

July 22. Toronto has had unusually clean air during this cool summer. Today it’s also sunny enough to take my solo canoe to the bay for a slow, easy paddle. Magic!

July 29. Jean is home from her 2-month car journey to the Yukon. Brave woman!

My beloved dog, Angus

August 2. What a great companion Angus is! I swear he has a real person inside. Weekly dinner with Johanna, a perfect intellectual friend of long tenure.

August 4. A biblical thunderstorm, great crashes and flashes, gusts of windy downpour; all enjoyed from my sheltered deck.

August 10. Peter here for dinner, talk, friendship. Wondrous!

August 11. Intense day. I was actually relieved when Peter left; our closeness was subtle but so powerful that I am exhausted. I am so glad to have fathered Peter.

August 13. Wow, I really put on a performance tonight, spearheading the ‘ginger group’ at DWD to the point where Ruth von Fuchs came over to ask me to “be more kind.” The ‘rump’ directors didn’t even know how to chair a meeting. The final vote on my motion for their resignation was 22 to 12, carried. I have not felt such energy in confrontation for ten years.

August 17. Today I am professor Emeritus.  Ah, I have lived so long.

August 22. Peter and his family here, the very exemplar of a happy family.

August 28. I have a new housemate for a week’s trial. [I will call him “Pan”] It would be good to have company again. Pan’s mother delivered him, with a carload of belongings.

September 4. I caught Pan smoking and warned:  the smell disgusts me.

September 6. Pan and I toured an art show at The Distillery. Got a good idea for a textured wooden wall on the upper deck. Pan did a great job cleaning the kitchen but I am beginning to find him rather pretentious, and he is no company at television.

September 24. Harold here for dinner, made by Pan. Harold drinks little, so I deliberately left the wine in the kitchen. Harold later commented on Pan’s not-so-subtle question: “Shall I bring the wine to the table?” No thanks, I replied.

September 28.  Dinner here with Johanna, who openly denounced Pan’s smoking as disgusting. [She reported next day: “I don’t think I’ll warm to him.”]

October 1. Downtown to a Quaker peace dinner, which Jean attended too. Fireplace begun once more.

October 3. Pan called it a crisis that the phone in his room, and thus his internet connection, stopped working (due to heavy rain). I made a desk available in the library, where the phone/internet was fine, but he refused to use it. “I have to work in my own room.” I gave him a memo warning that such obsessive behaviour foreshadowed future trouble.

October 4. After we completed our regular planning of chores and dinners for the coming week, Pan pulled out pages of notes and launched a twenty-minute harangue, starting with my imperfect use of English (!), then Johanna’s remark about smoking, then the charge that I am inflexible, and much more.

I stifled my surprise at his aggression, and silently took notes, except when he raised his voice. Then I warned : I do not allow anyone to shout at me. When he finally wound down, I asked: Why are you still here if you’re so unhappy ? “I’m still trying to find the real you,” he replied.

You’ve already met the real me . I am the most transparent person you will ever meet. It is quite true I am inflexible. At my age, I know who I am and what I believe. If you are not happy here, you should go. He asked for a week to consider, and I agreed.

October 8. Pan made a good dinner, and carried out his chore (moving compost) effectively. In fact, he’s been nice all week. Does that mean he’s deciding to stay?

October 9. No. Today Pan revealed that he will be moving. I told him he has up to 30 days. I must be more cautious about sharing with anyone who SMOKES. It is not just a habit; it is a major personality marker; none of my friends nor my son smokes.

October 11. I kept the fire going all day but not enough to raise the upstairs above 14C. Pan is complaining of the cold.

October 13. Really cold outside, 10 degrees below normal. I met Jean for lunch and a fine movie: Departures. I got home to find Pan had gathered all his belongings from the kitchen and his bath. The cold has accelerated his plan to move.

October 16. A smooth exit with no need for a third party. Another narrow escape. It was worth the stress of Pan over the past six weeks, to have all the heavy chores done, especially a clean kitchen: oven, copper pots and all. But it is sad that two intelligent men could not find a way to live together cheerfully.

October 17. A heartening visit from one of my students of the 1990s who reports that the “weird” predictions I made then “are all coming true.”

October 22. A fine warm day for outdoor work. Used my high school tinsmithing skills to created a new rain gutter. I hope this terminates the usual Spring ponds in my driveway. As so often, I had all the materials so the installation cost nothing but my labour.

October 24. Wonderful nostalgia: meeting a 10-year-old Boy Scout selling apples. I was glad to see his father only a few feet away, assuring his son’s safety. That wasn’t essential when I was a cub, but it certainly is now.

October 26. I cancelled my NOW houseshare ad today. Alex jokes that I’ve used up the available pool of guys who might be interested.

October 27. I’ve gathered in the last tomatoes, and put the garden to bed. Oddly, this evoked a wish to be here for one more Spring. But how will I get through a lonely winter? Angus comes to me each night for a last cuddle before going to his own bed at the foot of mine.

November 1. A cheerful day, with a long call from Peter. Loyal friends Alex and Andrew here for dinner.

November 2. Muriel Anderson called for an encouraging chat. Mailed a gift parcel to Peter.

November 6. Jean and I talked for an hour. The contrast between my serene life with good friends, and the world portrayed on nightly TV, is hugely impressive.

November 8. On this gloriously sunny day I suddenly decided to canoe the Rouge for two hours. A young couple helped me get the canoe back on the car.

November 11. End of journal 52. How satisfying it is to talk to my journal, one of my most intimate friends, after all these decades. Today Jeremy H, a Quaker friend, gave me a precious gift, a TSO concert: the Benjamin Britten War Requiem, with more than 200 performers. I have loved it since buying the LP in the 1950s, but have never seen it.

November 17. Took taxis to see a multimedia production of Sartre’s No Exit . This play was the very first public performance I saw, 60 years ago.

November 25. I’m being useful by phoning Quakers about a War Resisters’ Dinner.

November 28. My reputation for self-sufficiency works against me; so few friends call me.

Letter from Pan
Hidden letter from "Pan"
to my next housemate.

December 1. Cleaning the housemate bedroom, I found a full-page script by “Pan” wadded into the back of a dresser. It reveals both hurt and resentment, but also, that he finally understood: I say what I mean.  

The advice I gave myself long ago, to allow my partner to reject me, also works with housemates. Pan left quietly because he decided he was not happy here. It’s the kind of manipulation I consider completely moral.

December 4. Lunch with Bill and Lawrence, and a superb ballet by DV8 from Britain.

December 6. Today after dinner, I told Johanna I love you. She reciprocated.

December 10. The War Resister dinner was a success but I didn’t have the energy to stay more than two hours.

December 16. As I bought a small white Xmas cactus I thought It will be as big as my red one by this time next year. NEXT YEAR! Not a wise thought, especially after just losing a piece of tooth the size of a rice grain. Soon I will eat only soup.

December 19. Great TVO doc on Waiting for Godot. It’s the waiting that counts. Old age is often just waiting. and trying to fill the time pleasurably. My many medications keep me alive and comfortable. Today I used Loprox, Fucidin, Xalatan, Symbicort, Singulair, Diovan, Crestor, Temazapam, Lorezapam, Voltaren, St John’s Wort, Gravol, Tylenol.... and vitamins.

December 21. Winter solstice Rob Emerson finally called after a silence of 10 months. Met my new neighbour to my south, John R. I invited him for dinner, and a lively talk.

December 25. Charlie Diamond and I saw A Single Man, which we both enjoyed, then we shared a simple dinner.

December 28. Rob and Ann brought over a good dinner, and thanked me for referring them to videos on child raising, which they have found helpful.

December 29. Allan here for an overnight visit. Friends for 57 years!

December 31. I returned to my little paradise Kairos after seeing A Serious Man (a version of The Book of Job), full of joy that my lucky life has been so opposite to the life of the professor in the movie. Lionel arrived with two friends and a completely prepared dinner, then we all watched CBC comedy.

I’ve survived another year in my life of pushing the envelope, and narrow escapes. I’ve got away with it for a long time. Driving for 55 years with no more than a fender bender; dumping several times in whitewater, and canoeing (not bushwacking) home; sex with HIV positive men, while remaining negative; civil disobedience without arrest, and 75 years without a broken bone. The gods must have loved me.



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