Monthly Archives: July 2011

Midnight in Paris

I walked by the building, intentionally, on the way home from seeing Woody Allen’s new film “Midnight in Paris”, a poetic reflection on the seeming attraction of former eras. 

The access to the building is now sealed. Not just boarded over with plywood that I could pry loose. Not even with brick that I might be able to chip away with the right tools and enough sweat. No, the former door is now a solid wall of impenetrable concrete cinder block.

Thirty-five years ago, I walked through that door and met Bill. We created a new life together that evening, one that continued for over three decades during which we lived large in laughter and music, in art and politics, in travel and work, in pain and suffering, in love and loss.

That life is over and it feels like memory is all I’ve got left.

Without giving away anything too crucial about the plot of “Midnight in Paris”, let me just say that Woody seems to conclude that the past is not quite as romantic as we might imagine nor the present as pedestrian as we might fear.

The movie prompts reflection on memory and verges, I think, on deprecating memory as ultimately shallow—quaint and curious nostalgia that is unreliable as a guide to life in the present. That’s my take on it anyway. Many may disagree with my interpretation and I’m prepared to admit that my reaction may be coloured by more than a little defensiveness about the place of memory.

Paris was a special place for Bill and me. We had both studied at the Sorbonne before we met and we returned to the city of lights many times during our years together. Those are some of the memories that I cherish, that I hoard, that I guard with an army of emotional weaponry. Yeah, I’m a bit defensive.

But just so you don’t send the straight-jackets to take me away quite yet, let me reassure you that there is, I think, some good news.

I’m not only wallowing in the memory, though I do do that. I’m not dysfunctional and incapable of getting up and making breakfast each morning though that is difficult on many days. No, the good news is that I’m working with those memories, mauling and molding them, creating meaning out of them to help me understand where I’ve been, where I am now, and where I may be headed.

This memory work for me is through writing. The memoir, August Farewell, came first. After finishing it, I felt compelled to keep on writing and thus emerged the novel, Searching for Gilead. And maybe next, a series of short stories.

This memory work is not easy. It does suggest though, that if memory is all I’ve got today, it is not all I will have tomorrow. I’m not prepared to just stare at that sealed-up door and walk away in despair.

* * *

For information on the memoir, August Farewell, and my novel, Searching for Gilead, visit my website at: http://DavidGHallman.com

August Farewell and Searching for Gilead are available for order on-line through http://amazon.com, http://barnesandnoble.com, http://amazon.ca, http://chapters.indigo.ca, http://amazon.co.uk 

 The picture below is of Bill and me standing on the Japanese Bridge over the lily pond at Monet’s home in Giverny on one of our many trips to Paris, years before Owen and Rachel stood on that bridge in the lens of Woody’s camera.

2i_-_monets_garden_giverny

 

 

 

 

  

 

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I Only Kicked Bill under the Table Once

An Excerpt from August Farewell:

I only kicked Bill under the table once.

When we first started living together thirty-three years ago, we both had sets of friends who were anxious to meet and pass judgment on the new boyfriend. We were later to recognize that a couple of his friends and a couple of mine had fancied themselves as potential partners for each of us, so they were none too excited about the newcomer.

One evening around the this time, we were having dinner at the apartment of a friend of mine who was expounding rather pretentiously on a subject about which Bill knew a great deal more than my friend. Eventually, Bill had had enough and told our dinner host that he didn’t know what he was talking about. They started to argue.

I, wanting my new boyfriend to make a good impression on my friends, nudged his foot under the table.

I thought that that was a universally understood signal for shut up.

But no, Bill continued on dismantling my friend’s logic with ever more searing critiques.

So I tapped his leg harder.

Actually, I suppose it qualified as an under-table kick, at which point Bill turned to me and said, “Don’t kick me under the table. I can say whatever I want. Just because we are boyfriends doesn’t mean that you own me or can control me.”           

Right. Lesson learned.

* * *

This photo, from 1976, was the first of us as a couple. You can’t see Bill’s bruised shin but you can see how he has put me, and is holding me, in my place.

1h_-_sears_photo_76

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August Farewell, the memoir of our 33 year relationshp as a gay couple that culminated in the 16 days between Bill’s diagnosis with pancreatic cancer and his death, is available through http://amazon.com and other on-line book retailers.

A short YouTube video in which I describe why I wrote August Farewell can be seen at http://bit.ly/jZrEbf

More information on August Farewell, including readers’ comments, reviews, media stories, excerpts, etc. is on my website at:  http://DavidGHallman.com

 

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On the Orient Express Missing the Corpse

Andreas greeted me at the entrance to the dining car. He nodded slightly and said, ‘Buona sera, signore. Your table is ready. 

He escorted me to my table, held the chair as I sat down, and then handed me the evening’s menu. Before he could ask me about an aperitif, Christian in spotless whites and chef hat was at my side proudly describing his creations for tonight, starting with an appetizer of steamed fillet of turbot and cannelloni filled with salt cod, Caviar, and dill cream, moving on to an entrée of roast rack of lamb and dry fruits in a spiced juice with fresh coriander yogurt complemented by buttered autumn vegetables and baked potato, followed by a selection of fine cheeses and a dessert of a marbled chocolate sphere with morello cherries and Szechuan pepper ice cream. Coffee would come with a variety of small pastry delicacies.

To the annoyance of a couple across the aisle that seemed anxious to use me as their audience, I buried my head in the Herald Tribune, raising it only to savor the exquisite courses each paired with an appropriate wine. After finishing dinner just shy of midnight, I headed back to my suite, avoiding the invitations to tarry in the bar car which was too noisy and crowded for my taste at that hour. Once alone in the cabin, I pressed the steward button. Vincenzo tapped lightly. I opened the door and ordered a cognac.

Bill and I had planned this trip together. The intention was to start in Venice for a week of museums, opera, and relaxing cappuccinos in Piazza San Marco. It would be our fourth visit to the paradise of cities. I had booked us into a boutique hotel overlooking the Grand Canal. Then it would be onto the Orient Express for a couple days passing through Vienna on our way to Prague. Bill had never been to Prague. I had been twice at politically momentous times—1969 and 1989. I was anxious to share the beautiful city with him. Back on the train, we would head through Paris ending in London and spend an additional week there enjoying Covent Garden, West End theatres, the British Museum, and the Tate. I had reserved us a room at The Goring Hotel near Buckingham Palace, which unbeknownst to me would six months later be used by one Kate Middleton and her family on the night prior to a small family wedding.

Yes, Bill and I had planned this trip together.

And we had planned TO TAKE this trip together.

But, he died.

I knew he would be furious with me if I didn’t still go.

So, for better or worse, I did.

The only in-depth conversations that I had during the three weeks were with Bill, sometimes reminiscing, sometimes joking, sometimes cursing him for not being physically by my side.

People mourn in their own unique ways. Some immerse themselves in the company of others.

I find solace in solitude.

That will change sometime, likely, maybe.

We’ll see.

* * *

August Farewell, my memoir of our 33-year love affair that culminated in Bill’s sudden death from pancreatic cancer, and my novel, Searching for Gilead, are available through http://amazon.com, http://barnesandnoble.com, http://amazon.ca, http://chapters.indigo.ca, http://amazon.co.uk. 

My website, http://DavidGHallman.com, contains more information about August Farewell including excerpts, readers’ comments, media coverage, reviews, and a YouTube video at http://bit.ly/jZrEbf 

The picture below is of Bill’s chair across from me at our table on the Orient Express. What a surprise – it’s empty.

Img_0163

 

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The Birthday Party That Wasn’t

Last year, on this date (July 7th), I didn’t get out of bed.

It was my birthday. And not just any birthday, but one of the BIG ones, one of the milestones. I’ll let you guess which round number.

Bill had planned to have a massive celebration to mark my birthday—a party with legions of friends, copious wine, catered food, rainbow-coloured streamers, a phalanx of clowns, hot air balloon rides for everyone, several huge birthday cakes out of which would pop scantily-clad singer-dancer-models to appeal to the range of appetites of the partiers, and a door prize of a date with Hugh Jackman who, according to Bill, had agreed to go out with whoever won, regardless of gender and sexual orientation.

Those were his dreams for my birthday party, as they stood in the early planning stages. He claimed that, because of how much he loved me, he wanted to do something dramatic.

Well, he did love me. He did do something dramatic. But it wasn’t throwing the birthday party of the century.

He died.

When that birthday came around, I stayed in bed and hid under the covers. The concept of celebrating seemed intolerable.

Today, is the second birthday of mine since Bill died.

I’ve gotten out of bed.

I think that’s probably a good sign.

* * *

August Farewell, my memoir of our 33-year love affair that culminated in Bill’s sudden death from pancreatic cancer, is available through http://amazon.com and other on-line book retailers.

My website, http://DavidGHallman.com, contains more information about August Farewell including excerpts, readers’ comments, media coverage, reviews, and a YouTube video at http://bit.ly/jZrEbf

The photo below was taken on trip Bill gave me for an earlier birthday to a quaint town you may have heard of on the Adriatic Sea.

Bill_and_david_in_venice_1999

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Unforgettable

I just finished my morning cardio workout – thirty minutes on the cross-trainer.

While pumping away and breathing hard to strengthen my heart, one of the songs that came up on my iPod was “Unforgettable”. Through the wonders of technology, Natalie Cole was singing it as a duet with her father Nat King Cole.

My beating heart beat faster – “Unforgettable” was the theme piece that I had used at Bill’s memorial service.

As father and daughter sang, I was transported back to the church, watching the video picture collage of Bill and me that I had assembled, and listening to friends give testimonials about the Bill they knew and loved.

 

Unforgettable, that’s what you are

Unforgettable, though near or far

Like a song of love that clings to me

How the thought of you does things to me

 

Never before has someone been more

 

Unforgettable, in every way

And forevermore, that’s how you’ll stay

(And forevermore, that’s how you’ll stay)

 

That’s why darling it’s incredible

That someone so unforgettable

Thinks that I am unforgettable too 


The cross-trainer strengthens the physical muscle that is my heart.

Where is the exercise to strengthen the emotional/spiritual muscle that is my HEART?

* * *

August Farewell, a memoir about my thirty-three year relationship with Bill which ended with his sudden cancer death, and Searching for Gilead, a novel which also deals with love and loss, are available through http://amazon.com, http://barnesandnoble.com, http://amazon.ca, http://chapters.indigo.ca, http://amazon.co.uk.

For more information on August Farewell and Searching for Gilead check out my website at http://DavidGHallman.com where you’ll find among other material a short YouTube video explaining why I wrote August Farewell http://bit.ly/jZrEbf

Bill_and_david_in_puerto_vallarta_2006

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Not Just for Kids

 

I like to think of myself as an adult, making rational decisions, responsible and disciplined, intelligently and authentically working my way through this long mourning process. 

And so, I wasn’t particularly interested in reading Tear Soup – A Recipe for Healing after Loss, a big-print, richly-illustrated book that definitely looks intended for children, even though it advertises itself as for all ages.

The good folks at the palliative care centre of which Bill and I had been clients had lent me a copy after I shared August Farewell with them.

I got an email this morning from the centre, checking in on me and asking what I had thought of Tear Soup.

I pulled the book off my shelf where I had left it unopened since receiving it and tried to figure out why I was avoiding it. I concluded there were two reasons:

a) this is a children’s book. I am an adult. What could I possibly learn from reading it? 

b) this is a grief book. I am in grief. I don’t have the emotional energy to read it.

Feeling chastened, I opened it and read it. Cover to cover it took no more then ten minutes to get through.

It’s not just for kids. The story line captures many of the ingredients that I have been mixing around in my own personal kitchen of distress.

The lesson I take away from today’s discovery is, don’t be so sure of yourself, David. When unexpected gifts are dropped in your lap, pause and take a moment to be open to a new possibility.

You might be surprised what you find. And grateful.

* * * 

August Farewell and Tear Soup are available through http://amazon.com and other on-line book retailers.

For more information on August Farewell, check out my website at http://DavidGHallman.com where you’ll find among other material a short YouTube video explaining why I wrote August Farewell http://bit.ly/jZrEbf

 

 

 

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Author to Author

The following are comments that I received this morning from author Gregory Allen who had just finished reading my memoir “August Farewell” as an e-book. I was so moved by his reflections, I decided to post them as a blog. I encourage you to check out Greg’s website and his writing.

This beautifully written memoir (August Farewell) is careful to show the love of this thirty-three year relationship and not just the angst of watching someone die. Hallman has done a wonderful job of interspersing memories of trips (painted wonderfully with description) so the reader can get to know these two main ‘characters’ even though we are well aware of the outcome from the onset. The testament to the longevity and love of this gay couple goes a long way to show that ‘marriage’ does not know gender. My partner and I (only together 11 years – a third of David & Bill) have traveled extensively as well and I enjoyed the portions as I reminisced about my own life as Hallman displayed their shared moments together before those final days in August. I cannot imagine planning out my spouse’s service as he did while tending to and caring for Bill with an unconditional love that allowed his soul-mate such dignity in death. Sharing these private moments with others may just aid in the relief that someone reading this book could need; displaying once again how giving this author truly is.  

– Gregory G. Allen, NJ by way of NYC & Texas

 Author of Well With My Soul

website  http://www.ggallen.net

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August Farewell is available through http://amazon.com and other on-line book retailers.

For more information on August Farewell, check out my website at http://DavidGHallman.com where you’ll find among other material a short YouTube video explaining why I wrote August Farewell http://bit.ly/jZrEbf

 

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