National Coming Out Day 2019

Today is National Coming Out Day. As I reflect on what it means to have the freedom to live openly as a gay man, I’m reminded that we didn’t always have that right and many in this world still don’t.

The thought of coming out used to terrify me. The thought of being outed petrified me. I lived in fear that someone would guess my secret. I was teased relentlessly in my youth and beat up often, so I spent the first 50 years of my life masquerading as a straight man. I changed my voice, my walk, the way I sat, the way I crossed my legs, and even tried to ensure I didn’t wear anything “gay.”

Living in a Christian home and being involved in church (Assemblies of God) was Hell. Many Christians are quite judgmental, some are downright brutal. I won’t get into a theological discussion here, but because of those beliefs, my sexuality was always at war with my Christianity.

In my 20s, I enlisted in the Air Force and so the masquerade continued. It was not possible to be openly gay and serve. Today, it is a much different story. Airmen, Marines, soldiers, and sailors all have the right to serve regardless of how they identify. My entire life up to the point I came out was a charade, my attempt to be “normal.” I wouldn’t admit to myself that I was gay. I dated girls, but I never had a relationship that worked. In my heart, I was attracted to guys. I didn’t want to be. I tried (and failed) to ignore, explain, or otherwise dismiss these feelings and thoughts. I even tried praying the gay away. 🙄

At 31, I married and had kids. Over time, the marriage deteriorated (for reasons other than my sexuality). It’s important to note here that I never strayed. I was true to my marriage vows. When we split, I decided I was finally going to be my authentic self. I was going to come out. It was no less scary at 50 then it would have been at 20. I had the same fears as all people who come out do. Will my family hate me? Will they disown me? Will my friends break ties with me, abandon me? But I also had other concerns. What about my boys? Will they hate me? Will they lose respect for me? Am I about to irrevocably destroy my relationship with them?

Well, obviously I came out. My kids were accepting and loving and nothing changed. If anything, we have a better relationship now because I am authentically and unapologetically me. A few “friends” from my old church no longer talk to me, but whatever. They obviously weren’t really friends. My family still loves me (although the mom-lady is afraid I might be headed to Hell in a gasoline g-string (but I’ll look faaaaaabulousss!). Kidding. 😄

When I finally came out, it was like a weight had lifted from my shoulders. I no longer had a dark secret hanging over my head. More importantly, I could be me, finally me! No more masks! (I once gave a speech at a church retreat that I think was called “Masks” or had something to do with masks–that would be a WHOLE different speech now-haha). Do I wish I had come out sooner and avoided some unpleasant experiences in my life? Absolutely, but everything happens for a reason, I guess. So on this National day of coming out, what would I say to my younger self and what do I say to someone contemplating coming out? To my younger self, I’d sit little Anthony in my lap and say:

RJ 1971“Don’t be sad. Don’t worry what others think. You be you. You’re brave and strong. I know that because you endure all that those bullies do to you and you survive. You have a family that loves you and that will never ever change. You will have amazing friends in your life that love and support you. You’re smart and funny and very talented. It is okay to be you! Embrace who you are! It’s okay to like boys. You’re not broken or sick. You’re not a deviant and you’re NOT a sinner! If anyone says different, to Hell with them. Be your authentic self without fear, without regrets. Oh, and when you see a company called Apple show up in the stock market-buy! 😛 Now here’s a list of guys I want you to make sure you avoid in the future so they can miss you with their bullshit! 🙄

If my path in life had been any different, I would not enjoy some of the blessings I have today. I have two wonderful, funny, talented, loving sons; a sweet, beautiful daughter-in-law, and a gorgeous granddaughter! Life is good and I am blessed!

To any of you contemplating coming out, no one can tell you how to do it!! It’s different for all of us. You don’t need to do it on National Coming Out Day. The right day to do it is the day you’re ready to do it! Will it be scary? Probably. But you got this! You decide who to tell and when to tell them not anyone else. Listen to/read other coming out stories. It helps. Most importantly, be true to yourself. Be honest with yourself. Know that it’s okay for you to love who you love. If you’re struggling with accepting your sexuality, we’ve all been there. Talk to someone. Watch those coming out stories on YouTube. It helps a lot. If you have thoughts of harming yourself, seek help now! Please don’t wait. Your life matters!

If you came out today, congratulations! I’m happy for you! If you’re not quite there yet, that’s cool. You decide when it’s the right time. See you on the other side of that closet door. 🌈

Night Watch

Night Watch, the suspense drama written by Lucille Fletcher, opened on the Chapel Street Players stage Friday evening. Susie Moak directs this thriller which stars Denise Rogers Mylin, Patrick Cathcart, Heather McCarty, Sam VerNooy, Walt Osborne, Kelly Bielewicz, Chris Hankenson, Cindy Starcher, and Bill Potter.

 

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Denise Rogers Mylin and Patrick Cathcart (photo by: Peter Kuo)

Plagued by insomnia, Elaine Wheeler (Mylin) chain smokes cigarettes and paces the living room of her Manhattan townhouse, troubled by vague fears and unsettling memories from the past. Her husband, John (Cathcart), tries to comfort her, but when he steps away for a moment, Elaine lets out a blood-curdling scream. John rushes back into the room to find Elaine terrified and trembling. Elaine tells John she saw the body of a dead man in a window of the vacant building across the way, but when John looks, he sees nothing. The police are called to investigate but find only an empty chair, the years’ thick layer of dust in the old tenement is undisturbed. Did Elaine see a murdered man or was it a hallucination? Elaine’s obsessive behavior regarding the body she thought she saw, her gross fascination with the mysterious vacant building, and Elaine’s repeated “cry wolf” calls to the police, prompts John to call in famed psychiatrist, Dr. Tracey Lake (Starcher). John is convinced his wife is on the verge of a mental breakdown. Lake agrees with John’s suggestion that Elaine should commit herself to a sanitarium in Switzerland for treatment. When Elaine claims she sees another body—this time a woman’s—her terror grows, but by now the police are skeptical and pay no attention to her hysterical claims. John, Dr. Lake, Elaine’s old friend and house guest, Blanche Cooke (Bielewicz); Curtis Appleby (Osborne), the inquisitive and rather flamboyant next-door neighbor; and Helga (McCarty), the nosy German housekeeper—all contribute to the intensifying suspense as the play draws near its chilling climax.

 

 

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Kelley Bielewicz and Denise Rogers Mylin (photo by:Peter Kuo)

Denise Rogers Mylin delivers a compelling performance as obsessive, possibly delusional heiress, Elaine Wheeler, a woman on the edge. Has she really seen two dead bodies, or has she imagined it all? What other secrets lie locked in her mind?

 

John Wheeler, the doting husband, is a strong character, well-played by Patrick Cathcart, who puts up with his wife’s hysterical antics. As Elaine’s suspicions intensify, John’s frustrations escalate. Their two personalities clash making for riveting dramatic moments.

 

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Denise Rogers Mylin and Heather McCarty (photo by:Peter Kuo)

Heather McCarty deftly brings some comic relief to the stage as Helga, the suspicious, unapologetic, eavesdropping German housekeeper. Helga is loyal to Elaine and despises Blanche, often making snide comments and rendering an icy look of contempt before uttering a “hmpf’ and storming off.

 

Kelly Bielewicz delivers a stellar performance as Blanche, Elaine’s supposed best friend who happens to be a nurse and who helped Elaine recover after a nervous breakdown years earlier following the tragic death of Elaine’s first husband and his mistress. We never really believe Blanche is a devoted friend to Elaine. Blanche certainly seems to have ulterior motives as she practically forces Elaine to take her pills.

 

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Walt Osborne (photo by:Peter Kuo)

Walt Osborne is brilliant as Appleby, the eccentric and flamboyant neighbor who lets himself in at all hours and who has a new hobby—murder! With his foppish dress, over the top mannerisms, and comical stares, he absolutely steals whatever scene he’s in. Appleby is odd, a little creepy, but hilariously funny. Walt plays the character in such a way that you suspect he’s up to something, but you’re never quite sure what.

 

 

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Denise Rogers Mylin and Cindy Starcher (photo by:Peter Kuo)

Cindy Starcher is wonderfully convincing as Dr. Tracey Lake; a psychiatrist John has contacted to help him commit his wife. Starcher opted to don a less prim and proper look for the character than called for in the script, but it worked well with the mysterious theme and mood of the play. Is Dr. Lake really a doctor? Is she part of a plot by John to get rid of his wife, to lock her away in some sanitarium?

 


Chris Hankenson brings the hard-core police investigator, Lieutenant Walker, to life quite ably. Walker is gruff and quickly becomes annoyed with Elaine’s prolonged fascination with murders that seemingly never happened and with her repeated frantic calls.

 

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Chris Hankenson and Sam Vernooy (photo by:Peter Kuo)

Sam VerNooy is charming as quirky Patrolman Vanelli, a beat cop with a fascination for fine art that seems oddly out of place.

 

Bill Potter plays the deli owner (known for the worst potato salad in town), Sam Hoke, with conviction. He’s another suspicious and idiosyncratic character. I half expected him to be unmasked as the villain, spouting “I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids.”

Susie Moak has waited for years to direct Night Watch. The passion she has for the play certainly shows in her direction. Also, hats off to stage manager, Michelle Cullen. This production of Fletcher’s work is first-rate. Ray Barto outdid himself on his stunning set design. Bill Fellner, Brian Touchette, and Peter Kuo deserve kudos for outstanding sound and lighting design. Finally, compliments to Ann Matthews and the cast for the fabulous costumes. 

In the best tradition of Hitchcock (think Dial “M” for Murder and Rear Window), this cleverly devised thriller builds steadily in menace and suspense until the final, breath-stopping moment of its surprise ending. Night Watch runs through September 21st. Call the box office at (302) 368-2248 or visit http://www.chapelstreetplayers.org to reserve your tickets today.

Murder on Cue

Murder on Cue, an original play by Scott F. Mason premiered on the Chapel Street Players stage last Friday evening. Mason is also at the helm as director for this latest CSP production, which is the theater company’s 55th annual Reneé G. O’Leary FUNdraiser. The play is an homage to the wonderful whodunnit mysteries of the past as well as to the classic Parker Brothers board game, Clue, but also spoofs Newark, Community Theater, and CSP actors/board members with inside jokes and laughs galore. If films such as Murder by Death and Clue (the movie) tickled your funny bone, then you’ll rather enjoy Murder on Cue starring…well, everybody (except, unfortunately, a certain dame), but particularly: Heather McCarty, Walt Osborne, Courtney Lynahan, Zachary Jackson, Patricia Lake, Pete Matthews, Brittany Wilson, Reneé G. O’Leary, and Susan Boudreaux. Of these things, you may be certain, when Scott F. Mason (he prefers the use of the “F” when using his name) writes a play, zaniness, crazy plot twists, bawdy humor, a colorful cast of characters, and a good time are all guaranteed.

 

Walt Osborne as Cleopold Poupon (photo by Peter Kuo)

It’s rather difficult to review this play. Not because it’s bad. It isn’t at all. Murder on Cue is smartly written and wickedly funny with a stellar cast. It’s not because I’m at a loss for words either. I’m not. I’d love to tell you all about this play, but I can’t as it would spoil the fun for you. Oh sure, I could use bold type font and warn you of a SPOILER ALERT! But let’s be honest, most of you would keep reading and spoil the fun for yourselves then regret it. I’m going to save you from yourselves. I will NOT spoil it for you. The butler did it!

 

Heather McCarty as Waddington the housekeeper (photo by Peter Kuo)

I’m kidding. The butler didn’t do it. There is no butler. There is a side-splittingly funny, deaf housekeeper (McCarty) who must read lips to know what is going on. Question: How does a deaf housekeeper know when the doorbell rings? Answer: You’ll have to watch the play to know. As in Clue, a group of strangers gather at a spooky mansion on a stormy night, responding to an invitation from their mysterious hosts, the Parkers. There’s Colonel Poupon…no, wait! Hmm. I am the very model of a modern…Major-General! Major-General Cleopold Poupon (Osborne) who is not only brilliantly funny, but also a talented song and dance man. Sister Pearl Ivory (Lynahan) is a nun who has taken a vow of silence and comically breaks that vow when the lunacy of the other guests undermines her effort and drives Sister Ivory over the edge. Plumber Butch Plump is a loud, obnoxious hyena of a man who cracks awful jokes. Unfortunately (especially for Poupon) jokes aren’t all Plumber Plump cracks. Lady Agatha Peasoup (Lake), Herr E. Grunschwanz (Matthews), Miss Car Lot (Wilson), the curvy, but dumb blonde, and Ms. Ing Boddy (O’Leary) round out the whacky group of guests and garner big laughs. Agatha (Boudreaux), an Alexa wannabe, causes a panic and generates guffaws when she secures the mansion.

 

Courtney Lynahan as Sister Ivory(photo by Peter Kuo)

The guests are gathered in the drawing room, awaiting their mysterious hosts when, suddenly, the lights fail and plunge the mansion into inky blackness. Gunshots ring out in the dark! When the lights come up, there’s a body and a room full of suspects—including you!

 

Reneé O’Leary as Ms. Ing Boddy (photo by Peter Kuo)

Think you know who the killer is? Can you figure it out ahead of the police? This is your chance to be an armchair (or rather theater seat) detective, so grab your fedora and your notebook and check out the usual suspects at Chapel Street Players, but hurry, Murder on Cue runs only until June 16th. Call the box office at (302) 368-2248 or visit http://www.chapelstreetplayers.org to reserve your tickets today.

National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out Day, an annual LGBTQ awareness day founded in the US in 1988. The foundational belief was that homophobia thrives in an atmosphere of silence and ignorance. Well, it’s fair to say that in 2017, there is still an over abundance of ignorance in this country. In fact, as a community, we have been forced back a few steps and I don’t believe it’s a mystery to anyone with political sense why that has happened, but the LGBTQ community has certainly not been silent and is not likely to be. For many years, I hid my sexuality, especially during my service in the Air Force for fear of being kicked out of the service. I was afraid of being persecuted. I was afraid my family would disown me and my friends would abandon me. I feared what society would think and how they would treat me. When I came out at age 49, it took a great deal of courage, but it felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I wished I hadn’t waited so long. That was nearly four years ago and none of those things that I was concerned about has happened. Sure, there are friends and acquaintances that probably don’t approve and are under the misguided notion that my sexuality is a choice. No one that I’m aware of has gone to the trouble of unfriending me on Facebook, but I bet they’ve passive-aggressively elected not to receive Facebook post notifications from me or simply choose not to like/comment on my posts. I’ve noticed. Now ask me if I lose sleep over it. The important thing is that I have a loving family, a wonderful boyfriend, and a diverse group of amazing friends (old and new) in my life. I am truly blessed! Today, I’m out and proud, gay and fabulous (I better be, I spent enough time in the closet-haha). I feel that I can finally be my authentic self. Coming out is intensely personal and scary as hell. If you are struggling with whether or not to come out, only you can make that decision. You know your family and friends best and whether they will accept you or not. I know that some families have disowned their sons/daughters and/or kicked them out of their homes. Some families have tried to stage interventions, tried to “pray the gay away” or turn their sons and daughters over to some sadistic, so-called preacher or witch doctor for brainwashing. I’d like to believe those are the exceptions and not the rule. If you’re worried that midnight is fast approaching and you haven’t come out because you’re not quite ready, relax. You don’t need a special day to come out. It doesn’t matter if you come out on October 11th or on a Tuesday in the middle of January. If you come out and and no one disowns you or tries to pray your gay away, it’s a good day. If you come out and a few buddies or your great-uncle decide they’re done with you, well, that’s gonna suck, but there will be others waiting to welcome you into the LGBTQ community with open arms and hearts. And, yeah, it may suck to lose a friend or family member, but it’s their loss, not yours. Things will still be okay. So, be out, be proud and loud (not silent).

5 Ways PPC Won’t Help You Achieve Your Goals

(The following blog post (re-posted from an earlier date) was a writing test prepared for eZanga. This post was published on the eZanga site and is available at http://blog.ezanga.com/blog/5-mistakes-thatll-derail-your-ppc-campaign.)

You probably already know that Pay-Per-Click advertising or PPC is a huge, potentially lucrative online marketing technique and a valuable tool to have in your ad campaign toolbox. By displaying your ads on desktops and mobile devices, you reach consumers anywhere they are. Consumers will see your ad and hopefully click on it. Sure, that click is going to cost you a little cash—PPC is an investment, after all, but like all good investments, if it’s made wisely, the payoff is a handsome return. In this case, conversion to a sale and a tidy profit for you. Party on!

Party On
Source: PandaWhale

PPC – Advantages and Disadvantages

Like other online marketing tools, PPC has many advantages:
• PPC is easy and generates traffic immediately. PPC ads bring traffic to your site as soon as your ad goes live which is great if you want fast results.
• PPC campaign results are easily measured. Most PPC networks utilize metrics to determine if ads generate conversions and profit.
• PPC puts you in the driver’s seat. In a PPC ad, you control how the ad looks, where it’s published, and the audience you’re trying to reach. You also control what keyword searches make your ad appear.
• PPC ads are easily revised. The ability to quickly revise your PPC ad allows you to meet ever changing market trends to remain competitive.
• PPC ads are cost effective. Placing ads for some keywords can cost as little as one thin dime. If that click leads to conversion, you make a profit.
One word sums up the disadvantages of PPC—mismanagement. Here are five ways, if mismanaged, your PPC ad campaign will not help you achieve your goals.

1. Not Developing a Strategy

When you invest money into a PPC ad campaign, you must develop a strategy and tactics (daily activities) to implement the strategy. You may have set your goals, but without a strategy, you may not achieve those goals. First, make sure your goals are clearly defined. Ask yourself key questions to help establish goals:
• What do you wish to accomplish?
• When do you want this to happen?
• Are these goals attainable? (Set realistic goals.)
• What benchmarks will you measure to gauge success?
Once you’ve set clear goals, devise the strategy that will help you achieve them and the tactics to implement the strategy.

2. Choosing Keywords Poorly

Some PPC advertisers sacrifice too much of their budget to broad match or highly competitive keywords that may not lead to conversions. You want to be at the top of the SERP and the broadest searched keywords may seem to be your best bet for getting there and attracting traffic to your site, but they will eat up your budget in a New York minute.
If your budget gets used up too quickly, you’ll end up with lost clicks and, more importantly, those sought-after conversions won’t happen. Instead, think like a customer and choose keywords relevant to your product or service. A long-tail keyword strategy would benefit a company with a modest budget in a highly competitive market. For example, the long-tail keyword “dress shirts with French cuffs” would be less costly to an online shirt company than the highly competitive “shirts”.

Source: Internet Ninjas

 

Selecting the right keywords is one way to create a successful PPC ad campaign. Important things to consider are:
• PPC Keyword Research. Use keyword research tools and analytical data to find keywords relevant to your products or services.
• Keyword Grouping/Organization. Highly effective PPC campaigns organize keywords into tightly related groupings.
• Negative Keywords. Setting negative keywords filters out unwanted clicks.
• Keyword Bid Optimization. Allows you to maximize your budget by focusing your spending on the keywords that best suit your needs.
The bottom line when creating PPC ads, is to choose the right keyword mix or it will affect your bottom line.

Poorly
Source: Quickmeme

3. Not Tailoring Your Ad to Your Audience

Remember earlier when we talked about setting goals and determining strategy? Somewhere in that process is where you need to determine who you’re trying to reach. Who is your audience? If you’re selling skateboards, you don’t want to appeal to people of a certain age. Let’s face it, few octogenarians have a passion for longboards or perfecting their ollie.
The key to success here is to write emotional ads that appeal to your target audience so that they’ll click your ad and buy your product.
4. Focusing on the Wrong Performance Measurements (or Not Tracking Metrics)
Tracking the results of your marketing efforts, particularly PPC, is integral to the success of your ad campaign. You want to make sure that your campaign is meeting your goals. To that end, there are some things you can do to measure how well your ads perform:
• A/B Testing. This is a way of testing two slightly different versions of an ad campaign to see which one performs better. Even small changes can result in a significant increase in profits.
• Incorporate New Copywriting Techniques. Get creative with your ads. Steer clear of bland, boring ads. Make them come alive.
• Trust Indicators. Add testimonials. Consumers (especially Millennials) want to know what other peoples’ experiences with your product have been.
• Include Pricing. For me, if I see a product with no pricing, I immediately think the product must be expensive. Providing the cost may make consumers more willing to click.
• Modify Your CTAs. You want consumers to click, but how do you MAKE them click? Try adding a Call to Action. Compel them to click.
This list is not all inclusive, but these tips will help you measure your PPC ad’s performance and allow you to make changes that will help you reach your goals.

eZanga

5. Sending Consumers to the Wrong Landing Page

Sending visitors to the wrong landing page may be a costly mistake. If you’ve attracted a consumer’s attention by displaying an ad with a beautiful silver necklace and they click the ad to potentially buy that necklace, but your ad directs them to your homepage, a totally different product, or worse, a broken link, you may have lost that customer (as well as any others drawn to the silver necklace in your ad.)
At best, your decision to direct the customer to your homepage will frustrate them, especially if they can’t find the necklace on your site. At worst, you have paid for a click that won’t result in a conversion and has likely alienated the consumer.
I know. You worked hard on your homepage. You want visitors to see all the wondrous products your site has to offer. What they want, the thing that drew them to your site, is the beautiful silver necklace, so give them the bloody necklace! It’s a win-win. They get the necklace, you get a conversion, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll continue to shop or visit your site again to see all of those wondrous products you have to offer. Make sure your visitors land in the right spot.

Source: Webcrm

Conclusion

To maximize the potential of your PPC ad campaign and realize your goals, develop a strategy to achieve those goals and tactics to execute your strategy. Choose keywords wisely and incorporate a good keyword mix. Tailor your ad to your audience. Measure your ad’s performance by tracking the right metrics. Finally, send visitors to the correct landing page and optimize the page for maximum results.

 

PPC On
Source: Keepcalm-o-matic

Welcome

Welcome to my website! I created AnthonyRenaldiOfficial.com to showcase my writing (excerpts from my novels, selected short stories, and poetry). The site will also include theater, restaurant, and hotel reviews and blog posts that document my writing experiences, including my journey to become a published author, as well as blogs on other subjects of interest to me. I won’t commit to any sort of schedule at this point as I must work a 9 to 5 in order to pay the bills, but I will attempt to update the blog regularly, perhaps weekly. I may also  invite guest bloggers to contribute from time to time. This site is a work in progress. My original website was, due to unfortunate circumstances, irretrievably lost and must be recreated. I’m remarkably unremarkable when it comes to website building and design, but with help from my very talented friend, Peter, I have high hopes that this site will become a place that you’ll want to visit often. Enjoy!

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