Dinner Party: Chosen Family

img_1717Tonight is the January edition of the Monday Night Supper Club.

I know:  Friday.

Look, what can I say?  After I began ruminating on this little triptych of a blog entry, it became easier for all scheduled attendees to move the event off of Mondays and to Friday.  Apparently, it was my schedule that had pushed the whole Monday night plan, anyway.  So, when my work schedule changed to Fridays and Saturdays off, the gang took the opportunity to leverage scheduling to everyone’s convenience and not just mine.

Who knew?

img_1718So January’s get together was planned for last Friday, January 13 – which I loved, of course, because what could possibly go wrong?

Then one evening last week (I swear it was morning…but the timestamp disagrees) I received the text in the first screen shot from Diezel asking if we could push the dinner a week so he could go watch sportsball or something equally pointless for work.  My birthday is the 21st, so naturally, I was suspicious.

See also, text number two to the left.

This all ends with me sending this infamous pic after the second text exchange.  I swear, I was walking through the A concourse at work when I sent it and was laughing so hard that my eyes were watering.  Alas, I trust pictures over my swiss cheese memory, so I guess I’m mis-remembering that since I may work late, but when I start work by 6 am, I sure don’t tend to be at work at twenty to eight at night.

img_0589

Good old Admiral Akbar.

I guess I’ll find out if it’s a trap or not in a couple of hours.  But if it is, it’s bound to be awkward, since I’m not a big surprise enthusiast.  Although, I’d still like someone to try with that Five Pound Box of Money that Pearl Bailey once sang about.

I think for that I could rally, really…

If it’s a surprise party to be, it’s the thought that counts, and I could do a lot worse than having friends that would go to that trouble for me.  If it’s – as I would prefer – not a surprise party then all will still be wonderful, since I will be spending this evening with some of my Chosen Family, and that’s exactly what the impetus behind the MNSC was.

Birthdays were exactly the type of events that my earliest Chosen Family gathered to celebrate with a BBQ if the weather permitted – and in SoCal, it almost typically did.  Years later, back home in Oregon with the newest and most enduring incarnation of my Chosen Family, we had many months of weather that would afford us the opportunity to gather in the back yard at the Ricksonian for some grilling and celebrating, but during those months – like June-uary – where we couldn’t then these birthday dinners would be folded into the traditional Sunday night dinners that my neighbor would host.  As a matter of fact, I woke this morning to a text from Big Word Ben asking if I was free this Sunday night for just that.

I work, and I have a project planned for Sunday that might make leaving on time for dinner a dicey proposition, but I’m honored that they would invite me specifically for this Sunday’s dinner since I’ve been so geographically limited in my fishbowl existence since moving back to Oregon.  Not driving and not particularly being the biggest fan of car-sharing, my attendance at other Sunday night dinners has been spotty since I’m the only one of the group still in Portland proper, the Ricksonian has relocated to Gresham and BWB has lived out on the fringe of Portland and Beaverton for about 10 years now.  My enthusiasm for public transit has its limits.

But family – as my biological as well as my logical families continually remind me – forgives.  And I’m a lucky man for having these wonderful people in my life.  It was Big Word Ben and the Princesses Frode and Stacinea and The Curator of the Ricksonian who were the touchstone of the emotions behind the Monday Night Supper Club in the first place.  I had spent nearly 10 years with Sunday night dinners next door and holidays ending with a final stop wherever these fine people decided to gather for the evening.

It was a big hole to fill.

Once I started not dating, reflecting back on what contributed to my emotional well-being prior to moving to Seattle was a key to finding my happiness asa a single entity.  Sharing Sundays and holidays with these folks was definitely something I needed to recreate…and voila!  Monday Night Supper Club.

The brilliance of what I was replacing was the simplicity of the entire concept.  This was largely a group of single gay guys gathering for a ritual Sunday dinner.  Occasional birthdays celebrated.  Random sisters or gal-pals appearing.  Once in a great while, someone that someone was dating.

Largely, this rag-tag group that became my Oregon Chosen Family was anchored by The Curator and his partner, Big Doug.   They lived a few blocks from one another, in houses they each owned, after deciding that living apart was the way their relationship worked.

How’s that for not quitting a relationship?  Those guys found a way that it worked and it didn’t involve bringing in a third that could be the buffer that filled in the gaps in their relationship.  Sure, after Big Doug passed himself away one Thanksgiving, there were other guys for The Curator.  His relationships became just another funky quirk of what made the group special to each other.

There was The Curator, punctuating each dating story he experienced with “It’s the BEST sex I’ve ever had!”  It got to the point where I think the entire room – except maybe his sister, Princess Stacinea – was just waiting for that particular ejaculation to occur.  A smart Xtopher would have monetized the assuredness of the moment by starting a pool each week.  “Stop by my place next door on your way into the Ricksonian to place your bet” would be followed shortly thereafter with “Who had 8:16?”

Princess Frode…the eldest of the group.  Aging with the perfect combination of denial, flair and white privilege.  He was a drag queen in his younger years – he showed me pictures once, he looked just like a young Joanne Worley when he was in drag (google her) – which prepared him for the wig that he wore in his late 60s and 70s.  He ditched it for a while after Big Doug died.  Big Doug was a barber and he maintained both the toupee and the remaining hair beneath it.  After BD died, Princess Frode showed up without his piece one night and I was amazed at how great he looked with his remaining natural hair.  But, it’s not about the audience, it’s about the individual living inside the shell…now that he’s started wearing it again, it’s fine.  He found someone to take care of it, so his natural hair is blended with the wig.  And he’s happy, so who cares?  My favorite part about Princess Frode – well, it is actually two things:

First, his voice.  He’s so smooth with his slight gay drawl, you can almost always find the smile in his words.  His punctuation isn’t so much implied as in normal conversation, it’s audible.  You know in the way he stretches out words like “Fabulous” whether he’s going to elaborate or leave you curious for details.

Second, he is a Princess, damnit.  Combining seniority and fabulousness, this man doesn’t come to dinner, he is served.  Ok, he gets his own food, but once he says his hellos, he sits down and drinks are brought to him.  If we aren’t attentive enough to our Stonewall era friend, the ice gets shaken around its empty glass and that very glass risks a chip banging against HRH’s jewelry.  It’s sincerely such a warm memory, I can’t not smile as I try to use words to describe what I see in my mind’s eye.

Rounding out the core group is Big Word Ben.  If The Curator and Big Doug were the anchor couple of the group, BWB was our stalwart rock.  He was the one amongst us that I trusted to be the voice of reason, probably because we tend to be fairly like minded on important issues and norms, even though our hobbies would diverge.  His two recreational passions:  The Royal Family (outside of Princesses Frode and Stacinea) and The University of Oregon Ducks football team.  Oh, and the absolute infallibility of Fleetwood Mac.  He was also a fairly avid traveler.  Most frequently visiting the United Kingdom to nourish his Anglophile tendencies.  But for our leisurely differences, we shared a passion for movies and would frequently enjoy a movie or two a month either before or after a walk around the Eastbank Esplanade on Portland’s downtown waterfront.  And it’s that time spent that made me feel closest to him in our group.  He was one I could have a rational unreasonable conversation with after my relationship with Sacha ended and I needed level-headed Big Word Ben to listen to me, empathize where appropriate and talk me down when emotion overrode rationale.  The Curator was good for a sympathetic ear and a well placed, “Well, fuck him, anyway.  Fuck all men!  Who needs ’em, anyway, y’know what I mean?!?”  Which at times I wanted, but BWB provided me with the longer lasting reasonable grieving that my emotional self needed.  If not for him, I think I might have remained broken.

Speaking of movies…

Our usual after dinner activity was sitting in our little ring in the living room and watching a movie.  Or two.  Of course, there were more drinks, too.

They were almost always gay themed movies.  From way back before Brokeback Mountain made gay cinema watchable.  These were the B-movie at best films of the gay subculture and pre-Sundance indie film.

Portland’s own David Decoteau movies like Voodoo Academy and The Brotherhood.

Q Allan Brocka’s Eating Out franchise.

Mandingo.  Jesus, what were we thinking there?

Lots of camp classics like Girls Will Be Girls, The Women, Mame and others.

So.

Many.

Others.

We’re talking hundreds of Sunday dinners here.

Most movie nights ended with another of The Curators signature phrases:  “Well, that movie could have been greatly improved by 15 minutes of hardcore pornography!”  And then people put their chairs away and file out the door to their cars and ultimately their – or someone’s – bed, or in my case just next door.

It was closing time at The Ricksonian.

While I was away in Seattle, The Ricksonian closed for good and The Curator settled down with a new guy – “The best sex I’ve ever had!” – in extremely-east-county-Portland.  I wasn’t sure what to expect on my first visit to the new digs upon my return to Portland.  Once I saw this curious curio assortment, I knew it was as Ricksonian as ever.

Perfect.

Dinner Party: Chosen Family

2 thoughts on “Dinner Party: Chosen Family

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s