The Motion On The Ocean

As Pride month draws to a close, I feel the pressure mounting to mark complete a commitment I made to myself at the beginning of the month:

Finish up my thematically Gay drafts.

Having posts in draft status is part of blogging…at least for me. I haven’t found a great alternative for maintaining an idea pipeline for my writing. I know that my memory is probably only a slightly better option than scribbling ideas on toilet paper and storing them in the city’s waste management system.

So, I have drafts.

And they make me absolutely crazy!

I started this month with nearly 20 drafts. I like to keep the number of drafts around half that. It makes me feel like I’m both productive and in control. But put a cap on creative ideas, right?

Bad idea.

So, I allow myself latitude.

That said, since the start of June, I’ve gotten the number of drafts down to 13, including this one. It’s a memory lane type of piece about a bar that I used to go to: Ripples. So, completing it would be a double whammy achievement; crossing a draft off of the to-do list and completing my gay themed pieces during Pride month.

I was a little surprised to see that I have five gay oriented drafts in my pipeline still after publishing 10/27 days this month. The oldest is from May of ’16…I’ve told you, I put the “pro” in procrastinate.

So, shall we?

When I lived in Long Beach, CA – an important designation given so many states’ pride in the length of their oceanfront municipalities…WA, MS & CA are just the three that come readily to mind – I had two bars that I frequented: Ripples and Silver Fox. I’ve written a little about (a lot, TBH) the Silver Fox – the bar, not the bestie – since it was the first gay bar I went into as an adult. You can get a taste of those entries here and, well, here. Since my best friend is nicknamed The Silver Fox and is an unwitting star in so many of my exploits and (mis)adventures, I thought I’d give you a couple links versus making you scroll through the hashtag results. However, I’ve never really dedicated any significant time to recalling Ripples. Just a random thought here or there.

And it was such a formative piece of my coming out process. I mean, in the first place, this was back in the days when being gay was still kind of an underground experience. You came out, but frequently that was met with a grudging acceptance versus a celebration. People tolerated my sexual orientation and said things like, “I don’t care, just don’t rub my nose in it”.

So, the obviously cared.

Gay bars were places where we could let our guard down and be comfortable. I imagine that what I felt walking into a gay bar back then was similar to what a woman feels when she takes her bra off after a long day.

Just guessing.

But on top of that, it wasn’t just a bar, like the Silver Fox. It was a venue.

I was lucky enough to live across the street from it. Situated at the corner of Granada and Ocean in Belmont Shores, I had it made – across Granada, Ripples; across Ocean, the gay beach.

So, what’s this venue all about? Well, it’s been 20 years since I set foot in the place, and I started this blog post when I learned that the bar was up for sale…for something like $5 mil.

That’s the price of oceanfront commercial property in Cali these days, I guess.

But that’s the joint: Ripples, aka: the motion on the ocean. A basic bar on the main level; tables and chairs on one side, pool table on the other, his and hers-turned-his-by-circumstance bathrooms and then an enclosed patio. The upper level had another bar and then a huge parquet dance floor.

The best possible start to any week or end to any weekend was their Sunday Beer Bust, even older gays called it a Tea Dance. Pay $5 at the door, get a wristband and plastic party cup and drink all afternoon. I think the beer bust was something like four hours, maybe 2-6? Plenty of time for brunch, gym and/or the beach beforehand. But you wanted to get there early, before the line went all the way down the block…but not so early that you were too early.

In a fit of coincidence, both of my favorite bars in the LBC were owned by Johns. One was literally a Silver Fox, the other was a stocky, jocular Hispanic guy. When I met Barbie – the owner of Purr in Seattle – she reminded me of John. They both provided this space that was an extension of their generous and caring spirit.

That reinforcement of the feeling of a safe space for gays was taken a step further here – you felt like part of the family. As a matter of fact, John’s sister set up each week on the patio with a Mexican buffet dinner. Grilled (right there on the patio) chicken, refried beans, rice, salad fixings. Not a bad way to end the beer bust, right?

For all of us gays, watching our straight counterparts dating, marrying and starting a family, this weekly ritual provided us with something alien to our lifestyle: family. We certainly weren’t likely to be starting one of our own, so this situational family – chosen family or logical versus biological as Armistead Maupin puts it – provided a tether to a normal type Sunday dinner with the family.

Albeit a Sunday dinner with an admittedly debaucherous edge!

I think it was this tether to reality that afforded my generation of gays to have their Peter Pan Syndrome and not grow up without becoming full on Lost Boys in the process. Anymore, what I observe of gay men barely even resembles a Lost Boy and is careening dangerously toward Lord of the Flies type madness.

But I digress. Go figure.

Think about it, Friday and Saturday nights, you come to the bar and have some drinks with your friends, cut loose on the dance floor, shoot some pool…unwind from your week. Maybe you connect with someone and have some sexy times. Maybe you don’t, but come 2 a.m. you hit the sidewalk sale after the lights come up for a last chance at getting your rocks off.

Come Sunday afternoon, you’re back to end the weekend as a community. Delighting in sending your friends back to their 9-5 closets for another week. Not missing a chance to see who shows up with their Friday or Saturday night trick turned possible relationship.

And if you aren’t ready to call it a weekend when beer bust ends at 6, there was usually a show upstairs after. If you didn’t mind paying for drinks, well…the entertainment was always worth the price of another drink or two. At least once a month you could count on seeing The Campers, a bearded drag troupe that would play out scenes from camp movies, lip syncing the lines while hilariously acting them out. My favorite were their Baby Jane scenes.

So good.

Also, familiar. Or, fagmiliar if you’ll allow the Chrisism.

The standing room crowd would usually recite the lines along with The Campers.

One of the other faves, although less frequent, were the Del Rubio Triplets.

Edie, Millie and Elena…this was the late, late 80s and early 90s, and these sisters – born in 1921 – were in their late 60s and early 70s serving up acoustic guitar covers of Devo’s Whip It in sequin and lame short skirts and cowboy boots to a raucous crowd of buzzed and tanned beach boys.

God, it was so awesome! I think all three sisters survived into their 80s. If I recall correctly, Millie even lived to be 90. They were famous for their Christmas shows, appearances on evening talk shows and cameos in movies like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, but I’ll always remember them for their shows at Ripples.

And, while I could always stop in for a cold one after a long day at work or hard day of sunbathing across the street and rely on some friendly chat with the bartender or other transient barside resident, it’s those events like beer bust and the shows that set it apart from just being a bar for me and made it a haven.

I could go on and on about the motion on the ocean, but maybe those are stories for another time. The month is nearly over, after all…

The Motion On The Ocean

Gay Rights…

or rather rites…of passage, that is.

I was doing laundry last night and wondering how to kill time while simultaneously reflecting back on my evening out with Little Buddy.

She had taken me out to a show for some quality us time, which was awesome fun – as usual – but also something I enjoyed being able to enjoy with her.  Planning a party is always kinda stressful, so I know I wouldn’t have been able to really enjoy myself in her shoes at the surprise party she threw me.

I know, I’m projecting!

Anyway, this was just time for us to witness and enjoy!  

Witness…Tony Starlight!

Enjoy…his tribute show honoring Sir Elton John.

It was amazing…just the right type of retro-drag-schmaltz.  I’m sure I will get to more depth than that at some point, but something else caught my attention while I lay on the couch, listening to the washer spin.

He took a break during his show to acknowledge special events people were out celebrating.  Naturally, Little Buddy was ready.  I thought about sinking under the table, but knowing my gut reaction to spotlights and microphones, LB had provided a picture to make me easier to track down.

It was fine.  He took it easy on me.  Plus, Little Buddy had thoughtfully avoided any pictures with the diabolical “50” in them.

I’m kinda still busy selling myself on those digits.

However – and this is what I was thinking about last night – he did bust the chops of a couple of younger folk.

There was another guy celebrating his birthday, he was marking his 28th.  Tony suggested he could maybe help him out by being a Big Brother for his drummer.  His drummer, of course having caught my eye several times over the course of the night.

It’s not that I minded this drummer boy, if you will, staring at me.  Darkened dinner theater corner is some of my best lighting.  Plus, one has to admire the craft of an overt flirt like this.  He was using his de facto bandleader as an excuse to gawk openly at me, since I was right over his shoulder.  Whenever he would look at his band mate for cues, there it was.  I could feel him staring at me from behind his sunglasses.

Yeah…you keep telling yourself that, Xtopher.

Anyway, he was looking pretty cool in a patterned shirt under a white fur vest paired with white polka dot pants.  It was a fun outfit.

I appreciated it even more when Tony gave him a little hell when introducing the band.  I swear he said his drummer’s name was “Michael Homo”, but who knows for sure?  Anyway, there he was being outed as a 25 year old college student while Tony quipped he got college credit for playing music for old people.  I think that was supposed to be a cheeky bit of self deprication because this is also Tony’s 25th anniversary year, but I think most of the room felt that burn.

I just sat there and laughed.

But I was realizing how desperately young gays, like this Mike Homo fella, need a good intro into camp during their formative years.  This drummer boy has the schmaltz with a gay tilt that is Tony Starlight.  Lucky for him.  And, further, it needs to be personal and intimate, this camp schooling.  The modern crop of gays seem to get their camp exposure from RuPaul’s Drag Race.  Fine, I guess if you enjoy that kind of thing.  But all it seems to be creating is a bunch of gay parrots that speak in bitchy one-liners and memes.

I’d like a side of personality with mein camp, please.

I’m not saying that a sense of camp humor is the first thing a gay needs to learn, but it should be a part of the whole.  I think it’s a part of being fully sub-culturally aware, regardless of whether it’s an active part of your personality.

It’s part of our collective history, and I think young gays today don’t understand that history.  I love pride month as much as the next gay – total lie, I eschew pride most of the time, but at least I know what it’s about.

Hint: the party is not what it’s all about.

What frustrates me about pride month isn’t so much that I seem to have permanently misplaced my pride body, but rather that our month has been reduced to as many weekends of parades, costumes, excessive drinking and indiscriminate sex as one can cram into a month.  

Today is February 3rd and in the first 72 hours of Black History Month, I have yet to see a randomly occurring parade, party or orgy.  I think the gays are missing an opportunity.  Sadly, I think this thing that should bring us together and strengthen us as a community is on a trajectory to become a divisive agent within our ranks.

I wonder if middle aged blacks are worried that black youth don’t know what this bridge represents

or could even name it in the same manner that I worry that young gays can’t identify this building

or this man

and engage in a conversation about the cultural relevance of either.

Whoa.  How did I end up here?

Suffice it to say, I had a point…originally.

Maybe I can salvage my train of thought.  It was a rough day at work…

Gays today are being cultured by their own generation.  I’ve had conversations with younger men that left me not only certain that they had very little – if any – idea of the struggle to earn the freedoms they enjoy.  

That’s kind of on us as a culture.  

Sure, it wouldn’t hurt to teach some gay history in schools…but how likely is that to happen?

And the hard part here is that a good chunk of a couple of generations was wiped out by AIDS, so there’s not a lot of us old geezers around to do the good work.  Not to mention the priority we put on sexualizing our youth obsessed subculture versus taking the time to raise them before we rear them.

But on the other hand, that phenomenon goes both ways.  There’s a fair number of Daddy Hunters out there sexualizing their elders.  If that’s not a misconstrued cry for help…

Anyway, back to the gay rites of passage.

If I was allowed just one, it wouldn’t be coming out to oneself, or ones family.  Nor would it be the first time in a gay bar or pride parade or sexual encounter.

No.

I think my prescribed rite of passage would be to read Tales of the City.  At least the first six books.

Actually, I think that would be a good thing for any person wanting a glimpse into the breadth of our culture and how our struggle impacted individuals.  Sure, there’s a couple odd story lines in there.  Otherwise, it has a lot of important exposure for people: gays, lesbians, trans, young, old…not to mention rich, poor, middle class, happy and not so happy childhoods and how they prepare individuals to become a part of the culture they identify with or the adult chosen families that they find themselves a part of.

What say you, mein reader…what would you prescribe as a rite of passage into this gay culture we are inhabiting?

Gay Rights…

No, Shame On You

I was walking downtown recently and passed by Portland’s historic Benson Hotel.

benson hotel

The Benson was built in 1912 and opened in 1913.  It was the Portland version of the swanky hotels of the big eastern cities, built by Simon Benson after he retired from his life as a lumber baron.

Side Note:  One of his other retirement causes was to provide accessible hydration for the people of Portland and he invested $10,000 of his own money to create a network of street side water fountains downtown, now named for him and called Benson Bubblers.

benson bubblers

One interesting factoid of the hotel itself is its history of paranormal activity – I know of five ghost sightings, ranging from Benson himself to Mitch Mitchell, who was a member of Jimi Hendrix’s band and died in the hotel back in 2008.

Benson had built the hotel and then turned it over to others to run, coming out of retirement six years later to take over the management of the hotel after seeing it run at a loss after opening.  Succeeding in creating a hotel that turned a pre-Great Depression profit of $100,000 a year.

Not bad for a hotel that cost $1,000,000 to build.

Why do I mention this?  Well, if only to demonstrate that the man was a shrewd and capable businessman.

Again, why?

Outside, as I walked by, Union Strikers were being supported by a sign that read “Shame On The Benson Hotel” yada-yada-yada.

Yeah, leaning on the sign.

Apparently protesting a labor or contract dispute with the hotel’s existing management.  Well, good work ethic, guys…really showing the public what you’re worth with that display of boredom, apathy and laziness.

And it got me thinking about the phrasing of their sign.

Shame On The Benson Hotel…

Shame.

The word itself makes me think about religion.  It evokes the memories of embarrassment I experienced when my behaviors fell short of what was expected, either socially or at home.  Growing up in a Catholic household and intermittently attending parochial and public schools, I suppose it’s easy enough to see where religion and shame become entangled for me.

And this was from growing up in the 70s and 80s.  Shame was a matter then of not getting your family to church on time or having light pockets when the tithing tray was passed your way.  In the more secular applications, shame was a matter of how I behaved in the grocery store with my siblings while mom shopped.  Running amok was likely to make mom crazy and push the limits of her patience until we got to the car and she could privately express her exasperation at our behavior.  And then send us to our rooms until dad got home and she relayed the behavior to him and he did his slow march up the stairs to “deal” with the bratty kids that his wife had been saddled with all day.

Because mom’s sense of shame perhaps came at the judgmental glances of other mothers, amplifying the frustration she felt at how her kids behaved in public.  We ran around like heathens instead of properly behaved miniature humans.  Er, Christians.  Whatever.

My poor parents.

Especially mom because she literally had to deal with us whether we were angels or demons.  No real choice, other than to encourage us to go outside and play.  My thought if I were her would be, “Why don’t you kids (little assholes) go outside and play (forever)?”  But my dad, too, because when he got home from work and traded welcome home kisses with mom he had no idea whether asking how her day was would result in a pleasant return to domesticity after a day of the man putting it to him or if he would end up making that slow trudge up the stairs to talk shit out with his kids and help them not ruin his future evenings by pushing his wife to her wit’s end.

Really, how he didn’t go Homer Simpson on us sometimes is pretty admirable.  homer-simpson-choking-bart-1

Ok, so parenting aside, the religious pull of shame is still pretty strong in my psyche.  Partially, because I am gay and the balancing act I had to do between the dogma and values I was raised with and homosexuality were presented in a fairly mutually exclusive manner by the church my family belonged to.

There’s an interesting thought exercise…”belonging” to a church.

Amen.

Being gay was just one more behavior that they shunned and shamed.  Luckily, there’s the whole venial versus mortal sins thing…although I want to call it a spectrum, I suspect the church views it a little more as a black and white manner.  So, while my my beating off to the International Male catalog would earn me a front row seat in hell, at least mom and dad would be spared that fate simply for not always having bank to drop into the tithing basket.  But, as I was raised in a time that was much less tolerant of diversity and definitely more ignorant of sexual identity – I mean, homosexuality was still listed as a mental disorder during my adolescence and for most of my young adult life – it was hard to rectify my emerging sexual identity with the church’s stance that homosexuality was a mortal sin.

I’m pretty sure that’s the way the church views it…even while *some* of their own are doing it.

But fuck it, I could be wrong; once I decided the church’s rubric was bullshit in one way, shape or form I pretty much stopped taking it seriously.  After all, one can only be condemned to hell so many times before it loses its effectiveness as a moral motivator.  I am, however, glad to have been raised in an environment that expected my behavior to fall in line with their…let’s call them guidelines, though.  I know it’s confusing to have me say that I decided they were bullshit, but that’s really just a judgment of how they executed and maintained their core values…using fear to ensure compliance isn’t my favorite tool.  Those underlying values that the church taught about the life of Christ were helpful in my ability to develop my own moral code and live my life by a code of conduct that allows me to participate as a useful part of a larger society.

I think.

So, there I am, just another homo killing time before being relegated to an eternity in the afterlife of hell…where it seems all the cool kids will be hanging out, anyway.  Making my way in the world as a gay man and trying to recover from an upbringing that certainly discouraged me from expressing my true self.  While religion wasn’t a club that I wanted to be a part of, immersing myself in gay culture felt like stepping into a second family.  As a matter of fact, one of my favorite authors – I think of him as both a role model and hero – is Armistead Maupin.  If you haven’t read Tales of the City, I would strongly recommend you give it a read.  At least watch the movies…anyway, in his books, one of his characters describes her family in two parts – biological and logical, the latter being the people you meet in your life that don’t share a blood relation but without whom your family is incomplete.

Surprisingly, this second cultural family was as flawed as the first.  Sure, more fun…but seemingly without a code of conduct of any kind.

Classic overcorrecting.

So, there I was, kind of where I wanted to be in my life but struggling again to find balance between the world I now lived in and the world I was raised in.

Maybe I still felt some shame about it because when my parents divorced in California in the early 90s, I chose not to move with my mother and siblings back to our home in Oregon.

I was home.

I just didn’t have that logical family yet.

But, eventually they showed up.  When I met My GI and his friends – many of whom I am happy to be socially reconnected with thanks to Facebook after a couple of decades of bouncing around the country with my career – I began to find that logical family.  People who embodied a balance between living an existence true to their whole selves as well as living a life that was accountable to a larger world than just their selfish selves like most of the gay community that I encountered.

And I’m afraid that selfish and unaccountable part of the gay community has only gotten larger and more visible in the ensuing decades.  But, I am grateful that I have been able to collect a few more members of my logical family over that same timeframe in the many places I have lived.

Even with that personal growth victory, I fear that American society hasn’t gotten much better about its tendency toward sexual shame.  As a matter of fact, I think it’s even more fragmented now that the visibility of a truer nature of human sexuality is emerging.  But don’t think the religious complex has taken time off of their crusade to maintain the shame around sex for the sake of sex.

AIDS, anyone?

Man, watching the Reagan administration fail to secure the health and well-being of an entire generation of gay men – resulting in the culture of Lost Boys I live with today – was humiliating to me as a human being.  Such recklessness toward our fellow humans, all in the name of not pissing off the Religious Right.

Thanks, GOP.  That’s some solid leadership.  Who needed icons like Rock Hudson, Keith Haring, Freddie Mercury and Robert Mapplethorpe anyway?

Let alone the countless children of your sexually repressed base who died essentially just to preserve votes.

aids quilt

I can’t tell you how quickly I would sign up for a potential life saver like PrEP if I were a young, sexually active human.  The use of Truvada as a pre-exposure treatment to prevent the spread of HIV is nothing short of a scientific miracle.

No telling how many people I just pissed off by blending science and religion in the last two words of that previous paragraph.

<cracks knuckles>

But what happens instead?

Do we start talking about PrEP in Sex Ed classes?  No.  I doubt we’re even showing people how to use condoms yet.

Jesus.

Literally.

Do we even have Sex Ed classes anymore?

But more disappointing than the usual confusion of allowing religion a credible and serious voice in the discussion of how a democracy based on the separation of church and state handles the sexual health of its population is how the gay community turned on itself in the face of this life-altering breakthrough.

Yeah, I’ll wait for you to re-read that…my head is spinning after typing it.

What happened was a new twist on slut shaming that the press and gay community refer to as Truvada shaming.

Seriously, homos?

Must we turn on our own brothers?

Of course we must.

America in this new millennium is not an easily navigable place.  There’s no GPS for morality.  The cost of slowly losing and politicizing our religion since the Summer of Love has been that we also lose the ability to actually accept – or even hear and understand – an opposing opinion.

It’s kind of all “our way or the highway” for any given group perspective.  The tool we use to ensure compliance within those groups?

Fear.

Think what you will of the church, but one thing is for sure, those fuckers can stay on message and have a 2000+ year track record to prove it.

Yup…good old fear.

While we should be educating ourselves and empowering ourselves – not just sexually, but with all manners of available education (looking at you, Climate Change Deniers and Intelligent Designers) – we’re reverting back to bullying each other to get what we want.

Specific to this situation, while we should be actively eradicating the Walk of Shame and celebrating the Stride of Pride, we’re reverting back to name calling in order to maintain a status quo.

What status quo?

The one where promiscuous people are bad.  Even typing “promiscuous people” felt judgmental and wrong.

Who says they’re bad?  Probably people not getting laid.

Why aren’t they getting laid?  Probably because they themselves have been shamed into believing that they aren’t worthy for some reason or another.  Fat, old, ugly (some of my own favorite self-descriptors), too fem, too vanilla, too in a fear based relationship…

And if they can’t get laid, that frustration manifests itself in the labeling and shaming of someone else.  Is that being part of the problem or part of the solution?

Now, that’s shameful.

Let’s not forget, too, that while it’s important…it’s still just sex.

But, just to try and make this a more universal problem – so that you can decide whether your actions support the problem or the solution – than religion or homosexuality, let’s go back to those Benson Strikers and look at them versus the popular American culture.

They likely weren’t gay.

Maybe they were religious…hard to say, “shame” is so intertwined for me with religion, but let’s assume they weren’t religious.

Then let’s assume that it didn’t matter whether they were gay or religious anyway, for fuck’s sake.

Because it didn’t.

These were just a bunch of guys standing on a sidewalk putting zero effort into demonstrating that they weren’t getting what they wanted from their employer.  What did they want?  Better pay?  Better benefits?  I can’t say because they didn’t say.  They were just there basically throwing a fit because they didn’t get whatever it is that they want.

Well, “throwing” might be too proactive a verb for this situation.  They couldn’t even muster a good “complain” vibe.

They looked bored.

Typical of our something-for-nothing culture.

The effort they were putting into their so-called strike made their strike more of an indictment of the validity of what they wanted in the first place.  Now, good old Simon Benson was a solid and successful business person.  One who expected results in exchange for the wages he paid out.  If you wanted compensation, you exchanged your time and skills for said compensation.  If you thought whining about it was gonna get you somewhere with him, I would imagine that you would be right…I would further imagine that what if might get you was a close-up tour of the Shanghai Tunnels.

Take that sucker.

Realistically, in my book if you aren’t happy with your working conditions, you change the working conditions.  Sure, negotiation can be a viable part of that change, but holding your employer hostage to your demands cannot.  You’re also completely free to seek other employment if you feel your compensation is below the market average.  Then again, you should also understand what an average is and know that in a job market, some people will make more than others and some less…that’s the nature of an average.

Hell, we live in a capitalist country that encourages free enterprise.  Start your own business and do better.

But let’s leave the finger-pointing and tantrum-throwing where it belongs, in the school yards where there’s hopefully an adult around to help America’s offspring grow out of it by teaching them the value of discussion and acceptance and – for the love of gawd – some critical thinking.

Not in the street in front of a business that has survived longer than the cumulative ages of the protesters shaming them at their front door.  (There was only three of them.)

And, seriously, can someone explain how this particular execution of one’s freedom of speech helps their situation?  I simply don’t get the logic.

“You aren’t giving me what I want, so I’m going to make it harder for you to afford to deliver what I want by vaguely harming your business and reputation.”

Yeah…that’s being part of the problem, folks.

No, Shame On You

The Yes Game

I’m a fairly permissive person…with myself, anyway.  Which is probably to say that I am undisciplined.

I make plans:  gym, writing, hiking, biking, chores around the house, whatever…and let them slide.  I’m good at keeping commitments with my friends, I think.  And with Netflix.  Although, those plans seem to be more spontaneous occurrences versus actual plans.  It’s keeping commitments to myself where I tend to be less disciplined.

That said, I am also unabashedly grumpy at times.  Sometimes it’s a sincere grumpiness.  Others it could be misread grumpiness.  Still other times it might be someone projecting grump onto me.  It’s the risk I run being open about my codger-ly tendencies, I suppose.

I think that my grump spends a fair amount of time focused inward, to be honest.  I know some of my friends would find that hard to believe given its seeming consistent outward trajectories.  But I am pretty grumpy old man on myself at times, too.  When I’m at the gym, I have replaced my inner voice – which used to be my dad’s voice – with the grump’s voice.  “You’re only cheating yourself!” he tells me in an attempt to drive me to completing my set versus giving into fatigue.  Sometimes yelling, “You want to look like an olive on toothpicks forever or are you gonna actually put some weight on for your next set and build some muscle?” to clear the apathy out of my routine.

He’s kind of a dick.  I wish he’d just stick to telling me to get off of his/my mental lawn, but he’s decided he gets to play the role of tormenting coach as well as mean old neighbor.

So, that’s a little back story to my thought process as I close out 2015.  It began in earnest back in early November when I was in Seattle getting my condo ready to rent.  I stopped by a friend’s shop – Custom Smoothie – in Fremont just to see if one of the twins that owns it was in that day.  One was and we got to chat for a while and catch up.

I hope she doesn’t feel shorted that I didn’t come up with a nickname for her…

An added bonus with good old impromptu conversation is that you never really know where they are going to go.  Eventually, ours headed toward social media, Facebook specifically and our mutual friends.  We worked together at Macy’s for a bit – but were all three restructured out of jobs, as Macy’s likes to do – and she and her twin started the smoothie shop.  That’s a long way of saying our mutual friends are mostly tied to former colleagues.

Except two.

Well, three, if you count her husband.

She asked how I met…let’s call them The Vagabond Parents.

Unsurprising to anyone that knows me is that we had met in a bar.  Well, it could be somewhat surprising, because now I tend to sulk in bars more than I used to versus being open to random conversations with strangers sharing the same watering hole.

But in thinking and talking about The Vagabond Parents, I got to get some answers to questions I have had about them but not had a forum to get answered because like many of my acquaintances I have met in a similar manner, I haven’t seen them in person since.  The reason behind their moniker is the source of many of my questions about their life…so allow me:

After we met, they became pregnant.

Soon after their beautiful baby was born, they actually moved out of the country.

Both life events would – not shockingly – severely impact our ability to meet up in the most likely fashion again.  Parents rarely hire a sitter to go swill booze with a rando old dude and – outside of true jet-setters – people who live abroad are unlikely to fly in for a night of inebritude.  Inebritude = Chrisism.  But I got to monitor their travels and their daughter’s growth on Facebook, and I appreciated it.  In the years since we met, they’ve been through Europe, Australia and I think even SE Asia.

So, my question was, “How the hell do they swing that life?  I’m so jealous!”

The answer was basically “The Yes Game”.

And this is where our personalities diverged since the night of shots and effusive conversation in Purr so many years prior.

Back then, I was completely open to passing the evening chatting excitedly with people I just ran into, be them stranger or prior acquaintance.  Now, I’m more prudent with who I invest my time with.  I honestly think that it’s that The VP were exceptions to the Seattle Freeze, which eventually doused my enthusiasm for investing in random strangers in a bar.  I would prefer that those initial engagements more frequently garner friends versus acquaintances and that simply was not my experience in Seattle.  Meeting these two is a bright spot in my social drinking career in Seattle.  But the people whose lives changed significantly due to offspring or emigration were far outweighed by the folks whose paths I crossed again and the circumstance that prevented us becoming friends was more along the lines of “my normal people are here with me now, so I don’t need you tonight”, which is pretty fucked up.

So I kind of shut down my social drinking career and became a curmudgeon over the course of my time in Seattle.

They did not.

While raising kids can turn the most outwardly social people into homebodies, The Vagabond Parents left the country.  Their lust for life and adventure seemed insatiable.  My friend told me that things just kept falling into their collective lap and they availed themselves to it.

They kept saying yes.  Not because they had to, like in the actual Yes Game.  Because they wanted to.

And look at the lifetime’s worth of opportunities they have experienced in the better part of the decade since we met.  It’s truly inspirational.

Since moving back to Portland, I have openly acknowledged my Early Onset Grumpiness, if for no other reason than to take away its power.  I want to retire my reserved “no” mentality in lieu of a better, happier social life here in my hometown.  It’s time to vanquish the near emptiness of my social life in Seattle.  Nothing against the friends I did make up there, by any means, there simply weren’t a lot of people in my social circle beyond co-workers and neighbors.  I prefer to have a less focused group of people to surround myself with.  People who have different interests to keep my growth as an individual on an upward trajectory versus a flatline.  I wanted to take away the safety net that friendships evolving from work have, which is that there is always a significant and safe common thread to fall back on:  work.

To that end, what I have begun to focus on recently is to stop saying what I don’t want or like and start noticing and embracing the things I do in order to surround myself with that growth.  Create my own trajectory.

Or destiny.

I can trace this change of attitude back further than last Fall.  Back to late Spring of this year when a friend suggested to me that I should write.

A blog, specifically.

I had started one back around 2005 or 06 that I ran a few posts through, but I decommissioned when I moved to Seattle in order to better focus on making a life for myself up there.  Outward focus versus inward focus.

So, after that conversation, I set a goal of publishing one post a week and just seeing what happens.  It’s been 40 weeks since that day.  I’ve published 24 blog entries since then, this will be number 25.  So I am a bit off my pace.  A good indication of my lack of discipline, eh?  It’s not a lack of content ideas or thoughts that I want to share, there’s 18 drafts in my pipeline.  I just need to commit to this.  To myself.

I need to say yes to it.

Another friend – former co-worker, go figure! – reached out to me late in the Summer.  She’s a writer of children’s books and had just returned from some publisher’s convention or something where she was amazed at the sheer volume of publishers openly seeking LGBT content.

She thought of me.

This was not the first time, either.

After she published her first book, we had chatted about a career as a writer.  I started a book at her urging.  But I never really found my voice as a writer and the pages languished on my laptop.  Filed away, collecting virtual dust.  When she reached out to me again last Summer and actually sent me publisher contacts as well as offering to help me draft a submission letter, I re-opened my literary cold case.

Re-reading it and fathoming getting it ready to submit was akin to raising the Titanic with the goal of getting her sailing again.  I love my story idea…it’s just the prose that bothered me.  It didn’t sound like me.  I couldn’t imagine completing the task in some stranger’s voice.  So, the blog became a practical solution to figuring out how I want to sound and tuning up that voice.

I admit, there may be some Fear of Success happening here.  Like I said, it’s not lack of topics or shortness of material.  It’s me allowing me to not follow through.

I’ve read a lot of the LGBT authors out there.  A great deal of them…suck.  In my opinion.  Much like gay cinema.  The execution just isn’t polished.  My former blog, my Facebook page and certainly this current incarnation of my blog have all had comments along the “You remind me of David Sedaris” or similar.  Which is great.  He’s pretty funny.  I don’t really want to be a monologuist, though.  I’d rather follow in the serial footsteps of Armistead Maupin versus Augusten Burroughs.

I also get a lot of people acknowledging how open, honest and raw my posts sound to them, which they call brave.  These types of comments were certainly part of the conversation back in November at Custom Smoothie…it’s unexpected support like that that invigorates my creative juices.  I returned to Portland and began a draft-a-palooza.  Like I said, there’s 18 in my pipeline.  I was just having trouble pulling the trigger to post them.

Likely this is a form of paralysis relating to writing in a voice that is so unique to my actual personality while wanting to be a novelist versus a memoirist.  I’m sure there is some personal emotional baggage residue from my time and the subsequent fallout from the Broken Poet, too.  Proof that every time you say yes you aren’t guaranteed success.  But perhaps the Seattle Freeze experience and failures like the BP have scared me away from saying yes in the past…I overcorrected and withdrew from the game.

Not anymore.

Not in 2016.

Game on.

And Sonos just pops out Brave by Sara Bareilles as this train of thought reaches its destination.

YES!

<fist pump>

 

The Yes Game