The Mulligan

A Mulligan – for all of you non-golfer types out there – is a do over.

The Mulligan was my do over.

I’m on the left…

David was my second boyfriend after coming out to myself as gay. It would still be another five years or so before I completed the coming out process: telling my family, not making discomfort over my sexuality other people’s problem and then ultimately being able to discuss it as a non-issue. However, after my first boyfriend – who hit me and cheated on me – David was my chance to have a right relationship.

In other words, he goes back quite a ways.

Back to the days when people were officially “not dying from AIDS”.

Back far enough that when he didn’t die from AIDS – years after we broke up – I wrote about it on MySpace.

We had met at Ripples. Yup, another Long Beach story!

It took a while. I had to watch him from a distance for about 18 months before I worked up the nerve to casually bump into him at a Beer Bust.

Yes, I’d been going to Ripples before I was actually legal..

He was so cute. To me, at least. I liked the way his underbite made his head look like a peanut from the side.

I’m willing to admit that that might be an odd attribute to find attractive. But having watched him from afar for so long, I found that his mannerisms were also quite endearing.

He would flutter his eyelashes when he spoke.

The way he gestured. Casual and intimate, but not flamboyant.

I learned later that these mannerisms were part of his southern upbringing.

Genteel.

Perhaps not the most masculine adjective for a guy, but for me, this worked. It made me feel comfortable.

Eventually.

At first, I thought those fluttery lashes were more like bitchy eye rolls. This incorrect assumption was part of what intimidated me and kept me from approaching him. Later, I learned that they were just a conversational tic – y’know, the things you learn bar stalking people. Even later, I would learn that this was also a way for him to camouflage his disease when talking about things that made him uncomfortable. Effectively breaking eye contact so that he could assert himself when he was insecure in doing so.

It was interesting to get to know someone so well, on that intimate a level. Well, for me, anyway. Remember, I was probably 21-24 when we were together. Realizing that I could understand and know someone that well was new to me.

How could I not love him?

God, we did everything together.

Beach, movies, errands.

Wait, almost everything. He didn’t work out.

Still, the beach was the most important thing. This was SoCal, after all!

He was in the Air Force. OMG…seeing him in his uniform.

His roommate was an older guy and a civilian worker for the Air Force and they’d met and eventually begun living together when Rick’s original roomie moved out. They shared a two bedroom townhouse. Within six months, I was living there.

There were only four units in the row house, but they had the end unit which provided them with a small yard area where they’d have barbecues on the weekends or just chill with a cocktail after work. It was at these gatherings where I’d met many of their shared friends and eventually been adopted into the group. Les, Randy, the Billys Black and White…I’m still socially connected to some of these mutual friends through the magic of Facebook. These were good people to know. They helped me to nurture my identity as a gay man.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have three chosen families in my life. Groups of gay men and people who supported me emotionally and enriched my existence through theirs. Relationships that transcend simple presence.

This group of men was my first.

We had a neighbor in the row house that The Mulligan dismissively referred to as Bitch Tits. He was quite a little doughboy, but it was learning months and months after meeting him that the two had dated that made me understand the true emotion behind the moniker. This was quite a while before Fight Club came out as a book and Meatloaf’s character in the movie took the nickname mainstream. I sometimes amuse myself imagining The Mulligan crossing paths with Chuck Palahniuk and somehow influencing that character.

There’s a legacy…

One of the difficult things that I learned about The Mulligan was that he was super insecure. This manifested itself as an irrational jealousy.

At one point, he was even jealous of Bitch Tits. Usually, though, this was an issue for us after an afternoon at the beach or evening at the bar…when I spent the evening not talking to other guys.

I mention this because learning this about him allowed me to learn something about myself: I’m capable of being all in in a relationship.

The Mulligan was mustering out – does the Air Force muster? – and one of his benefits was being moved basically wherever he wanted since the Air Force has dragged him away from home. One of the other discharge requirements was a physical, which was when he learned that he had HIV.

His discharge from the Air Force was a pretty emotional time for this gayby. But I was so ga-ga in love with this guy…when he said he wanted to be closer to his family back in Mississippi, my thought was basically “Let’s get out of this place and away from your damn triggers”.

We’d been back to his hometown of Long Beach, MS a couple of times. We had been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras with his best friend and Long Beach was just a couple hours away by car. It didn’t hurt that in some strange irony, his best friend’s grandparents were snow birds that spent their winters on the Gulf Coast.

Neither of us were keen on living as a gay couple in Mississippi. We settled on the gulf coast of Florida. The beach lifestyle was one we were reluctant to give up, but the east coast was too far from his parents.

So…off we went.

We lived together for about a year in Florida before I learned something else: people don’t change because I sacrifice.

I realized this when I’d “done laundry” with a neighbor that he’d met actually doing laundry. The three of us had hung out after they became friends. Meeting up in the laundry room with a four pack of wine coolers to do laundry made the time pass quicker.

Being accused of having a crush on this friend he’d made kind of negated the joy that situation presented, so I stopped.

Funny, I hadn’t noticed him packing his jealousy when we left California.

Must’ve been in the trunk of his car…

A while later, he’d gone to visit his parents for a weekend. I couldn’t go because I was working. When he came home and asked me – what’s the opposite of nonchalantly? Challant? – how many times I’d cheated while he was away, I tried to make a joke out of it. It’s my way.

“Just the usual three-way”, I said, waggling my hands.

When women persist, it’s empowering and creates a political call to action.

It’s not usually so cool when men persist, especially insecure men.

This was when I learned something else about relationships: you can’t let someone else’s happiness erode your own.

I was so nuts in love with The Mulligan. I think part of that was me fully accepting myself and another person for who we were; good, bad and ugly. But I came to realize that I couldn’t bankrupt my own happiness in the hopes that it would infuse his. He wasn’t unhappy, but he was making himself situationally miserable by letting his jealousy ride roughshod over his emotional well-being.

And his relationship.

Realizing that a relationship should enhance my own happiness, I broke up with him. He couldn’t be happy with me – or anyone – until he accepted and got happy with himself.

Luckily, we had a two bedroom.

I felt like the biggest shit in the world for dumping a guy with HIV. It was pretty much still a death sentence in the early 90s, but my mental well-being wasn’t any more of a cure than the drugs available to him.

I was offered a promotion at work – well, at work in Houston – and took it.

I spent a year in Texas before getting promoted to California. Effectively working my way back to SoCal and my second hometown.

In late ’95, my boss offered me a lateral promotion to Portland. I passed, reluctant to give up my situation in the LBC. I was back in touch with old friends. I had a cadre of new friends, too. This was when I was living across the street from Ripples on one corner and the gay beach on the other. I was just a few blocks from where my dad lived.

I had it really good.

Made, one night even say.

My boss, being a pretty damned good salesperson – or one hell of a manipulator, depending on how you looked at it – somehow leveraged being close to my grandparents and a $5000 a year raise to get me to reconsider.

Sorry, Dad, gotta go!

I moved up to Portland in late January of ’96. I had rented a place on the river.

…just in time for the big flood of ’96.

Oh, well, life is lumpy.

This is what I wrote about on MySpace.

I’d gone to bed one night and was dangling between consciousness and sleep. As I lay there, I heard someone whispering my name.

Now, this was not an unusual thing for me. I had experienced this many times in my life.

Usually, I heard my Mom’s voice.

A couple of strange times, my Dad’s best friend.

I had heard the phenomenon summarized as an awareness that you were on someone else’s mind. They were thinking about you or worried or some such.

Mom = awwwww.

Let’s not go there on Dad’s best friend, m’kay?

Hearing The Mulligan saying my name wasn’t weird…but it went on so long. I rolled onto my back to get comfortable, not really thinking about it.

Floating above me was The Mulligan.

The ceiling of my room was gone and there was The Mulligan, looking down at me, smiling and casually moving his arms and legs like he was treading water.

He laughed at my alarm.

I asked – without speaking – what he was doing. He told me he wanted me to come with him.

Nice non-answer, buddy.

I asked again, adding, “Come with you where?”

Again, he didn’t answer me directly, just repeating his invitation by way of replying to my question.

This went on for quite a while, him drifting above me like he was floating on some current just above my ceiling. Well, where my ceiling should have been.

There was this enveloping sense of warmth and joy throughout. It was surreal.

I’ve never experienced anything like it.

You’ll be glad to know, though, that in true early onset grumpiness fashion, I eventually told him that I had to get to sleep because I worked early the next day, rolled over and closed my eyes. I squeezed them closed so hard that I could feel them shielding me from that warm light emanating from The Mulligan.

I remember before I “fell asleep”, checking with one eye over my shoulder to make sure the ceiling was back where it was supposed to be.

The next evening, I got a call from Black Billy. As soon as he identified himself, I blurted out, “He’s dead, isn’t he?” When Black Billy asked how I knew, I told him the story from the night before.

I could hear him thinking he should have called me before happy hour, but I was stone cold sober as I recounted the prior night’s experience.

That was almost 22 years ago. It’s still one of the weirdest and most amazing experiences of my life.

Occasionally, when I’m out having a drink by myself, I’ll think about him. I mean Ghost Mulligan, since ghost-him is old enough to drink now. In my mind, I’ll ask him what would have happened if I said yes.

He just smiles that peanut-headed smile and bats his eyelashes at me.

The Mulligan

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

Why Do Drag Queens Hate Me?

News Flash: they don’t.

Well, not any more or less than the usual person.

For some, I’m an acquired taste.

But as we flit into Pride weekend in Portland, I figured drag was as good a topic to reflect on as any. And I’ve had kind of a funny history with drag queens. Or DQs as I’ve referred to them in the past, since saying two words is so damned hard.

Actually, in thinking about this, I realized that maybe DQs should hate me. Maybe just a little.

You see, I realized that in my early gay days, I was kind of embarrassed by people who did drag. Reflexively, I want to give myself a pass for this early discomfort, since it is something that I know was happening when I was first working to overcome my own gay shame and internal homophobia.

This was the late 80s and early 90s. My knee jerk (or just flat out jerk) reaction when seeing a drag queen in a Pride parade – about the only place I ever encountered them – was “Welp, that’s what will lead the news story about Pride”. My thinking – or frustration – with that obvious reality was that Pride parades were supposed to help normalize our culture for the flyover states. Showing the most flamboyant elements of our culture was doing more harm than good in that battle.

Then I realized a few things:

First, unless we’re naked, we’re all in drag. This is some Grade A DQ wisdom. And it’s dead-bang spot on, especially once we start dressing ourselves. We dress how we want to be perceived in the world.

Second, and piling onto and expanding that sense of expression, drag is a frigging art. If you’ve never watched one get into face- as it’s called – find a YouTube video and be prepared to be amazed. Drag Queens are equal parts self expression and performance art. Regardless of whether they are on a stage or socializing, when a DQ is in face, they are performing. That’s not just Jeff in a Dress you’re seeing. Jeff has a different name and persona once he slips those stilettos on.

Third, our community’s most extravagant fringes should be our ambassadors to the Normie Culture. Accepting anything less than our wildest representations is acceptance with conditions, like that friend who accepts that you’re gay as long as you don’t do gay stuff around him.

Bitch, when I’m being your friend…that’s me doing my gay stuff.

So, flash forward to me overcoming my own homophobia. It only took me leaving the LBC for Florida, living in Texas, moving back to Long Beach and landing back in my hometown of Portland.

Easy-peasy.

Except…not so fast.

When I move back to Portland in ’96, I lived on the Willamette River. This was back when Stark Street was commonly and crassly referred to as Vaseline Alley because most of the gay bars were clustered along a three-ish block stretch. Not the closest gay bars to my home, of course. That was Embers.

Half dance bar, half drag performance venue…I would bypass it for Stark Street unless I was out with a group of friends that wanted to shake their booties.

Interestingly enough, I credit this balance between my “safety in numbers” approach to Embers and my early onset grumpiness with helping me develop a comfort and then appreciation of the drag community. You see, I would go dance at Embers with my friends, but being an evolving grouch, I could only take so much crowding and being stepped on before I had to give myself some alone time on the drag side of the bar.

Not that it was empty or even less crowded. But it was quieter…if only by comparison to the dance side. I’d stand in the back and watch the show for a bit or throw a $20 into the video lottery or grab a beer and enjoy it solo.

Ok, I usually did that last thing with either of the first two while the walls buffered the thumpa-thumpa of the music next door and I decompressed.

It was here that I first saw Linda Lee, Raven, Poison Waters and many other performers that showed me the breadth of our drag personalities.

Linda Lee simply refused to tuck as part of her prep. Usually you could count on at least one flash of a pantyhose encased crotch during her performance. She also didn’t really bother to learn the words to the songs she was lip syncing. When she got to the end of the words she knew, rumor – or legend now – had it that she’d either start mouthing “fuck you” over and over until she found another chorus or treat us to an incredibly obscene tongue display.

I remember seeing Linda out in public one day. Well, part of her, at any rate. It was a summer day and I was driving around doing errands and had one stop downtown before heading home. I was looking for parking and realized that I’d just missed an opportunity in the shape of a car door being carelessly flung open in front of me. I’d just rounded a corner and stopped versus trying to change lanes to avoid taking the door off. The door started to close again just as the driver’s leg was coming out. It was a thick, varicose veiny old man’s leg and it caught the door to stop it from amputating the leg as he tried to exit the car.

That was when I realized the leg was attached to a subtle pump, maybe a tasteful 2″ heel. It was midday after all. Gradually and awkwardly, Linda pulled the rest of herself out of the old car, her skirt riding up as she scooched of the driver’s seat, turning to hold the door open with her half exposed ass as she gathered her stuff off of the passenger seat.

Another signature Linda Lee show.

Raven was another story. For a crass as Linda was, Raven was to opposite to the point of genteel. The first few (hundred) times I encountered her, I was sure she was hitting on me. She’s Native American, so right up my alley. She’s also about 20 gay years older than me, so that alley ends at the end of a pier. Gradually, I got comfortable with her overtly flirty style and would just enjoy our occasional chats from her perch at the bar for what they were: low key social interaction. Those “I’m talking to a man in a dress” conversations were what really helped me embrace drag as both an art form and lifestyle that was an integral part of our gay community.

Still, neither of my experiences with these DQs prepared me for the time a performer ended her number by jumping off stage and making her way directly toward where I stood at the back of the bar. She was smiling like a crazy person and barely broke eye contact as she navigated the tables between us, prompting me to basically do one of those look-to-both-sides-then-mouth-“me?” things like the cool guy I am.

It was me she was headed for.

Apparently, I was distracting her throughout her number and I was to be chastised, thanked and asked out on a date.

In my stunned and flabbergasted state, I agreed, forgetting my Groucho Marx motto about not wanting to be a member of any club that would have me as a member. That carried over to finding fault with someone who was attracted to me…I wasted so much time hating my beautiful younger self.

This was somewhere between hereand here

in my 20s.

<sigh>

Anyway, we went out. I can’t remember his name, but I do remember our date started with me picking him up at his place and ended at my place the next day.

Being a good American conspicuous consumer, I appreciated that I was picking him up at his place in an old two story 20s-era apartment that I’d probably just about kill to live in. Tile roof, stucco exterior, arched doorways and fantastic landscaping. I was jealous and impressed…drag obviously paid better than I’d thought. Turns out, his day job – and family, black sheep that he was – set him up pretty well. Drag was just an expensive hobby, as his second bedroom turned sequin gown filled dressing room attested.

He was a beautiful boy outside of that fancy dress, but it was that second bedroom – and the later realization of that thought about the dress – that made us a bad match at the time. Both my faults. I’ve often wondered where he ended up…he was a really nice, fun guy. Too bad FaceBook was still a decade away.

After my decade long Seattle exile, I moved back to Portland and re-settled myself near the remnants of the now scattered gay bars. Stark Street has been rendered unrecognizable from the enclave of gay bars I’d left, only one remaining. Gentrification touches everyone…but I’d positioned myself close to my primary gay watering holes: Embers and CCs, which had the added bonus of being close to Hobo’s and Fox & Hounds for when I wanted to eat with my people and/or be left alone, respectively.

Embers and CCs has a steady stream of Drag Queens because they both had a drag component to their bar environment, CCs even has a Drag Queen Bartender

which is truly a rarity, I believe she’s one of only three in the US. Every shift is a completely different incarnation, each a very elaborate artistic creation.

Major drag bars aside, my favorite interactions with DQs occurred in settings that reminded me of my barside chats with Raven all those years ago. The Fox & Hounds is around the corner from CCs and on the opposite side of the block from Darcelle’s, Portland’s own world famous and Guinness Book of World Records holding female impersonator. This provided a steady stream – trickle, really – of drop in drag queens who, like me, wanted a drink in relative peace.

Even though I’m pretty sure all three bars are semi connected by Portland’s underground network of Shanghai Tunnels, most DQs would work the sidewalk around the block, chatting and taking in a casual smoke on their way to Fox & Hounds for their “break”.

I’d casually chat with these performers about where they were performing or whether they were just out and about for the night as well as what was going on. Sometimes, we’d just sit quietly, sipping in the camaraderie, others we’d play some video lottery and urge each other toward victory or commiserate our losses. Still others, we’d talk about our town and the community and the subculture that is drag.

At the end of the day, our struggles were what united us more than our sexuality. After one evening of winding down at Fox & Hound, I’d decided to wander around the corner to CCs to see what was going on. It was the first day that weed was legal for recreational use in the great state that is Oregon and there was a palpable – if not subdued, for some reason – energy in Old Town. There was a group of people from all walks of life planning a sort of smoke in on the Burnside Bridge beneath the ubiquitous Old Town sign

I learned this as I was passing CCs’ hostess in residence. Our relationship had run the gamut from enthusiastic, gushing fan when I saw her at my first Pride after moving to Seattle – a welcome bit of my hometown – to our current low key drive by greetings as she worked the crowd at CCs. This particular night, she acknowledged me by offering me a hit off her joint. I passed, but thanked her. She reminded me to go to the bridge later to celebrate. End of story.

My absolute most favorite DQ story happened shortly after this. I was meeting a friend at the Mock Crest tavern for a drink after work. I was working a few blocks away in North Portland at the time and got off work around 11. Oftentimes I’d chill with a beer or two before catching – or missing – the last bus home. We were sitting in this little shotgun of a hole in the wall bar, enjoying a beer and listening to the three piece band that they’d managed to somehow cram into this tiny space as we talked.

It was very pleasant, which I know is a surprise coming from me.

As we’re sitting there chatting, in walk a couple of Drag Queens and I’m wondering how the hell they got so lost as to end up in a dive bar in NoPo…only to realize one of the two was friggin’ Raven!

It’d been nearly 20 actual years since I’d seen her and my presumption was that she’d died, like her counterpart Linda Lee had. I bought her and her friend a beer and learned that she wasn’t dead, “just in my 60s!” as she’d put it. We chatted for about a half hour before she and her friend took off for town. They had stopped in to mentally prepare themselves for the evening out on the town seeing friends while navigating the crowd of “bitchy kids” as she put it.

I apologized for having been one of those bitchy kids when we first met and she gave me a big kiss, hugged me and told me I was always a delightful companion at Embers.

Not bad for a future grumpy old man.

As if that wasn’t enough to put a smile on my face, I’d also missed the last bus of the night. Naturally, I stayed and closed the place before grabbing an Uber home, reflecting on how life really is just such a rich and delightfully strange and unpredictable journey.

Back to my titular (hehe) question. Drag Queens certainly don’t hate me. If anything, some might say the opposite. In the best possible way, their collective acceptance of pretty much anyone they come across helped me to become a better human. Certainly, the acceptance I have felt from the drag community over the years has helped me accept – and stop hating – myself.

The things we learn in unexpected ways…

Why Do Drag Queens Hate Me?

Indigo Girls

“Well, that can’t be a coincidence”, I thought as a CD title caught my eye in my local Long Beach music store. The album in question was simply titled Indigo Girls. It was on sale, so being a newly-ish minted gay, I bought the CD in a show of solidarity.

My rationale?

Cyndi Lauper talks about it in her 1983 song She Bop…

“Well, I see them every night in tight blue jeans.

On the pages of Blue Boy magazine.”

Blue Boy magazine was a glossy tribute to twink pulchritude. A gay porn magazine, in other words.

Indigo is a shade of blue.

I’ve apparently been jaded forever. But just the right amount. Maybe it’s just in my head that a gender pronoun and shade of blue equals some gay code – indeed, to hear them tell it, they went shopping through the dictionary for words that resonated…indigo struck gold for them for whatever reason – but in my music store, this CD priced at $7 resonated with me.

I’ve been a fan ever since.

I’ve owned every album.

Committed more song lyrics to memory than I thought I had the capacity for.

Lost my shit in the theater when they showed up as extras in Boys On The Side…embarrassing my friends by frantically whispering, “That’s the Indigo Girls!” in the darkened theater.

Seen them in concert in a half dozen cities on two continents..

My favorite performances being their zoo concerts. I’ve seen five zoo shows here in Portland and two more at the zoo in Seattle. The crowds at the concerts used to skew heavily lesbian, given their sexual identities. Once Lilith Fair took the music world by storm and sent female singer/songwriter types on a never before seen trajectory of success, those crowds started to straighten out.

My concert attendance started to fall off then, too. Where I’d always loved the live music experience Indigo Girls concerts provided, it was also a safe environment for me as a gay man…to flirt. Safe, because other guys there were like minded, both in bed and in musical tastes. It was as good a starting point as any for selecting a mate, right?

Never happened.

Matter of fact, the closest I got to an Indigo Girls concert love connection was attending shows for a few years with Sacha. You’d have thought that the Valentines Day show we saw at the Aladdin Theater would have put me off their concerts, but I was a super fan and after that show where Sacha and I argued through the entire thing…well, I started going mostly alone or with girlfriends.

No, what put me off was the intrusion of straight men at the shows. I’d loved the strong female vibe I encountered at their live shows. It was such a safe feeling.

A generous space.

When I looked up at one concert and saw my handful of musically like minded gay men replaced with straight guys who were canoodling through the concert until fuck time…I was done.

Until

A few years back, IG got together with a symphony.

It was crazy.

Rib and I went down to Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle and saw this show. Indigo Girls backed by the Seattle Symphony.

By “crazy”, I mean AWESOME.

Their music lends itself to the process. It’s always featured eclectic instruments, so switching to classic orchestral instruments wasn’t a huge stretch.

The Girls are storytellers, so watching their show always included an intimate glimpse into their music and personalities. My favorite story of this night was the story about the symphony performance itself.

The symphony had been practicing their set independently. The Indigo Girls, of course, had the material down. But they never practiced together until the day of the show!

The Indigo Girls roll into town – I am pretty sure this was before Amy married a girl from Seattle, so she wasn’t a randomly occurring celebrity in town yet – do a couple numbers with the orchestra and then peace out until showtime, hoping for the best.

Why is this anything important to know?

Well, Today I Learned on the Facebook that there was a symphony album coming out. Twenty-two songs, with a video of Galileo to kick it all off.

I.

Was.

Excited.

I watched the video a couple of times. It’s not their best live performance, but I can only take their word for it when they talk about the humbling experience of putting your voice in front of a giant machine like a symphony orchestra.

Viewed through that filter? This is incredible. If nothing else, it elevates the majesty of the stories their songs have always told.

From almost 1990 to almost 2020…these ladies have been and have made an enormous impact on my life. I jokingly say that at the end of my life, my relationship with my cell phone carrier will be the enduring relationship of my lifetime.

Compared to my musical relationship with Indigo Girls (they prefer no article in their band name) and Melissa Etheridge, the more accurate statement would be that the relationship with these two acts shaped the adult gay man that I became and one of the significant relationships of my life.

Interesting recipe, equal parts family, catholic school and music subculture equals…me. What an arc it’s been for us both.

And I can’t wait to hear this album!

Indigo Girls

Why I’m Single #2

Despite what anyone says, I got no game when it comes to dating.

Zero.

When people try and tell me otherwise, I usually think something along the lines of, “Ain’t no game that I’m winning, at any rate”.

So, yesterday was a parental lunch day, which I always enjoy. Even though I see them whenever they come into town a few times a month for one appointment or another, it’s not often enough. It’s my own fault for refusing to join the family in the ‘burbs. But I just can’t see myself doing that without becoming a version of the pathetic, drunk, gay uncle of the family…mooching nightly meals off my parents and sister and overstaying my welcome in lieu of having a life of my own.

I’m not eccentric enough to pull that off.

The occasional lunch route is a much better way to go.

Plus, sometimes it evolves into a post-lunch excursion, which is also fun. My parents aren’t and weren’t hippies, so it’s ok to go with them to a secondary location.

We’ve gone on trips to the mall for exotic things like cell phone upgrades and eyeglasses. Yesterday it was to Globe Lighting since it was near The Dockside where we ate, although neither Mom-Donna nor I let Dad off the hook for making it not quite as near as it originally started out.

Mom and Dad need a new light for their foyer. Do people still call it a foyer? Anyway, it’s about a 20 foot high ceiling with a window situation up where the second floor would be if they’d built the second floor that far. This makes it a hard buy because you can’t look at a thumbnail on Amazon and click buy with any confidence.

We wandered in and neither parent dropped dead after Mom says, “Oh, that’s nice!” about the very first light on display, which earned a deadpan, “It’s $3700” from me.

To our credit, we also collectively moved deeper into the showroom, intrepid shoppers that we are.

We kibitzed around the first few vignettes seeing some fun ideas, knowing that most wouldn’t work for Mom and Dad’s situation, regardless of their appeal.

None of this is a “Why I’m Single”. Well, I dunno…”Hobbies Include Shopping w/Parents” could be, but it would be pretty far down in the list and more of an indictment of the person who deemed it a flaw, right?

We’ve been in the store about 10 minutes now and I turn to my Dad and say something like, “No one has come out from behind the desk to say hi to us yet, I’m kinda ready to go”. Honestly, it was probably way bitchier, closer to “They might sell one of those $3700 lights if they’d get off their butts and say hi to us” if I had to guess. I am my grandfather’s grandson.

As we got closer to the desk, one of the two guys hanging out behind it tosses out the failed salesperson greeting of, “Let me know if you have any questions” in a super friendly tone. Still my mental response as I’m transferring my focus from the adjacent display to the disembodied voice was, “That’s not how you do i…oh, hi sexy, tattooed ethnic salestwink!”

He adds that we should check out the open box section and I walk away with Mom grumbling something about how no one wanted to talk to us by the expensive light and “Now he’s pointing us toward the scratch and dents, what are we…poor looking?!?” while Dad went off in search of a loo. I think he was bored. Hehe.

We had a few questions, which SalesTwink answered in his really amazingly enthusiastic yet passive tone of voice, I was increasingly intrigued by this fella.

Not that it showed, I’m sure. <eye roll>

We did have a few questions about bulbs, drop lengths, what his chest piece tat looked like (maybe that one was just mine) and one specific question about chandeliers that were lowerable for easy maintenance. He cheerily answered them all, even though that last one included another indication that maybe we should know that Globe doesn’t take food stamps or bagged coin as payment when he said, “But it’s really expensive…like $1200”.

It’s like he thought we were looking at chandeliers for our two-story house with wheels.

I decided he was secretly crushing on me and throwing negs to draw me in.

Yeah, he wasn’t. Still, this homey don’t play that.

Ok, I totally do. But since this was all just an old man’s fantasy anyway, I played back.

When asking about a specific fixture, he came up with the notion to just write up a quote for me.

“Can I get your last name?” was followed by, “And your first name?”

I stressed that I was answering with my Dad’s first name. This actually made him look up at me and I swear that the look said, “C’mon buddy, help me out here!”

Nonetheless, when he asked specifically for my number I said, “Lemme look that up for you real quick”.

He “tried” a couple more times while I maintained our imaginary detente and tried to get a better look at his chest tattoo.

This behavior is a long way from from the days in Long Beach when I gave guys my bar name when they asked – Chase or Chance, depending on how I felt about the guy and whether he had one…and, yes, I am fairly pissed that my former bar names are now mainstream.

My favorite aloof bitch behavior of saying, “It’s in the book” when asked for my number was a real crowd pleaser among my friends and a real bucket of cold water for potential suitors.

Yeah, I was alive and still not dating when phone books were a thing.

The phone book response was always followed up with a pathetic “But I don’t know your name!” exclamation, which usually pissed me off because the guy was failing to realize he’d asked for my number before my name, making me feel like an object instead of a person. Not letting him off the hook for objectifying me, I’d reply, “That’s in the book, too” as I continued on with my evening.

Man, I’ve been grumpy forever.

Waaaaay before a social media apps afforded me the dubious privilege of knowing what a guy’s junk look like before he properly (virtually) introduces himself.

Anyway, this guy wasn’t doing that…he “tried” to get my name and number but I was enjoying pretending we were playing hard to get.

Maybe that’s the only game this Lost Boy knows how to win…

Anyhoo.

Not for nothing, we were able to whittle down the offerings to one definite maybe. We’ll see what happens.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go check Missed Connections

Why I’m Single #2

Scotty

You want to know what a hot shit job was in SoCal was in the late 80s-early 90s?

Doctor?  Meh.

Lawyer?  God, no.

How about Realtor?

I suppose it was about as glamorous a profession as you could get back in the day. 

Somehow I ended up friends with one.  It was through my friends Keith and Jim.  Although, I’m fuzzy on how I knew them…it must have been through The Silver Fox.

This one,

not this one: #thesilverfox

What can I say, I knew the bar before I knew the man.  The bar was named for the owner, John…a Silver Fox in his own right.

Anyway, somehow I met Keith and Jim, they introduced me to Scotty and the four of us held court in the corner of the bar several nights a week.  We could, too, because of Scotty. 

He was so affected.  In retrospect, I’d say it was all some sort of compensatory affectation or just visual reminders that he would not be fucked with.

He was 6’5″, becoming one of the only people I’d really run across at that point in my life – he and Dolph Lundgren being the standouts in my memory – that I physically looked up to.

He wore an ankle length leather duster…custom, of course.

He drove a Rolls Royce.  This was before people commonly drove them.  I mean, maybe it’s really only Bellevue, Washington where it’s commonplace, now that I think of it.  His was two toned gold, with suicide doors.  I remember it being a Silver Shadow, but it looked more like the Phantom pictured below.

He actually reminded me of a cross between John Wayne and The B-52s Fred Schneider, if that helps conjure up any imagery.

Anyway, like I said, the four of us owned the place.  The hot, muscly couple everyone aspired to one day be or break up, the realtor who “could buy and sell you, twice” – his words – and me, the 22 year old twink.

When we walked in, we bypassed any line at the door as well as ID checks.  We’d walk by the first well of the bar where the infamously obscenely sized John Barnes was usually slinging drinks and bee lined for our corner where people moved away as we approached and settled in.

Then our drinks were placed on the bar, which was conveniently within reach.

Now, this corner was pretty well placed.  As I said, you could reach the bar easily.  You could see the stage, two of the TVs and practically lean into the VJ booth – it was the 90s, shut up – so all the entertainment was at hand…which was handy since Scotty liked to let the VJ know when it was time to put on a Pretenders video.

Still, I didn’t think it was that primo a location.

I think mentioning that to the group soon after being introduced to Scotty is was cemented my position in the foursome.  Of course, it probably came out as a bitchy complaint.

“Is this where were standing again?!?”

Which probably began a litany of the awesomeness of this position.  One that ended, I recall blurrily, with how every hot guy in the bar had to either pass by us to buy drinks or pee.

“Because picking up guys outside a men’s room is so classy?”, I replied…in question form because that’s how SoCal twinks spoke back then.

Ugh.

All eyes turned to Scotty, which was when I realized perhaps I had made a mistake.  That is, until Scotty threw his head back and let loose a belly laugh that practically shook the walls.  I learned through experience that you only saw this two or three times per year, so I eventually understood why the default reaction was…trepidation.

Soon, I was a regular thrice weekly fixture at the end of the bar.  Originally, it was less frequent because in addition to my Long Beach Society responsibilities at Ripples with my roommate Petur and his anti-socialite friend Dennis for Sunday Beer Bust and Tuesday’s $1 long necks at The Mineshaft I still had my private social life.

I had my own dates and pretty regular weekly dinners with my Dad.

Eventually, Scotty ended up getting an equal share of my time to the LBS, two nights each.  Then a bigger share as the split grew to 3-2 and then 4-2.

I was randomly getting picked up for dinner beforehand at least once a week.  Occasionally hitting a Sunday morning open house before Beer Bust and even driving myself home in the Rolls once in a while when Scotty couldn’t.

Beats walking.

It never occurred to me that at 23-ish, I’d entered a dating and sexual slump.  I mean, I expect guys to ignore my ass now when I hit on them, but half my life ago…well, I thought I had lost my mojo.  I was in 0 mood for dating, this was soon after my first-ever boyfriend and I broke up.  He’d not only broken my heart by cheating on me, he’d beaten me up a couple of times while he was at it.  Apparently, it’s poor form to be upset with ones alleged boyfriend for sleeping with other guys in my bed.

Who knew?

So, yeah, I didn’t want to date, but I did want to have some occasional sexy times.  

Beyond that, a guy just likes to be asked.  Am I right?

Complaining about it earned me another rafter rattler from Scotty.

Right?  Because it’s ridiculous.

It was amazing to have that intimate knowledge of Scotty’s lighter side, the juxtaposition of that with his normal severe  default demeanor made our friendship feel special.

We got along well.  It wasn’t long after Keith and Jim introduced us that we began meeting solo at the bar when they had to go to the gym.  Hey, I still had a metabolism, I didn’t need to go to the gym.

And Scotty had Fuck You Money.

The only time we had an issue in our friendship was the literal only time I dressed in drag for Halloween.  I was going with another friend and felt super insecure about dressing in drag, but it’s what Penguin – another blog, another time – wanted to do, so we went.

I inadvertently killed it, apparently looking like a True Lies era Jamie Lee Curtis.  I had a steady stream of guys dropping by to chat me up, so that was nice.  

Mojo, back.

Scotty showed up, walked by, settled into the corner and casually scanned the room.  Eventually, he realized I was Jamie Lee Curtis – I raised by beer bottle in a salute and a lightbulb went off.

Then, all alone in his little corner kingdom, he threw his he’d back and let another roaring bout of laughter fly…looking like a crazy person losing his shit in the corner.

I really enjoyed that moment, filling a close friend.  Come to think of it, that’s pretty much been a driving factor in my personality ever since, surprising people when they think they know me.

A while later, he walked by and said, “Tomorrow, 6:30” and left.

I left a while later.  I didn’t win the costume contest, thank gawd.  I think the fireman with the huge dildo hanging from his fly had won and King Tut was second place.  But I don’t really think that first guy was in serious costume.  

Anyway, I left.

There was a guy hanging around not taking “fuck off” for an answer.  He’d proposition me with some things I wasn’t into and wouldn’t leave me alone, so Penguin and I took off.

The next night, Scotty and I had dinner at The Pizza Place and shared some good laughs over the prior night.  Then we went to the bar, getting there long enough after happy hour ended and early enough that Scotty pulled the Rolls right up in front, like he liked.

We went in, had a drink and the guys showed up.  We hung out, watched some music videos, chatted with passersby and had a typical enjoyable night.

When one of the passersby turned out to be the obnoxious guy that ended my night the day before, it got awkward.  I was giving him passive-aggressive disinterest that only an Oregonian could interpret, meaning I was being too nice for him to get the point.  However, he knew no one else, so hanging around as long as he did made everyone uncomfortable.

Scotty suggested he leave, but the guy obliviously refused.

Keith and Jim left and shortly afterward, Scotty suggested I looked ready.

“I’ll get him home!” Obnoxious Guy helpfully offered.

“My mom taught me to leave with the people I came with”, I said, declining as Scotty and I made for the door.

Of course, he followed.  I was in the lead and didn’t say another word to him as he tried to talk to me past Scotty, who’s duster made an excellent shield for me.

I was the first to arrive at the passenger door and had stopped listening to Obnoxious Guy steps ago.  I was really good at blocking people in real life long before social media made it a virtual privilege.

I turned to let Scotty unlock my door and instead saw him unhingimg Obnoxious Guy’s jaw befor Obnoxious Guy hit the sidewalk and Scotty threw me the keys, yelled “Drive!” and jumped into the passenger seat.

He’d hurt his hand nowhere near as badly as he’d messed up that guy’s face, but I could tell he was in pain.

“What the hell was that?” I demanded.

“You don’t want to know.”

I gathered he’d been saying some things I didn’t want to hear and they offended Scotty’s sense of this Chosen Family of ours.  I’ll give him this, for all of the drinks and dinners he shared with me, the most generous thing he ever did was protect my honor from what I could only assume was some self-hating gay type.

I was ok with that.

Soon after, I met my Mulligan at Beer Bust and settled down, eventually leaving town. When I moved back a decade later, I wandered into The Silver Fox, met by Johns owner and bartender, both still somehow alive and working.

No sign of Scotty or the boys.  I never saw them again, nor do I know what happened to them.

One thing I do know now is how to explain my pre-Mulligan slump.  Somehow, through assumption or impression, it was known to all but I that Scotty and I were dating.  I found out when chatting up a guy at the bar and he tried to place me as the guy who dated the guy with the Rolls.

I tilted my head back and let go with a Scotty-esque laugh of my own.  Shaking me head and refusing to explain, changing the topic to the old guy that used to sit where we were sitting, “Hello, gorgeous!” guy.

Dead.

Well, he was pretty old.

What I kept to myself that night was that there were worse things than my friendship with Scotty being misconstrued. Regardless of how that myth came about, the reality is that it probably saved my ass from running into more guys like my first boyfriend or Obnoxious Guy.

Or worse.

So, yeah.  Thanks, Scotty, wherever you are, you magnificent bastard.

Scotty

Cherish

I used to think that it was kinda cool that Black Jesus from Madonna’s Like a Prayer video went to the same college in SoCal (allegedly) that I took a couple of classes at.

But, I’m kind of aloof with shit like that and no one seemed impressed with my unwillingness to accept that urban JuCo legend at face value.

“Show me” – Me

“Hey, where’s everybody going?” – pretty much also Me

Well, ya can’t win ‘em all.  So now I have that cool story for dinner parties.

It’s really a story that I’ll cherish for the rest of my days…

<eye roll>

But while I was be bopping along to Like a Prayer at home a while back – thank you, Pandora – I started to think about how many odd tangents I have concerning Madge from my days in LA back in the early 90s.  Again, I’m kind of aloof – or passively envious, too close to call – so when I ask a relative stranger what he does for a living (just in case it’s a blind date I’m not aware of) and he says, “I’m a storyboard artist for music videos” I’m intrigued, but don’t really want to pursue it…because you just know what’s coming.

I man up and ask, “Any videos I would know or are you allowed to even talk about it?”  

Was that rude?  The look my friends – I had found myself as part of a foursome at a movie with a couple of friends and this stranger – give me not only suggests that it was a set up but also that I’m blowing it.

Reason number 19 why I’m single, right there:  I’m still calling it aloof.

Turns out – like you need to be told – that he’d recently worked on a couple of Madonna’s music videos and was currently preparing to begin another.

“Well, I’m glad you could make some You time, that creative stuff can really be a rabbit hole!”

One of my friends does a minor palms up in his lap and lolls his head in exasperation.  I’m assuming there was a pretty hearty eye roll in there, too, but we’re in theater seats, so I’m getting all of this from the side and over my maybe-blind-date’s shoulder.

It couldn’t have gone that badly, because he ended up inviting the three of us to his birthday party later in the summer.

At Al Jolson’s house, no less.  Well, his old house.  He was still dead back then.

Naturally.

This is where I met her.

Donna De Lory, I mean.  One of Madonna’s backup singers and dancers.  

That’s her on Madonna’s left.  She and I played volleyball together in Al’s backyard. Niki Harris – on Madonna’s right side was on the other side of the net.

Madonna herself was a no-show.  She’d only RSVPed as a maybe (allegedly), so the writing was on the wall there…I mean, it wasn’t even the main house, just the converted carriage house.  It was still pretty damn cool.  

Sadly, this means that the closest I’ve ever come to her was at one of the Dance Your Ass Off events in LA.

Close enough for me.  I’m sure I wasn’t dancing what minimal ass I had off, too.  I was likely sitting on the sidelines with a drink in my hand being…aloof.

She was still pretty brassy back then.

Donna was perfectly sweet and fun.

Niki, a little less so, but she was on the losing team.  Just saying.

And then there was my most orgasmic – er, organic Madonna tangent.

I was judging people dancing at a bar and casually lifted up the tail on a cute boy’s shirt to give the ol’ caboose a check and that somehow got his attention.

I don’t know how he interpreted that action as an invitation to stop and chat.  Some people are so presumptuous.

But, he did.

So, we did.

And that went well, so then we did it.

Well, here’s how it actually went down:

We yelled at each other for a while near the dance floor upstairs at Ripples.  I think it was Ripples, it was my regular dance bar hang out.

What’s weird is that after that, we ended up at his place.

Ok, that’s not so weird.  He probably said something while we were talking about how he had worked on a Madonna video.

Cherish, no less.

In the back of my mind, I remember my imaginary Jewish grandmother saying, “Oh!  A merman!” like that was somehow on par with being a Doctor.

Me, being me, demanded – in a totally adorable manner – proof.

“Show me.”

Hey, when you look like this you can apparently act like a jackass and still get laid.  Not that I realized I had any actual sexual power at the time.

Plus, I kind of manipulated him into taking me home.  That totally sounds like me.

So we went back to his place on The Heights and then I pretended to be interested in all of his Madonna memorabilia in what I imagine he considered foreplay.

And then we did stuff that peeled paint.

To this day, I still think of this basic visual whenever the topic of mermen comes up.

Oh, and for those of you keeping track at home, this is my second consecutive post to mention mermen.  How about that?  Although, I can’t really count the first one since it was a reblog…still.

Cherish