Embers

I’m on a quasi alliterative titular jag, it seems.

Last night’s entry had lit in its title.

This morning/afternoon, I’m writing about embers.

Later today, I’ve got one tentatively titled woodwork that should post.

You didn’t really need to know that, but these are the things about my blog that I enjoy…so, I’m sharing.

It’s almost noon on Friday.  The first Friday in nearly 49 years that Portland won’t be celebrating the weekend at a dance bar called Embers.

It’s been going nearly as long as I’ve been around.  Sometimes strong.  Others…well, it was one of the bars that I referred to as being in a three-way tie for second worst gay bar in Portland.  

The worst, Casey’s has always in my mind held the best wishes for continued success by these three bars:

One of the contenders for second worst – The Fox and Hounds – sold a few months back and immediately launched a transformative campaign to alienate its base clientele by changing everything.  The campaign was known as “We’re not going to be making a lot of changes or anything”.

Embers shuttered it’s drag stage and dance floor at 2:30 this morning for the last time after announcing earlier this week that its owner had suffered a stroke and was no longer able to run the business.

So…CONGRATULATIONS, EaglePDX, on being the last second worst gay bar in Portland!

Oh, and Casey’s quietly closed a few months back, so…this is a really big day for you!

All that having been said, Embers holds an awkward place in my nostalgic old heart.  So much so, that I would still pop in every couple of weeks or so for a beer and some chat with the staff.  Usually, I was the only non-homeless person and non-somehow tenuously employed by the bar patron in the place.

This is my life, people.  Try not to cringe.

But back before making its run at the title for second worst gay bar in Portland, well…it was an IT bar for Portland.

I was forcibly relocated to the Great Plains before I could legally drink or patronize a night club in Portland.  Two facts that the Great Plains didn’t really give a fuck about, because my Catholic High School honor student buddies started taking me to one of the two (only) premiere (by default) night clubs (dive bars) in beautiful downtown (no comment) Atchison, Kansas to do homework (I shit you not) when I was 14.

Kiby’s East – there was no other Kiby’s – was where I learned to both harshly judge and appreciate a true shit-hole-in-the-wall bar.  When it’s 50% of your choices – 33%, if you seriously consider doing nothing to be an option – you make the most of it.

It was on the banks of the Missouri River.  On sultry summer nights, they’d open up the back doors to let the breeze cool the dance floor.

They had $1 pitchers of beer for what would pass as happy hour.  Perfectly affordable to us high schoolers whose after school jobs paid $2.35 an hour.

I once saw – while taking a study break on the mezzanine – a big muscly guy dancing by himself on the crowded dance floor.  Well, I say he was by himself, but over his wife beater clad shoulders he was wearing what I hoped was his pet boa constrictor cum dancing partner.  I watched as he flirted with it, lifting its head to his lips to kiss at it playfully as the snake’s tongue flickered at his lips.

Then, in an emotionally scarring PDA, he put the whole head of his snake in his mouth.  I’ve seen similar things happen at EaglePDX.  

Colloquially-speaking.

So, from boas constrictor to feather, I have a good idea of what makes a bar tragic or fabulous or something of the unremarkable in between variety.

Embers was all of these at some point over the 21 years that I’ve been whetting my whistle at its gold fish inhabited bar.

One of The Fabulous Baker Sisters put Embers on my social radar via MySpace after I moved back to PDX from SoCal in the winter of ‘96.  

When The Fourth Fabulous Baker Sister speaks, I listen.  Especially about booze, clubs or in this case, both.

My socializing quickly began to include Embers.

Occasionally, I would go there after work with my team to dance our asses off and blow off steam built up over the course of the week.  I would usually park my Jeep in front of the building I now live in and stagger back several hours later feeling invigorated and refreshed, baptized in the sweaty waters of a smoke machine filled dance floor.

The next day my chicken legs were rubber at work from too much dancing.  But those nights of group dancing with Margi, Candace, Jackie Jack Ass, Erica-Schmerica and Panzy are some of my most treasured 20-something memories.  Pansy being a couple decades our senior, but representing and showing us how it was done…even if toward the end of the night it was done on her back, waving her arms in the air on the dance floor after too many drinks and/or clove cigarettes.

Other times, I’d sit alone at the gold fish inhabited bar and drink.  Raven, one of the older drag performers would chat me up, hitting on my unreceptive ears as we watched Linda Lee obscenely tongue flick her way through performing a song whose words she was only vaguely acquainted with.  This was how I preferred to watch the show after the first time a drag queen hit on me here.  Jumping off the stage after her number and bee lining her way through the crowd of chairs right up to me to introduce herself.

That DQ was a sexy boy, turns out.  I should have set aside my own homophobia and accepted his advances.  Probably, it would have headed off some bad mojo I didn’t know was brewing for my future.

Every Pride Parade I attended in Portland passed by this Portland icon, overflowing the crowd into the street for the day, much like the scene from last night.

Sometimes, I would stop by with Black Sheep Bro, where without fail, my straight slightly younger brother would get hit on in a gay bar and I would not.  That’s fair, thanks, universe.  I chalk it up to my self-unrealized intimidating beauty.

Then there was the time I turned those tables and met a so-called straight boy whose friends had allegedly failed to show up for the evening.  I turned from the bar to face the dance floor after ordering a drink, the machine generated smoke parted and out walked Sacha.

The good old days…yeah.

Ten years later, I moved away.

Ten years later, I moved home.

Again.

Embers was still there.

Portland’s heralded gay strip – which Embers was never on – Stark Street, graphically nicknamed Vaseline Alley, had been broken up.  Now, instead of a street filled with gay bars and then Embers, way over there; Portland now had gay bars all over the inner part of the west side of town and Embers was sitting dead in the middle of them.

Literally, dead, as it came to pass.

Living now right across the Park Blocks from the bar, I’d go in there…and it just wasn’t the same.

Some familiar bartenders and staff.

The owner sitting at the end of the bar, being asocial.

Some drag queens.

But the crowd was hard to find.

An occasional crowd at a performance, but now the drag community – at least in these four walls – had become so insular as to be nearly exclusive.  It’s probably my own fault, rebuffing Raven’s advances and dissing that other boy in a dress so many years ago…this was my karma.

Latin night on Sundays.  That had a crowd! But the bar wasn’t so much a celebration of the Latin pop culture of Selena and Shakira as it was a horrifying celebration of a mariachis meets quincinera Latin culture.  Again, it felt strangely exclusive to my old white ass.

Which is too bad, because Latin men…<swoon>.  Looking at you, Wallpaper.

Pride was still an amazing experience here.  Sadly, that raucous party was just a single day in the year.

I stopped trying to catch the nostalgic night scenes from my 20s and 30s and would settle for stopping by for a happy hour drink.

I began walking on the far side of Broadway from the bar after running into a day-drunk friend stumbling out of Embers for the third time in the first six months after moving back to the hood.  Aaah, the glamor of a gay bar that opens at 11 am.

Also, running into bored daytime bartenders smoking on the street put me at too great a risk of becoming that stumbling day drunk person during my idle days.

But now that risk is gone, for better or for worse.

The neighborhood gossip mill has started in with the “here comes more ugly condos” trope, but it could be worse…the building’s decades long decay could just accelerate.

Surprisingly, the rumor mill hasn’t resurrected – as far as I know – the rumor that Silverado, one of the Vaseline Alley era bars, was moving from its exile in SW to take over the space, closer to the other gay bars.  Since it and Casey’s were the only gay bars in SW – technically, Vaseline Alley was in SW, but only by one block – now that rumor would make total sense.  This would leave Scandals as both the only gay bar of any significance in SW and the only gay bar left in the original gaybourhood…tightening the gay scene in Portland, once again.

That wouldn’t be so bad, in my opinion.

Alas, the news is reporting that the building’s owner is looking to sustain the space as part of the LGBTQI community, seeking investors from around the nation to invest some capital in the space and open a fresh gay club.

And that’s an outcome I can appreciate.

RIP Embers.  And thanks for the mEmberies.

Embers

150 Minutes

I wasn’t going to go.

I never do…so why start now?

It’s complicated.

We’ve been bred to dread these events.  Yet, like so many other things, what’s old is new again.  More appropriately in this case, what was out may very well be in again.

What could I possibly be talking about?

My High School Reunion.pioneer

The 30 year edition.

Thirty.  Fucking.  Years.

Sweet Jesus.  When did that happen?

Oh, yes.  I mentioned it was complicated.  Here’s the skinny.  When I was a boy – I think the aforementioned timeframe affords an un-ironic pass at using that phrase – we had grade school, middle school and then high school.  The breaks, at least in my district, were K-6th grade, 7th-Frosh and then Sophomore to Senior to wrap it up with each jump from one school to the next being fed by several feeder schools.  When I finished 6th grade at Jennings Lodge Elementary, me and my classmates were routed to Ogden Junior High for the start of 7th grade along with I don’t know how many 6th grade graduates from other schools.

Well, during the summer between the end of my Freshman year at Ogden and the beginning of my Sophomore year, my family moved from Portland, OR to a little place named Atchison, KS – pretty much known for being the point of origin of this and her. Continue reading “150 Minutes”

150 Minutes

It’s not me, it’s you. 

It really, really is.


Not that there’s anything wrong with that, empirically speaking.

And there’s nothing really wrong with my friend Diezel – formerly: Lurch – either.  We, like so many other singles in the world, optimistically bang our heads against the dating and relationship walls until we’re slightly worse for the emotional wear and then ask, “Why?” like a deranged Nancy Kerrigan.

Why?  Why us…why anyone?

Strangely, knowing there’s nothing wrong with oneself doesn’t always cushion the blow of another’s careless behavior.  Not necessarily intentionally careless behavior but definitely not cluelessly careless.  It would take a pretty special type of idiot to not know that pulling a fade away on someone just isn’t the adult thing to do.

One of the languages I’ve become somewhat fluent in over my dating career is Hint.  Enough so that I tend to check in and verify my Hint to English translations with people just to make sure they know what their actions are saying to me.

It’s a horrifying surprise to find out how truly clueless people are about what their body language and lack of follow through to their words and commitments says to someone else.

Shockingly horrifying.

We’ll see how I feel about providing examples of such behaviors later…maybe they’ll just show up magically like solid friendships or relationships do.  Y’know, without any actual work or effort on my part.  Oh, wait.

For now, I want to focus on the fall out.

A lot of things can happen when making new friends or building new relationships, it depends on the individual and whether or not Hint is their primary language, one they’re fluent in or even one that they are completely unaware of.

I find it’s easy for guys – gay guys, most famously in my opinion – to ask if someone wants to have sex.  Here in 2016, us awful people – men, not that we do a good job of living up to the definition of that word and acting like men outside of carelessly wielding an erection – tend to pretty much just barf out things like “Looking?” – or “You looking?” for the more verbose gays – to one another.  Personally, I’d like nothing more in life than to use that simple action as a conduit for culling perhaps the worst elements of our society.

Is that a genocidal thought?

Let’s table that…but remind me to tell you about The Jettison Project someday.

Some other folks, let’s consider them the less desperate element at the least and more genuinely self-aware at best, might want to take a more mature approach like meeting for a safe coffee or drink and see if there’s a spark or another reason to plan future social engagements over committing to just meet up and go right to Bonetown with someone they’ve never met.

I saw in a movie once that this is called dating.  It was in a movie, so it must be real, right?

So, here’s some options of what can happen, fallout-wise:

Equally clueless people probably stumble merrily along from one such instance to the next occurrence where they just “see what happens”…and are unsurprised when nothing happens again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

These good folks in the above scenario could be of the mutual hook-up mentality or you could have an instance of the mixed hook-up and dating ilk.  Tragedy usually occurs when one of the participants isn’t really aware of which kind of guy he is, or – more commonly, I suspect – isn’t being honest with himself about what he wants or what his motivation is.  That’s when things have the potential to get really messy.

People with a bit more focus in life, trying to live an intentional existence like Diezel and myself, tend to be affected a bit more by these messier encounters.  We can easily identify what our goals are in our emotional life and aren’t necessarily looking for fulfillment based on the luck required when one simply waits to just “see what happens”.  For my part, I will often push people away by trying to clarify what they are intending to communicate through their actions.

Boy howdy, so many people hate that.

Mentally, I picture those people as amusement park goers and myself as an adventure ride…they are simply not (emotionally) tall enough to ride my ride.  Know what I mean?

It gets worse.

“Dan Savage Wisdom” may help teens survive the coming out process but a few decades after surviving that trauma, I kind of want to shake him like a crying baby.

Undoubtedly, if we were a bit more intentional in how we prepared our young to function in the adult world of human interaction we would probably end up with a much happier populace.  I say “human interaction” because it’s not just how we date, but also how we treat each other in generic day-to-day social situations.

But, Diezel and I were recently discussing his dating life in particular.

Surprisingly, I was the participant on more solid emotional ground during our conversation.  Quite a feat after my summer of Broken Poet-ry.

Diezel, not so much.

I was surprised to find that he’d been experiencing tortured evenings at home following a prior conversation where we’d talked about him successfully navigating the holidays as a single man and frequent odd-man-out in the requisite holiday socializing.

Things can change and get dark quickly in the dating world and that’s where poor Diezel was existing lately.  So much so that I was surprised to find out that his two other confidants had held a well-being intervention with him a few days after our holiday survival conversation.

They were worried about him hurting himself.

What had I missed, was there something – a tell – that I hadn’t picked up on?

He assured me that no self harm was planned.  We exchanged assurances that he knew which friends to reach out to and what networks existed for people in crisis should he need them.

He can promise me all he wants, but I’m not one to assume that my loved ones won’t “pass themselves away”, to quote Ms. Evie Harris.  I’m fine telling them what I want them to do when the going gets tough.  Between life in general and AIDS in particular, I’ve lost too many friends already.  I’ve cleaned up one friend’s bathtub after he shot himself in it.  Thoughtful until the end; tile is much easier to clean blood off of versus paint and carpet…still, I’d prefer he was thoughtful enough to not deprive me of his presence in this world.

I’m selfish like that.

I’m also prone to offering helpful humor like this in between more substantial texts:

So, what was Diezel’s trigger?

A literal trigger.

He’d recently been talking with his friends about a couple of recent purchases, god help me, I can’t recall both…just the new gun that he had told me about.

Now, I recall asking about it as I mentally rolled my eyes since I have never really understood the allure of gun ownership, let alone multiple gun ownership.  As he discussed the purchase I also recall my threat level returning to a neutral color from the red-level that had briefly piqued.

Not so, the interventionalists.

But, Diezel admitted that he’d spiraled a bit after we met.

I don’t think that wanting a partner in life + owning a gun = suicide.  But I’m still glad that our friends are secure enough to discuss their concerns when they have them.  That’s super scary emotional ground and can be really awkward, but better safe than sorry.

I also don’t think that suicidal thoughts are as uncommon as people maybe would tell themselves.

I have had them.

I have them.

Friends sometimes share theirs with me when they have trouble banishing them back to the darker corners of their psyche where they belong.

I am a doctor, after all, so why wouldn’t they?

Well, I am if you listen to a few folks from my past that didn’t appreciate the guidance and comments I had made in regard to their actions and what their motivations might be.  But that blog post is still in draft form…stay tuned, the working title is The Doctor Is In(sane), because I’m ultimately no better or worse than anyone else, maybe just at a different point in my journey and able to offer some outside perspective.  People don’t have to listen…it’s not like I’m holding a gun to their heads.

Which, figuratively, brings us back to Diezel.

Knowing that he wants a boyfriend or a partner, partnered with how we both know Basic Gays, I offered this advice:

Don’t beat yourself up over wanting a partner, just check your expectations around having one so you can remain realistically optimistic.

He admitted to failing in the realistic optimism, offering “despairingly pessimistic” as his current state of well-being and admitting he had been thinking about seeing a therapist.

So, here we go…I admire that he openly discusses this with me.  Like suicidal thoughts, I think the majority of Americans – aside from New Yorkers of the 90s – consider seeing a therapist as a sign of weakness.

I disagree.

Strongly.

I think that admitting to oneself that they need that outside help is hugely beneficial to the self and incredibly brave.  Why do we have to live in a culture where getting help being the best and happiest that we can be as individuals has the connotation of weakness?  To beat another of my favorite drums for a second, consider the difference between amateur and professional sportspeople…is it coaches?  To me, this is the difference between people who get therapy and people who don’t.

People who don’t ever get therapy might be lucky, they might be living in denial, or they might be amateurs at living.

Chew on that for a minute.

So, what’s next when confronting the demons of dating?

You’ve bloodied your forehead against the wall of the dating world, be it a bathroom wall in a bar – and not in the good way – or against the screen of your smart phone.

You’ve gotten help.  A good debriefing of the good, bad and ugly of dating with your friends can go a long way.  Sometimes you have to pull out the heavy artillery and get a therapist or life coach to provide some clarity.

Then maybe all that’s left is the old chestnut:  If you can’t beat them, join them.

That last one is risky.  You know I’m a strong supporter of being a part of the solution versus part of the problem – again, you’d probably be surprised to find out how many gay guys hate being asked to consider whether their actions are part of the problem or part of the solution.  But, someone has to be the pariah.

I wish it was someone else, but really only so their blog name could be Pariah Carey.

So what do I mean by joining them?  Who are them, anyway?

The hook-up guys.

<needle skip>

Seriously.  When I left my ex up in Seattle (working blog name:  The Lost Caretaker, standby…) one of the Fabulous Baker Girls offered me this advice, “The easiest way to get over one man is to get under another”.  Which is just bullshit pop psychology…conditionally.  Medicating with sex is a dangerous path.  A path that leads to pathologically avoiding real life in favor of the potential mistaken gratification and validation that can be inferred from a hook-up.

After I was gay bashed in college, I spent a little time in denial.  Then I spent a lot of time self-medicating with sex in order to prove to myself that I had value as a person, was desirable as a sexual object and had the stamina of legend.

A lot of time.

Years.

Don’t ask me my number.  It makes other gays golf clap when they hear it.  That was not a humblebrag.

I wouldn’t recommend this as a long-term coping mechanism, but I didn’t have any real friends at the time that I could rely on.  I was fucking them all.  Oopsies.

Yet, when Diezel and I were continuing this conversation this morning, I observed that he had had a very social weekend, according to Facebook.  He commented that he had but that he’d been having too much sex lately and needed to stop that behavior.  FBG5 (yes, there’s five of these fantastic sisters!) and her pithy advice popped back into my mind and I was able to share with Diezel that it’s not bad to self-medicate with sex.  It’s bad to get lost in sex and abuse that particular form of medication.  Particularly if you aren’t honest with yourself about the need you are feeding or with the partners who are effectively your pharmacists.  Again, part of the problem or part of the solution?  Your solution can’t be part of someone else’s problem.  Right?  So you’ve got to be emotionally evolved enough to talk about expectations.

I used to flat out tell people “I’m never going to call you again” when I was self-medicating and would pick guys up in bars.  It was the 90s, we didn’t have the Scruff or the Grindr.  Hell, we didn’t even have smart phones.  That might be a little crass or jaded as far as behaviors go, but at least it was honest.  And I was too fucked up to be anyone’s boyfriend, anyway.  Yet, sometimes guys would ask if they could give me their number or have mine when bye-bye time came around.  I just looked at them.  I said something like, “Did I literally fuck you senseless?” to one poor guy.  Optimistic dating-type guys hooking up with 90s-damaged-me…I’m sure I would have been lucky to date him.

If you believe in karma, you could feel a lot less sympathetic to my dating woes after reading that little admission, eh?

But I think that approach is a lot less injurious to the other guy(s) than people who are confused about where they are in their sexual/emotion evolution.  The guy that thinks he’s a dating-type but is really a hook-up-type.  Or the guy who vacillates between the two, but at least he’s probably optimistic about becoming a dating-type eventually.  And I see – meaning: meet on dates – those optimistic guys every now and then.

Like recently.

I met a guy that wanted to hook-up a few weeks ago.  It was late, so I put him off until the next day.  We actually texted throughout the day and then decided ultimately to meet for a drink first.

During which, he decided I was dateable.  Yay, Galby.

On the second date, what?  New Year’s Eve?  Crazy.  Yay, Galby!

That NYE spirit got the best of him, or that Galby charm overwhelmed him and he put his mouth on mine.  Me, pitching a perfect game that night, apparently drove him to the edge of his self-control and he ended up sticking my hand into his pants.  Yay, Galby!

Also, yay, him…I’d have saluted him if my saluting hand hadn’t been busy bearing witness.

But then by date three, the reality of his situation sank in and he friend-zoned me in a fit of Hint-o-nese over dinner and drinks.  Naturally, I pushed for clarity and he shorthanded a recent heartbreak.

FML.

And that’s just an example of how people can optimistically be dating-types.  He will be a legitimate dating-type someday.  Not today, apparently, which isn’t at all helpful to my favorite person.

But sometimes it’s just about bad timing, and I’ll take that over the potential that someone is truly a bad person any day.

I hope I don’t get a “cease and decease” from Grumpy Cat.  Yes, I didn’t mean to type Cease and Desist.

It’s not me, it’s you. 

And Yet I Still Don’t Like Sushi

Well, I never called him again after that night ten years ago, but he keeps popping up in the periphery of my present day life.

Not calling seemed like the right call for a date that ends with him pushing a drag queen.

Down.

Hard.

It was one of those surreal cartoonish moments.  One minute I’m standing there talking to said DQ, the next her feet have made an appearance and there is just enough time to register the surprise that flits across her face – and this surprise could have been the thought “I have those same shoes!” – before she hit the wall three feet away and crumpled to the floor.

Then everything clicks into place and you realize that your date pushed her.

Hard.

His next shift was probably his last at CCs.  He was banned from the bar in the moments following that altercation, so that just seems like a realistic assumption.

I’ve thought of him a few times recently because one of Portland’s local Drag Queen celebrities recently died, Tiara Desmond.  It was she that I’d been talking to that night as we often did when I’d come in for a drink and she was working.  She might have been working both CCs and Darcelle’s at that point…all I know is she was around CCs at least as often as I was.

She had a more legitimate reason to be around.  I was just there drinking my way through some therapy after my boyfriend had left me.

For a waiter.

On our anniversary.

No biggie.  Just another gay in the life of Chris.  And there have been a lot of gays in my life.

The point is, she was always nice to me.  Genuinely nice, which I really needed.  More than I needed whatever medicine I was swilling at the time.

But her death has brought that night to the fore front of my consciousness frequently in recent weeks.

He was a go-go boy at CCs back when CCs had go-go boys.  The hottest one, in my humble, pickled opinion.  And HE asked me out.  Which is probably the beginning of the end of me being impressed with myself by younger guys hitting on me.

There’s always a reason.

Always.

What’s wrong with you?

What do you want?

But just because I’m no longer impressed or flattered doesn’t mean I’m not still open to the potential opportunity.  I like to think I’m more selective in my screening nowadays.

Probably, I’m not.

We’d gone on a couple of impromptu dates.  He was off work, let’s us grab last call at another bar or running into each other socially out on the town.

Or more accurately careening into one another.

We had a couple of date-y dates.  My favorite was also my first Pimps and Whores party.  I want to say it was at his place.  I hope it was because I think we woke up there the next day.  My memory of that time is decidedly fuzzy.

But this deliberate date was dinner.  I’d suggested it and told him to pick the place – dangerous stuff for a picky eater.

He chose sushi.

Fuck.

I chose Masu.  If I’m gonna eat food I don’t like, I’m gonna do it like a baller ant the newest and it-est sushi place in town.

We had a good dinner, surprisingly, I didn’t starve.  When I went to drop him at home after he asked where I was going as I exited the freeway.

“I’m not done with you yet” he replied when I told him I was heading to his place.

So, we ended up at CCs.  For a nightcaps.

You know the end result of that side trip.  I hadn’t figured him for the jealous type.  But who knew what else was going on.  I was kind of naive back then.

Remember, my boyfriend of six years had left me shortly before and I’d never seen it coming.

Needless to say, I felt my culinary compromise failed to deliver a decent return on my investment.

Smash cut to this evening.

I’m out for a semi-regular happy hour with my favorite local…let’s call them the Fabulous Baker Girls.  The surname is a 60% match.  The adjective is a 100% match.  They are all diversely fabulous.  So FBG1 and I are out at Henry’s having some beer and small plates and chattering away the evening.  It’s beer, so I’m also monitoring my gastrointestinal seismic activity, which is fine because FBG1 takes small talk to a level.  I love just sitting there and letting it was over me.  I don’t think I could keep up with her if I tried, she has the gift for gab.

Quite enjoyable.

Anyway, now and then when we’re together, something clicks.  Tonight it was after she’d suggested splitting the HH California Rolls and I had told her to go ahead, but I might just watch.

A few conversational ellipses later, she’s talking about this tangential friend and how he does a drag brunch somewhere in town.

<pronouns shift accordingly>

Oh, yeah…with Bolivia Carmichaels?  I’ve seen a few of her shows advertised at CCs.

“I’m not sure, I think it’s on her Facebook page” and I’m grossly paraphrasing our conversation here…

And I find her Facebook page and we start talking about the place and how I need to get there since I keep hearing about it.

I’m not sure how many degrees of separation this DQ was from FBG1 nor whether the DQ’s husband was part of said degrees or not, but I literally failed to suppress my ejaculation when I clicked on his profile.

Sorry, my ejaculation was of the “OMG, I dated this guy for a minute just after the turn of the century” type.  Just in case you thought otherwise.

Dirty readers.

And just guess who that husband was?

I tried some California Roll.

And I still don’t like sushi.

And Yet I Still Don’t Like Sushi

Writing the Rails

I’m flattered to have friends tell me they like reading my blog.  Even more so when I get a *like* from a random reader.

Yesterday I woke to one such text from a friend since my high school days, the eldest of the Fabulous Baker Girls.  She went one further, though.  She told me that she thought I should apply for a Writer in Residence position and sent me a link to apply.

Prior to this, I’ve been the Writer in Residence of Chez Galby, and doing a pretty poor job of meeting the “requirements” of the position…which is to publish one measly post per week.  To be on trend to make that goal, I should have 40 published posts and this will be #31, so I am behind, but gunning to make it up with a renewed discipline…maybe that will make my dick boss happy.

This renewed discipline also affords me a “reason” to procrastinate working on my other writing projects:  a couple of novel ideas I have been kicking around.  It’s a task that daunts me to the point that thinking about it just made me roll my eyes.

So, I read up on this Writer in Residence opportunity and decided to take the plunge.  It meant answering a couple of short essay type questions and submitting a writing sample.  So, I scrubbed a couple of blog posts for foul language and sent them along.  An earlier post and one that was more recent so they could see the progression in my writing voice as well as get an idea for some of the themes I discuss.

The program is for Amtrak, hence the title for this entry.

It’s weird to consider them sponsoring a position like this, then again, it isn’t.

It’s basically a short term position.

Like a four-day trip across country on a train and my job would be to write about the experience.

And that’s why I was excited to apply.  I’m sure nothing will come of it, my portfolio is still too meager to warrant a paycheck like a $500 cross-country train ticket, but…who knows.  Anyway, back to being excited to apply.  The reason I was so excited was because in researching the program, it occurred to me that one of my most common themes – starting way back with The Seattle Thaw and continuing into a lot of my posts about dating and relationships – is how people interact and treat one another.  My observations on social behaviors and preferred manner of treatment are somewhat anachronistic, just like train travel has become in America today.  This would be an exciting exercise in comparing how travel evolved from trains and buses to planes and automobiles and what we traded away experience-wise in favor of convenience while also highlighting the conveniences our technology now affords us and how that has impacted our cultural behaviors and social norms.

I think there is an interesting parallel to be drawn.

Maybe I’ll do it anyway, just for myself.

Flash forward a couple of days and I’m meeting up with FBG1 for some happy hour drinks and grub at Henry’s in the Pearl – hey, I had a gift card from New Year’s Eve at Cider Bite just burning a hole in my pocket – and we started talking about cruises.

This was one of my favorite games in college.  OK, it wasn’t a game so much as a necessity when sitting around with my roommates drinking beer from our BeerMeister and eating enough guacamole that I can barely stand to look at avocados anymore…but it’s basically retracing the conversational steps we took once we realized we had gotten off on so many tangents that the original point was lost.

So, let’s see.  We were talking about…Alaska?  That can’t be right.  Food?  I dunno.  Rest assured, she’ll let me know once she reads this.  That woman has an impressive memory.  Anyhoo.  I think we both agreed that we didn’t really care for the concept of cruises and whatever the objection she or I had was basically true for every cruise except a gay cruise.  Not that I would want to go on one of those!  I have heard horror stories, let me tell you.

She had a story about a gay couple that she or a friend of hers had met during a traditional cruise and said that they were just the best folks.  Really enhanced the cruise experience.  I think this was her personal story, but I’m old.  I get confused.  And this was after one whole beer, so obviously I was out of my mind.  Remember, beer makes me loopy.  I don’t know why I still drink it.  Oh, yeah…it tastes amazing.

But!

That gave me a great idea for the cruise ship industry:  Gays in Residence on cruise ships!

It would be perfect.  When gays go into a neighborhood, everything traditionally improves.  Why can’t that work with cruise ships, too?

And suddenly, I’m rethinking my stance on cruises.  I could go be the Truman Capote of the seas.

Writing the Rails

The State of Our Hearts

Late last year, I read something on Facebook.  Go figure…me on Facebook.

It was an article re-posted by someone who is either an obscure celebrity I am unfamiliar with or someone who fancies himself a celebrity-in-the-making.

Shut up.

The comment that accompanied the article he posted was something to the effect of, “This is why I don’t date”.

Then I opened the article.  It was about a relationship ending.  Suddenly.  The author explored his state of mind over the week that followed.  The grief.  The sadness.  The self-doubt.  The return to optimism and balance.

Keep shutting up.

As I read, I experienced myriad thoughts.  The range ran from, “I feel ya, brah” to pity for the re-poster to frustration about the empty soul that dumped our poor writer-slash-emoter to the emptier one that openly admitted he won’t even try dating in an effort to avoid the risk and potential pain that love demands.  I kind of settled into a low-grade frustration at my feelings of being one of the minority who actively tries versus the quitter or the half-assed “let’s see what happens” type.  I get most angry at that last type…they pretend to blend into my group that makes an honest effort but haven’t acknowledged that the lack of effort it takes to belong to their group ultimately not only insulates them from the pain of rejection but also creates more of the group of quitters that just give up altogether.

Great.

Actually, did you even follow that?  It’s ok if you didn’t because I think my brain swelled a little just trying to type it out.  Then again, I’m writing this on my iPhone and the small screen is giving my eyes hell.  I’m sure the 6+ screen size would have made all the difference…

Let me break these Romeos down (and, full inclusion…there’s plenty of Juliettes that fall into these categories, I’m just villianizing within my own sub-group of emotionally stunted gay men):

Type 1 – The Lover and The Fighter

Talk about toiling in obscurity.  The Lover and The Fighter wants it all:  a best friend and a sexual partner, a significant other.  Gasp!

They may appear to be serial daters.  Maybe they are.  They might be seeking that initial spark on a first date versus hanging in for a few dates to see if there is a slow burn potential with someone.  Once they find it, either manifestation of the relationship flame, they can usually be counted on to go to the mattresses (keep it clean, people) for their significant other.  Hopefully, not in a Glenn Close/Fatal Attraction way…but they’ll definitely prioritize this potential relationship over lesser parts of their lives.  That can be hard to find…I’ve seen people fight for a relationship to the detriment of their friendships.  The benefit, though, to a well-cultivated Logical Family is that they are still there once balance is regained by our Fighter.  Whether that balance is the result of a relationship ending or integrating a new love into their base life…well, that’s another story.  We can only hope.

They might also know from experience what they are looking for in a lover or relationship.  Or think they do.  In this case, they become more The Fighter – perhaps too quickly, sometimes – in defense of that vision.  Do they risk becoming too closed off to a potential partner in pursuit of what they want?  I’m certain they do.

What I’ve seen – and lived – is Fighters holding on too long.  Not ending something that wasn’t what they needed in a relationship or significant other.  Maybe even fighting too hard to make something begin where nothing ultimately could exist.  Fighting too hard for hope where none was…maybe that’s fighting too hard in an effort – consciously or unconsciously – to resist returning to a life without the comfort of an intimate relationship.

I’ve been there.  In all of its behavioral incarnations…there’s one place I’d rather be, but until then, here’s where I hope to reside.  In the embrace of my biological and Logical Family.

Type 2 – The Quitter

This one’s easy enough to figure out, eh?

Best case, they have a great network of both biological and Logical Family (thank you to Anna Madrigal for introducing me to that particular expression for one’s Chosen Family) to provide company and affection for them.

The downfall to this best case scenario is that true intimacy is missing.  That sexual healing that Marvin Gaye so famously put on our map of social awareness.  There are lots of ways to meet one’s sexual needs, of course, but it’s the need for the intimacy that should accompany sex for a complete experience that many in this category of person end up missing.

That said, it’s not unusual for me to encounter people – asocially – that aren’t necessarily looking to meet a sexual need on line or on the apps, they are enthusiastically seeking a Cuddle Bud.  Guess what?  Stop being a slut or a coward and find someone to date and call significant.  The intimacy of that cuddling you want is missing because you aren’t risking exposure to the pain that also can potentially accompany someone to cuddle with.  Cuddle Buds and Fuck Buds are pretty much both half of one of the ingredients found in true happiness.

Taking their best case existence and making a total shit show of it are the people fortunate enough to find that Logical Family and then risk it by muddying the waters with sex.  Popular amongst gay men in particular – especially since in heterosexual friend circles, only 50% of the circle would be a candidate for a sexual partner, right? – where I’ve seen many a friend group taken down by a STD.  Why?  Because men are sluts by nature and have poor judgment.  These friend groups I saw decimated by introducing sex – either openly or covertly – into the group?  They were missing communication and honesty.  Maybe along with a dash of integrity and too much selfishness.

Well, that’s the whole “Don’t sleep with your friends, Dummy” piece of it.

Worst case Quitters?  Kaczynskis and Crazy Cat Ladies.

No, Fabulous Baker Girl #5, not like you…you pretend at your CCL status and have a rich and full life outside of that assumed identity.

These are the asocial types that refuse to participate in the shambles our social culture currently exists in, a big part of The Problem, simply because they refuse to be part of The Solution.

One of the reasons I *enjoy* the occasional social pariah status I endure is that I end up there by calling out behaviors – respectfully, I swear – that I find more harmful than helpful to our society.  People who are part of The Problem tend to not appreciate that.  Go figure.  But, I tend toward standing my ground in the hopes that they come to understand my perspective.

That doesn’t always end up being the case.  I had the pleasure of running into two such people the other day.

Two in one day.

Ugh.

I swear there aren’t that many of them.

The first I encountered somewhere I would rather not meet anyone I know – as I was leaving an adult store and he was entering.  What?  I needed something.  And who buys lube at Fred Meyer?  Of course, this was three blocks from my house and three miles from his, so I suspected – as I held the door for him and said “Hey there” – that he was there for some arcade time.

Ugh squared.

No.

Don’t get me going on that diatribe.

Do.  Not.

Anyway, his response was a throw away “Hey.  Thanks.” right before the temperature dropped 10 degrees, just as our eyes met.

Ok, too soon.  For him.  It has only been a year, after all.  Of course, that could be due to the fact that he won’t accept that I call him an acquaintance and he wants to be friends.  Well, buddy…stop having sex with your friends and I will give that some thought.  A mood stabilizer wouldn’t hurt, either, in my opinion.  In the meantime, your friends are a group of people for which I would rather not be mistaken.

There’s a trap that comes with association within this guy’s sub-group.  It’s that “Let’s see what happens” mentality.  I’m not sure that this mentality exists exclusively here.  It’s basically a front for dating that provides a means to the sexual end one might be searching for in the short term.  Does it start as a hook-up and end with “Let’s see what happens” or start with a hang out and hope what happens is sex followed by “Let’s see what happens”?  Who knows?  What I know is that this is frequently the person you sleep with on the first date.

What I have lived and observed happening with this person is that nothing happens.  The hope of The Lover and The Fighter in me being that it ends up being the person you sleep with on the first date that never leaves…The Lover and The Fighter in me gets fooled by this a lot by this type of person.  So much so that I tend to ruin any potential for acquaintances or even a friend, perhaps, because I shut down the hook-up or hang out by asking questions to clarify the initial true intent.  Do I miss out on potential sex?  Sure.  That doesn’t actually hurt me as much as the potential loss of a friend, but I can’t build a friendship on a foundation of meaningless sex.  For me, when I engage in a hook-up, I am accepting and expecting to never see that person again.  Hence, the adjective “meaningless”.

The second occurrence wasn’t so much a Quitter as much as someone who quit me.  I told him he wasn’t treating me like I expect my friends to treat me.  He tried crossing the friend-to-lover barrier and didn’t know what to do once he initiated his campaign.  His response to my challenge was to excise my presence from his life.  That being the case, I wasn’t surprised to be met with an obstinate “Hi” when we passed on the street while I was en route to meet a friend at Scandals for a drink.  I was surprised to find out that he had just left Scandals when I had encountered him…after finding out I was meeting our mutual friend there.  Here’s what I know:  people who are right tend to not run away.  I think he’s just young and hasn’t figured out that balance between being true to oneself and flexible at the same time.

Shush.  I’m flexible.

Type 3 – The Lothario

By far the easiest group to spot.  If you are active on any asocial media site or app, you have undoubtedly run into these peeps.  By running into them, I mean that you probably knew what their genitals looked like before you knew their name.  If you even ever found out their name.

They usually lead with such dynamic attention-grabbing conversation starters as “Sup.” or “Looking?”

These people.

Quitters of the worst ilk.

Not content to simply be part of The Problem, their toxic actions tend to actively even if inadvertently recruit other Quitters.

With a little effort, they could be empty shell people.  Presently, I think of most of them as little more than sex dolls.  And if I wanted a sex doll, there’s Spartacus Leather a few blocks from me at SW 12th and Burnside…I’m sure they sell them.  And if you’re going to have a sex doll, which is more important:  pulse or accessibility?  I’ve found that a good deal of these sex doll people have jobs or significant others to work around, which can be inconvenient.  That last part is a whole different blog entry.  Oh, or drug problems.  Those gems.  If I never see the word “parTy” again in my life…

But, assuming an absence of any desire to improve themselves…even inasmuch as learning that what you put out on the internet not only lives forever, but also matters.  What is their life like?  A lot of “Let’s see what happens” types fall into a pattern, knowing exactly what will happen after they get the sexual bandage they seek…nothing.  Well, nothing barring a potential for an occasional repeat.

Why?

Because they don’t harbor a secret desire to have an intimate relationship?

Probably not the case.

Because they don’t actually know how to pursue an intimate relationship and behave respectfully toward a second person, making the initial sacrifices of time and openness one must in the beginning?

Maybe.

Because they don’t want to risk rejection?

More than a maybe…either consciously or – more likely – unconsciously, I think this is the risk many in my Quitter and Lothario archetypes are unwilling to accept.

But, of course, this isn’t as black and white as someone simply falling into one of the pigeon holes I have created.  The world doesn’t work like that…existing at my whim.  Nor are people that easy.  The complexity they offer is that they will hop back and forth between those scenarios – and more!

Here’s a little Case Study:

A friend of mine was in a relationship that ended a few years back.  In a rather surprising manner.

Why was he surprised?

Because he is a Lover and a Fighter.

His boyfriend was a Lothario.

The Lover and the Fighter accommodates.  The Lothario provides challenges.  Totally oversimplifying, as both brought advantages and challenges to the relationship, for sure.  However, our Lothario stepped out frequently during the relationship and the Lover and Fighter…well, he fought for the relationship and ignored the subtle signs and forgave the obvious infractions.

Ending up dumped all the same.

Surprise.

In the years that have passed since then, I’ve maintained a friendship with one and an acquaintanceship with the other.

I’ve seen The Lover and The Fighter do what he does for men that weren’t worthy of his efforts, salvaging a friendship out of one of those ill fitting relationships along the way, to his credit.

The Lothario has spent his time finding himself to some degree.  I see his struggle mostly from a distance, but during our infrequent conversation, I can see the growth.  He’s made mistakes, both in ending the relationship or its manner of execution, and in dating experience since then.

It’s a bit of an honor to be able to observe.

Even if sometimes I pay the price when it comes to those observations.  I suspect that recently he has found a new potential beau.  A couple of weekends past, he asked if I was up for grabbing a beer.  Of course, I was.  Nothing ever happened, but he did reach out at the end of said weekend asking about meeting up over the coming week.  Nothing ever happened again.

Two plus two to me means he met someone else.  I could be wrong, but that would be more surprising than him actually blowing me off to spend time with a potential new lover.

The variable here?  That sexual compulsion that led him astray during his relationship…who knows whether he met someone that he wants to “see what happens” with or if he simply met someone that he knows “what will happen” and he wants to make *it* happen as often as possible before the situation implodes, to the detriment of his other relationships.

…well, his other relationships are likely – as in my case – stable and insulated enough for understanding once whatever will happen…happens.

Time will tell.

The State of Our Hearts