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Enveloped by the native spirits of the Pacific Northwest, Roy Wallace and David Moreau s newfound relationship begins. David soon introduces Roy to the House of Wolves, a community of gay men where honor, companionship, spirituality, erotic desire and brotherhood guide the way. Each man living in the house represents a totem from the spirit world, and each one has committed himself to finding a unique path in life. Having lost their visionary founder to AIDS, the household has been faltering and losing faith in the dreams that brought them together. Energized by his new relationship with Roy, David takes the final steps for the brotherhood to grieve for the past while striving for an incredible new future. The men of the House of Wolves soon come to realize that this new future demands sacrifice and strength. Mystical spirits wait down forest paths as the rituals and traditions of the household are revealed. Everyone, the living and dead, are forced to confront their fears and their faith in order to embrace the extraordinary in their lives.

The House of Wolves is a vivid amalgam of elements: body hair and beards, pipe smoke and man-musk, the landscape of the Pacific Northwest, the richness of Native American culture. Robert McDiarmid’s evocative novel beautifully intertwines the erotic, the romantic, and the spiritual, and it depicts homomasculinity at its best: lusty, strong, compassionate, and kind. –Jeff Mann, Lambda Literary Award-winner, A History of Barbed Wire

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One psychological trip at a time

barry gibb

"Hayden Christensen!." he screamed, suddenly sitting up in bed.

"Oh dear lord, not again, are you okay?"

"I think so, thats the second time this week."

"Which movie sequel was it this time?"

"The Matrix - they recast Keanu Reeves with Hayden Christiansen. its like - he's moving through my subconscious like a virus."

"At least he hasn't moved into your wet dream set."

"Don't be giving my subsconscious any ideas, I mean - I'm thinking it's finally time to bring this up with Barry Gibb."

"Barry Gibb?"

"yep, we meet for lunch in my dreams at some wierdly lit Hollywood hang out and talk about my week. He's a good friend - well - at least in my mind."

"So your inner voice is Barry Gibb?"

"I guess so."

"Well tell him to beat up Hayden Christensen, or better yet, tell him to end Hayden Christensen for good."

"You're asking me to go into my dreamscape and purposely create a fight between the two - perhaps even give Barry a gun and say 'do this for me, Barry, you're my only hope' like Princess Leia?"

"Very much like Princess Leia, only fuzzier."

"But what if Hayden just clones himself into Barry and shows up at lunch, knowing I'd told Barry to kill him."

"One psychological trip at a time, darling, one at a time."

"Right. Must kill Hayden Christensen."

"Goals. sweety, goals."

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pilliers

st catherine montreal

They are, as we say, a ‘pilliers des bars,’ a pillar of the bar. Always there at 3 p.m. with a Sapphire and soda, smiling and enjoying cigars. They gossip, laugh, talk about the state of the neighborhood, reminisce about life before it all and before equality, where life was the struggle to not be invisible. They had all come out in times when faggot was said in a shameful whisper, leave alone a way to live, only to have the same world abandon them when they started dying.

The wars they'd been through personally and collectively created bonds that were simply unbreakable. Young gays frolic by on St. Catherine, blissfully unaware that generations before them had been forcibly removed from their experience. For the pilliers, peace and contentment was recognition from another human being, friendships where everyone lay their true selves on to the table.

Nothing else will do.

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a lake to be drowned in

sheets

I scooted myself down in the bed, immersing myself like it was a lake to be drowned in. I explored with my hands while pretending I could still feel you there, smell you there. I daydream. I drift off into deep sleep and awaken tangled in sweaty sheets.

-

I'd looked into the mirror that afternoon and counted the grey even white hairs on the sharp of my face. They were visible markers of how my body was slowly breaking down and dying for everyone to see. I'd decided to solve the problem by spending the afternoon getting impossibly strong gin and tonics from Marcus at the bar.

You came in as I sipped my third, catching me stare as you walked by. You were meeting friends. I watched you exchange laughter and air kisses and I felt my shoulders fall, as I realized I was still alone despite it.

I don't remember how much later someone touched my shoulder and asked if the stool next to me was taken. I remember mumbling something resembling affirmative. When I finally turned and realized it was you, and involuntary smile erupted across my face.

After sharing stories over the din of the soundtrack of a Sunday beerbust, you leaned in close and whispered the magic words into my ear, "Hows'about we spend the night together and wake up smelling like each other by sunrise?"

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Careful

wagons

He woke before dark, grabbing his bundle, trying to leave the house without anyone having an opportunity to talk him out of what he was about to do.

"Careful," she said in a whisper out of the darkness.

He turned in the dark as his grandmother lit a match, lighting the lantern.

"Careful."

"Ma'am?"

"Great men speak of manifest destiny until they get out there where the grasses spread horizon to horizon for weeks on end. You should see the men that run back here like cowards to this civilization after a couple of weeks west. They come back completely broken, ruined for anything but a life acknowledging that they weren't careful.

Careful to keep your eye on the present moment and how it's leading you the new life. That new life, and your children's new life, that is the only reason to do this. Once you head out there - do not stop till you reach the new life. Do not look backwards, miss nothing here."

"Yes, Ma'am."

"When I was your age, son, I boarded a ship and crossed the sea, to create something new, to find it for myself - for your mother, your uncle. They have," she paused with a small, sad laugh, "Well, they have squandered it. Now you must go - and grasp that new life. The only way to is to only look west and worry yourself little about what's happening here. As we turn to dust here - you shall be planting a new life in Orygone. But you'll only reach it if you are careful. Don't let it swallow you whole, come through it, boy."

His instinct was to reach out to her, but they both knew if he didn't go right now, he'd lose this opportunity. As the dawn started to stir, he arrived on his father's horse to join Master Richmond and the rest of the caravan. He'd be an asset here, a smart boy who already understood horses and riding. He smiled to himself, having successfully evaded the punishment for being on this horse of all of them. He wouldn't miss his Father's anger.

He leaned down along the horse's shoulder, and affectionately whispered in it's ear, "We're both free now, boy, we're both now free."

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Prophets

prophets

At 22, I left for the South Pacific, an island city called Fotuna in the small island nation of Tonga. I arrived, bible in hand, for a three year stay as a Peace Corps volunteer. I was bringing untarnished drinking water to a small village - with a firm chaser of the word of God.

Haight and Ashbury had combined genetically to create an artist, my sister, a writer, my brother… Me? well... My parents were so proud to see me take an expensive degree in engineering and put it to work in the Peace Corps. The rest of who I had become truly confounded them.

An atheist and an agnostic had created, a Christian. When I told my parents that I’d found Jesus Christ - it played out a little bit like the stereotypical coming out conversation might have.

“Jesus…. Really?” My mother asked like she hadn’t cared for me enough as a child, and somehow now I needed Jesus.

My pop remained very quiet about it for a while, and told me quietly that I was entitled to my own choices but he wouldn’t tolerate evangelism and discussions of hellfire or damnation, because all that was stuff he’d escaped and become smarter about as a man himself. He’d escaped Jesus - but part of him, he understood Jesus as well.

To go from city life to South Pacific life was surely described as isolating. I was such a blithering stereotype of whiteness, lets just be clear and say I knew nothing and everything at the same time.

Energized by faith, I just let each day roll out before me. If you’d ever read Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms, she often composes little poems and songs to express her feelings or to amuse her siblings. I was completely blind to how ridiculous, naive and infuriating my learned hyper-happiness could be. Nobody had questioned my buoyant, weaponized happiness until Tobias arrived.

He arrived about three months into my stay, and came from the complete opposite world of affluence and white privilege I'd been soaking in before leaving the States. He was a big thick built, curly haired hispanic. He looked like he belonged on the offensive line of a football team than planning well digs for the Peace Corps.

His arms and neck were covered in tattoos. Myself and the other volunteers had suspected were gang related. And on his neck, a christian cross had been both tattooed and dutifully shaved out of his hair and beard. Describing Tobias as intimidating is an understatement.

I started noticing he’d spend meal times by himself and that when services happened he was absent. So one day I took it upon myself to sit with him at mealtime. I learned he’d come from south Los Angeles, and this was his way of escaping some of the problems his siblings had experienced. Completely oblivious to any of the real power of what he’d just told me I started in on my San Francisco childhood and almost immediately complimented him on his cross tattoo, and jumped into meeting Jesus.

He almost hit me out of my chair within a few seconds. He was not amused being so blithely introduced and kindly suggested that if I didn’t temper my faith - that someone was liable to smack it back down throat so hard that I wouldn’t eat, but from a straw, for a few months.

“I know Jesus too - but perhaps a different Jesus.” He said leaning at me over the table, “I’ve seen your little black book used to punish and keep entire nations and whole communities controlled. I’ve seen poverty reasserted while gold lined vestments walk the cathedrals in its midst. Jesus was probably an amazing man, but his world was thousands of years ago - and now his church uses the cross to dehumanize and hold once proud cultures under its thumb. I wear this cross on my neck for a sister that was gun downed in drug violence at six years old, playing in our front yard.

I think it's clear from that look on your face, that you actually don't know Jesus as well as you claim, because if you didn't know any of that, then you don’t really understand the faith you so blindly wave around. You keep making assumptions about people based on only that, and you are going to a lonely, friendless man.”

He left me there alone.

There are few life pivots that you can so clearly remember. I remember touching my cheek, as if in an alternate reality his fist had destroyed all the teeth in the side of my jaw. I remember becoming very emotional, almost crying, from the intensity of the moment. His words hit me almost harder than a fist would have, and that was one of his first lessons for me.

Tobias and I finally saw our way through our stumbling first meeting to become friends. We both stared out at the ocean as it raced away from the small islands shore, bonded together by the time both of us dreaming of people we’d left behind to be there.

One morning, I found a neatly wrapped package on my doorstep. I opened it to find a tattered book of poems by a Sufi from Afghanistan named Rumi. Tobias wrote on the card very simply, “Not all prophets walk on water. Learn from all of them….”

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dischert

ice cream truck

dischert - dey - meh - tay

برای دسر چی میل دارید؟

Dischert as a child of Iran, was 'sohan' - a saffron brittle made with wheat sprout, eggs, rosewater, sugar, butter, and cardamom, it is covered in crushed pistachios. Given the crunchy, buttery texture, it is highly addictive, which makes it easy to polish off an entire tin in one sitting, especially when there is a glass of piping hot tea nearby.

Most of our dischert are savory with a hint of sweetness. There are puddings and rice dishes with saffron and cinnamon. The closest we get to a western dessert is the gaz. Gaz is made with the sap of the Angevin plant, native to the Esfahan region; the higher the percentage of sap, the purer the gaz. Combined with rosewater, egg whites, and pistachios mixed with the sap then rolled in flour creates a sticky nougat. Many a great childhood memory of coming home with sticky faces covered in little shards of sticky gaz.

I was 43 the first time I came to New York and experienced the onslaught Americans call dischert. My first encounter was the Dunkins donut. Let us just say that my imagination could not have created such a thing. a ring of dough you deep fry - then frost with sugar and then sprinkle with more sugar. Single chocolate glazed with sprinkles has more single-serving calories in sugar than I experienced before the age of five! So imagine, on a lovely perfect April day in New York when a group of Iranian friends and I stumbled upon Emilio's soft serve. Persian cuisine is based on the idea of “hot & cold”, which is not to be confused as spicy or not spicy, rather it’s whether the food would create a sort of energy in your body or whether it would have a cooling effect. It is our joke that Emilio's soft serve is simultaneously both hot and the cold. The sugar and the exciting creates a distinct, almost mystical energy while eating it most definitely cools you down.

We have become convinced that he only comes to our neighborhood on the most perfect of the perfect days. Someone will mention Emilio's truck - - - And like a spell has been cast, the simple music will start, announcing his arrival in the neighborhood. A pied piper, if you will, for middle-aged Persian men. Emilio's is our heaven and we are his most devoted.

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thing is, doll

rave

"Do you want to come stay at my place instead of taking the train home?", I said in a drunken late night slur.

Over the crazy loud disco bar music, he leaned in and spoke softly and directly in my ear. “Oh honey, no, sleeping with you? No. That would complicate things and the last thing our darling friendship needs is complications. Don’t fuck where your secrets lay, dearest. Never fuck the grrl who knows the most about you.”

He immediately read the crestfallen look on my face. "Thing is doll, is that we both know you are looking for love. and that is awesome for you. For you. I am not looking for love. I'm looking for red hot fucks that end as quick as they ignited. I've done love a few times, I know the difference. And I'd be a pretty horrible best friend to take advantage of that."

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earned respite

snow town

The crazy pace of the summer and autumn seasons are gently but completely eliminated when they arrive. Once we're past Thanksgiving weekend, everyone waits impatiently for their own set of reasons.

There is a wagering case of beer down at Asterbar on who guesses the time and date correctly.

Eager elementary school artists have been frantically creating and decorating construction paper replicas in hopes of calling them from their hiding place in the sky.

Bickman's Foods has stocked up knowing that they will keep people close from heading to the Walmart on the freeway or the food court at the mall a few exits down.

Gilman's hardware store displays a gleaming array of the newest in winter shovels. Just inside their front door, in a top lit case is the new fangled heated windshield scraper you've seen on TV.

Teachers will wake up and upon looking out the window, smile while putting the kettle on, having earned respite from the usual morning routine.

If there is a true magic spell, they are definitely it. The snowflake's earned reputation for blanketing our small town with calm and serenity is generations earned.

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imagined reaching for them

stars

I spent a great majority of my youth staring at the stars and imagined reaching for them. I had a poster of the astronauts that reached the moon on the wall of my bedroom till I was 20. I had hanging models of lunar modules and the space shuttle.

I have this book from my childhood that tracks what my aspirations were and every year on the line where it says "what do I want to be when I grow up?" - it says 'Astronaut' or 'Airline Pilot' or any number of aspirations.

I was a smart kid and wanted to do smart things.

"Look at your grades, I'm always after you about how lazy you are, you are nobody's future astronaut," he said to me nonchalantly.

It's amazing looking back on those years how much impact that single conversation had on me.

Pilot. no.

Engineer. impossible.

School Teacher. never.

Forest Ranger? too hard, too much biology. no.

By middle school, all of my greatest career aspirations were dissuaded.

Pop has been gone now for sixteen years and I'm fifty-two years old.

Every time I'm out in the country and I look up at the stars I stop and sigh, replaying that conversation like it just happened. Why did I let myself spend so many years whispering to myself, "not for me."?

I stop, rewarding myself with a big smile, realizing that childhood tape is playing in my head. I hit the firm stop button on it, take a deep breath - and I purposefully look back up at the night sky and reach for the stars.

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they don't be listening to me

tattoos

The call came through for medical assistance from Stately Meadows at 2am. It's that large assisted living center over on Wilkers street?
We laughed in the ambulance on the way over about what kind of trouble could they possibly be in at this hour.

We parked and grabbed our kits. Standing out front was a clearly upset female nurse, smoking a cigarette.

"I'm Nurse Higgins, the night supervisor," she said, angrily extinguishing her cigarette with her foot, "Sorry ta bother ya'll but we've got a mess on our hands."

She leads us into the facility and up a wide staircase into a set of rooms labeled "EXERCISE FOR LIFE!" - and in the center of one the room was a group of six men in a pile on top of a twister board.

"I told these fools that Twister in your 90s was a bad idea, but they don't be listening to me."

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i woke up alone, without donuts

donuts

A bookish man with an unkempt mop of greying hair sat nervously fumbling through large pieces of parchment. Stepping up into the soft mauve spotlight, staring up nervously, he began to speak.

"Are you reminded of your youth when you have a mouthful of fresh hot french fries? Of lost loves at the taste of a lemon poppyseed cake. Of your drunk aunty the way your tongue rolls around in your mouth over a perfect risotto. How he tasted in the shower that November morning before he left when you crunch into a crumpet laden with butter and honey. Your father who used to embarrass you screaming at waiters in restaurants when you are served a slightly over-toasted sourdough crouton in a caesar salad.

Carbs are........

Carbs.................

are killing you softly. Yet, despite this soft death, we cannot help ourselves.

Carbs are love,

our intimacies,

our memories,

Carbs are sex.

All this and more when I cried a small tear this morning when I woke up alone, without donuts."

Finger snaps moved across the room like the wave at a football stadium, the room filling with affirmative murmurs of no longer hushed observations.

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over coffee

globe

You’d have caught us stealing thick, bourbon-filled kisses in the kitchen at a dinner party full of house guests. The house decorated from floor to ceiling with a collected Christmas cheer that was legendary. Fearless and beautiful - we were covered in thick syrupy confidence and swagger.

Interrupting him, "Pardon, but are you breaking up with me, in your underwear, over morning coffee?", I didn't honestly expect him to reply, "well, yeah, I guess I am."

I didn't even unpack any of it this year. It was hard enough sorting through them impatiently into our own boxes the previous summer.

I've grown used to that shocked coffee shop welcoming smile that quickly frowns at "well, he and I broke up." It's not like I'm angry. Honestly, I'm not. if anything I'm just disappointed. It had always felt to me that we had enough in each other - that our togetherness was enough. I am a little embarrassed that I was wrong.

I've spent most of the winter just working hard, working out, reading by the fireplace - just trying not to notice the holiday. I'd convinced myself it was better to hibernate.

But then I saw it. In the window of a shop down the street appears the most perfect single glass ornament. The way it shimmers in the light from the street makes it look more like a snowflake than a simple ornament. I look through it with satisfaction as I hang the single ornament up in the window in the front of my apartment.

There would be new traditions, new stories. One day I'd tell the old stories of him and me without it hurting so much. It's perfectly okay that today is not that day.

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Adventure

dog

I know this is your first adventure without me. Kindergarten is a big deal! We both want it to be the bestest thing ever.

So - as a sign of solidarity - I want you to take my favorite toy with you. I take it from room to room with me everywhere I go. I sleep with it at night up against you under the covers. I set it down somedays only to eat kibble, but even then it is right here next to the bowl. We play tug-o-war over it.

Because it's my favorite toy is precisely why I'm bringing it to you now. When you need an extra dose of bravery, or need to know I'm there for you even though I'm here at the house waiting for your return? You can reach in your backpack and give this toy a squeeze. I know doing so always makes me feel better.

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Soothsayer

spill

"I see lots of challenges for you," said the soothsayer, "Life can only be understood backward; but it must be lived forwards. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. I see a romantic interest in your life, he's handsome, brunette and likes walks on the beach.... in fact I see a beach, a romantic trip to Puerto Vallarta."

"Okay - Morgan Le Faggot. First off, people read TEA leaves, not dramatically spilled cinnamon sugar cookie extra foam double-shot lattes. Second, you are mixing Eleanor Roosevelt and Søren Kierkegaard; finally, Puerto has been booked for months so it's hardly spontaneous."

"I didn't say my magic was high quality - I just said that I'm magical. so different," he said, excitedly looking up, "....and look - more proof - that cute tattooey muscley ginger beardy barista is coming to clean up this mess and flex for us. So I think that's a win-win."

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mystery

biker

....you insist on remaining a mystery. We spent much of the last year with a brave face. I can't live that dream any longer. You think you can bluff your way through life, you need to learn to lie better. The truth you are avoiding is written on your face. It's like an honest, uncomplicated romance is too easy for you like you consider it emotional laziness. You write sonnets searching for it. "We’re livin’ in the same world under the same pale moon, together." Beauty apparently without substance. I fell in love that humid Saturday afternoon many months ago. The crazy searing kind of love that was setting our world on fire. It's hard to walk away from, but by the time you read this, it will finally be over. You claim to love - but it strikes me you've searched the world to find something, you know nothing of...

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Baptism

baptism

Baptismal promises are only the beginning of life as a Catholic. These promises are made to God and to the child itself. We are witnessing the spiritual sunrise for the young spirit placed in my arms. I will kiss them gently and welcome them.

I will always tell people that I enjoy baptisms far more than marriage ceremonies. While the love between two people can burn brightly and beautifully. truly. The softest light we pass onto our children at baptism is the basis for our understanding of love throughout our entire life.

Sin is humankind’s estrangement and alienation from God. But the youngest babe knows nothing of this. They know nothing of the struggles about to be present in their path for decades to come.

Every time I anoint a fussing newborn I am reminded of Thomas Merton: "I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen."

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night colored eyes

shotgun

The force of the shotgun blast blows him clear off his feet into the corner. Most men would be screaming from the agony, but he is not most men.

He sits there matter-of-factly as his life drains out all around him. He reaches down into it, the gushing wound in his groin, his hand lifting away covered in gore.

From that, he looks up at me with his night-colored eyes, beautiful and terrible all at once.

“For a time now,” he says, “I wondered if it was you who would stop me.”

“And what made you decide it was?”

He grins up at me like a five-year-old caught stealing extra sweets after supper.

“When I realized he was your child. It was the only way I knew I'd ever be able to pay.”

He looks away for a moment, and with a small sigh, the last breath escapes his lips.

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Aim

Aim

The phone vibrated in his pocket. Must be his mother, or worse, his ex-wife.

Thanksgiving planning was in full swing - trying to decide who sits next to who, who pissed in whose Cheerios during the year, which young spawn had new boyfriends or girlfriends or non-binary companions or whatever the horse shit one of Jack’s kids had come up with at fourth-of-July

- - and, again the phone vibrated. He reached down and turned it off, and returned to his meeting.

“Technology is next on the list, Jason, you’re up.”

Walking to the front of the room, he flipped up his laptop.

He plugged in and brought up his first slide, “As you can see, revenues from our social sharing…”

The round video conferencing speaker let out a short chirp, “Network connection lost, call ended.”

“Fuck. The network is down.,” said one of the sales directors.

“Today is obvious duh, huh dip shit? Its month end how are we going to get work done?”, said someone.

“Great, Jason, you could have just said your presentation wasn’t ready.”, someone said in the room making the others chuckle.

He stood mournfully in front of the slowly emptying room. He unplugged his laptop and followed everyone else out.

As he turned the corner towards his desk the lights in the office flickered, then went out. The slow whine of everything electric spinning down was quickly replaced by an eerie silence.

The office manager eventually came through and said it was a rolling blackout - and that if you could work from home you should probably do that. He methodically collected up his stuff, giving out a big sigh as left the office.

“Today was supposed to be my big day,” he mumbled to himself, “my big day.”

He got in his car, punched ‘home’ on his navigation and started the drive home when the red engine light came on.

“Perfect.” He mumbled.

He soon found himself walking home, having left his Prius with a dubious mechanic for diagnosis.

“My big day,” he mumbled to himself.

“I’m sorry I ruined your big day,” said a youthful, but apologetic voice.

He looked up to see a little girl standing in the road in front of his house. Was it a little girl? The hood on the coat made him not so sure. She wore a strand of white Christmas tree lights that were curiously plugged into her pocket somehow.

“I’m new at this - and well, my aim is not the best that it could be?”

“Pardon?”

“My aim.”

“I’m sorry - this isn’t making any sense.”

“Death rarely does, I suppose?”

“Death? What about death?”

“Well - I killed your network, then your car - and I was supposed to kill you. But my aim was off.”

“Kill me?”

“Well, your fate was to die of a heart attack this morning at your desk. But- you were so excited about your presentation. 

It didn’t seem fair 

     - so I killed the network instead. 

But my bosses were like - killing a network is not the same. 

'You march right back down there and give that man his heart attack.' 

So I came back - and saw that you didn’t get to make your presentation, you looked so sad, so I killed the electricity.”

“And my Prius?” he said nonchalantly, playing along with the logic of the strange little girl.

“Well, that brings us to right now. I tried to kill you again and managed just a red engine light. so embarrassing - - but at the Toyota dealership, I tried one last time and instead killed the Prius - - which fell off the hoist that belongs to the dubious mechanic, well, and onto you, while you were waiting….

but I couldn’t let you realize I’d killed you by dropping a car on you...

 like something out of looney tunes. 

So I waited to tell you once you’d gotten home.”

“So my body is actually back at the dealer crushed under a broken Prius?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“That’s actually a lot nicer of a death than a heart attack at my desk.”

“You think so? That’s kind of you to say.”

“Tell me, is there powerpoint in the afterlife?”

“Oh dear me, no.”

“I’m liking the thereafter better already….”

TAGS

Weaponized, Real Beauty

you are beautiful

"I grew up like a neglected weed – ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it." - Harriet Tubman said that 163 years ago. For a lot of us it might as well have been said yesterday. 

You ask most folks how they describe liberty today? They respond with learned vague platitudes - a home, a good job, a healthy family. I grew up watching the generations before me come home at night completely ruined chasing that liberty down. Chasing that definition of freedom. 

What good does do us if there is nothing left of us to enjoy any moment of it. Running ourselves ragged? People tie themselves down t'all these preconceptions. A home - you could be free there, if home didn't mean church cuz momma tells you to, if home hadn't mean neighborhoods with bullet holes in the sidin', if home meant my opinion had any value because I'm a girl. A good job? I can clean hotel rooms or fight in a kitchen for minimum wage. Go out and beg for the professional scraps left at someone else's table just so we can say we have a good job? and don't even start me on a healthy family -  we all know that doesn't even exist anymore? Nope - the scars on all of us show us that truth.

I went from high school graduation - right down to the school of beauty. I learned how to craft someone from caterpillar, through chrysalis, and onto a full on butterfly in just an hour's time. 

When I was a girl, I took all of Harriet's words, all those painful lessons she left for us to learn? I took it all for granted until I got the first month's books done at the salon. That's when I realized that I hadn't had any experience of the liberty - and I was ignorant of it as generations before me. My next choices would define me.  Not what I was expected to do by anyone else, but what my heart told me was right. 

Tubman said proudly once, "I can say what most conductors can't say; I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger." Now before we get all too up at it, its not like a chair in a salon is part of some grand underground railroad. 

However, when you see a sad woman's eyes light up with surprise when I turn her towards the mirror, you know this is their first step on the way to something else. None of my business where they pivot to, as long as when they are with me they achieve that moment where they 'see' beauty. You have never seen transformation like a black woman who looks in the mirror and for the first time in however long, sees how beautiful she is. She sees how she won't ever let herself be seen otherwise again. The power of having that as a truth always inside you? 

Weaponized, realized beauty. 

So, you ask me how I define liberty? I see it as an untetheredness. None of those other expectations weighin' me down like an anchor. I don't have a whole lot, but what I have I am putting to work. That's me putting MY freedom to work. 

I may have grown up one of the neglected weeds, but baby - Baby, watch me now. I'm just starting to bloom. And you'd do best by just makin' way.

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Spiritual Awakening

bouncing

It's that situation we've all found ourselves in where someone serves you a food you absolutely fucking hate. You are assured that obviously someone hadn't "made it the right way" for you yet. That kind of bullshit is never true, because now there you are, sitting in front of a giant pile of something you hate, except 'this time' it's served pureed with a sprinkling of pine nuts.

I'd come to the beach to attend to a 'Spiritual Rebelfest' on the recommendation of my friend Fran.

Fran is now firmly on the coal list come christmas time. Real dark, sooty, gross, earth-destroying coal.

I'd accepted Fran's challenge to come with a deliberately cleared mind. So much good that did. The introductory meet and greet was followed by nearly two hours non-genderspecific-splaining of the fucking rules.

I'm all for like minded folks to do stuff - but if it all that comes tightly wrapped in a bunch of rules meant to keep you from taking any kind of real risk, it's like planning an orgy and asking people to not fuck. Exactly - where is the fun in that? Purposefully zero fun environments make me a grumpy son-of-a-bitch.

I should have known better when the featured speaker was described in the Rebelfest guide as "a Jedi-infused, interspiritual smorgasbord of universally attuned awareness with stories that which will awaken and encourage the depth and breadth of ourselves to flourish, even in the chaos of our times." They left out - "hasn't been laid in a decade and blames everyone else. It couldn't possibly be him."

I used to think that compulsory conformity was part of just how gay people interact. The awfulness that can come from 'organized gay.' Pissy gangs of queens permanently choosing to trade snark and sarcasm for compassion and sensible wit. Some of uglier parts of humanity I've had the displeasure to view. Normal mean behavior but on fire. Mean behavior you'd never tolerate anywhere else in your life - but on fire, and usually involving the penis.

Rebelfest had truly opened my eyes, the truth was that organized ANYTHING was a giant steaming pile of fuck-you-I'm-out. They could be straight, gender binary, vegan, --- I've even encountered this dehumanizing shitshow behavior at silent retreats. It takes a PhD in complete human dysfunction to even fuck up silence.

As I left the "Welcome Plenary", one of the moderators greeted me in a stepford-wife voice.

"Remember that after 9p.m.," she said pointing at my device. (Because actually saying the term 'iPhone' is supporting income disparity and slave labor on circuit boards overseas), "Those are forbidden, they block the energy of the mind chakra. Ppeace will be with you."

Without answering, I took out my fucking iPhone - and before reaching my dormitory I had booked myself into an AirBnb down the coast. I spent the weekend bouncing on the mattress, occasionally taking breaks to drink giant big-gulp sized glasses of Pinot Noir, not giving a fuck if it broke any rules. That's some spiritual awakening for you.

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know love

ruins

The note begins, 'to anyone who needs hope', a simple message scratched into the wall. I ran my fingers over the immortalized text. "Always love. There is so much hurt and anger in this world you don't want to leave without love in your heart."

I liked the concept of you leaving the world, but knew that the author was in some small part - supporting the bursts of optimistic green grass that has determinedly find themselves growing in the floor of the sanctuary.

I take that back my translation is wrong. шӀэн -- щӀэн - - KNOW love. Almost a lost language it seems, even in the silence of the ruins.

шӀэн -- щӀэн "KNOW love. there is so much....."

It's amazing to think that someone would write a tome to love in a place where bombs fell indiscriminately for so long the face of the city was no longer visible. Rooms lay open to the dry air like unfinished sentences. Tables set for a meal, wedding beds now sitting in wall-less vistas. The river has torn a new course through the ruins when you look down over the valley. Without influence, the river now free to return to where it's needed.

Studying sites like these always reinforced the rule of impermanence. Our condition of being bound to aging, sickness, and death, of possessing a body that is subject to being worn and rubbed away, to dissolution and integration back into the very soil we were born from.

I wonder what this person's unfinished dreams were? Did their family make it out when they did not?

I imagine this person's son or daughter, going on to lead a quiet life in a new country somewhere. Perhaps they now hold a child's hand on their way to the first day of school. The fall colours falling leaf by leaf around them like a snow globe.

Looking down into the child's eyes, do they see a reflection? They see a person very different than they'd ever imagined themselves becoming. Despite the hardships of their life, they remember an almost forgotten voice. One that was teaching them from very early to know love.

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Purple

purple

It's an interesting thing to have not known a time without her. Her armor-penetrating laugh has been the same since my family moved in across the street in the fall of 1973.

She sat across from me at our breakfast table with that impossible smile. Her first question for me was "what is your favorite color?" - I told her with great confidence green was amazing, but she preferred purple because it was the mix of two colors she didn't like that formed the perfect color,

"Blue and red on their own are boring, buh' combeened day make PURPLE. look at it - PURPLE!"

She said it with that couple-of-teeth missing perfection. Its still the way I'll say the word sometimes.

I can remember watching her blossom into a young woman and shying away as pubescent awkwardness overwhelmed me like a tsunami. Without cheerleader squads for chess club or the physics honor roll, she never noticed me. She married the quarterback, I'd watched from across the dance floor romancing her.

My braces eventually came off. I embraced my nerdy talents, letting go of all the confusion of being a boy and grew into my own man, I let the winds of college and then grad school carry me far away. I never really forgot her, but had accepted that our lives had taken different paths.

I came home one summer, the small town of my youth still pulling out all the stops for 4th of July. As I drove up to my childhood home, I noticed the "for sale" sign across the street.

"Falkner's place up for sale?"

"Oh honey, that's just a sad, sad story....", Mom began.

Her blonde prince charming had started spending more time down at the local pub than at home. He had driven home one evening swerving and striking another car, killing the family inside. There had been a very public trial, and he eventually found himself locked away for a great long sentence.

The overwhelming costs of the trial and the ensuing legal bills forced them to sell the house. Their divorce proceedings played out in the small town like a Hollywood romance gone bad. His anger over their inability to have children had driven him to drink and find lots other female company - - it became fodder for the kinds of vicious rumors and painful assumptions small towns specialize in. She was working in the local bookstore to make a living, It seemed that all the luster and promise of her life had been wiped away.

When I first saw here again after so many years, she was seated in the city park. She was feeding bread crumbs to ducks at her feet. She wore her hair in ponytails with simple purple bows.

We both remember seeing other suddenly. We both recall working hard not to cry at seeing each other after so much time and so many circumstances and decisions making their impact on us.

She did indeed sell the house, moving into a lovely downtown apartment above the five and dime we'd both rushed to with our allowances so many years earlier. We started trading long letters to each other. I invited her into the city on the train a few months late. We went out on what we both called 'that first date'.

Tomorrow morning, she and I will get married. Both our mothers are, of course, claiming that they knew it would happen eventually. The table centers at the reception include technicolor piles of crayolas and white paper tablecloths.

Beautiful girls are seldom happy, intelligent boys are seldom beautiful, but I'm sure it's what we've always wanted for each other.

I am sure that every word, every touch that she and I share - they color me in.

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Ward 7

Ward 7

I woke from a rest to see him sitting patiently in the chair next to my bed. He let me wake up, pulling myself up in the pajamas and tangle of sheets. He reached out and took my hand, gently tracing the IV taped to the top of my hand.

They'd found me passed out in the shower. The doctor told me I was lucky I hadn't drowned. I had a nasty dark bruise on my face from the fall. The next door neighbor called 911, and I'd ended up here on the 7th floor. The fucking 7th floor.

I’d caused an ugly scene. Anywhere but here. These. These are the rooms where others had come and never escaped.

"Don’t put me in a room to die! Please!," I'd screamed.

Two doors down was the piano player from the sweater bar. Next door, the kind man who loved wearing Liberace-style fur coats and loved sunflowers. Wasn’t there room somewhere else in the hospital, goddammit? I was sure I wasn’t the first angry, scared person to occupy room #703.

He'd heard from Marcia that I'd only taken one bite of birthday cake the night before. If I wasn't eating cake, the situation obviously required further intervention.

"Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm still here, Morticia.", I said with a raspy dry voice.

"There he is," he began, his face exploding into a warm smile.

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This American Choice

reading in the library

It seemed like the longest silence that had ever existed. Dadaji staring at me in the quiet of his study.

"This American choice," he finally asserted,"It is not Indian choice. not a choice for a Sikh. You are a Sikh, so you must follow our traditions."

I had accepted the offer for school in America, when it was clear he wished me to do otherwise. I'd let classmates convince me to cut my long hair. Washing my long hair was time-consuming, as was the morning ritual of winding seven meters, or more than 20 feet, of cloth around my head. It was hot and uncomfortable. It got in the way during gym classes. But as soon as the barber cut my hair, I knew I had made a mistake.

I wrote to DadaJi and told him what I had done. He said we would discuss it when I came home on the winter holiday.

I told him how people associated the turban with terrorists. I told him it was old world ways in a new expanding world. Afraid of being branded a Taliban or an al-Queda, I told him that there was no convincing people otherwise.

He laid before me on the table a perfectly white patka - and a considerable length of the family's deepest red silk.

"There is no convincing of people, only showing people by our peaceful example. Their misunderstanding is rooted in fear, fear that you will dissipate. A turban asserts a public commitment to maintaining the values and ethics of the tradition, including service, compassion, and honesty. We wear the turban as a symbol of the equality and sovereignty of all people."

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Cookies can change the world

sugar sprinkle cookies

"OMG. 9 - 1 - 1   YOU MUST COME TO THE BAKERY AISLE RIGHT NOW - the text had read.

Bill pushed the cart into bakery to see his husband standing with a handful of the splendidly besprinkled sugar cookies. 

"This was the emergency you 9-1-1'd me all the way across the store for?"

"LOOK AT THEM - these are the solve for so many of the world's problems! right here."

"sprinkled sugar cookies, how so?"

"imagine how it would change EVERYTHING, particularly religion!"

"Religion?"

"Just imagine how long the lines would be for communion at St. Matthews if the communion wafer was replaced with these," he said, taking one cooking and holding it in his left hand, performing the sign of the cross, "Take. eat, and have a sugary, buttery flavorgasm in remembrance of me! - I mean - it rewrites three parts of the new testament in one blow. Take that Mark, Luke AND Corinthians! It's all suddenly a whole lot sexier. Communion wafers are so 12th century, they need to modernize. We could replace communion wine with chocolate milk -- and save thousands of souls in the process."

"I think changing out food items is missing the point."

"nope, not lost on me. I get it body of christ, blood of christ. but as long as it still transubstantiatiates. You've seen the articles showing how people going to church, as a percentage of the population, is on the decline. Why not use better tasting, more satisfying carbohydrates? 800% more satisfying body of christ? Thats a 799% improvement. " 

"it strikes me we'd just have chubbier Christians, and the same problems."

"You're not seeing the big picture, yet. We could solve world hunger by making cookies with sprinkles made of superfood like quinoa or little kale sprinkles."

"Kale... sprinkles."

"You make the sprinkles inside full of kale - - the antoxidants, vitamins C, A and K. Give the people what the want - and hide the nutrition in the sprinkles," he paused seeing the skeptical look from his husband.... "You are not letting me show you the big picture. Kale sprinkles and cupcakes could change the world."

"so we should get a dozen to test this theory?"

"You've shopped with me before, right?" he said, happily realizing they were coming home with a dozen research cookies.

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the little disturbances of men

cross field

I was an eleven year old boy the first time someone left me alone with Father Thatcher. St Louis in 1850 was a rough place. If diseases didn't claim you, there were plenty of unscrupulous people waiting for you to show a sign of weakness. So the way of the time, was to never to do so. While Pop had died while I was young, at least he'd taught me never to look down at my shoes, never show a sign of weaker character. The moment you do, someone like Thatcher, or worse, would prey on you like a wolf in the wild. My pop called them 'the little disturbances of men' - that as we moved out in the frontier, that men's basic instincts would be to show their worst far earlier, knowing that fear is a powerful weapon over most folk.

As if to prove his lessons to me, Pop died that year. He'd gotten pneumonia and worked sick through the planting season - and he was dead by harvest. Ma did the best she could, wrestling what little money they had. Without him, she simply had to get to work. We had moved to St. Louis from Montreal with barely a houseful of belongings a year prior. We spoke French, instead of Prairie English - so my words came to me slowly. What was my Mother to do but find somewhere I could take refuge, somewhere I could find some peace from other farm boys, for whom I was quick pickings. They’d learned from his schoolhouse how brutal his cane could be, so I would go to Thatcher's rectory after school and wait for my mother to come get me.

Father Thatcher was not your stereotypical Catholic priest. He was the type of man you’d imagine fighting on the streets of New York or working the docks of Baltimore or Boston. He was a barrel of a man. It was if he'd cut trees like a lumberjack and one day, decided God was a stronger calling. It's forty years ago now - but I can still remember the first time he gave me that unusually strong hug one dark fall evening. It didn’t end quickly and socially like all the others before it. I realized he was aroused under his trousers. Fearing what was coming next, I began trying to wriggle away.

I screamed out at him, "I'll tell someone."

"Go ahead and tell, boy. Nobody will believe you.”, he said, calmly breathing hot against my neck. He knew the impact that truth had on me.

I thought in that moment, the fire and fury this man would have met if my father was still alive. How it would have cut through my Father's faith in everything, God at the very least. I think that it would have destroyed my father - but in turn, he would have rose up and destroyed the bully towering over me in the rectory. But that is another boy's story - this one is mine.

Instead Mother had slapped me off my feet when I told her, “You don’t you dare lie about a priest like that.", she said, visibly disgusted.

I was no dummy. You beat me once for something, I’m not going to come back again and get beat again. So I didn’t tell anyone else.

She sent me back to him the next morning for counseling. Right back to the man who had license to rape me.

While I was under his influence he would bribe me with extra food to take home to the family or have a box of cookies or chocolates for my Mother. I think that was the worst part of it, was that not only did he have me, but I watched him manipulate my Mother into making me spend more and more time around him with equal precision and mastery. If I relented to his needs, my Mother would hear what a good Catholic boy I was turning out to be, otherwise, he'd tell her he was worried there was sin growing in me, and that only prayer and service to the Church would solve my continuing troubles. I'd see him during services give that look he'd given me once - to another boy in the choir or that almost imperceptible pause in front of another altar boy during services. As gross as it sounds, at the time, I did nothing to warn others.

His power in that rectory was absolute - whether he was rapping your knuckles in class or insistently rubbing his sweaty crotch against your face. There was simply nobody there that would understand. It was such a dark secret I didn't even dare talk about it with the other boys my age, who might share a similar fate left in his care or advice. The way things turned out, I never had an adult conversation with her about it. I never had a chance to ask her how she could let it happen to the child she was sworn to protect. I still wonder if she did know, but felt powerless. Because once someone knows, it falls on them, too. They become responsible, and for some people that's too much to handle. I don't blame her. Here she was on the edges of the frontier, alone. She was left with so few real choices.

TAGS

the bell would ring

education
The first breezes of fall fell upon our small town like a salve. The collective sigh of relief was palpable, as the summer had been hot, even brutal. I was eager to trade in my hard worn harvest boots for a pair of oxfords, and a return to the single room schoolhouse. I'd been unable to hide my eagerness to return from my brothers, who would spend the winter haying hogs and cows.
 
"That boy just sees things differently," my Pop was fond of saying, and not always complimentary. He was a farmer. A farmer sees the soil as the great connector of lives, ultimately the source and destination of all. The Healer. Restorer and Resurrector. So to see me turn to knowledge as my own soil to turn, my Pop and I learned to accept that we were of different philosophers, but were still kin. He would learn to see his stubbornness in the high expectations in my classroom, his wit in my letters to congressmen and the St Louis newspapers, his attention-to-detail in lads he'd hire for the harvest after spending a year in my classroom. He'd never outright admit so, but he was proud of the man I'd turned into.
 
A single room with a stove in the corner and bookshelves on every available wall. Unlike other teachers - each student kept a personal chalkboard. My brother had helped me craft them one fall, and they'd changed our room. Whether battling long division - or drawing out plants, the small little boards were a source of pride for every child who owned one.
 
I would teach them writing, 'rithmetic and try and expose them to new ideas and stories and adventures from around the world. Many of the kids I saw in the fall had never been but fifty miles square from the little brick building we stayed in together.
 
They couldn't grasp 100 miles - leave alone 1000 - or thousands of miles. They'd been raised in the working shadow of the farm and field. Chores had been learned before language. Contributing to the family - and keeping everyone safe was a language they spoke long before anything else. They understood simple ideas like 'A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?'
 
My kinders would learn simple spelling - my juniors the history of our brave new country - and my seniors, the ways of business, and what opportunities are out there for the right determined mind. The next spring, the first kids would move on after seven years in my room for the winter. I polished my oxfords, quietly pulled on my wool pants and starched shirt and tie. Soon the bell would ring and a new winter dedicated to exploring would begin.
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completely intact

sunset

It wasn't something I'd chosen intentionally - the current of the exploration simply swept me up on it's way westward. Once word got back to St. Charles that the wagon train that had left the following spring had reached the Oregon Territory pretty much intact, it passed from the realm of fantasy into something that felt accomplishable. The west presented something new for everyone. It presented a way out. It was an escape from the lure of the city, a strike out at the unknown.

Just as the prairies beyond Missouri were storied to be vast - so were the imaginations of what we all thought we'd find there and who we might become. For me it was a chance to get some space - both literally and figuratively - between me and this life so far. I naively thought that if I could draw out a thousand miles behind me, that life would finally let me free. They never warn when you are out there on the frontier - any fear you packed along with you becomes amplified, the silence gets filled by whatever you bring with you. It's true that a lot of did come through the other side of it, but not even the strongest amongst us came through it completely intact.

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About death

gun

I had a good business there on the waning ends of the Missouri, teaching would-be-wagoners about death. Here in the young city of Saint Charles, we were an odd mix of union soldiers, families and grey-coats who were looking to erase their lives and start over. We all had reasons for wanting to head west. Mormons were convinced that a promised land lay out there past the horizon. Some figuring that if gold sat in streams in California - it figured to do so in streams all up that coast. Some folks saw a path to an entirely new way of life, trying to leave as much of the young country to the east behind them as possible. At least until it inevitably caught back up with them.

Many folks that came to me had never held a weapon, leave alone fired one. That was something to be thankful for. That there were men and women that didn't wear the stain of death on their character. If rumors were true - there were men and beasts between here and Oregon that had nothing but our deaths on their minds. That was something to be taken very seriously. Between Bison, Cheyenne, Bears, Wolves and the Pawnee, there was plenty to fear. All of them had the advantage, knowing the land you were crossing. Knowing it's secrets; knowing where to catch you by surprise. I had to teach people how to react under stress, how to be able to pull their gun and use it. There'd be time to think about the consequences afterwards.

"Always fire with the intent to kill or don't bother picking up a weapon in the first place."

During the war, he'd done so many times. No time to worry about whose family you were rendering fatherless when you fired, because if you hesitated, you'd be dead. The war had been ugly - with great losses for both sides. While it was over, the feelings of distrust, the feelings and the filth of warfare - still remained in all of us. It was a matter of fact.

"Aim to kill, with certainty. Make a bullet count or what you are shootin'at is liable to kill you first."

The line of trainees brought their weapons up pointing down range, kachink, pow. zing. kachink, pow. zing.

"Man or beast, nothing likes being shot in the arm or the leg. Shoot for the heart and the head, make it quick, bring down your target."

kachink, pow. zing. A Winchester level action could shoot two shots a second if it had to. It was meant to be fired from a standing position, not crouched and prone like a sniper gun. This was not a now-that-I-have-your-attention gun, this was a weapon meant to kill it's target. By the looks of today's crop, some might not even make it as far as Wyoming. Some would turn back when the horizon fell out so far that the big country would send them back to Missouri in a panic. Some would disappear into the grasses, never to be seen again.
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Well alone

bed

It had been weeks now since sharing the bed had gone from necessity against the night's cold towards an air of embrace. We had both surrendered to the truth that we really wanted to be there together. Neither of us had a word for what was happening between us. I would wake up some mornings and he had been watching me sleep. I could feel against my hip that doing so pleased him a great deal. We would both remember these first few nights in our snowed in escape. "I love you," I said rather suddenly and softly. The morning sunrise struck through the window onto his face, his sweaty chest hair in rivulets down his stomach. His beard wet and soft. "You need to be careful where and when you say that, " he said stopping me, touching my bottom lip, "You and I are the only ones in the woods who will understand this." he said adding weight to his erectness and body next to me. " 'n, nobody else should be expected to. and blurting out a word like that could get all this destroyed. 'er worse things. its warmin' up out and with it brings all kinds a'trouble with it." An immediate and palpable silence fell between us. He could see his words frightened me. There will lay under skin rug blankets we'd hunted and made together. Layed bare in a pool of each other's sweat, tasting ourselves on each other. Tears had begun to pool in my eyes as he thrust himself down on me pouring kisses in my mouth, licking my tears away. We were both quite lost to what was happening between us. Later that day as we were about to head out to work and feed the sheep and horses, I stopped him.I understood how important it was that another soul never suspect was happening in our shared hollow, how any risk could be the last one we took. We'd build a secnd cabin - and make sure that by all appearances, we were sheep herders helping settlers find the next valley. If these weeks were turning into a life together up in these woods, we'd have to protect it from all predators - most importantly our inquisitive settlers. Appearances would have to made - efforts to get the hounds off our scent, if you would. The thaw would bring more wagons and travelers to the region. The full creeks and rivers would bring with a flow of folks, still fresh with the scent of the puritan country some 1200 miles to the east on their clothes and wagons. Fresh bibles kept at the ready to share with an unsuspecting traveler. Faith branched across the continent into Mormonism, Calvinism and old world's Protestants and Catholics. The First Nations - the Algonquin, the Iroqui and the Abenaki were whispers on the voice of history. Puritan religion had seen to that quite matter-of-factily. The Umatilla of these parts were friends of Lewis and Clark; but also understood how important it was to hide up high in the mountains away from the white man's judgmental stare. Imagine living on a land for generations only to have another race of people sweep in and take it. The First Nations had seen this before from warring nations, but never on the scale of the white man. Europeans fought with cruelty and a sense of righteousness, the fruit of the Puritan seeds planted into the ground so many years before by their Fathers. Strange how a country can form itself upon fleeing religious persecution learns so very little from it's humble beginnings, resorting to the worst side of themselves when things really counted. A few of us had hoped that jumping up on a horse and riding it for as far as we could go, that the world would not catch up. We were quickly proven wrong. We would start saying that spring, but never quite saying, you are welcome here but please don't stay. Stories of brighter sunrises, deeper valleys and wider expanses ahead, kept most folks moving on. If we could appeal to their sense of manifest destiny - they would leave him and me. They would leave him and me well alone.

TAGS

The Moment

cabin

Where were you at the moment when your sexuality became part of your adult good self and not something to find a private place to practice it in hiding? Priests and Protestant preachers teach us to be ashamed of it all from the moment you are capable of free thought. It’s a miracle we’ve got a population if you ask me. Comes right down to it, its a messy business — and nothing you want to do with any gentleness when you are out in the wilderness in a wagon or your thighs have been wrapped around a saddle all day long. I’d learned in my slow sojourn westbound to just conceal it. To know how to identify a spot you won’t be found that is all your own. Even then it never is. I was showering that morning, the sun peaking through the trees — and the jury rigged outdoor shower felt like my own private waterfall. I don’t know where my mind wandered to — during and after spraying my lust out in the modern air , before I realized he’d been standing there. Possibly the entire time. I wasn’t sure how to respond. He was there in his shorts, clearly as aroused by the morning light as I still was. The look in his eyes was a softness I’ve never seen matched. I remember trying to brush it off, while trading places and getting myself dried off. “Its nothing to be ashamed of, “ he said quietly. I looked back at him expecting him to be covered in lather to find he had his now completely erect cock in his hand, at a slow measured use. “Really. it’s not. I see the way you watch people… or don’t. I’ve seen how the ladies and their way don’t bring your eyes. I know what does…. I’ve been out here a long while, and I know things…. and well, if’n you’d ever like to do it with someone in the morning sun. you’d just need ask.” I gathered my things and didn’t say a word in response. I headed out in the pasture to the day started, our conversation sticking and repeating in my head all day long. We saw each other again as suppertime rolled around. The small cabin with the fire going, felt unusually quiet. We were scraping through some stew when, without really thinking much more about it, I spoke quietly. “That suggestion you had this mornin’…… “ I said with a small awkward pause, “Well, I think I’d like that. I think I’d like that very much.”

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Water to Ice

waTER TO ICE
 
We’d cleaned up, but not properly bathed, in our bed clothes when he spied me trying to figure out a sleeping arrangement by the fireplace.
 
“First off, you are one pine spark away from waking up in the night on fire that close. Second, it’s a lot warmer in the bed and its just sensible.
 
I’m not going to get fresh on ya or hurt ya in your sleep. It’s going to get cold, even with the fire. so you’ll sleep in the bed.”
 
I was too exhausted to muster up a complaint. We had come in off the trail, racing in front of a snow front. You could smell it in the air, the change from water to ice. Before we’d fed the horses and headed back up to his small cabin to make supper, a light snow had turned into a steady one. You could almost feel the cabin ache as the temperatures dropped further after dark.
 
So there I was hours later, listening to him sputter and sniff in the dark. It is strange, that soft and foreign sound a man makes when he’s sleeping. He was a big man, but by no means a loaf. He’d earned his muscle and size from forest work. Logging, hauling, and hay bailing in the fall.
 
He had that beard that meant he wasn’t committed to growing it out proper, but wasn’t all that committed to shaving either. As he breathed out he sputtered subconscious gibberish that sounded like they could be whispered spells from around a witches caldron.
 
In a flicker of firelight, I noticed some thick scars on his neck and upper back. A man’s body tells stories that he can’t hide. Worried he might catch me staring over at him, I turned my back and tried to get back to sleep.
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Independence Rock

independence rock
The trail was a grotesque mixture of dirt, manure and ice. It simultaneously crunched and slid under your boot. We'd spared the womenfolk - putting them up in the wagons. That was part of this life, this journey we'd chosen. It was a life of dirty, thankless work.
 
We'd left the preacher, and his never ending line of kin, back at Independence Rock. Apparently all there was in his life was praising God and fucking his wives.
 
I'll admit there were nights when they'd all batted down, that I was a bit jealous, thinkin' of him having his pick of who shared his bed out on the trail on a late winter's night. But there was always a next day where what you left behind the night before - was standing there waiting for you. No life on the journey was easy, even if you had God to play at the gambling table.
 
He was going to set up a church on the prairie - thinking that someone might appreciate a little Jesus in the wilderness. Figurin' he'd make his mark out on the frontier rather than joining the rest of the Mormon folk at the Great Salt Lake.
 
The thing with religion though, is one man's savior is another man's sin. I smiled occasionally at the thought of him saying or implying the wrong thing to one of these Plainspeople Indians. Him violently and completely meeting his maker, so much sooner than he'd originally planned. His kin blowing the wind to the west and the south. That was the truth of life out here, don't plan anything to awful into the future - ya never know what 'right now' is waiting behind a corner.
 
Our Sunday stroll, as we'd come to call it, proceeded down the west face of the Rockies. We'd arrive at Pocatello in another couple days. There, these families would decide on California Gold or the unexplored Northwestern woods and rivers leading out to the new ocean.
 
For me, I'd get my pay and sit a spell. All them unknowns would still be there when I'd made up my mind. A rifleman could make a living on any of these trails. For what it was worth, fear still paid a really good wage.
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átawit láp'ulp'ul

CABIN

The phenomenon is known to the Nez Perce as átawit láp'ulp'ul - the ashes of love. The remnant of someone burning like an ember in your subconscious. For a long while I found it comforting. I would lay down at nigh, punishing myself for past transgressions. Like a salve I would brush up against, his voice would come into my head and show me the fallacy. I would imagine us walking in the woods like we always had. A spectator would conclude that I was living in the past. But I was very much living in the present. My present. About a week ago his voice faded. I can't say that I reached out to keep it from going. It just felt that he'd naturally probably outstayed his welcome as it was.

Knocked out of the thoughts in my head, I noticed out the window that I could see campfires out in the valley below. New settlers were arriving now that the snows had thawed in the Rockies. The Umatilla grass it's unnatural fresh spring green.

I smiled imagining small children who had never known the old world, whose first steps had been in a Wyoming prairie town where their wagons had stopped for the winter. Now they were running in circles of play, never realizing they were the first of their kind.

I'll put on my old hat, mount up, go down 'n introduce myself to them in the morning.

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Carol

cAROL
 
I walked into the apartment, pulling my key from the doorknob. I crossed the lushly carpeted living room and thats when my feet made the first tell tale splush of wet carpet. Oh gosh there was a lot of water.
 
I walked gingerly through the master bedroom and could hear the water running. Walking into the bathroom - there was a rush of rose water scent as it wafted up from the bubbles covering the floor. They'd started moving out onto the bedroom carpet like a Hawaiian lava flow. I reached down and turned off the water and looked back at my great aunt.
 
For someone who had been assuredly dead for a few minutes to an hour - she looked miraculous. Carol always had a flash for the ridiculous. Rather than be ashamed of it, she always enthusiastically embraced it. She was famous for arriving at parties in her latest ridiculous fashions. She'd stop in the doorway and announce herself.
 
"This!", she'd say motioning down her body, waving with her hands, "This amount of staggering beauty is a lot of work."
 
She sat there in one of those fifties neon flower shower caps that represented every color in the rainbow plus a few colours not really found in nature. Immortalized in her right hand was a half full glass of bright crimson red wine. On the tray in front of her, a now soggy national enquirer open to a page about the stars. She loved her Hollywood gossip. Her stars. Her cosmos.
 
At 94, she looked like a starlet herself. The tiniest hint of expensive blush and the latest, trendy loud red lipstick. She'd talk wild romantic fantasies of what she'd do if she could get only "her grubbies on that Italian stallion at the Maybelline counter."
 
I loved the idea of Carol going this way. There she was in the midst of her favorite past-time, enjoying a beautiful California red and maxing out on every possible idea of glamour.
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rose garden

SUPPOSE
The garden returned each year more beautiful than the previous. It sat on a quiet corner a few blocks from me. Every year I would see the signs of pruning and preparation for spring, the glorious first blooms and explosions of colour until it all fell to ground defeated in piles of delicate petals come fall. The home was a unique time capsule for me. You could always know what time of year it was by the state of the garden.
 
Thing is, I've never seen a human being at the house. Cars park in the driveway, the yard and home are clearly maintained. It's strange in this little corner of suburbia how alive and frighteningly vacant the house is in the same breath.
 
I have ideas about an old man stuck in a wheelchair inside watching me through the blinds. He sees me come by each spring and photograph and marvel at his roses. He sees me when I pinch just a little tiny piece of fresh rosemary off his hedge and roll it around on my fingers, inhaling the aroma in a sacred act. I wonder if this brings him joy. Or does it bring resentment and anger that he cannot do so as well?
 
I imagine him as a younger man out in the garden tending to his children. I imagine exuberant conversations with passers by - and his happiness that his work in the yard brings his neighbors such happiness. I imagine him playing peekabo between bushes with a two year old name Margarie who is walking by with her parents. I imagine him cutting a rose off a bush one ridiculously clear spring morning and handing it to the man with whom he'd spent his entire life. I imagine so many things for him. He feels like someone I know - a friend for whom time always stands still.
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jubilant

JUBILANT

“I don’t even remember taking this shot,” he said incredulously, "It’s beautiful and almost frighteningly perfect. My assistant thought it was photoshop until I showed him the negative.” “Crazy how jubilant they are so happy surrounded by war and such horribleness.” “Well you remember when you were a kid, you could find happiness in the smallest of situations. Piece of paper? World War 2 fighter jet. Overripe tomato? Bomb to be dropped on an unsuspecting car as it drove by.” “With all due respect, I don’t remember having a childhood where my mother walked three miles for rice rations each day. and kids a few months older than this started in Kathy Lee Gifford’s sweatshop to pay for their siblings schooling.” An uncomfortable but requisite silence fell between them, both continuing to stare at the photo. “I suppose not.”

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artifacts

IDOL

I like toys. No not that kind, well yes that kind but that's another story. I like playful toys. Bobble-heads seem to dominate as well as artifacts. a ruby slipper, a coffee cup key-chain, a detailed model of an air stream trailer, a surprisingly cheerful fake bush planted like a topiary, my old dog's collar and tag, paintbrushes, a children's sized tiara with a blinking star. a pair of hand blown cocktail stir sticks. the Buddha over here to the left, I can't decide if his eyes are closed in contemplation or I've caught him in sculpture at mind head swing, 'oh no no no, what have you done?' It has been suggested that perhaps my method of surrounding myself with random objects of whimsy is an external projection of how my mind works, little snippets here and there, placed out on a working surface always trying to consider how I can bring them all together somehow. Perhaps the toys help me grounded in my history and hint at my hopes for what I can still accomplish or explore in myself or with the help of another. It surrounds me with things that are comfortable and real, despite their origins. Many of my favorite items remind me of a very specific moment. I have a stone figure - a Peruvian fertility goddess. it was given to me in love by someone for whom I didn't love. or at least the way he wanted me to. Having always been the googly-eyed boy who fell in love on the first kiss, that had been new territory to tell someone that I didn't love them the way they wanted me to. There was a time where I really hoped I did, but I did not. Love and history are strange that way - full of moments of triumph, of failure, of neither.

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Mindfulness Exercise

MERGE
 
 
"Well, I'd call butt sex a mindfulness exercise."
 
"Wait, what? Buttsex? I'm going to call Reeses Peanut Butter Cup here. You are getting your mindfulness in my buttsex."
 
"But what if they work together? and your re-'butt'-al is useful for my point."
 
"no more puns or I'm hanging up.... okay Budda butt?"
 
"Deal. although if you present a gorgeous opportunity I may not be able to help myself."
 
"So - how is buttsex and mindfulness like chocolate and peanut butter?"
 
"Our routine, our habit, is to be off in our heads somewhere mulling over negativity and struggles of the past, or becoming anxious and fearful of the future. Seldom are we fully 'here'. and to learn to be in the moment, I think sex has lots to offer in the way of opportunities to let go of everything else and be in the moment. I mean, lets be honest - sex can be frought with those tapes - the negativity - times when sex just doesn't work. or the future fears of 'what if he's a lousy lay' - or worse, 'what if I'm a lousy lay?' - - and my point is all those things are an example of falling outside of mindfulness."
 
"But when i'm enjoying buttsex, I'm enjoying buttsex, its not metaphysical."
 
"Oh but it is. You're going to tell me that you never let your mind wander during sex? you are absolutely in the moment. no thought of anything else?"
 
"I don't think anyone can just shut off their brain - whether it's sex or any other activity. I don't want to think 'oh no! i'm not being mindful' while I'm trying to enjoy sex."
 
"I think it gets easier as we get older, we worry less about the imperfections showing themselves, because we all have them in common. You get naked with someone and it's not "oh - I wish he had this or that" - I think we're more comfortable in our skin - therefore making sharing our skin and admiring someone elses a lot easier.
 
I'd just like to suggest that when you feel your mind wandering during buttsex - to bring yourself back to your body - and the body of the man or woman you are with. Look for the beauty in that particular moment. We're all human - we are going to be distracted. but I just thought discussing mindfulness from the point of view of mindful buttsex might frame it in a context that could help you understand and learn more about what it means."
 
"I do love buttsex."
 
"We all do, darlin' - we all do."
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Sleazy Corner Leatherbar Light Kit

SUPER
 
It was 4pm in the afternoon at the old downtown Eagle. It was one of those visits to the bar where it's simply for a cold beer. Anything but sitting at home in that apartment. I was consigned to my solitary beer, when he walked in.
 
He ordered a beer, exchanged small talk with the bartender, then moved into one of those top-lit corners that every leather bar seems to manage. (Does it come in a kit to be installed? Sleazy Corner Leatherbar Light Kit, $9.95! Act now!)
 
He had a thick Sam Elliot mustache and a sailor's gait. He wore a seasoned white tank top, body hair sticking through it like netting - and a pair of jeans I wasn't sure had ever been washed. In other words, he couldn't have been more my type, if he tried to be.
 
I kept stealing glances at him from across the bar in my way. It was useless going up and talking to him. I mean, I was a pseudobearded college student studying art history - and he was clearly a man of experience.
 
Besides, I just suck at small talk, the approach - - all of it. I suck at it so badly, that I just skip it, relieving myself of the torture. Particularly in leather bar settings, I just had nothing of interest it seemed. I literally had a guy say to me once that I needed to practice some more before ever speaking to him again. I'd been laughed at by groups of men I had tried to introduce myself to. It was just easier to dream about what I'd do if one of these men actually talked to me versus the damage to my ego in the attempt.
 
I headed to the restroom to get rid of the $2 beer, lingering a little bit listening to the music from the jukebox speakers. I returned to the bar to find Mr. Tanktop had relocated himself next to my backpack and coat. I walked up cautiously, and he spoke first.
 
"Wouldn't want anyone taking your things while you were in the head, figured I'd protect it all while you were gone." he said with a wide smile, a slight northeastern accent. He put his thick hand out in a handshake and we were soon lost in conversation.
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Cinema

DREAM

"Nothing worth doing is every easy," my father used to volley at me, in between puffs on his pipe, "You need to realize that approaching everything from laziness is going to get you nowhere fast." Forty-two years later, and that conversation plays in my head like it happened this afternoon. My mind will play a litany of failures - and these uninvited reminiscences happen right before slumber. Terrible romantic breakup conversations played like I am experiencing them for the first time. The moment I realized the military had caught on to the fact I loved men is a favorite of this particular cinema of my mind.

I read about people plagued with nightmares and terrors - or worst yet, never being able to get to sleep in the first place. That is never my problem, just getting there. Lately, I have started talking to these apparitions - 'that's enough now' I'll say sternly. So far, nobody has dared talk back.
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malaise

MALAISE

It was a strange kind of cool October morning. As Big Ben chimed 6am so proudly across the Thames, you could almost see the fog part as the sound waves collided across the hazy morning malaise. I had been daydreaming, but the sounds of the chime brought me back to focus. Daydreaming is an interesting thing, isn’t it? A doctor would tell you that daydreaming is stimulus independent thought, or a Buddhist might say it is thought about something other than events that originate from the present moment, away from mindfulness.

In common speech, fantasies and daydream, the stuff of mind wandering. It occurred to me now that daydreaming was perhaps a glimpse into something else entirely. The corporeal mind only able to process so much of it. Completely clear to me in a sudden rush of insight. I held grandpa’s hand and looked up at him smiling as we walked through the square. He’d been gone for ten years now - and now so was I.
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Quiet

QUIET

You could hear the afternoon rains echo in from the alley behind the theater. Curses in French from the house master echoed in when people would linger, letting the offensive humidity in from the outside.

The strange dust of the old playhouse frolicked in the softly lit stage. After an hour of unremarkable college students churning through grossly under-prepared auditions, I was growing impatient.

"Next please," the stage manager grunted methodically.

She shuffled into the light and began. She stood rather plainly. Young shoulders slightly slumped, wearing a humble white blouse and black trousers that tapered to ridiculously small ankles and feet. She looked up at me past the light and began with no cue.

"Where would You have me go? What would You have me do? What would You have me say, and to whom?," she asked me. She read her lines in a disarmingly quiet, but defiant and confident voice, "Who would you have me become?"

I knew immediately who.

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;

" 'ere in ze gym south of mar kette - is the cruisehr, " he spoke with a hushed horrible fake Jacques Cousteau accent, " 'eh does two reps out on ze floor and zen reuturhns to ze showehr 'oom to zee if anyone is hot enough. Notess how 'e grunts at you if 'eh tinks you are worth of his sexyehness." He paused for a moment as a large muscular bodybuilder passed him, naked, returning from the showers.

"Witness the animal savehgree of the gym lockehrroom."" he continued quietly narrating to the amusement of his work out partner. The cruiser let out a soft grunt and a woof in the direction of the man returning from the shower. "Really girl," the naked man said, whipping around, and then pointing at the cruiser, "You need to catch the clue bus, this isn't the baths, let us dress in peace, without you hovering over us like Kirstie Alley at the Sizzler buffet, Jesus Christ." The cruiser nonchalantly walked past everyone and back out onto the floor of the gym. "Defehted, z'cruisehr 'eturns to the flohr of the gym, perhaps on 'es next pass he will be ore successful."
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Come Sunday

99

"Whatchya doin'?" "Watching the Superbowl!" "You warned me when we met that you would always be the butch one, and you've never proved me wrong." "It is really excellent, close game so far!" "Who are you rooting for?" "I love rhetorical questions." "No seriously, I have no idea who is playing." “Philadelphia and New England" "Ah, well, then I guess you are rooting for Philly.” "That would be correct!" "So should I root for New England just to make sure the testosterone is even in the house tonight?" "So how about a wager?" "A wager?" "Sure, if you leave me alone and let me watch football and Philadelphia wins, you get a blowjob. But if New England wins, you get a blowjob. How about that?" "Don't think I don't see what you are doing here." "You married me because I'm butch, not because I'm subtle." *smooch* "Enjoy the game!"

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Rand McNallly

L

Forty years in finance had been done. Dutifully, exactly - like a scarlet-lettered penance - and the rest of his life suddenly lay ahead of him. He spent the first chunk of his retirement on a retrofitted volkswagen bus which he'd meticulously detailed out. A mobile home, a gourmet stove, a safe, a soft mattress, and a special shelf for a particularly tattered Rand McNally road atlas. He remembered coming home with that road atlas as a senior in college - his sails filled with dreams which parental and professional expectations quickly deflated. A few months before his retirement date, it seemed to just appear out of the stacks of useless crap, boxes of travel guides. Ever year he'd said --- "this year I'll save starting on January first and I'll go to....." The list was endless - Alaska, Belize, Machu Picchu, Haiti, Rome, Bergen, Istanbul, Mumbai. A bitter divorce, and 42 years later, here the Rand McNally sat in front of him like a patient old friend. He opened the front cover and inside was a yellowed, torn out page from a book with the tell-tale signs of 1970s lime colored highlighter. "Be rather the Mungo Park, the Lewis and Clark and Frobisher, of your own streams and oceans; explore your own higher latitudes . . . Nay, be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought. Every man is the lord of a realm beside which the earthly empire of the Czar is but a petty state, a hummock left by the ice." - Page 343 - Walden - Henry David Thoreau The man was a vault of stories and adventures. Towering over everyone in Buddhist monasteries in Vietnam, falling in love - like everyone does - with an Australian sailor from Melbourne; and having his heart broken - like everyone does. Riding out a typhoon in Pattaya Beach. Walking the Camino de Santiago on his 70th birthday. The young kid that talked him into shaving the sides of his head away. Crying in art galleries. Finding dark corners to share, lighted stages to dance upon. So many romances and lives later - I met him at a writer's workshop in New York. I'd read his first book in college and fallen in love with the tenderness, the compassion of his words. That we'd meet over a chance encounter in a hotel bar? I had not expected his overwhelming personal softness. He kissed me and - I had not expected to wake up the next morning under pressed sheets. Hearing him softly whisper 'shhhhhhhhhhhhhh' as he moved in, incredibly strong and hard against me in the shyest light of morning. We spent days making the crazy searing kind of love he'd so sadly daydreamed of behind a desk at Piers Brontley - the kind that which now, fifty years later, was setting our world on fire.

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Remembering Nicki

OIP

I'm not always completely clear on how exactly I chose her. or maybe she chose me. Nicki. and her sparkler. We’d met freshman year of college and fell in such love that school seemed to hardly matter. Held her on my shoulders as Prince serenaded to her. We’d stolen booze from my parents liquor cabinet and gone drunk camping, laughing into campfire light. So many stories - so many adventures. I'd bought her that ring with money my parents sent me to pay for a quarter of college. A year later I found myself in the U.S. Navy bringing Nicki's photograph out my wallet -- telling our stories. Worst of all was that Nicki didn't exist. An exaggerated cover for a terrified homosexual at sea with an army of angry heteronormative men. I laugh, now, thirty years later. Because Nicki would cock her said sideways and remind me softly what a horrible liar I had always been.

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Floor Show

JJ

"Fluffy Puppy, you're the one!," he sang to the little dog in the sink getting a bubble bath," The one that makes bathtime so much fun! Fluffy Puppy, joy of joys, When I squeeze you, you lick my face! Fluffy Puppy, you're my very best friend it's true, I find a little fellow who's cute and gray and fluffy, Rub a fluff fluffy, Fluffy Puppy you're so fine and I'm lucky that you're mine, Fluffy Puppy I'm awfully fond of you." "Stay right there, Daddy's got a giant treat for you!" The dog stayed, and peered over the side of the sink as his Daddy returned with a thick light blue towel. "Fresh from the dryer, my little puppy gets the best warm towel!" Daddy said as he started fluffing and drying. "Ha ha ha Ho ho ho, and a couple of tralalas. That's how we laugh the day away, in the merry old land of....... Fluffy Dogs, HA!, Buzz, buzz, buzz, Chirp, chirp, chirp and a couple of la-di-das-" "When you are done fagging out, I need my butch husband to come out, again, and watch the football game." "It's a good thing you're so darned handsome. You'll hurt Killer's feelings." "Killer?," the husband said, addressing the little dog in the sink, "When Daddy is done with the floor show, you can come out to the living room and Pops 'll give you another stuffed toy to destroy." Lifted out of the sink, the little dog let out a piercing enthusiastic bark and zipped off with Pops. "Let's go kill something together. Grrrrrrr! Thatta boy!", Pops said, his voice and laughter trailing away into the house. Daddy dried up the surrounding sink, mumbling under his breath, "in the merry old land of Oz....." He wiped his hands on the towel, then reached for the refrigerator door. He pulled out a jar of salsa, poured it into a bowl surrounded by tortilla chips. He knew this was part of the deal. He sighed and said it just like he'd practiced, "Roll, Tide!" and was off to join the boys in the living room.

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Glass of Scotch

SCOTCH

On Christmas Eve, I had killed someone. I’ll just let that sink in for a moment. I can still recall the sound of the glass of scotch in his hand breaking with his wrist. I can feel the swing upward with broken glass, and the smell of flesh being torn aside. He stepped back from me reaching for his throat, his eyes wide with the realization these were his last moments. “I am not sure what happens when you die, but I’m satisfied to stand here and watch you find out,” I said to him matter-of-factly. He involuntarily knelt. He was very intimate with fear at this point. Perhaps he realized there was nothing coming for him, the final realization that salvation is a mythological concept. I am not sure I saw that he had connected what he had done with what was happening to him. Conceit probably kept that from happening. All the more pitiful. When my child had come to me, confided in me what he had done, it was one of those admissions that blinds you when you first hear it – then once understanding happens, it binds you to it. My child with tears in his eyes – what had he done to deserve what had been done to him. Using faith as a shield, the man who had done this felt protected, felt immune, perhaps even justified. The moment happened and was over before I had much time to think about it. I thought about it a lot - particularly on the smooth wood floor face down, ears echoing the the click of the handcuffs and anklets. I sat emotionless in court – there was no reason to react to any of it. It was all true. My defense was simple, really, he’d never hurt anyone else again.

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mascara

She broke out the compact and started applying blush. Her trained hand moving with the weave of the commuter train. The same technique for the soft rose lipstick. Even the mascara was applied precisely despite the oscillating train car. “That is real skill,” said the man across the aisle. She looked over at the man. mid-thirties, strong cheek bones, and almost inhumanly perfect skin.

“Thank you,” she said politely. Almost like a magician he presented his card, “I’m Marcel, and I run the makeup counter for Chanel at Macy’s. Come see me. We have some amazing new moisturizers and hypoallergenic blush. Really, you’ll thank me later.” With that, his stop arrived and he got up and left the train. The train continued as she read his card, ‘Marcel Thibadieu, Cosmetics Expert.” She tucked the card into her purse and went to check mail on her phone when the woman behind her tapped on her shoulder. “All the ladies on the train go to Marcel. He’s amazing." "I just hate how perfect his skin is," another woman volunteered, "I think it is completely unfair how beautiful he is. He makes it look effortless." “Seriously. I used to hate makeup, but he makes it easy and my skin feels so much better,” said another woman down the car. “His secret,” said the scruffy faced man from across the aisle, unexpectedly, in a deep gravelly voice,”is that Marcel is Imperial Empress Forty-Two. An amazing drag chanteuse. So he uses all the products himself, so he knows what works. If anyone understands how much hard work being beautiful is, it is Marcel.”
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Ho Ho Ho

The silence and wonderment that the first snow creates made the early morning crime all the more unsettling. Sticking out from behind the dumpster like a holiday version of the Wicked Witch of the West, were two boot clad feet, followed by the tell tale fake fur and red velvet of a Santa. The flakes of snow danced across the dirty face of the deceased. Fake beard askew against his chin, his cloudy eyes stared over my shoulder into the eyes of a now missing assailant. The deep morning snow erasing any memory from the landscape that anyone but our corpse had ever been here. His right hand permanently clenched in a fist, I smiled thinking that at least this one had gotten in a good punch or two. "Check the fist for blood evidence, " I muttered to the crime scene investigator, already hunched over the body. "On it - - Cause of death was blunt force object to the face, from the looks of it, I'd say a New American Edition. Leather exterior. Looks like they really took the word of God to his face!", he replied grimly.
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Wormwood and Rue

cross field

She runs away into the woods, wormwood and rue cascading around her feet in the autumn woods. The smell of the end of summer, the decay of leaves sticking to her like judgement. Does she notice accidentally falling in the water, simply neglecting to save herself from sinking? Her garments pull her down, as if they had a mind of their own. It is simply the way she'd lead her life: doing what her father and brother — and boyfriend— tell her to do, rather than making decisions for herself. She'd been seen with him was proof enough. Imaginations of authority created all the crime there was to see, obvious to everyone where the blame truly lay. It is only when she realizes that she's seeing the lilies from below, watching her dress float around her like a mermaid's gown, that the warmest smile spreads across her face and Ophelia takes her last breath.

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a proud people

ginger

Ginger Men are a proud people. We are bread in deep, surprisingly peppery, cultural origins. It is in our prime ingredients to know that our time here is measured in hours instead of days. Baking at 400F for ten minutes, we all have the chance to dream of that moment when we are set on a plate next to a hot cocoa. We lead simple, tenderly baked lives, always knowing that we immediately start going stale from the moment we are set out in the world. Don't feel pity for Ginger Men - know that we accept our place in the circle of life with a glad heart. I hope now that you know our cultural history better, you'll consider saving us whenever you see us this holiday season. Today I am set out on a plate with five of my spongey brethren. We await our fate. We are all smiles.

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Dear John,

deaer john
DEAR JOHN, "These letters have gotten a LOT more complicated than they used to be.", she thought to herself, letting the Johnny Walker work it's magic on her tongue. -“It’s not you - it’s me”- nope - it is all about him
-"I want different things now"- like a solid witness protection program -"I've grown and well...."- you haven't. -“this isn’t the relationship I wanted.”- duh. too simple. -"i really need some space"- several thousand miles of it. buh bye, no. -"who in the hell taught you to kiss?"- wow harsh. but it was more like experiencing slimy mouth-to-mouth resuscitation than kissing. really. gross. wierd. where does someone learn tha... -"i just can't see myself married to you."- leave alone in the same room. -"i'll leave the ring at your mothers"- because we both know that's where you'll run crying like a little bitch -"at least I'll save money on all the drinking, I've been doing"- she laughed out loud at that one and took another glorious sip of her triple manhattan.
 
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Rendered Invisible

charlie

I was in an angry, hurried rush. Who calls a 7am meeting on a Monday morning anyway? I was madly sipping a coffee, and rushing to meet the train in the park. That was the first time I saw him - a 15th century friar sitting in the park watching the dogs play. He seemed like a very robinhoodesque character to be sitting amongst playing dogs and their owners busy instagramming only the cutest pictures before getting on with their day. The doors pulled mechanically shut on my train and I stared back at him sitting so blissfully in the park. What was a friar doing sitting in the dog park on a Monday morning at 7am? Shouldn't he be off praying somewhere? I found myself thinking way too much about it. "Just sitting in the park?" asked my friend at work. "Yeah - it was odd. no coffee. no backpack. like there is a monastery somewhere in Green Heights. It was totally like Friar Tuck on a movie set and he was taking a smoke break." I said laughing. "Turns out there is!", she said, showing me her phone. "The Franciscan Friars of The Renewal", I read outloud. "Right there near the park. How have I lived there for a decade and not known of a friary right down the block? That is crazy!" "Well lets see - you are a white, militantly agnostic fag living in San Diego. You are, despite your love of penis, high on the power pyramid, you make good money - so you never need a soup kitchen or a clothing pantry. I'd guess his kind is relatively invisible to you." I don't think she meant it in a hurtful way - but her concept of invisibility stuck with me hard. Particularly in this age of divisiveness, it was easy to surround yourself with everything that agrees with you and ignore that which does not. Now - it's not that God and me have a beef going on necessarily - I just don't see the whole thing as something to center my life around. If there is a God, I just don't think about it the way Christianity chooses to. As a gay man I had certainly seen my share of religion being used as a weapon. One needs only look at the millions the Catholic Church and the Mormons teamed up to spend on Proposition 8. Understandably, most men like me have a dim view of organized faith of any sort. I looked out for him each morning walking through the park in the mornings - and even circled back through the park on my way home. But no luck. So, I made a plan. I got up the next Monday, just the time I'd seen him in the park the week before. I put coffee in a pair of to go cups and headed to the park. Sure enough, like a ghost, there he was at his same location. I hovered opposite him in the park for a moment, embarrassed at the loss of my normal extroverted nature. "Good morning," I said tentatively, walking up to the bench. Like I'd said magic words, his face lit up into a beautiful wide, warm smile. His head was meticulously shaved - making his fluff of a brown beard all the more pronounced. What had looked like simple robes from a distance were full of layers and detail. "Do you mind if I join you, Father?" "Oh.. no - of course," he said scooting over on the bench, "I'm a Friar. Friar William." I explained how I'd noticed him the previous Monday, and found out about the Friars in the house in the neighborhood. "I am usually out seeing people but on my way home I always stop here. I usually take jam sandwiches up to the homeless that rest up in the rail yards. But the dogs are God's creatures as well, so it does my heart good to stop and watch. A dog wouldn't work out well in fraternal life, particularly if I am the only one that wishes for a dog. So this is my time to enjoy their energy." "I brought you a coffee. Do you like coffee?" "I am called to poverty, chastity, and obedience. , but I can still enjoy a cup of coffee, yes." he said with a warm smile, taking the cup from me. "Do you have a dog?" "I used to - and to be honest, since he died I haven't spent a whole lot of time watching the dogs here." "Isn't it interesting how we render things that used to be so central to our life, invisible when they no longer hold that special place?", he said, unintentionally mirroring the conversation with my coworker. It rendered me silent for a moment. Was I that blind to the world around me? "I had never noticed you before, how long have you been in the neighborhood? How many of you are there?" "We've been here a few years. We originally began in the Bronx. We are just eight of us - and we spend a lot of time out amongst the poor on the street, we open a soup kitchen once a week and have a pantry of donated clothes. What we do is very simple as we rely on mostly donations for our own livelihood as well as what we can provide the vulnerable." "I am little embarrassed to realize that I'd never noticed ya'll here in the neighborhood. A coworker suggested since I don't look to charities for food or shelter, that it had rendered ya'll invisible. Maybe I'm just not a very observant person." "I'd like to think that finding the fraternity and serving as we do, makes sure that others that might be less visible become our shining and clear focus," he said with a chuckle, "The homeless here are an interesting lot, they still live in this beautiful city. but they struggle with addictions and battles that many of us will never know or understand. I learn so much from them. I had a homeless man explain to me plainly one day that being invisible was an important skill. It makes people more comfortable about the homeless. We are only eight men, but we do what we can. So don't be too hard on yourself - it is part of how the world works. It doesn't make it "good" or "bad" whether you can see the homeless or a friar on a bench - or even simpler, see the dogs in the park on the way home. Human nature lets us all use invisibility in our own way."

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origami

origami
He came to a rest under an enormous California oak. The arms of the tree disappearing above him into the last hints of daylight. The pack peeled off his back with a thud. The weight coming off allowed the deepest emotional sigh escape with his breath.
 
He drank deeply from his thermos, water sloshing off his chin. Wiping his chin with his arm and shirt sleeve, he let out a mischevious, misplaced giggle. He pulled out the package wrapped in foil. the only correct way to eat corn on the cob was like a typewriter - left to right, then rotate and left to right. Dinner roll. Mushy squash. Can't be a chooser.
 
Gently rummaging into his burden, he pulled out a single small packet from the overstuffed pocket. 'Fragrance-free' said the label proudly. He carefully unfolded it, a reverent origami in reverse. Humming an unimportant melody, he smiled, holding the rectangle up into the light of the streetlamp.
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Bitter Bottoms of Baltimore

reality show

"Even food shows are angry these days, with women throwing stuff and calling each other bitches... it's awful... and then they cut to an interview in the 'truth-booth' where she says 'I'm doing this for my kids'. Does she realize that her potty mouth and horribleness will soon be out on high definition blue ray for her kids and grandkids to enjoy forever? , a classic childhood moment." "yet, you continue to watch it each week........"

"I know.... does it help if I feel dirty?" "Could you imagine us on a reality show?" "OMG! It would be a ratings bonanza! Move over Real Housewives of Hoboken, it's The Bitter Bottoms of Baltimore!" "For the record, I'd call you a filthy bitch out in the open, I wouldn't wait for the truth booth." "How would people get eliminated?" "One day your hot, and the next, you're not. ah wedersehen. We could find some Swedish furry bodybuilder whose limited English language skills are that sentence." "We would still be friends after I win, right?" "Someone's gotta keep you from blowing the prize money on cute shoes." "Wha?" "Imelda, please...."
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A Toast

tux

The wedding dinner settled down as he tapped his glass with his fork.  He took a card out of his suit jacket. He'd practiced, and learned the best words for this moment. He took a big sip of water, took a glance at the newlyweds, and leaned forward to speak into the microphone. "When I was a kid I didn't have much. I just grew up in one of those families where the only things you looked forward to inheriting was sorrow - the future I saw in front of me was workin' at a shit town Pick and Save in a wrinkled red schmock dreaming of the day I'll get promoted to Assistant Manager. Sorry for the language, I'm not a very good public speaker. Randall and I met our junior year at Haber High playin' football. Ya'll know his story - the glory, the Heisman. but what I got when I met Randall was someone who believed that everyone," He paused, embarrassed at being emotional, "Believed everyone was capable of glory. He said to me once - early on - and I'm paraphrasin' a bit - bare with me, 'It’s easy to count your problems. but lets make a deal, goin' forward, every time you mention a problem, also mention a blessing in your life. Try to see if that will add light to your troubles and hopefully make them less of a hassle. Think of it as a sorta contagious optimism.” Many of ya'll don't know this - but Randall stayed up with me late nights to study - so I could score that extra percent to make me eligible to go to State. It was Randall who said to coach, the only one I want protecting me on the field is #22. I'm not a smart man - but I'm a good man because of my friendship with Randall - and now - his new bride Kara. I am so unworthy of standing back there in that church in the best man spot." he said with a second pause, "Such a special thing for him to ask me to do. Leave it to Randall to fall in love with the only member of the State student body who had never been to a football game. I'll tell you as soon as they met though - that it was something miraculous. There was such an ease between them. I mean - I watch the two of them and I know the incredible parents they are going to - the world their children will grow up in.. but heck, that's all getting ahead of ourselves a bit, huh. Let's all raise our glasses then." He finally said, turning to face the newlyweds, a big wide smile spreading across his face, "Mr. and Mrs, friends and family, teammates - - lets raise our glasses in a grateful toast to contagious optimism."

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no.

ring

A few dvds, a pair of earphones, and some neatly folded tshirts and underwear sat there. Every night when I came home the small box of stuff taunted me, reminding me of all of it. He had changed his Facebook profile to read "engaged to" - so absolutely sure he knew all the answers. He'd posted photos for all our friends to see of the engagement ring.

You always read about fairytale proposals. You daydream of how you might answer when that special moment comes. You imagine yourself at city hall in matching suits. "What do you mean, what? Seriously? I don't understand?," he said, instantly seething and visibly outraged, "Did the community fight for marriage equality for no reason? We can GET married!" I figured saying "no, thats not what I want." was enough. We sat in a punishing silence before he simply got up and left my flat.
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Time Capsule

ocean

I hardly recognized the young boy in photo, walking in the surf, letting the late summer waves frolic with his hands. That beach. It had felt like the very definition of liberation when I visited. I remember trembling with excitement when I stood at the rail, my first trip on a Fire Island Ferry. All that thick black hair waved, shined in the sun calling to men like a siren from Greek mythology. The twinkle in my eye lead to humid late summer days of cruising, relentless sex, strong cocktails, sin and scandal.

Of course, just a few years later, it came - and that changed everything. By 1988, there had been 61,816 deaths in the U.S. alone. I was twenty-five. Two years later, nearly twice as many Americans had died of AIDS as died in the Vietnam War. By the time I was thirty? 234,225 deaths. Forty? Nearly 600,000 deaths. Twice the population of Minneapolis, three times the population of Madison, six times the population of Salt Lake City or Boise, dead. It's weird to say it - to have measured my entire life by death. You can't really blame me, though. I grew into adulthood convinced I would never see old age - and nothing around me convinced me it would ever be otherwise. It was an Arthurian legend - an embedded sword my kind was destined to never pull from the rock. Yet, here we are. How the hell did I live through all that shit to get to fifty? Sheer dumb luck, that's how. I listen to my heterosexual peers begin to bemoan and worry about their final walk with death. I feel sorry for them actually, that they have waited their entire lifetimes to become comfortable with death. I actually smile thinking about it. It is not new to me. It doesn't scare me - I've known it my entire time here. It has been a comfortable companion reminding me to live every second because the wolf is never really that far away. When I do finally meet her, I will slap her across the face as hard as my elderly hand is capable, then gladly disappear into the ether like everyone else before me.
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How Did We Meet Again?

holding hands

“I’m sorry…I guess I’m just nervous. I’ve never been taken home to meet someone’s parents before, let alone conservative parents who come with a pre-prepared list of forbidden conversation topics.” “Well, those are for your safety, not theirs. My family is very passionate about being on the wrong side of history in every situation. This is just my annual holiday appearance, and we barely got away with you not coming last year.” “I don’t get the far-right, fundy, anti-everything mindset that says to their gay son, ‘and we must meet your boyfriend.’ I mean it seems counterintuitive to the rest of their world view.” “Even if I am not going to heaven, they want me to be happy,” he said, chuckling sarcastically, ”I gave up trying to figure it out a long time ago.” They drove along for a while quietly. “Now remember, we met at a party.” “Honey, stop. I know the script. Like I’m going to tell your Mom we met on asspig.com. I mean, give me just a little credit.”

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triscuit

I broke through my hangover to clean up from last night's party. There in the bottom of a large bowl was a single triscuit. I sat there starting at it. Poor Triscuit. All alone in the world. The party is over Triscuit, sorry, you missed it. What does it mean to be this highly tuned and manufactured culinary expression of dullness? What is it worth - until - until you add cheese, or lox, or a thin slice of fig - then pile on goat cheese and honey and .... you see my point. You never look at a Triscuit and say "mmmm Triscuit" - you look at it as a vehicle, an enabler for some other mouth watering treat. Now, mind you - it's not like Triscuit doesn't try. It's bred itself into all sorts of new variants. You can try and make a Rye Triscuit or the overreaching Roasted Tomato and Olive Oil Triscuit. Now Triscuit is trying too hard. Hell, it even tries to get in on Christmas time with a Cranberry variety. A 1/5" square of Cranberry wheaty meh. It is no good by itself. Knowing this, but having pity on it, I popped the lone crisp into my mouth, washing the meh away with quasiwarm morning coffee.

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burning man

He was the softest, most tender person I'd ever met. Every touch, every conversation, every sigh of pleasure was a salve. He rode into my life on a large adult sized shiny pink tricycle. He was wearing a matching pink "fur" vest and ridiculously oversized top hat - pulling a trailer of little pink wrapped gifts. His nose was pierced with the largest gauge pink metal ring. He was mesmerizing. He broke the silence by offering me a small pink package. It seemed so magically out of place. It was six-year-old little girl birthday party perfect - out in the middle of the dusty dirty desert. I could not help myself but smile at the absurd beauty of it all. "You'll love it - once you wash with one of these soaps; you'll be addicted - - long after all this is behind us....." he said, theatrically motioning around him, and erupting in a generous and gorgeous laugh. Packing up and returning to Chicago after a week in his almost constant embrace was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I spent afternoons watching the fall rains hit the glass in coffee shops daydreaming of being with Pink and getting lost in the distance and reality of where I was and wherever he was. I let myself fall back into routines. The playa became a distant precious dream. I walked into the office on a cold snowy December morning and the receptionist stopped me on my way to my desk. "Oh - Smit, this came for you while you were out. a messenger delivered it.", she motioned me over to look over her shoulder. There, glistening, was a perfectly wrapped six-year-old shiny pink package. He'd found me.

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moustache #5

We met on the old wooden stairs of the old DC Eagle. It had this big dramatic landing between flights of stairs, with enough room for a couple of people could stand and watch the parade. He wore a pair of tight blue jeans, big boots, and a green tank top with the word "DADDY" across the chest. He had that not quite 5'oclock shadow thing going on with this his beard, but the thickest most amazing mustache I've ever known. I literally stopped in my tracks the first time up the stairs walking past him. Upon my third attempt at passing by - he reached out and grabbed my belt loop pulling me in against him and over the loud music playing in the bar, growled in my ear, "and just where do you think you're going. You just stay here with me for a while."

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unrepentant reflection

umb

टायर टायर, उज्ज्वल जलते हुए, रात के जंगलों में; क्या अमर हाथ या आंख, तुम्हारी भयानक समरूपता को चौड़ा कर सकता है (Tyger Tyger, burning bright In the forests of the night; What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry? ) He closed the small leather book and let out a weary sigh. Tapping his chest, he confirmed that his papers were in his coat pocket. Papers that would ensure safety. Between his legs, the frantically packed suitcase. Thousands of people just like him had arrived at the station with their ragged bags of belongings. The violence was a visible blanket of shame over the men and their families that sat silently on the train. British soldiers and journalists who had witnessed the Nazis claimed Partition’s brutalities were worse: pregnant women had their breasts cut off and babies hacked out of their bellies; infants were found literally roasted on spits. Calcutta brutally transformed to something beyond a war zone - the barest of human nature laid open for all to see. He caught himself staring across the train yard. There on an identical platform, he witnessed a Muslim father collecting and trying to console his family. He knew they were hearing the same things Hindu men had told their families. "We will go to where we can be safe - where we can escape violence for who we are." Hindus took trains like his - - west, deeper into India - the rest headed east for Muslim-dominated East Banglor. The father looked up for just a moment and the two weary men locked gazes. They both knew fear. panic. They knew the fresh stench of death. They could see it's unrepentant reflection in each other's eyes. The father bowed his head silently, as if to say, "I know the truth too." The train lurched forward, the smell of the steam locomotive rushing in the windows. The great migration had begun.

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because I didn't know better

angel

"You're a bastard, you know that? Fuck you!" were the last words I ever heard her say, as she slammed the door. I can't say that I blame her. I had brought home the clap for the third time. I was horrible to her. I left her alone on nights when I could have been there for her. I "worked late nights," I had told her when she knew I was with other women. I wasn't being such a wreck deliberately, but because I didn't know better. Suddenly, there she was in a cross walk. The light was red and I nearly hit her. She slammed her hand on the hood of my cab in indignation. I'm sure she didn't recognize me. God she was beautiful. An angel. I let out a deep sigh, then answered her the same way I had twenty-five years earlier. I mouthed silently, "I'm so sorry."

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4th of

fireworks

We celebrated our own unique independence in the dark alley away from the summer revelry. I ran his shirt up, exploring his firm muscles and curiously thick back hair. He slicked his tongue from my mouth onto the curve of my neck. Looking over his shoulder I spied a woman watching us from the street. She leaned against the drain pipe, letting out the softest sigh. The kind smile on her face told me how much she approved. I earnestly smiled back, but then shut my eyes getting lost in the little French sailor I'd met in the bar. He smelled so good. I needed him to be mine. The fireworks burst in the air and splashed shadows across the wall behind us. My hands ran down towards his butt making his pants started to loosen. Summer humidity was merging us together, and his tender whispers of 'please, please' gave me no choice in the matter.

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new voices: my terrible idea

lipstick

So many things have a beginning. and so it was with the idea. It just seemed to be there one day. A terrible idea. It scared me so much at first. It would disappear into the minutiae. Then  gently the idea would return. To be considered. To befriend. To become comfortable. To become acceptable. I sit imagining it with my eyes closed so gently as to not damage the beauty of it. I lay down at night and it is my last thought. I awake, suddenly, in a single gulping breath. I panic to do the mental inventory. I rush about in my mind to see if the terrible idea is still there.

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new voices: tone

paint smear

She walked into the studio. I looked up, finding her gaping up at one of the large canvasses. "This is so beautiful, but the inside of your mind must be a horrifying place," she said to me, as if I were a light fixture, without turning to address me. No breezy hello. No..... courtesy. I left her standing there. I studiously took a brush full of a golden yellow and gently smeared across the canvas in front of me. I let the silence build. I let her think that perhaps I wasn't the artist after all. "What was your name, again?!" I said, dismissively, looking up at her. "Margaret." she said, suddenly weary of me knowing any details about her. "Margaret." I said simply, revealing an uncomfortable smile of middle-class ragged teeth, "Well, Margaret, you pose that the inside of mind is a horrifying place? I think it's safe to say you have no idea just... how.... much." It wasn't what I said necessarily - but the tone. It was one that let her think just for a moment. She stood there in the dusky light of the studio, the air smelling of grease paints, perspiration, and thinner. It occurred to her what it would be like if she was hung, still awake, left to drip her last drops into a bucket, all that I might have the perfect tone of red for my work. "That, " I said pointing at the large canvas she had admired, "is not for you. So if you please, help us both by leaving my studio now for art that is..... safer perhaps?" I gave her another humorless smile. There was no real danger. But enough doubt that she breathed, carefully. Just once, then silently let herself out, allowing the blissful silence to return.

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layers of an onion

She died in the manner that she'd been in life - with not a single thought to how it would affect other people. I was the dutiful daughter. It wasn't complicated. The house sold. The prized possessions with new hosts. All of it was completed without a trace of drama. Everyone expects it was like some multi-layered emotional onion from an Amy Tan novel. I don't believe in the afterlife as a reality, but I believe in the afterlife as a metaphor. There is a romance to think that our ancestors live on through us - the painstaking result of countless generations before us. As I waited for the train home, I looked back one last time at her little town. Smiling to myself, I realized Mother's death taught me what I already knew - that one day death would claim me to, and finally, she and I might have something in common.
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new voices: the one equalizing moment

Now for some, it is instantaneous. Perhaps a piano falls on you like a doomed cartoon character. Perhaps shot on the battlefield. Perhaps you are at the end of a long, beautiful life clutching the hand of someone you love. I am not reliant on the promises of a heaven or the special planet of my own in a universe far far away. Death has never held power over me. It has always seemed like an inevitability. I have always said it is the one equalizing moment that every human being will share. Granted - we don't get to sit around and talk about it. but rich, poor, affluent, powerless, devout christian, demon worshipper, dog lover, cat lover. We are all going to face this particular task at some point. Avoiding it is foolhardy. I want to tell you about the beauty of that moment. It seems that everything is lik-
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new voices: follow, follow, follow

subway platform

'You were chosen to do something special in this world'. A phrase used not-so-innocently by unprepared parents as emotional novocaine. "Struggle hard, my love, for you, are chosen! Precious. Special." So you buckle down and work hard, you finish school, you marry a beautiful bride and start up a family. There is a sense that there is a prophecy to be fulfilled, there is a Chosen One to do it! If there's an adventure to be adventured, it is just waiting for you to take up the cause. However, on a particularly wet and cold Seattle December Tuesday afternoon in 1982, it comes you in a moment of heartbreaking clarity. You are in fact not the chosen one. Magic will actively avoid crossing your path. The only yellow brick road is the yellow strip telling you not to commit suicide in front a subway train. It wasn't meant to stop at your station, anyway. You express a slight smile, remembering your wedding night. Two twenty-year-olds giggling at being in bed together, naked and finally free. You remember that first shattering orgasm. She actually cried, caressing your sweat covered face, declaring you her special one - her chosen mate. The same one who left for a younger, sexier model whom she deliberately chose instead of you. The latest letter from her lawyer sits on the desk at home unopened. You find yourself a paycheck away from sleeping in a city park and cardboard sign ambitions. You shuffle along. You long ago stopped reading newspapers full of sparkling remarkable people doing special things and being recognized for it. Spotlights don't follow you. Certainly no. Why take stock of someone so unmistakenly ordinary.

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new voices: 99 problems

Sometimes a murder is on your mind for so long you imagine it every way. Such primal fury and passion, with a dash of luck. But before you put your Poirot and Jessica Fletcher proof plan into glorious action, how to do it? You could pay someone else – but everyone with cable TV knows how well that goes. The busted dumbass check writer (who pays for murder with a personal check?). Not Venmo either. How about cash. Jesus! Then you are on the six o’clock news with that “What happened, how did this not go my way” look as you are lowered into the police cruiser. You’re angry, not stupid. You can inflict pain yourself, throw them from a balcony so high in the air that they are dead from a heart attack before their body hits the street. Or you could poison them – research how much poison would be untraceable or symptomatic of some other disease, then watch your prey disintegrate in front of you slowly. but so many things can go wrong... there you are, wiping shit and drool from a slowly dying victim for two years. Who has the patience for that? No! The thought never leaves your mind until that one moment, when you are standing over the dying body, lost in watching their life drain away. Remember to smile for a moment. Oh, how you’ve earned that moment! By the time your emotional victory is finished, your prey is absolutely and completely gone. Savor that. You walk out of the room and look back at the corpse, singing back to it, “99 problems, and bitch ain’t one”… —–
The 150 words a day project is a daily writing exercise inspired by the ‘morning pages’ in Julia Cameron’s “The Artists Way”. They are a writing exercise in setting a scene – and for the next several – – speaking in a voice that is not my own. I post them because they provide lots of great feedback but if my subject line gets less romantic, less grounded – – it is because I’m experimenting with some new voices.
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new voices: All there was anymore

The event happened suddenly with no warning. An audible snap and everything changed. Everyone knows where they were when the event happened. The lives they used to live, the people they used to be. Now, ten years on - those kinds of reminiscence had stopped, and the reality of how to survive was at hand. When the event happened and commerce stopped, the great migrations began. People concentrated around areas that could actually sustain life versus the artificial playgrounds man had created for himself. Places like Six Flags became shelter for those whose homes became unlivable. Soon there would be generations that had not known life before the event. He would still occasionally dream of the hum of electricity, the whir of an air conditioner, the fingers tapping across a keyboard. So many warnings that global warming was happening and the earth was going to eventually defend itself. Scientists talk about how one morning, the earth's magnetic field shifted, air itself turned a slight orange color and rendered man's greatest invention forever mute. Alternating current simply ceased to exist. Anything requiring a plug rendered mute. He wondered for man in a few generations. Of course, he wouldn't be here to see it. He'd survived the horrible famine and disease of the first years. The diseases separating them all into desperate groups. Some suggesting the disease as evolution, that the ill were transforming into the next kind of human. Either way it revealed the worst of human nature, all the old fears replaced with all too real new ones. Some cycles just can't help but repeat themselves. He needed to stop thinking or it would make him immeasurably sad. He pulled the strap on his backpack, full of the day's forage. Carefully wrapped eggs he'd harvested. This would only last them a few days, though, and he would be back out in the wilderness again. He shook the thought from his head, if the event had taught him anything it was to not dream too far ahead. The right-now was all there was anymore.
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new voices: surety

The reasons I left are immaterial but it strikes me strange that nobody has asked me why I've returned.  Once they figure it out it'll all be finished anyway.
Therapists, the armchair psychiatrist - they will tell you that you can choose who your family is. While I suppose that's true, your original parents and siblings create you to a great extent. They create the first glorious, delicious moment where you go from loving to compassionless in seconds. The moment you can't choose to look away from.
They say when someone commits suicide they've reached a point of no return. When stepping in front of a train easily makes more sense than anything else. In a way, I can be glad for them, for their suffering is over in an instant. For me, a great many others will have to know suffering before salvation is mine. A surety, a selfishness I learned from the people who will suffer the most. They look away - but if they mistakenly stop and let the breeze come between us, they will suddenly become all too aware of what I am. -----
The 150 words a day project is a daily writing exercise inspired by the 'morning pages' in Julia Cameron's "The Artists Way". They are a writing exercise in setting a scene - and for the next several - - speaking in a voice that is not my own. I post them because they provide lots of great feedback but if my subject line gets less romantic, less grounded - - it is because I'm experimenting with some new voices.
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Bravery

I had driven by the place a dozen times over the past few months trying to get the nerve to walk in. I remember the relief discovering there was a back entrance so I didn't need to come from the main street. As nonchalantly as one does their first time in an adult store, I strolled passed the glass cases of toys and insertables. After a lot of stuff not meant for me, I finally found the section I was looking for. The black and white simple magazine I had heard about was right there on the shelf, as if people came looking for it every day. The cover model had the thickest mustache I think I have ever seen. I looked around to make sure nobody could see me and touched the cover. Maybe another day I would come back and be brave enough to actually pick it up.
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Nap

"That was the hubby," he said setting the phone down on the table, "Just reminding me that we wanted to nap before the dyke march tonight."
"Wow, you guys are so romantic - you guys wait to nap together?" "Oh - well, it is romantic but not how you think. It's a code word. He's a horndog - needs to get it on all the time, but saying instead if saying "sorry we need to go home and fuck", we say nap. Which is an acronym for needy anal penetration! Cute, huh!? So we can get away from his sister's by saying "we're tired we're going to get a n.a.p. in before theater so we need to get going" or at work he can say "I just layed down for while but ended up n.a.p.-ing all afternoon on Saturday" - and well, it is his cute thing." "It's even more romantic than I thought..you are soooo lucky." "I know. oooh the bus is here in two , gotta jet. Happy pride kisses! Mwha!"
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pieces

He wasn't sure how he was going to put it all back together. He's been home six months now and it was clear that nothing was going to be the same. Worse was that nobody here was someone he could expect to understand. Nobody here in little town Oregon had to sacrifice for Vietnam at all. Most everyone here had been able to play it safe. It was the poor sons of a bitches with no College and no hope of escape from the draft that did. As he made his way around town, you could see people's conversations about it trail off like forbidden whispers.
Over there, he'd met so many people, learning their jungle nicknames just long enough to remember them in a prayer service a few days afterward. He remember the day he was promoted and would be leading a squad. His men didn't know whether to congratulate him or say sorry. Who wanted to lead anybody or anything into the shit? He was lucky enough to have come home intact. At least, physically. He would come out here to the beach of his youth and let the dull roar of the surf replace the echoes of suffering ringing in his ears.
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magic

They warned you in training that the desert could be cold. Having grown up in Puerto Rico, it was what he feared the most. So he made sure he was an ace at starting a fire and always took the breakfast shift. His biscuits were the legend of the squadron. Fluffy perfect biscuits over a campfire. Grits and butter, oatmeal that didn't taste like spackle. Flexible yet crispy bacon. Flapjacks on Sundays. He knew the barest idea the horrors some of his mates saw and perhaps even did themselves. Afghanistan was an unforgiving angry place. It had been as long as the ground could remember such things. He knew his job was to create a respite. an oasis. Many soldiers reach for a rifle when they think of their weapon of choice, he reached for his grandmother's cast iron skillet. It was time for the magician to get to work.
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Only for You

A dear friend of mine died this week. As is my habit - I am not a public griever - and I usually turn to my journal and write and write and write. A child of the 80s and 90s - and the gruesome reality of the AIDS holocaust - I am no stranger to death.
 
This one caused me to pause and stop - hard.
 
While this post isn't autobiographical, it does make me smile and tear up and then smile again. The hardest things when someone leaves us are sometimes the thoughts of where we might have journeyed together had it turned out differently and how to process that it will never happen. I have so many names of people I miss - people who created beautiful moments in my life. I miss them all. but perhaps in writing and incorporating all these beautiful stories into my writing, as an author is prone to do, the beautiful truth of who they were will continue to be experienced.
 
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Only for You
 
I would hear windchimes and recognize the wind as a southern Idaho breeze. I would realize the chimes were in G major. Because I'm anal retentive that way. G Major - all christian rock from 1970 on - is in G major and C major. When you flip through radio stations you can tell you've landed on the all christian all the time station by the lack of minor keys and the use of a 1980s KORG piano in 2017.
 
I remembered meeting you in the drugstore on 5th street. We’d found each other and knew immediately that having done so made us different. It all became the way we used to be. We didn't need to find a way to make how it was supposed to be work. We had found a new way.
 
I remember the grassy slope of the park and how we discussed every constellation on those scary clear Idaho small town nights. This was the only public time or place being near you was allowed. We hadn't quite found our escape path yet.
 
I would smell the dusty inside of my volksvagen when we'd moved from foothills of Yellowstone to the land of Yosemite. How we'd sing along to Amy Grant records then pull over and jack each other off in the middle of the desert. It's not that Amy Grant turns me on - or turned you on necessarily - its just that the two things became paired as a result of that trip.
 
I remember our first moments in San Francisco. We'd parked the vdub in our new garage and before touching a box, took a walk down Castro street hand in hand. I remember when you said "hey - I'm going to write a book" and I smiled with encouragement. You weren't the best at finishing things then. But imagine my surprise when you brought it to me to read. I remember being so proud of you.
 
Then the sadness came, we recognized it in the auburn ripples in each other's eyes. The sadness. Oh, how the world stopped when you pushed me up against the wall of the club, both of us drunk and using our lust to try to escape it.
 
The first time I saw you at the podium speaking about the sadness and triumphing over it, I was so proud. Still keep that chip in the small pocket in your jeans? When I saw the sadness creeping back in, I cried. I still do.
 
I don’t know where you went when you left, but I wait on the stoop for you. You’ll turn ‘our’ corner in your heavy black boots, thick Italian hair shining in the sun. You’ll avoid looking at me until the very last second. But when you do, we’ll fight the sadness together.
 
Accepting the fact that my romantic notion will never come true has been really hard. That's what I get for being a romantic.
 
In the abstract, the fact that the sadness claimed you is hard enough - but the letter from your sister about how they'd found you. Your earbuds in - the gentlest of smiles on your face. You were no longer there, however. But you'd left the saddest smile behind. I remember admitting to friends I wish I'd done more - wish I'd worked harder to keep the sadness away. only to realize that the sadness was part of our DNA - and that surviving the sadness wasn't the path meant for you.
 
as these things sort them out - I had let myself forget about the sadness and the way it had seemed to silently claim you amongst the noise of the world. Then here I was two months later at your memorial service. Only for you would I come to a memorial service. Only for you.
 
I came out of the daydream - the priest was still droning on about how compassionate God is and this and that. I leaned to my friend and said "I'd had enough God, for now, I'm going to go take a walk." I got up and walked down the aisle and my eyes caught view of the labyrinth painted into the floor of the sanctuary. I let out a sigh, knowing how would have held me by the hand at the sight of it and insist that we solve it. I remember saying "but what if it leads to the dead end, what if you never reach the end?"
 
I am sitting here now on the stoop. Drinking a glass of horrible chardonnay.
 
I am a better person for having known you on a starry night or in a fight or in an orgasm or in a birthday party -
 
...oh hell.. what's the point of listing off all the times that you made happen? Cheers, my dearest. I will miss you.
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every one since the fall of 1972

Mornings are like a blessing handed to us directly from God. I have been awake for almost every one since the fall of 1972. You walk out into the darkness with your light and sit by the fire as the coffeewater boils. As you finish your cuppa, you mount up - and lead by your light, you leave the safety of the campfire. Within a few feet, Orion makes itself visible, it's belt straddling the northeastern sky. You can feel and see your breath - thankful for that coat ya got. You blow out your light, strap it to your saddle, as you look up, it begins. The ground around your horses feet almost starts to feel liquid as the darkness is slowly touched and starts to ever so slowly melt away. As the eastern sky starts to glow - the static, the certainty of the night stillness gives way to a quivering quake of anticipation. The insects first, then the birds hear it coming. They know the blessing too, and count upon it. The tendrils of the sun burst over the horizon like a compass needle. You wince at first, but then the warmth strikes you in the soul, and it all makes sense.
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boil until trouble

She re-read the spell carefully. All of the spells so far had been excellent, but this one was the most complex yet. Eye of newt. Dried Owl nail. yes, yes. perfect. boil till trouble. yes. oh crap. really? Where was she going to find a plump child in this neighborhood? Rents were too high and families didn't live in the city anymore. really? It's 2017 - couldn't they find some kind of magical vegetarian substitute for a plump child? What if the child wasn't plump and she had to keep it caged and fed on lemon meringue pies and snickerdoodles? This spell is too much work. TOO. MUCH! All the squirming and the crying when they go in the pot, worse than lobsters for hell's sake. Well, this wouldn't do. The last thing she needed was snooper wondering if she'd abducted the plump little child from the international school playground. And who the hell creates a spell with only three tablespoons of fresh plump child, what was she supposed to do with the rest? She didn't have enough tupperwares. She reached out and stroked the fur of the cat. Thank goodness for her familiar, the one being who understood her. He let out a loud purr of satisfaction. She set the book down and moved to her computer. She gently typed, "Dried essence of plump child. overnight delivery." and with a wave of her grizzled hand - it began its search.
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The Girl in 9A

"Chopin. Again," he thought to himself, listening in the night as the woman in 9A practiced piano. She always fumbled at the same place. He had seen her in the hallway. A hurried cloud of ennui, she never seemed happy. He wondered when the tsunami had hit and left her so. He imagined a day job where she played the part of a happy young person full of promise and youthful energy. Or whether she was so outrageously happy somewhere else in her life she had no more to share elsewhere. He wondered if her time at the keyboard made her smile. The smile she purposefully hid from everyone else. He always hoped for her. Always hoped. He lay in dark and counted how many times she tried, like some might try counting sheep. He listened patiently until the splattered chord of desperation ended the recital. "One day, darling, one day. And it will be glorious!", he thought, drifting off to sleep.
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"Today will be fool of awbsome", he said somberly. "Today will be full of awesome, mon spécial," Celeste affirmed. "I donna understand why I can be with you unstead," he softly protested.
"it's time for new adventures for both of us - you, " she said. She straightened the primary school name tag. She leaned into his hoody and traded a nose kiss. "...and for Mommy...." "I will miff you." "Oh lovey, I will be back after and you can tell me everything. New people and things. Sammies and juicyboxes?" "and you go to the .... work," he said. He still wasn't very clear on what the word actually meant, he was also sure that an afternoon's lunch felt an eternity away. "Oui, Mommy gets to go back her studio and do her work." "I will miff you.", he said, resisting. He was piling on as much charm as is possible from a five-year-old. He pushed his small fists up against her hands as she straightened his hood. She softly sighed in a magical and wistful way he'd remember the rest of his life. "I just can't keep you all to myself anymore. You have too much beauty for me to keep it all to myself. You are growing up and need to know things Mommy can't teach you." He fell silent. She allowed herself one more moment to be lost in the marbled hazel of his eyes.
 
This was my entry for 150-Words-A-Week club. Come see what the other writers are creating at https://www.facebook.com/groups/150WordsAWeekClub/
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Arata

She was on the beach - surrounded by friends. They caught me looking, and their laughter disappeared to giggles behind their hands. She gazed back at me with an intoxicating mixture of shyness and confidence. We would officially meet later that weekend. I had come out to watch the sunrise, it seemed the rest of the world was forever asleep. Except for her.
Her name meant "fresh and new" in the oldest of Japanese. Arata. She laughed at the caucasionality of my simple "Henry." I was "Enree". I was visiting Japan on my way home from serving in the Peace Corps in the Philippines. A farmboy from Idaho. When I met Arata's parents, I was the first American of peace they'd ever met. Their generation had seen such terrible things, experienced the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. His father said in broken English, he believed I had shinrai or trust that he had never seen in one of us before. "Us", the "other". When it was clear we were to become more than just a passing fancy, he took it upon himself to teach me their family history, so that it would not as he said "disappear in the melting pot." I wrote my parents explaining that I had met Arata and thought perhaps that my place was with her in Japan. I could feel my mother's heartbreaking that her boy was not coming home. I could feel my father's pride that I had found my own way in a complicated world. My Arata and I were married on a beautiful fall afternoon in 1967. I had never thought myself the marrying type. As I climbed into bed, naked against my wife that first evening, I had never experienced anything more beautiful in my entire life, except for her.
----- This was my entry in week four of the "150 Words a Week Club" on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/groups/1855374944730803/
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the dream

He woke up from the dream startled. "How did I get back here, what is this? oh, I'm in my room and it's Thursday. and I'm still. I'm still here." He touched his face, confirming his conclusion. It had all been so real. "It all lasted only last 34 minutes", he thought to himself glancing over at the digital readout on the nightstand He spun his mind into a slow reset. The room was still that strange color blue. He was not married, did not have a pair of great kids. He did not have a desk job. He had not spurned them by seeking wealth and power. He had not hit her. The pain of the divorce had felt so real, so palpable. "I will never be like him, never.", he muttered affirmatively, outloud. The rage to accomplish having consumed him, he awoke that day realizing he'd burned everything away.
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singularity

It is interesting how these events stick in us, every detail. The photo was a singularity. The little girl with the perfect Shirley Temple curly hair, introduced everywhere as 'Daddy's little girl.' It was thirty years ago, but he could describe and remember every detail - - the dew, the plastic easter eggs, Gran's voice and the smell of champagne brunch.
Those ridiculous pearls! She burst into the room suddenly, wrapping his legs in a strong hug. "Eafster!", she said with toothy three year old grin, "Eafster Hug!" He looked down into his daughter's big brown eyes. She would soon be at the age where innocence gives way to discovery. He was excited and terrified for her in the same thought. "Come on Phil, we are going to be late!," his wife called from other room. Phil set the picture of his childhood back up on the shelf and headed out to the Easter Egg Hunt. It wasn't that he was ashamed, or unhappy, remembering his years as Kylie. He just wasn't wearing costumes any longer.
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Tempest

He'd come up the path seeking forgiveness, only to hear impenetrable, uncomfortable silence. The kind that tears into the soul laying all it's faults to bare at his muddy boots. Every mistake played over and over, every hesitation, every obstacle to allowing himself to be happy pounding in his ears. The forest around him seemed to drip regret in collusion, still bent by the will of the springtime storm that had come through the night before. He had walked to this trail so many times over his broken life, a creek to the ocean as his constant metaphor. In the distance he could hear the falls brighter than ever before. As he walked, the mud started slapping at his boots, and he realized the creek was above it's banks. He turned the corner and touched his face in a gasp. The night's storm had turned his personal, peaceful waterfall into a torrent bursting over the edge. Staring the roaring tempest in the face, the swirling steam of mother nature forcibly replaced the stench of expectations, the roar overwhelming the daggers of doubt and ego. It all became a meditation. He was beyond tears at his point, simply letting the transformed landscape do its work upon him. "In the end only three things matter, " he could hear in his head, "how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of the things not meant for you."  
 
Today is week 2 of the ‘150-Words-A-Week Club’ – using a “muse” photo as a jumping off point – writers are writing a 150-300 word post about whatever comes to mind. 🙂 This photo is this week’s photo. Come see what other folks are writing about at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1855374944730803/?ref=bookmarks
 
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God and Carpeting

How could I be normal? My parents' values were God and carpeting. In the spring of 1975, it was installed. A blinding beige shag. If we weren't Mormon, it could have been the scene of an amazing neighborhood discotheque. However, God was involved, so it was to be kept pristine. Shoes would never see the inside of that house again until 1992. Both of my parents had planned carefully for the day the shag arrived. Mom had returned from KMART with a WesselWork Shag Rake. It was a new fangled vacuum that had been specially designed for shag carpet. She was going to do Pop proud by keeping the new field of beige in dinner-party-ready condition. Pop supervised its delivery and installation like a foreman at a construction site, complete with hardhat and cigar. This was despite the fact that it was July and Halloween was months away. I can remember going out into the living room in the light of early morning the next day. The house was silent - but I knew Pop's alarm clock would soon bring the entire household to life.  I carefully laid myself down upon the beigestrosity and did snow angels.
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Someone Who Listens


Today is week 1 of the '150-Words-A-Week Club' - using a "muse" photo as a jumping off point - writers are writing a 150-300 word post about whatever comes to mind. :) This photo is this week's photo. Come see what other folks are writing about at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1855374944730803/?ref=bookmarks
This is my submission for the week:       SOMEONE WHO LISTENS "So, d'ya hear someone moved into the old Smith place?," she asked looking up from her coffee. "One of the kids finally decided -" "Dolores always had such great kids,...," "One of 'em was the track star, right? and the other some kind of professor, eh?" "Oh yeah, and gay, so sad." "I thought gay meant happy." "Gay as in Adam and Steve." "oh......oh dear." "I wonder if their father being gone so much was to blame?" "Wonder what a pair of gays from Manhattan 'd be up to here in Goat Hill." "What could gays possibly want here?" "Peace and quiet like the rest of us probably." "So will we have one of those gay pride parades in the park then? I love parades." "Oh I don't think the town is ready for that. Gays in Goat Hill, what is this world coming to?" The waiter abruptly interrupted. "So - let me review - french toast, a bagel sandwich with fruit no banana, basic egg breakfast with sausage patties and extra crispy hash browns and the oatmeal with dates, walnuts and brown sugar? Coffee for everyone and an orange juice and a grapefruit?" "Yes, that's great dear. Good to have someone here that knows how to listen." "Speaking of that? I'm Dolores's boy, Mike," replied the waiter, calmly, "Me and Mitch bought the Little Goat." He paused to wave at the man setting plates in the window, who enthusiastically waved back. "I hope you ladies enjoy your meal."    
   
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pork chops

The butcher always had signs of sweat and hard work about him. I put little colored pencil gold stars next to the ingredients I’d need from his counter. Ordering pork chops made me so goddamned nervous while simultaneously making me smile involuntarily for hours afterwards. He always tells me how nice it was to see me again, and then wreck me with that soft, irrepressible smile. Instead of telling him how beautiful he was, would he like to join me for dinner? Would he hold my hand while he toured my garden? Instead, I nervously mumble a ‘thank you’ and rush for the check stand. “Startling blue eyes and a delicate, fluffy blond beard…” I daydreamed into my journal. One day there would be a knock at my front door. He’d be standing there in a freshly laundered flannel shirt, holding a rose. He’d know I was ready to let go of all the reasons. That there would be no more running away.
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WombMates

Reimagine the womb as this rocking New York high rise apartment. Lots of space, unlimited food. Two men having these long conversations together. They'd play invented games and speak their own personal language. They'd become so synchronized their hearts would beat at the same moment. After nearly nine months of hanging out without a care in the world, one of the twins suddenly announced he was going to leave the womb to get fresh air. It never occurred to him to do so until that very moment, but it seemed like the natural thing to do. He got up and put on his coat, and cap and scarf - and he simply stepped out the front door. The other twin had barely noticed - he looked up as the door shut. "So this is alone," he thought to himself, "Huh." He sat on the sofa a bit stunned. He had never before considered that the world could ever exist without the other being there. He let out a sigh and returned to reading his magazine, flipping on the stereo to some jazz. Eddie Harris. Ornette Coleman. After a while, he went into the kitchen to finish some leftover deli sandwiches from the fridge. He'd fidget a little and listen to the radio for a while.... and then, worried about what his twin was up to - he'd simply let out a big sigh - before putting on his coat, cap and scarf in exactly the same fashion his brother had done before him just twelve minutes earlier. He would stand in the doorway for a moment looking at the apartment, smile, then turn looking out in the daylight and in a very 1960s sitcom buddy comedy way, he'd say - "Okay - - - I don't know what's out there but I'm coming to." leaving, and gently closing the door behind him for good.
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just a little longer

His back against the big oak tree, he could see the entire lake. The splatter of wet red and yellow leaves suspended in the tall grasses made him smile. He liked the solitude available here in fall and winter. He tucked his scarf into his coat, and smiled to himself. In summers, the field is mowed and packed with picnics, mobs of kids playing tag, and kites on the afternoon wind. The inner waterway and the mountains beyond it opened up just for him this morning. Behind him was the city and the sound of appointments, the stench of responsibilities, the ghosts of regret. It felt so good to get out of the stream of all the movement, to let the world stop moving. The wind whipped around him, the darkening northern skies bringing the first winter storm. He smiled again, sipped his thermos, and decided he’d stay there a while longer.
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strings of gray

We put away our suit jackets and put the ties back on the hanger in the closet. He came to me silently and retrieved the cufflinks from my shirt. I went to the bar and poured a scotch, dropping a couple of ice cubes. I left it on the small side table next to his chair in the living room. I went back to the bedroom, put on my favorite sweats and a ratty t-shirt. Returning to the living room, I found him laid back in his chair. The strings of gray in his beard lit up in the sunlight striking his face from the window. “What are you looking at?” he said, dismissively. “My beautiful husband.” “Oh good lord….. I may have been beautiful in 1993 but today I’m just a tired old mess.” I walked over to him and knelt between his legs and he held me in for a hug. He reached down and tousled my hair. Holding me in tighter, he whispered, “I know today wasn’t easy, lovey. It’ll be okay.”
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"When it becomes important enough to you, you'll figure out how to change it, but only then," he said to me suddenly. He sat across from me at another table, drinking from a small porcelain espresso cup and simultaneously smoking a hand-rolled cigarette. It was like he'd actually punched me in the chest the impact of his words hit me so hard and he could see it, too. "Obviously, this thing? What you are unhappy about?," he said with a dramatic gesture like 'it' was sitting next to me at my table, "It isn't enough yet, or you'd figure out a way to change it." I had spent the entire walk to the shop from my apartment arguing with my ex and then arguing my mother on the phone. The ex wanted money, he wasn't getting it. Mother? Well, she wanted "unconditional love," and she wasn't getting what she wanted either. So many people needing around me. Neither of them asked how I was. Nobody gave a fuck, actually. I was angry. Angry at everything around me. I had let anger infiltrate, then navigate every situation around me - every friendship, every job, and every personal relationship to the very worst destinations. I became one of those angry queers stomping around the Castro wondering why it always happened to me. I was ignoring others - who were on their own journeys of anger, need, and selfishness. I'd come up the block and threw myself down in a pile and barked a coffee and pastry order at the waiter. "I know you, because I used to be you.....," he said, looking over his glasses like a grandfather might, "But darling, what do I know? I'm just an old queen in a gay neighborhood full of stroller straights and people I don't know anymore. Take me with a big grain of salt." He took a final triumphant puff on his cigarette, working to capture every last delicious vapor in a final inhale before crushing it underfoot on the sidewalk at my feet. Then just as suddenly as he'd appeared, he was gone. The Castro could be like that, sometimes, sidewalk cafes filled with ghosts. Of course, I didn't see the truth of what he said for a year or so. Then one day, it happened. I almost circled it on the calendar like a special, important holiday. I would make changes, I would get help and no longer going to lead through life by anger. I remember recanting the story in a group therapy session a few months later. The man with the perfectly ironed shirt, grandfather glasses and the Marlboro colored mustache. "What kind of asshole was that guy?!," one of my fellow group members blurted out, interrupting me. He looked around expecting everyone else to pile on with insults and snark on this someone they'd never met. I smiled softly and replied, "a wise one."
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awaken...

The man looked around the room noticing the overwhelming sameness. It was a round turret shaped room with stark white walls, white sheets, white dresser, multilayered white window dressings. Nothing in the room but the simple dresser, the bed and a ridiculously oversized floor to ceiling mirror. A silver tray stood alone on the dresser with a bottle of perfume and a set of stainless steel matching ladies grooming tools. He'd woken up in the middle of a Joan Crawford set piece instead of someone's bedroom. He was struggling to remember much of the night before. He got up and walked up mirror. He took a careful look around at his body in the mirror. "No marks, thank god," he thought to himself. He let out a little hungover groan, pulling on his jeans and the dirty t shirt he'd thrown on to go down to the bar for a quick beer.  Twelve hours later both his credit card full of 'rounds for the bar' and his head were living the reality of the night before.  Fully awake, he began to plot his escape. He opened the door to find the walls of the rest of the apartment were covered in art almost floor to ceiling, the wall behind painted in deep primary colors. It was all so different to the room he stood in, a deliberate void. He smiled looking back and forth, standing in the void of white. There was a story here for sure. He slowly made his way down the hall, admiring the different paintings and photographs. One scene was a memory from a graduation, another looked like a cast party after a show, people in some all night banquette drinking cheap beer and laughing at everything, yet another was a stunning black and white photograph of a pair of sailors draped over one another in effortless intimacy. He reached forward to touch the photo as a voice gently spoke from behind him. "You slept well, we hope?" He turned to see two men in bathrobes on a long couch drinking coffee, with the Sunday Times strewn between them. "We sorta poured you in last night." "Sorry you slept in the deprivation chamber, " the other man said, motioning towards the round room up the hall, "but it's the only spare bed we had."
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Come Here

He had this incredibly gentle way of navigating the world. In retrospect, it is not surprising he was the first gay man I felt in love with. I was at a church social and I spied him speaking to someone across the loud, chaotic room in ASL. It's just about the rudest thing you can do to a deaf person in that situation, stare like a teenage girl getting a peek at Bobby Darin. It was the first time I got a glimpse of that silent snarl of disapproval. I quickly moved on in the party, and figured I'd totally blown it with him. Not that I've ever had much, but particularly when I was first out of the closet, I lacked any subtlety. I'd like to think over the years I've turned that into a charming trait people appreciate. I drove up to Washington DC the next weekend, it was the showing of the AIDS Quilt on the Mall. Truly, one of the single most impactful experiences of my young gay life. Frankly, it overwhelmed me. So that evening I found myself, as I'm sure others did, up against the wall of the Eagle with a scotch and soda in my hand, trying to shake it off. I looked around the bar, it was a humid evening, and I was appreciating all the barely dressed men parading by. That's when I noticed him again, two hours from our home in Norfolk, across the patio from me. Except, this time it was him that was doing the stare down. His presence was completely different from the night in the party in the fresh ironed dress shirt. He was beautiful. Short and muscular, and that almost unworldly dark brown beard with a hint of red. Twenty five years later and I can still remember every detail. He wore a very tight leather harness, chaps with an old fashioned well worn codpiece. Everything about his outfit showed attention to detail as well as leather that got worn a lot, comfortable leather. He was smoking a small black english pipe. While we played the stare game, wofts of soft white smoke would leave his lips, hesitating in his whiskers before floating away. He suddenly signed at me, flashing a pleasing smile. It took me a moment to realize what he was saying, and he repeated himself. "Come here. Come here and get a hug."
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Flame On!

"I think Stan Lee is gay." "and what do we base this amazing revelation upon?" "Just look at his body of work, sculpted abs on beautiful men leaping around and doing good things. and pretty costumes. Just because they've never drawn Wolverine and Dr. Doom having incredible buttsex doesn't mean it didn't happen." "Really, what about all the type-a male violence and sexism in comic books?" "oh get over it - Stan was writing in the 50s and 60s, everything was violent and sexist." "But..... somehow also, ultragay?" "exactly, take Jonathan Storm for example...." "Who?" "Jonathan Storm AKA The Human Torch? Fantastic Four? stay with me here - I mean - who else but a gay man would write a character that screams 'Flame on!', he said reaching his hands above his head like a Vegas showgirl, "when he needs his super powers, That's some megaserious, o.m.g. level faggotry right there. When I as six - I leapt off the roof of our house screaming, "FLAME ON!" and of course, fell and broke my arm. and ever since, I've been convinced Stan Lee was gay. " "You what? Of course you did," he said laughing,"First - pot calling the kettle black, second - how is this story related? and third - I don't read comic books but I'm pretty sure he never said it as flamboyantly as you just did, or he would have set several cities blocks on fire every time he did so." "You know, jealousy like that is a really ugly color on you." "mmhmm....."
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an entirely inappropriate smirk

It was the type of morning that would inspire the dreariest Emily Dickinson poem. The moon hung in the sky, shining through a slurry of fog. He mumbled veiled curses while defrosting the car lock on his pickup with a hairdryer. The family across the street burst from their house like a clown car at the carnival. He counted them. Brat Junior. Bratette. Baby Brat. Mom followed them out heading for the minivan.
"Good morning, Harold!", she chirped in the morning air like a Disney Princess. He waved wordlessly while wrapping the cord around the hairdryer. Throwing his bag in the passenger seat, he turned the ignition. As the truck started down the driveway, he heard her call out. In his side mirror, he could see his neighbor frantically running towards his car, waving her arms. His mind raced to the worst case scenario. Had he backed over their dog? Perhaps one of the brats? That last thought bringing an entirely inappropriate smirk. She knocked on his window. "Good morning, oh I already said that. Well, you were the only neighbor that didn't respond to the invite for the neighborhood association meeting. And there is a lot of important stuff to discuss." "I'll be there", Harold lied to her, "Work has been super busy, you know how that can be."
 
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