Quote of the week:

“They'd have to shoot me to get me back to Illnois."

~Abraham Lincoln upon going to WDC to become president

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gay Pride

Today was the Gay Pride Parade in Chicago. It’s my third favorite weekend in Chicago (followed by IML & Halsted Market Days, which I wrote about here: { http://randomthawghts.blogspot.com/2008/05/i-heart-chicago.html }
I had originally planned to go out to some of the bars this weekend. However, my sinuses had other plans, as I’ve been hit with another sinus infection. The only good part of this is, that when I went to my Dr., in addition to oral antibiotics (which prevented an plans of drinking), he also ordered a shot. My favorite, hot patient tech came in to give me my shot. If someone’s going to come in and tell me to ‘drop trou’, I’d prefer it be him. (Hey, we take small victories where we can get them.) Anyway, sleeping little and sleeping poorly for the past week, combined with the feeling that there’s a tiny man inside my head, using the back of my right eyeball as a punching bag. I wasn’t up for nights on the town. Saturday, I called Mike, the friend I recently reconnected with (that I wrote about here: { http://randomthawghts.blogspot.com/2008/05/two-unexpected-things-happened-this.html } , to see if he had plans with anyone for the Parade and if he’d like to hang out together to watch the parade. He had plans, but invited me to come along with him/them. I accepted. Mike and I share the same acerbic, dry sense of humor, mixed with a good amount of bitter cynicism. We also lust after the same types of men, so watching hot guys go by is a lot of fun with Mike…”11:00 O’clock-hairy chest, pencil eraser nips; 2:00 O’clock- scruffy beard, solid pecs…” and so on.
I first met up with Mike at Starbucks. From there we went to meet up with his other friends, who Mike knows because they are all friends of Bill. He sees Fred and introduces us. Fred tells us the other guys are a few yards away. We go over, and Mike introduces me to Frankie, Fred’s boyfriend (I’m using pseudonyms to protect the guilty and the innocent). “Umm, uh, hi Frankie, nice to uh meet you.” The others get a few yards ahead of us, out of earshot and I lean over to Mike and say, “I tricked with Frankie before.” AWWKKWARD!! This was not recent, 2 or 3 years ago, but still awkward. What would Miss Manners say is the appropriate way to handle this situation? Do you pretend you’ve never met? Do you acknowledge meeting, but not the circumstances? Mike laughed and said, “Let’s keep that info under wraps.” Not a problem. Mike and I stayed together in one spot back against a building under an awning , and the other guys went 10-15 feet up the sidewalk, at the curb, and we didn’t really mingle.
The Parade was really slow this year. There was about a 20-30 minute stretch where there was a stop in the procession. Rumor is that someone got sick/had an accident earlier in the route, which held up all of the floats behind. Then it got cloudy and dark, and started raining. I was glad Mike chose the awning spot earlier. Guys rushed to us and squeezed in. I love people watching. One of the humorous things to witness is the straight guys, who are trying really hard to be cool, and OK around us gays, but they haven't quite fully crossed to the other side of that bridge. As they are walking through the crowd--the sea of fags and dykes, they hold on to their girlfriends' hands as if they were super glued together, for fear that a momentary body separation will cause us gays to descend upon them and try to bring them play for 'our team'.
The clouds finally passed, and it quit raining. There seemed to be another lapse. It was getting dark again, so Mike and I opted to leave before the next cloudburst. I got to the El station just before the next downpour. It was a fun day, and good to spend time with Mike again.
Now my monologue about “Why Pride?” Every so often the occasional uniformed person utters, “Why do you need to have a parade? We don’t have ‘straight pride. Where’s our parade.” There’s no straight pride parade, because EVERY DAY is straight pride day. Until GLTB people are granted the right to marry, to file joint tax return, to not be prohibited from being with their partners in hospitals, to not worry about being fired for being gay, for not getting tied to a fence and pistol whipped and left to die, or getting bashed for walking down the sidewalk, holding hands, showing (appropriate) affection in public, until we no longer have a government (and president) who tries to be the first ever to make a constitutional amendment to specifically DENY civil rights to GLTB people, as long as people use the bible and religion as a weapon with which to persecute us, we will continue to have pride parades one day every year. The other 364 days we will remain a people who are proud and grateful being who we are. We aren’t going away.

Travel Logue in Reverse, Part 2-Redacted

I've written the next installment of my Travel Logue in reverse, and have read and re-read it. I've had to redact much of my own writing. In it I write about getting confirmation of my fears that my sister-in-law is a homophobe. Even though my relatives do not read this, I don't think I want those thoughts in a public forum until/unless I can tone it down. Because, I'm extremely pissed and not sure how I want to handle it. Perhaps I'll continue editting and post the re-write.

Monday, June 23, 2008

JOLT & A Weekend of Firsts

This is a two-fer posting, as I seem to have difficulty in my desired regularity in daily or multiple times a week in posting. I still haven’t continued the travelogue.

This post falls in line with the I Heart Chicago posting a month ago.

I took off Friday. My plan is to take every other Friday off during the summer to give myself some long weekends to do things like catch up on my blog. I obviously failed.

Friday night I had plans with my friend Mark to go to the free concert in Millenium Park. Chicago does this wonderful thing of providing free concerts and movies in Millenium Park during the summer. Before Millenium, it was Grant Park. There is the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, who play (and sing) classical music. They also get big names to perform. After Taste of Chicago in July, they will start up with Tuesday night movies. People bring picnic dinners, their lawn chairs and blankets and settle in for a night of entertainment under the Chicago sky. (I’d say ‘under the stars’, but you really can’t see them in Chicago).
It’s great, because you have the melting pot that is Chicago at these events, from the white collar ‘suits’ of Michigan Avenue, to poor students from the Art Institute School, to the laborers, and immigrant families.

Anyway, Mark and I were going to picnic and go to the concert. (I don’t even know who was performing. The weather had been dicey most of the day threatening rain and actually raining. We held off until late afternoon, and we decided, yes the weather was going to cooperate. Then it rained a bit, and we opted to go see a movie instead. We have the rest of the summer for picnics and shows in MP. We went to see “The Visitor”—very good flick, I highly recommend it. Mark and I hadn’t see each other, talked in quite a while so we were catching each other up on our lives. In the El, on the way home, Mark says, “And how’s Euckie?” It was like I’d been punched in the stomach—no, it was like he had reaching down into my throat and pulled my intestines back out through my mouth. I stammered out, “Didn’t you get my email in April?! I had to have Euckie put to sleep.” He’d forgotten. He apologized. But it really threw me, because well, it really threw me. Although it’s become ‘routine’ to come home and know that she’s not there to greet me, it’s still difficult on occasion, when I first open the door and for that split second have forgotten that she’s gone, until I open the door and she’s not there. It still sucks shit. But, I was surprised that I had such a visceral reaction almost 3 months after the fact. Fucking grief that lurks around the shadows then sucker punches you when you aren’t expecting it—I loathe you. The times that are difficult, that you would think would be the opposite, are the times when I can be more spontaneous, and not have to worry about getting home right after work, or making plans to go out and be away during the usual walk and feeding times. I mean, I’m now freed up to be more spontaneous, and meet someone after work or go out Saturday afternoon and stay out without coming home in between times. (See story below.) In some ways, that makes her absence all the more profound. Let me repeat. It just sucks shit.

Unlike Marc Acito http://marcacito.blogspot.com/ , who has made it a point to do something new every day, I have made no such self-commitment. (Apologies to gdad--I tried making the hyperlink word, and couldn't get it to work--that Turrette's like string of obscenities you heard on Monday night coming from Chicago and me trying to make the freaking thing work.) Saturday morning I woke up early, as my body seems wont to do now that I no longer need to do so for early morning walks. I ate my cereal, drank my mocha latte, and checked things on the computer. I called my friend Bart, who I go with to the gym on Saturdays to see if he wants to go earlier. It’s usually noonish or after when we go. He didn’t answer, must still be in bed. (It was after 8:30 for the record.) I call a bit later and he begs off for the day. So, I get my gym bag, and hop the train. When I’m leaving, I check my phone and there’s a voice mail from my sister*, Karen. She and Brian (her husband) had tickets with friends (another heterosexual couple) for a concert at Soldier Field, and because of all the rain, and crop situation, Brian had to stay and do farm work. Would I like to go in his place. It’s county music—Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, Leanne Rimes, and Gary Allen. I’d heard of the first 3. I’m not a country music fan. I’m not anti-country music (mostly), it’s just not something I follow. It was a chance to see Karen, so yeah, why not?! It’ll be great to see Karen, and I’ve never been inside the Stadium at Soldier Field. This would be a first. I know it may be hard to believe, but I don’t have season tickets to the Bears games.

We made the arrangements of where to meet at outside the Stadium. The concert is to begin at 4:00. They’d been waiting 10-15 minutes when I arrived about 4:30. Karen dispenses the tickets, we go through the gate. We cannot take our open bottles of water in. Karen can’t take her umbrella. WTF, are we at the airport?! Are these guys TSA guards? Now, had I had a flask of Vodka in my back pocket, we could have gotten in easily with that.

Now, admittedly, it’s been many, many years since I’ve dated women. But I’ve don’t plenty of social activities with women in the interceding years. I don’t remember this: I think once we get in the stadium, we’re going to find our seats. My mistake. First, the woman friend wants to stop at the T-Shirt vendor to check on Keith Urban shirts. (Karen and her friend have crushes on Keith.) She doesn’t like them. OK, off to find our seats. Oh, no. Now they need to go to the bathroom. We find them one level lower. We get back to our level. Let’s get beer while we’re down here. OK, that’s copacetic. We get the beer. NOW, off to the seats. “Oh, why don’t we get something to eat while we’re down here.” I swear, I think it took us over 45 minutes from entering the gate to actually sitting our butts in the seats! Is this typical heterosexual married life? OMG, I was ready to scream. This is the stuff of sitcoms that are supposed to be parody.

The concert itself hadn’t started yet. The music we’d been hearing was recorded. I leaned over to Karen and said, “I don’t mean to be stupid, but who is this we’re listening to right now?”

The concert begins with the Gary Allen guy. He’s good. Then Leanne Rimes. I’d at least heard of her. She was good. Then comes Keith I liked him a lot. To me, he has more of a 70’s rock vibe, a la Eagles, America, Lennard Skinner. And, he’s really pretty hot. I now understand the crushes on him. Nicole was there. The jumbo tron showed her a couple of times. Friday had been Nic’s birthday, and Keith had the audience of 50,000 people sing Happy Birthday to Nicole, while the screen showed her blushing. And speaking of hot—there were a LOT of hot buff country boys at this concert. Who knew so many hot men liked country music. Damn, I may have to begin expanding my musical horizons. It was like the pretty boy section at the gay bars. In addition to the hot men, there were a lot of overweight women, wearing clothing that did nothing to hide, nor showcase their bodies in a flattering manner. With all of the hot men and fat women, it made me think I was the voyeur at a convention of pretty gay men and their fag hags. But, I digress.

I really enjoyed Keith. He’s an excellent entertainer. He did something I haven’t often seen. After he sang his first few songs, he introduced his band, and highlighted each member individually, giving them a turn in the spot light to play and/or sing. I liked that.

By the time it was Kenny Chesney’s turn, it was getting dark. Midway through his concert, the Saturday night fireworks went of at Navy Pier, and we were in a prime spot in the stadium to see the fireworks display over Lake Michigan. This was another Chicago first for me. It was after 11:00 pm when Kenny ended the show. It was a fun afternoon/evening. I had many firsts: Inside Soldier Field (for an actual event even), my first country music concert, my first outdoor stadium “Big League performer” concert, first time seeing the downtown fireworks from Navy Pier. The other firsts of my weekend are not for public consumption, so we’ll end the story with the concert.

* Karen, and her older sister Chris are the daughters of my Mom’s best friend from High School. Their parents are my Godparents, and who would have been my guardians had something happened to my parents when I was still a minor child. Karen and Chris have been more like siblings to me than my brothers, and for years we’ve introduced each other as sisters/brother when meeting one of the others friends. It’s the thing that gays have done so well in creating ‘family of choice’ when family of origin have not been what we need family to be.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Travel Logue, in Reverse Part 1

Travel log in Reverse, Part 1
I’m way behind. I’ve been back a week now from MD, and still don’t have my travels from Vancouver and MD done. I’m going to write my travel tales in reverse since I have almost two weeks worth to report, and since my blog posts the most recent item first, when all is said and done, it will read chronologically. I started this first entry when, well start reading…

I’m on the train home from downstate (Bumblefuck), back to Chicago. Just after we got in the SUV to go the train station-- (and I use that term loosely, as the depot has no staffed station any longer. It now houses a tanning spa {again, using THAT term loosely}, there is a makeshift ‘shelter’ to apparently protect one from the elements, when waiting for your delayed train, there’s no building or station in which to wait—I had to walk out into the street, and cross the tracks, to enter the car I was to board—the freaking engineer apparently cannot bring the designated car to the actual boarding area—but I digress. We were in the car to the train ‘station’, and my phone rings. It’s an 800 number, and I hesitate answering, but I do. It’s AMTRAK,
“Mr. gayCMEguy, I’m glad I got you, this is Barbara from Amtrak, have you received an update on your 11:27 train from town near BF to Chicago?”
ME: With a hint of reservation in my voice--NO, I’m on my way to the station now.
AMTRAK: There are technical difficulties with your train, it’s still running, but there is no air conditioning on the train. The train is only running a few minutes late. We are also providing bus service and are offering you the option of train or bus w/ A/C. The bus will be running on time. You don’t have to tell me or decide now. Since there’s no station with personnel, you just board whichever. you decide.
I immediately regret, changing out of my shorts and into my jeans.
ME: What’s the arrival time difference?
AMTRAK: They’re on the same schedule, making all the same stops.
I decide that I’ll take whichever arrives first, presuming it will be the bus. At about 11:25, the lights flash and the gates go down on the street crossing. Wow, the train is on time! The train does NOT slow down, does NOT stop, and zooms by. When I arrived, there was what appeared to be a bum sitting/slumping in the shelter. I avoided him. When the train zoomed by, he got on his cell phone, had it on speaker. He was contacting AMTRAK about his train. He was southbound while I’m northbound. He makes small conversation about AMTRAK with me and my Dad. He has one front top snaggle-tooth, with the others appearing to be gnawed down to the gums. It was very distracting.
The Maryland trip:
I ran the gamut of emotions and realizations on this trip. Each time I’ve seen my Dad this year (3 x since Christmas), he is appearing more feeble. This year, for the first time, my parents seem old—seemed to have aged greatly. That’s a hard reality to witness. Now, I realize that I’m fortunate in still having my parents here in which to witness such events. But, it’s still hard. Another realization was that my parents have no business driving long distances. I don’t even want them driving to Chicago to see me. My Dad has always driven like an old man farmer. But his driving scared me. I ended up driving the majority of the trip (15 hours one way). The two short stints that Mom drove, was disconcerting in different ways.
Another emotion that ran high was anger. Since I learned to drive, has always been a terrible back seat driver. The last big driving trip I took with them was when I was college age. We went east to DC, and Gettysburg. This was 25 +/- years ago. I vowed then, I’d never take a trip with my parents again. I had thought that years and time might have mellowed Dad in this aspect. I was mistaken in this thought. I wanted to slap the shit out of him. At one point, gritting my teeth, I literally bit my tongue. I have the ulcered reminder still.

I waffled between, sadness for acknowledging the aging processes, to being extremely pissed off at him. My parents wake up before the ass-crack of dawn. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a morning person. Dad took the opening shift of driving. I’d take over when we stopped for breakfast. Sunday evening, after an extremely long and arduous day, filled with ample amounts of backseat driving, we were in Ohio. I was one raw nerve, and my eyes were starting to go batty, so I turned the keys over to Mom. We got through Columbus. I figure were going to stop soon, and I wanted to be able to search for hotels on the GPS (btw Garmin is a piece of shit—it was only good for locating hotels and restaurants, for directions, it sucks, I’m glad I did Mapquest, otherwise we’d still be circling Indianapolis). WE stop again at a rest area and Dad takes the keys from Mom. FUCK. We’re about 15 miles away from Springfield, roughly 60 from Dayton. Dad says, ‘we’ll just go on to Dayton.” I snapped. I said, “NO, we’re not! I’m done for the day. We are stopping in Springfield. I begin searching on Garmin. Because of my job, I discounted rates off the rack rate for lodging at all the major chains. So, I plan to call different ones to see who will give me the best government rate. I see a Marriott Courtyard. I think good, if the rate’s decent, it will be better than the fleabags we’ve been in the past 3 nights. I call. They have availability, and the state rate is $80. , cheaper than the MD Econolodge, and the same as the divey Red Roof Inn we were in the first night. Dad screeching to me, “HOW MUCH is it?! WHAT’s the AARP rate? I ask. My discount is better. I book the room, get directions, as I don’t trust Garmin to get us there. I hang up. Dad, asking me what hotel it is. I tell him it Courtyard, a Marriott discount franchise. “Well no wonder it’s so expensive!”
OH, NO HE DIDN’T JUST SAY THAT. This may have been when I actually bit my tongue. I simply said in a firm, but not angry voice, “This is NOT an expensive rate. It’s less than we’ve paid anywhere else.” I’ve never told my Dad to fuck off, but I came pretty damn close at that moment. My Dad was insistent that he was paying the expenses for the trip. Because of this, we all slept in one room, w/ 2 double beds. When I went up to the desk to check in, I took out my wallet and gave the man cash. Dad kept trying to put his credit card out. I told him I was taking care of it. (If you’re going to bitch about the choice, I’m not holding you responsible.) For the record, it was the nicest, and cleanest of any of the places we stayed. We check in, go to eat (at Bob Evans for the 5th time in 4 days, and 2nd time that day.) Fortunately, the Courtyard had a small gym and a pool. I definitely needed to work out some aggression, as well as needed some serious down time alone. Even though I was exhausted, and really could have gone to sleep, I knew I could not go back and stay in the room with them and keep that last raw nerve from unraveling. I hit the treadmill, did a few reps on the weight machine, and then went and sat in the whirlpool for a while until I got too shrivel. At this point I went back to the room, showered, grabbed the laptop and went down to the lobby bar to have a beer and check email, blogs, etc. The bar was closed, but I stayed down there for over an hour until my eyes could no longer focus, and I knew they’d be asleep.
I was pissed at him. I was pissed at myself for letting him get to me. I’m pissed that we so quickly fell back into the old patterns. I thought all these years later it would not be history repeating itself. FUCK! It was like I was 17 years old all over again. He pushed the buttons. Hell, he installed a good deal of them. The more he needled, the more obstinate I became in my resistance. As if this in and of itself wasn’t a living version of hell, six meals in 4 days were at Bob Evans. This was the payback for my refusing to eat at Cracker Barrel for their homophobic anti-gay hiring policies. OK, end of rant.

The Reception
The reception itself was a lot of fun. Meagan and Adam live out in the country in BF Maryland, by his parents’ on a plot of their land. They are not farmers, but it was farmland country. It was outdoors. They had a covered building, (as many farms do). The weather was unbearably hot and humid—pushing 100 degrees F. Adam (who trained to be a chef) did pretty much all of the cooking, prepping of the food. Meagan had it decorated in a very simple understated elegant manner for an outdoor reception. In what will go down as one of my favorite memories of my life, toward the end of the evening, the DJ puts on Dancing Queen by ABBA. Meagan had been up dancing with various people throughout the night. I hadn’t. When this came on, I looked at her, she at me. I gave her the “do you want to dance” signal. “Uncle Randy, YOU are my dancing queen!” We cut quite a rug (or slab of cement floor). Some of her girlfriends all came up and joined in with us. (Side note, WHY is it that I can attract a bevy of hot girls/women, but not the hot gay men?) This reminded me of another wedding reception years ago, for my friend Janet. She is the last woman I dated before finally coming out of the closet. At her reception, the DJ started playing “Someday My Prince Will Come”. Janet was clear across the room talking to other guests, and came running to me, and said, “There’s only one person I can dance with to this song!” And, we danced, creating a great life memory. This dance with Meagan takes a special place in the memory bank as well.
Adam knows that Tommy (my brother, Meagan’s Dad) like single malt scotch, so he order a bottle of Glenlivet for us. The two of us polished it off by the end of the night. I was pacing myself with the drinking, as I didn’t want to be driving all day hungover. I started with beer, and as hot and humid as it was, I was sweating it out almost as fast as I was drinking. Dustin (my nephew, Meagan’s older brother) was there with one of his best friends. They verbally arm twisted me into doing shots with them a couple of times.
An additional bonus was that I got to see Lisa, their Mom, my former sister-in-law, whom I adore. I hadn’t seen her for over 15 years. When I first came out, she was the one member of the family who was completely nonplussed by it, and accepted it (and me) without question. It was great fun seeing her (and members of her family) again.
…to be continued.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

On the Road Again

From the far Northwest to the far (sorta) Southeast. It’s Thursday night and I’m en route to Maryland (via automobile) with my parents. Nearly 12 hours on the road today. Hopefully, less than 5 hours tomorrow in the car. I did most of the driving. We hit 6 states today: starting in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, W VA (again) and Maryland. The purpose of the trip is to attend my niece’s marriage reception. The Wedding was in December. I wrote about her here http://randomthawghts.blogspot.com/2008/01/it-is-pretty-great.html.

(Apologies to Gdad--I'm too tired to play with and figure out the link naming thinging, you graciously explained to me.)

I just got back Tuesday from Vancouver, BC CANADA and haven’t even written about that trip yet, and here I am off to the complete opposite end of the continent. VC, BC was GR8, btw! I will write, hopefully this weekend.
My body’s internal clock is so whacked it doesn’t know what time zone I’m in, and whether I should be sleeping, eating or pooping.
One quick tidbit b4 I turn out the lights. After we, stopped, and got in to the motel--This ain't the like Hyatt in VC, BC) I went out to walk around, because I could not immediately go back to sitting. I wander up a road, up a hill, and find a mall. (How incredibly gay of me, I know.) There are no signs of cultural activities such as theatre, music, etc (unless you count Bravo network on the cable TV.) So, I'm wandering JC Penney's, just window shopping. I see a rack of cargo shorts, $40.00, marked down to $14.99, marked down further to $11.99. I can use another pair of shorts (30W), so I figure, I'll bite the bullet. I go to the register. The girl rings it up and says, "$2.11". I say, "WHAT?!", scrunching up my eyebrows. "Yeah, for any purchase over $10.00, you get a $10.00 discount. If you go back and find more, I'll can ring them up separately. I try to help out my customers." There were no more 30W on the rack. But, damn! This was better than a gay garage sale! These are brand new, tags still on, right off the rack. Oh, and the shorts includes a belt! For once a good WASTHTR!