Gay Day

Friday, April 25, 2008

So, here's the skinny:

I write memoirs.

Which, of course, are about my life.

I was not raised by wolves, I was not a crack whore, or a drag queen, or a CIA agent. My father was not Aaron Spelling, and my parents did not stick probes up my nose.

I was a "normal" person.

Well, sort of.

I grew up gay in the Ozarks, not an easy place to grow up gay.

Or straight, for that matter.

It was incredibly difficult, wanting to wear Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and deck shoes instead of Wrangler's and dingo boots. What made matters worse was that my older brother -- the quintessential straight boy -- was killed when I was just entering high school. I ballooned to nearly 260 pounds because I couldn't handle the truth (YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!). My parents, God love them, are eccentric as hell, but they loved me, and they struggled with me, and, finally, accepted me.

And then I worked in a conservative environment for many years, where I experienced full-on and subtle discrimination from a number of elite individuals who had no clue what it was like to be different in this world, to struggle with anything except where to go on winter vacation. I had no protection at work, or in the state I lived, and so I put up with it for as long as I could.

I deal with my life with humor and honesty. I write about those issues, which effect us all, gay or straight, man or woman, rural or urban, married or single: Family, love, acceptance, death, struggling to find out who we are in this messy world. As I say, I think the best memoirs force both the writer and reader to hold mirrors up to their faces and take a good, long, hard look at their lives.

So what the hell is the point of all this?

Well, it often seems that since I was not raised by wolves, or was not a crack whore, that my memoirs lack that HOLY SHIT! shock factor that many drool over. Further, it seems that being gay -- especially if you don't live on either coast -- has sort of "jumped the shark," like Fonzie, or global warming.

But, folks, that just ain't so ... we are a very divided country, too often filled with talk of "family values" and "morality," which is just a disguise for ignorance and hate.

Take, for example, the recent story about a gay rights activist who came to speak at a local college in Grand Rapids, but was then "uninvited." It became a local media firestorm. You can read about it here:

And then, I urge, go ahead and read the comments that were posted. Shocking.

Let me say this again, clearly:

I was born gay. It was not a "choice." No one would make a choice to be hated, or to fear losing his family, or to feel ostracized much of his life.

I knew from this from very early on ... I mean, people, I had a crush on Robbie Benson. I wanted to marry Christopher Atkins. I would never have pulled a Brooke Shields and gotten my period and wanted off the island.

My parents did not abuse me. I was raised in a wonderful (albeit nutty) home.

I am well aware of the scriptures which seem to condemn me. I have read the Bible. I have studied the Bible. We all fall short, every day, in one or another, especially if you study the Bible. But I also know that being gay is simply who I am. I caused more destruction and chaos and horror by pretending to be straight than I ever have being gay. I have an unwaivering faith in God; I have been tested, time and again. When all is said and done, however, I believe our spiritual test will be akin to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire ... each of us, one-on-one, with God, trying to answer some hard-ass questions. And, all w/o a phone a friend.

My relationship with G. is now nearing its 12th anniversary. We pattern our relationship after those of our grandparents and parents, whose marriages endured incredible horror and beauty, but sustained to be forces that were truly magical.

And yet, discrimination continues. In full force. Even if people pretend that it's jumped the shark.

But, I believe, so does love, and faith, and friendship, and belly laughs.

And this is what I convey with my books. Few of us are crack whores, or offspring of wolves ... and that's a good thing. Most of us are just people ... struggling with similar issues. And there's nothing like a memoir to connect us all.

Diatribe over.


Spring, Sprite, Savannah & St. Augustine

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

We have wound our way back to Michigan from south Florida, our car fueled by near $4 a gallon gas, and us fueled by Pringles, Combos and Twizzlers, the base of any great food pyramid. Our two mutts, Mabel and Marge, loved the trip. Anything having to do with cars and sleeping ... they're in.

On our way back, we stopped first in St. Augustine, the oldest city in America. We toured the old Spanish fort and historic town, and Gary insisted we tour Ripley's Believe It Or Not. (You can take the boy out of the country ... ) For $20, I'd rather have gotten a handjob and souvenir postcard, but it made my man happy. There's nothing like seeing paintings made from lint, or two-headed chickens to make you think, "What a great country we live in."

We stayed in an old, old bed and breakfast, dating from the late 1700s, which is said to be haunted. We harrassed inn staff into telling us all their stories -- of doors being held shut, and seeing an old man rocking in front of the fireplace -- and they took us to all the rooms where they said they had seen ghosts. Gary, of course, said he could "feel a presence." He says he has "the gift" ... I tell him his "gift" is his ability to get his bang a foot high.

Fully creeped out, we headed to Savannah, which, natch, is also filled with ghosts. We stayed in a carriage house and walked the entire city. Savannah's parks and historic district are beautiful ... saw Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil house, and also toured Paula Deen's restaurant and had our photo taken with her sons (who are cutie-patooties). Gary gave them my card and talked up my books, and one of the sons slipped into his pocket, to be either tossed or washed later on. Paula so needs me and my dad on her show to BBQ ribs and drink salty dogs. And my mom could make her skillet beans and creamed peas and new potatoes.

We drove from Savannah to Beaufort, SC, a gorgeous drive over the low country. The town was quiet and graceful, and reminded me of Michigan gone south. A bit too many straight men wearing plaid pants and pink braided belts, though, for my taste.

We reconnected with Gary's family in Knoxville, TN (very pretty college town ... set in the hills and mountains), who he hadn't seen in 17 years. His aunt works at an indy bookstore (Carpe Librum), and I plan to get there one day to read and sign.

On the long drive back, Gary -- for some reason known only to him and his therapist -- stopped at a Burger King in Hog Holler, Kentucky, or something like that, where we walked in to find a man with his teeth on a tray gumming fries, which were falling out of his mouth and into his lap.

"We need to get the hell out of here," I whisperred to Gary, who couldn't hear a word, because he needs an earhorn.

Gary ordered a chicken sandwich, and requested no mayo and that the extra grease be dabbed off with a napkin. He also wanted a yogurt or parfait instead of fries. I ordered nothing, since I don't eat fast food, but did ask the counter girl, who had a hickey the size of Sputnik, where the nearest Starbucks was located, while I fingered my choker.

She looked at us as like I looked at those two-headed chickens at Ripleys, and stammered, "I ... I ... I don't think I can help you ... I can't help you. Vernon!" And then a man the size of an Escalade -- wearing black BK stretch pants -- emerged to ask in a heavy country accent, "If'un is'un there'un a puh-rob-uh-lem h'yare, fellers?"

Since I wanted to get home without being gang-raped, I backed up and stood next to the soda fountain. I began to fake-read it, and it was then I noticed -- which is the highlight of my entire trip -- that Burger King has now written on the soda fountains under each drink option, the following:

Pairs well with our BK Broiler and fries

Pairs well with our Whopper

Pairs perfectly with our chicken tenders

When did Burger King become a 4-star restaurant and start pairing soda with fast food?

"Gary! Get over here!" I whispered to him.

He couldn't hear me, so I dragged him over and showed him.

We started laughing so hard, that Vernon came back out and eyed us from the fryer. "Can I help you fellers," he asked again.

"Could I get a pinot with my Whopper Jr.?" I asked.

And then, as God is my witness, a woman toting babies on each of her hips, walked up, looked down, and said, "How convenient. Pepsi, it is!"

We drove north, leaving the dogwoods and budding trees behind, knowing we were not only home but would also be enjoying a second spring.

More soon, I promise, on my upcoming memoir and release of CONFESSIONS in paperback this August!