Sunday, June 25, 2017

George Michael

George Love

         My mother was telling me the story of a neighbor’s transgender son. She said he was going through a dark period, before the light of his new world shined. A period for me where you’d rather die, and many do choose death, before they get to their light.
For me looking back it is a death, a death of the identity according to the world you had experienced up until that moment. But in the throws of being at war with oneself some simply don’t have the life experience to recognize and become causalities of the war with them selves
            As my mother shared his story my heart ached for him. Remembering how difficult a time I had coming out, and then tried to imagine it being my gender I wanted to change.
I am grateful for my struggle. It is the unexpected gift of it being so difficult. I wonder about young gays today that it’s easier for than twenty years ago because of the more accepting environment. Perhaps their gift is a more natural, peaceful existence because of the world created before them..
By those that rose up through the Lavender Scare in the 50’s, The Stonewall Riot in 1969, and the AIDS crisis in the 80’s, they are the people who fought on the front lines in the battle for equality for LGBTQ citizens. Hopefully that is their gift
            “That’s my biggest regret,” my mother said. “That we didn’t create a safe environment that you felt you could come to us and that it was so difficult for you.”
            I told her not to regret a thing.
It was an illusion of guilt she had created for herself, and held onto for fifteen years. It certainly didn’t exist in my world, no resentment toward her or my father. I couldn’t have had better parents.   
            “Mom, society didn’t create a welcoming world, and it wasn’t around me to even know it existed. How do you be something you don’t know exists? And when I did know it existed, religion told me it was a sin.”
             I told her to remember how impressionable a 9-year-old, the age I was when the Time magazine cover with AIDS in bold capital letters. It was this mysterious, terrifying thing out in the world. Imprinted and then associated with the homosexuals a word that was like Voldemort to say. Along with the righteous preachers, who in their minds now had proof the gays were sinners. God was punishing them for their sin with a special gay cancer that was killing them. Tell that to a 9-year-old. Instill the fear of death and the little gay boy in me went running deep into the closet.
 Boys were with Girls. It was everywhere around me. There was nothing else. The other imprint of gay to my mind was that it made Mr. Furley nervous, on guard with Jack because he was “gay,” and something that could be laughed at, according to the audience.  
Gay: (n) A person to be afraid of, on guard with when near. Something to laugh at that was also a sin punished by God with an awful death.
That was how the beginning definition of what gay meant began to form in my child’s mind from the world I lived in during those moments in the 80’s
             But in the battle between humanity and being humane there are those people that come and try to suppress or control you. But also those that are sent to help lead you away from the ignorance and evil that wants to eradicate you.
For me it was upon my eighth birthday that one such person appeared from the heavens behind my TV screen. A most unexpected gift, one that can only be received once in one’s lifetime: first crush.
Mine arrived with the release of his video on 14 May 1984, like a comic book Wham! Singing “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” so energetically just to me was George Michael. The words would echo for years from my heart’s plea with my head to wake up!
Right from the beginning the bold-faced capital letters of his shirt screamed
Two words that my subconscious would store and shout fifteen years later just as bold during dark moments when I hoped death would choose me.
From the first thrust of his hips, the double snap, and the frozen pose illuminating George from the darkness as the fog rose around him for his first scene in the video he “put the boom-boom into my heart” and “sent my soul sky high” when his lovin’ started.
“But something’s buggin’ you. Something ain’t right,” he sang.
The world was buggin’ my heart, like the princess and the pea, covering up my truth, hiding it with layer upon layer of labels and rules about how to be a good Catholic boy.
Oh George, how my heart wished you could have woken me up and taken “me dancing.” But you placed a seed of desire in me for something…different. You began to “take the gray skies out of my way,” you made “the sun shine brighter” and were a spark that turned into a flame in my heart. My subconscious held onto your words that “everything will be all right” for future life moments when they would really be needed. The joy that exploded from you as you sang and danced how could my heart resist? It couldn’t, and didn’t.
The energy he emanated while he performed, the bright white smile, those eyes staring straight into the camera, into me. The bouncy feathered hair combed back all had me drawn into what I thought was simply a song. But it was into a man.
As his voice goes high the feathered head goes back to show his musical range then cuts to him running down the runway, and into a new outfit.
Those shorts! Those short, short shorts! Wheeewww Weeeee! Showing all of those long legs. Rockin’ a pink sweatshirt with yellow gloved hands clapping and shouting “Yeah, Yeah” after his wonder woman. Plus, those earrings…in both ears! Something so different to me from what a boy did, but I liked it.
 Yeah! Yeah! We had our how we met story.
After my heart was woken up to this man, George came to our next date with “Careless Whisper.”
The lyrics became background to the snake charming effect of the sax and George’s slow sensual sways. I couldn’t look at anything but him. His voice, the music, both carried me like Pepe Le Pew floating through the air led by the scent of a different kind of love.
George’s laugh, the playfulness in his eyes toward her. I wanted that. I began to want the silly fun that came with someone you love. Oblivious that it was with him that I wanted it with. She was invisible to me.
Even with the sad storyline a thrill shot through me when the video came on Mtv. I could look at him—I still didn’t know him as George Michael—again for a couple minutes, and cradle into that voice. When he sang, “please stay!” with arms stretched with hope, my heart did. Bound to George in some otherworldly realm of his art and his words.
By our third date George drove it home to my heart with his next visit to my screen.
“Don’t you know that Baby! I’mmm yooouurrr maaaan!” he shouted to me with joy, confidence, and conviction, like an infallible truth.
My heart did then.
Oh the way he moved his body and shook that tambourine; the black leather gloves and the many-buttons-unbuttoned black shirt, revealing different parts of his chest as he jammed. He was having fun. How could my heart not want that to be my man? Certain it wanted a love with someone who it could be joyful with. That was George.
Wham! Just like that. My heart loved a man.

I have to thank my brother Joe for his keen sense of art, and for having a pulse on the culture regarding music. He tapped into artists that resonated with him, and I benefitted from his good taste during our developing years of pre-teen fun.
Moving from the age of boom boxes and cassette tapes into CD’s and CD players, Joe’s filled his birthday and Christmas wish lists for all the items he needed to explore his interest and introduced me to Madonna, Michael, Prince, Whitney, and George. They all felt like the cool older brothers and sisters of art. Well, one was a boyfriend.
Up until then George was just the mystery man I was drawn to look at on the screen when Wham! appeared on Mtv. But he had a name.
There was this “buzz” about this man named George Michael and his new single. The video was censored in the U.S. because he was talking about sex, and wanting to have it. Up until that point sex was this thing that adults did when they were married.
But George was preaching about sex in a less…constricted way. Something that “not everybody does…but everybody should.” Naturally I felt tickled inside wanting to hear and see something that I was being censored from.
My body was beginning to bubble with hormones. Sex education class was full of the logistics, what happens, what goes where, diagramming the penis and vagina. Church continued the only-when-married route. But then, all of the sudden there was this man preaching around a different corner about sex, with his own viewpoint.  
He didn’t need a bible, rather just look in his eyes, he sang to my head.
Trust in what you feel not what you’re told, my subconscious interpreted and stored as more ammunition for the war between my head and heart twelve years later.
George said it was natural, chemical, and logical. Seemed like a fun activity gifted to mortals from the Gods.
“Sex is good,” he said. “I am a love! Whoooo!”
Whoooo indeed George, you are a love.
 “Don’t you think it’s time you had sex with me?”
Oh how he carried the “me” with that voice, that extra thrust of his chin as that one word was emphasized and lengthened.
Could somebody lite me a shower, I need to take a cold cigarette.

Since my heart was already forever George’s it was time to chip away at the thick layers of rules taught to my head of how life is “suppose” to be according to the gender I was given. To not think for myself, or follow what felt right for my one turn at life. Not an easy task to begin. But the one and only person that could was, yes of course, George bringing Faith.
The darker side of what gay meant had only been presented a couple years before with the Time cover of AIDS. Even a famous movie star named Rock Hudson was gay and dying of AIDS, his frail picture on the Enquirer covers at the grocery store, along with the preachers preaching.
George came in like a savior not just for straight or gay sexuality, but, for sexuality. That it was all good. That the barriers of whom we could do what with, were actually just illusions created by others trying to control your one turn at life.
Instead someone who seemed cool, and nice from what I’d experienced to that point, deep and reflective at times with a soulfulness, and at other times dancing, singing, smiling, and making people happy, and want to dance.
Taken to a higher level beyond the physical act of sex to a more higher realm, as a new record from the jukebox gets placed, interrupting “I Want Your Sex,” cuts to a shot of Georg’s denim clad legs, the camera spinning and rising to his butt. That butt said it all. The image seared into my subconscious. Perfectly on cue as the organ music begins for something new from George.
Before the rising shot reaches his head it cuts back to the jukebox, then to the left for high-heeled female legs leaning, one foot on the box. Camera goes right for George’s denim legs in the same posture.
Yes my subconscious whispered, not girls…boys!
When the organ music crescendos, the video cuts back to George, the twirling camera now on his chest, rising to scruff, the leather jacket collar, up, a dangling cross earring, and finally George’s eyes hidden by sunglasses.
Cut back to his legs, the organ music stops, and George’s foot begins tapping to the faster beat of a guitar. With the first word it cuts back to Georg’s midsection shaking his hips and playing his guitar, and preaching I’ve gotta have faith, gotta, gotta have faith. I mean, my God.
God George.
George became a Father Figure.
Father George.
His aura cast inclusion and acceptance for all in his classic joyful soul.
That’s all he wanted, something special, something secret, in my eyes.
Baby, he told me, this time is forever.
Something told him that together, we’d be happy.
My heart trusted his instinct and took the plunge into eternity.
He would be the one who loves me till the end of time. It was all he wanted but felt sometimes love could be mistaken for a crime. Or, a sin.
It was all he wanted, just to see his baby’s blue eyes shine. It’s obvious whom he’s speaking to, duh, I have blue eyes.
He felt if we had faith in each other, then we could be strong.
            How could one not love and want a man like that?
He knew love couldn’t lie.
            I’ll hold on George! I know you won’t let me go.
            “I’ll be your daddy.”
            He already had me with Wham!
            But reaffirming his feelings from time to time carried me through the church of George. He said he would be the one who loves me…till the end of time.
            Thank you, Joe.

            George and I met up again when I was a freshman in high school. I was at the center of downtown, conservative, Grand Rapids, Michigan inside a brick and mortar Catholic school. The school continued to bestow the “right” way—according to them—to live my life.
While George’s latest video—no George though, only his voice, his singing from somewhere, the heavens, or Source Energy, I believe what some call it today. A bit less organized religion.
            George’s voice belted through the mouths of all the beautiful people in the video. He was shouting about freedom; that he didn’t belong to me and I didn’t belong to him. George was freeing his soul!
“You gotta give what you take,” he sang.
George practiced what he preached. The proof is in the countless charities he gave generously to, wanting to remain anonymous. Giving concerts to raise money for AIDS. Plus random people in public whose debt he erased after overhearing their worries in life. He took in enormous capital and gave much of it back.
While George was feeling freedom, I was having more mattresses added onto my truth, my pea. The simple freshman worries like fitting in, making friends, and forming a high school experience filled my world. A gay didn’t exist there, within those walls, no LGBT club or any boy taking another boy to a dance. With just a glimpse that possibly, maybe, there was this “other” world I belonged to, I was sucked into the black hole, the norm.
However, there was one person enclosed in the building that myself, and the rest of the English class believed to be gay, Mr. Tubbs, the teacher. He fit the stereotype we had been taught. Speaking with a lisp, and the mannerisms with hands that were more…feminine. Jokes and snickers were made. Never by me. I had a face full of silver, braces and wire glasses with bifocals. I wanted to fit in and I thought being good and being nice gave me the best chance. Mr. Tubbs knew what every one thought. But he showed up to educate.  
He saw something in me, not just that I was probably gay, but in my writing. He took me aside and shared he saw something in it. He spoke of writing for the school newspaper, encouraged me to develop it more.
It felt good to be told I may have a talent for something. I did not exceed in any sports nor had any trophies up to that present moment. I was open and interested in feedback.
But it also made me a little cautious to be around Mr. Tubbs alone. Not because I thought he would do anything like that to me, simply because fear about “those” types had conditioned me to have my guard up.
One day, I took my seat in the back corner. Once class began it wasn’t very long before everyone noticed that Mr. Tubbs and I were wearing the exact same outfit. There was a “moment” around the subject. Smiles and laughs. I felt so embarrassed. I was uniquely associated with Mr. Tubbs through fashion.  
I never wore the sweater to school again. However, if I remember correctly the incident was after school pictures. I believe there is a picture of me somewhere in the world with the neon laser background of the 90’s. Remember that? Lol
But I am so grateful to Mr. Tubbs all these years later for the encouragement he gave and the path he directed me down that led to these words being written. I was deeply saddened to know years after I graduated, he committed suicide. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for him to be a middle-aged gay man in Grand Rapids at that time.

As I went deeper into the closet of denial, George continued to infuse this idea of freedom around me. The following year after the video came out, Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the British band Queen died of AIDS. The association between the sin of homosexuality and the gay cancer resurfaced. But George showed up giving concerts, continuing to raise money for AIDS research.
The following year he released “Too Funky.” Although caught up living the high school life, my heart always smiled when George checked in with a sexy new sexy and beats, belting playful words of love, reaffirming his commitment in my life.
He was not the star of the video. But there were sexy peeks and flashes of George from the dark, shooting the supermodels with his eye behind the camera. Even a few direct eye glimpses, seeing me. He sent out an erotic vibe. But he still looked dreamy to my heart, still the star to it.
But behind the camera of George’s private life he was going through heartbreak. His first love was losing his battle with AIDS.

By the time he channeled his grief into his next album, “Older,” although he was, my heart was still smitten when I saw the cover, a devilishly seductive looking George, half his face emerging, coming out of the darkness, and a look in his eyes to turn any legs into Jell-o.
“Oh yeah,” he said as he spun in the chair for his first scene in the video for “Fastlove.”
He still had it.
He just wanted to have some fun. Role-playing Mr. Not Right for some fast love, the only thing on his mind. My heart played along.
Meanwhile my mind was wrapped deep in denial. I was in college, again trying to fit in, having just joined a fraternity. The fraternity did social events with sororities, which meant dates with girls. Even though I was a few months from my first gay encounter.
That summer I visited a frat brother who was living in Florida. We took a road trip to Key West. After a late, drunk night two drag queens catcalled my friend and I after we passed Bourbon Street Bar. When we reached our hotel I lied down on the front steps. My subconscious gasped for more of that air.
Shortly after my fraternity brother entered the hotel, hands began rubbing all over my body and underneath my clothes. My subconscious welcomed it and the pleasure it brought. It had waited years for the moment that I would be touched by a man. Well, ok, two men, in this case, but wearing the most glamorous of gowns for my big moment.
Once my mind sobered up a bit it took back control. It blacked out the experience for years after I ran into the hotel and under the covers.

            George crossed my path again nine months after I graduated from Michigan State. I moved to Bucktown, a neighborhood of Chicago, to look for a job at an advertising agency. That was what my degree said and that was supposedly the next step to take according to society.
            But I was unaware of how depressed I was. It was fifteen months after Joe the dancer died. The shock still felt fresh. Understanding how to operate in a world without this son, brother, and talented young man seemed incomprehensible. He was one semester away from graduating from the University of Michigan School of Dance, ready to share his gift of dance with the world.
My subconscious was also pushing itself to the surface, preparing to nudge me in yet another world. All the beautiful words of ammunition from George it had been storing over the years to free me were ready for use.
But my mind clung to the familiar, my slavery to what someone else said was best for my life. It was too much to move into two new worlds. One had to be paused. Fear continued to fight back. The war was bubbling.
            George’s arrest in a Beverly Hills Park bathroom for a lewd act was a few months after Joe’s death. There had been the rumors for many years that he was gay. George cared nothing for rumors and held onto his belief his private life was his own. But after the arrest George confirmed it.
            When I found out it, it didn’t matter to me. But my heart smiled to itself and a sooth came over me on a cellular level. My subconscious had an ally, one who shared his words and talent to bring joy, new thoughts, and perspectives into the world; a man who raised and gave millions. How could someone not like a man that did all that because of what he did in his private life?
Six months later George rose from the scandal with that last sexy laugh. By shining more of a spotlight on the subject with his video for “Outside.” The video turns a public restroom into a disco, with George, hot as ever in an officer uniform—more role-play—along with scantily clad female officers dancing around him.
            Good for you George, I thought. Good for you!
I mean come on. He nailed it.

Meanwhile, nine months later in Chicago I had put on my suit once to go downtown and deliver my resume to various agencies. The rest of the time I distracted my unknown depression by learning the city, walking around, going shopping, or rollerblading throughout the neighborhoods. All the new, fresh stimuli kept my mind occupied with the external.
While I waited to hear back for interviews I was drawn to a routine of rollerblading to Lincoln Park Zoo everyday. To the point where my roommates would come home from work and simply ask, “How was the zoo?”
Being by the animals brought me peace. I wanted to be near comforting creatures. Not realizing one reason I was drawn to them because we had being in cages in common. I felt so stuck, no motivation to really look for a job.
One day I entered Virgin Records on Michigan Avenue and bought “Ladies and Gentlemen the Best of George Michael.” Disc one was titled “For the Heart,” disc two, “For the Feet.” George felt he was needed and his words came to me once more. He always made my heart sigh whenever, his words floating around, not giving up on me.
Listening to “For the Heart,” brought me back, hearing them from Joe’s bedroom and on MTV. His beautiful words about love came beaming like a lighthouse in the distance to my subconscious, which was happy they were coming from both outside and inside.
In addition to the oldies George had a duet with Elton John, singing Elton’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” The proceeds from the song were divided among ten charities for children, AIDS, and education. Huh, another gay doing good in the world, giving back enormously. Go figure.
George’s words reminded me “You Have Been Loved” and encouraged my spirit to “Heal the Pain,” two songs for my heart. I surrendered to the memories and words and music that carried me away to a realm that felt peaceful; protected from the world for some moments of time as it passed away in my coach house that sizzling summer in Chicago.
My feet couldn’t help but respond to the disc that was for them. I danced while waiting at home for phone calls—no mobiles—for interviews or jobs. I had a single twin mattress in the center of my hardwood floor bedroom. I painted the walls a rich green all around me. It was like an oven in the brick house. But my subconscious was thrilled to have George and other artists singing with empowerment and enclosing me with their energy.
George and Aretha reaffirming it all singing to my heart they knew I was waiting for them. He drove it home to my heart as if shouting on its behalf, “find me somebody to love!” ending the album collaborating with the remaining members of Queen, a shining tribute to Freddy Mercury’s words.
I did get a job, at an advertising agency, in downtown Chicago. The offer was a message on the machine one afternoon. She told me to call back in a week when she would have more details. I never called back. I didn’t know what I wanted but it wasn’t that. Then started to try and figure it out.

In the midst of figuring out a direction, the interviewing, and George time, I found myself intoxicated one night and stumbled upon Boystown. The bars were closing, people dispersing. I walked up and down the street, just being in that world, until there was a lone, hunky Latin boy at a bus stop. When I had the nerve to say “hi,” he invited me home with him. My subconscious finally scored.
But a mountain of shame filled my body, stuffing it like a turkey. I had an enormous secret that must never get out. So I got out of Chicago. I thought I could leave the experience and shame there. Unfortunately me followed me wherever I went. War had begun.

My subconscious, with George’s backing would go down to the death for its life. The war would last for the next three years until, like George before me, came out to the public. With the help of an Amsterdam Angel.
During the war George made another appearance, this time bringing in reinforcement with older art sis Whitney. Their playful, sexy duet “If I told You That,” about friends exploring the possibility of becoming lovers delivered a dose of good vibes to my heart. George, his usual seductive self on the dance floor with his moves and words; Whitney fierce as ever by his side. My heart felt the support of good friends, from many years ago, back by its side.

George continued bouncing back when he released his fifth album Patience in 2004. He said it would be his last album on sale to the public. Instead future music would be available to download along with a list of his favorite charities. Anybody that wanted his music could make a donation.
            He appeared on Oprah to promote the album. It was his first appearance in America for a few years.
He still…looked…great!
Butterflies fluttered around my heart, free from their cocoons and beautiful. George and I, free from ours, feeling love for life. George even found love again and Kenny was sitting in the audience. When he sung “Amazing” for the audience, it said my sentiments, exactly.
George, I think you’re amazing!

            I could go on and on. The point I’m expressing with my thirty-three years experience of George from that first Wham! on my eighth birthday to his fifty-fourth birthday today, is actually Nicole Kidman’s point.
When she accepted her Oscar, she said, “Art is so important.” It was said with such conviction. Her words struck deep and stayed with me. I wondered why she felt so strongly about art and its importance, beyond entertaining and an escape.
This story is why. So that people can learn to think for themselves and create the life they want to live with their one shot at it. George made my time in the war easier by going to the frontline, the world stage, singing, “everything will be alright.”

I share my story, as those before me did, because I would not wish that level of self-hate upon anyone. The thought of my nephews, or any of my cousin’s children going through a level of such self-hate because they feared whom they might choose to love, that they would rather die, is not something I would wish on anyone. I can only imagine parents’ painful feelings around the thought. Perhaps like my mother felt.
Trump’s refusal to acknowledgement June as Pride month was such a disrespectful slap in the face to the LGBTQ community, especially those that died for equality. The tiny steps he and his accomplices are slowly taking to prevent people from thinking, and choosing for themselves are simmering behind closed doors.
 Just as the majority of the American people have felt embarrassment, and the need to apologize for Trump’s bullying and unkind behavior to world leaders, I wish to apologize to the American people for Betsy DeVos. She comes from my hometown, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Yes, her family’s name is on many buildings.
But it should be expected that people with a great fortune take such actions, like George. But DeVos, along with the rest of the 1% also receive enormous tax breaks, it’s a drop in the bucket to them, and, had it been taxed could have used to help the country fund programs like Medicaid, which they’re trying right now!
But this way they can slap their name on the side, brand their name as good, and an example to be followed according to their views on how life should be lived. It also puts them in a better position to buy power, as Ms. DeVos did, to become Secretary of Education.  
Once in power, and surrounding themselves who other 1% club members with views like theirs, to impose their constricting ways of how the country should think. To do that, getting rid of the gays with their conversion therapy, a double dose of conditioning. Educated people using their brains are less likely to be controlled.
Defunding the arts, not valuing it’s importance, stifles those that may think differently from what those in power are tying to condition to the masses. Art has always influenced politics and politics has always influenced art.
But those in power have something for that too. Make education so difficult and expensive that people can’t attain one. Why make it so out of reach to get an education? When it is those very people you educate that are the innovators of the future to keep everything going?
Keep people dumb, easier to control, and get away with more, making insurance too much to afford. Pay a wage so little that they are exhausted slaves to keep roofs over their heads and food in their bellies. Too tired to think on their own.
That is the bigger picture I see of these people who are choosing evil over humanity. Taking us to war with each other and ourselves. It is not survival of the fittest in humanity, rather survival for all. They are trying to devolve humanity.
Art, education, two causes important to George are so important.

My father and grandfather both fought in war so that I, and future generations wouldn’t have to. It seems to go pretty well, until a Republican gets in office, at least in my lifetime.
When my father died in December I wrote in an earlier blog he had left behind letters for my brothers, nephews, and I that he had been writing for years, to carry us through life without a father and Jaja.
It is an extra squeeze on the heart to lose someone before the holidays. A couple weeks later, they and their life already become last year. So I opened one letter shortly after the New Year. I needed to bring my father’s voice—if it couldn’t be him—into 2017.
“If I have one regret it’s that we didn’t have more in common,” he wrote.
Stinging to read for moment, like hearing my mother’s regret. But then I remembered a conversation my father and I had in November, weeks before he died. He said it could be the last time we saw each other—which it ended up being—“and I know we’re good.”
“Yes Dad we’re good,” I said. “Yes we didn’t have much in common growing up. I was into arts and crafts, and you fishing, hunting, and sports with the other boys. But we had Indian Guides (a Native American version of boy scouts) you, me, and Joe. Remember that?”
“Yes I do. That was a lot of fun.”
“Absolutely. You’re name was Graywolf. I don’t remember mine. Why did you pick Graywolf? Do you remember?”
“No I don’t. But probably because I started to go gray.”
“We had that, and all the travels we did with Mom since I moved out of the house. Visiting me everywhere I lived, Laguna Beach, Provincetown, and New York, and all the travels we did to new places. Plus, all the quality time we’ve had this last year. There are a lot of memories there to reach for as the years go on.”
“Yeah, we did a lot.”
I hope that consciously or unconsciously the regret he wrote in that letter twenty-five years before that conversation vanished forever. When my father did die and I found out about the letters, it was bittersweet to learn we had one more thing in common. We were both writers.

As I wrapped my head around what I wanted to express with this blog with the same conviction of Nicole to the importance of art, as well as freedom, acceptance, and equal rights for LGBTQ I realized my father and I had one more thing in common. We’d both been to war. Both with the hope that those that came afterward would have an easier and more free life, or not have to fight so hard.
I would never compare a war with oneself to one’s experience of seeing actual humans gorily killed in front of you as my father did. But from the standpoint of facing an enemy that wanted to kill you—even if yourself is the enemy you face—I feel I can.
I can’t understand how any parent would want their child in any kind of war. Or make it worse and harder on a LGBTQ person by trying to convert them. Crazy. But there are people out there in power—currently—who think and feel this way and it is wrong.

“You’ll never find, peace of mind, until you listen to your heart.”
                                                                                    ---George Michael

I wrote a song over a decade ago. A love song that I thought was finished until the second half just came to me a few months ago. In my day dreams years ago, there was never any doubt if I could choose any singer, of course, it was George. The fantasy was he was singing to me after he’d found out everything I’ve just written above, we’d have a good laugh together because of the “boom boom” he put into my heart thiry-three years ago.
Bittersweet now. Not meant to be.

“What I really am is a writer. You give people music for years and years when you write. You tie yourselves to big events in their lives. You tie yourself to their childhood and their growing up, and it’s a real privilege.”

                                                                                    —George Michael

Oh George, you tied yourself to my childhood, growing up, and well beyond. Your words, like my father’s will carry me on a high for a long time.
Gone to soon but it has been my privilege.
Godspeed wherever you are
Big kiss
And all my love,

I leave you with this song for all the freaks out there for Pride, I’m coming to dance with you right now, parade in an hour!

Play some George for yourself and try to tell me it doesn’t get your heart boom-booming and your feet dancing!

Happy Pride! May all your rainbow dreams come true!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Story of an Amazing Father--R.I.P., jason

THANK YOU everyone for your kind words and thoughts over the last week for my family as we celebrated and said good-bye to my father. My mother was so touched when I shared your messages from around the world with her. Some of you she's met, or read about. Others I shared which part of my life you are a part of.
I share with you one story to show how extraordinary my father was. It is something new that I learned about him on Monday.
Last Sunday when he died, that night I caught a glimpse of his handwriting. The writer in me felt bittersweetness. I wished that I had a note in his handwriting, just to me, to keep me comfort as life goes on.
All my brothers' and my cards over the years were always signed by mom, for both, and the sentiments she expressed were equally felt from both. But still I wished I had his words in his handwriting. It wasn't meant to be and it would never be I told myself as I began to accept that.
The next day my mother told me my father had some letters for me, and my brothers, in his "important" papers folder. Some addressed individually to each of us and some to us as brothers, even one to Joe. As my father had begun doing this at least 25 years ago, long before Joe died. Every few years he wrote us one, from what we can tell since 1992.
I was floored. He was a writer. And had been making a wish I did not known I had--until Sunday--come true. I will save and spread them out over the years and read when I feel I need a father's words.
Thank you Dad, I am so deeply grateful. Thank you for creating and reminding me there is still magic in the world, even at a time of such sadness as we say, jason

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Magic of P-Town: The Princess and the Unicorn

The Princess and the Unicorn: The Magic of P-town

I returned to Provincetown in July for my yearly gig bartending at The Crown and Anchor during Bear Week. I stayed at the Outermost Hostel on the outskirts of the center of town near the old high school and across from the baseball fields. The hostel has a collection of four cabins with bunk beds and an en suite upgrade from my childhood summer camp. It's charmingly rustic, affordable, and sufficient--“Old Cape Cod” as the song goes.
My walk down the hill to work charmingly takes me past the signature skyline piece of Provincetown: Pilgrim Monument; a 252-foot-tall granite bell tower based on a medieval Italian tower. The monument commemorates Provincetown as the first spot the Pilgrims landed and where the Mayflower Compact was signed in the harbor before they moved on to Plymouth. It was begun in 1907 when Teddy Roosevelt officiated at the laying of the cornerstone piece. President Taft returned in 1910 when it was completed for the dedication. I always enjoy taking it in whenever I leave or return "home" to the hostel, especially when it is lit up at night.   
I was hoping to have a silly time with Dana, a dear friend and townie at a Boatslip tea dance. The Boatslip is a long, two level hotel on Commercial Street with an expansive deck and pool overlooking the same harbor the Pilgrims moored. It's view is peacefully picturesque with all the sailboats dotted throughout the water, along with the Long Point Lighthouse exclamation pointing the end of Cape Cod in the distance. 
The light of Provincetown that has inspired artists for over a century is so stunning one could burst with its beauty, especially during the hours from 4-7 when The Boatslip hosts their tea dance. It's a great spot where one can kick off their evening before dinner. They’re famous for the rum punches and pre-party atmosphere where friends reunite for music, dancing, and people watching…or cruising and selecting a potential paramour for the night. 
I had never been a huge attendee of tea--as I work in the same loud, party environment--choosing to spend my time off in some of the quieter atmospheres of P-town. But I have come to appreciate tea for the surreal view it offers, along with the lively characters mingling and laughing, and go at lease once a summer. 
A few years ago while making my way through a crowded dance area I stopped to allow people in the opposite direction to pass. As I waited, the side view of a man in a blue suit covered in tiny red and yellow flowers was inches from my face excitedly talking to someone. 
Wow! What an amazing Elton John impersonator, I thought.
While I waited I leaned in closer--enough to have him feel my breath on his skin--to study and admire the artistry of the creation. When the path cleared, I moved on. It wasn't until later in the night after bumping into some acquaintances on Commercial Street who I relayed the story to that I learned it was Elton John, a lively, mingling, and laughing character. 
  In recent years Dana and many others have occasional dressed in drag with beautiful feminine dresses wonderfully accessorized with body and facial hair. I wanted to experience it with Dana, who has a plethora of dresses to choose--from vintage prom to bridesmaid--in his closet. I had tried some on last year but eventually opted out of doing it that summer. I wanted to save my virgin drag experience for my 40th a few months ago (Blog #9--Lady in Royal Red).
This year with the death of Bushia in the spring I didn’t need Dana’s styling assistance. While helping to clean out nine decades worth of belongings from her house I came across some vintage 60’s dresses with a Jackie O sense of style. They. Fit. Perfectly.
I packed the most summery frock in my bag; along with a necklace I had given Bushia for her 90th birthday, some earrings from the 40’s that matched, and a pearly clutch, I had my outfit for tea. 
It so happened that Bushia would have turned ninety-three during the week I was in P-town on 14 July. Synchronistic struck when that was also my one day off.
Perfect! I thought. I could have a little celebration in memory of her and give her a laugh on the other side wearing her dress and jewels. 
Unfortunately, Dana had to work. I was disappointed. It wasn’t something that I wanted to do by myself. I hoped to share it with someone.
As the week went on I thought perhaps somehow, someway, an escort would appear. But with each passing day the chances looked slim. The faith became less, but remained.
Meanwhile in my cabin I was fortunate. You never know who you may be sharing a living space with when going the hostel route. I hoped at the very least it would be peaceful, even if all the beds were occupied. Luckily the first three nights I shared the cabin with only one other guy. It was helpful to have some quiet time and privacy in between my shifts. Fortunately the manager informed me I would have the place to myself once he left. 
But when he did, two last minute reservations came in and my company doubled. They both stayed one night and again, the manger said I would be alone after they departed. I went in to work happy, anticipating that moment the next morning.
As I walked back to the hostel at 1:30 a.m. after my shift I stopped at Town Green, a tiny park behind Town Hall at the base of Pilgrim Monument. The lawn is bordered with a path and benches. The center has a large bas-relief sculpture of the pilgrims signing the Mayflower Compact.
I sat on a bench to wind down after a busy night of slinging drinks. It was the early morning hours of the start of my day off and the sky was filled with stars.
“Happy Birthday Bushia,” I said gazing up. 
I wondered which summer star was Bushia. Fittingly her birth name, Stella Theresa, meant Star Summer. I figured one had to be her. 
Just as I had the thought my head turned toward the right in just enough time for the split second appearance of a shooting star. I was stunned. I couldn't believe it. It had been years since I'd seen a shooting start. I couldn't even remember.
When I was in the bush of Africa earlier this year my friend Delphine saw one when we were walking outside one night. I kicked myself because I didn't see it and really wanted to. It's such an extraordinary experience to me; what seems like a tiny flash from Earth actually being a gigantic ball of fire and gas whirling through space lightyears away. But that one was meant for Delphine. Now, there was one meant for me.  
“Oh, there you are!” I said with a laugh and smile in my heart. 
Then I slowly walked back up the hill, passed the monument, and into my cabin, enjoying the  night before drifting off to dreamland. 
In the morning I heard both cabin mates leave early. I lied in bed a bit longer and enjoyed the quiet morning, and a cabin to myself. But shortly after nine the door opened. A new stranger burst into the bungalow and immediately started chatting me up like he hadn’t seen me in years. My vision of a private cabin once again vanished.
            Can’t he see I’m still in bed resting? I thought with a bit of irritation.
But I was gracious and friendly. I decided I might as well get up and start my day as we continued to talk. His name was Tim and he had driven from Columbus, Ohio. I released any grumpy morning feelings of annoyance once I found out it was his first time in Provincetown. I wanted to be a good ambassador to P-town and start his first experience off positively.
Tim’s quick wit and humor quickly grew on me and our common Mid-western roots bonded us. I shared a bit about P-town, things to do, and answered his questions. I began washing up and applying sunscreen for a day at the beach. Afterward, I wished Tim a nice afternoon and surrender to the fact my drag celebration would not happen then walked to the beach.
When I returned Tim was in the cabin and we began sharing our day. I was curious to know about his first experiences of P-town and he filled me in. Conversation flowed like we’d known each other for years.  
“I like you,” Tim said. “I want to hang out with you more. What are you doing tonight?”
“Well I was supposed to dress in drag and go out with a friend for some silliness. But he has to work.”
“I’m totally down with dressing up with you! I've even got a rainbow colored unicorn wig in my car that I could wear.”
Of course you have a unicorn wig in your car, I thought.
My heart grinned knowing what I had envisioned for my outfit.
“Ok, I still need to find a few items. But that sounds like fun. Let me pop into town and look for the finishing touches.”
I walked down the hill to Commercial Street and into the Marine Specialty store. It’s the type of shop that is cluttered with everything from old airline plates to gas station attendant jumpsuits. I needed footwear to match the bright yellow dress with white polka dots and kept it simple—since it was summer—with a white flip-flop. The next and most important crowning piece I found near the register: a tiara. 
I had wanted to get Bushia a tiara for her 90th birthday. I thought turning ninety deserved one. But I knew her all too well, and her hair—a silvery beehive that had not changed since long before I was born—would trump wearing a tiara and being messed up. Besides, for those that read Blog #9, Princess Julie Ann was in need of one. 
I figured I would wear the tiara for Bushia's birthday in addition to her dress and jewels as a way to make it up to her. In recalling memories of her since her death one popped in that was a regret. It was probably twenty years ago in Michigan during Pulaski Days, an annual Polish festival in the fall we attended as children.
As an adult, if I was in town during the celebration I would take Bushia to her Polish hall for a meal. The particular memory I felt regret over we attended the celebration in downtown Grand Rapids. It was near the enormous orange Alexander Calder sculpture, La Grande Vitesse, that has stood on a plaza near City Hall for decades, which served as my first introductory wonderment into art as a powerful statement when I was a child. The memory is of Bushia and I sitting on folding chairs near the sculpture as Polka music played and people danced around.
“Do you want to Polka?” Bushia asked.
She loved to polka. And we had polkaed many times from childhood through adulthood, at Pulaski Days and weddings.
“No, I don’t really want to,” I said for whatever stupid, stupid reason.
“Ok,” she said with a bit of disappointment.
So that is where the memory ends: the two of us sitting on folding chairs, watching. We should have been dancing. Stupid me.

After acquiring the accessories it was time to find a lipstick. I opted to keep it simple again and choose a bright red--15 Scarlet--to pop against the yellow. I headed to Klymaax, a store offering all your dress up needs from costume jewelry and clutches to boas and headdresses. A transgender’s toy store. 
As I turned to exit the store I became very excited when I saw a townie I knew bathed in the light of Commercial Street about to enter the store when I realized I left my sunglasses on the counter. He is someone who has been one of those innocent crushes in town for years. Someone you know has a good heart, the definition of a prince, and who expresses such happiness to see you--every time.
P-town can be wonderful for platonic flirtations that make you feel like a teenager made of Jell-O, because it always remains in that fantasy realm. There is also a straight boy I've had one on, but that is another tale, and they will both remain mysteries. Have your own. 
It had been a couple years since I'd seen this particular man, and I certainly didn't think he'd recognize me. I don't even think he remembers my name, which doesn't matter when such warmness is expressed during our one minute together out of 525,600 minutes in a year. But he makes the one feel like 525,600. Like you're the only one on Earth. 
After grabbing my sunglasses I turned and there he was, in the center of the store. I smiled, as crushes make one do without-a-choice. I expected a handshake after I reminded him who I was. But he smiled back, and quickly scooped me into his arms with the urgency of taking a breath after holding it for a long time.
He planted a friendly kiss on me like a Golden Age leading man. I melted. After our minute of small talk I dashed out onto Commercial feeling lighter in my feet and thrilled that P-town's magic provided a kiss as part of the day from a prince for the princess. It felt like it was my birthday: a tiara, a kiss, woo hoo!   
When I returned to the hostel Tim began assembling his outfit while cracking me up. The mane of the wig cascaded down his back and framed his face in bright rainbow colors, topped with a golden sparkly horn. He paired it perfectly with a white t-shirt covered in a repeated pattern of a lounging, half-naked 40’s pin-up girl along with orange suspenders.
After a little photo shoot with Tim as the model, I slipped into the bathroom, into the dress, donned the jewels, and began outlining and coloring in my lips—harder than it looks, as I slipped outside the lines a bit. Then crowned myself with the tiara.
“I couldn’t have planned or written a script any better: The princess and her royal unicorn,” I said as we looked at ourselves in the mirror.
“So what do I call you?” Tim asked.
“Julie Ann.”
“Got it, Princess Julie Ann."
“And what are my royal duties your royal highness?”
“Just hang out with me and have fun.”
“No problem. Let’s go!”
I grabbed my clutch and we headed down passed a lit monument to Commercial Street. We found a bench in front of Town Hall to people watch before deciding on a destination for the evening.
A little girl approached Tim and wanted to know where he bought his unicorn wig. She didn’t care about my tiara, but rather had her sights set on being a unicorn.
“I was born like this,” Tim said with a straight face to the little girl’s grandmother’s annoyance. I started to smile at his deadpan response but stopped when I looked at the girl. I couldn’t tell if she was mad at Tim for messing with her or about to cry.
“I’m only kidding. I actually bought it at Target. But last Halloween, so check then.”
 “You might want to look at the Marine Specialty store,” I said. “You can find just about anything there. It’s where I found my tiara.”
So off they went to find their own magic.
As we sat there the lively atmosphere from a packed Tin Pan Alley restaurant across the street had a live band whose music spilled out into the street. I was tickled when at one point “Happy Birthday” began playing and a group of people shouted the familiar words that flooded out into the street.
Yes, Happy Birthday Bushia, I thought.
I had imagined a nice little celebration at a charming restaurant suited for a princess. But when the Governor Bradford was suggested as the destination, I went with the flow because it was the complete opposite of what I had envisioned.
The Governor Bradford is an old restaurant that feels like the early era of whaling days in P-town. Its atmosphere is dominated in wood with the feel of a quintessential coastal fisherman’s hangout. But it has also mixed in modern day P-town flair: shiny cellophane fringe backdrop from floor to ceiling on the stage with disco balls above, Christmas lights strung throughout, and a screen for nightly karaoke led by long time townie and entertainer Dana Denzel.
We sat in the back as Tim started scrolling through the songbook, while we listening to and applauding each star-for-a-moment singer. Soon a table cleared closer to the stage and we moved up. After a handful of performers Tim was called up. With wig and magical horn on, he took the stage for a rendition of “Look How Far We’ve Come” by Imagine Dragons.
The crowd loved him and his outfit and the cameras started going off, my own included. He was a shooting summer star, shot from above, the gift of a new friend brought to me from Bushia. I laughed and cheered as my tiara sparkled with each movement.
Not long after Tim sang we both felt it was time to move on. But I was hoping for a dance. We had crept from wallflowers behind with a mostly straight crowd and slowly made our way to the center. It was a little fear I still wanted to push through, so I could then not care to be seen. 
“Ok you ready to go?” Tim asked, just as Ms. Denzel introduced the next singer. It was now or never.
“No let’s have a dance first!” I said.
“I’m down,” Tim replied.
Duh Duh Da Da Da DUH DUH! the music began.
Up we popped and rushed to the floor. A handful of others had the same idea and soon we were surrounded.
Let’s go girls, come on, the singer sang Ms. Twain’s words. I’m going out tonight, I’m feelin’ all right.
 A man quickly grabbed Tim for a spin. While I danced like no one was watching. But people were watching and started taking pictures of us. A wave of bashfulness hit but quickly passed as I concentrated on, and danced for Bushia, the words soaring into the air.
No inhibitions, make no conditions…I ain’t gonna act politically correct…I only want to have a good time!
Suddenly what seemed out of thin air like a magician’s trick, a young woman came up and snatched me for a dance. Her energy was Alpha, determined to dance with me. I had no problem with it. We held onto to each other not saying a word simply laughing and smiling. I lead and spun her around, she lead and flung me around never separating.
Man! I feel like a woman the chorus rang out.
It exhilarated me inside and out, sending shivers of excitement once I realized the enchanted way it played out. It wasn’t a Polka, but the song that ended up being the one I danced to was perfect in its own right.
Afterward I thanked the woman and she disappeared into the crowd. Another little gift from Bushia, or, was it Bushia? A blithe spirit as Noel Coward put it. I’d like to think so, bringing the message of her favorite Polka song, “I Wanna Dance With You.”
And, with Tim's sung message of "Look How Far We've Come" established, we exited stage left. 
Moral of the story:
If someone asks you to dance, get up off your arse, and as Lady Gaga said, JUST DANCE! And...believe in magic.