Tag Archives: queer

Neighbor State

On Friday night, Bob and I went to Neighbor State, to celebrate his birthday, which is a bigger deal than it sounds.  Consider:

1. We tried to visit Neighbor State in 2009, and failed.  The mounting costs of dismantling our house, coupled with the mounting costs of keeping our Jeep running, changed all vacations to staycations for the foreseeable future.

2. We tried to visit Neighbor State in 2010 for Bob’s 43rd birthday, but failed again, because we’d forgotten we were still broke.

3. Bob was in the hospital two weeks back, with chest pains.  (?!)  He turned out to be fine, but since he has a family history of heart disease, we were worried it would turn out to be something serious.  After that, we’ve both been very grateful just to be around each other.

All this should give you some idea why this simple trip across the lake on a car-ferry was more than just an outing, and why I was convinced for much of the drive that something would go horribly wrong.

Like when we passed through Delburgh, and the tarmac got a bit rougher. “Bob, do you hear that?  Do you think it’s the tires?”

“NO!”

My freaking was well-intentioned.  I just wanted to get us to the hotel for his birthday, like I promised.  I explained this to Bob.

“I know you do,” he said. “And I also know that you will do whatever you can to subconsciously ensure we don’t.”

“But I know that too!”

* * *

Miraculously, we got across the water, and drove the twenty minutes to the crackpot college town where we would be staying while we visited.

We walked through the center square to find jugglers in the streets, a guitar chick singing “Fidelity” outside a used bookstore, and gaggles of young hippies with cardboard signs, looking for spare change.  Crowded bars, horn-rimmed glasses and beards everywhere.  You get the picture.

The Neighbor State is like that.  A kind of green liberal utopia.  People like Bob and I can even marry there–it’s been legal for a while, no big woop.  Meanwhile, in my home state, such rights have remained a point of contention for years.  Even as Bob and I snuck past the Greenpeace advocates on Main Street that night, the matter was being voted on in our senate, and we were pretty sure it would be shot down.

Naturally people have often asked me, why not just relocate?  Isn’t Neighbor State just like Lonesome Valley, when you get down to it?  A bunch of green hills, barns and bleeding hearts?

Actually, there are ways that Neighbor State is better than Lonesome Valley.  Lots of them, and not just the matrimony.  For instance, it’s a fact that there’s more money to be made over there, and lots of it.  There’s more doctors, too.  (It’s a sure sign that you’ve got something serious if my office sends you to Neighbor State for treatment, no joke.)

There’s also wine in supermarkets, something my home state has yet to trust itself with.  And Neighbor State is prettier all around–not the environment per say, which is similar to ours, but the buildings, professional and otherwise.  People over there just know how to make things look appealing and welcoming, whereas the Lonesome Valley folks expect you to take in the natural beauty and ignore the rest.  Sure this restaurant is in some dude’s living room, but get a look at those mountains!

Trouble is, the people who live in Neighbor State drive Bob and I nuts.  We can’t even put our fingers on why. Maybe, as liberal as we are, these folks outliberal us.  There’s certainly something doe-eyed and idealistic about them, and it alienates us on a central level.  Or could it be the simple fact that their state doesn’t suck enough?  That they haven’t earned the right to be so cuddly?  It’s true that there’s something hard-won about learning to love The City, and there’s something similarly hard-won about learning the ropes of Lonesome Valley.  “If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere…” as the song says.

Neighbor State doesn’t feel like that.  It’s not antagonistic.  It doesn’t bite you back.  How can you trust a place like that?

* * *

Bob and I puzzled over this on our drive home, trying out theories.  And when we were done talking about that, we started talking about the plans for our upcoming wedding.

Because on the eve before Bob’s birthday, shortly after we ducked into a Neighbor State Denny’s to hide from the hipsters, my phone started lighting up with texts.  The senate passed it: Our home state had made it legal for us to get married.

And we didn’t even have to defect!

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We’re Here, We’re Queer, Don’t Tell Nobody

A friend of Bob’s and mine visited the property yesterday, impromptu.

His name is Ed, and he lives out in Morris Lake–though he relocated there from a town near The City, so he counts as a fellow defector.

At the end of the five-chicken tour, he was about to get back into his van, when he asked, “So, you two know about the 18th?”  Turns out we didn’t, so Ed explained that the 18th would be the next meeting of Lonesome Valley Pride, a monthly gay “mixer” of which we’re all members.

“If it’s called Lonesome Valley Pride,” Bob posited, “then how come we always hear about the meetings this way?”  It’s true–if it weren’t for our randomly bumping into other queers, we’d have no way of knowing these gatherings even existed.  Sure the group has a Facebook page, but until recently, all it ever posted was our organizer’s Mafia Wars score.

There’s some theory behind this secrecy, of course–a concern that a more vocal gathering would put us on the radar of hypothetical haters. The locals have been tolerant so far, so why fish for the unwelcome wagon?

Well fish we will.  As Ed informed us, Lonesome Valley Pride has officially come out of the closet, as of this past month’s mixer.  Bob and I missed that one because of his Je injury, but according to Ed, it turned out to be our most diverse crowd ever…in no small part because the space had been double-booked with a local art show.

The Freemasons we ain’t.

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You’re Not From Around Here

“Do you fish?”

My Dermatologist asks me this, so I assume he’s noticed scales on my back or something.  “Why?  What’s wrong?”

He laughs.  “Relax.  I’m asking you because you’re gay.”

I stare at him, now convinced that I am experiencing a stroke.  Turns out, he has a gay male “friend” who is into fishing, and  who claims that there are no other gay men on earth who are also into fishing.  So my Dermatologist is taking an informal poll.

It ain’t over yet: Clunky queer-themed chatter like this continues as the exam drags on.  It’s not the kind of talk that would constitute flirting, thank God–he’s not trying to advertise himself as family.  No, this reads more like he’s trying to show me he’s “down with” the homos, and thereby proving he’s not.  I begin to wish I’d checked the “married” box on my patient history form.

I don’t normally mind this kind of thing, mind you.  I’m still taken aback by the queerness of queerness–so I normally get along better with people who are awkwardized by the whole situation.

Maybe that’s what’s putting me off about the Dermy’s faux-coziness:  That he’s trying so hard not to be flummoxed by the prospect of a queer patient, when he so obviously is.  The guy’s faking comfort-level so badly that it makes me feel uncomfortable–more uncomfortable than I would as guest speaker at a “Focus on the Family” luncheon.

As I pull out of the driveway of The Dermatological Alienation Experience, I’m recalling that minister at my college buddy’s wedding down South, who made repeated attempts to reference Hebrew matrimonial tradition during the rehearsal because word had reached him that a real live Jew was in the wedding party.

Then, while rolling down the highway, I notice something telling about Dermy’s practice: It’s not in Lonesome Valley proper.  Rather, it’s just beyond the border, in the deeply suburban region of Delburgh.  Where the land stops looking like wilderness and starts looking like lawns, and box stores the size of mountains take the place of actual mountains.

Somehow this puts everything in context for me.

There’s a regimented feel to everything in Delburgh.  It makes whatever stands out, stand out twice as far.  Their zoning alone could have accounted for this entire incident.

Back in Lonesome Valley, where everything is dwarfed by the wild, the subject of my sexuality is received by most folks with nary a shrug.  This isn’t to say that the locals necessarily feel one way or the other about it–more to say that they don’t think about it for long.  They’ve got other shit to do, like keep their lawn from absorbing their flesh.

I drive the rest of the way home from Delburgh with something else to like about my adopted home.

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Any Party In A Storm

I’d have to characterize my trip to The City as a success.

Despite only being around for a few days, I managed to spend some breathless quality time with friends and family–the final count of our exploits including a Japanese print-art exhibit, a gay rugby game and an exhibition to commemorate the anniversary of a century-old industrial fire…with song.

As for the latest draft of my book, it’s now in the hands of “close readers”, who are tasked with gently beating the living shit out of it, while I do my best for two months to forget I ever wrote the thing.

In the meantime I’m trying to get some brand of social life here in Lonesome Valley–and ideally, one that doesn’t involve hiking.  So I’m planning to resuscitate two hobbies that I’d previously abandoned at the county border: The roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons, and the Chinese rummy variant Mahjong.

I’ve put together a website for the former, hoping to scare-up some local geeks on their virtual turf. As for the latter, I resorted to “sexuality profiling”.

“Would you be interested in a Mahjong night?” I asked the host of a local gay mens’ meeting, over the bass-heavy dance music on his cabin sound system.

“How about strip Mahjong?” he proposed.

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We Know Who You Are

I saw a vaguely cute guy with a Charles Ludlam nose at my local gas station the other day, and I instinctually did what I always do when I see someone attractive: I gave him a dirty look.

Call me crazy, but I find that it’s the safest way to check somebody out, especially when you don’t know their orientation. Just fix them with a look that says, “What the hell are you lookin’ at, joker?” and while they certainly may take offense to the gesture, I guarantee you, they won’t have a clue what you were actually picturing while you shot them the stinkeye.

In The City, this strategy has always worked perfectly for me, in part because out there, people give each other the stinkeye as a matter of course. But here in Lonesome Valley, people are generally friendlier, particularly to folks they’ve never met. So my technique backfired; Ludlam Nose looked at me like I’d just thrown a bucket of black water in his face.

No trouble, I told myself as I sprinted to my van. It’s not like I’ll ever see him again. It’s the same thing I tell myself when I play the fool down in The City: The trains may be expensive, but the anonymity is free.

Trouble is, this ain’t the city. So the very next day, I headed back to the gas station, and there was ol’ Ludlam Nose, pouring himself a cup of joe. I kept him in soft focus to avoid the inevitable recognition, but I suddenly realized something about my adopted home: There’s no hiding from your idiocy here. And what’s worse, everybody knows everybody.

The very next afternoon in fact, at that very same gas station, the guy on line ahead of me bought a pack of cigarettes, then turned as he left and asked, “How’s the job going?” It took me a moment to realize he was talking to me. Suddenly, I recognized him as Red’s grandson, who is also the nephew of the guy that lives next to the grange hall, who is himself the brother-in-law of the women who live across the street.

This tangled web has even spread to my workplace. When I told a co-worker of mine that I lived beside Red’s general store, she laughed and said, “I used to work there! Do you know Bev?” Bev is Red’s sister, and she’s a real character, always gesticulating with her cigarette, making these little jabbing motions while she talks. We both did our best impression of her.

Then we realized that the other women sitting in the practice kitchen were doing the exact same impression, right along with us. They knew Bev, too.

I’m just praying the inevitable doesn’t happen, like I have the sneaking suspicion it will. I can just see it now: I’ll be across the street at a cookout, a chili dog in one hand, a bottle of Budweiser in the other, and someone will introduce me to their cousin:

Ludlam Nose in the flesh.

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The Accidental Homosexual

I can’t tell if there are gay guys in Lonesome Valley or what.  I only need to see a few of them, so I can glare dissatisfiedly and think, “Boy am I glad I’m not with you…” Or, if they’re actually attractive, “Alas, my heart belongs to another…” Either way, I get to be the star of my own little romantic delusion.  But I demand real gays—suspension of disbelief, and all.

I thought I saw one in the Percival drugstore, where I was grabbing a Mach 3 razor to drag over my face, mere minutes before my second interview for that medical office job.   He was this morbidly obese guy in an 80s metal t-shirt, whom I’d taken for chronic hetero until I caught his bear paw tattoo.  Well there you have it, I thought.  There’s clearly a secret society of bears peppering the valley.

Then he waddled into his pickup truck, to his wife.  No bear here, just another schlub victimized by a woefully underinformed tattoo artist, who is no doubt branding evangelical ministers with “unity rainbows” as you read this.

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Band Aid

Friday night was spent at Open Secrets, where I had arranged for a group of “Disgruntled Gays” to get together, through a social networking site.

For the uninitiated (and on this subject, who isn’t?) “Disgruntleds” are gay people who don’t fit into the typical club scene, but who want to hang out with other gay people–preferably ones who are as alienated as they.

I’d tried to set-up an event for them/us once before, back in February.  The guy who showed (out of the 200+ on the invite list) was very sweet, but after he and I bonded over having almost no gay friends…he left.  I mean, he left before the band we were there to see came on.  And what do you think happened after that?  I ran into some straight friends of mine, of course, and spent the evening with them.  The score that evening was heterosexuals one, Disgruntleds zero.

This past Friday was a more successful outing (wokka wokka).  After sitting in the lounge beside an Irish guy who was, like me, looking around the room and trying to pin the tail on the pansy, I finally just asked him point-blank.  He wasn’t insulted, more  relieved that I’d popped the question for him.  A third guy joined us shortly after that, and we all had a terrific time.  It was great fun to be around gay men who were as into indie rock as we’re all supposed to be into musical theatre.  (Though, truth be told…I for one am into musical theatre.  Sorry, Jack Malebranche.)

The bands were incredible.  The opening set was stronger than most main attractions, the follow-up act completely exploded live, and the headliners were fiercely energetic and breathtakingly melodramatic to boot.  The Disgruntled and I traded notes on the show during the breaks, and bonded over our justifiable obsession with David Bowie…and our somewhat-less-justifiable one with Dennis Deyoung.

I will probably be driving back down to The City more often than I thought, in defiance of my fear of highways.

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