September 4, 2015

So A Gay Guy Walks Into A Redneck Bar…

I’d been in Minnesota for the past week for work, and I decided to stay through the weekend to hike and hang out at a lake. Friday rolled around, and after a dip in the quarry near the office, I was sitting in my car deciding how to spend my evening.

My client had told me about a country/western bar out on the east end of town. She said it was very “authentic”. I popped onto the bar’s website, and it turned out that there was a country band playing that night. I decided to go because I like a good bit of country music now and again.

I got in my car and headed east of town, where the bar was.

When I first saw the bar as I pulled up to it, I thought for just a moment, “Maybe I should turn around and go back into town…”

I was about to go full-on redneck.

You see, my client was NOT kidding when she said it was authentic. So authentic in fact, that the bar had the word “Redneck” in its sign out front. And a GIGANTIC “Budweiser” sign on the side. And a “Harley-Davidson” sign in bright neon lights. The parking lot was filling up with massive, loud pickup trucks. 

I parked and steeled myself in my car for a minute. Perhaps my fear was a irrational. But perhaps not. I've read about, heard about, and experienced the obstinate, irrational hate in redneck communities and so walking into a place like this wasn’t necessarily an easy thing to do.

I took in a deep breath and got out of the car. As I walked towards the bar, an older guy smiled at me.

“Nice car!” he said as he gestured towards my Camaro.

“Thanks! They’re pretty great cars,” I said. The short exchange calmed me down a bit.

I walked through a set of double doors, into the bar. And then saw a sign right there, proudly displayed for everyone to see as they walked in. I wish I’d taken a photo of the sign - but it said things like:
“Warning! This is an All-American bar.”
“There are going to be guns in here.”

There were Confederate flags peppered throughout the space. Good ol’ General Lee was on the wall.

I felt really, really out of place. I did not belong here, and boy, did I feel it! I didn’t feel out of place because people were throwing weird glances my way or anything like that, though. It was because as I looked around…

...I realized this was the straightest space I’d been in in a long, long time.


August 21, 2015

What Portland Taught Me About My Race.

A couple of months ago, my boyfriend and I were watching a TV show on Netflix. I was really enjoying it, until a specific scene played.

It showed two white male characters in a seedy massage parlour, the kind of place that offers "happy endings". Then the female masseuse came out. She was of course, Asian, and spoke with a heavy Asian accent. She was the kind of stereotypical character you'd expect to say, "Me love you long time!"

A year ago, I would have felt mild irritation at such a played-out, one-dimensional trope of a character, but then continued watching the series anyway, swallowing the lump of irritation.

But something had changed for me.

I was angry. Furious, actually.

My anger had, at its root, disgust. I was disgusted by how non-white people are portrayed in such an insulting, limited way all the time. I couldn't watch the rest of it the episode, and I in fact stopped watching the entire series all together.

May 17, 2014

PSA: Park Your Car, and Get Your Blood Flowing Safely.

If it's finally warmed up enough in your area to put your car away for a while, make sure you heed the advice in this PSA to stay safe!

March 30, 2014

Love, Loss, and Life.

It amazes me how often, things happen right when you need them to.

====

Today was a busy, full day. I helped a friend move. I went home, and got some work done. I had fun, and it was a satisfying day, but I felt… Well, emotionally heavy.

I was reflecting on everything that has happened over the past year - especially considering my odometer rolls forward another year in less than two weeks. Yep - I’m turning another year older!

And what a year it’s been! My relationship ended. I found my Mustang. I had a wild and adventurous summer. I had something traumatic happen in the fall that shook me to the core… I just bought a beautiful 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham in mint condition. And I feel settled in myself and my life in a way I never thought possible. Overall, I’m pretty damn happy!

But the one thing that seems to elude me is finding a partner - someone who’s truly ready for a good, healthy, adult relationship.

I’ve been questioning lately whether it is indeed possible to find such a partner, and I was moving closer to the conclusion that maybe, such a relationship wasn’t in fact possible. Maybe I’m asking too much? Maybe my destiny in life is to be single for the long haul? These are the sorts of things that were going through my head. I think we’ve all been there at some point.

I had a good heart-to-heart talk with a friend about all this, and I was feeling a bit better about life, love, and everything else afterwards. But, I still felt this heaviness I just couldn’t shake.

It was a warm spring night tonight, so I parked my Cutlass in the Village and went to my favourite pub with a good book. I talked to some of the other patrons, a couple of guys my age at the next table. And an older guy on my other side joined in our conversation. His name was Stan.

He was visiting from the East Coast for a few days, he said.

“Oh yeah? What brings you here?”

“Well, I retired early recently… Because… My partner of 16 years died suddenly of a totally unexpected heart attack almost a year ago. And after that, I realized that I’d better start really living my life now because I never know when it’s going to be taken away.”

Jesus Christ, what do you say in response to that? I just sat there in stunned silence. I couldn’t imagine being in a relationship for 16 years - and if I was - I couldn’t imagine suddenly losing my partner out of the blue.

After a good long pause, I said, “Wow - I… I’m so sorry to hear that. I can’t imagine what that would be like. I do totally get the importance of living your life now, though. That’s what my last year was about.”

I told him about my breakup, finding my Mustang, and then running off on my own terms last summer. By this time, Stan had moved over and was sitting across from me at my table.

My curiosity had gotten the better of me, and I sensed that he wanted to talk about his partner… So I asked, “What was he like? How did you guys meet?”

“We met almost 20 years ago, in a line at a movie theatre. He was in front of me with a bunch of his friends, and we just happened to strike up a conversation… He went to his movie, I went to mine… And we bumped into each other in the lobby after our shows. We chatted again for a few minutes, and then he had to go. But before he left, he gave me his business card, and asked if we could get together for coffee or something soon.”

I was floored. In my world of iPhones and online dating… I couldn’t imagine something so random leading to a 16-year marriage!

Stan told me about the life he had with his partner Tom. He told me how his parents thought of Tom as another son. And how, when his mother was in her final days with Parkinson’s disease… How kind and gentle Tom was with her.

He told me how Tom would leave cutesy sweet notes around their apartment for him to find. Or how Tom would text him with encouraging messages before a tough meeting or presentation at work.

Stan and I talked about relationships, and I shared how I’d love to meet a partner who shares the work of life and with whom life is more enjoyable.

“I know exactly what you mean! Tom and I… Well, it was the little things… I would would cook Sunday brunch for us and look after the kitchen. Tom would look after the cars and make sure they were always gassed up. We each did what we did best in our life together.”

Stan told me about how he and Tom had their own, individual lives and interests… But how they also identified as a couple, without losing their individual selves in their relationship.

“In the first week after losing Tom, I had to go and gas up the car. I pulled up to the gas pump, and stared at it dumbfounded for a moment. You see… I hadn’t used a gas pump in over 16 years. Tom did that. I remember the gas station attendant called me through the intercom and asked if everything was OK - if there was a problem with the gas pump. And I said that no, there wasn’t a problem with the pump - there was a problem with the user!”

Now that? That’s love. Wow. The room suddenly seemed to get a bit dusty.

I never thought that a gas pump would be a metaphor for love, but it totally just happened.

I told Stan, truthfully, that I’d never heard such a story of love between two gay men before. Ever.

Before walking into the pub, I had been beginning to think that such a relationship or love was not possible. But lo and behold - in front of me was a man - a gay man - who had lived it. I could not say any more that the type of relationship I wanted wasn’t possible.

It was time to go, and so Stan and I stepped outside into the spring night.

I showed Stan my Olds Cutlass, the newest (oldest?) member of this family of cars I’ve apparently begun to build. We hugged, and he went off to his hotel, and I got into my Cutlass.

I closed the door. The noise of the world outside went silent. I put the key in the ignition, turned it, and the American carbureted beast started up. I turned the car around, and started the drive home. My mind was abuzz with the amazing story Stan had shared with me.

I began to think that maybe… Maybe what I was looking for in a partner might actually be out there? It dawned on me that…
…I bought a Mustang a year ago.
…My hands were wrapped around the wheel of a mint ’87 Cutlass right now.
…I’d just met a total stranger who shared an incredible story of love, partnership, loss, and the importance of really living life. Right when I needed to hear it.

If those three things can happen… Well, I say anything is possible!

February 3, 2014

The Scarf.

This is something I wrote almost a year ago. I’d forgotten about it, and reading it took me back to that time. It feels like a lifetime ago! It also reminded me of how something that seems like an inconvenience can turn into one of those wonderful, perfect moments that you always look back on fondly.

A few weeks ago, I'd taken two weeks off because I'd hit burnout from my job. I decided that since I was already working in Boston, I'd pop across the harbour to Provincetown, MA for my time off. I love Provincetown because it's a beautiful fishing village right on the northernmost tip of Cape Cod, and it also has a large population of GLBT folks. As a gay couple, you can walk around holding hands and nobody bats an eye. It's really freeing to be able to engage in the simple act of holding your partner's hand without worrying about getting dirty looks or worrying about getting attacked.

My boyfriend flew down to join me, and we spent a relaxing week in Provincetown, finished off with a couple of days in Boston. In Boston, we stayed in a gorgeous Victorian house owned by this bookish professor type - Tom was his name. Walking into his house, well, it was like a Victorian salon! Ornate hardwood floors, beautiful solid wood Victorian furniture (including a fainting couch), and stunning chandeliers. I could easily have pictured people getting together, smoking, drinking, and talking about a variety of topics ranging from pop culture to politics to philosophy. Or, a room full of underground intellectual rebels smoking cigars and plotting to overthrow the establishment. You get the idea. Such a cool house!

We left Boston, went back to Toronto, and it was in the second week of my vacation that my boyfriend and I decided to end our relationship because of some fundamental incompatibilities. It was a mutual decision, and I felt real closure, so it was ultimately a good thing.

About a week later, I got a message from Tom and he said I had left my scarf at his house. I was annoyed at my oversight, and this was tinged with sadness. Getting an e-mail from Tom reminded me of my ex and my breakup, which, while ultimately for the best, was really fresh on my mind.

January 30, 2014

Viewer Question: How can I introduce my boyfriend to my traditional parents?

A question came in from one of my viewers:

"I've been dating a guy for a while, things are serious, and I'd like to introduce him to my parents. My family is South Asian, and I'm not quite sure how to do this... I'm in Australia. Any thoughts?"

It's a complex issue, for sure - so I hope you find this video helpful!

October 16, 2013

Minnesota.

I posted this on Facebook last week, and I thought I'd expand on it a bit more.

Minnesota has been disarming the armour I never even knew I'd built up over the years.

I'm not used to strangers smiling at me and giving me warm hellos. I'm not used to people letting me in on the freeway, or not honking at me if I don't gun it the instant the light turns green. I'm not used to not being tailgated. I'm not used to being pulled over by a police officer for minor speeding, having a friendly conversation, and being let off with a warning instead of a ticket. I'm not used to the hotel clerk chatting me up and cracking an inside joke she and I have whenever I walk out to my car. I'm not used to going to a gay bar on pride and hanging out with 5 locals for an entire night and sharing a lot of laughs. I'm not used to having a girl I'd met just once in passing walk past me and call out my name and stop to say Hello. I'm not used to walking around town with a relaxed smile on my face rather than a serious, "I'm going somewhere" face. I'm not used to questioning my reflex thought of, "What do you want from me?" when a stranger talks to me. I'm not used to not being asked, "Where are you from? No, I mean where are you REALLY from?" I'm not used to being in a small town and not being stared at.

I'm not used to this now, but I sure could get used to it!