follow me stereo jungle child

Somewhere in the ethos, somewhere in VHS tape Narnia. Somewhere in a Memorex/memory junkyard exists that videotape of me. No, not “videotape” in a Kim K. Ray J way. Mercifully, I never made a tape like that. Mainly because I could never think of why I’d want such an item. “Hey there’s nothing but reruns on. Good thing I have that old sex tape!”  Yikes. No, the tape I’m discussing is the filmed evidence of the  super weird, super gay, super crazy kid I’ve always been. On said tape, I can be found lip synching to Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper.  From what I remember, it’s a pretty entertaining performance. I was 11-years old and had studied Lauper’s every dance move and facial expression. For 80’s kids who worshipped at the church of MTV, lip synching skills and a repertoire of dance moves were essential skills and mine are on display in this tape. You’ll just have to take my word for it. I was spectacular.

Not spectacular in the same way the icon on display in the video above is but spectacularly a kid being 100% himself. Gay, weird, creative me dancing and lip synching and genuinely not giving a shit about what people thought about me. I danced to my own drummer and usually it was in my living room to  Cyndi or to this song

or this song

or this song

I didn’t need some dumb coffee cup to tell me to “dance like no one was watching.” I did it anyway. In fact, I danced, colored, played, lip synched with my whole heart, regardless of what people were watching. Simply put, I was free which is a powerful thing to type when you spent as many years as I did being alcohol’s bitch. But on that elusive video there it is evidence of my freedom and my spirit. Despite being knocked down, drugged out, battered and bruised, the free version of me was possible. The video proved it. So did the drawings, the glitter covered Christmas decorations, the crazy poems.

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While that tape may no longer exist, I’m happy to report that my freedom does. Recovery has truly helped me get it back. Right now, I’m in the middle of rewrites and finishing drafts on projects and remembering that kid filled with freedom is an important thing for me. Too often it’s that voice that says, “You are not good enough! Why bother!” that keeps me out of freedom and in total paralysis. I guess what I want to say on this rainy Wednesday is that my life is better when I remember to take care of that free crazy, authentic little being inside of me. He needs to be put on the dance and given permission to spin around.  So I hope you let your wild child dance today, even just for a little while. Remember what a wise woman once said, “All you need is your own imagination. So use it that’s what it’s for. Go inside, for your finest inspiration. Your dreams will open the door.”

 

 

 

 

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thanks for letting me cher

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In a misty Santa Monica park, on top of a green hill, with the sound of fog warnings coming from the beach and dogs barking, there’s a rec center. In addition to what sounded like some pretty spicy dance classes, this center also has meetings of the 12 step variety. Meetings I needed very much when I first moved to the beach in 2009 in hopes of turning my shipwreck of a life around.  My first time there I peered in the window and saw all these happy smiling people. Well, this certainly couldn’t be a meeting for drunks and drug addicts. Where was the crying? Where were the hobos with the red bandana knapsacks and pork pie hats? Where were the junkies in wheelchairs on death’s door? Being convinced I was in the wrong place, I quickly got out of there before anybody noticed me.  What I didn’t I know was that was the right place and I would be spending a lot of time there in the months to come.

12 step meetings are crazy ass places. Drama. Laughter. Breakdowns. Breakthroughs. Bunnies. No, really, there was an actress from the 80’s who used to bring her pet rabbit to the meeting. Maybe the bunny had a drinking problem. It’s all the stuff people watch reality tv for but without the commercials. Unlike those televised travesties, meetings actually save people’s lives. I’m not exactly sure how but people who go all the time usually stop doing drugs, drinking, gambling screwing everything in sight or whatever else might ail them. Again, this magical juju is beyond my comprehension. Sure I can tell you the names of the kids on Full House or the order of the singles released on Madonna’s True Blue record, but mysteries of the universe are beyond my comprehension. What I did notice about these gatherings is the folks who shared about their struggles and the solutions to said struggles and did so on a regular basis managed to stay sober. One day after a gathering of these brave people, my heart was full. I left the meeting and as I walked down the fog covered hill, this song started came from the SUV of one of the people leaving the meeting:

I started laughing. Not only because of the song’s goofy jingly-jangly intro or the lyrical parallels to attendees of the meeting, but because it’s Cher. Diva, icon and former spouse to someone who used drugs and alcohol like I did, Cher is everything. I love Cher for the camp factor, for her music and because as a gay man in his forties, it’s the law. Cher is also the ultimate symbol  of survival. Ain’t no Equal commercial or bad movie gonna keep her down!  Just when we think she’s done, she comes back. With a few months sober and back from the brink of self-destruction, I could kind of relate.  I could go on with the Cher metaphor (“I was once a ‘Dark Lady’ and now I ‘Believe”) but I won’t. What people like Cher, Madonna Cyndi Lauper and Boy George represented to me as a kid was individuality and strength, things I so desperately wanted. Meetings were the first place I felt like I could be myself. The real version. I could say, “hey, I’m not feeling good.” or “I need help” without giving a crap about what people thought. I soon began to find my life but bigger than that I learned I didn’t have to do any of this alone. And thankfully, my road to individuality and being able to share my problems was one that didn’t require headdresses or assless pants.

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love is still the boss

Today was undoubtedly a victory for gay rights and marriage equality! As a gay man who is married my heart exploded. Yet as I read the “DOMA defeated!” headlines this morning on my phone on my way to my meeting, I knew there wasn’t any winners here. It was a matter of human rights and the Supreme Court did the right thing. But if there is a winner that winner is love. As always, love, not me, is the boss.

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When I look at something like gay marriage and inequality, it’s hard not to feel like it’s personal. It’s even harder to not wish harm on the folks who worked overtime to create things like Prop 8. After all, the LGBT community are the victims here and Mormons, Westboro Baptist and all the other bigots deserve the hatred they’ve so happily dished out, right? Uh. Maybe not.  Belonging to a fellowship like I do which has ‘love and tolerance’ as the code, retribution is something I can’t get behind. After all, it’s not “love and tolerance of only those who think like I do.” It’s of everybody. Dammit. The annoying lady at the grocery store. The screaming guy on the corner. The people who don’t believe in recycling. Love and tolerance for all of them. Period. There isn’t a loophole for douchebags. This doesn’t mean I have to agree with them or give them all hugs but it does mean I can’t tear them down for thinking differently than I do, regardless of how batshit it is. It struck me not that long ago that trashing religious people who are perceived as anti-gay,while easy and kinda fun, in my mind, is just as bigoted and shows little or none of the compassion so many of us have been demanding from the world at large. This revelation blew my mind. Maybe I was just as bad as they were? It also drained the victimization out of discrimination. I could no longer hid behind the thought that the straight world was out to destroy me while wallowing in a self-pity jacuzzi. As love is a two-way street so is intolerance and I’ve been guilty of my own prejudices born out of fear or misunderstanding.

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The good news is this though, love trumps my personal idiocy. Love still solves problems that feel personal or too big to ever get fixed. Love prevails even when my own wisdom does not. Love, even when the most loving thing is to walk away or shut the hell up, knows what it’s doing. Love, not clever rainbow memes or links to headlines or Kim Zolciak with tape over her mouth, made DOMA a thing of the past.  Yeah, love won bigtime today. But then again, it always does.

Gay Pride Mixtape: Vol. 2

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In honor of gay pride weekend, I’m celebrating with by making some YouTube mixtapes featuring some of my favorite big gay songs. Today’s edition pays homage to the divas!

No gay mixtape would be complete without a little Barbra Streisand. Not only is she a gay icon but her own son is gay too! Go, Babs.

And speaking of gay icons. One word: CHER. ‘Nuff Said.

Donna Summer may have had a complicated relationship with the LGBT community but by the end of her life, it had healed and all we were left with was her incredible legacy of some of the best dance music ever.

Ladies and gentlemen, Grace Jones. You’re welcome!

When it comes to my happy place music, nobody fits the bill like Kylie Minogue.

Cyndi Lauper was my first gay diva as She’s So Unusual was the first record I ever bought with  my own money. Here’s a vintage track from that record along with a booty shaker from her tragically underrated Take Ya to the Brink. I even saw Cyndi perform at West Hollywood Gay Pride back 2003.

To wrap it up, here’s Madonna at the peak of her powers having a holiday. Hope you do the same!

 

 

 

 

Gay Pride Mixtape: Vol. 1

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Happy Gay Pride Denver! As I’ve mentioned, I’m not big on crowds of drunk people, gay or otherwise, and seeing as I’ve been instructed by medical folk to take it easy for the next few days, I won’t be celebrating my gayness with the entire city. But that doesn’t mean I’m not proud of who I am or of the progress LGBT people have made. Quite the contrary! I love being gay and I’m in awe how far we’ve come. Music is kind of how I celebrate everything. Once upon a glitter soaked night club, I used to dj and work in a record store. I know. Very 90’s. Anyway, I thought I’d make myself a little YouTube mixtape in honor of the occasion featuring some serious gay superstars!

We’ll start you off slow with disco and lesbian icon Alicia Bridges. Please enjoy the gold lamé boots.

Do you wanna funk? Let drag pioneer and all around badass Sylvester show you how!

Best. Baseline. Ever. And oh yeah, Freddie Mercury was a pop god.

If gets any gayer than George Michael in leather, than I have yet to find it. The dance routine at 2:44 is mind-blowing, by the way.

No gay pride mix would be complete without Boy George. Holy crap. I wanted to be him so bad.

Erasure covering ABBA? Gay, gay, gay.

That should get me started and feeling festive. Tomorrow, I’ll post volume 2 which is nothing but big gay divas!

12 Days of Blogmas: Happy Holigays

Oh readers. Just when I think I couldn’t possibly love you more than I do, you surprise me by being totally amazing. Only you guys would make a post about a baseball star our most read of the year but have our second most popular post be about gay pride. Like I said, you guys are pretty special.

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The Last Time I Saw L.A. Gay Pride is our entry here on the 6th day of blogmas. And honestly I love that so many people read that post. “The first time I” or “the last time I” are great writing exercises I’ve picked up from different gurus and fabulous ways to start memoir-type of posts. So it being June at the time, I thought it was fitting to talk about my last time at Los Angeles Gay Pride. Over the years, the particular celebration in the super gayborhood of  West Hollywood served as the playground of a lot of drunken debauchery for this writer. What had escaped me for years about “gay pride” was the second word of that phrase. Feeling proud of myself, liking myself, loving myself were things I couldn’t wrap my mind around regardless of how many parades I sat through. Maybe others could identify with that sentiment and that’s why this post was popular or maybe it had more to do with the fuzzy pink booty shorts. silly-gay-men

Whatever the case, I’m thrilled people read and comment on anything thing I write and I’m proud of this funny post and yeah, today I’m even proud of myself too. Talk about a holiday miracle. Let’s journey back to the magical month of June together, shall we?  And celebrate the 6th day of Blogmas with The Last Time I Saw Gay Pride. 

And if you are still looking for a festive –and cheap- gift for readers on your list, my holiday story A Tough Cookie Christmas is available now at SmashWords!

Inspiration for August 20th: James Baldwin

“The occurrence of an event is not the same thing as knowing what it is that one has lived through. Most people had not lived — nor could it, for that matter, be said that they had died– through any of their terrible events. They had simply been stunned by the hammer. They passed their lives thereafter in a kind of limbo of denied and unexamined pain. The great question that faced him this morning was whether or not had had ever, really, been present at his life.”
James Baldwin, Another Country

Hey writers and book lovers, if you want to be inspired, just go take a look at the best-seller list from August 19th 1962. William Faulkner, JD Salinger, Phillip Roth, Katherine Ann Porter, Irving Stone and this guy, James Baldwin, all populated the New York Times list. Nary a 50 Shades of whatever or trashy novel from a reality star in sight. Oh the good old days. Except 1962 wouldn’t be considered the good old days, I suppose. That year race riots continued across the country, Marilyn Monroe died and the Cuban missile crisis was in full swing.

So thank God for poetic troublemakers like James Baldwin. His book Another Country was a bestseller 50 years ago and for a black gay author in the early 1960’s that was groundbreaking indeed.  Another Country, like most of Baldwin’s work grappled with tough issues like sexuality, equality and suicide. Baldwin spent most of his life in Europe after feeling disenchanted by the racism and homophobia in the US. But continued to champion other writers and artists and collaborated with the likes of genius photographer Richard Avedon, cultural anthropologist Margret Mead and poet Nikki Giovanni. 

There’s a lot to take away from Baldwin, his works and his life. His legacy and artistry are a never-ending source of inspiration.  So the quote from Another Country seems like a good thing to meditate on today. As a recovering addict, being present for my own life is an ongoing challenge and a good thing to strive for on a Monday. Also, I want to embrace Baldwin’s collaborative spirit today. Adding to a creative project rather than dominating it is another great ideal to work towards today.

That’s enough out of me, kids. Enjoy your Monday. May it be an inspiring and collaborative one!

The Last Time I Saw LA Gay Pride

Throughout the month of June, all over the country, in cities big and small, gay, lesbian bisexual and transgendered men and women are flocking to their local pride parades and festivals. If you’ve never been to one of these events, I can tell you that if you do attend you are likely to see a musical act from yesteryear performing on one of the stages (Belinda Carlise! The Village People!), you are likely to see fried food on a stick (because corn dogs and churros cross all lines of discrimination) and you will certainly see a lot of people who are really, really intoxicated.

Now I’m not saying that everyone who attends a gay pride festival is going to get fucked up but let’s be honest here. The only thing gays like better than half-naked people in booty shorts at 11am wandering the streets is half-naked people in booty shorts at 11am wandering the streets drinking. Gays are so fond of daytime drinking in the streets, gaggles of them often appear at random festivals solely for that very reason. I’ve personally attended everything from Cuban festivals to an abysmal non-New Orleans version of Mardi Gras all in the name of drinking in the streets. As citizen of Los Angeles for 15 years, I could bore you with dozens of drunken tales from the West Hollywood gay pride festival. In fact, as I read blogs and saw pictures of this weekend’s celebration, my mind took a trip down memory lane. I recall line dancing in a country music tent with a drag queen. I remember drinking vodka and watching what remains of the Mary Jane Girls perform near a baseball diamond. And how could I forget seeing Cyndi Lauper wave from a hot pink convertible as a dance remix of ‘True Colors’ thumped in the background? Yet it’s my last time at gay pride in Los Angeles that solidifies the gay pride experience for me.

A friend and I went over to the parade in 2007. With cocktails to go, we headed over to West Hollywood. Perched from a cozy alcohol adjacent corner inside Rage, a parade route- friendly watering hole, we watched as the rainbow of topless men and aforementioned booty shorts pranced by interspersed with floats sponsored by  Gieco and local erotic bakeries alike. This being a Los Angeles event, “celebrities” pimping their latest reality shows or albums were on display too. We cheered as famous hot mess and former America’s Next Top Model judge Janice Dickinson floated by with a bevy of shirtless models. Dickinson claims to be the world’s first supermodel but I would contend she may also be the world’s first celebrity with Tourette’s syndrome. I however always admired her frank nature and the fact that here was a famous person who was shockingly more wasted than I was. She made me feel like, “Gee, maybe I’m not a total disaster.” Dickinson, like any good addict, had moments of sobriety followed by moments of hot messiness. During this particular celebration, it would be safe to say she was experiencing the latter. As the parade wrapped up, we plotted our next move. Do we pay $20 bucks to get into the festival or do we go drink somewhere else? Well, clearly our Jacksons would be put to better use at a bar so we headed over to the Abbey. While you’re unlikely to find nuns at this Abbey (unless it’s Halloween), you were guaranteed to find strong cocktails, more naked men and on that day even Janice Dickinson. Along with a thousand or so of our closest friends, the partying really started to happen. More beers, more shots, and a pill that someone told me was “kind of like Ecstasy.” I wanted my picture taken with Janice but her tanned trio of bodyguards politely shooed my wasted ass away. The rest of the afternoon was a slurry blur and by 4pm I was home and napping off my daytime drunk.

I share this story because in my mind the preceding events had nothing to do with being proud of being gay. I wasn’t drinking and dancing and harassing celebrities because I loved being gay and loved who I am. Quite the contrary, in fact.  Yet that’s how I always celebrated gay pride: by getting absolutely shithoused drunk.

While in LA and newly sober, I stayed away from gay pride. Not because I was worried that I would relapse. But because I felt like it I had no business being there. Like a vegan at Outback Steakhouse. Everybody else was going to be drunk so why bother? A few years later, I’ve lightened up. My recovery is such that I can attend this kind of stuff  without feeling like I’m the only one not wasted. But also I know when not to go too. Like even though its been over 3 years, there are times that I can’t go to places where lots of drinking will be going on. And this is okay. Gay pride means being proud of who you are and today I can honestly say that I am just that. I’m proud to be gay, sober and positive. And I can celebrate all of this without drinking, booty shorts or Janice Dickinson.

Depressing New Study on Gays & Addiction Proves What We Already Know

“Your people  sure do love margaritas!’ said the Argentinian lady I used to work for back in the mid-1990s. And she was right. The restaurant she owned was packed on the weekend with gays and lesbians just getting their drink on. Now, a new study from The Center for American Progress says that not only do “my people” love their cocktails but they are more prone to drug and alcohol abuse then our straight counterparts.

I talked about this months ago on these pages and have often wondered what, if any, is the correlation between LGBTs and addiction/alcoholism. Based on my own non-scientific yet vast field experience, I would ascertain that we queers are one cracked out, jacked up drunken mess of a group of people. But clearly I’m no researcher. I like to think of myself as more of a lab rat. Thankfully, this study which pulled data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and other studies,  did the real work. The organization claims “that an estimated 20-30% of gay and transgender Americans have abused substances, compared to 9% of the general public” according to TheFix.com. That staggering number confirms what the LGBT community has known for decades but refuses to talk about; addiction and alcoholism are killing thousands of gays and lesbians. So why, after all the knowledge we have about addiction does it continue to ravage the gay community? “The stress that comes from daily battles with discrimination and stigma is a principal driver of these higher rates of substance use, as gay and transgender people turn to tobacco, alcohol, and other substances as a way to cope with these challenges,” the report states. “And a lack of culturally competent health care services also fuels high substance-use rates among gay and transgender people.”  Gay and transgender folks, the study says, are also 200% more likely to smoke tobacco than hetrosexuals while gay men are 3.5 times more likely to smoke pot than straight guys.

I can’t begin to speak on the drinking and drug habits of all gay people. (Contrary to popular belief we don’t all know each other.) But for me personally, I read a survey like that and find those numbers to be right on in my own life. Drug abuse? Check. Alcoholism? Check. Smoking? Check. I’m not sure about the hypothesis of why gays and lesbians drink and drug more though. For me it was a combo of things. Being gay was one part but mainly I drank and used to escape, to get away from a person I hated–myself. I had a lot of shame and not all of it was centered on being gay. Ironically, my “battles with discrimination and stigma”,as the study calls them, were more inflamed while I was using. I don’t encounter that kind of resistance in my sober life but that’s a different study altogether. Personally, I don’t believe being gay or being the child of  an alcoholic or being bullied or having a high voice alone made me an alcoholic. It was all kind of written in the stars before I got here and it was up to me to either meet the challenges or not. But that’s my crazy ass beliefs. My hope is that gay leaders can look at this study and say “Our community has a problem. What do we do about it?” Ignoring it and having Absoult sponsor our gay Pride floats isn’t helping matters, in my opinion.

But what do you guys think? Does this study hold any water? Will it bring out much-needed honest conversation? Or are LGBTs doomed to a life of addiction? Tell me your thoughts in the comments section!

Sparkleholic

I love this time of year. The competition. The tight races. The close calls. I’m not talking football but AWARDS SEASON!! Duh. I’ve loved the Oscars and every awards show since I was a kid. But anything sparkly always held my gaze. I dressed up as Wonder Woman in kindergarten. I dumped loads of glitter on my tree topper angel we made in 1st grade, much to the dismay of my Catholic school art teacher. Anything that was  beautiful and spectacular from the Miss USA pageant to Gone with the Wind, completely captivated me as a kid.  Because long before I was addicted to drugs and alcohol, I was addicted to shiny.

As a kid growing up in Denver in the 1970’s and 80’s in a charming urban old school neighborhood, glamour wasn’t something that usually stumbled down my street. Thankfully, television and pop culture provided what Denver couldn’t. Charlie’s Angels, Wonder Woman and the Muppet Show were the main sources of inspiration. But reruns of That Girl, Bewitched,  and Josie and the Pussycats fit the bill nicely too. Yet nothing compared to the Oscars. The Oscars were a time when every famous person got dressed up to celebrate my real true childhood love: movies. Movies were the ultimate in sparkly. They had  the instant ability to take me away from my day-to-day and put me in another world. My parents supported my love of movies, books, art and- God bless them- Strawberry Shortcake.  But life in an alcoholic home ain’t a walk in the park so movies and fantasy weren’t just a good time. They literally saved my life. I had a place to run to that was all Madonna songs ,scratch and sniff stickers, Pound puppies and old movies-24 hours a day. And the ugly stuff could simply disappear.

When I found alcohol and drugs and nightclubs and raves, it was as if the fantasy life never had to end. Dressed in glitter covered vinyl and boas and more sparkly t-shirts, my friends and I were the 90’s personified. We partied at clubs with Courtney Love and George Michael. We crashed movie parties and guzzled down free cocktails. We never paid to get in anywhere. But then you do that life 7 days a week and soon you’ve done it. And before you know it, your late 20s and early 30s have arrived and the party has moved from hipster dive bars into your living room. Seven nights a week and sometimes alone. Soon, sparkly is the last word anybody would use to describe your life.

Getting sober put me through the ringer and I wasn’t too worried about chasing fabulous anymore. That first year, I didn’t care about the Oscars and I barely went to the movies. But today I love the movies and can now remember what I’ve seen-always a bonus! I can’t wait to watch the Golden Globes tonight and the Oscars next month.  I admit a little temporary escape isn’t the worst thing and neither is the real world. My life, when I actually look at it, sparkles and glitters with amazing gifts- like a family who loves me, a healthy relationship and a  rich spiritual life.  And that is truly fabulous.