Sunday, June 25, 2006

It has come to this.

Last weekend was San Francisco Gay Pride. One of the largest (if not the largest) Gay Pride events in the world, I believe they were estimating over a million people would be attending. Apparently the parade is the largest parade in California, with the Rose Bowl parade being next in sheer number of floats and marchers.

AJ went and marched in the Pride parade though - with the AIDS Lifecycle contigency. He normally isn't that much of a rah rah sort of guy. But his friend Robert (Doctor Bob) was going to be in the parade as well. Robert is the sort of person that most people notice. He's a tall strapping lad, who happens to be Asian and who also happens to be quite gregarious. Last year the gay and lesbian channel LOGO did a documentary on the AIDS Lifecycle called THE RIDE. Robert was chosen to be one of the featured riders in the documentary (though later I found out that he was cut. Not sure why. Perhaps they felt they couldn't have any people of color on the documentary - looking at the people who made the cut, apparently only WHITE people did the ride.)

Regardless, Robert was quite the popular guy this year on the ride. He's in AJ's riding group (the Gutterbunnies) and will be competing with AJ in the Gay Games next month. One of the main reason that Robert was so popular on the ride, and why he wanted to march in the parade, was because of the fabulous red dress he wore as he rode on Red Dress Day.

What's Red Dress Day you ask? Originally on Day 5 of the AIDS Lifecycle, they had a "dress in red" day. The idea was that everyone would dress in red and they would form a red ribbon going down the coast of California. Naturally when you get a thousand queens hanging out together over a course of a week "Dress in Red" day will turn into "Red Dress Day."

Last year Robert wore a custom made dress, with red dyed bunny fur used as the accents. This year, he wore the same dress, but also wore six inch stilletto platform heels that he had his bike shop attach a bike pedal clip to the bottom of the platform. Yes he cycled 45 miles wearing stilletto heels (on one heel no less, as he had to manual clip in with his hand - meaning he could clip in both heels - he pedalled the entire 45 miles with one leg).

So you can see why he was so popular. And for Gay Pride he wore the same dress, the same heels and AJ went along to ride with him.

And just for the record, AJ did wear a red dress that day, but did not wear one for the Gay Pride parade.

For more pictures of the AIDS Lifecycle, feel free to visit AJ's yahoo photo album for Lifecycle 5. Or visit the official AIDS Lifecycle blog where you can see a close up of AJ in the middle of his water fight at the closing ceremonies!

After the parade, AJ came back home and we had a impromptu brunch with Karen and Ben and Annie (Belgian-style buttermilk waffles, fluffy scrambled eggs ala AJ, and thick cut applewood smoked bacon). Then we wandered about at Pride and had a chance to watch/listen to both Jody Watley, Crystal Waters and Lady Miss Kier.

AJ and I felt a little bad for Lady Miss Kier. Apparently she's not even B-List celebrity and didn't make it onto the main stage, but was relegated to the Dance Stage. Nevertheless, she rocked the house, and despite not really aging well (she had put on a few pounds) she had the entire crowded raising the proverbial roof with her closing song "Groove is in the Heart."

I did realize that one of my major reasons in going to Gay Pride isn't the fact that I am proud that I was able to come out of the closet and walk around out and gay. It isn't the eye-candilicious hot gay men walking around shirtless, or the people watching and the crazy drag queens and ugly naked guys who you never want to see naked, or the meat on the stick and funnel cakes. It isn't even the b-list celebrities singers on the stage (we even skipped Lisa Lisa so we have no idea if she was "all cried out" that day or not) - though in truth, I did want to see glam indie rock band The Ark play, and missed them too. No, the major incentive for me to go to Gay Pride is the free shwag.

I love free stuff. And, as always, I'm always grab handy when it comes to street fairs or conventions, taking everything I can get my hands on, and then realizing afterwards that I have no need for two frisbees, a hack sack, three pens, and suction cup plastic frog that jumps, not to mention the random fliers and catalogs that I immediately recycle. This year's pride yields some lube samples (which AJ and I rarely use, being as we are very specific about that sort of product and they often times don't have enough in one sample for proper use - though last year, I took all the lube samples and cut them open and squeezed them out into an empty lube container, much to AJ's chagrin and amusement), some condoms, a lollipop, a sticker, two magazines, a pen, and the best of the bunch - a red T-shirt from Delta Airlines that says "Go Brazilian" on the front.

Not a great haul, but decent. I probably could have talked the woman into giving me 5000 Delta miles but AJ and I hate Delta (another story) and refuse to fly them. So I took the T-shirt.

And then AJ and I came home. I won't mention what we did at home, but being Gay Pride Day, and us being very Prideful, you can imagine what it entailed.

My friend Rita's blog has an entry about the phrase "It has come to this." She got the phrase from a book by Maxine Hong Kingston called Tripmaster Monkey. In the book the main character often felt it was useful to say "And so, it has come to this." and take a good look around and decide what it has come.

And I look around and think "It has come to this." I live in a great city, with such great Gay Pride, that I can forget that I have something to be proud of and instead go there looking for free stuff I will never use. I look around and I see friends who will spontaneously come over for brunch, and loved ones who march and ride down the city in the Gay Pride Parade to both celebrate being Gay and also to remind people of the loss of AIDS and the tragedy of HIV. I am living a life with friends and lovers in a great city surrounded by great people. And though my life can improve (find a better paying job, lose some weight, relax more, stress out less, etc.) I do not want for anything. And that is all I can ask for.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Next Step.

As with all couples, AJ and I have had our shares of ups and downs. We've been together for over six years, and we've watched our friends get married and have kids (well no one close, but second tier and third tier friends have kids). We've also had a few friends break up, and one or two go through divorce. And though it has come up on several occasions as to when AJ and I might possible take our relationship to the next level, neither AJ nor I have been willing to take that next step.

Until today.

It started out as a mellow day - especially for the Saturday of Pride weekend. AJ and I had gone out dancing the night before with our friends Peter and Grant. Club Dragon - for Asians and their "friends." I have to make a note here to mention that I have never before seen so many unattractive white men trying their luck picking up the twinkie Asian boys. And though there certainly were a large percentage of equally unattractive Asian men (empirically unattractive - not just unattractive to me) there was a definite number of attractive Asian men - a significantly higher percentage than for the nonAsian population.

And as a sidenote, the number of really bad hairstyles there was astronomical too. Why oh why are people still trying to rock the mullet? So last year. And don't get me started on the sad sad people with the fashion victim fauxhawk. Trying too hard much?

Regardless, AJ and I had fun and ended up dancing in the upstairs area where they played hip hop (and hip hop-ish music). We raised the roof to Snoop and Missy Elliott. The crowd was loving the Kelis, but we ended up leaving just as they started to play my current favorite tune CRAZY by Gnarls Barkley. Ah well.

Grant was perplexed as to when I would actually listen to this sort of music outside of a club - as I was having a riotious good time (not that he wasn't having a good time but you know, not the same sort of intensity that I seemed to be having bouncing up and down all over the place).

"I mean, you wouldn't listen to this music when you are are lounging on the couch reading Newsweek would you? Wouldn't classical music be more appropriate?" he asked me over the thumping bass. There in lies the difference between Grant and I. He apparently lounges on his couch reading Newsweek while listening to classical music. I bounce around the house listening to Missy Elliott, blogging, cleaning, or surfing the web. I haven't read a Newsweek since high school where I was forced to read them for research paper reference. Nowadays if I need the news, I'm online at the New York Times Online,, or getting my local info I haven't read an actual printed news rag in years.

And so I said as much and he nodded in understanding. We live very different lives.

So AJ and I ended up sleeping in a little bit on Saturday and woke up late, lingering in bed. When we finally dragged ourselves out of bed, we met up with Annie at Cafe Flore. We chit chatted, had some coffee, ate a muffin and then took off. I had a conference call with my parents as they are currently in Germany. They have discovered the wonders of SKYPE so we now have weekly free conference calls. Though strangely they keep on calling it SKY-PEE, instead of SKYP (rhyming with type or ripe). Oh well.

After the conference call we met back up with Annie - now wearing the DIESEL jeans she had bought in the interim. Apparently Diesel is having a sale and she scored some low rise. They did make her ass look great, but she was little self concious about the butt cleavage they created as she sat down. We assured her that it wasn't too noticeable. Besides the place we had met up for brunch was filled with gay men (it was the Castro - during Pride weekend) and hence, I doubted that any of them were really going to notice her butt crack.

And after a lovely brunch (which would have been even more lovely had the service not be rude and annoying.), AJ and my relationship took the next step forward.

It was after brunch AJ and I bought a plant.

Yes a PLANT.

This is a whole new level of commitment in our relationship. We have never owned a living thing before. In fact we had talked for ages about how our house needed another living creature in it. How a plant would be not only great feng-shui for the places, but would brighten up our household. But had never gotten around to it. We had never taken on the responsibility of another living lifeform totally dependent on us.

But now we have. We entered the store Hortica next to Luna where we had brunched with Annie. We had mentioned to her that we were thinking of getting a plant and she got all excited and decided she wanted one too. We took a quick look around the place but were a bit confused by the number of options that were presented. That's when I enlisted the help of the proprietor of the establishment.

"Hello. We are looking to buy our first plant."

He seemed amused. We explained that we had never owned a plant at all, and he seemed a bit surprised. He asked what we were looking for, and our response "something we won't kill." seemed a little vague for him. He replied "Well why don't you look around and then ask me about a plant that you are interested in."

Annie pointed out one plant that he said was very hearty and she ended up buying that. We picked a nice looking vine like one, and he said that one would need more direct sunlight and a little more maintence. We immediately ruled it out. We then asked him about a more waxy leafed one (my theory being it was sitting on the floor, so it had to be more sturdy and resilient than the ones on the shelves or nearer to the sun). He told us the name of it, but I immediately forgot. Nevertheless he said it was very sturdy, didn't need tons of light, and was low maintence. We thought this was perfect for us.

I had AJ pick the one out of the four or five plants of that variety sitting on the floor. I figure that since he was picking it out, he'd bond with it immediately.

After buying soil, a larger pot, plant food, and the plant we left feeling very much more committed to each other due in large part to the fact that we now were responsible for a living lifeform. Together.

We have a plan now. First a plant. Then a goldfish. Then a house. Then a dog. Then a kid. Somewhere between house and dog or dog and kid, probably a commitment ceremony or marriage depending on what the law allows.

In the meanwhile, we have a plant to take care of. We already named it. His name is Giles (after the Buffy watcher - he's stable and smart, but quirky with an edge just Giles was on the show). I just hope we don't kill it.

Watch for a birth announcement coming soon.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Why Balloons make Me Sad.

I walked home today from work. I haven't been to the gym in ages, because of this persistent sinus infection that I know will probably take another three weeks to get over. Thus my "get fit (or at least get rid of my stomach) by Pride" goal is shot. I'm now shooting for "get fit by Folsom Street Fair." So instead of taking MUNI home from work, I've decided to walk home, hoping the 35 minute walk will have some impact on my stomach. I've tried to walk to work as well in the morning, but that means I have to wake up an extra 15 minutes early (because it takes 20 minutes for me to take MUNI or BART) but I never do. 15 minutes is huge amount of time when you are asleep. That's two snooze bars.

I do think the "walking home from work" would be more effective if I did it more often. Today was the first time I've done it in three weeks. Oh well.

On the way home from work I saw an adorable Asian boy walking down the street with his mom. He was probably two or three. I'm a horrible judge of age - something I blame on the fact that I watch way too much WB television, as the actors they cast are never the age that they play on the shows. Case in point - Buffy the Vampire Slayer (my all time favorite TV show). The actor who played XANDER (Nicholas Brendon) was way too old to be in high school, and let's not talk about the character of CORDELIA played by Charisma Carpenter. She should have been teaching the classes, not taking them. Nevertheless the adorable Asian boy was old enough to be walking, but seemed too young to be in kindergarten, so I'm going to guess that he is around two or three.

But what made the adorable Asian boy memorable was the baby blue balloon he was holding. He seemed to be clutching the balloon fairly securely, but I felt that at any moment the balloon could have been ripped out of his hands by the wind. That was when I realized that balloons make me sad.

Let me take a moment to clarify something. I do not find the colorful MYLAR balloons sad. The shiny silver ones that have Barbie or Hello Kitty or even Garfield on them, or the ones that say HAPPY BIRTHDAY or HAPPY ANNIVERSARY or CONGRATULATIONS are not the balloons I am talking about. I like those balloons. Those balloons are the cheerful and upbeat. They are the kind that make me happy and slightly giddy with childlike glee. AJ has actually given me a few of those balloons over the course of our relationship, and I have to admit, I probably still have them, deflated, stuck in the bottom of some box. I love those balloons. Heck the mini balloon that he got me that said "TO CHEER YOU" when I was bedridden and sick a couple of months ago is still sitting on my bedside table. I like waking up to it - and surprisingly it has not deflated.

No, it's the generic balloons that make me sad. The plain colored blue and red balloons are what makes me the most sad actually. Other colors don't bother me too much, but they aren't the cheerful objects that most people associate happiness and childhood with in my mind.

There are two specific memories that I have when I see these generic balloons. The first one is actually fairly recent. I can blame the melancholic feeling I have on being a hipster indie kid (or at least a wannabee hipster indie kid, it's hard to be a real hipster indie kid at the age of 32). I can blame it on the fact that I am a big fan of the music of LOW.

For those who aren't familiar with the band Low, I would highly recommend them - but be warned ahead of time, they are not a cheerful band. They aren't depressing in a SMITHS or CURE sort of way. No, even those bands had their jangly guitar pop songs. And though it's true that Low has a few songs that are considered "snappy" - mostly it's relative. If all your songs are mellow, slow and somber, there is bound to be one or two songs that are considered peppy.

Regardless, the band is actually quite gifted. The most recent album THE GREAT DESTROYER came out a year or two ago, and is still in rotation on my iPod. They had a song called MISSOURI on one of their earlier albums, but in the song they pronounced it MISERY which appealed to me greatly. I have had many a friends who have said over the years, that Low is probably the best band out there making music. That they are the only band worth watching and following. I don't necessarily agree - as I think there are a lot of bands out there worth watching and following, but I do love them dearly.

Well, about two year ago, Low released a box set compilation of b-sides and rarities called A LIFETIME OF TEMPORARY RELIEF. Now I'm not one to go and buy music anymore (I was, and still am, a huge music fiend, but in truth, I don't have room for all the CD's anymore, so I just download music. Plus it's SO much more cost effective - though I do need to get a new hard drive, as I've maxed out the 150GB one I have now.). But every now and then I need to actually OWN the CD. And this box set qualified as something I needed to own.

The box set came with a DVD that had all the music videos that Low had created. This was probably one of the most exciting things for me, as I had only seen one other music video for them - but it was a great one. It was for the song OVER THE OCEAN and it was the first time I had ever heard of Low. I saw the video on MTV - back when MTV was actually playing videos - on the show 120 Minutes. Does anyone remember 120 minutes? The golden era of MTV, when they had shows like 120 Minutes, Yo! MTV raps, Headbangers Ball, and Liquid Television, MTV was just figuring out what they were. And they were cool. Now, not so much.

Well the video Over the Ocean was on the DVD, but there was another video that I had never seen before, that stuck in my mind more. It was for the song SHAME and was shot in a desaturated film, with an old man (probably in his 60's) walking around a gloomy town, on a gloomy day with a handful of red balloons. Throughout the entire video, the man walks around trying to give balloons to various people, walking against the wind, over bridges and down stairs. A random woman, a small girl, a young boy, a parent, a grandfather, a young couple, a man with a dog, everyone is offered a balloon. And each time he is refused. The video ends with him walking down the bridge, holding the same bunch of red balloons, with people crossing to the other side to avoid him.

And that is why red balloons make me sad. It reminds me of the sad old man walking around trying to give away a cheerful red balloon, but no one wants it.

Now red balloons make me think of the video, and make a me a little sad. But it's really the baby blue ones that trigger melancholy in me. Which leads me to the second memory I have about balloons.

When I was in third grade, living in a suburb of St. Louis called Chesterfield, I came across a baby blue balloon in my subdivision. Attached the blue ballon was a self addressed stamped postcard with a note attached. The note said that it was a balloon from a kid from a class in Webster Groves (another suburb of St. Louis). As a class project all the kids were to send out helium balloons to see how far they would go. Whomever found the balloon was suppose to fill out the questionare about where and when they found the balloon, along with other personal information (this was optional if I can remember correctly).

I was SO excited to have found the balloon. Here I was about to help out a scientific experiment, reaching out to strangers, to help them see how far a balloon can travel. Here was a chance to be apart of someone's life, even if it was a small part. And part of me had grandiose plans, I could actually fill out the personal information, and maybe develop a relationship, maybe a pen pal. I had always wanted a pen pal. This was my chance to make an unseen friend as well. The potential for what could happen was amazing.

And yes, this all went through my third grade head. I've always been ambitious when it comes to the potential of a project.

Needless to say I never sent the card. As with most third graders, I had the attention span of a gnat. I promptly forgot about the card and never sent it back to the kid who had sent it off, hoping to reach out to a kind stranger. It wasn't until years later that I remember the card in junior high, buried in the bottom of my drawer - having endured at last two moves in the meanwhile (yes - I was and still am a pack rat).

And there in lies the sadness. Somewhere, in Webster Groves, there was a child that went to the mail box day after day, hoping that he/she would get that postcard back. A child that sent out a helium balloon hoping to gain a new friend, learn something new. And I disappointed.

Now I don't know if the person actually really cared about the postcard. For all I know, the kid didn't care at all about the project. Didn't care if the postcard came back, it was all for a stupid class project. But I still get sad when I think about that kid, who might have been just a little bit happier if the postcard had been mailed. And that's why balloons make me sad. Because I had the chance to make someone happy. And I didn't.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


Yesterday AJ and I received the "oh look at them they are so cute" look that we often get. This was in the Hayes Valley. The lovely older white woman (and this is who usually gives us that look) saw us walking hand in hand, as she was walking down the street with her three year old child. AJ and I could hear her thoughts as she walked by "Look at the cute gay couple! I'm so glad I am living in San Francisco, in a liberal environment, raising my child. Despite the expensive rent and the cost of living here, I've made the right choice because there are cute gay couples that walk down the street hand in hand." Yes it's true. I got all that from the smile she gave AJ and I.

While waiting in line for the King Tut which we saw in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend (and which I still plan on posting about), we talked to a lovely older white woman who was also from the bay area. She seemed pleased to be talking to a gay coupleas well. This marked the second time that trip that a lovely older white woman had started to talking to us randomly. At the airport waiting for our delayed flight to Chicago, a lovely older white woman started to talking to us as well. She made sure to comment about how she had a gay son "Well, my son is at Stanford right now for graduate school. My gay son." It turns out that she actually was quite gay positive, and in fact at one point years ago was national president of PFLAG. I love PFLAG - I think every gay and lesbian with a family does. So I was quite tickled to be talking to someone who used to be the national president of the organization. I once made my parents join PFLAG, but they said it was too traumatic for them. Apparently every time they went to a meeting there was someone crying hysterically about their gay son or lesbian daughter. They stopped going after 2 meetings, but said they still donate money.

Bitsie (the former president of PFLAG) talked to us about our upcoming trip to Chicago, and talked about her stint as president. She asked if we were involved in any political gay and lesbian groups. I mentioned my job doing social marketing for gay health related issues, while AJ was head of the Gay / Straight alliance at his college, and was doing the AIDS ride. She seemed pleased that not only were we a cute gay couple but that we were "giving back to our community."

Regardless, somehow AJ and I are always pegged as the "token friendly cute gay couple" easy to approach and easy to talk to. On the streets of SF, tourists (usually straight) are constantly asking us directions, or our opinion of what they should do, or where they should go. I guess they feel that they need the whole "San Francisco" experience, and part of that is talking to a cute gay couple. One time in the mission (not far from where we live, and not far from the Castro - gay central) a random woman accosted us and told us that she thought were "so courageous" referring to the fact that we were holding hands. Huh. This is San Francisco - not the south or the midwest. Gay couples walk hand in hand all over the place. But we thanked her, and walked away puzzled as to why we were being so courageous.

But I guess I stometimes forget, living here in SF, that being as out as we are isn't the norm in most of the country. AJ moved here to SF shortly after he came out. For him, he's never lived as an out gay man in a city where being gay was a bad thing. Though we walk down the street hand in hand without thinking about it here in SF, whenever we go back to our respective hometowns of St. Louis and Indianapolis, he automatically goes to take my hand, and I automatically go into gay stealth mode (not that I was ever good at that) and drop his hand. And though I am sure things have changed since I moved away from St. Louis eight years ago, I still don't feel comfortable walking hand in hand in places outside of San Francisco.

And for me that's a little sad. I'm getting over that fear, as I see things changing slowly - glacially in places, but changing nonetheless - outside of metropolitan cities. But it does make me realize how important things like Pride are. Not necessarily for people living in San Francisco - certainly not for me, but for all the tourists, and all the people who don't have the same sort of blasé attitude that I have here in San Francisco about being part of cute gay couple. And for that I am thankful.

Perhaps this summer when I go back to the midwest for our upcoming "Midwest Tour 2006" I'll be the one grabbing AJ's hand and walking down the street without a second thought. Perhaps we'll get that "look at the cute gay couple" look in St. Louis or Indianapolis. And perhaps we'll get a random lovely older white woman who will come up to us and tell us that she thinks we're courageous. And we'll just look at her, smile politely and walk away puzzled. After all, being the cute gay couple is what we've become. And I'm finally comfortable with that role.

Monday, June 05, 2006


AJ took off SUNDAY at the unnatural hour of 6am to bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles (585 miles) over 7 days to raise fund for AIDS and HIV. He's participating in the AIDS/LIFECYCLE 5. (That's AJ in the middle, flanked by his fellow gutterbunny friend and tentmate Glen on the left, and Mark on the right).

It's always emotional for me to see him bike off every year. This is 6th time he's done the ride, and every year, I think it's not a big deal. I'll just see him off and it's only for a week. And every year I miss him more and more. He was back for two or three days from Indiana and then he left for the ride. He was crazy hectic trying to get stuff done before he left for the ride as well.

Our place is a wreck. I'm talking HUGE MESS here. I've been too out of it because of my cold/sinus infection to clean up and AJ was just crazy packing and trying to organize stuff for the ride. I should pick up but I'm feeling bachelor style lazy right now. So the dishes are crazy stacked up in the sink and counter, clothes are strewn across the living room and bedroom, as are boxes and bags still packed with dirty clothes from our Chicago trip. My sewing machine is sitting on the ground, as it has been for the past month, and let's not talk about the piles of paper that I finally moved from my desk (where it was threatening to bury my laptop) to the sofa. Even the bathroom is a tornado aftermath, with AJ's left over crap from his Chicago/Indiana trip on the counter along with other crap that he pulled out but never put back for his bike ride.

I have grandiose plans of cleaning and scouring the place before he gets back. But if I don't I have the perfect excuse of "hey, I was sick." to use. In the meanwhile I'll just sleep in our huge CA King size bed (unmade of course) and miss him all the more.

I drive down to LA on Friday to meet up with him in VENTURA where I'll get to see the campsite and participate in the candlelight vigil that they have every year on the beach. I have the utmost respect for all the riders and crew people who embark on the journey every year. It astounds me every year that I see the thousands of people who are putting cycling nearly 600 miles to raise funds for a pandemic that has lasted for 25 years. This year, as they all took off for LA, all the riders had red helmet covers that said "Not another 25 years." (oh yeah, I stole this photo from the New York Times website, the photo credit is to Jim Wilson - but please don't rat me out to them).

It was moving and sad and uplifting as 1800 cyclists sped past wearing the same red covering. Most moving were the Positive Pedalers - those participants living with HIV who were part of the ride. They garnered the most cheers as they rode past - and rightly so. They were the reason that people were on the ride, and the reason why the ride is so important. That's them in the blue jerseys in the photo. If you look closely you can see that they all have orange flags attached to their bikes.

The ride itself is pretty darn powerful. It's a moving community of people who are united in one goal, to help end the AIDS. I hear stories about the 70 year old who does the ride, or the teenage girl who skipped her graduation to do the ride because her uncle died of AIDS, or the paraplegic man who does the entire ride on a custom bike pedalling with his hands. AJ tells me of stories of riding through small towns where people come out and cheer or give out cookies to the riders. And he tells of how riders stop by the handful whenever someone gets a flat or needs help with their bike. It's a strong bond that develops when you ride 600 miles together. But the most moving story he told me was on the very first ride that he participated in. He was riding by himself, having broken away from his pack of friends. It was near the end of the ride itself, probably day 5 or 6. He was tired and dirty and hadn't had a proper shower or slept in a proper bed in nearly a week. A car pulled up next to him and window rolled down. An older fragile man leaned out of the window and said "Thank you for riding for me." and then the car sped off. That's when AJ realized the impact of what he was doing. He's done the ride every year since.

AJ's participant number is #1122. It's not too late to donate to his ride. Or email him a note of encouragement.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

"I don't know how I feel about men having sex with men..."

The first (and only) time I ever went waterskiing was in Indiana about four years ago, with AJ's parents. It was a gorgeous day. The water was warm, and the sun was out, the lake sparkled as if it were made of a million diamonds and through some miracle I was able to actually get up on the skiis once for a magical 5 minute run - until my wrists started to hurt so much that I actually had to signal to AJ's family (who were driving the boat) that I was voluntarily letting go....

After the afternoon on the lake, all of us were going over to AJ's brother's house for a big family reunion. It wasn't very often that AJ visited during the summer, and several other family members were in town as well that normally weren't. It was going to be the first time I met some of the extended family including his grandfather and his stepgrandmother (who married his grandfather when AJ was 8, so for all intents and purposes was his grandmother). I was a little apprehensive about meeting everyone but the day at the lake was so great, I was finally relaxing a little bit more around his family. They seemed to be accepting me as AJ's partner.

Once we got back to his brother's place, AJ and I ran into a bedroom to wrap a few presents we had brought back from SF. I had asked AJ how he was going to introduce me to his grandparents, and he said "As my boyfriend! How else should I? Wait, are you uncomfortable with that?" I assured him I wasn't. Whatever he was comfortable with, I was comfortable with.

But as we left the bedroom, AJ's mom pulled AJ aside and told AJ to please introduce me as his friend, and not boyfriend to his grandparents. "They're old, you know, they might not understand."

I've never seen AJ so furious. He was positively livid at his mom, and turned away without talking to her. We went out to the backyard where everyone was, and didn't talk to her at all the rest of the day. When we went up to talk to his grandparents, AJ was so upset, that he just turned to them and said "Hi! This is Irvin."

His grandfather said hello, and Mildred, the grandmother, turned to me, looked me up and down smiled and said. "Hello" and then she turned to AJ and said. "It's so great to meet your b. b... buddy."

We weren't fooling Mildred. The woman has been around the block. She knew I was AJ's boyfriend (how could you not? Why else would AJ bring this strange asian boy to his otherwise all white family reunion?). She even wanted to say "boyfriend" but didn't because AJ didn't introduce me to her as such. That only upset AJ worse. His mom had obviously pulled AJ aside because of her own personal fears.

Last weekend AJ and I went to Chicago for a wedding. It was beautiful and gorgeous and I had a wonderful time with both old friends and new. I'm sure I'll post more about it later, but at the end of the trip, both of our planes were delayed. AJ was heading off to his parents house in Indiana (he long ago had forgiven his mom for that particular incident - though he certainly has not forgotten about it) for a couple of days and I was heading back to SF to go back to work.

At the airport, as we waited for our delayed planes, AJ called his mom to tell her he was going to be arriving late. She had bad news for him. Mildred had passed away the day before.

Mildred's health had been declining in the past couple of years. But her passing so suddenly was unexpected. In truth, AJ had thought his grandfather would pass on first, as he had just had a stroke a couple of months ago.

AJ spent the next couple of days dealing with funeral stuff in Indiana. In the end, the funeral and the wake for Mildred was more a celebration of her life, than a mourning of her passing. She was 89 and had lived a good happy life. And though I had only met her a handful of times, usually during the crazy hectic holiday season, I was sad too. She was the woman who called me AJ's buddy. And for that I give her my props and dues.

AJ's mom pulled him aside during the wake. She told him that Mildred had once pulled her aside and told her "I don't know how I feel about men having sex with men. But I like that Irvin. It's nice that AJ and Irvin are together."

God Bless Mildred. May she rest in peace.