Thursday, August 31, 2006

It was always inevitable.

Obligatory Apologetic Note (OAN): Third Midwest post still coming...


It was always inevitable. As much as I tried to fight it, and try to avoid it, I knew that I would eventually submit. It was fate, and it was meant to be.

I have become Californian.

I now have an acupuncturist. And the fact of the matter is, it doesn't phase me in the least that I might actually be going down the slippery slope of new age homeopathic flakey Californian. Nope. Going to the acupuncturist seemed completely natural.

I was fairly well grounded before I moved to California. I was a normal everday sort of midwestern boy growing up. Sure I was Asian, and gay, slightly obsessed with musicals, and knew a little bit too much about fashion to be considered average, but on the whole I had that hearty Midwestern attitude, the one that says "if I work hard enough, I'll be able to achieve anything in my life."

I did go through a phase where I became a super Christian (hey, it's was the midwest) where I listened to a lot of Amy Grant (pre-Peter Cetera duet "The Next Time I Fall In Love") and Michael W. Smith ("Friends are Friends Forever....") and went to Asian Christian Summer Camp. But it was a fluke that didn't last (Amy Grant sold out anyway - singing that stupid song Baby Baby... she should be ashamed of herself).

When I first moved to San Francisco though, I was quite fearful that I would turn all flakey new age talk to the trees type. I already knew a little bit too much about the zodiac (I'm a libra) but mostly it was because my friend Lowell was deeply engrossed in it, and it rubbed off on me. It didn't help that pretty much everything Lowell said about libras was textbook me. Apparently us libras are sensitive to the needs of others, and will bend over backwards to help out other, often times to the detriment of ourselves. Or perhaps that's just me, I can't remember.

Regardless I avoided talking too much about the zodiac, other than joking about it with random friends, but then I found myself dating a man who believed it through and through.

I met this man, with my friend Rita at an art school open house. At the time I had a string of really bad dates, and had given all of them nicknames. "Right On Jimmy" was just one of the many that I dated during that time, but he gave me one of my first tastes of what I came to call New Age California Crap.

Right On Jimmy was pretty interesting. He seemed very normal, attractive, well put together, and very gregarious. Rita had invited me to the California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC) open house (they had bought and revamped a brand new facility in San Francisco and had invited the public to view it - in what turned out to be the "gala event" of the season) where she was to start working under a magazine that they had just acquired - DBR.

The magazine DBR stood for Design Book Review and they...well they reviewed books on design, mostly architectural design. Rita never knew how to properly explain that to people. At cocktail parties people would ask her where she worked, and she would tell them that she was an editor at a magazine called Design Book Review. Inevitably they would ask what the magazine was about, and she'd have to say,..."well, it's a magazine where we review books...on". And then she would feel foolish and they would feel foolish for asking, and the conversation would come to a screeching halt like the needle being pulled off the record player, with that loud scratching noise.

The night started with us walking through the guest line because Rita has VIP passes (something she didn't realize the power of) as the line was at least a 2 hour wait. It degenerated from there as Rita and I were on a roll all night long, witty banter flowing between the two of us like Lauren Graham on crack, making jokes, laughing up a storm and making hilarity ensue with the simpliest of phrases. I have a tendency to talk EXTREMELY LOUD when I am having fun, and pretty much don't realize it. When I talk loud, my voice projects, and the next thing you know, I'm the obnoxious guy at the party or the restaurant that everyone it turning around to look at. Rita and I had developed a code at that evening during one of our numerous witty banter moments, where everytime my voice raised above a certain arbitrary decimal level, she would say "HALFTONE" meaning I should cut my volume in half. It also referenced all the graphic design students work that we were looking at where we were having way too much fun.

It was all much more amusing at that particular moment than it probably sounds. You'll just have to trust Rita and I on that one.

Regardless, we met Right On Jimmy under a poster on display where I was telling people randomly that Rita was the designer of the poster, and I was the model in the poster (you couldn't tell really tell what the model looked like, as the model had fallen into a box). Like I said before, it was all very amusing - to us at least.

And apparently to Right on Jimmy as well. We got to talking and he invited Rita and I to the now defuncct Club Universe (big dance club where all the circuit boys hung out at when they weren't at circuit parties - may it rest in peace) where he was doing a launch party for a CD single by Jeannie Tracey for the record label that he ran. Jeannie Tracey is a disco diva from the 70's that was still around doing dance singles - she's probably most famous for being half of a duo called TWO TONS O' FUN where the other ton was Martha Wash of The Weather Girls "It's Raining Men" fame. At least I think that was her. I might be wrong. Those large African American house divas are all the same to me.

Anyway , turns out, Right on Jimmy was an A-List Gay. I am SO not A-list. This became apparent when we started to date.

A couple of dates in, I had learned a little bit about Right on Jimmy like he was an Aquarius (which apparently was a really good match with Libras - so props to me for being born in October!), that he could read auras, and had done the "The Forum" EST training program.

Jimmy also always constantly used the phrase "Right On" and "Fantastic" over and over. Right On Jimmy sounded better (and funnier) than Fantastic Jimmy as a nickname and so it stuck. It was after an overnight date, he invited me to "church."

Now "church" for Right On Jimmy was not the same as going to church for most people. Right On Jimmy's church was held on Sundays at the Swedish American Hall on Market Street in the Castro and was called "Radiant Light." That should have been enough of a clue that Right On Jimmy and I weren't meant to be.

The Sunday that we went to "church" happened to also be the Sunday of Mother's Day. Radiant Light was to capitalize on this, as I was soon to find out.

I really didn't know what to expect when I went to Radiant Light. I walked in, and it seemed very informal. No one was really dressed up, and in fact, it seemed that there were a number of gay muscle men who had stayed up all night long partying hard at the club (most likely Club Universe) only to come to "church" afterwards.

The first person who got up on stage gave a few announcements, and then proceeded to hand the mike to a man who I assumed was the leader/reverend/priest whatever you call the person in charge who gave the sermon at this "church." He started off by thanking everyone for coming and wanting to acknowledge that he knew how hard it was to get up this early on a Sunday - especially after a night of partying. He then said, he wanted to help WAKE EVERYONE UP and proceeded to pressed the "play" button next to the boombox that I had failed to notice sitting on the floor next to him. The next thing you know, LOUD TRANCE MUSIC filled the room and the entire audience were on their feet raising the roof.

I hate trance music.

Apparently the gay muscle men were still tweaking on crystal because they were the loudest and the most riotous. I half expected them to bust out and start flagging, but the song was only 5 minutes (a short remix, thank goodness) and we all sat down, adrenaline pumping (the dancing probably kicked everyone else adrenaline up a notch, but I think it was pure fear on my part, in terms of "what the hell did I get myself into?" that got my heart racing).

The sermon was about Mother's Day and how to get in touch with your inner mother. I can't really remember much more about the sermon itself (there was a lot of meditating and a lot of visualizing your inner mother and then talking to her as if she was in front of you). It's quite possible I have blocked it out of my memory. However I do remember that after the sermon ended, I thought Radiant Light was over - only to find that there was one more thing the group was to do.

We had to form a Healing Circle.

Now no one explained to me that we were forming the healing circle. Apparently I had missed the memo for it, but the entire congregation formed a circle with our arms wrapped around each other. Long pause where I am confused as to what were were doing (is this a group hug? Will there be some sort of ritual sacrifice in the middle of the room?) and the next thing I know, the woman next to me kissed me on the cheek.


Well, I figure that she was friendly, and I'd much rather get a kiss from her, than see a virgin goat bled to death in the middle of the circle, when I noticed that there were others getting kisses on the cheek.

Confused, I looked around at the other people who were new to this strange cult like activity. They looked equally confused, but a few of them were kissing the cheek of the person next to them as well, in the hopes that this facilitate them getting the hell out of there.

So apparently I had broken the cycle of kissing, because they had to start all over, with the leader kissing the next person, and that person kissing the person next to them. This was the healing circle. One person kissing the next until it had passed all the way around without the circle breaking. You'd think they would have explained that to us newbies, but perhaps that was part of the "healing circle" - perhaps everyone had to figure it out. Or perhaps I had stopped listening to the sermon halfway through when they had me talking to my inner mother. Perhaps my mom's nagging and blatant guilt trips in my head kept me from actually listening to the part in the sermon where they explain that you will be soon kissing a random stranger on the cheek. Either way, I made sure to kiss Right On Jimmy next to me when the woman next to me kissed me and the circle continued until some other confused newbie broke it.

Two or three kisses in, the circle was complete, with everyone figuring it out.

Right on Jimmy didn't work out, and there were many reasons why. He did become the source of many stories (he's the one responsible for me being able to casually use the phrase "well, the time that I was on the porn set...") and I keep on being reminded of him randomly - even now seven years later. Last I heard he had moved to New York, and I've seen him in not one, but two different B-Level gay magazines in the gay papparazzi section (Instinct, and HX) in the past three months. The boy gets around.

After we stopped dating, I met AJ and being from the heartland as well (Indiana) I didn't have to really worry about anything too flakey. At least not from him. We dated for 7 months, and broke up for 5 months (but were best buds during the breakup, with a little sexual tension thrown in all leading to a fateful reunion which is a story for another time) and that's when I had my second face to face encounter with the New Age California Crap which I had been avoiding fastidiously.

AJ had invited me to a theme party (The Dead Celebrity Party! - come dressed up as a dead celebrity). It sounded fun, but I was a little unsure about going, as AJ and I weren't dating and I didn't know how it would be going to the party with him. But then I found out that his ex-wife was going to be there, and well, I had to go and meet her.

I ransacked my closet, and came up with an outfit for the dead guy from Milli Vanilli (a costume I would later recycle with AJ for halloween the following year). The host of the party didn't get my costume ("are you a...pirate?") but everyone else got it immediately, and I was quite the hit (I just figured the host was super drunk). AJ dressed as Oscar Wilde, and we hung out with Kurt Cobain (complete with flannel shirt and bullet wound in the head), Dana Plato - the Diff'rent Strokes child actress that ODed (complete with pills affixed to her face) and Ling Ling the Panda.

Sadly Ling Ling was a great idea, but poor execution. The woman (Nina was her name, if I can recall correctly) had come wearing regular everyday clothes, but had a red and white "hello my name is..." sticker on that she has sharpie-d the name "Ling Ling the panda."

Ling Ling (Nina) was actually pretty cool - or so I thought. We ended up chatting for awhile outside on the patio deck and compared notes about living in the bay area (she had moved up from Southern California) and ex-boyfriends. I told her about AJ who was at the party, and she told me about her ex-boyfriend who she had just broken up. She was a hip cool Asian girl with a sense of style and a sassy attitude, and as I had only a handful of friends in San Francisco, I thought to myself "hey, maybe we could hang out sometime..."

We bonded over the fact that we were both thinking of getting back together with our ex's which is always a little awkward. I told her I wasn't sure, but I might. She told me she's contemplating it as well. "You know, I really think he's changed."

Now, this is usually a really bad sign. When someone says "You know, I really think he's changed..." often you are setting yourself up for heartache. I felt Ling Ling really was heading for the worst. Until I heard why she thought he had changed.

"It was really hard for him to understand me. All the trauma that I've undergone - in my past lives. I mean I have a lot of baggage from those past lives, and he can't deal with it. He just didn't get it. But he's trying so hard now. I mean, I really really think he's changed. He's taken up YOGA for me!"

I love it when people talk about their past lives in a completely non-ironic sense. I get all warm and fuzzy inside. And then I excuse myself and try to walk on the other side of the street whenever I see them.

I "went to the bathroom" shortly afterwards. It's not that I have anything against people who believe in reincarnation, or, for that matter, any other of religious belief (except for Scientologists who really DO scare the bejesus out of me). It's just the way that people seemed to be able to talk about it so casually to a complete stranger. I'm from the midwest - you NEVER talk about religion or politics. But people love to do it in California (talk politics and religion) all the time.

After eight years of living here, I've finally adjusted (I think).

Which comes to me going to an acupuncturist. I was uncertain about going but one of my therapists (one of? Yes, one of...I have three therapist at the moment, but that's a story for another time) suggested it, and I figured, hey, if I have three therapist, why not try acupuncture as well. Especially if your therapist recommends it (damn I must be really stressed if he's suggesting it...)

And you know what? After a few sessions, I sort of like it.

I'm not sure if it is working or not. In fact I don't even know if I believe in it or not. When he sticks the needles in me, and I feel the tiny sharp buzz that is suppose to be him hitting my qi, I sometimes think "well that could be the qi he is hitting - or that could be him just hitting a nerve of mine..."

But I like the fact that I go to an office, and have someone stick needles in me to fix my qi and I'll eventually have an extraordinary sense of "well-being" from it. I like that every time I go, the acupuncturist (a non-judgemental older gay man) asks me how my week was, and I get to relate to him all the things I relate to my other therapists and he sympathetically asks me questions from a competely different perspective.

It's as if I have a FOURTH therapist, but one that will fix things without me having to do the work. I don't have to do the hard thinking, I don't have to explain my fears to him, like I do to my therapists, and have them question me as to why I have those fears, or if I think those fears are there for a reason. In fact, I don't really have to think at all, the needles do the work! And I don't have any responsibility to the problems that I have - I can blame it on my qi!

I love that!

But in the end, even if part of me wonders if the acupuncture is all a bunch of hooey, part of me feels like I am getting something out of it, even if it's not a more balanced qi (whatever that is). Maybe it's the therapy (-ies) or maybe it's the acupuncture, but I am feeling more whole, more grounded. Maybe I am getting in touch with my inner mother. Maybe I'm ready to confront my past lives. I don't know. All I know is that I find myself more able to deal with life and everything it offers.

I'm finally at the stage of my life where I'm willing to admit to myself that I'm scared of certain things. I'm willing to voice concerns over things I'm unhappy about. And I'm willing to accept that there are certain things I can do, and certain things I can not do. But on top of all that, I know that none of these things will kill me. I can be scared of something, but it will no longer paralyze me. I can be unhappy and it won't cripple me. I can get through it all - and I will get through it all.

And that knowledege is worth it's weight in gold.

So now I'm at a critical juncture of my life. The problems that brought me into therapy in the first place haven't changed. But I have. And I no longer feel like the life that I have is going to end. I feel like the life that I don't have yet will begin. And call it what you will - New Age California Crap or just a 30something epiphany, I'm doing my best to face it head on.

I'll be scare. I have and probably will cry from sadness and frustration. I'll probably be hurt and be confused. But I'll deal with that when it comes, just like I've dealt with it in the past. And I know I'll get through it, and I'll be better and stronger while it all happens and when it happens.

But if ever go vegan raw, just bitch slap me. In the meanwhile, I'm going to look into yoga classes....

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Stalking Michael Bauer

Obligatory Apologetic Note (OAN): I'm in the process of writing up a third post about the Midwest trip. I've written about 2/3rds of it, and it's about TWICE as long as the second post. In the interim, here's another post. I'll post about the midwest trip more, but really, it mammoth sized....just be warned....I'm actually in the middle ofwriting a few posts, so we'll see what gets put up next.

When I was a young gay man (back in the day) I had habit of stalking people. I would become slightly obsessed with them, think about them a lot and then make mix tapes to send to them.

It usually did not end well.

Today at work I went on to kill some time. I was rather bored, and ended up clicking on some of the blogs that the Chronicle staff has. I was entertained by the staff writer that was trying to do the Master Cleanse Fast (the one where you only drink spicy homemade lemonade for 10 days) but after 5 days she had to stop. Apparently she never reached the peaceful nirvana where you stop being hungry and crabby and everything becomes crystal clear and in focus. I have contemplated doing the Fast myself, but I have never gotten around to it. One of these days. Perhaps.

Either way, with no more fasting exploits to read about, I ended up at the food critic's blog by Michael Bauer. Mr. Bauer was complaining in his blog that he has a hard time finding people to dine with who were accommodating in thew ay that needs them to be when he goes out to review a restaurant. It turns out that people are always asking him, but in the end when he does invite them out, they inevitably are picky and want to order something like the Ribeye Steak, but he needs them to order the fish instead, as he already tried the steak last time round.

A more difficult issue is when he tells his dining companion that he/she needs to have the pig's feet terrine or the trippa ala Fiorentina (stewed tripe) for an appetier instead of, say, the more safe House Salad.

Well my immediate thought was, HEY, I'll eat anything. Especially if the meal if paid for. So my thought is this... Why doesn't Michael Bauer have me as a dining companion?

I posted as much on the comments section of his blog, stating that I was available as a dining companion, and I have the added bonus of being Asian.

Now why does this matter - me being Asian? Well (as I wrote in the comment) it's usually the white people that I am friends with that have a limited palate. Sure there's the occasional vegetarian buddhist Asian guy, but on the whole, it's my friends that are "people of color" (meaning latin, black or asian) that will eat anything. We don't have a limited palate - and as I pointed out on in my comment - if there were to be some sort of giant catastrophe to occur, it's the people of color who would survive. We'll eat the WHOLE ANIMAL. Hands down, we win when it comes to utilizing anything edible off of a living creature.

And that's when I got busted by my friend Felisa. She apparently trolls the SFgate blogs as well, and emailed me and said she had read my posting.

I told her I really only posted because I was trolling for a free meal. I'm cheap that way. And she agreed, and said that we should stalk him together.

And so that's what I going to do. I'm stalking Michael Bauer - in the hopes that he'll take me out for a free meal. I figure I can work the Asian angle (because, you know, there aren't that many Asians here in San Francisco.). And if the Asian thing doesn't work out, I'll work the gay angle (One person who posted alluded to the fact that Mr. Bauer had a "partner" who he brought with him to his meals - and though it's true that "partner" could be either sex, and in fact could be something as mundane as a business partner or a food critic partner, I'm just going to assume that Food Critic + San Francisco = Gay Man).

Of course, the gay angle probably would be just as successful as the Asian angle (what with the lack of gay men in the bay area). But you gotta work with what you have. On top of all that, I have my wit, my gregarious nature, the fact that I am relatively social adept (I'll have to be, because let's face it, it's not as if I can ask him when we get together over a meal "So... what do you do for a living?"), and have a fair amount of knowledge of food (though he has said this doesn't matter, at least we would have something in common to talk about) though I have a diverse amount of interests (as shown on this blog) that we would just have to talk about food.

Plus, added bonus, by no means am I snooty about food. I'm comfortable eating at French Laundry as I am eating at the local tacqueria. Hell, I ate a Burger King a week after I read Fast Food Nation a couple of years ago just to prove to myself that I could still eat fast food (though really, I was just craving a Whopper).

I actually don't eat at Burger King anymore now that I think about it. I'd rather go over to Burger Bistro and get a burger there. It's made from Niman Ranch cows (I believe those cows are the ones that are referred to as "the California happy cows") and I feel they are less likely to have mad cow disease. Well, at least that is what AJ tells me to think. Plus Burger King doesn't offer a brie and bacon burger like Burger Bistro does.

So maybe I am a little snooty about food, but I doubt that fast food chains are to be reviewed in the Chronicle. So we're safe on that front.

And mostly it's the fact that I will eat and try anything pretty much once, that I am hoping will convince Mr. Bauer (okay, okay, Michael - after all if we're dining together we might as well call each other by our first names). So email me Michael, and let's do lunch. Or dinner. Or hell, let's do breakfast. I'm not picky.

Just a long as I don't have to resort to making you a mix tape.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Midwest Tour 2006 pt 2 (The Hoosier Strikes Back)

Obligatory Apologetic Note (OAN): Sorry this took so long. I was awaiting photos to add to this post. Here's part two of the trip...

The midwest trip was just starting. The ending of Gay Games was amazing - as was seeing AJ race and win a Silver medal. But we were in Chicago. And though Chicago is most certainly in the midwest, it's a big metropolitan city. One of the biggest in the nation. I love Chicago because it's a perfect blend of big city and down home midwest. It's a larger version of my hometown of St. Louis - the big city sister to where I grew up. But in my mind, the midwest trip wasn't about to start until we left the big city for the more down home towns of Indianapolis and St. Louis.

On Sunday we had brunch and took off for AJ's parent's house. His parents had moved out to the country six or seven years ago from Indianapolis (actually from Speedway - home of the Indy 500 if you want to be exact). They now lived near a lake about 45 minutes outside of Indianapolis proper. This worked to our advantage as we didn't have to drive so long.

The road trip was underway! We had rented a giant SUV which technically fit 8 people (it would have been a tight fit for 8 though) We only had six, people but we had a LOT of luggage. Thank goodness that AJ is so good at TETRIS. He was able to finagle all our luggage into the car and left room for six of us.

I love roadtrips. I mean I REALLY love roadtrips. I'm not quite sure why. Maybe because of the constant scene changes. Maybe because you're being productive (traveling from point a to point b) but you can relax and hang out and talk. Maybe it's because I love listening to music or just chit chatting away my friends. Either way, road trips rock.

The SUV was equipped with Sirius Satellite radio and we had a fun time trying to find the appropriate channel to listen to. Mostly we listened to the 80's station and the 90's station, reliving our high school and college days, though that idea did backfire on occasion (Good God. Is that Hootie and the BlowFish? Turn that channel now!). We stumbled across a channel called THE BLEND which suited us well, as it was rather random mix (blend) of songs and genres. We were really trying to find something by John Cougar Mellancamp (him being from Indiana and all). Sirius really needs a channel called "The Heartland" or "The Midwest" that plays songs by John Mellancamp and Sheryl Crow. That would have been perfect for our trip.

Little known fact #1 - AJ actually taught at a high school (right after he finished his teaching program in Indiana) where John Mellancamp performed for the prom. Go figure.

We did eventually find a John Mellancamp song, by the way (BTW). I can't remember what it was, as all his songs sort of sound the same to me, but I remember that is was not a little dittie about Jack and Diane.

Little known fact #2 - AJ knows all the lyrics to Jack and Diane by heart. It is probably the only non Madonna/Dee-lite song that he knows completely word for word, with inflections and everything. I learned this a couple of years ago, when I made a passing reference to the song and he busted out singing it. Something he NEVER does. I was on the floor laughing. I swore I would make him sing it at karaoke, but we've never been able to find since then.

About an hour outside of Chicago we realized that we were going to drive right through Purdue, Indiana. AJ had gone to Purdue for a semester for Chemical Engineering, before transferring over to Indiana University! So we got a little bonus side trip out of it as well. We got the whirlwind tour of the campus as he pointed out to us the dorm that he lived in, and the buildings he took classes in and the giant football stadium that Purdue had. Apparently football is all the rage in Purdue Indiana. Who knew?

If you look closely at the picture, AJ has a look of resignment and slightly amusement at this side trip down memory lane.

It was about another hour into the trip after Purdue that Rita saw the cornfields.

Rita was SO excited about the cornfields. Actually I think everyone was excited really. Well, maybe not AJ and I - though I think we were excited to see everyone else excited. Rita immediately wanted to pull over and take photos of the corn and us next to the corn. We were on a highway with little or no shoulder. We explained to her that it probably wasn't the best place for us to pull over, perhaps we could do it later - at a better/safer place.

Rita was not down with this suggestion. "What if this is our only opportunity? What if there isn't another cornfield for us to take photos in? This could be our only chance!"

AJ and I explained to her that there would PLENTY of chances to take photos with corn. We were in the midwest. Cornfields make up a good 65% of the driving that we were going to be doing. The rest would probably be soybeans. Unless you are driving through Kansas. Then you'd get fields and fields of sunflowers.

She was not convinced, but she let us drive on.

We later stopped about 15 or 20 minutes later at a side road and took photos with the corn and in the cornfield itself. I don't think I've actually ever done that, so I was amused and excited along with everyone else. Surprisingly the entire group seemed fascinated by the cornfields. I made sure that there was documentation of the two midwest gay boys hanging out with the corn. Who doesn't love corn?

We arrived at AJ's parent's house in about four hours from Chicago. Their house is amazing. His parent's had stayed up for us and we had a late sandwich dinner with german potato salad.

AJ gave everyone a tour of his parent's house. His parent's moved there about seven years ago. The house wasn't originally going to be the house they lived in. They had lived in the city and had bought the land out near the lake for a vacation area. They had hired people to build a simple frame house and for years it was pretty much empty. When AJ's parents retired, his mom and dad decided to move into this lake house and remodel it. Well actually, his dad was to remodel it. His mom gave him a five year deadline, and said if it wasn't done by then, she was hiring professionals. Fast forward five years, and the house was 90% done. Today it's complete and gorgeous. His dad did the ceiling, the floors, the woodwork, the fireplaces, the walls and wall treatments, even the stain glass. It's amazing and beautiful. We got a tour of the outside with the patio area and the bridge and the goldfish pond as well as his workshop.

Of special note was the numerous awards and achievements that AJ received in his prestigious academic career on prominent display at his parent's house . AJ's mom said that she took them all out of storage to show them off to us.

Including in this display was a write up in the local newspaper about winning the academic olympic brain game. Having been to their home in the past, I know that this piece of laminated paper is actually on permanent display.

Yes, my boyfriend is a true nerd.

Then we all crowded in upstairs and moved his mom's collection of dolls aside (she has several hundred dolls...) and had a big slumber party upstairs. We were wiped.

The next day we all piled into the SUV (sans luggage) and AJ's parents got in their van with the boat attached, and we went out to lake to try our luck with waterskiing.

The boat, unfortunately couldn't hold all of us and pull someone to waterski as well, so we had to split up into groups to go waterskiing. But first we all six of us piled in to have a quick tour of the lake. It was super fun hanging out on the boat, as AJ's dad drove around the sparkling water with the wind in our hair. We all felt very glamour Duran Duran circa the RIO video. I just needed feathered hair and an unconstructed white blazer to complete the experience.

I've been waterskiing once in my life before. About four years ago. - with AJ and his parent's in this same boat. After three or four tries I was able to get up then, but I was a bit concerned that it was fluke and that I wouldn't be able to get up this time.

It would have all been fine if I hadn't learned later that his parent's were very impressed with me being able to get up that first time I had gone waterskiing. In their eyes, it was a sign of strength that I was able to get up - AJ's ex wife was never able to get up, and hence they always viewed her as weak. But not I. I got up on my first time out.

The question was...what if I couldn't get up again?

It wasn't a problem. I got up on my first attempt with a problem, and it all came back to me. AJ had borrowed a telescopic lens for his new DSLR and took numerous photos, including ones of me making a spectacular ass of myself as I tried to jump over the wake of the boat (though, to my defense, AJ and Damon and everyone in the boat goaded me into doing it- those bastards).

Note the look of intense concentration on my face as I skiied. Go me.

Damon had some experience waterskiing as well when he was a kid, and was able to get up without a problem. AJ, having grown up going to the lake and waterskiing all his life, blew everyone away, making it look easy breezy. He was jumping the wake and swing back and forth with the ease of an old pro.

The rest of the gang didn't fare so well. They all tried really hard, and were able, at certain points, to get up - but they never stayed up, and I think they often times were so surprised that they got up at all and ended up dropping the pull bar. Everyone seemed extremely sore the next day (okay the people who couldnt' get up seemed extremely sore). It truly was a valiant effort and AJ claims that his parent's no longer think in terms of non-waterskiing people as weak. So they shouldn't be concerned with that. :)

That night his parent's "cooked out" which meant we got barbecue! His dad's barbecue rocked, with a homemade sauce and a slow cooking charcoal grill. They had bought eight 1lb porterhouse steaks, as well as made chicken skewers and a ton of sides. We were hungry after all our waterskiing on the lake and gorged ourselves.

The next day we toured Indianapolis AJ style. We got chance to see one of his childhood houses, and his old high school Ben Davis, as well as the Daycare Center that AJ's parent's used to own and that AJ worked at. (The Daycare Center was called The Kiddie Country Club when his parent's owned it, and was originally going to be spelled out The Kiddie Kountry Klub until AJ pointed out to his parents that when you abbreviate that, it would be KKK. They opted to go with a more traditional spelling.) We ran around the Indy 500 racetrack museum and saw gorgeous race cars (yeah, that's Rita looking fierce in the car at the museum). We got Long's Donuts (an Indiananpolis institution) which is situated in a "rough neighborhood" as his parent's called it (that meant there were people of color who lived there). Their yeast donuts rock - more substantial than Krispy Kreme but not as heavy as Dunkin' Donuts.

One of the highlights of the day (for me), was going to the Indianapolis Art Museum. Not only is it on a gorgeous plot of land with some faboo artwork (note the giant LOVE sculpture that Robert Indiana created which we all took a photo of ourselves climbing all over until the security guard came and told us not to), but it has specific history for AJ. It was the sight that AJ had proposed to his (now) ex-wife. He was a good sport about it finding the specific area that the proposal took place, though it took him a bit of time to find it ("It's over here. No. Wait. I think it's over in the garden area. No, hold on, I thought there was a well around there?"). We found it eventually. Everyone gawked in awe at the site which used to be so important in AJ's former life. Okay I gawked. I think everyone was just slightly amused.

After a day of running around in the hot sun, we drove over to meet up with AJ's sister and his family and then the neighborhood Broad Ripple for dinner with his brother and his daughter. As we parked the SUV, AJ pointed out the bar that he first got drunk in, and where he danced with two or three frat boys - and realized that he really liked it. He came out to his wife two days later.

After dinner with AJ's parent's and his brother Jeff (the rockstar accountant) and his daughter Rachel (AJ's niece), and two of AJ's friends John and Jen, we headed back into the city to drive around the "Circle" which is the center of Indianapolis. It's a beautiful statue/fountain, and we spent some time walking around and taking in the architecture of downtown Indianapolis. Though I've driven around the downtown and the Circle Center (and I've even been in the Circle Mall that is associated with the circle) I've never actually walked around the circle itself and it was pretty nifty.

The next day we had a quick breakfast, and looked at baby photos of AJ (he was ADORABLE!!!!) and then took off for St. Louis! But first we detoured and stopped at Indiana University where AJ showed us the dorm quad that he lived in (it was the "alternative dorm" apparently), the church he went to with his ex-wife, and art museum designed by I.M.Pei, and the buildings where he took classes - and taught classes in when he was TA in graduate school. We ended up sneaking into a classroom and experience a slice of what it would have been like to have AJ for a teacher.

IU has a gorgeous campus, and it was huge. We ate at a great deli that made homemade potato chips. I LOVE homemade chips. They were delish. We also stopped into a gay kitchen supply place (the owner seemed EXTREMELY pleased to see two gay boys in his shop) as well as a cute game shop where we picked up a Killer Bunnies calendar (yes we are obssessed with that game). We then got some coffee and smoothies to go at SOMA, a hip coffeeshop in Bloomington.

SOMA (by the way) is a reference to the drug in Brave New World, and not the neighborhood South of Market in San Francisco.

We also drove by and pointed out two of the three gay bars in Bloomington, Bullwinkles and Uncle Elizabeth's. Bullwinkle's is the gay dance club. If you have been to one gay dance club in the midwest, you have pretty much been to them all. Imagine some lights, a disco ball, a wall of mirrors, and a lot of plywood painted black. You know the club is fancy if it has a television monitors here and there. Bullwinkle's wasn't that fancy. But it was definitely a black plywood sort of club. Nearly every city in the midwest has a variation of the black plywood bar/club. Even San Francisco has a black plywood bar - The Café in the Castro.

Now Uncle Elizabeth's is starter bar, the place that everyone went to early to get a drink at, before they headed over to Bullwinkles (the other gay bar in Bloomington was called "The Other Bar" and from what I understand wasn't really all that happening. I've never been to it). What makes Uncle Elizabeth's special is that it is in a double wide trailer. Life doesn't get better until you've had a drink in a double wide trailer that's been converted to a bar.

My favorite part - the restroom had that rigid plastic accordian curtain/door that I had to pull shut for privacy while I did my business. I never felt so glamorous.

Random Factoid #1: Uncle Elizabeth's is named after the cat in a play called I Remember Mama. There were various incarnations of this play, including a musical version, a feature film, and a spin off television show.

Random Factoid #2: I Remember Mama was once performed at the Ben Davis High School - the high school that AJ attended (Sophmore to Senior Year). AJ was cast and performed as Uncle Chris Halverson in the play. This play is pivotal in his life, as it was the play that he met most of his long standing friends from high school (a group of friend affectionately called "the posse"), including his ex-wife Eve. AJ won "best supporting male" for his portrayal of the patriarch of the family in his high school awards ceremony.

With the Bloomington tour done, we loaded up on IU t-shirts and we were off to my hometown, the Gateway to the West... (more on the way...)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Midwest Tour 2006 pt 1 (A Gay Hope)

I'm back! (didja miss me?)

Our friend Rita had convinced a bunch of us that we should tour the midwest and see AJ's and my hometowns of Indianapolis and St.Louis, as well as visit our friends Steve and Anjana in Chicago. Most of our other friends thought were we crazy. Going to the midwest? In the middle summer? A landlocked state that voted red (well okay, only two of three states we were visiting voted red but still)? Rita is a bit crazy, but I love her for it (not despite it).

When Rita had originally suggested the idea to us, I don't think I totally took her seriously. Why in the world would anyone WANT to go to St. Louis and Indianapolis? Why would anyone willingly spend money for an airplane ticket and use up precious vacation time to visit the midwest. Aren't there way cooler places that we could visit? Aren't there more interesting locations to vacation at?

And in truth I sort of ignored the idea. Sure, I agreed to it, but in the back of my head, I always thought that Rita was joking just a little bit. And even as the plans firmed up, and Rita and Damon requested vacation time, and Karen and Ben bought their tickets, AJ and I ignored it. When we eventually gave in to the reality that we had to buy our tickets or else it would be impossible or outrageously expensive to get tickets to the landlocked states, I still thought to myself that the midwest trip wasn't real. It wasn't going to be a vacation in the real sense of the word. Vacations are foreign places you go to, places to relax like Hawaii, or places you sightsee like Paris. St. Louis and Indianapolis are neither relaxing beach towns, nor are they sightseeing meccas. And they certainly weren't foreign to AJ and I. This wasn't going to be a vacation in our definition. It was just a quick jaunt home and back - but we'd have a few friends in tow who were going to be bored to death.

I was wrong. It ended up being a vacation in every sense of the word. It was chill, it was fun, we saw the sights, and we bonded by road tripping and played card/board games. It was reinvigorating and energizing and relaxing all at the same time. Who knew that the midwest could be so fun? We piled into an SUV and drove around the middle of the country, and we sweated a whole lot. We even spent a day at a lake water skiing (or for some - tried to water ski - more on that later). It gave me a whole new appreciation of home and of vacation. It was just what I needed.

I flew out on a redeye last Thursday to Chicago to see AJ race for the Gay Games. The rest of the gang were going to meet up with me on Saturday. AJ was on summer break (ah...the perks of being a professor) and had flown out in the beginning of the week to compete in cycling. AJ loves to cycle. He's done the AIDS lifecycle/CA AIDS RIDE 6 times and he's signed up for a 7th ride next year.

AJ had originally signed up for the Gay Games four years ago (they were in Sydney then), but the cost of flying out there and the lack of time he had to train for it didn't quite work out. He never made it. So this was his first Gay Games competition. In fact this was his first time racing since high school.

Obviously he was nervous. As usual, he was exceedingly neurotic about racing, and was upset with himself about the lack of training. At one point he contemplated pulling out of the race, but I convinced him that he needed to go. I told him that he didn't have to think in terms of winning, but in terms of just going to the race and having a good time. And what gay man could not have a good time at an event called GAY GAMES?

In truth, I knew that he would inevitably win a medal or two. He was unsure. But I had confidence and faith in him and his ability. And win he did. The Monday after he left, he called me up at work extremely excited. He had just won the gold medal for the criterium race!

Well I was excited as all get out. But I had high expectations for the upcoming races, as well as the final race that I was flying out there for. Our friend Steve was awesome and picked me up at the airport. We drove back to his place to drop our stuff off and then I showered and took a 45 minute nap. Rested, we took off to see AJ compete in the team trial race!

The race took place in the middle of nowhere. I hadn't a CLUE where it was, but it wasn't in any part of Chicago that I was familiar with. It was out in the woods somewhere - pretty much the middle of nowhere.

With only 45 minutes of sleep (I so can not sleep on planes) I hung around watching hot men cycle around shirtless, as AJ and his teammates warmed up. Of particular note was a Dutch hottie named Marteen. Even AJ fully admitted that he was hot - despite being slightly older and white. It probably helped that he was incredibly nice, had a hot accent, and was an incredibly stronger cyclist with a killer grin and killer body.

I also got a chance to chat up the St. Louis Team (including a cute cyclist who claimed to be straight...but AJ and I am not quite so sure about that) as well as hang out with some non-cyclist friends of competors, one who had driven up from St. Louis to see her ex compete, and another who lived in DC and it turned out works with our friend Cara in Los Angeles. Small world.

It was amazing to see AJ and his teammates (the Gutterbunny Boys) start the race, taking off in formation. They looked fantastic the way they went from the starting line to single line formation. They finished strong, with all five on their team ending together - something a lot of the teams did not do. Unfortunately they weren't strong enough to win. AJ and his team (the GutterBunnies Boys) ended up taking silver in the race. To their credit though, the only team that beat them were a group of gold medal triathletes - the Chicago Razors.

The rest of the day was spent napping after the race. We later all met up for dinner with the cyclists and their friends and then walked over to the John Hancock building where we were able to get seated before everyone else in our elevator at a window both no less. We later tried to sneak into the women's bathroom (which is where our friend Anjana said has the best view of Chicago) but we were busted. Alas.

The following day AJ and I met up with Karen and Ben and Rita and Damon and celebrated AJ's FOUR medals (three silvers, and the one gold) at the Gay Games closing ceremonies. We were entertained by the Cheer Chicago Cheerleaders, Dallas Cowboy Linedancers, a twirling rifle corp, and Cyndi Lauper decked out in a rainbow dress and rainbow flag singing True Colors accompanied by a solo violinist.

AJ is wearing three of the medals in the photo to the left. He said that all four were too heavy so he had me wear one (yeah, I felt like a poseur wearing it too). It's a tough life AJ has, having so many medals....

AJ was also able to finagle a Team Indiana visor from someone from Team Indiana (which is what he's wearing on his head in the photo). He's a hoosier through and through. Go figure.

Post closing ceremonies, the gang headed over to My Pie (a local pizza joint) and got some deep dish goodness. We headed back to Anjana and Steve's to get some much needed rest and to play card/board games. The trip was just getting started and we had already done so much!

Sunday we had brunch, packed up and left for Indiana. But that's a post for another time. Check back for more on the midwest trip - and in the meanwhile, jump over to Damon's blog entry for an introduction to the gang who were foolharded enough to travel to the middle of this fine country in the middle of a crazy heat wave. What were we thinking?!?!?!