Saturday, October 23, 2010

It Get's Better

Dan Savage is sorta like a celebrity in the LGBT community. While he can be acerbic, sarcastic and rude that is what makes him so charming for me. His brainchild was the "It Get's Better" campaign where people like me tell young LGBT people what it is like getting older as an out person. I am typically loath to jump on these kinds of bandwagons that eventually every person in America jumps onto because I think they can come off as contrived and tacky. Yet here I go jumping on this one right along with our president and yes even Nancy Pelosi.

I am doing this because LGBT youth are at much greater risk for suicide. The numbers are there, there is no denying it. I also know this from my own personal experience because as a teenager I attempted suicide. Growing up with a strict baptist upbringing the concept of being openly gay was not even an option I considered for myself back then. As a teenager when I was finally coming to terms with my sexuality and accepting myself I knew that I was going to be in for a very long difficult journey. The one message I want to send to anyone struggling with coming out is that yes, the journey gets better.

As teenagers LGBT's are often the recipients of bullying. That name calling sometimes leads to violence. I know in my case it did. Sometimes the violence escalates. I was able to overcome it and so can you. During the course of my 12 miserable years in public education I was called many names, was beaten up, ostracized, pushed down a flight of stairs, held underwater, endured a gauntlet in the locker room with wet towels, had my locker broken into and vandalized and many other things. How I managed to get through it, sometimes is even beyond me. What I do know is that surviving it makes us stronger. I know I am stronger because of what I endured and you will be too.

That fateful day that I survived my suicide attempt told me that I had no choice but to accept myself. Good. Bad. Ugly. Indifferent. Now here I am twenty some years later reflecting on that time in my life and I am so thankful that I survived. The years will soon enough fly by and you will wake up middle aged, with crows feet, and a little fluffy around the middle but you will wake up.

What you get for surviving those experiences will be years of memories that are good, both happy and sad. For me the most gratifying thing about survival has been that I have achieved my goals. I set out to accomplish everything I was once told I would never achieve. In spite of it all, I succeeded. The only opinion that matters about you is the one you have of yourself.

I could go on and on about my accomplishments, I could tell you all about riding camels in Egypt and visiting over 120 cities on three continents. I could tell you about landing that first great job that turns into a career that lasts for nearly twenty years. The job that takes you all over the world and pays you well enough that you can afford to live in a nice home and provides you with a company car. None of that matters. What matters is that you survive it. Don't give up...it get's better.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nine Years Later

(Originally posted 9/12/09, revised and edited on 9/11/10)

On September 01, 2001 my marriage came to an end. I packed up my belongings and moved into a small studio apartment downtown. At the time I thought that it was not just a life changing moment but the worst day of my life. Ten days later the world as we knew it changed forever and life would never be the same for our country.

For some years now I have purposely avoided watching the TV on the anniversary of 911. Even now all these years later it is still very hard to watch. Last year on this anniversary MSNBC replayed the Today Show Broadcast from that day. It was hard to watch again because it brought back so many memories for me. It was about more than just 911 for me because it brought back so many memories.

On the morning of 911 I got up early because I had a meeting in the field to look at a project. Just as our meeting was coming to a close the field superintendent came over to my SUV and he asked me if I had heard that a small plane had hit the World Trade Center. I immediately turned on the radio and headed towards my new apartment. My memories of the first Trade Center bombing in 1993 came flooding back to me.

I was in the WTC just two days before it was bombed the first time. I had been in NYC visiting Michael, my first love and my on again off again boyfriend at the time. I took the subway from the Village to the WTC and thought on a lark that I would get off the subway located in the basement of the WTC and walk from there to Battery Park to take the ferry to visit the Statue of Liberty. As I got off the subway, surrounded by morning commuters, I made my way to the lobby of the massive building and went up the escalator to take it all in. I found an ATM, got some cash and hastily made my way to Battery Park. I never took a single photo of the WTC on that visit and to this day I am still glad of that.

Two days later I awoke to the news that the WTC had been bombed. My first phone call was to Michael. From his apartment in the village you could walk out the front door and turn to your left and there they were, the twin towers. The WTC was more than just a landmark, it was a guidepost for the entire city. If you could locate the WTC on the skyline you were able to automatically figure out where you were in the city. When I finally reached Michael we both were choked up but I was relieved to hear that he was okay.

Fast forward to 911 and Michael had since graduated from NYU with an MBA and he was living in San Francisco. We saw each other in San Francisco just a couple weeks before that fateful day of 911 and he told me he was going to NYC and would be having a meeting at the WTC. We both laughed about how successful he was becoming and I didn't give it another thought until 911. My first thought after I heard about the plane was, please god...don't let him be in NYC but safe in San Francisco.

I finally arrived back at my apartment and I turned on the television just as the second plane hit, I started crying immediately because I knew that this was in no way a commuter plane accident but this was a coordinated terrorist event. I pulled Micheal's number up on my cell phone and I began dialing. Even if he was safe in San Francisco I did not care if I was waking him up I had to know if he was okay. I left at least three messages...

My phone rang multiple times...my mother,then a coworker, and I kept hitting ignore to send the calls to voice mail, I had to know if he was okay. Finally my phone rang and it was Michael. He was safe in San Francisco, he got home one week to the day before. He was fine. It was a brief conversation, we both were watching the story unfold and quietly we agreed to talk again soon but we both needed to call our mothers and our families.

I hung up the phone and I called my ex, the man that just a mere ten days before was my husband. To my surprise he answered. I asked him if he had the TV on and when he replied no, I said to him you need to turn the TV on immediately. I told him that something dreadful was happening and he needed to know.

Then after reassuring my mother by phone, I watched the first tower fall, all alone, with no one on the phone. I remember the sounds that came out of my mouth, how hollow it sounded in my sparsely furnished apartment. There are just no words to describe that feeling, the helplessness that you felt. My concern grew greater as they started evacuating all of the tall buildings nationwide. Living in the second largest banking city it made me pause. Were there more planes coming?

The Pentagon was hit. We all saw it coming, we were all ready for it at that point. I remember calling my friend Linda, is this real? Are we in a dream? What the hell is happening? The video is just frightening. My phone rang, it was Michael. Flight 93 just crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. It was the same flight that Michael had taken one week to the day before 911. The flight from Newark to San Francisco. There were just no words, the same flight separated but by seven days. It is not a spectacular story, nor a harrowing story about how we escaped death. It was the reality of 911 and there were thousands of stories just like mine and Michael's.

In 2009 I was in Paris visiting my good friend from Amsterdam and I made an off hand remark about "when the damn war is over" and he looked at me like i had three heads. What war, he asked me...I said, the war in Iraq. Oh, "that war" and we lapsed into a conversation about the impact of "that war". Other nations don't get that war, the one that we were led into by bravado and lies. Their nations have not sacrificed as ours has. "The War" that has nearly bankrupted our country and further divided our nation along party lines.

The very ones who were screaming about the the need to invade Iraq are now the very ones calling for us to exit Afghanistan. Civility in our country has ceased to exist. We are either a birther or a commie, socialist. Is it any wonder that we all start to tune out after a while? We got him elected, isn't it his job to fight this fight? We all gave our time, talent, money and sweat during the election and now that it is over we are all rolling over belly up and saying I give. I say grow a pair, our president included.

Will it take another 911 before we stop rolling over like dogs and letting fascists run this country before we have some balls to stand up to our elected officials and force them to do the job we elected them to do? We have an obligation to do something, before we allow the right to take over our country again.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Finding Fluffy

Yes I know you think this is a blog post about finding my long lost cat. Nope you guessed wrong. Actually the truth of the matter is that fluffy found me and I am not happy. My whole entire life, all 42 years I have hated the word skinny. I used to get teased when I was a kid growing up for being a bean pole. Granddad used to take great glee in calling me grasshopper because of my long skinny legs. I graduated with a 28" waist and I am 6'2" and I weighed a whopping 118 lbs. Slim was a word that I heard often. My family was more full figured to say the least, so I was constantly encouraged to eat something and suffered incessant ribbing because, well, you could actually see my ribs.

Slowly I grew to a 30" waist and I weighed about 132 pounds. That was a weight that I stayed at for nearly a decade till I grew to a 32" waist and weighed in at about 158 pounds. I stayed that weight give or take 5 to 7 pounds till January when I quit smoking and have finally realized that no my pants have not shrunk I have grown. I now am pushing 178 pounds into 32" waist jeans and pretending that my hips are supposed to feel pained all day long till I can get home and rip them off faster than a hooker with a new john.

I guess in the real world I am not really "fat", but more what I like to call "fluffy". Trust me when I say it can be a cruel world around gay men. It is bad enough that I am over 40 but now I am sporting a mini muffin top. Folks, it is just not done in my world. According to the charts my ideal weight is 155-168 pounds for a small framed guy, which I am.

That's only ten pounds to loose. I guess if I can quit smoking for 8 months I can drop ten pounds in a month or two right? Ever since I can remember I have been obsessed about my weight. I know I am in a much better space than a lot of folks who are 50 or 100 pounds overweight. I should not complain. It is just hard for me to look down at where my stomach used to be and to see where it is now. I know one thing for sure, jeans with a 34" waist are never setting foot in my house and if I have any say in the matter I plan to put Fluffy outta its misery once and for all.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What Am I Not Telling You?

These days I am getting lots of inquiries regarding what the heck is going on in my life. Those of you who know me know that I just got back recently from seeing Todd in LA. It was an awesome trip. We saw South Pacific with his good friends Fran and Jeff, who were warm and awesome. The four of us had a wonderful dinner downtown before the show.

There was the picnic at the Hollywood Bowl on the fourth where we were serenaded by Vince Gill and the symphony orchestra and the night was capped off with fireworks. We were so close you could feel the ash from the fireworks landing on your face like sand in the desert.

We spent time tucked away quietly at his condo. We shopped at the grocery store, Pavilions is the bomb folks, I don't think I have ever been to a grocery store that was quite so incredible. We dined at wonderful restaurants and he showed me his LA. A city that for most is pretty daunting. It is a beautiful place to be sure.

The Ponderosa is for sale. Life is fantabulous. I am in Love. Glorious. Awesome. Love. The blog is on official hiatus for now. Follow me on Facebook for better updates as I do not have the time to keep the blog up anymore. :) That my friends is a good thing.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Red Building

Recently I visited my Mom for Mother's Day. Going back to the mountains of Virginia always brings back memories. Driving up with my friend Linda we had a great time enjoying the views and the beautiful blue sky day we were having. By the time we got to the mountains the temperature had dropped at least ten degrees. It suddenly had turned cold. I had been attempting this trip since Christmas but the weather was in no mood to cooperate. So there we were, finally there and it was long sleeve weather, it figures considering the delay we had getting there for a visit.

Every time I make the trek back to my birthplace it takes a lot out of me. It is always emotional no matter how much I try to prepare myself for the experience, it always seems to make me sad. This trip marked over two years since my last visit. My half brother has a two year old, soon to be three that I was finally able to meet for the very first time. There she was in all her childlike beauty riding a pony at my sisters house and it just made me smile. She is adorable. It was the kind of sight that always warms ones heart.

The flip side of that is that it has been fifteen years since my Dad died. Since then we have held onto the property he owned for various reasons that I am not going to get into...lets just say that Dad had some outstanding debts that had to be retired. Finally we recently started talking about selling it. We had the property appraised and my sister recently contacted an interested buyer to discuss the property. When I was there I thought that this would be a good time for me to take one last quick look at the property and to take it all in. It was very sad to say the least.

The property has fallen into a serious state of disrepair. The house that I lived in as a child burned to the ground in the 1980's. What my father was able to rebuild would always be the reminder of what once was for me. The lone remnant of the property that I was able to remember fondly is what we always called "The Red Building". In 1976 my Dad started constructing an outbuilding, that we named "The Red Building" because of the paint we settled on. It was the first time I ever worked on a project with my Dad and I was only eight years old.

We moved dirt to shore up the foundation, the floor joists were provided by castoffs from the mine where my dad worked. I remember setting the four corners of the building and watching my dad use the level and setting string line to check to make sure he had the correct elevations and being in awe of him. My dad was so much more than just a miner, he was an electrician, a carpenter, and so much more. It was impossible for me to do anything but worship him as a child.

When my dad dropped a beam on his foot I stood by him and helped him ease himself to the ground and went for help. I doubt I did much but run and get tools, or bring him a glass of water or a cold beer but it was time that he and I shared that was just the two of us. Just a man and his son and looking back I am so thankful for that time and for those memories. It is a memory that my own half brother does not have and never had the opportunity to have.

Working on that building was one of the quintessential memories of my childhood. So there I was all these years later and I found myself staring at the overgrown property, the "house" falling in on it's self and yet I was only drawn to the red building. I made my way to the door and looked into the building as the door was ajar and not locked. I slowly fingered the nail heads there where the Master padlock once hung and I thought about my dad hammering away on that building. I remembered taking out scraps for the animals and dumping them on the ground at the the building. I remembered the hillside fire that scorched the earth on the mountain when my dad let a fire get away from him and we feared that the house would catch fire. So many memories came flooding back.

As I stood in that doorway I was looking back on years of history. My dad has long since passed but what I was looking for and what I found were sweet memories of my youth. I closed my eyes and on the right I could see three Zebco fishing rods that belonged to me and my sisters, the ends painted red, white and green so that we each knew which one belonged to each of us. I stood there and opened my eyes hoping to find a glimpse of those fishing rods. They are long gone, all that is left now are reminders of what once was.

When I was at my moms I talked to my sisters about my visit to dads property and I choked back tears. The last time I remember being in that house was the weekend we buried my dad and I had not set foot on the property in many years. That day though as I stood there on that property I could almost smell the earth that my dad had excavated to build that building. I could close my eyes and hear the sound of nails being driven into wood and I could remember the sight of my dad working shirtless in the backyard trying to teach me how to be a man and hold a hammer and I cried.

I cried for him, for loosing him so soon, I cried that he never lived long enough to see me grow up and become a successful man. I cried for the loss that every son has when they do not make peace with their father. I cried that finally after all these years the property is going to be sold and it is yet one more reminder that my own father and I will never find common ground that we can agree on. I cried because the very ground I was born and raised on will belong to another family.

The best part of my trip back home was remembering "The Red Building" and knowing that somewhere my dad was watching and he was with me as I retraced those steps from my youth, and knowing that he cried too.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Birthday's Are Forever

For many years now I have pretty much tried not to make a big deal over my birthday. Mostly I think because I had so many bad ones when I was younger. Since I became a grown up I have often treated myself to somewhat extravagant trips on that day and generally I think I have done a decent job of taking care of myself on my day but I have never really been one to make a big deal out of my birthday or birthdays in general for that matter.

For the last ten years at least I have often boarded a plane and set off for exotic places to celebrate my day or I got on a plane a week either before or after the actual event and just enjoyed the fact that I was going somewhere foreign in honor of my big day. Often my friend Linda was with me and we just celebrated in a quiet kind of way. Two drifters off to see the world....

When I was in LA with Todd this past March just before I left to come back to Charlotte he told me that he was flying me to Dallas for my birthday and that he was also flying me to Palm Springs for Memorial Day weekend and it was all for my birthday. I have to tell you that I can't remember the time that a man bought me a plane ticket to anywhere on my birthday, let alone two tickets to two different destinations.

As we got closer to my birthday the Dallas trip really started to take shape. Not only was I meeting him in Dallas but Todd booked a reservation at the Rosewood Crescent Spa. I looked it up online and I thought wow, what a nice place to spend a birthday. That was an understatement. As almost everybody knows, everything in Texas is really big, and let me tell you, at the Rosewood you don't need a magnifying glass for anything. From the moment we checked in till we checked out we were treated really well.

The Rosewood is one of those places that makes a statement the minute you get out of the car and the gift just kept on giving. We made our way up to our room and we found a balcony facing the pool, 10 foot ceilings, down comforters, luxurious pillows, well stocked mini bar and the coolest shower head either of us had ever seen or used. It was a Grohe Freehander shower head that was built for two. That first evening we ordered room service, for myself it was a grilled cheese with fries, a side salad. The grilled cheese had three cheeses including Gruyere. Todd ordered the grilled Salmon and we shared chocolate cake and ice cream. The ice cream was more like gelato and was absolutely decadent.

The only hiccup was when we asked to see menus for local restaurants and were told by the head concierge that they do not keep menus for restaurants. That was quickly corrected by the second in command at the concierge desk. Old school versus new school and old school won out. Note to Rosewood: Menus are a great idea, real ones not the virtual kind that are only to be seen on the concierge's desktop computer. Thanks to the relief pitcher for catching this error and correcting it for us by collecting menus from four restaurants for us to peruse for dinner on our next night out.

We dined at the the Park on Friday night with Todd's best friend from college and her husband who live in Dallas. The Park was a lively place for dinner that felt a little too young and a little too loud for me but the food was great. It was chock full of interesting people to look at and it certainly made for interesting conversation...especially the 6 women near us that looked like strippers with dresses cut to the navel and feathers and implants and all that. It's Texas y'all. I am a little more used to Charlotte where young women actually wear a skirt with a blouse. Todd's friends were wonderful and very kind. We had a drink at the bar before we were rushed by the little gay boy at the door to our table on the patio.

During the day on Saturday we both scheduled appointment at the Rosewood Spa. We both had facials and a massage. On our tour of the facility we learned that the spa won a 2008 award from Conde Naste. It is currently ranked 42nd in North America. The massage was nice but the facial was the bomb. I have never had a real facial in a spa before and so for 50 minutes I was pampered with scrubs and rubs and attention. It was really an experience, I loved the spa.

Saturday night Todd and I went to Nick and Sam's and the best line came from Todd..."I am normally a vegetarian and I only eat steak in Dallas." this garnered us champagne on the house and a nice chat with the manager of the restaurant. Todd ordered the Kobe beef and I had a 10 ounce fillet. It was unbelievable. We ate every bite set on the table before us and had a wonderful meal. I cannot recommend this place enough. It is a bit pricey, but worth every penny for a splurge weekend like this.

On Sunday we had brunch with Todd's friends and visited with them at their home. It was nice to see the relationship they shared and to start to get to know them. I think it says a lot about folks who keep friendships for twenty five years. As the trip came to a close I realized one thing above all else, birthday's are forever. So often over the years I have made excuses...and I will not do that ever again. Birthdays should be celebrated and for the first time in a very long time someone I am in love with celebrated my birthday and it felt grand.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

LA - Revisited

I know I have been pretty much AWOL for the last two months, it's just been really crazy here at the Ponderosa. There has been much going on. For starters I have been working diligently on my new project at work and getting contracts and purchase orders written. Since the ground breaking we have been working on site utilities and improvements. The building contractor will be starting next week and I will be able to finally see some real tangible progress.

Over a month ago I headed to Orlando for our International Tech. Meeting...I refer to it as the Geek Squad for Highway Construction...It was actually a big deal for me as this was the first time I was to formally present to the group. Around forty of our best and brightest from around the world were assembled to hear presentations and I was included in this elite group. In the meeting we were all handed headsets and there was a soundproof booth in the back for the translators. The presenters were translated in French and English simultaneously in real time. Yeah, it can make a man nervous.

The morning I was to give my presentation Todd arrived at the crack of dawn and crawled in bed with me before I had to go downstairs and present. It really calmed my nerves to have a friendly face there and to have someone to hug me and tell me that I would do okay. I gave my presentation with just a few flubs, overall it was a 6.5 on a scale of one to ten. I was just pleased that I managed to get through it without vomiting.

Once all of the work stuff was completed then the fun part of the trip began. It was Valentines weekend with my sweetie who had flown all the way from LA to be with me. We ate great food, drank wonderful wine, had massages and generally just enjoyed each other for the weekend. We learned what a fight looks like and we were able to laugh about it in the end. It was sweetest and the most decadent Valentines weekend of my life.

There are times that this whole long distance relationship thingy gets complicated, really really complicated. The wonderful thing about Todd and I is that we talk, a lot. I am the guy who has not had a land line in over a decade yet went out and got one so that we could have conversations without getting a dropped call. Last month we talked over three thousand minutes. With a three hour time difference it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that we talk a lot.

We also both recently learned about Skype. If you don't know what that is google it and get it. It is a great way to have a conversation online with video and it works really well. It is easily installed for us non techies and even I had it up and running in an about an hour.

I once again headed to the airport to board a plane so I could go and see this incredible man that I am undeniably in love with. He knows it, I know it and over the next year we are both going to be busy figuring out how to make this thing called a long distance relationship work.

The trip was lots of fun. He does not cook so the kitchen barely contained spices, and finding four forks to match is a challenge. Todd went off to work and so off to Target I went and set about providing the kitchen with the staples anyone would need to prepare a decent dinner. Well at the very least it is now a step up from camping. I made two meals, vegetarian chili and then on Saturday night I prepared salmon fillets with salad and asparagus. We worked together as a team to entertain one of his friends for dinner and I think we did great together.

I drove us to Palm Springs the next morning where we met up with our friend Catherine who introduced us. Catherine was in Palm Springs on a little mini vacation so meeting up with her was a lot of fun. We had abandoned Todd's condo, a mere two block from Kodak Theater because as I learned from the experience helicopters hovering outside the building shake the windows and make it hard to hear a television and each other.

The next step is that Todd is coming here to Charlotte, land of bankers and rednecks to visit me at the Ponderosa. We are both adjusting to the life of a long distance relationship. Neither of us were looking for this. Hell I am the kind of guy who did not want to date someone who lived on the other side of town let alone a guy who lives on the west coast but here we are, both of us are in this and we are in it to make it work.

For at least the next year or close to it we are going to navigate this thing called a Long Distance Relationship (LDR) and we are going to see where it goes and what journey we end up on. I know this much, I am happy, I am in love and I am taking what life sends me one day at a time.

PS: I am still not smoking! The house is still under renovations. More on that to follow. :)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Timing Is Everything

So I told you recently about Todd, my friend Catherine's best bud who lives in LA. We met just before Christmas. I just got back from visiting Todd in sunny southern California where it was unseasonably chilly and rainy. This was my first time to LA and Palm Springs so one would imagine that I would have a million and one things I wanted to see. The only thing I had on the agenda was to spend some time with Todd and to visit Craft Restaurant.

Since Todd came to North Carolina at Christmas we have been talking on the phone two and three times a day, texting, emailing and we have completed three full rounds of 20 questions via email. Flowers were involved, fed-ex has shipped various items for us and we have had conversations at midnight that make me blush when I think about them. So I got into LA midday on Friday and there was Todd in the airport waiting for me when I got off the escalator headed to baggage claim, grinning from ear to ear in a charcoal gray pinstripe suit and a really hot blue shirt. I had butterflies in my stomach the minute I saw him.

It was just like you would see in a movie, we embraced and kissed, you know the kind of kiss... a full on DNA swapping kind of kiss. We had been waiting for over three weeks to see each other again and we finally had our moment. I don't think either one of us thought about the several hundred people walking past us as we kissed. It just felt great to hold a man and to kiss someone that I have been thinking about every day since Christmas.

After a brief stop for lunch Todd drove me back to his condo in Hollywood and showed me his place. It is a beautiful condo in a mid-rise building with extraordinary views of downtown LA and yes even the Hollywood sign can be seen from his kitchen and office. Todd told me his office had strict orders not to call him all day so we just took the day for ourselves.

Anybody who knows me well knows that I am a quasi foodie. I love me some good food so Todd was a sweetie and booked us a reservation at Craft and drove us across town. For you non-foodie people Craft is Tom Colicchio's restaurant, and Tom would be one of the judges on Top Chef (on Bravo) which is one of my favorite shows on t.v. So there we were at Craft, Todd ordered the champagne and wine and I ordered the appetizers and main courses. Todd of course spoke perfect French when ordering the wine...he had me at hello.

For dinner we had Quail and Prawns for appetizers and then they brought out diver hand picked Sea Scallops and Venison. The meal was really great, the company though...now that made it the most memorable ever. The meal was impeccable. Todd and I made our way back to the car and headed back to his condo for some much needed sleep.

It was a wonderful long weekend together. The kind of weekend that left us both wanting more. The kind of weekend that left us both scratching our heads and asking how on earth are we gonna make this work? We asked each other lots of difficult questions. For now we are committed to taking it one day at a time. Timing is everything and if it is meant to be then in time we will figure out all of the details.