This is a repost from my FaceBook page. Today is my birthday…
To FRIENDS and FAMILY on this day today…
[Author’s Note – this is a stream of consciousness – it probably has typos and grammatical errors galore – I didn’t want to edit it – I was writing from the heart and somethings shouldn’t be edited]
On this day a half-century ago I was born. With the thought that memory can be long though life is short, I wanted to take a moment this day say I remember. I REMEMBER making a new friend a month ago who has become vitally important to me as I write my second novel. He had nothing but praise for my first. He lives in a remote part of the country and often feels alone. I REMEMBER you Michael Rumsey and hold you close. You’ve no idea how much your words of encouragement have emboldened me to do what I continue to do. We’ll make sure you find your Elliot Donahey. My King of Imperfections will find his Prince of Mistakes… (that’s a Jay Brannan reference – which brings me to…)
I REMEMBER going to the Jay Brannan concert two nights ago and meeting Jay (my muse for the novel series) face to face and asking if I could quote his brilliant and moving work within my novels and took a moment to explain what I was doing – amazingly, he said yes. I REMEMBER reuniting with Chuck Hanrahan at this concert after close to 16 years of not seeing each other face to face. Our hugs, tight and deeply felt by the both of us peppered through out the evening. It was a magical night. I REMEMBER finishing my first novel and thinking – no one is gonna read this, and then promptly started to shop it around to publishers (thinking I should just self-pub myself because I can only trust myself with this work – it’s honest, it’s harsh and it’s mine – my voice, my characters, my world). I REMEMBER every word of Jay Brannan’s brilliant work – every word, because though they are his experiences, his voice could just as easily been my own. I admire his courage, his dedication and his absolute love for his fans. When I go – as one day I shall, it is his music that I want people to play to remember me. His music is the soundtrack of my life. My skin popped and percolated and tingled all over when I shared the same small crowded space with him. This truly magical and gifted man. Our voices, gay men’s voices, are in very capable hands with his bright and talented artist. I am in awe of his creations and aspire to write as well has he does. I feel his work profoundly – because in may ways, I live it.
I REMEMBER connecting with young gay people who are struggling to find their way in life. I REMEMBER Chris Nicholson, a bright and upcoming digital artist I befriended on a LGBT support site I frequent. I REMEMBER that I wanted to be there for him as he tried to figure out who and what he was all about – but mostly I wanted to cheer him on. I REMEMBER that now it is my passion to find a way to give back – to be there for some kid whose family isn’t supportive, who may be struggling with just taking their next step. Jesus, I so don’t want another gay kid to suffer through that. I’ve been percolating trying to come up with a way to raise money to start a home for wayward gay youth to help put them on their feet, to give them life skills and support when they have precious little else. I don’t know how I’ll do it. I don’t know if I can. But the passion is there and it is a raging fire that I try to keep in check. But I desperately want to give back. I’m just lost on how to do it.
I REMEMBER, seeing my granddaughter Keely Fry in musical plays each year at her elementary school – it seems only like yesterday she was entering kindergarten and I REMEMBER the day she was born – holding this little baby in my arms for the first time and knowing that my life was just as dedicated to her as I was to my husband and daughter as we all started on this new phase that would dominate our lives to this day. She’s wild, she’s unbridled, she’s a hurricane – leaving a path of creative destruction in her wake. I grouse about the mess, so does the hubby, as well as her mother – our daughter Whitney Fry. I REMEMBER meeting Whitney, MacKenna and Taylor and thinking that somehow, in some strange way, they were going to be a part of me – I didn’t ask for it, never knew why it was coming my way but I knew it was what it was – what I’d signed up for because of the man that bound us together – irrevocably, improbably, and all consuming that it is/was.
I REMEMBER meeting my husband online in a forum chat room. Never quite knowing what it all meant. I REMEMBER this to when he put a ring on my finger in the middle of a loud and boisterous night club in San Francisco. I REMEMBER soon after I had to spoon feed him a loose meat sandwich because he got really drunk that night. Jeffrey and I just looking at each other – eyes meeting eyes with an unspoken word between us. I think Jeffrey got it that this was the one for me. I REMEMBER and see you J L Fry for seeing me. I love you beyond all measure. You put my needs above your own. You give me words of encouragement when I am not sure I deserve any. You are my rock, you are the last voice I hear at night, and the first I hear in my day. I know many don’t know why we have what we have. I don’t care. It’s not for them to know. You know my heart, you have it in your hands every day I live and breathe. You are my best friend and the love of my life. I cherish our talks, our debates, and what you’ve taught me over the 20 years we’ve been there for each other. You taught me what it means to be committed to a solid relationship. In the twenty years we’ve been together we’ve never argued or fought. You are without a doubt my soul-mate (which is saying something, I suppose, seeing how we’re both atheists). I am glad it is your hand I hold when we drive, I am glad it is you I turn to when I don’t know what to do next. You are my rock, you are my light. I cherish you in ways I can never say.
I REMEMBER the nightmare that was the death of a beloved pet Gizmo, who had been with me for 20 years and saw me through some very turbulent times in my life. He was more of an emotive rock than I can ever put words to. He taught me about unconditional love and was my stalwart companion when I thought I didn’t have anyone else in my corner. February 6, 2006 was a very, very dark day for me. But somehow I got through. His ashes sit in a box that I take with me wherever I move. It has never once been packed away. I will not do that to him or his memory. I have one small video of him that I take extra care to have several copies of. I play it from time to time when I need to see and hear him again. I REMEMBER my hand on your frail body as your life slipped away and how much in that moment I wanted to follow. It was short but it was intense.
I REMEMBER my father’s passing on the very same day as the massacre in Columbine, Colorado. I REMEMBER being so wrapped up in my own grief that the events playing out on the TV screen in my parents home seemed like some bizarre movie that I couldn’t quite put together in my head. Any time that series of events plays out in a memorial or tribute to that horrible event takes me back to that moment in my parents home – watching it all and not making any kind of emotive connection because I was simply too lost in my own grief. I REMEMBER his brothers and sisters (my aunts and uncles) descending from Washington to our home in San Diego. I REMEMBER being surrounded by them all – and somehow I REMEMBER my beloved and dearest Aunt Cookie (VeeVee) finding someway in her own grief to try and get us all to smile, even just a little, so that we could endure the pain that was in missing our father. Such courage and family dedication in her eyes. I remember them like beacons keeping us firm – holding us close.
I REMEMBER dancing at Deirdre and Karen’s wedding and having a marvelous time, even if I knew inside that my time with Eric was coming to a close. It was odd to celebrate someone else’s happy moment when your world was changing. I REMEMBER that juxtaposed feeling that night. My world was shifting while one of my good friends was reaching solid ground. I REMEMBER another life in San Diego, with another man who influenced me and taught me about commitment – I remember you Eric Flaniken. I REMEMBER our ten years together – complete with massive roof top parties in the middle of Hillcrest surrounded (literally) by our family and friends. It wasn’t always magical, sometimes it was a bit off. But I remember our world there and back in Normal Heights with the three cats (Demon, Maggie (Majestic Interlude), and my beloved Gizmo).
I REMEMBER Jackie Feitler and her bunnies in that little enclave we had on Adams Avenue – my cats looking at her rabbit and wearing an expression like – what the fuck happened to you to make you look like that? I REMEMBER Deirdre Murray and Randy (can’t recall his last name though), and Jeffrey and my beloved Tom who was a kind and gentle soul that played piano and drew beautifully. I was glad I was there until he passed – he steals across my mind from time to time. Emotively I pull him close and say I’ll never let your memory fade. I REMEMBER that life – sealed behind two doors and the magical garden courtyard that was all our own. Like slipping into wonderland that small set of WWII bungalows it was. Alice had nothing on us. That life was magic time. Nothing short of it.
I REMEMBER the horror that Eric went through when he accidentally ran into a small boy who dashed out from between cars and how very frightened and horrible he felt at something that was ultimately not his fault. I REMEMBER for the first time that I had very few words on how to comfort him in that terrible time.
I REMEMBER working at the City of San Diego and having lunchtime Buffy the Vampire Slayer lunches with Beverly Asbill-Gumbs, Michael Winterberg and others where we watched episodes together. While the TV show was great and all – I just liked having the camaraderie of doing something together.
I REMEMBER performing for close to four years back to back in shows with San Diego Comic Opera. I remember working with such amazing and talented people. It was where I met a very valued friend in Joseph Grienenberger. His wit and charm still tickles my senses every time our paths cross. Which after I stopped performing there seemed to be less and less – now living in another city I miss his laughter and comical witticisms that never failed to make me laugh. I REMEMBER Chris Allen, a virtuoso of a piano and musical genius slipping in (comedically) the Twilight Zone theme song into whatever piece we were rehearsing to let us know we’d gone off the rails musically. It kept things light when we were getting very frustrated. There are others, too many to mention, some more faded from that time – with names I can’t quite recall but I still see the faces and worry if they too will fade with each coming year.
I REMEMBER meeting my bestest friend in the whole world – Jeffrey Merrell Davis, who had the serious misfortune to sit next to me and in his words, “He started talking to me and hasn’t shut up for the next 32 years…” – He’s like the brother/sistah I never knew I had. He knows my secrets, he knows my fears, and I know his. We don’t talk about them, we don’t have to. Jeffrey and I can exchange thoughts with just a look. It’s automatic, it’s irrevocable, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Jeffrey is complicated, he’s brilliant, he’s ever present in my mind and heart. He’s moved close to me, he’s moved away – each time we reconnect it’s as if we’ve only just picked up from where we left off the last time. Words cannot express the depth of love I have for him. He is a light in a very dark tunnel sometimes. When I crumble, as sometimes I do, and i need an outside voice to give me some balance – his is the first hand I reach for. He knows me all too well. It can be dangerous trusting someone that much – I get that – but with him I know it’s in the most capable hands. I cherish him and the friendship and love we’ve built over the years. Moments can be magical – Jeffrey is magic.
I REMEMBER meeting Pamela and Barbara Stompoly and Liz Stephens – these women are tentpoles in my young life. I admired them for so many reasons. Pam has been there in both my artistic life and my personal one. She has never wavered once in absolute support and dedicated friendship. These are brilliant and bright ladies that I am truly blessed to call friends. My life became immensely rich the moment these three entered my life.
I REMEMBER taking then Lorna Laughlin and Lawana Bailey (from my high school days) to my haunt in my early club land days at Studio 9 in North Park. It was the last vestiges of my old high school life fading into what I was going to become as I took my life into my own hands. I needed the comfort of friends of my past to allow me to slip into my future. I thank them for being so supportive and such brilliant, brilliant women who amaze me even today. I REMEMBER Teresa and Don – my two flatmates in those times when I struck out on my own (with Eric in tow) and our lives on Cherokee Avenue – listening to Tameka and T’sondra’s mother scream their names at all odd hours of the day. I REMEMBER Jeffrey’s foot talking to Teresa at our house warming party (anyone remember Almond flavored Champagne?)
I REMEMBER long escapes to a nightlife in TJ (Tijuana, Mx) – remember that gay disco that was WAAAAAY the fuck out in the middle of nowhere with the Las Vegas banquet seating? What was THAT about? I REMEMBER one of us getting so drunk they were going to toss their cookies so we told her to roll down her window and instead she rolled it up and then tossed – yeah, that was a fun trip home.
I REMEMBER Cheryl Peterson – quiet unassuming Cheryl hanging out with loud boisterous and bizarre gay boys at Studio 9. I REMEMBER that lock of hair constantly obscuring one eye. And that special smile you had whenever one of us went off the rails. I REMEMBER Teresa getting so high one night on poppers that when a song came on and we grabbed her to dance an ice cube fell out of her drink and hit the floor and she thought it had come out her, uh, skirt – yeah, we’ll say skirt cause uh, ew, lady parts.
I REMEMBER sitting in a car with my new friend Robert Villa at the border into Mexico when he and his boyfriend had spent the night in TJ and had a breakup and Robert was stranded at the border crossing and he called me to see if I would come down and get him at 2am. I remember we sat and talked in the car at some grocery store parking lot until the sun almost came up. It seemed important that I make sure he was alright. I had to go to work only a couple of hours later – I was tired but happy that I helped keep him going.
I REMEMBER being in high school – people like Jennifer Bundy, Marcy Tooze, Brenda Loreman, Maria Jones, Robert Wagner, Tim Mutt, Lyle Nash, Sven Seaholm, Regan Ray, and Sylvia Davis. Choir and Drama people who colored my life and my senses. So many to name that I’d spend the majority of this little write up with each of you. Of particular note – my piano teacher Marilyn White and the Beckman’s who taught me about musical community more than anything else. I remember this time being turbulent in my life because so many things collided in ways that shook everything I’d ever come to know about myself.
I REMEMBER spending time with Carolina Guadagni and knowing what a special and compassionate woman she was and how she paid me attention when I never really thought I deserved any. I REMEMBER going out with her and thinking how to tell her I wasn’t the one for her. I knew then how different I was from everyone else. High School was surreal for a boy like me. We walk through it, we are in the thick of it – but are ultimately disconnected from it all because we know, deep down inside, that our experiences – our lives are not like yours. It was acting, it was putting on a face, a mask to try and get by. It was an artifice I didn’t like wearing, I wasn’t honest with you all – how could I be? I wasn’t completely honest with myself. But you all influenced me. With bright lights and lovely souls like Karen Worley, Carolina and Maria Jones keeping the laugh track going, I know I made it through because you all made my questioning time bearable.
I REMEMBER the musical rehearsals at my parents house where we’d all woodshed stuff we were working on. I remember using my reel-to-reel recorder to record our work. I REMEMBER how many of us gathered around and sang our ever loving minds out. You people inspired me to be better at whatever I did (which admittedly, wasn’t much – I was still trying to figure things out). You all taught me how to strive for what you believe in. Your threads in my life are colorful and vibrant – if a little faded with the passage of time. I REMEMBER you all. Names too many to put here – but I remember each and every one of you. I don’t need to open the MVHS annual. I see you all – stealing across my mind – moments and feelings frozen in time like an emotively charged museum.
I REMEMBER bringing a copy of the Update (a local gay rag) into my high school and it had a picture of our choir teacher (Ron Jessee) in a musical production of a theater piece. I did it because I was angry with his hiding who he was to the world when I desperately needed a figure I could latch onto that said I was alright. That I was okay. I wanted Mr. Jessee to be that for me. Ultimately I never did anything with it. Mr. J – It was NOT a proud moment in my life. More than anything I regret being angry with you for something that I had no right to put on you. It was a difficult time for me – it was a turbulent time for me. I should’ve reached out to you and held tight to sort out why I was angry with you not being who I needed. It wasn’t fair of me to do that. I see that now, I hope you can forgive me and my childish ways. You taught me to step back and think before acting. It is a lesson I carry to this day. It took me a long time to sort it out. I performed with your husband when I did Aida with the San Diego Opera – he mentioned that you’d probably like to see me again. I told him that would be nice only to duck out and not do it at all. I couldn’t – not because of anything you’d done. I was simply too ashamed for the way I’d left things with you all those years ago. Some pain is hard to put down. I get it now, what you were dealing with. What we, as gay men, deal with. It’s not an easy road, and it can be terribly tiring. I am happy for you and your husband. He’s a really nice man. I have nothing but admiration for how you’ve progressed – and I’ve kept my ear to the ground over the years to see what you’re up to. I wish I could’ve been better at my end of things. I am happy that you and I have friended each other on FB. It makes the pain of that time so long ago easier to bear.
I REMEMBER Chrystal (Leigh Sickler) Bandreigh walking up behind me while I was playing something on the piano in the choir room during a break between classes. I REMEMBER musical nights at her house rocking out to Heart, Stevie Nicks and of course Queen. I REMEMBER going to concerts and her absolute devotion to her Bri-guy (Brian May) from Queen. I REMEMBER being there when we went to their concert in Irvine and scoring those backstage passes. What an amazing night that was. I REMEMBER rocking out to Heart in concert at the sports arena in San Diego. Singing til our voices became hoarse and the ring in our ears didn’t stop for hours after we had long departed the event.
I REMEMBER my junior high school days and Mr. Carl Abel. A caring and very dedicated science teacher. He took a moment to see me, in my youth, knowing what I was struggling with in figuring out who I was and pulled me aside to make sure I was okay. I had the biggest crush on him (even if I couldn’t put a name to it). Mr. Abel saved me in ways I never can repay. I think of him very fondly. He was a rock for me that got me through, just because he took me aside and said ‘I see you – and I see what you’re going through’ – Mr. Abel taught me compassion for others. It is a lesson I try to apply as well as he did. I’m not always successful, but I do try to carry his torch forward.
I REMEMBER being in elementary school – I REMEMBER being bullied by a boy who held me up to a fence when no teachers were around and threatened to beat me up because I wasn’t doing what all the other boys were. I REMEMBER looking at him square in the face and saying he was going to be sorry he did that. He was hit by a car three days later and became paralyzed from the neck down. It was coincidence, i know that now. But at that time I REMEMBER thinking something or someone had intervened. I REMEMBERED to hold my tongue from saying things like that after.
I REMEMBER my family life being colorful and loud. My family was passionate about being heard. I REMEMBER our childhood friends Robert Vega and Kelly Mayo and all of the days we’d spend at our house or at theirs (they only lived down the street). Many days with them – our strike parade against household chores comes forward for some strange reason. Or playing dodge ball in the dark during summer vacation to where we couldn’t even see in front of our faces but we just didn’t want to give up playing for one more night.
I REMEMBER singing the Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To?) in my head over and over until I begged my grandmother to buy it for me so I could play it until it wore out. I REMEMBER buying my first record – Thelma Houston’s Don’t Leave Me This Way (a theme song of mine perhaps?).
I REMEMBER going to the public pool with my Aunt and listening to that tiny ball radio she had. I REMEMBER going to San Diego Gulls hockey games and then meeting the players after. I REMEMBER my aunt giving me my love for Ice Hockey to this day. I REMEMBER camping out with friends (I won’t name who) and realizing that the boys interested me far more than the girls. I REMEMBER how I marveled at what we could do – how we saw things. I wasn’t the outdoorsy type (my family will get a big laugh out of that one), so it was my fascination with boys at this time that sort of brought me out of my shell.
I REMEMBER traveling to Washington state to meet my dad’s side of the family for the first time in 1972. I REMEMBER meeting my cousins and realizing there was a whole other world that was somehow related to me that I had no knowledge of. I REMEMBER my uncles and aunts (all of them – and there were a lot to remember as my dad had a HUGE family). I REMEMBER clam digs in the early morning hours and the clam fries we would have later on in the day. I REMEMBER they were good with ketchup. I REMEMBER my mother sewing up drawstring bags made of garish material that was so prevalent in the early 70’s and then filled them up with all sorts of games and coloring books to take up our time while we made the long drive up the coast.
I REMEMBER family events at my maternal grandmother’s house. I REMEMBER those gatherings of great Mexican food (family recipes from that side of the family) and how to properly serve Spanish Rice. Something I’ve imparted to my girls now. Grandma’s iron hand with etiquette still reigns supreme in my head. I REMEMBER Mexican hot chocolate and belotes with butter and a slice of cheese warmed in the broiler. I REMEMBER that wacky and bizarre aluminum christmas tree with the weird disco lamp that had a color disc that would turn slowly bouncing it’s color off the stick like Andy Warhol inspired aluminum tree. That thing was hideous. I’m glad it’s lost to time. But it marked those years in my youth so – yeah, I guess it deserves a mention.
I REMEMBER being very young and my grandmother couldn’t watch us because she became ill. I REMEMBER that the neighbors grandmother taking her place and for a week we had to contend with trying to bridge the language gap because my mother purposely hadn’t taught us how to speak Spanish because she didn’t want her bi-racial kids to have any perceived accent. It was a different time.
I REMEMBER speaking up at a very young age at the dinner table and my mother’s brother piped up that children should be seen and not heard (this was a stupid rule even then). My father interrupted him and said that at his table we all had a right to be heard as long as it wasn’t silly. I REMEMBER looking at me and his eyes said he would always be there for me. I REMEMBER loving my father that night so much it hurt.
I REMEMBER not taking the bus from Highland Elementary in kindergarten because somehow I became confused and thought my dad was picking me up from school that day (when he wasn’t). I REMEMBER several teachers stopping to ask me if someone was coming to get me and I told them each that yes, my father was going to be here at any minute. I REMEMBER sitting at that little planter in front of the school as time slipped away from me and the light faded a bit and I suddenly thought I must have misunderstood what was supposed to happen. I got up and calmly walked into the office and explained that I got confused and that maybe my dad wasn’t coming to get me. I asked them if I could call him and ask him what I should do. I REMEMBER my father coming to get me sometime later as I calmly sat in front of the school again. He pulled up in that Studebaker that he never quite finished remaking and opened the door. There was a look of pride on his face at how I’d calmly handled the whole thing.
I REMEMBER that no matter what, my parents had my back. I REMEMBER taking my mother to Britain, Denmark and Russia as a thank you for all the years of sacrifice she and my father made. My father never made that trip as he died the year before. But symbolically he was there. I REMEMBER my mother and father being absolute in their love and devotion to me and my siblings. I KNOW we’ve not always been easy for them. I KNOW I confused the hell out of them on several occasions. I KNOW I am blessed to call them my own. I KNOW I am blessed to have my brother and sister (Pablo and Carmelita) and the complicated and profoundly felt emotions between us. I KNOW they don’t always get me or what I am doing. I KNOW I don’t make it easy on anyone. But I REMEMBER IT ALL.
I REMEMBER you all. Even names I’ve not mentioned. Know that you’re all part of the tapestry of my life. On this day, 50 years after I took my first breath, I REMEMBER everything. It’s passionate, It’s clear. You are all threads that make me who I am – every single one of you. So on this day, this day of deep reflection – I want to say thank you. Thank you for giving me moments I can reflect upon. The good and the bad. The happy and the sad (I swear I am not trying to make this some childish poem). But I wanted to stop and acknowledge how you’ve all enriched me. How much you’ve all contributed in some way to making me who I am. I live, I breathe and I feel – deeply, profoundly and irrevocably. I wanted to say how much you all mean to me, how much I regard those memories and how they continue to drive me forward. Thank you. You’ve no idea how my journey has colored what I do now. But I thought I’d try to put it out there and let you know – today I may be a year older – but I am far richer for having crossed paths with you all. -SA. C.