Thursday, November 26, 2009


Rejection sucks.

Amidst a generally sucky atmosphere of a month of rain and unknowingly stepping in my dog’s vomit this morning, I read a follow-up email after having gone for coffee in Vancouver with an Abbotsford realtor I’ll call Ron. (If I were bitter I’d call him Dick or Doofus. But, of course, I’m not bitter.)

He said he didn’t feel any fireworks during our first meeting, but would really like to be friends. Yeah, that “friend” tag always seems lame. People go on Plenty of Fish and other dating sites to gain a bud to watch the Canucks with on Pay Per View. (Again, to clarify, I’m not bitter.)

This is a guy who contacted me first, indirectly, by adding me as a “favourite”, an odd junior high feature on POF that I guess is the equivalent to “Hey, I think you’re neat. Hee hee. But I’m afraid so send a message so I’ll just ‘favourite’ you. Hee hee.” Being as my profile is entirely accurate and I have several photos to negate that One Miracle Photo Effect, I figured he wasn’t physically repulsed by me. Heck, I was neat.

Coffee then. I don’t like exchanging messages for weeks on end. Get together in person and see if there’s a spark. Not fireworks,…a spark, for frickin’ sake. Who expects fireworks from a midday meeting at Starbucks?! I was just pleased to sit across from a guy who dressed nicely instead of some dude who’d just thrown on a 1999 Sun Run t-shirt with holes in it. (Yeah, that was another coffee experience. Not. Going. There.)

I have felt fireworks before on a first meeting. But that was probably the Bacardi talking. And aided by the fact my gym god date wore a vest with nothing underneath. Shallow, yes. I was in my twenties playing in the shallow end with all the other young ’uns. Of course, Ron didn’t have that opportunity. He got married (to a woman) at a young age and had a family. (Okay, maybe a little bitter. I’m really wanting to change his fictional name to Doofus.) The divorce will be finalized “any month now” and Ron has recently had a three-month gay relationship, long distance no less. Three months. Remember those? Shall we go to dinner again at that place where we celebrated our two-and-a-half week anniversary? Oh, and by the way, I haven’t told you lately (i.e, in the past two hours): You’re really neat.

Are fireworks really something to expect on a first date in a coffee shop? Am I the one whose expectations are out of whack? Is hoping for some a pleasant conversation with a few interesting tangential comments beyond the lifetime resumé too low a standard? Honestly, I’d love to hear from someone who actually saw fireworks while sipping a latté on a first meeting.

OK, Ron, go find your fireworks. Never really my thing. They don’t last. And even in the midst of them, the oohs and aahs start to feel a little forced. (Maybe I’m still scarred from that Unfortunate Sparkler Incident when I was six. Can’t find the mark. Maybe it’s just bad lighting. Or maybe it’s on the other hand.)

Plenty of Fish, eh? What the hell am I doing fishing at forty-five? I’m a vegetarian! And even before I saw the light (or whatever), I hated fishing. You sit forever waiting and waiting and waiting for a bite and lose your lure on a rock. Or pull up seaweed.

Fishing sucks.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Remembering Stephen

Tough day of writing today. I am working on a semi-autobiographical novel, set in 1990-91 when I lived in Los Angeles. My main character, like myself, decided to add a little substance to a life that was then consumed by go-go boys, drag shows, bar hopping and a lot of clothes shopping. Enter AIDS Project Los Angeles and the Buddy Program.

As I introduced various characters attending the three-day Buddy training, I took a break to dig around my basement, wondering if I'd find a memento that survived my nine moves since that time. Call it a hunch, but my first thing to search was an old blue plastic carton that contained old tax files and appliance manuals. In an unmarked double pocket folder, I discovered items that left me weeping. I could only look at one item at a time before taking a break to compose myself. The first thing I noticed was the catering business card of Stephen, my first Buddy who died of AIDS complications in August 1991. Next came a research project quote from grieving parents in September 1987, the coded source now lost:

He was our son.
He is all our brothers.
Our Michael is gone.
Try and save the others.

I found the contact list of the twenty-seven other people who participated in the same Buddy training, an old APLA news bulletin and then the really emotional documents. First was a sheet of scratch paper on which I'd scrawled notes from my first phone conversation with Stephen. It included facts about him, his needs, his current medical issues and my first meeting time, simply written as "Wednesday 4:30". I found a journal entry about the day I first met Stephen, the note reflecting my own naive optimism of the time. Also, in the folder were head shots of Stephen from his fledging acting days and the addresses of the hospice where Stephen lived his final days and the Jewish temple with the date and time of the funeral service. Hardest of all to take was a thank you card from Stephen's parents, sent a month after the funeral, the front containing a simple quote from Stephen:

Don't ever leave me,
but don't hang on too tight.
Love is like a balloon:
sometimes you have to let go.

Inside was the brief handwritten note: "Steve grew very fond of you. You can be sure you played an integral part in all of our lives. Please keep in touch."

And, of course, I didn't. Stephen's parents didn't know how to respond to me whenever they came up from San Diego to see their son. His dad was always a nervous bundle of energy, searching for something--anything!--to do to pass the awkward moments. He was a tinkerer, used to fixing things, but he could do nothing to fix his son. Stephen's mom, a schoolteacher who'd taken leave to attend to him, was initially cool to me, not understanding why Stephen needed a volunteer to do things she was well-equipped to handle. In time, however, she was able to use my visits as respite opportunities. We grew to respect each other for our unique roles in supporting Stephen and that respect deepened when we took Stephen on one last trip to Santa Barbara to celebrate his 29th birthday, only weeks before he died.

Sadly, after Stephen died there was a physical distance between those of us who remained as well as an relational awkwardness. All contact had revolved around Stephen and, after his passing, I didn't know what was left other than a painful sense of loss that I never shared with Stephen's loved ones. My role was as a supporter and I grieved alone after all the arrangements were finalized and the reception concluded.

There was more in that folder,...things about my second Buddy. I cannot look through anymore today. My head and my heart are with Stephen today. Had AIDS not taken this sweet, idealistic man, he'd be forty-seven.

I honor you, Stephen. Much love!

Friday, November 13, 2009


I need a gaydar repairman. Can’t find one in the yellow pages. Another inconvenience of living in the boonies.

I brought my twelve-year-old dog Lincoln to the vet this morning, worried about a lump in his hind region. Now that’s not the point of this entry—just provides context—but, if you’re like me, there is no focusing on anything else until knowing how the dog is doing. Turns out it was a harmless cyst. Just what I’d hoped, but I’d have been wracked with lifelong guilt if I didn’t have it seen to and, a few months later, had been told it was a tumor.

I waited in the little doggy patient room, my younger dog frantically whining and bouncing off the walls. Literally. It was live-action Pac-Man. Lincoln was perfectly content, cradled in my arms, occasionally smacking my nose with his pale, stinky tongue (an unfortunate side effect of his chronic renal failure, one of a slew of conditions duly noted in his ever-thickening veterinary file).

In walked the vet, not the affable, stout lady I was accustomed to, but a tall, late-forties man I’d not seen before. He introduced himself, explaining he was finishing up his last week here on a contract basis. From the moment our eyes locked, it was clear to me that he was gay and vice versa. In fact, he stared and stumbled through his introduction, apparently startled to finally encounter a gay man in these parts. Undoubtedly, he’d seen many of the local lesbians with their beloved dogs, cats and ferrets, but this place was parched of gays.

He looked at me more than he looked at my dog. Perhaps it was on account of attraction, but as he was only here temporarily I suspected he was dying to say, “And you live here?! Why? Why?!” Nothing I haven’t said to myself. Countless times.

The examination was essentially done in sixty seconds. As I said, harmless cyst. (Ooh, I love that word: harmless.) He even had time in that minute to explain that, even if it became something more ominous, it wouldn’t ever become the primary concern, given Lincoln’s other conditions, his medications and his specialized diet. Basically, a lump was the least of my worries.

Still, despite the fact that the lobby was crowded with other reluctant critter patients, he let the session linger. He went into detail about options for grinding flax seed and cleaning my coffee grinder thereafter, all the while looking intensely into my eyes. I couldn’t sustain the stare. I had to keep looking down to pat Lincoln and attend to the other one, now frantically bounding at me from the rear.

As he finally ended the examination, he volunteered that he would be back again in December. Uh, thanks for sharing. It seemed clear that something else was going on during this visit. He wasn’t quite my type. It was only a hunch, but I suspected he was a little too much the Mr. Leather type for me. After all, I’m a strict vegetarian (a near vegan, but I just can’t give up ice cream—the soy stuff doesn’t compare). Although I didn’t feel a Love Connection, it was flattering, even exciting, to be ogled by an attractive man.

Back in the lobby, I waited to pay my bill. A tiny woman in full cycling garb, helmet included, yammered away to the receptionist about the ingredients of a single can of pet food she was contemplating buying. I had enough time to jot down some blog sites from an article in Modern Dog Magazine and work out my entire Christmas shopping list while this woman continued to find a question and follow-up comment about every word on the damned label. Dr. Pleather—hey, I could fantasize, right? The word of the day is “harmless”—popped out twice, again eyeing me and seeming to have no other reason to make an appearance.

Between his two peekaboo curtain calls and since I had no desire to start on a To Do housecleaning list, I glanced down at the counter and noticed a bio for Doc Pleather for clients to read. I skimmed it, just to pass the time, of course. Former Canadian Olympian in water polo! Yada, yada, yada. And then, midway through the overly long single paragraph, I read the sentence that began, “He lives with his wife…”

I stopped right there, mid-sentence. I suppose the rest of the sentence said something like “on a farm with three rescued goats and a horse named Howard.” But then, maybe I shouldn’t suppose at all. All bets were off. Come to think of it, everything about the day was awry. I awoke late due to a power outage that gave my alarm clock the morning off. I had a warning signal flashing the alert “Low Caffeine!” somewhere inside me, a result of having to forgo my pot of coffee (a 40/60 caf/decaf blend, potent nonetheless). The pool had been freakishly busy when I swam my laps, a couple of newcomers failing to grasp the concept of lane swimming despite several collisions and flustered tutorials by other pool regulars. Given the tone of the day, why shouldn’t my gaydar be on the fritz?

But, you see, I’m 90% sure the gaydar was in fine form. Now I realize medical practitioners often have a soft, compassionate disposition. I could have mistaken sensitive, skilled doctor for gay man. (Hence the need for the gaydar systems check. I was overdue for a tune-up anyway.) Hell, even as oblivious as I am to all things gay, I know he was gay.

Gay and married. Bisexual? I don’t know. Does anyone have bisexual-dar? Is there even such a thing—the dar, that is. I’m sticking with gay and married. And that bothers me. My friend Rob recently recounted a story about an acquaintance who’d moved to B.C.’s Interior and placed a personal ad online. He was deluged with offers to meet up with married men. All I can think is, In this day and time?! Gay men are still getting married? To women?!

Gay marriage is legal everywhere in Canada. If marriage seemed like the way to conform (and hide) twenty years ago, haven’t we made strides in getting closer to living a life of integrity in the time since? Gay and still married?! I’m a naïve person, I realize, and that I hope that naïveté never fully goes away, but any excitement over being cruised by a doctor quickly transformed to sadness and annoyance. No wonder this vet likes to contract his time, traveling to all parts of the province—away from his wife and Howard the horse.

Back to my word of the day: harmless. Was it just an episode of harmless flirtation? I can’t seem to shake it off so flippantly.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Things have been quiet lately. Okay, it’s always quiet. But this is the kind of quiet where the tree falls in the woods and no one’s there—and I still manage to hear it! Yes, it happened! Now can that expression be done away with? Permanently?

When I was at the cottage an hour outside of Ottawa, the newness of Gay Ottawa got me in the car and my Just Visiting status made me more of a risk taker. Not risky as in crazy sex, but risky as in show up to gay events solo. Yeah, radical, isn’t it?

Now I’m back home and feeling complacent about my remoteness. There was a Halloween party last weekend that I skipped. I don’t do costumes. It’s always terribly stress inducing. I have no idea how to put together a getup from scratch and I’m not motivated (or rich enough, at the moment) to hop on the ferry to buy a ready-made Spiderman costume in Vancouver. (I’m also not one of those gays who looks forward to October 31 as a time to dress in a Speedo and spraypaint my body gold, shirtless firefighter costume—with darling suspenders!—retired after three years running. I’ve been working out with results to show for it; I just choose not to show. Yeah, push me off the Pride float. I don’t belong.) Coming up with a costume is work for me and knowing that there was a good chance I’d be the only single guy present was the thought that put the final nail in the vampire’s coffin.

Last night offered another opportunity to follow my gayness. Ivan E. Coyote, a homo author and storyteller, was performing at a small town half an hour from home. I marked the event on my calendar weeks ago so there was no backing out. Calendars must not mislead! Still, as the afternoon rolled into evening, I felt content at home with the dogs and my library copy of Eat, Pray, Love. If Julia Roberts is going to be in the movie, I’d better damn well read the book. She had me at “My Best Friend’s Wedding” (if not “Mystic Pizza”).

The tug-and-pull continued as the time when I’d have to leave neared. Must stay--look at those pleading dog eyes! A lesbian author in your environs—must go! As a writer, I knew I could use some inspiration and, to my astonishment, I couldn’t recall ever going to an homo author event. I ironed, I dressed and then the climactic moment arrived. Something brown—and smelly!—was smudged on my pants. Oh, beloved dogs, what have you done?! Was it a desperate ploy to keep me home for yet another evening of idle tummy rubs and ice cube treats?

Almost worked. I’d sworn I wouldn’t wear jeans, but I had no time (or desire) for more ironing. Jeans on—and snappy little 70s jingle bopping in my head—I made my first drive in months to the town so near, yet so far.

The place was packed. I knew it would be. The crowd almost all female. Knew that, too. A few dutiful husbands tagged along with their wives. It was Saturday night, but the Canucks had a rare weekend off.

There was a long introduction of the honored guest, one of those rambling speeches read directly from an earnestly written script. Verbal diarrhea, really. We want Ivan! At last, she stepped to the podium. It took less than sixty seconds for me—and the crowd—to be hooked. Ivan E. Coyote, a proud, butch lesbian who does not mind being mistaken for a man—relishes it, I think—proceeded to share story after story for two hours, breaking only for a brief intermission/book signing.

Was I inspired? More than that. Awed. She had notes, but glanced at them only occasionally without interrupting the flow of her narrative. Ivan was in full command throughout.

Could I ever do that? Not likely. If it were a room of kids and no adults, sure. I can work the room, feeding off the reactions of the audience. But it’s different with adults. The sweat stain quickly begins under my arms, the heat of the spotlight moistens my forehead, my mouth dries, the voice wobbles and my breathing becomes as desperate as when I try to pick up the pace swimming freestyle at the local pool.

Ivan Coyote is a master storyteller. I haven’t read any of her short stories. Sometimes I even skip her column in Xtra West, the Vancouver gay news rag. And now I’m a fan.

Glad I went. During the many quiet times ahead of me, I have a little more to think about—and read.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


357 (ostensibly) single guys sounds like a lot, eh? I conducted an online search on Plenty Of Fish to find gay men in the Vancouver area within a nine-year age range, my own age roughly in the middle.

I pump myself up before viewing the results. "Be open." I become as hopeful as when I blow a twenty on lottery tickets. You never know.

I scroll down. Many familiar thumbnail photos. Have I worn out my welcome on the website? Come on, stay positive! I click on a thumbnail to read the profile. Does confusing your and you're constitute grounds for dismissal? Would he be open to receiving Eats, Shoots& Leaves as a first date gift? (Yes, I know the book focuses on punctuation. It's a conversation starter.)

I move on. More clicking. All right, the stickler in me must be set aside. I don't need love notes from Mr. Right.

How is it that a thumbnail photo, when clicked and enlarged transforms into something less appealing? (It's like those trick mirrors in clothing store dressing rooms.) The icky thing about Plenty Of Fish is every time I click on someone's profile that person can find out by looking at the "Viewed Me" link after logging in. I get embarrassed by some of my clicking. Sorry! My mistake!

I am suspicious of the one-photo wonders. Doesn't everyone have one impossibly good shot? A lawyer with a great mug I communicated with a few months ago recently posted a second photo. Yech. There was almost no resemblance! (I feel better that he inexplicably ended the message exchange before the obligatory coffee date.)

It would be so much easier if I could say physical attraction isn't necessary. But it is. I've met some guys whom I knew I wasn't attracted to based on their photos and I've hoped that great conversation would create a connection. Sure, a couple of them were funny, interesting...but potential friends, not partners. And no matter what guys say, they're not searching online for another friend.

Click on. The profiles start to sound the same. Loyal, funny, successful,...the adjectives read like clichés. Everyone's a terrific catch, but the messages seem hollow. There are a few who go out on a limb to make each sentence witty. It feels contrived--and flat.

I tell myself again, "Be open," yet I am aware that the sentiment evaporated after the first few clicks. I browse some more and try to fake it. To be honest, there are some profiles that interest me. Problem is I already sent these guys a message and, for whatever reason, my photos, my words elicited repulsion, or at the very least, inaction.

357 single guys. The search is over. And note the lack of an exclamation mark ending the preceding sentence, all you Lynne Truss followers.

I'm not entirely deflated. When I head into town later, I'm buying a lottery ticket.