Sunday, December 30, 2012

NO TURNING BACK

I had an opportunity to make my life a whole lot easier and I turned it down.

I got a call two weeks ago from my former employer, offering me a position to begin in January.  Immediately, I did the math.  Six more days of ferry commuting...that’s all!  My five hours of daily commuting would be reduced to forty minutes, maybe thirty.  My alarm clock could snooze an extra 60-90 minutes each morning.  My three days at the gym could be upped to five.  A life of balance!

Even after I said no, he didn’t accept my answer.  Told me to think about it over the weekend. 

Thinking can be dangerous.  It can also be exhausting, especially when it kicks into high gear at 3 a.m.  (Has someone invented the caffeine patch?)

He called again Tuesday.  Again, I said no.  Again, he told me to think about it.  One more day. 

A poem and a song nagged at me, dissuading me from saying yes.  The song, an oldie (even for me) has never been a favorite.  I am rather certain I have never hummed the chorus; in fact, the ditty is a downer.  More than anything, it annoys me.  One (Is the Loneliest Number).”  Sample lyrics:

One is the loneliest, number one is the loneliest
Number one is the loneliest number that you'll ever do
One is the loneliest, one is the loneliest
One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do.

Yeah, thanks for that, Harry Nilsson and Three Dog Night. 

Going back would effectively shut the door on my ever having a dating life again.  Single gay men under seventy do not exist here.  Long ago, when blue collar laborers, potters and potheads, lesbians and retires settled, the gays passed.  The moat was too large, separating the rural folk from that Homo Kingdom, Vancouver’s West End.  Every now and then there is a gay sighting, but they are less frequent than cougars and sasquatches.  I suspect these naive men quickly turn around and get back on the next boat to civilization. 

That stupid song doesn’t just remind me about my destiny as Lifelong Bachelor.  The social life wouldn’t be much better.  Yes, I go for the occasional coffee with former coworkers but when “Argo” came to town last month for its five-day run, there was no one I could call to join me for the Saturday night screening.  After seven and a half years!  Yep, I went solo.  Dammit, one can be a lonely number.

He called again today.  Still no.  How about coffee to talk about it? 

If only gay men pursued me with such interest. 

No coffee.  No is no.

That poem?  Not an annoying choice.  This time it happens to be my favorite poem by my favorite poet: “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. It hijacks my inner voice whenever I am about to make a significant compromise in life.  When I first read the poem in ninth grade, it resonated. 

The final verse:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I do not find joy in clomping along the beaten path.  It is safe, but there is no adventure and all the expectations are established by people I don’t know.  Turn left, cross the stream here, avoid that patch of rocks.  Going back would be familiar, momentarily a relief and most definitely the healthier decision.  (Imagine looking in the mirror each morning and not facing Rocky Raccoon!) 

Still, it would be a copout.  I continue to cling to dreams and goals...perhaps foolishly.  The plus side of the loneliest number is no one else is harmed.  In the big scheme of things, I still hope for more than another decent date.  Maybe we’ll connect and we’ll actually get it right.

I still entertain the idea of venturing elsewhere, perhaps far, far beyond the Homo Kingdom.  I still hope to move to Los Angeles to pursue a writing dream against all odds.  (Oh where, oh where, do my immigration documents sit?) 

I still yearn to connect with new friends and chat at classy restaurants that specialize in a single cuisine (unlike the Greek/Indian/pizza establishments in my neck of the woods).

A short-term fix sacrifices a long-term solution.  The five hours of daily commuting will continue in the New Year.  The alarm will keep on blaring too early.  I’ll still fret over a compromised fitness regime.  And, yes, the raccoon eyes will go on frightening strangers. 
But hope will remain.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

“MARY” MAKING ME MERRY


I don’t know if being an avid fan of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” is a gay thing.  Based on the commercials during last night’s airing, I’d say it’s a geriatric thing.  Diabetes management.  AARP.  Incontinence.  I’ve always been mature for my age.
Gay or not, I’ve always had an inexplicable affinity for “MTM”.  I can watch old episodes and not laugh once, yet I still thoroughly enjoy the experience. 

“Mary Tyler Moore” was more than comedy.  The show consisted of lovably flawed characters whom Mary Richards had to awkwardly, endearingly finesse her way around:  buffoonish, egotistical Ted, tough guy/softie Lou, snarky Murray (kept in check by acerbic Sue Ann), batty, tender Georgette, hard-done-by Rhoda and grand dreamer Phyllis (with ever-sage daughter Bess).  The actors always brought their A-game, making each character seem entirely real.

While I’ve had many Rhoda moments (and perhaps even more Brenda connections from the “Rhoda” spinoff), I have identified most with Mary.  While the theme song—more on that in a minute—included the line “Love is all around”, it always felt that “Loopiness is all around” in Mary Richards’ fictional life and in my real life. 

Even at seven, I empathized with Mary over dating woes—sadly, never the right guy.  Sometimes the guy with newsman good looks is unattainable.

 I remember one episode in which Lou recalled Mary’s first entrance into the newsroom.  Apparently she said “Excuse me” to a desk she bumped into.  I’ve done that many a time.  (Garbage cans also receive my profuse apologies.  I run into them more than you can imagine.  Indeed, they are the source of the perpetual leg bruising.

Mary exuded 70s fashion, with long-legged pant suits flared at the bottom, curve-accentuating sweaters and colorful scarves.  Her hair was always thick, lustrous and flawless.  Despite mild indignities, she strutted with confidence.  I try, at least.

Perhaps nothing sticks with me more than the theme song, ending oh so cautiously in Season 1 with “You might just make it after all” and dreamily evolving to “You’re gonna make it after all.”  Yes, I should be so lucky.  When I am down, all it takes is a quick YouTube search of the tune to give me a needed pick me up.  In fact, when I moved from L.A. to Vancouver, a friend who knows me too well bought me a beret as a going away gift.  The instruction:  toss it high—like Mary—when you truly make it.

Eighteen years later, I still have the beret and I’m still waiting for my Mary moment.  I still believe it will come. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

MY CHRISTMAS SOLO

As I walked the dog this Christmas Eve, I noticed that this sleepy hamlet had a sense of bustle to it.  Extra vehicles spilled out of driveways and lined the streets.  As I gazed at Christmas lights, I glimpsed large groups gathered in living rooms and dining rooms.  Seems the grown children who left years ago to find better work opportunities have returned with their own families for a day or two of festivities.  Oh, to be home for the holidays!
My last trek home for Christmas was fifteen years ago.  My grandfather, living in Ontario and I, based in Vancouver, decided during my summer visit with him that we would both venture to Texas for Christmas.  I’ll go if you go.  Since my grandmother had died a few years earlier, we were the two single guys, each wanting assurance that there’d be someone we could relate to.  We stuck together and shared some good laughs.  I remember him “modelling” all the baseball caps I’d bought him.  He loved to cover that shiny bald head.  My grandfather died a year and a half later so there is no one left to convince me to make the trip.
I did try to go a couple of times while I was still with my ex.  I thought it would be nice for the two of us to bond with the family.  On one occasion, when I wrote about going, my mother replied by saying that since my brother and sister’s families had other plans, “there is no point.”  The next year, it was the opposite scenario.  Both families were coming so my mother told me there wouldn’t be room.  I still remember my ex’s aghast look and his reaction when I got off the phone:  “They really don’t love you.”  They do; it’s just complicated.
This year, my sister and brother-in-law are based in Saudi Arabia.  I knew my parents were heading to my brother’s house so I called on the 23rd to wish them Merry Christmas.  My mother repeated her holiday tradition of recent years, gushing, “Oh, I got to thinking.  You should have come home.”  It is always said when it is too late, an empty thought that, in my mother’s twisted way of being, is still heartfelt. 
I have spent a few Christmases with my closest friend in Vancouver but our contact has become less frequent as my time away from the city continues.  I am getting used to Christmas on my own.
When I first bought my home here, I spent a few Christmases buying and decorating a live tree and putting up the lights outside the house.  I played Christmas music, baked shortbread and made a full meal of roasted veggies, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.
That stopped during the year I took a leave of absence from work to write full-time.  Forced to be frugal, I did without the tree but still made a mini feast.  In the years since, the home I was once so proud of buying doesn’t feel like mine.  Sure, I continue to pay the mortgage, but I’ve gone back and forth in putting it on the market and taking it off.  It’s that old cliché:  this house is not a home.
This year I told myself I’d embrace the spirit of the season, but time got away from me.  December is always a ridiculously busy month at work and, combined with the five-hour daily commutes, Christmas Eve arrived before I knew it.  Boxes of ornaments sit in the basement, boxes of cards I bought rest on the hutch in the dining room.  I’m not trying to be a Grinch; I’m just pooped.
I put on a brave face as I prepare for another holiday alone.  Get through it without wallowing.  I have rented some videos—yes, there is still a video store in town--, I bought a new jigsaw puzzle (woohoo!) and I picked up a magazine and a new book for reading.  I’ve got fresh veggies for dinner and I bought pure maple syrup to top my blueberry pancakes on Christmas morn.  The key is to keep busy.  Still, I admit to wiping away tears after my mother’s belated quasi-invitation to come home. 
In some of those windows tonight, while things may have looked lovely, there were probably some hurtful words exchanged, some old wounds scratched up.  Nonetheless, we are told that Christmas is a time for families so many people keep going back even if they shouldn’t.  Indeed, I may not have it so bad after all.
 
 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A GAY CLICHÉ?

I’d like to think I’m a unique individual...“special” as my mother used to say.  (She always gritted her teeth when she said it, but I assumed that had something to do with a lactose intolerance.  That kind of thing wasn’t widely recognized way back then.)  Sometimes, however, I get the feeling my life has been a gay cliché.

Yeah, I felt a special affinity to Dorothy and Toto (even if I had to root for them through a double-hand screen when those flying monkeys appeared).  I loved how Maria made play clothes from drapes and mastered marionettes.  I thought Ken was a rather comely doll.  (G.I. Joe’s duds? They’re called fatigues because they’re tired.)  I had Donna Summer posters hanging in my bedroom in high school.  When I started university, I bailed halfway through fraternity rush week so I could get in line for Barry Manilow tickets.  (My first concert ever was Air Supply.)  I adored Julie on “The Love Boat”, wavered each week on my favorite Golden Girl and turned every Olivia Newton-John single into a duet.  (I’ve said too much.)  All this before I ever started mixing with the boys of West Hollywood.

All my childhood and adolescent likes seemed to scream that I was a Gay in the Making.  It’s hard for me to think of many non-gay early interests.  I liked hockey, but I was lousy at it.  I didn’t want to body check anyone and the helmet messed up my hair.  (I did think the cards made nice collectibles.  And my hero, Ken Dryden, was both smart (a lawyer!) and clean-cut.  How nice!)  Anything butch?  Tonka trucks?  No.  I preferred Lite-Brite and Doodle Art.  I did play with Lego—mostly for the nifty window and door pieces—but I spent more time drawing gardens and placing my animal figurines from Red Rose Tea around the tin foil pond.

When I look back, I am always checking myself.  Was everything a gaydar indicator?  Surely other nascent gays weren’t huddled by their TVs to catch a wheelchair-bound Raymond Burr in the syndicated run of “Ironside”.  Perhaps I did have some uniqueness at nine after all.