Wednesday, May 29, 2013

THE MUSICAL ROAD TO GAY ACCEPTANCE - Part IV

There are people who play Beatles records backwards, convinced there are hidden messages. Others have written theses on Don McLean’s “American Pie”. My greatest lyrical fascination involves George Michael’s Listen without Prejudice, Vol. 1.

I never bought Michael’s more popular, Grammy-winning Faith which came out two years earlier. “I Want Your Sex” felt gimmicky and “Father Figure” came off as plain icky. But then came the 1990 release of Listen’s debut single “Praying for Time” and I dashed out to buy the album on cassette. (Yep, the music industry made a killing off me, first switching from vinyl to cassette, then to CD. Good thing I never had an 8-track contraption.)

Officially, George Michael publicly came out in 1998 after an embarrassing interaction in a Beverly Hills bathroom. But I was convinced he’d already attempted to step out of the closet eight years prior with the release of the Listen album. It’s just that no one really listened.

On the surface, one can say ”Listen without Prejudice” was George’s plea that the public not prejudge the album based on previous gimmicky/icky fare. No doubt, George felt he’d come a long way since Wham’s debut earworm, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” It seemed he wanted to scream, “I’m a real musician. I’m an artist. I’m more than a pretty face.”

But, in my mind at least, dear George was desperately dropping every possible clue without actually saying, “Yep, I’m gay.” I empathized with the man. So often in my own far more private life I longed for people to ask or simply conclude and accept that I am gay. Expressly coming out can involve way too much drama.

I knew from the first single that George Michael wanted to say something far deeper than “I Want Your Sex.” “Praying for Time” may be about people turning away from the downtrodden, the homeless, the destitute. But given that this was 1990 during the AIDS crisis when people found new reasons to spew hate toward homosexuals and use God’s wrath as retribution for a sinful “lifestyle choice”, the lyrics had to be viewed as a heartfelt attempt to create compassion for persons living with AIDS. In 1990, AIDS was still a death sentence, many dying within the first year of diagnosis. How could George be referring to anything else?

And it's hard to love, there's so much to hate
Hanging on to hope
When there is no hope to speak of
...Maybe we should all be praying for time.

I contend that another song on the album, “Mother’s Pride”, continued to humanize the tragedy of AIDS. Many viewed the song as being about war and, indeed, it received considerable airplay in the U.S. during the Gulf War. This is the literal take, but it fails to consider the War on AIDS that activists and regular families waged against medical companies and governments.

And as he grows
He hears the band,
Takes the step from boy to man
And at the shore she waves her son goodbye...

Mothers pride
Just a boy...
He's a soldier waving at the shore
And in her heart the time has come
To lose a son.

So hurrah, George bravely sang out on behalf of PWAs. (He later contributed songs to Red Hot + Dance, an AIDS album fundraiser.) But the second cut on Listen was even more personal. “Freedom!‘90” focused on George desperately wanting to shed the pop idol image he’d first created with Wham and further enhanced with some eye-catching butt shaking for Faith. That image helped him achieve fame and fortune.

I was every little hungry schoolgirl's pride and joy
And I guess it was enough for me
.

But George then dropped two lines to break up with this rabid fan base:

I don't belong to you
And you don't belong to me.

What struck me more was the rest of the song. All the thoughts expressed the struggles of someone playing it straight and wanting to come out.

I think there's something you should know,
I think it's time I told you so,
There's something deep inside of me,
There's someone else I've got to be.

 

All we have to do now
Is take these lies and make them true somehow.


I think there's something you should know
I think it's time I stopped the show
There's something deep inside of me
There's someone I forgot to be.


May not be what you want from me,
Just the way it's got to be;
Lose the face now
I've got to live, I've got to live.

 

How could this not be a coming out song?! I read interviews following the release of Listen without Prejudice and fully expected reporters to ask the obvious questions, with George providing the obvious answer.

Nothing.

George knew that coming out was the path to Freedom, but the starmakers would not have it. Indeed, George instead dove into an intense legal battle with his record company, seeking to sever ties for failing to actively promote the album. How could they not? Faith sold 25 million copies. While Listen may have been more introspective, it still had plenty of hooks. I contend the label did not want their artist of the moment to risk being shunned by many God-fearing Americans. Better to let the album and George’s attempt at artistic and personal honesty quietly pass.

So much for Freedom. Another dance song on the album, “SoulFree”, echoed the longing of being himself.

Won't you come with me?
Baby, gonna get my soul free.

Oh, if only.

While “Heal the Pain” is a love song at its core, George still opened with a hint about coming out:

Let me tell you a secret
Put it in your heart and then keep it
Something that I want you to know
Do something for me
Listen to my simple story.

This intro seemed to be an aside, much like the backwards Beatles messages, for the rest of the song focused on another person, someone whose love and trust George sought.

Other songs on the album spoke of a failed relationship and George’s desire to try to make it work again. George avoided gender pronouns, but playfully referred to a man (“Mister”) while later retreating to a woman (“Sister”) in “Cowboys and Angels”:

I know you think that you're safe,
Mister.
Harmless deception
That keeps love at bay.
It's the ones who resist that we most want to kiss,
Wouldn't you say?
Cowboys and angels,
They all have the time for you.
Why should I imagine
That I'd be a find for you?


George let things “slip” and still nobody noticed. Except me.

I love this album. In my mind, at least, it will always be a Coming Out affair. Had people truly listened, perhaps things wouldn’t have gotten so messy for George. Perhaps his music career wouldn’t have fizzled so fast, suspended by the legal battle and further mired by substance abuse. Maybe he wouldn’t have needed to find temporary satisfaction in that Beverly Hills public space. Perhaps he’d be lauded as a gay leader who came out on his own terms. Consciously or subconsciously, it was all there in 1990.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

CLEAR THE POOL!


Now I’ve got them running away, retreating to anonymity. Encountering the likes of me may be an insufferable hurdle on the quest for Mr. Right.

When you’re single a long, long, long, long time, there’s a tendency to revert to adolescent self-hate when a wooing goes awry.

What’s wrong with me?!

Well, during the teen years, it was more like, WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?!!! Nowadays I abhor multiple exclamation marks and I’m saving the all caps for my pending lottery win.

So what brought on this latest orbital disaster in which the whole world revolves around me? Well, earlier this week, I received a courtesy email from Plenty of Fish, my online dating sludge pit. (Scary thought: My relationship with POF may be longer than any actual dating relationship.) The email header stated, Kimono40 wants to meet you!

Well, golly. How lovely.

I repressed any thoughts about why the guy chose to identify himself with a kimono and clicked on the link. Three smiling photos of a guy with a little beard growth stared back at me. (Face-saving fact for later: I recall clicking “No” recently when POF asked if I wanted to meet him. The plaid shirt in the main profile pic had the wrong color tones and the face looked bloated. Yeah, sometimes I’m as deep as the cast of “Seinfeld”.) He looked particularly attractive in the middle shot so I clicked on the full profile.

Master’s degree, 10-year prior relationship, has a car. Jackpot! (It’s a sludge pit, I remind you. And to all those environmentally conscious cyclists and mass transit commuters, I salute you. But, should a relationship evolve, I don’t want to sit on the handlebars as we zip down to the convenience store for a midnight Häagen-Dazs run.)

That email notification came on Tuesday. Life was too hectic to send a message that would make any sense so I waited until Saturday morning to contemplate a reply. Rereading the profile, his quirkiness stood out. And I like quirky. The man said he likes nature walks (a dating profile staple) and talks to the trees (What?! Oh, in a spiritual kind of way. Sure.). He also tossed in a reference to Mary Poppins. Daring!

I had to respond. (Mary Poppins does it for me every time.)

I fired off a quick message and then went on with the rest of my day, doing everything and anything to avoid mowing the lawn. (At one point, I lost my dog in the wild savannah, but the calls of his trusty broccoli squeak toy guided the little guy back to safety.)

By Saturday evening, I’d received no reply. (Not exactly out of the ordinary for my messages, but I had a hunch about this guy.) It was the Victory Day weekend. I told myself he had probably gone camping. Somewhere remote. Lots of trees to get to know.

Still no email Sunday morning. Definitely camping. Or holed up with friends in a log cabin, secretly mourning the fallen timber. But in the “Viewed Me” section of Plenty of Fish his plaid shirted mug shot had vanished.

Can you block someone from ever seeing your profile again? Curiosity got the better of me so I signed out and did an anonymous search, specifically pinpointing his age. Nothing.

Kimono40 had left the pond.

And that’s where we get back to everything revolving around me. Sure, his sudden departure could be a mere coincidence, happening within a day of me sending him a message, but, more likely, I caused it. What ever happened to just ignoring and/or deleting the “offending” message? But, no,...I’d induced horror, disgust, nausea. Somewhere in a wooded area he’d retreated to Pray the Gay Away. Maybe the repulsion from seeing my message wasn’t the sole cause, but I was the final straw.

It is possible that he found someone else and, feeling good about their potential, deleted his profile. It is possible he decided to become a Catholic priest. It is possible he created the profile while housed in some Ex-Gay fortress and the powers that be discovered his internet transgressions and he is now confined to solitary in a room plastered with posters of Pamela Anderson and the always-hot Betty White. (He probably had to unfollow Ellen Degeneres on Twitter, too.) It is even possible that, at the very moment I sent my message, he was calling it quits to POF, realizing nothing good can ever be dredged up from a sludge pond.

Still, I may very well have sent him running. This comes only two weeks after a guy stood me up. All that “it gets better” banter? Seems there’s a teeny tiny asterisk, excepting the likes of me.

Oh, do relax. I’m not disheartened by this at all. We never met. I invested fifty words, maybe sixty—a tome by POF standards, but a succinct “hello” for me. If I did drive away a guy from Plenty of Fish, I’m amused. At least I made an impression!

It makes me want to send someone else a message. Will he too flee the fish tank? When will the site demand that I leave? Or is there a point when I’ll be the lone goldfish, swimming around in algae-laden fishbowl?

Time to invest in a deep sea diver statue. I’ll take whatever company I can get.

And I can’t shake the urge to download “Mary Poppins”, maybe even plan a Julie Andrews marathon. Sadly, life’s come to that.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

THE MUSICAL ROAD TO GAY ACCEPTANCE (Part III)

Talkies wiped out silent movies and, as The Buggles famously sang, “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Maybe not to the same degree, but in the ‘80s, you needed a video to get people to “hear” your song. The success of “Take on Me” by a-ha and everything by Duran Duran depended on an eye-catching vid.

I was an MTV devotee during the early years when Alan Hunter, J.J. Jackson, Mark Goodman, Nina Blackwood and Martha Quinn provided musical small talk and introduced world premieres of the latest Phil Collins video. (Don’t you just want to stop and YouTube “Sussudio”? Maybe not. I won’t bother with the link.)

I could waste a morning watching the videos go by, ignoring the next college assignment while waiting for friends to awaken in the early afternoon.

During the early years of MTV, musical acts were finding their way with the video format. Many of the clips now come off as embarrassingly primitive, from “Maneater” by Hall and Oates to The Steve Miller Band’s “Abracadabra”—strobe lights, shadows,...oh, boy! Within a few years, however, some of the best videos managed to tell a story, making song lyrics more potent.

The Bronski Beat made it hard to tune out as we watched the video for “Smalltown Boy” and witnessed a young gay male, played by lead singer Jimmy Somerville, get beat up in an alley after ogling a male diver. A police officer brings the boy home and explains the bashing to the shocked parents. The boy then leaves home for the city, searching for a place of belonging. While his mother hugs him goodbye, the father stoically hands his son some money and refuses even a handshake. We see isolation, but in the end, it appears the boy has made some connections. The video format provided us with a moving picture indeed. It is one portrayal of a coming out story.

The first time I saw it, I wondered after the fact, if somehow I’d mistaken the song’s subject. Surely, MTV would never replay it. There would be complaints, the video would be banned. But a week or two later, I stumbled on the video again. And then again. The video never made MTV’s “heavy rotation” status. (The song achieved international success but only made it to #48 on the Billboard Singles Chart.) Still, I saw it enough times while living in Texas to know there was a way out of the conservative, religious oppression that kept me in the closet. Perhaps this song, along with the Village People’s “Go West” brought me to California a few years later, allowing me to finally be the person I was meant to be. The right song (and the right video) can have that big of an effect.

You leave in the morning
With everything you own
In a little black case
Alone on a platform
The wind and the rain
On a sad and lonely face

Mother will never understand
Why you had to leave
But the answers you seek
Will never be found at home
The love that you need
Will never be found at home

Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.
Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.

Pushed around and kicked around
Always a lonely boy
You were the one
That they’d talk about around town
As they put you down

And as hard as they would try
They’d hurt to make you cry
But you never cried to them
Just to your soul
No you never cried to them
Just to your soul

Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.
Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.

Cry , boy, cry...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

THE MUSICAL ROAD TO GAY ACCEPTANCE (Part II)

Sometimes it takes a village.

Or at least a group inspired by gay sightings in Greenwich Village.

During the same year Rod Stewart’s “The Killing of Georgie” hit radio, the Village People catapulted to fame. "Macho Man”, “YMCA”, “In the Navy”...the songs celebrated typically male things. Was there a gay connection? it all went over my head. To be fair, most of America was clueless as well. At first. Comedians, even Johnny Carson, eventually made gay jokes about the group—I recall a monologue in which he referred to being the Village People’s zipper repairman as an unfortunate job. Still, for awhile the gayness of the Village People did not register. Just a year-round Halloween act. How nice to honor policemen and construction workers.

The lyrics to “Macho Man” didn’t reveal much about being gay. It could easily be grouped with other self-worshipping songs like Rod Stewart’s “Do You Think I’m Sexy”, Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” and LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy and I Know It.” Take the eye-roll inducing first verse:

Body...wanna feel my body?
Body...such a thrill my body
Body...wanna touch my body?
Body...it's too much my body.
Check it out my body, body.
Don't you doubt my body, body.
Talkin' bout my body, body,
Check it out my body.
 

If anything, the group may have slightly revealed its hand in a later verse:

Every man ought to be a macho, macho man,
To live a life of freedom, machos make a stand,
Have their own lifestyle and ideals,
Possess the strength and confidence, life's a steal,
You can best believe that he's a macho man
He's a special person in anybody's land.

YMCA” pushed things a little more with the sample lyrics:

Young man, there's a place you can go.
I said, young man, when you're short on your dough.
You can stay there, and I'm sure you will find
Many ways to have a good time.

It's fun to stay at the y-m-c-a.
It's fun to stay at the y-m-c-a.

They have everything for you men to enjoy,
You can hang out with all the boys ...



You could easily read it as the gay anthem it’s become, but the folks who lacked pink-colored glasses interpreted the song as a rallying cry for the downtrodden...and an opportunity for healthy exercise in the form of alphabetic jumping jacks.

The words to “In the Navy”, taken at face value also seemed to lack any gay connotation. The song simply promoted joining a particular branch of the military.

In the navy
Yes, you can sail the seven seas.
In the navy
Yes, you can put your mind at ease.
In the navy
Come on now, people, make a stand
In the navy, in the navy.
Can't you see we need a hand?
In the navy
Come on, protect the motherland
In the navy.

The Navy actually used its shout-out song for recruitment in a time long before we even got to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I wonder how many gay men heeded the call and enlisted, only to be dishonorably discharged. Nobody mentioned that possibility in the song.

I am not sure how the Village People rose to fame—Wikipedia provides a boring account whereby a promoter scouted guys with certain looks, one ad requiring interested dancers to have moustache. I prefer to envision a ragtag troop going on stage in smoky gay clubs, sandwiched between drag queen acts, the hoots and hollers of Freddie Mercury clones egging them on. Catchy as their songs were, it’s hard to imagine how they ever got on mainstream radio. While Rod Stewart tried to shock listeners with a violent death, the Village People cozied up to America by taking a light-hearted approach. They gave the Navy and the YMCA a boost in publicity, winking all the way.

Why fear gay men? They took the view that it was all good, clean fun. And America accepted it. I find it ironic that, while most states still prohibit same-sex marriage, “YMCA” is a wedding reception staple, with everyone from Great Uncle Lew to little Susie crowding the country club dance floor for a lively one-round spelling bee.

Boy George and Dead or Alive soon followed the Village People. Their songs didn’t explicitly address sexual orientation, but their lead singers created a new spectacle.

At least as campy entertainment, we were in.

Monday, May 13, 2013

THE MUSICAL ROAD TO GAY ACCEPTANCE (Part I)

To borrow from The Beatles, it’s been a long and winding road. The pursuit of true equality for LGBTQ members of society remains a work in progress. The final steps are within reach, but they may be the most challenging. I liken it to the last five pounds of a dietary plan to shed fifty. Things look good, but it’s still not the right fit.

Pop music provides the scrapbook for my life experiences. There have been many moments when I haven’t connected with people, but I’ve always jived to and with music. I’ve felt the sorrow of Janis Ian in “At Seventeen” and the loneliness of “All By Myself” (more the Eric Carmen version than Celine Dion’s). I’ve rejoiced in the buzz of Cheryl Lynn’s “Got to Be Real” and Madonna’s “Into the Groove”. It’s a rare occasion though when a pop song expressly captures the struggles that gay men have in finding genuine acceptance, understanding and love.

First gay song I ever heard? I was listening to AM radio in Hamilton, Ontario as a raspy voice mourned the gay bashing of his friend. It was 1977. How did the song hit the airwaves in an era when Randy Newman was making fun of “Short People” and the only “other love” society seemed to accept sprang from this song? (You really need to click on the link.)

Rod Stewart’s “The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II)" captivated me. The ‘70s had several hit story songs—“The Night Chicago Died”, “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero”, “Shannon”—but here was a more socially conscious song at a time when K.C. and the Sunshine Band repeatedly chanted “I’m Your Boogie Man”.

In these days of changing ways,
so called liberated days,
a story comes to mind of a friend of mine.

Georgie boy was gay I guess,
nothin' more or nothin' less,
the kindest guy I ever knew.

His mother's tears fell in vain
the afternoon George tried to explain
that he needed love like all the rest.

Pa said there must be a mistake.
How can my son not be straight
after all I've said and done for him?

Leavin' home on a Greyhound bus
cast out by the ones he loves,
A victim of these gay days it seems.

Georgie went to New York town
where he quickly settled down
and soon became the toast of the great white way.

Accepted by Manhattan's elite
in all the places that were chic,
No party was complete without George.

Along the boulevards he'd cruise
and all the old queens blew a fuse,
Everybody loved Georgie boy.

The last time I saw George alive
was in the summer of seventy-five;
he said he was in love, I said I'm pleased.

George attended the opening night
of another Broadway hype,
but split before the final curtain fell.

Deciding to take a shortcut home,
arm in arm they meant no wrong.
A gentle breeze blew down Fifth Avenue.

Out of a darkened side street came
a New Jersey gang with just one aim:
to roll some innocent passer-by.


There ensued a fearful fight;
screams rang out in the night.
Georgie's head hit a sidewalk cornerstone.

A leather kid, a switchblade knife,
He did not intend to take his life;
He just pushed his luck a little too far that night.

The sight of blood dispersed the gang;
A crowd gathered, the police came.
An ambulance screamed to a halt on Fifty-third and Third.

Georgie's life ended there,
but I ask who really cares?
George once said to me and I quote:

He said "Never wait or hesitate.
Get in kid, before it's too late.
You may never get another chance.
'Cos youth’s a mask, but it don't last.
Live it long and live it fast."
Georgie was a friend of mine.

Oh, Georgie, stay; don't go away.
Georgie, please stay.

You take our breath away.


Oh, Georgie, stay; don't go away.
Georgie, please stay.

You take our breath away.

 

Oh, Georgie, stay.

 

The fact that “Georgie” was penned and performed by one of the biggest rock stars of the time amazed me. Stewart could easily have continued singing about deflowering virgin girls (“Tonight’s the Night”) and ogling women’s bodies (“Hot Legs”). Rumors circulated about Rod Stewart’s sexuality, but he didn’t shy away from bringing a gay character to mainstream radio. (Remember, this was seven years before Elton John got married...to a woman.)

 I hadn’t figured out my sexuality at the age of twelve, but I knew the song was groundbreaking.  I’d begun to hear the “fag” remarks and, while the song provided validation, it also induced fear. Were gays that horrid? Might I be killed if I couldn’t keep my mannerisms in check? While the gaybashing tale provided a frightening image, the line that resonated most was “Georgie was a friend of mine.” It’s a genuine, heartfelt sentiment, a strong step forward. Indeed, because of “The Killing of Georgie”, I can forgive Mr. Stewart for butchering the American songbook over the last decade.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

BOOK ENDS--Part 2

A recent trip to Vancouver’s Little Sister’s Book & Art Emporium left me disheartened. The “Book” in the store’s name might as well have been blacked out. The meagre selection appeared disorganized, an afterthought to the PFLAG souvenirs and kink memorabilia that overtook most of the floor area.

I suppose I should be relieved that Little Sister’s still exists as a physical space. Good on Vancouver for keeping a gay bookstore open when similar establishments in big cities have already shut down. It saddens me to walk down Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood and no longer have A Different Light to pop into. Pronounced dead: March 2009.

Its San Francisco location on Castro held on until 2011.

The Oscar Wilde Bookshop in New York City’s Greenwich Village expired in 2009.

Washington, D.C.’s Lambda Rising closed in 2010.

Part of the downfall can be attributed to the rise of big box stores that lured savvy shoppers in with 30% off new releases and fancy home decor pillows. (Just books?! Don’t be mad!) As an avid Meg Ryan fan (before she became a slave to Botox), I am reminded of the movie “You’ve Got Mail” in which sweet Meg’s Shop Around the Corner is done in by the latest big box installation of Fox Books, the chain’s territorial desires humanized by the always affable Tom Hanks. Poor Meg doesn’t stand a
chance. Heck, she even falls in love with The Enemy. Damn you, Fox Books. Damn you, Tom Hanks. (Disclaimer: Peter Scolari forced me to write the preceding sentence. Don’t hate me, America.)

But the bookselling scene has become more complicated and, yes, bleaker since 1998’s “You’ve Got Mail”. Whenever I stumble on the movie while flipping channels, I stop and linger, viewing it as a time capsule as much as I cherish it as one of Dear Meg’s final cutesy performances. I chuckle at the state of technology as I hear that prehistoric dial-up modem and I see the primitive blinking cursor and simple Internet screen.

So much has changed so fast. The internet is now so omnipresent that is has lost its capital letter, no longer a proper noun. Despite the considerable shipping costs—I tried to buy a $17 book online last week, but canceled when the final tab included $23 in shipping—ordering books or downloading them has changed the marketplace.

I have no doubt that internet accessibility has allowed people in remote areas and questioning teens to download gay literature and nonfiction that they may never have gotten their hands on. Hurrah. Still, it is a significant loss to see gay bookstores shutter their doors. A bookstore, particularly an independently owned one with knowledgeable staff, can be a gathering place for readers seeking to connect with The Next Great Read and to engage in face-to-face conversation about recent picks and pans.


Maybe I’m too nostalgic, but I cherish the times I ventured into West Hollywood’s A Different Light bookstore in broad daylight, risking being outed to...well, other gay men. (I feared so much then. Given a recent post, I may not have made much progress in the past two decades.) I checked out other men while paging through possible purchases. I wouldn’t call it cruising as my bashful demeanor rarely if ever conveyed any true sense of interest. Still, I hoped for any glimmer of interest. After all, Sally reconnected with Harry in a bookstore. (Yes, I have too many Meg Ryan references in my life.) Even though love never blossomed amid the book stacks, it was thrilling to be in a literate setting where “my type” of books filled the entire store, instead of being relegated to a shelf between Psychology and Self-Help. (By the way, there are no self-help books for Meg Ryan obsessives. I’ve looked.)

As LGBT members make gains in being accepted in society, some may say that gay bookstores are obsolete even if technological advances did not occur. Why segregate? Haven’t we earned our spot in the mainstream? I understand the thinking, but I can’t shake that jingle from “Cheers”: “You wanna go where everybody knows your name.” If not my name, then at least a place where I completely fit in. (And just to complete the “Cheers” line of thought, that never was the case in gay bars.) Gay bookstores were always about more than just books. Sadly, the more has become leather thongs and temporary rainbow tattoos.

Progress? I wonder.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

STOOD UP, THANKFULLY

In hindsight, I’m glad he stood me up.

We’d exchanged a couple of short messages on the weekend and agreed to meet at a quirky café that I had discovered in East Vancouver a few months ago.

5:00. Wednesday.
 

It had been confirmed by his eloquent final reply:  “K” (No quotes, no punctuation, just the letter. Points for bothering to press the shift key.)

The coffeehouse is hard to spot. I’d missed it the first time I tried to find it. He’d GPSed it (yes, I suppose that’s a new verb), so I figured he’d have better luck with a persistent automated voice sending him in circles around the desired destination.

I arrived ten minutes early, just enough time to tame my wind-blown hair after walking the dog along the water before the scheduled date. I also brushed my teeth so that I would not accost Bryce with my samosa breath, the lingering keepsake from a tasty lunch.

4:55. I sat on a stool at the front counter and flipped through the free newspaper. Some criminal had been arrested, somebody was suing somebody, a politician smiled for the camera. Same old, same old.

5:10. I gazed at all the postcards announcing poetry readings, folk/reggae concerts and an eco-meal planned at a local park. All typical East Van experiences.

5:13. Time to pull out the laptop. Why not work on my screenplay project? I revised the scenes I wrote on Sunday—a few tweaks to make the dialog crisper.

5:27. Maybe he thought 5:30. Might as well wait around a little longer. I’d already missed the ferry and would have to wait another two hours to cruise on home.

5:40. Exit café. Figured I’d made a stupid choice of venue. Outfoxed the freakin’ GPS. Next time, just say Starbucks.

When I got to the ferry terminal and realized the ferry was running an hour late, I grabbed a coffee—yes, Starbucks—and checked for messages on Plenty of Fish. Sure enough, Bryce had left two. I felt badly, wondering how much gas he’d wasted driving around. Had he accidentally traveled across the U.S. border? From now on, ALWAYS let the other guy pick the place.

But then I read the messages. I had to Google to make sense of them.

3:48. ” I'm off Sunday at 7pm can we do it Sunday night at 8:30 instead...I using these new workout pills and I'm still not used to them...still jittery...pls don't be mad”

3:51. “Don't worry I'm not like the others freaking out about meeting lol...I started taking ripped freak a few days ago and I'm still not used to it yet...”

3:52. “I can also do coffee fri or sat am too”

I had to reread the messages a couple of times. So much can be lost when we try to text message emails. The opener of “I’m off Sunday” left me confused. Had I cancelled during an unknown sleepwalking episode last night? Was there a missing message? Nope. Plenty of Fish preserves the entire string of messages.

So he’d canceled sixty-eight minutes before the agreed meeting time. Feeling shaky from “ripped freak”. I had to Google it--a weight-loss supplement. He’d rat-a-tatted three messages and never used the word “sorry”. That still is a common courtesy, isn’t it, or have I entered the Great-Grandparent Zone, holding on to expectations of yester-yesteryear?

I was baffled. Not mad, just clear that I had no desire to attempt another meeting. I of all people can respect a person’s efforts to shed a few pounds. Still, I expect people to sincerely apologize when flaking out. (And, yes, I have been the apologetic flake.)

Perhaps I shouldn’t have even replied, but I felt he needed to understand how a casual, vaguely articulated cancellation impacts the other person. “Hi Bryce. I did not get your cancellation for today. (Last checked the internet at 3:30.) Waited until 5:40. Missed my regular ferry to meet you. I am now awaiting a later ferry and won't get home until 9:30. Sorry, but I am not interested in rescheduling. Take care.”

He quickly replied. “That's cool just wasn't ment to be...shit hapoens...u shouldnt be such a jaded person

Huh?

We never even met each other, but clearly we would never be able to communicate with one another. I am relieved that I didn’t have to endure an hour of awkward chatter, a series of disconnected verbal volleys that go unreturned on the other side of the net. Date avoided. Whew.

In the bigger scheme of things, perhaps I am jaded. It would be best to consider this a one off. Still, the track record has been bleak, especially of late. I certainly did not coin the phrase, “The best ones have all been taken” but sometimes all evidence points in that direction.

I keep my fingers crossed, hoping there is one genuinely kind soul, attractive, reasonably fit (please don’t resort to Liquid Freak!) gay man who has faced his own string of hapless coffee dates while biding time until we finally meet.

Me jaded? In spite of all my experiences, I still live a Disney-fied existence, the tune “Someday My Prince Will Come” an earworm I can’t seem to shake. In the meantime, life seems all too Goofy.