1978: The stewardess gently told us to fasten our seatbelts, we were now descending into New Orleans. I thought it was part of a dream. I looked out the window and it was all green and water, swamps as far as the eye could see. It was just becoming morning. I was glad the flight had been a red eye from LA, I had a margarita aftertaste from the night before. I remember no one sitting next to me so I was able to lay out over the seats. Al Vorse had his own row too. Al was my good buddy from San Francisco who’d gotten me a job for Mardi Gras. Descending into New Orleans. That was a good way of putting my life at this point.
(Late 1970s-1980s): In New Orleans, Bourbon Street runs for thirteen narrow blocks, roughly north to south, a straight line, ignoring the bend of the huge Mississippi. This can be deceptive because Uptown looks like its north and yet its west, and if you look to the left towards the River you can see the barges and the ships floating a couple of stories higher than you. Your bearings have already been taken over by the city.
MYKONOS, 1985 – In early September 1985, I spent a week on vacation in Mykonos. Early in the week, I spied a handsome, muscular, blond young man on clothing-optional Super Paradise Beach and started chatting with him. His name was Gary Matthews and he was a Welsh hair stylist visiting from London. Fortunately, the attraction was mutual and, within a brief time, we were enclosed in each other’s arms on my beach towel. By the late afternoon, we were on the ferry back to Mykonos town together. And, at dusk, we were making love on my patio overlooking the Aegean, as the sun slowly sank over the horizon.
JUNE 1978 – The cracks in my closet appeared slowly. By 1978, I was out with my family and my college fraternity brothers, but I had no local gay friends. I was intimidated by NYC’s gay scene, ensconced in an intense training program at a conservative bank, and madly infatuated with my best friend and colleague there, a straight, former Princeton football captain and tight end.
I’m thinking about seasons of our lives this morning, as I lie in bed with my husband, Chuck, in our home in Chandler, Arizona. I’ve just looked at Mike Balaban’s instagram page, and seeing all those old photos made me think about the life or lives I could have lived, had I made different choices.
In 1994, I was wheatpasting posters around New York City late at night (when the police tended to be in doughnut shops, not on the streets) for ACT UP and started complaining about having turned 30 and feeling old. My partner-in-wheatpasting-crime — who was positive which, back in those pre-retroviral days, was a virtual death sentence — turned and said “you know, I was really grateful to make it to 30.”
Recently found a poem I wrote in March 1992 about a wonderful guy I met on the “Pioneer,” an Amtrak train that once ran from Chicago, through Wyoming, to Portland, Oregon. I’ve met and lusted over 100s and 100s of men over the years, many of whom have been lost to my memory. This cowboy remains strong and clear in my mind. Here is the original poem:
ON THE PIONEER
We meet on the Pioneer
somewhere near Rawlins.
Each headed west to Portland
another twenty hours away.
Early 1980s—I lived in Washington, D.C. and worked on Capitol Hill. In those days, a presentable young gay man who owned his own dinner jacket could go to all sorts of places, such as escorting (respectably!) well-known ladies to events like the Kennedy Center Honors. I was fortunate to be assigned legendary actress Jeanne Moreau, mostly because I could speak a certain level of fractured French. When I tried out la langue, she said I was absolutement trop cher and would I please go buy her a pack of cigarettes. A lovely woman, whom I was fortunate to meet. She died today in Paris.