I have been blogging since 2006. I started about 2 years after I found recovery. I was often over run with anxiety and uncomfortable feelings and I had no idea how to process them. Blogging seemed a ready-made answer to help me manage my weirdness. I began smoking pot and drinking at age 11 or so. I was already a misfit as I grew up a queer boy in rural Illinois and was a natural sissy and the butt of many jokes in the small town where I grew up.
I left home (ran away) at age sixteen and was a homeless gay youth for 1 or 2 years in Chicago circa 1974 and 1975. I managed to get work as a dancer which led to bartending and restaurant jobs. I tore through as many boyfriends, roommates, circles of friends, and workplaces as there are headlines of the weekly world news.
By 1980 I met a circle of friends through working at George Badonsky’s “Brewery” restaurant. It was friend love at first sight and we became inseparable. I have posted a couple of pics from those days. We giggled and danced and learned about our own shortcomings. it felt like love to me.
Paul Pfohl had moved to NYC to go to Columbia and contracted AIDS while there. He became so thin, gaunt, and weak that he moved back to Chicago but wasn’t ready to be living at home. He and I decided to get an apartment together. We spent so many months searching and settled on a rare gem in Logan Square. What followed only added to the shitpile of shame and trauma that I continued to carry until after I got sober in 2004.
Thanksgiving since 04 has been a far different experience than it had been for years. The stinging shards of memory have softened and shapeshifted into something much much softer. I have posted my first Thanksgiving blog post of 2006 on and off over the life of my blogs. It is melancholy and sad, but has also forged some of the empathy I have when working with others.
Gratitude continues to be the dominant feeling when I look back upon this part of my life. It was the hardest part of my life, but it was the most expansive part at the same time. Wishing all of you a wonderful and renewing holiday season.
Here is my post from 11/06- The Day I Stopped Dancing
i am working on my thanksgiving post a bit early as i have a full day on thursday. i am supposed to jog with my buddy first thing in that morning, but it is also supposed to be very, very cold and i don’t know if i will make it. i am cooking a turkey for the rocky mountain roundup speaker/dinner, dropping it off, and going to my cousin and his partner’s home for my actual meal. my mom, aunt and uncle are going and they haven’t done a home dinner in the last few years. they have eaten out because they don’t have to cook or clean up after which makes some very good sense to me.
i am looking forward to the whole day, and i’m spending tomorrow night at my cousin’s house. i’m sure we’ll hear some of the same old stories that usually get told at family functions. we were a pretty close knit crew in illinois and that has carried over to most of us here. it’s not the same, but it’s very familiar and that is a blessing.
one of the stories i will not hear this year is my last thanksgiving in chicago. i am going to write about it here and hopefully the tale will unravel itself a bit differently than it has in the past. i have spun this yarn on a few occasions, but i have always kept the focus the part where i am the victim. and honestly, thanksgiving still is a challenging emotional trek because of the drama on this day. it really is the day i stopped dancing. the last day that is until i started channeling velvet- but that’s a tale for another day.
in 1985, i had gotten an apartment with my best friend paul the previous year. we had shopped and hunted for 3 months for that beautiful soon-to-be condo on logan blvd. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, full kitchen, dr, front and back balcony. it truly was stunning. but on the day we were moving in, paul was completely tuckered. i remember him sitting on the back of the rental truck, saying he just couldn’t move any boxes. He was exhausted. and before we finished, he insisted he go to the hospital. we complied, and he was admitted and was in the hospital for about a month.
i went to visit him in that place every day. the first couple of days, i donned a hospital gown, mask, and gloves, but soon decided to put them aside after that. i wasn’t going to be looking at him dressed like an alien, or like i was afraid to be near him. i wasn’t. i loved him. still do. and i wasn’t going to cause him any extra anxiety. i would bring him meals from some of our favorite restaurants. the hospital food sucked, of course, and i knew he needed to eat. we had a very pleasant time being food snobs in there and would laugh together and became closer, without ever really discussing the elephant in the room. i couldn’t go there emotionally. i now know it’s called denial, but then i thought of it as survival. i remember one day going to visit him, and finding him in his room alone, with a fever so high that his body was convulsing, jumping up and down on the bed with no assistance. it scared the shit out of me, watching him jerking up and down like darryl hannah losing life in blade runner. i left in horror and came back a couple of hours later, never speaking a word to him about what i had seen.
my drug use started to escalate after this. the cocaine use was incessant and i drank vodka to counteract the effects of the cocaine. numbing became my priority. this actually caused paul to move back in with his parents, and my friend robbie (foxy)moved in. poor fox- he had no clue as to the mess he was entering. but that’s another story.
fast forward to thanksgiving 1986. paul had been living with his family for a few months now. he had been in and out of the hospital. i had invited about 8 friend over for a holiday feast. i spent all day preparing the food. turkey rubbed with butter and tamari, baked with apples, onions, and cranberries, stuffing, brussel sprouts, home-made cobbler, etc. as the day progressed, the weather took a turn for the worse. a thunderstorm took hold. one-by-one calls with cancellations started to come in. it had become dark outside, and the last call came from my friend blue. i think he really had waited until he absolutely knew he couldn’t get there. no cabs were running etc. i remember sitting at the head of the table, looking at the fitz and floyd and the crystal candle holders and feeling stunned. the phone then rang again, and it was paul’s brother on the phone. he wanted to let me know that paul had passed a few hours earlier that day. he had gone peacefully and was no longer suffering. i returned back to my seat and looking over the empty but well laid table, clutched my wine glass and took a big swig. a huge lightning bolt back lit the entire sky, was followed by an earsplitting crack of thunder, and the power in my apartment was knocked out. there i sat in the dark, and found myself feeling more alone and more confused than i could remember. and i was a victim. and i had imprinted that pained mask onto myself and held it there for a good 20 years.
i have managed to let go of that branding i did. i honestly loved paul, and was completely a mess having lost him. i laughed so freely with him, and he understood so many things about me that i always felt shame around, and never did anything but expect me to succeed. we dined a lot, and we read a lot of books- mostly the classics, and the “gay” authors. we participated in salons of a sort with a few other friends, and would drink wine and read aloud from books like “To The Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf, “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac, and my favorite “Orlando” by Woolf as well. We talked about Vita Sackville West and Virginia, about Paul Bowles and his entourage, Kerouac and his mary-men lol, Stein, Toklas, and the ex-pats….
today, i am thankful i have let go of that old albatross that was choking me through the years. i have moved on to another perception of that time and that day. i am not frozen, i am living and participating again. i am again among the living, and am not in the throes of the walking wounded. i can celebrate today without anesthetizing. i can struggle and maintain. i can look forward and think of a future in practical terms, in lieu of living in a fantasy and only seeing the future as a sparkling illusion. i am so very glad paul was in my life. i am so blessed that he saw me
“I have a friend dying of AIDS. Before I was leaving for a trip, we were talking. He said, “I didn’t want this, and I hated this, and I was terrified of this. But it turns out that this illness has been my greatest gift.” He said, “Now every moment is so precious to me. All the people in my life are so precious to me. My whole life means so much to me.” Something had really changed, and he felt ready for his death. Something that was horrifying and scary had turned into a gift. Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
― Pema Chödrön,
A little TBT and a nod to Pride Month. This is me having a little lunch cooked by my friend Bruce Fortner at Nunzio’s Chicago 1984…
Red Hot Chili Peppers t shirt… they played live at Medusa’s that year… as did Violent Femmes , ESG, Ministry, and Front 242.. I helped a friend open an after hours club in 83 and we were all surfing a big one.
This photo popped up on Facebook from a friend and it took me by surprise.I think mostly because this was just before the tsunami hit. It felt like the Renaissance here. 84 seemed golden.
I was 26 that year. Nunzio (owned the cafe) was still healthy and tickling his muse. Bruce (who posted the pic) was still living with his partner Joey well before Joey was snatched into oblivion. The next year all sorts of hell broke loose. My best friend withered throughout the year. I tested positive for HIV in October. My friend died on Thanksgiving. Nunzio disclosed that he was frantically and maniacally injecting himself with vitamins to combat the virus. Many of us dabbled with macrobiotic diets (see george kushi). louse hay’s los angeles hay ride was making history and a cultural and generational trauma happened at our doors.
I knew so many brave warriors at that time in my life. Many of them helped me survive. LGBT Pride doesn’t just exist because people come out of the closet. It also is real because people endure and make sacrifices without losing their will to be true to themselves. Just as our LGBT predecessors, many paid incredible prices for the choices they made. They danced to their own music and they followed the muses that are theirs. And our world and our collective culture is richer and more beautiful because of them.
Please take a moment to celebrate LGBT Pride Month. So many have gone before us to make it possible. They would demand that you find joy. They demanded nothing less of themselves.
It was certainly a time…… you can read about some of our little enclaves experiences at this resident advisor article…. interview with me begins just after Ministry ad if you click here.. https://lnkd.in/b8pG4Ke
i wandered upon a couple of websites related to the recovery coach training i love to do. they have provided me with a renewed perspective and spiritual nourishment i hope will sustain me for another part of our journey.
these sites- from the same origin- demonstrate a respect for the changes needed in our addiction/recovery system and provide stepping stones to advance us toward those changes.
The Recovery Dragon Philosophy
For those caught in the swirl of active addiction whether the addict or the affected, the process begins with the decision to choose recovery over the ravages of obsession and compulsion. No one can ever take that power to choose away. It is ours alone.
Despite outside sources hoping to cajole, coax or convince us, ultimately, it is only by ourselves we make the decision to pivot in a new direction.
Decision made, we marshal resources. We seek advice, assistance, experience, perspective – the raw materials any human uses to move forward in a meaningful manner. This is where Recovery Dragon can help an individual in his or her recovery process.
and to go with this aspect (hopefully) of my future i will contribute some sounds from my past. a chicago nightclub named “neo” ended its 30 year lincoln park run. i used to drop in there on hodge podge nights and it always felt like the future. now i know it was.
here is the 1st night of the 3 night reunion celebration for neo 2015. just a little bit of history repeating…
here is a copy of the list for the 1st night too. luvz me some jeff pazen and bud sweet.
have fun.. hope you find some inspiration.
as i often reminisce about chicago in the 1980’s, this thursday lands me on the nyc band made up of sisters that called themselves esg. they played at medusa’s music hall in 1984 or so. ed bahlman was the executive director of 99 records at the time and was really promoting a funk punk mashup style that included liquid liquid, bush tetras, and the sweet, sensorial, and very sassy esg.
as an acting emissary for the club, one of the perks was to entertain the artists the evening before their late night performance. i took the girls to dinner. we chatted and giggled and they shared some of their lives with me for a coupla hours as our ships passed in the night. one detail i have never forgotten is how they named their band- emerald, sapphire, and gold. the show immediately became one of my golden memories from medusa’s. and i now know that all those days were a good training ground for the work i do today. i learned so much about working with so many different types of people. and it helped open my heart to cultures i didn’t know first hand.
another kooky memory from that evening involved one of my mother’s best friends from central illinois had driven up in her gold caddy and came by to say hello. i’m pretty sure she had never been in any sort of atmoshphere like medusas. it was early on saturday morning- just barely having closed the prior night’s doors. ed bahlman needed some to get to a different part of town and so jackie drove him in her caddy. here he was being chauffered by a sweet and colorful and simple hairdresser from peoria illinois. i’m sure it was a trip for him (and her).
anyway- esg’s recording of “moody” still gets my heart going and brings a smile to my heart. and i continue to find myself feelin moody yeah yeah yeah.
my professional life has felt like a cake baking in the oven. it seemed to have expanded its volume, but it is not clear whether the increase will remain or if it is all air and will fall when removed from the oven. i received some good (i think) news today, but remain apprehensive about the specific domino fall that may follow. i am nervous and excited. and i work to feel okay with not knowing. i hope and i refrain.
i remember a conversation i had with a lifelong friend the night that we met. it had to do with hope and demise and the symbiotic and yin-yang relationship they seem to have. a person’s demise is often connected to their hope. i have maintained this perspective since i claimed it in 1980 during a full moon lit walk along lake shore drive chicago.
so when i feel excitedly hopeful about the prospects of possible outcomes of this not unexpected news, i have found myself worried about the hope i muster. and if a hope become reality, what if what i hope becomes worse than what i have? or more strangely, what if it becomes better?