Life

Nov. 3rd, 2011 02:05 pm
About 7 or 8 years ago, I occasionally visited an adult book store on the edge of town. The place is no longer around for various reasons. For one, the internet has rendered most of these places extinct. Also, because of its proximity to town, it was sometimes the focus of a small but dedicated band of rabid fundamentalists who would stand in front with signs and bibles and sometimes, sadly, their children. I mainly rented videos there, and only rarely checked out the activity in the back arcade. Usually there wasn't anything interesting going on, or anyone very attractive.

On one such visit - a Monday evening I recall quite vividly - I was returning a video. Out of boredom on a sleepy night, I stepped into the arcade for a minute. As I was standing in front of the 'menu' of videos playing in the rooms, I was aware of someone suddenly standing beside me. Within a couple of seconds I duly checked the man out with a furtive glance. I was shocked to recognize him as the husband of a woman I worked with. I had always assumed him to be straight. He was the epitome of a conservative family man. This small arcade was of course the domain of people looking for an anonymous encounter. If the clientele didn't think of themselves as gay, their activity certainly was.

My seeing him was all the more odd because I knew his wife at that very moment was lying in recovery from surgery in a hospital bed. After a pause, I quickly left without exchanging another glance. Driving away I quickly put the small incident behind me. For one, the ethos of such a place dictates utmost discretion. And two, anyone's life, friend or foe, can be hopelessly complicated. The woman was more than my workmate, she was also a friend. She was a beautiful woman, the mother of five grown children, some of whom were at that time in Iraq. I was extremely fond of her, as I still am.

So much for preamble.

About three months ago, I was in my neighborhood market picking up dinner. As I looked up, a fellow passed by that I recognized but couldn't place. It took five seconds or so to recognize him. This was the man! I hadn't seem him in over a year. There was a reason I didn't instantly know him - he had lost weight. Lots of weight. I smiled at him, and he smiled back. I saw from a distance his wife and waved at her.

I had only known him to be a big husky fellow. Not obese at all, in fact no belly to speak of. Just big. Big chest, arms, legs. Maybe an ex-footballer, probably around 260 - 270 lb. Now before me was a completely different silhouette. Most gay men my age saw at least a few of their friends in the 80s and 90s morph from husky gym boys to emaciated waifs in a matter of months. Such was the form my friend's husband now held.

No straight family man in Texas reduces his mass by two thirds in a weight-loss program. If he had had cancer, or any other such thing, we would have all known about it. But in a family like this, any suggestion of HIV/AIDS would be a shameful announcement to the world.

Closeted. Hypocrite. Scoundrel. The words are so easy to toss out. However I can't imagine many of my gay friends being able to resist the charms of this guy, if they found themselves cruising the same back room. Friendly, handsome, and beefy, with tufts of sandy hair poking out of his neck-collar.

Last night I was able study my friend for a few seconds. Deep circles have overtaken her beautiful face. Her common sense and optimism still shine through. But there is also something grave and worrisome. I am making a few assumptions I guess - but not many. They were planning to move to Dallas in September. That never materialized, and has not been mentioned in weeks.

I am concerned for her.


I took the afternoon off yesterday & we went for a drive in the country. I've been thinking a lot lately about xeriscaping and native plants. The prairie grasses native to this area (& the Great Plains in general) are remarkable plants - much more beautiful & delicate than turf grasses. I love the variety of pale colors, especially the grey-green colors.
The past few weeks have been so busy I can barely stand it. Hopefully I'll manage to find a little relief in the next few weeks. I'm going to NYC next weekend to see Lulu and spend a few days with an old friend. Then to Chicago for Memorial Day weekend.

This past weekend I had to accompany a hefty vocal recital in addition to the usual tasks. And of course long, long days at work. I did manage to party with one of the guys from work on Friday evening - thankfully it was the hot young cubbish one. He was pretty much smashed. He caught me off-guard in his kitchen, gave me a prolonged sloppy hug, and unbelievably said "I love you". (Of course he's married with kids.)

Late Sunday afternoon after the recital, I thought I needed something more than the glass of wine at home. So I stopped by Rumors - one of the local watering holes. It's of course not gay. It's been off and on a biker bar, a neighborhood bar, and sometimes an aspiring honky tonk. Years ago I occasionally dropped by on weekends to checkout the incredible men standing around playing pool.

After a few minutes with my beer, I noticed someone staring at me. Yuck! It was a little old man all of five feet tall with a huge 10-gallon straw hat. After an interval, I studied him again, and it began to dawn on me it was the 'Widow Pope'. Just as I was coming to that realization, an old acquaintance sat down next to me. He confirmed the identity of said Widow, and brought me up to date. I hadn't seen Rickie Pope in probably fifteen years. Armando said Rickie had survived a stabbing about five years ago - which didn't surprise me at all - he's as tough as nails. He was a one-time bartender at one of the old gay bars, the Ritz. To describe this place and it's bartender would take a much better writer than I. Rickie occasionally would reward those present with a Loretta Lynn song. On those rare nights, donning elaborate Loretta drag, he would alternate between the bar serving drinks and the occasional spotlight performance on the dance floor. He revered Loretta. Patsy et. al. were of course goddesses worthy of adoration, but he exclusively performed Loretta. It was like Landowska and Bach. Each song was approached with the solemnity one brings to Parsifal.

The character that Leslie Jordan plays in that awful movie Sordid Lives is a Texas stereotype. That character is a little unreal to me, having known someone like Rickie. But for the sake of comparison it might be useful. As I watched him gently walk up to the bar to get another round in his cowboy boots and high waisted jeans, I found myself admiring him. The courage and fortitude that he must have in abundance to not only survive in such hostile waters, but to thrive. If only those urban bears could see a gay man like this! But I'm afraid they would only see a Leslie Jordan stereotype and be all primed for the next joke. I wanted to hug him and say "I love you".

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