Sunday, June 20, 2010

dinner at eight

My father kept his Chris-Craft in the little seaside town of Saugatuck, Michigan, along the Michiana Dunes. It was a quaint seaside tourist village that was full of antique and craft shops, outdoor cafes, and art galleries. In other words, it was Homo Heaven. Just two hours north of Chicago, and a straight shot from Detroit, it had over the decades gained the reputation of being the Fire Island of the Midwest. Dad was unaware of this when seeking stevedore service for the Chris, but as I was living in Chicago at the time, it became my vacation home. I spent many enjoyable long weekends in the dunes.

One weekend, I was on the boat with my friends Cliff and Brian. My Dad and stepmother, Wanda, were staying at their nearby Condo. They called to suggest that we should all do dinner. Father and I were both adhering to the Mutual Nonaggression Pact of 1986, and they always liked my friends, so I had no concern that we would all have an enjoyable evening.

We made reservations at the Cafe Sir Douglas. It was the nicest restaurant in the little town, and was part of the oldest gay resort. I had many happy memories of the resort and its many facilities, including the sparkling blue pool and the notoriously anonymous "Dunes Rooms" accommodations for the friendly traveller. I decided not to give the folks a full tour. I rounded up my friends and headed over to get my folks. We chatted during the short drive to the cafe.

As the three pointed star led us into the parking lot, the headlight beams illuminated a whole row of Jeeps and Blazers. Trucks were everywhere, and I wondered to myself as I parked between two Broncos, whether it might possibly be "Womyn's Weekend".

We walked in to the cafe, myself first, Cliff and Brian, and then my folks. The host recognized us and said, as our table wasn't quite ready, perhaps we would like to go downstairs and wait in the bar. I wondered if he had noticed that my parents were with us.

I descended the circular stairway into the Island of Sappho, accompanied by my snickering friends and my bewildered parents. The bar was crowded, and absolutely female. An attractive woman offered her seat to Wanda and then asked if she would like a drink. She declined graciously. Dad looked around and commented, "I wonder where all of these girls come from." "I think most of them are from Detroit" was my reply.

Dad went off to the men's room. On this particular evening I knew that he would require no accompaniment. I turned to Wanda and asked, "Does father understand that he's in a room surrounded by three hundred Diesel Dykes?" "Well, Dear" she said. "Your father doesn't think in those terms."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

blessed union

From June 2008. Reposted in honor of the closing arguments today in the Prop 8 trial.

I park my car on the side street, because the boulevard is too dusty. it's less than a five minute walk each evening from the showroom. I turn right at the mechanic's shop and go about half a block. If the motor home is on my side of the street, I'll cross over to avoid the noise. The motor home is always there. It never leaves the block.

Miguel is inside fucking his ugly mistress. His name might not really be Miguel, that might just be the name on his pocket. We exchange occasional pleasantries when I encounter him during the day. I'm not sure what her name is, we've never actually spoken. I only know her voice from her loud sighs as he fucks her. The motor home windows are open this time of year.

It's a small block, and everyone seems to know each others' business. Miguel is married to a short fat woman and has a six year old son by her. He's a handsome lad, and we see him occasionally on Saturdays. I don't know if the boy is aware of the secret life of the aging Winnebago or not. I am told that Miguel can't get a divorce, because he is Catholic. So this is his best solution. I don't know if she is Catholic or not. Perhaps she's a Mormon. I wonder to myself whether it is a greater sin to fuck one's ugly mistress with a condom, or without.

I really know very little about them. I can't imagine the path she wandered down that made her believe that being fucked by a married man in a deteriorating RV behind his workplace is as good as she is going to get. She sometimes shows up with a little girl about three years old, I don't know if the child is the product of this union, or was fathered by another Casanova with a camper.

But I do know that the Catholic Church and the Mormons pumped forty million dollars into my state to make sure that my relationship cannot have the acceptance that Miguel and his vile sham of a marriage have. And I know that these people, as fucked up as they are, had the legal right to vote on the status of MY life. And that is the most fucked up part of all.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Warm weather has finally taken hold in the midwest, driving away the tentative feeling associated with a sunny day as the possibility of frost becomes more remote with each lingering afternoon. Of course, the midwesterner in me realizes that it is not quite summer yet, but rather it is tornado season, a time for serious and powerful thunderstorms to demonstrate to those who toil below the fragility of life as we know it. With each tornado sighting I see on the internet, I am transported back to my childhood.

My hometown of Flint, Michigan was hit by a category 5 tornado in June of 1953. It descended on a muggy Midwestern summer night with almost no warning and mowed through hundreds of homes while it meandered eastward at a rate of approximately 30 mph. The storm left an entire neighborhood in ruins and cost 116 persons their lives. Sadly, almost half of the victims were children. The tragedy is recalled as the Beecher Tornado.

Both of my parents were young adults at that time, and the disaster had a lasting effect on them. My brother was born five years later in 1958 and myself in 1960. While the Beecher Tornado had long since passed, we were keenly aware of what had happened. My mother told stories of the rescue efforts and recounted stories of those who survived and those who did not. I vividly recall her telling the story of the woman who outran the tornado in her 1949 Buick, with the speedometer reading 100mph as the wind repeatedly lifted the back wheels off the ground. Her six children cowered in the back seat in fear but the car made it to safety.

When my brother and I were older, she showed us home movies my uncle Bill had taken the day following the storm. It was virtually impossible for my five year old consciousness to discern what the piles of rubble in the movies had once been. We were raised with a very healthy respect for the destructive potential of nature, a respect that I believe we shared with every schoolchild in the city of Flint.

Mother was particularly nervous on humid summer nights, the kind that hung in the air and produced the thunderstorms which hatch tornadoes. While she never tried to cause needless alarm, she kept a keen eye on the skies as she watched us playing in the lush Michigan grass. It was universally understood in our neighborhood that a weather siren meant the immediate cessation of playtime and a dash for shelter. Many a summer evening was spent listening to the rain in the basement, waiting for the all clear signal to be broadcast over the little blue transistor radio.

It was not until adulthood that I actually looked at a map of the destruction and discovered what Mother had always known- the Tornado touched to earth almost exactly two miles north of the bedroom I shared with my brother. She was keenly aware of that fact every time a humid summer night occurred, it was a line on her brow. However, she somehow never imparted that knowledge unto us.

Of course, storm warnings matured rapidly after the tragic events of 1953, and the truth is that we were dramatically safer at all times than only a few short years before. And although many tornadoes have struck in the ensuing 50 plus years, none have caused the loss of life that was so ingrained on my young parents. The passage of time has not diminished the memories of the citizens of Flint, nor has it lessened the tragedy of the loss of a hundred and sixteen lives when the winds dashed the houses against the Michigan clay. The news can take me back there in an instant.