you with the sad eyes

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Cyndi Lauper, Gay Pride Parade West Hollywood, 2003

When it comes to life encompassing black holes of depression and despair, it’s helpful to have a benchmark. It’s helpful to have a moment so damn bleak that nearly everything in comparison feels like a Smurfs cartoon. It’s helpful to remember these periods in your current life too so you don’t take it for granted or mistake temporary blahs as the end of the world. I’m lucky, and use that word with a wink and a shoulder shrug, that my 30th year on this planet was one of two personal benchmarks when it comes to despair.

The story goes like this: On November 30th, I turned 30 accompanied by the most over-the-top alcoholic birthday party ever stacked to the gills with drag queens, live bands, cocaine, family members and a trip to Disneyland. It was a happy weekend but that’s where it pretty much ended. By mid-December, I slipped into a depressive state so easily that I didn’t even know it at the time. Okay, okay. I was drunk 7 nights a week at this time so trying to figure out what was depression and what was just the remnants of the daily hangover was darn near impossible. Nevertheless, I was depressed and numb and incapable of feeling my life and when I did it felt like shit. I was working at the big theater complex in downtown Los Angeles at the time and thank god. I’d hide out and watch the LA Opera or listen to the philharmonic and cry in my usher uniform. I watched the touring production of 42nd Street so many times, I feel like I could still perform a one-man-show abridged version of it for you today. 42nd Street in Less Than 40 Seconds! In addition to the drama I watched on stage, there was plenty to be had in my real life. Unable to pay my bills, fighting with my boyfriend and generally being a hot drunk mess took up a lot of time and energy. The ongoing blahness of my life was so commonplace at this time that it was hard to remember when I felt anything else. Yet there are pockets of time that I remember, moments where I was giving it the old college try to feel better or at least feel something.

One such moment was Gay Pride weekend in 2003. By June, drinking and working at the the performing arts complex were all I really did. The social part of my alcoholism floated away with the birthday balloons and now it just served the purpose of erasing my days and knocking me out. Yet when it was announced that Cyndi Lauper was performing at Pride, I woke up. I HAD to go. Cyndi Lauper was everything to me as a kid. She sent me a message in videos like “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “She-Bop” that it was okay to be a big, loud colorful weirdo and to be myself. I credit her for letting me follow the beat of my own drum at an early age. Therefore, my attendance at her performance the night before the parade was mandatory.

As sworn Eastsider who avoided West Hollywood at all costs, I sucked it up for Cyndi. I worked a matinée that day and then hopped on a bus from downtown LA. I stopped at the liquor store for a mini-bottle (or two or three) of vodka before entering the festival. While waiting for Cyndi to go on and my friends to show up, I wandered around drinking and watching random second stage acts. I distinctly remember being impressed by the Mary Jane Girls. By “Mary Jane Girls” I mean like one of the originals– the talented JoJo to be precise, along with a few new girls. “JoJo and Some Other Bitches” just didn’t have the marquee value of The Mary Jane Girls though. Nevertheless, I thought they were amazing. I mean if you could survive both Rick James and the blistering midday sun all while nailing a performance of “Candyman”, you deserved all the applause possible.

By the time the sun went down, I found my people. I know there was more drinks involved. I know Cyndi looked incredible. I know we were sort of bummed that most of her set was remixed super-gay dance versions of her most popular songs. I know we left and drank more. But as far as the other details of that night, I can’t help you. That’s a another bi-product of a year spent under the blankets of depression: the precise moments seem to melt into one blob of ickiness. What I am sure of today in 2017 is that I felt let down by the moment, overall. At the time, I thought it was all the gay pride hoopla and circumstance that left me feeling flat. Gay Pride in West Hollywood is always more of a corporate affair that could rub even the most optimistic homos the wrong way. Of course, now I know it wasn’t gay pride. It wasn’t West Hollywood. It sure the hell wasn’t Cyndi. It was me.

The combo platter of raging alcoholism and depression made everything feel like a bummer. There wasn’t enough cocaine, tequila, glitter or 80’s music to make me better. Yet somehow, I hung onto this life of despair, in varying degrees for another 6(!!!!) years. Things got a whole hell of a lot worse before they got better, as is usually the case. I never made it back to gay pride in West Hollywood which had more to do with the headliners than any resentment towards the festival. More depressingly, I haven’t seen Cyndi Lauper again in concert. I feel like I owe myself a Cyndi amends for sure. But as far as feeling and really getting this idea of Pride? I think I know it now more than ever.

Being sober, HIV positive, married and expressing myself like I always wanted to as a kid is a life I could have never imagined. I feel freer at 44 on zero drugs than I ever did bombed out of my mind in my 20’s. I’m actually proud of myself as a gay man and sobriety has truly helped me get there. Not sure if that’s what Cyndi had in mind when she sang, “Your true colors are beautiful like a rainbow” but that’s certainly what it means to me today.

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Previously On The Seanologues

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You know what I miss the most about old Aaron Spelling shows like Dynasty or Melrose Place, I mean besides the shoulder pads and catfights? I miss the voiceover before each episode, usually done by a cast member like John Forsythe or Heather Locklear that said, “Last time on Melrose Place” or “Previously on Dynasty…” It was this 45 second way to catch up on everything you missed or forgot over the last week. So dramatic and cheesy and so something we wouldn’t do today because we just sit down devour a whole series in one sitting like Garfield does lasagna. Wow. A Garfield reference and Aaron Spelling references. Way to keep it current. Anyway, I was thinking of recaps and more specifically recapping this here blog. It’s on my mind because today the is the year anniversary of The Seanologues! It got me thinking how in the world would I ever recap the last year?

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”- Lewis Carrol

Okay fine, Lewis. That’s where I’ll start. I sat down last spring with an idea that I wanted to talk about everything. My old beloved blog was mainly recovery based and I loved it dearly but I wanted a new space to say more. The upshot to getting older for me is that I now feel okay saying whatever the hell I want, whenever I want. The more years I have, the less fucks I have to give about what people think. Thus, The Seanologues as an idea was born. My first posts I wrote about pop culture and while they’re fine posts, I don’t really cut loose until two weeks into the journey. A real, real shitty thing happened in the world, that thing being the attack on a gay club in Orlando on June 12th. The news, unlike any headline in a really long time, devastated me. It felt personal. It felt awful. And I felt hopeless. I turned to this blog and wrote down my feelings. I wrote it just for me. I cried when I wrote it and I released it. This blog was suddenly more than just a blog to me but also a tool to channel what I was feeling. Turns out, this thing I wrote the day after Orlando struck a chord with other people too. I’m forever grateful to anybody who commented or read that piece. It gave me the motivation to keep going and changed the course of this blog.

After the doors of honesty had been blown open, there was no looking back. Which is fantastic because the last year of my life has been a roller coaster. From travel to death to moving and lest we forget major world news, the signs were clear that I pick one hell of a year to write honestly about my feelings and my life. However, just being a blah, blah, blah space to whine about my life wasn’t enough for me. As a writer, I wanted these pieces to be entertaining and able to stand on their own. To the best of my ability, I tried (and sometimes failed) to keep pushing the content to say more. I didn’t want to repeat myself or write things just to make other people happy. Time and time again, what I learned was the pieces that sounded the most like me were the ones that were the best.

I bring this up because if you are thinking about blogging or writing and don’t know where to start, be a good narcissist and start with yourself. Seriously. Your tone, your story, your perspective. Ain’t nobody got those things but you. For me, the honesty thing works best when I can have a laugh at myself. As the year went on, the posts I felt the best about were the ones that told some truth I never said out loud but were also really funny. Two benchmarks for this blog happened when I talked about being a drunk mess at summer barbecues and when I talked about my ass. These tell you all you need (or perhaps more than you ever wanted) to know about me as a writer and human being. By making these uncomfortable things to talk about more amusing, I let myself off the hook as an imperfect human being. This is integral for me as a writer and person in recovery alike. I need reminders to lighten the fuck up on a regular basis so if writing one liners helps me do that than so be it.

I continued to write about pop culture and the more I did it, the better it felt and sounded. Finding a way to interject my voice into a topic I love was tricky at first but with more time, the pieces got stronger.  Again, if it was something that moved me and I was passionate about it, I could really have fun writing about it. This came into focus in April as I blogged everyday. Forcing myself to create new works each day utterly changed me as a writer and it’s something I cannot recommend enough. By the end of the month, I felt my voice was more defined and I could talk about anything including pop culture in the most Sean way possible.

So what happened over the last year? I grew up. I fell apart. I leaned in. I moved on. I changed. I stayed the same. But mainly, I kept going. And The Seanologues will keep going too! In fact, many of these essays you’ve read over the last year will make their way into a collection I’m planning on publishing as a book. This means I’m starting at the beginning, as suggested by the King, but I’m far from reaching the end.