are sober gays even allowed to brunch?

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Of course, we were getting the potato pancakes, I replied.  The husband argued that the perogies we were also ordering already had pancakes in them. Wouldn’t that be overkill and maybe too heavy?  He was correct but also he was wrong. These were different crispy, potatoes more in the vein of a hash brown and therefore vital for the meal, the meal in question being brunch. Potatoes being a must at brunch is a hill a person with the last name of Mahoney will gladly die on. Having heard my 10 minute monologue on potatoes and brunch probably 400 times over the course of our nine year relationship, the husband gladly surrendered. He’s a brilliant man, despite being occasionally wrong about potatoes. My love for potatoes is legendary at this point so much so that don’t be surprised if one day I get exhausted from writing about myself and turn this into a potato-only blog. Spudologues, anyone?

My win on the potato pancakes aside (which were delicious, by the way), brunch in and of itself is a win for me. The meal for over a decade was a such a loaded gun invitation for day drinking and debauchery. Potatoes were merely a side character and played second fiddle to bottomless mimosas. Bottomless mimosas! Ha. From where I sat at the brunch table it was nothing but bottoms slugging back mimosas. And what a sad gutter gay drink the bottomless mimosa is. Cheap, headache inducing champagne (emphasis on the pain part) mixed with cheaper bar-well orange juice, the kind of juice that needs booze to taste like anything other that liquid heartburn. If it wasn’t mimosas, it was bloody Marys. Tomato juice is disgusting and we should collectively be ashamed ourselves for ever thinking juicing and drinking a tomato was good idea. How dare we. So why not throw vodka in it to really set off how gross it is? I have friends who are sober who tell me they loved bloody Marys. I gently say, no bitch, you liked getting fucked up. No one is drinking bloody Marys because they like the taste of it. Similarly, I want to to punch people in the neck when they say the same thing about kombucha. “I love the way kombucha tastes!’ No girl, you hate yourself and your taste buds.  I gracefully missed the era of the “Loaded Bloody Mary” which is filled with giant olives, shrimp, bacon, gummy worms and all kinds of other crap. Barf. The thought of a soggy piece of bacon in a glass of tomato juice and vodka makes me not only not want to eat brunch ever again but might turn me into one of those people who only eats fruit and never leaves their house. But in the same note, thank god for Bloody Marys and Mimosas. They validated my former favorite part of brunch: day drinking.

At the aforementioned brunch last weekend, the husband and I ordered our respective beverages. Coffee and water for me, which is of no surprise. Listen, I’m a 46 year-old gay sober, alcoholic. Coffee and water are all I care about. Sometimes if I’m at da club, I’ll get crazy and order a Diet Coke but that concludes my beverage repertoire. The hubs ordered some kind of specialty cocktail. He’s a normal drinker so he occasionally gets one drink just to be festive. What a weirdo. He’s completely missing all the fun by not having twelve drinks then texting a coke dealer right before he yells at random people in a liquor store parking lot. I mean why drink at brunch casually when you can get totally shitfaced and ruin the good time of those around you? Day drinking at brunch for me went down either one of two ways:

1.) I accepted the brunch invitation because I was so hungover that I knew that I needed food and more alcohol if I was ever going to be able to function. I’d usually leave with a slight buzz which was great because usually more drinking was on deck at either beer bust(another gay drinking institution that deserves to be murdered) or hanging out a dive bar or just drinking at home later. This drinking served more as an elixir and a coming attraction for the boozefests bound to happen later in the day.

2.) I accepted the brunch invitation with good intentions and tried to not drink too much but around mimosa number six (THEY’RE BOTTOMLESS, PEOPLE!) that aspiration went out the window and my dignity followed soon after. Drunk by 2pm, hungover by 4pm, napping by 5pm and resumed drinking by 6 or 7pm. Brunch really had a way of taking a whole day hostage. It was just supposed to be eggs Benedict but somehow morphed into a scene from Tara Reid’s old reality show Taradise. 

Many a dumb website and magazine have poised that gays love brunch because of the socializing and the stylishness of the meal. I don’t know what fucking gays these people hang out with but for me and my girls it was usually about drinking. Yes, there would be potatoes on the plate and we would actually eat but the acceptability of day drinking at brunch had an allure too hard for this homosexual alcoholic to pass up. I think brunch and drinking and gays has to more with gay culture in general. My people really enjoy drinking, It’s a not talked about but well-known fact and well-researched too. If it involves cocktails, gay men want to be involved. It’s that easy. A few years ago, it was assumed that it was just the older generation of gays that liked to pound the cocktails but despite progress the numbers seem to indicate that young LGBT are at a higher risk for developing substance use disorders than their straight counterparts. So the problem is not really brunch per say but a community that suffers from addiction. Sigh. It’s bigger and a lot more depressing than just potatoes.

To answer the question posed at the top: of course we are. A few years back a friend told me, “We sober gays need to take back brunch!” I quipped, I didn’t know brunch went anywhere. We can’t take things back. We can’t take America back. We can’t take brunch back. There’s no coup coming of groups of sober gay men holding pitchforks and gluten-free waffles storming your local brunch spot. The revolution happens inside, baby. That’s a more exclusive guest list than any tired, homo brunch in NYC. The universe has gifted me with a group of magical sober gay men who do remarkable shit all day long without having to drink or use. They go through breakups sober. They go to drag shows sober. They face difficult battle with mental health sober. They even go to goddamn brunch sober. I told you they were magical.

Our potato-filled and laugh-filled brunch came to a close, not with me being pushed out of the restaurant and into a cab because I was too drunk, but with carrot cake. Because I’m a grown ass man who doesn’t drink or use drugs and this is how I do brunch now.

 

 

The Seanologues Podcast Coming April 13!

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At long last a return to the microphone! That’s right, kids. I’m coming back to podcasting my own show after a far, far too long sabbatical! Creatively entitled The Seanologues will launch  Friday, April 13th and every Friday after that for 9 weeks! But why this show, why now?

I LOVED doing my old show Sloshed Cinema so very much and adored working with Chris at Since Right Now. But after moving from Denver to Portland last year, I ran out of steam. I felt like I couldn’t get it together creatively and then too much time had passed. Flash forward to about a month ago and this idea came to me: why not do a show that’s just a monologue followed by a stream of consciousness rattle about one topic every week? No guest, no highfalutin concept. Just me blathering for a half an hour. I couldn’t a good reason why not to and in fact, the idea really inspired me! It inspired me so much that within a few hours I had roughly sketched out the episodes along with theme songs for each episode.

The monologue performed by at the top of each will also appear on these pages every Friday and I’m calling it “The First Six Minutes.” But what happens after that and a little musical interlude will be anyone’s guess! In the days to come, links to where to hear it and how to listen, will be posted all over the place so don’t worry. Just consider this your official invitation and we’ll talk more on April 13th!

 

 

the heart asks for pleasure first

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I guess the idea shows up in your brain when you’re watching an Emily Dickinson movie on Amazon.

The film being A Quiet Passion starring Cynthia Nixon as the elusive poetess. The title doesn’t lie as it’s a quiet little church mouse of a movie but honestly it’s worth the watch for the poetry alone. Long a poetry nerd since childhood, the movie reminded me the Emily Dickinson is overused, over-quoted and maybe even overrated for a reason. The woman was a genius. Her sensitive soul and deep affection for her family mixed with a famously reclusive nature have always spoke to me. Therefore, the film’s choice to have Nixon read her work in voiceover is a brilliant one. In one scene in particular, my jaw fell open when I heard her speak these words:

The heart asks pleasure first,
And then, excuse from pain;
And then, those little anodynes
That deaden suffering;

And then, to go to sleep; 
And then, if it should be
The will of its Inquisitor,
The liberty to die.

Well, that was it. Ms. Dickinson, as portrayed by Miranda from Sex and the City, nailed it. The “it” I’ve been thinking about for the better part of a month: the journey of the heart. Of my heart, specifically. See, without me even trying or setting an intention or making vision board or visiting a witch (all things I approve of, just things I didn’t do) my heart changed. Love changed. Listen, this might sound like a bunch of nonsense so feel free to close your laptop or go read a really important article about the best episodes of The Barefoot Contessa.  But the best way I can describe it is it all got bigger. My heart could suddenly handle more. More love, more heartbreak and more change. And love, dear sweet love whom I’ve tried to push around and control my whole life, proved to me it was the boss. In the world of recovery, we often say “life on life’s terms” but I think we should say love on love’s terms, too.

Maybe it also shows when you hear a Savage Garden song in a Lyft.

“Is the music okay?” my sweet 50-something year-old driver asked me. “Perfect,” I said. Sometimes you just need to lip synch, “I’ll be your dream. I’ll be your wish. I’ll be your fantasy” in the back of a stranger’s SUV. Last week, was one of those times. For that 10 minute ride, I was happy to listen to Savage Garden and give my brain a breather. It was an emotional rollercoaster of a weekend. From a joyous evening to celebrate with new friends to watching a loved one suffer, it was clear early on that my role was to just be wherever you invited me. The fact that I’m even able to do that still blows my mind after 9 years sober. Had you known me before when sending me a text message was akin to tossing a folded letter down a dark well, you’d be impressed too. Sure, I wasn’t doing as directed by Savage Garden and standing with you on a mountain or bathing with you in the sea,  but I was showing up for you last weekend and it felt good.

What happened by just showing up, is it availed me to some amazing experiences. One of which was sitting in a room with fellow addicts where someone I love was sharing their story. I scanned the building and noticed that 95% of the crowd was gay men. Gay men of all ages and varying lengths of sobriety. This is special for me because I never in a million years would have ever thought I’d have groups of gay men across several states that I felt  loved and accepted by. But here I am, gifted with male friends who are more than just fucks, adversaries or exes. We are connected to one another by the heart and by a common journey. What these people do, with varying degrees of success, is just show up and support each other and hopefully get better. The fact I get to be a part of something spectacular like that isn’t lost on me. By the end of the night, I soon didn’t feel like I needed my retreat into Savage Garden nor was my act of showing up all that remarkable. I felt honored just to be there.

It’s probably present too every time a friend picks up the phone.

The pursuit of being the cool bitch with a whole gang of friends has taken me to dark places. In the name of “cool” and on the never-ending quest for approval, I’ve done everything from shoplifting to trying heroin to snorting Special K with drag queens. Now at age 45, I am finding myself again seeking, finding and cultivating new friendships. It’s humbling to put myself out there, call people and be open. On some entitled level, I feel like I should just get a group of new friends each time I move to a new town without having to do any work. Like can’t we just have a casting agent take care of it? Can’t we hold auditions? Sadly, no. However, I have somehow found cool, funny, brilliant people to hang out with who I want to get to know better. I’ve rallied and pushed aside my shitty attitude to make friends. What’s more, and this is that expansion of love at work here, is I am open to be vulnerable and real with people I barely know, cool kid status be damned. I don’t take people hostage anymore and force them to get wasted with me. I’m just letting friendship happen. Already, I’ve been gifted with more than one phone call to a friend who somehow always gets what I’m going through, despite us not knowing each other for that long. This person speaks my language, lets me be myself and I try to do the same. It’s an incredible gift especially for someone newly back in the friendship game. Yet my heart is also grown up enough now to know that I can love these people in this moment, without expectation and somehow that feels like enough.

Maybe it’s always there.

Coming home the other night after being out with friends, my husband was already tucked in bed. A sleepy, funny random conversation that only couples who really like talking to each other followed, despite it probably not making a hell of a lot of sense. My heart and the rest of me wanted to go to sleep but it was later when I thought about those snuggly seconds before passing out that I realized that my pursuit of love and friendship begins and ends here, at home. The beings who live here: my cats Maeby and Larry and mainly, my husband Michael are the ones who teach me how to love all day long and who remind me that no journey my heart wants to take is too dangerous or too scary. No friendship too risky, no act of kindness without reason. Because every road leads back here–home. As Emily herself once wrote, I dwell in possibility and where I live is filled with precisely that.

 

something there that wasn’t there before

If I was that writer I would have called this post “Things Your Kids Love Because of AIDS.” If I was that writer, I’d probably also be selling my soul to some clickbaity site that would be good for my career but would also increase my chances of stepping in front of a bus. Alas, I am not that writer. I am, however, someone who loves fairy tales and really loves Disney versions of fairytales. I know, I know it’s not cool or woke or hipster to like Disney movies. The Disney machine, and not wrongly in most cases, is accused of turning entertainment into a machine and stripping away real character and depth from darker, childhood stories. They are also cited for snatching up beloved properties and sucking the life out of them. Likewise, Disney is notorious for problematic imagery for children and hideous employment practices. Yet the heart wants what it wants and my big gay heart loves a Disney fairytale.

I hesitate to own this statement in print because it feels so permanent and the movie in question has now become bland and basic due to a live-action remake that I refused to see. Seriously, do not get me started on this onslaught of live-action Disney remakes which by the way can hardly be called live action when 80% of them is done in CGI. I’m still annoyed/traumatized/baffled by that hideous Jungle Book everyone seemed to love but me. I digress but Beauty and the Beast is my favorite of the Disney fairytale canon. There. I said it. And I stand by it. Properly dark, great characters, beautiful animation and knockout songs, it swept Oscar nominations the year it was released and rightfully so. A smart heroine who happens to be a giant book nerd and who gets along with her family plus Angela Lansbury as a tea kettle? Sign me up. However here in 2017 in my forties this movie means something else to me today and mainly because of the film’s lyricist Howard Ashman.

Ashman, the openly gay songwriter and genius also behind Little Shop of Horrors and The Little Mermaid, was dying from AIDS as Beauty and the Beast was being completed. According to film lore, Ashman worked from his home in New York while his songwriting partner Alan Menken and the film’s directors Gary Torusdale and Kirk Wise flew back and forth from Los Angeles during the making of the movie. There’s no question that the movie wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t for Ashman’s lyrics. It’s impossible to think of it without singing the title track which also allows you the bonus option of doing either an Angela Lansbury or Celine Dion impression. Rooted in musical theater, the songs seamlessly bridged the gap between Broadway and animation and I’d ventured to say we’ve never gone back. Specifically, however, it’s impossible to deny AIDS when it comes to Beauty and the Beast and its iconic songs. According to the live-action film’s director Bill Condon in Vanity Fair:

“It was his idea, not only to make it into a musical but also to make Beast one of the two central characters. Until then, it had mostly been Belle’s story that they had been telling. Specifically for him, it was a metaphor for AIDS. He was cursed, and this curse had brought sorrow on all those people who loved him, and maybe there was a chance for a miracle—and a way for the curse to be lifted. It was a very concrete thing that he was doing.”

Songs like “Kill the Beast” are more overt in reference to AIDS.  In a few bars, Ashman slyly nails the paranoia and prejudice of the AIDS era. “We don’t like what we don’t…understand and in fact it scares us, and this monster is mysterious at least.
Bring your guns, bring your knives, save children and your wives, we’ll save our village and our lives!,” the song warns. The metaphor is so clear now but at the time no one knew. The lyrics fall in line with Ashman’s other astute observations of the human condition. Songs like “Skid Row” from Little Shop of Horrors and “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid surely tap into the feelings of not belonging and wanting to escape that gay people have always felt. But given his skill as a songwriter, he tapped into emotions that anyone, especially children can identify with.

Beauty and the Beast really resonates with folks who feel like they don’t belong. The hideous and withdrawn Beast and the bookish and imaginative Belle are square pegs and outcasts. Fate brings them together and we are all the better for it. Ashman’s songs particularly, “Something There” really capture how unlikely people who don’t fit anywhere else sometimes find and fall in love with one another, despite their own misconceptions and prejudices. Talk to any queer person and they’ll relate a similar story when they tell you about finally finding their people. To think that Beauty and the Beast is his last completed project (he also wrote a few songs for Aladdin)is profound to say the least.

As a person living with HIV and in a very different era, it’s hard not to get chills and feel emotional when reading about Ashman and the horrors that artists like him faced at the time. I started thinking about him this week when it was announced that a new documentary about his legacy was coming out later this year. The film looks to shine a light on his artistry as well as last his days dying from AIDS. Despite extreme hatred and isolation, Ashman and other great artists were able to produce works that people are still enjoying to this day.

This August, it will be 8 years since my own HIV diagnosis. While I’m grateful that times have changed and that I can have meds to help me stay alive with relative ease and low-cost, I’d be lying if I said that I still didn’t think we had a long way to go. Sure, we’re now acknowledging Ashman and his legacy. But look elsewhere, like the new movie about Freddie Mercury, and the story of AIDS is all about erased.  To ignore such a vital part of Mercury’s story and it’s impact seems like a mistake. I guess my point of writing is this to remind myself of artists like Ashman and Mercury and what they contributed as people with AIDS and to know they are not forgotten.

Maybe my clickbait idea at the top was correct. I mean, if you love The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast, then you love Howard Ashman, a man who died from AIDS.  But also if your kids love the literary adventures of Frog and Toad,  they also love a story of AIDS. If you’ve watched Dreamgirls and sang along, you are enjoying a story that is not just a black story or a musical story but the story of AIDS.   So maybe your kids love something dearly like Beauty and the Beast and that’s partially because of AIDS, a monster whose horrors they’ll hopefully never know. Talk about a real life fairy tale ending.

confessions of a dramaholic

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For those of you keeping score at home, I have at some point in my life detoxed from the following substances: alcohol, cigarettes, cocaine, sugar (a couple of times) and drama. I slide that last nasty little drug on there because for me it’s precisely that. Conflict, chaos, pot stirring, gossip, backstabbing, general smack-talking and havoc wreaking. I love all of it and it appears to be my default setting. And it’s an incredibly addictive way to live. The highs of a super dramatic life are really high while the lows are sub-gutter level. But it’s readily available, with no hangover and it’s one of the few addictions that can go on for decades, if you want it to. I suppose this addiction to drama is a useful character defect when it comes to playwriting but it’s an exhausting way to live a normal life.

Yes, I’m gay and yes I am from an alcoholic home which are two things that would certainly qualify me as someone predisposed to drama. Growing up in the house I did, you never knew what was on the other side of the door when you came home from school. I didn’t wait for the other shoe to drop, it usually had already dropped, causing 70 flavors of dramatic bullshit in the process. The very nature of living in an alcoholic home requires a lot of intrigue, lying and role-playing. Nobody is who they say they are and nothing is as it appears. Again, great qualities for a trashy Lifetime movie but a fall down tiresome way to live a life especially as a child.

As far as being gay and dramatic, I wouldn’t say that those two things are always a given. I mean I’ve met some boring, level-headed, normal gay people (they exist!). But for me, it’s a chicken and egg situation. Like am I dramatic because I’m gay or vice versa or did I just happen to win the personality lottery? Who knows. I will say that growing up gay, I certainly had to pretend to be someone I wasn’t and lie about who I was therefore adding even more intrigue to a life that was already a Pat Conroy novel your aunt would read on vacation. No wonder I started drinking at age 14. My dramatic ass life required a cocktail (or 30) just to be dealt with.

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All of this being said and me being an individual who never really loves shouldering the blame for anything, I think The Young and the Restless and the television canon of Aaron Spelling are partially at fault here. I think of The Young and the Restless every year around this time because me and my sister were absolutely hooked on the never-ending drama happening to the fine folks of Genoa City. A soap opera like Y&R, as we junkies refer it, is a wonderful thing for addict like myself. No matter what day, what month or far into an episode, the drama was always there. It’s like a bar that opens at 6am and what’s on tap is your run-of-the-mill baby stealing, husband stealing, identity stealing antics. If you weren’t careful you could even have your family’s cosmetic company stolen like the Abbot’s did. The Abbotts are the family at the center of all of this dramatic foolishness on Young and the Restless. Through the years, the clan had seen more than its share of drama and certainly qualify as addicts. But when we picked up the drug in 1980’s, there was no one causing more drama than Jill Foster Abbott. The former hairdresser turned rich housewife is a great alcoholic character that was never an alcoholic. Jill, like Erica Kane who was doing much the same thing on another network at the time, was at the center of a lot of problems and yet somehow considered herself a victim of circumstance and in no way to blame for whatever shit show was happening to her. Sleeping with her stepson, hiring imposters to take down her nemesis and paying off the trampy girlfriends of her hot dumb son Phillip were just a few of Jill’s great ideas. Jill miraculously managed to never actually take responsibility for her fuck ups and usually threw someone else under the bus in the process.

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On some level, I must have thought that Jill had a great way of living because for as long as I can remember I had created dramas that would inevitably backfire. Lying, cheating, stealing and light forgery (it’s like original forgery but with fewer calories!) were something I did from early in my teens and continued into my thirties as I drank and used. Naturally, the Jill Foster Guide to Life didn’t work so well in the real world not sponsored by Downy and not airing from 11am until 12pm on CBS. But like Jill, it never mattered who got hurt and I never really owned up to the fact that, as they say in the program, my misery was of my own making.

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I’d like to say that I got sober and went through the 12 Steps and I was also cured of my addiction to drama. But that isn’t the truth. More pot stirring, gossip and unfortunately a few finger in the face Real Housewives-style confrontations have happened to me since I’ve gotten sober. Unlike before however the high is shorter and the hangover is god awful. I have had two really dramatic fights in sobriety that felt like the closest I’ve come to relapsing. In both situations, I was out of control and the drama was largely my fault. Coming down from both of those highs shook my program to the core. But please note that it took two times for me to realize that this way of living did not work.  It’s an old mindset that no feels utterly out of step with how I want to live right now.

I’ve recently seen the drama addiction from the other side. Watching others struggle with dramatic thinking or situations that they’ve created is really painful. I wince as a I watch their schemes spectacularly backfire or witness their delusional drama based thoughts spin them out of control. I wince because I know drama is an easy thing for me to pick back up.  In fact, I think it’s the last acceptable drug in sobriety. If you’ve never been around people who no longer drink or use drugs that aren’t more than occasionally embroiled in some crazy drama than you don’t know enough sober people. I think a lot of us take some time to get re-programmed. I think it takes an effort to remember that, “Oh yeah. I don’t have to live like that anymore.” I know for me it’s a choice. One that most days, I’m really good at. But some days whether it’s online or at work or with friends, I seek out drama. Which is okay as long as I’m aware of what I’m doing so it doesn’t go on happening everyday at the same time, 365 days a year. I’ll leave that kind of drama schedule to Y&R. 

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.

The Battle of Bitterville

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A pot of lavender on your patio.

The guy who stands on the corner who sings Motown covers.

A shaggy black dog in the elevator.

The smell of waffle cones wafting out of a downtown ice cream shop.

A text from another sober person who just wants to let you know they’re thinking about you.

At the little side job I have currently to keep the flow of income happening while I await that big paycheck from an anonymous billionaire who wants to pay me to watch Netflix, there it was, the Ghost of Bitter Homosexual Future. The “cranky old queen” is a trope for a reason. This old bitch has been sipping martinis at bars and verbally assassinating anyone in her sights since time began. Wilde was maybe the first one. Capote was definitely one. Warhol? Certainly qualifies as do Crisp, Kramer and Savage (best law firm of all time, by the way). This particular real-life Bitter Betty tried to convince me how much I’ll hate Portland while also encouraging me to follow him on Facebook where he “does nothing but complain about politics! It’s fun!” Uh. Hard pass on that one, home skillet. But thanks for the offer!

There was an aggressive and salty quality about him the rubbed me the wrong way from moment one.  Which was a bummer. There is nothing I love more than when two gay men get the “hey, sister” vibe right away and are able to kiki with each other immediately. But that was not happening here. Being contrarian for no reason other than being the biggest hater in the room is a very bitter old queen thing to do and this one was rocking it hardcore. Everything me and my other coworker laughed at, he sighed or walked away from. Even when trying to be nice to me, he seemed annoyed that I was in his presence breathing. Listen, I really wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. I mean I discovered he’s a vegan who smokes cigarettes (lol) so I was willing to cut him some slack. But by the end of the night, I wanted to run screaming out of my little side job. Primarily, because I know that the role of bitter bitch is one I can instantly slip into myself.

The feeling you get when you talk to your mom on the phone.

Listening to your husband jam out to old school Mariah Carey in the next room.

The birds that land on your window and drive your cats insane.

So let’s get this out-of-the-way: my name is Sean and I’m an alcoholic, an addict and a sometime bitter gay man. Look, I’m not proud of it. But it’s like being bitter is one of our factory settings as gay men. We can all “go there” without blinking an eye.  What can be charming, biting, smart and truth-telling can also easily turn into bitter and unsavory. For me, it’s an ugly outfit I slip on and don’t even realize I’m wearing it. After all it’s comfortable. It fits me. It’s easy to find. More than all of that, it feels like something I’m entitled to wear. But like I said, it’s fucking hideous. Still, there’s a huge part of me that feels justified for being bitter. Like you’d be bitter too if you had my lot in life. Didn’t I earn the right to be bitter after the way straight people had fucked with me since I came out of the womb in a poof of pink glitter? And maybe I’m not being bitter. Maybe I’m just discerning or critical, in the same way a one-eyed pit bull is discerning or critical. Now pass me the cigarettes and vegan meatballs along with my martini!

White Hydrangea in glass vases.

Afternoon naps while it rains.

Remembering to meditate in the morning.

Yet as a sober person, being bitter is a big no-no. That literature that lots of sober people read says the grouch and the brainstorm are dubious luxuries for normal men but no bueno for drunks and drug addicts like me. So I’ve had to find a new way to live which means I can be a little bitchy but not full for bitter old queen. For example, I gleefully like to say, “I hate everyone/everything.” Yet I don’t actually mean this. I spout it off in a salty, sassy way. Like in a “Aww. Isn’t Sean adorable? He hates everything again. Go get him a cookie,” kind of way. Believe it or not, I actually see and encounter things I like and even love. And nearly every hour of the day.

As we’ve talked about here before, I write gratitude lists every day and have for over 7 years. I find five things that made life a little better and I write them down. That’s it. That is the whole practice. Its a kind of magic that does not require special oils, a wand or even an ancient spell. Listen, I don’t know why it makes me less of an insufferable asshole. That’s why it’s magic. All I know is that it does work. A little daily flow of positivity and love helps keep the bitter old queen away. Or maybe not entirely away but less bitter.

When I was 24, I worked at a Mexican restaurant where old gay men would sit and drink margaritas and bitch about their lives. Bobby, the bartender at that place, smoked cigarettes and told me stories of his days on the MGM set as an assistant. He even went to Korea with Marilyn Monroe. I loved dear Bobby but she was a bitter old gal who drank a lot. I just naturally assumed this would be my destiny. Drunk, bitter and unhappy. But in the ultimate plot twist, I’m no longer drunk and I’m certainly not unhappy.  I’ve already defied my gay programming and started to erase the writing on the wall. So hopefully, one day at a time, I can be a less bitter too. In the meantime, I’ll settle for sassy and salty.