Saturday, September 6, 2008

Homes - Part 3: Floating Around for Awhile

Being ejected from England on a visa violation was a blow. It was also an exciting opportunity as I did not have a clue what was to come, but at least I had the power to make the decision.

It was pretty obvious I had to return to the US where I could legally work. I considered moving to Boston because the city was like London in some ways with an excellent subway system and public transit. I wouldn't need the burden of a vehicle. Miami also crossed my mind because it would be a drastic change and also I'd be warm again after a year in London.

In the end I opted for the familiarity of Los Angeles, a city I had visited when I was 14 and which had always pulled me magnetically. I can't remember how much cash I had when I arrived at LAX but it was probably not even $2,000, and in an expensive city I only had a week or two in which to find an affordable place to live and some form of employment.

A so-so hotel along Sunset Boulevard in the West Hollywood area offered weekly rates at a few hundred dollars and that was my home for the brief time I'd be in that city.

I awoke in the middle of the night with a strange light in my eyes. I quickly realized the door to my room was wide open. I quickly got up to close the door and was wondering what happened. Then I noticed my wallet was missing from the table next to the bed. My world suddenly collapsed.

I had no cash, no credit cards, no identification. and was alone in a city 1,500 miles away from anyone I knew.

Much of this experience is a blur. My mother probably wired some money and I was soon on a flight bound for Arkansas. I spent some time with my mother and then eventually moved back to Little Rock and enrolled in college again to finish my degree.

As I look back on the chain of events, it's as if everything was happening to steer me in a direction which would ultimately connect me to the thing I wanted most: a loving relationship with a life partner. I'm not suggesting the events were divine in nature or merely my subconscious knowing where I needed to go to find that which I was seeking.

At the time, from 1985 until 1990, it seemed to be an eternity. To realize now what happened in a span of only five years is quite mind-boggling.

Having been openly gay in London for the first time in my life, I was feeling a bit more secure with myself closer to home. And my friendless life in Little Rock was about to be blown open by a woman with whom I worked at a yogurt store.

She recommended a band I should see at a cavernous club known as SOB. It was an enormous restaurant by day serving shrimp, oysters, and beer -- hence the name. At night it was converted into a live music venue with plenty of room for dancing. I hadn't been out to see live music since I lived in London and obviously my expectations were low. It would not be Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Psychedelic Furs, or the Cramps I'd be seeing in Little Rock. And it didn't matter. I needed a social life on some level.

I met two young women who seemed to have no problem with the fact that I was gay. One of them began to introduce me to her circle of friends. She also sensed that I needed a little assistance in getting exposed to other gay people and offered to take me to a gay bar. Soon I was a regular fixture in the Little Rock nightlife, dancing until closing time at SOB, and frequenting the gay bar where I was developing my own circle of friends. And that was not without some weirdness and odd relationships.

There were a series of love interests in which I thought I was in love, only to have my hopes dashed within two weeks or so. The first such "boyfriend" had just broken up with his boyfriend who it turned out was someone I'd just met and we were developing a friendship. Yeah, that was odd. Not quite as odd as the morning I woke up in bed with a red-headed boy after taking LSD the night before, and feeling horrible guilt for "cheating" on the guy who didn't want to be in a relationship anyway. I got up, dressed and drove to his house to confess my deeds while sobbing.

I was also fired from my job at the yogurt store that day for failing to show up.

JH was another friend with whom I developed a tight bond. We spent a lot of time together and through that friendship I actually got a job at the gay club handling the light show over the dance floor and well as for the drag shows in another room of the club. That was quite a lot of fun for me but I eventually quit because I was tired of the sexual harassment coming from the DJ.

Honestly, I could write a book about this short span of time in my life. What you are getting is the bare minimalist version. It was finally a time of normalcy for me in the sense that I finally had friends and a social life, queer as it was. I also had several different apartments in that span of a few short years and before I left the city, I had evolved into a person with more eclectic views and desires, thanks to hanging around artistic people.

(There was a summer spent in Dallas during this time which I may come back to in another post.)

In the final few months in Little Rock, I had finished my BA degree in liberal arts, I was living in an older apartment with character downtown in a historic district, just steps away from my friend, JH. I had also fallen in love again, this time with someone not from my tight social circle, per se, although I was introduced to him by a woman in my clan. This was also not meant to last. If I thought I was still confused and trying to figure out where I was going in life at 28, this 18-year-old with whom I had a brief steaming-hot romance was worse.

JH was also going through a break-up with his boyfriend and was toying with the idea of moving to Denver to get a fresh start in life. I was also frustrated and heartbroken that every relationship I had seemed to fizzle in 14 days. JH was uncertain about the prospect of moving to Denver alone and tried to convince me to go with him so we could split expenses. I didn't feel ready yet for such a move and was still trying to salvage something from this latest boy toy who kept breaking up and then coming back for more.

In the early autumn of 1988, my best friend in the world packed up and went to Denver. After it became clear I was no longer in a real relationship with a very confused boy who was about to pack up and move away to college himself, I moved out of my apartment and went back to southeast Arkansas to spend some quality time with my mother.

It was also a time for me to disengage from my wild life of booze, experimentation with drugs, and all-night parties under disco lights. I painted several rooms in my mom's house (serenaded by k.d. lang on CD whom I had just discovered) and had a pretty quiet and easy life until December when it became obvious to me I was racing toward my 30s with no job, no future unless I wanted to work at Wal-Mart, and no friends.

Just before the holidays, I called up JH in Denver and said, "I've decided I'm coming out there."

I packed up my decade-old Toyota Corolla (complete with Grateful Dead bumper sticker), which I had purchased in Little Rock for $575, and embarked upon a journey which would ultimately lead me to where I sit today: home.

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