I once knew a boy called Richard. “Richard?” you say, “I must know more!” Never let it be said that I don’t know how to scoot my reader to the edge of his seat.
After thirteen years in San Francisco, I am now back where I started, in Colorado. Denver, to be quite precise. Nineteen blocks from the house I grew up in, to be even more so. When I visit the old neighborhood in San Francisco, a Big Gay Memory of some kind lurks around nearly every corner. First dates, tearful good-byes; here is where I ignored the drunken heckling of a passing mendicant and slipped the ring on my husband’s finger, and there you see roughly where my pants hit my ankles while stumbling home from a particularly memorable Dyke March. Yes, fond memories at every turn. Who are you to judge me?! Oddly, though, even though I grew up here, in Denver there is really only one such corner. Probably due to its proximity to Cheesman Park, the one place in 1980s Denver that two men might not be harassed for holding hands, I had more than one Big Gay First (of most of which I’ll spare you the cowboy boot-related details) on the corner of 9th and Gaylord. Richard’s mother worked with my aunt in Washington, D.C., on the staff of a Congressman from Oklahoma, and we had more than one Big Gay Adventure (last one, I promise) in the District, but when I think of him, I always remember him standing on the corner of 9th and Gaylord. Where, in jean shorts and a cardigan sweater, he would secure his place in history as the First Boy Who Ever Kissed Me. Continue reading
Posted in Pride, Stuff I Write
Tagged blurry memories, cardigan sweaters, coming out, Denver, fear, first kiss, gay, internalized homophobia (my), kissing boys, Natalie Merchant, tell your story
Like many flight attendants, I have a tendency to lump airplane passengers into one of three distinct categories: The Frequent Flyers, The Hot Guys, and the mass of faceless walking F.A.R. violations we’ll call Everybody Else. Very occasionally these will overlap, as in the case of the rare and exotic Hot Frequent Flyer Guy, and sometimes they will collide, such as the time that a Frequent Flyer made a crack to me about the low-riding basketball shorts on a spectacularly round-rumped Hot Guy and I shrugged and told him, “I’d hit that,” but for the most part, the passengers in each category settle onto the airplane with varying degrees of overhead bin drama and hew to a time-honored code of Expected Behavior.
I have a definite love/hate relationship with the Frequent Flyer. On the one hand, they know the drill and bring few surprises. They know where their suitcase fits and where it doesn’t, they often hang their own coats, and most of them understand Airplane Sign Language — I can raise an eyebrow at their phone and have it turned off, and when I jerk my chin at their empty wine glass, they hold their hand to where I should fill it or, if they have finished, they hand it back to me. On the whole, the Frequent Flyer is a flight attendant’s favorite kind of passenger: Easy.
But I’m not gonna lie: it is also the Frequent Flyer that usually sets my eyes to rolling. I have a tendency to look out into the First Class cabin and see Chicago in Winter: a blustery snow storm of white male windbags jockeying to assert their status and get the recognition they’ve got coming to them by hook or by crook; guys who can barely condescend to mutter their drink order, refuse to remove their headphones but become irate when they can’t hear you, and complain about the meal offerings for sport. (One guy told me he wished he’d known that I was going to run out of the chicken entree selection before he’d gotten on the airplane, and I asked him why. “Were you going to go up and down the terminal looking for a chicken breast to bring with you?” He wanted badly to be affronted by my cheek, but eventually laughed and conceded that the pasta would be fine.) It is easy for me, if I give my attitude free reign, to write off the Frequent Flyers as a surly bunch of social-climbing fusspots and to treat them, as a result, with a certain degree of professionally questionable disdain. Continue reading
Yellow Umbrella from The Java Jive (.com)
It’s Springtime, and if you live in a place that has seasons, you will by now have noticed that things are coming, at last, to life. I’m probably a little late to sing the praises of the actual cherry blossoms — they’re only at their peak for a very few days — but the array of flowering trees here in Denver reminds me of one of my very first trips to Japan. I had been to Narita, of course, as all good flight attendants eventually must, but this was my first Osaka trip. I had just finished reading Memoirs of a Geisha like two weeks before, and was dying to see the Gion district in Kyoto, a short train ride away. It was April, so I sold one of my flying partners on the prospect of a cherry blossom photo safari, and shortly after breakfast, we set out.
This was well before I got to know My Kyoto: the Kyoto of the World’s Largest hundred yen store and the all-you-can-drink Karaoke Room; of Starbucks and stick-pics and the Shakey’s corn-and-mayonnaise pizza buffet. My wacky romance with Japan was barely budding, and the whole country still struck me as a different Universe. Oddly parallel to ours, with its Toyotas and vending machines and smiling people, but hopelessly — perhaps purposely — indecipherable. While we walked through ultra-modern Kyoto to get there, my memories of that day are all of Gion. Its wooden houses surely bursting with geishas and other ancient secrets, its tunnels of cherry trees sprinkling the streets with their blossoms as dutifully as the earnest little flower girl that makes the wedding of a friend of a friend surprisingly memorable. Continue reading
Our Little Beauty Queen
Who knows how it started? I have an incredibly vague, quite possibly imagined memory of signing up for some pet store loyalty card like the day after we moved here, whereupon we were asked for the name of our pet. Having several, and not knowing which cat’s name to choose, it’s possible we just scrawled in Kitty Cat to move the process along. And we rent; it’s entirely possible that some long-ago tenant filled out some long-ago form using Kitty Cat as a joke or an alias. Wherever she comes from, the United States Postal Service and youth-oriented direct-mailers across the country have decided to believe that we, the residents of this apartment, saddled with the rare and improbable last name of Cat, are the “proud parents” of a young woman named Kitty.
And she is no ordinary young woman, our Kitty. We don’t just receive mailers from peddlers of SAT prep courses or (tragically unstylish) senior photos. No, the parents of Kitty Cat are specifically targeted as the lucky parents of a high-achieving and lovely girl whose list of accomplishments is only just beginning to come together. We’ve been invited to cart her along to campus tours, pageant auditions — heck, she was even slated to be included among the Who’s Who of American High School Students. You know, once our check cleared. Whoever first used her name on whatever sign-up sheet was obviously a good judge of character, for her information was in fact immediately sold to at least one contact clearing house, and has since been shared with several others, cuz the bitch gets reams of mail.
Invitations, declarations, congratulations, there’s no stopping her. And she’s always invited to only the Very Specialest of events, as befits a student of her skills and reputation. Which makes me want to send a friendly note by return post and let these solicitors know they’re laying it on a little thick. Even if I did have a lovely and talented daughter, I want to tell them — hell, especially if I had a lovely and talented daughter — I would want nothing to do with your product or service; you represent a company that can’t even be bothered to weed out “Kitty Cat” as a fake name, for heaven’s sake. Don’t bother, my husband says. We’ll just show up with Mocha (our little girl kitty, and the closest we’re likely to come to having an actual daughter) to the next Colorado’s Junior Miss pageant and insist that they let her compete. But we got a letter, we’ll say. He hates when I watch “Toddlers and Tiaras,” but I think he’s secretly dying to get his hands on one of those crowns.