Missed connections – years apart

Missed ConnectionsIn the past few days, I’ve had a couple of missed connections return into my life after many years.

The first was a guy I talked about in a post on this blog, and in my brief life as a podcaster. We met at a bar and hit it off great. We were going to get together for a date, but one roadblock came up after another, and we never did go out. We did remain friends though, and he ended up in a relationship.

A couple of days ago, I found that old podcast file and listened to it again. First, I thought how glad I was that I didn’t continue as a podcaster— It really wasn’t my forte. But second, I got to wondering about this guy and what was up with him.

The next day… the VERY next day… he signed up for an audition with the chorus.

Now is the universe telling me something? I don’t know. But I’m interested to see what happens here.

The second missed connection was a guy I met on gay.com many years ago. He lived in Chicago and then moved to Hawaii for a while. I found him recently on a, ahem, gay-related site, and we chatted and texted back and forth for most of the day. We might be getting together soon.

What’s with all these years-apart missed connections coming back into my life? I’m intrigued by this latest universal intervention. We shall see how it all plays out.

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My First Boyfriend – The Story Comes Full-Circle

Fifteen years ago, in 1995,  I wrote a story for my first website. The web was still in its infancy, and not too many people had personal websites.  This was even before I had my first Online Journal– before anyone knew what blogs were.  The story was about the first guy I ever dated.

I posted this story to my blog shortly after I started it in July 2004, and wrote an epilogue.

Today, I just got off the phone with Donnie, my first boyfriend.  I hadn’t spoken to him in over 15 years.

Funny how things happen.  We meet people, have wonderful experiences with them, and then life gets in the way.  Sometimes we stay in touch; other times we drift apart.  In Donnie’s case, I wasn’t sure I’d ever hear from him again.  But the other day, on a total whim, I tried finding him on Facebook– and I found him. Amazing how things come full-circle.

Here’s the story that I wrote in 1995.  I’ve fixed a few things for accuracy and better reading.  I’ll post an update at the end.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

It all started in the winter of 1992….

I was working at a Best Buy in Racine, Wisconsin at the time. I had a 20 minute drive to get from there to Kenosha, where I was living, and the majority of the drive was along a highway that connected with my street. As I entered Racine, I would always pass by a Citgo gas station. On the way home from work, I would frequently stop at this gas station to fill up my gas tank.

One night I stopped and went inside to pay my bill. There at the counter stood the most adorable guy I’d ever seen. He had deep blue eyes, brown hair and was about 6′ tall. I immediately knew he was gay… that instinct ‘gaydar’ we all have… but being rather shy I didn’t say too much. I simply paid my bill and left.

Needless to say, my visits to that gas station became much more frequent. It seemed that he worked there EVERY night, so I was almost never disappointed. Once in a while we’d make small talk.. maybe just smile.  He had the cutest Southern accent… I couldn’t begin to place where it was from, but that combined with his adorable looks just made him all the more irresistible.

I was a Product Specialist at Best Buy in the Audio Department. I had been there a few months so by that time I felt like I knew what I was doing. One day I was at our ‘answer center’ and I looked up.  And whom did I see but Gas Station Guy, walking into the boombox aisle. I quickly scooted over there and said “Hi!”

He recognized me from the visits to the gas station, and smiled. He wanted to buy a boombox, so I showed him all the features on the one he was looking at, gave it to him to take to the registers, and said, “See you around.” That was about it. I was in bliss.

The next day I was surprised to see that he had returned, with the boombox in hand. I waited for him to finish at Customer Service. When he headed toward the boombox aisle again I made my way over to him and asked, “Didn’t like that one?”

“No, I decided I wanted one with a CD player.”

“OK, no problem; let me show you some that have one.”

We talked a little more small talk and I sold him the new boombox. I couldn’t tell if he liked me or not.. and for that matter I couldn’t tell if he was gay or not.. but deep down I knew he was.. he just had to be.  Besides, this was all business.

That night as I left, I looked at my gas gauge and… what a surprise! I needed gas!

I drove over to the Citgo station. I could see him in the window. I was quite pleased. I gassed up, drove the car up to the building to park, and got out. When I walked in, he immediately recognized me. “HEY!” he said happily. “I was hoping you’d stop in!” My heart jumped. “I love the box.. I’ll keep it… but I wanted to know what you knew about car stereos..”

He proceeded to ask me a bunch of questions about car stereo equipment.  We talked about that for a while, then talked about where he was from, then talked about our families, then talked about music, then about TV… then about God knows what else.  I got  there at maybe 10pm.  Next thing I knew it was 1am and it was time to close the store!

He closed up, and didn’t kick me out. We talked some more about whatever.  Finally he asked me, “So where do you go out?”

“Well, here and there.. nowhere in particular…” I answered.

“Ever been to a place called ‘Club 94?′” He asked. (Club 94 was a gay bar in Kenosha)

“Well.. yeah… once or twice.. it’s fun.  I guess I like it.” I answered, getting VERY excited.

He asked me if he could sit in my car while his warmed up.  Now keep in mind, this was about the dead of winter of ’92, a VERY cold winter. He had a Renault Encore. I had one when I first got my license, so I knew how they were. I, of course obliged. He locked up, we got in my car while his ran to warm up and he says,

“OK I’m not gonna bullshit you anymore. I’m gay.”

“Well that’s good,” I said with a smile, “because I’m gay, too.”

We talked a bit more.. exchanged phone numbers.. and that was it for that night. We both had to get home.

His name was Donnie. I was on CLOUD NINE for at least 48 hours after that.

I visited him nearly every day after that. We’d talk all night long, sit in my car and wait for his to warm up, then go home. We never would kiss, we never got mushy… it was just this strange new friendship thing we had. I felt silly standing around a gas station convenience store for all hours in my Best Buy shirt; and my dad wasn’t pleased with it either– especially because I was there to see a guy! (My parents knew about me for a while before this)

Anyway about three weeks into my visits with Donnie a friend of his came in and hung out. I could see that they knew each other pretty well, so at one point I asked him about Donnie.

“How well do you know Donnie?” I asked.

“Why, do you like him?” (he was rather blunt)

“Yes.. why?”

“Well let me just tell you. You’re not his type. I wouldn’t try too hard.”

I was crushed. As far as I knew, he knew Donnie better than anyone else, so I had to trust his word. Still, I thought that if Donnie didn’t like me that much he wouldn’t have been talking to me so much and letting me stay so late. I mean, there had to be SOMETHING there. However, I was very new to the whole gay thing and as far as I was concerned, his friend was right, so I made my visits to the gas station less frequent.

But eventually that changed and I would stop in again just as frequently as before.

One night we went to a bar behind the gas station for a quick drink after he got out of work. We had known each other for about three months at that point. I still didn’t know what he thought about me, but I knew how I felt about him. I was crazy about Donnie, and it was driving me nuts.

After the bar closed, we sat in my car and talked. “This is it,” I told myself. “It’s now or never”.

“Donnie, we’ve been seeing each other now for about three or four months… and I’ve really grown to like you …. a lot. I just want to know… what do you feel?”

“I feel the same way Rick.”

“Really?

“Yes.”

I then asked him if I could kiss him. He said yes. It was the first time I had ever kissed anyone. And it was wonderful.

About a month later I learned that Donnie would be moving to Houston. His mother and sister would be moving back to Atlanta, where they originally came from. I was crushed. I was really falling for Donnie and now he had to leave. We decided that even though he was leaving, we would continue things up until he left, thinking that maybe someday I could move down with him or vice versa.

It killed me to think he would be leaving, but eventually he did.

We kept in touch while he was away, calling each other as often as we could.

He was gone for about three months when one day I got a call from him.

“What would you do if came back to Racine?”

I answered, “Well of course I’d be incredibly happy.. but what would you do? You have no job, nowhere to live, and I can’t move out because I’m not ready!”

He said, “I could probably figure something out.” I figured that was that and left it there.

The next evening I got home from work and checked the answering machine. There was a message.

“Rick, this is Donnie. I’m back in Racine. Give me a call tomorrow at this number..”

I cried.. tears of joy and tears of sorrow. I didn’t know where he was or where he was staying. But he was home. And as far as I knew he came back for me.

We saw each other the next day and holding him in my arms was the most wonderful feeling I’d ever felt. He got his job back at the gas station and was living with the owners. I knew that wouldn’t last long because he never got along that well with the owners, but for now he was here and that’s all that mattered.

We dated for a while but for some reason the magic just wasn’t there like it used to be. I became busy with school and then started working in Illinois. He worked every day at the station and we hardly ever saw each other.

Eventually I met another guy and we dated for a while. He was cute, younger, and fun to be with.. but he was 18 (I was 23), and for some reason that bothered me…

…and I wasn’t over Donnie.

I broke up with him about two months into things. I told him I still had feelings for Donnie. He understood. He was a good guy.

I went to see Donnie the next night. To my shock he informed me that he would be moving to Lexington, Kentucky to live with his father. He wasn’t happy in Racine and needed to get out. I was crushed more than ever before. I lost my chance with Donnie.. the guy I truly loved. We made out a bit in the back room of the store and hugged a lot. Then I left.

About halfway down the road from the gas station, I called him on my Cell phone. He was still there. I was crying.

“Donnie?”

“Yes?”

“It’s Rick. I’m in my car. I was just thinking after I left…”

“What’s the matter?”

“I love you, Donnie. I will always love you.”

“I love you too, Rick.”

“Don’t go. Please.”

“I have to, Rick… there’s nothing else I can do.”

We talked for a little while then I hung up.

I saw Donnie one more time after that. He had a going away party but I couldn’t go because I was sick. I cried so much I didn’t think I’d have any tears left. He called me from his party. We were both crying. I told him I loved him again. He told me he loved me.

The next day he was gone, and I haven’t seen him since.

We kept in touch via phone and mail since then. He now lives in San Jose, CA and has a room mate that he says likes him a lot.. but he’s never stopped loving me or thinking about me. Judging from my tears as I type this, I realize that I still love him. Very much. And I always will. Perhaps we were meant to be together, and if so, I hope that someday we can and will be. Until then I hold very precious memories of the times we spent together, and great regret for all the times we could have been together but weren’t. We parted against our will. We still have contact.. but it’s not enough. I wish he were here now to dry my tears, to hold me and comfort me and tell me everything will be OK. But he’s not and I must deal with that. I miss him. I will always love him.

I guess what I learned from this story is, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” as the song says. I never realized just how wonderful Donnie was until I realized he would be gone. Life is unexpected with the way it works. You could be walking down the street, minding your own business, when all of a sudden fate smacks you in the face with a new adventure, a new love, or a new tragedy. All you have to do is keep your eyes open and your senses aware. You never know what will happen next.

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Epilogue 1 – 1997

A few months after this was written, I realized I had lost Donnie’s phone number. I was pretty devastated, looking all over the place, and even phoning directories trying to find him, but to no avail. One day Donnie phoned me and informed me that he was, indeed dating the man he was living with in San Jose. They had been together for some time and he was happy with him. I was happy to hear from him again, and I finally got his phone number and could call him whenever I wanted, but I didn’t. I felt it was time to close the wounds from this experience, and I was doing a good job of that already. So I called him very sporadically.

A while later, I heard from Donnie again. He was moving out of the apartment he was sharing with that guy, and they had broken up. He was moving a few blocks away into an apartment with a friend of his. I was slightly happy to hear that, but again I felt like it was useless getting excited about it. He still wasn’t going to be moving back anytime soon. He said he’d call me with his new phone number once he got settled into his new place.

I never heard from him again.

Closure has happened. I am over Donnie. Though I will still have a place in my heart for him, as most everyone does when it comes to their first love. I am still single, still looking for someone to fill that space, but I guess I compare everyone to Donnie. That’s not fair, but I guess that is an unwritten rule somewhere when it comes to relationships. I had hoped he would call before I moved to Chicago, but he never did. It just wasn’t meant to be. And I guess that’s just fine. I’ll live.

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Epilogue 2- 2004

Many relationships–one much more serious than Donnie–later, and looking back at what I wrote nearly 10 years ago about him, I see now how young and naieve I was back then about love. Having been through the pain and the sorrow of the ending of a relationship one too many times, I know it never gets easier. But when you’re 23 or 24 and still new to everything, it seems like the end of the world.

Donnie was special, though I wonder if I really loved him. I’m not so sure now. I still think of him fondly, occasionally, but I don’t really know if I understood what love was back then. I think I do now, but I also think that love takes on many different characteristics depending on who he is, what the relationship is based on, and the when, where, why and how you fell for him. The fact that I haven’t had a relationship that has lasted over a year probably speaks to my still-evident inexperience in this area. Maybe, hopefully, that will change someday, but it is good to know that I am capable of loving. I know that will never change.

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Epilogue 3- 2010

Six years later, the story comes full-circle.

I always wondered what became of Donnie.  Where he ended up, who he ended up with, and what he was doing.  I didn’t even know if he was alive or dead.  When you lose touch with people, you can’t help but wonder these things.  Sometimes they cross your path again.  Other times, it never happens, and we are always left wondering.

So a couple weeks ago, on a total whim, I looked up his name on Facebook.  I’d tried this a time or two before, to no avail.  But this time, his name came up.  I clicked on the profile.  There wasn’t a picture of him to be found, but the birthdate seemed right.  Then I looked at the profile and saw two things that clued me in:  He belonged to a group for Atlanta Gay Men; and his employer was based in California.  It just had to be him.

I figured it was worth a try, and I sent a friend request.  A day or two later, the request was granted, and he sent me a note.  He said he was amazed that I found him, and he was so happy to hear from me.  We exchanged Email addresses and traded Emails back and forth, and today we talked on the phone.

He’s been with a guy for the past nine years and is in a wonderful relationship.  They’re living in Atlanta now; close to his family.  He’s doing great.  It was so good to talk to him again after all these years.  In fact, it felt like we had never lost touch.

He told me he always wondered what happened to me, and I told him I always wondered the same about him.  We shared stories of things that happened in our lives, and decided that someday we need to get together again.  It was like talking to a dear friend.

I’m so glad I wrote our story, and kept adding to it as years went by.  It’s really a testament to how, although our lives change, the good people who grace our lives will always find a way back.

Tonight, I’m smiling.  And reliving a lot of great memories.

What a wonderful day today! The sky is bright and clear…

…I’ve been waiting for this day for practically all of the year…
— “Parade” by Eric Lane Barnes

This weekend was Pride weekend in Chicago, and for me it was a markedly different Pride weekend, especially compared with last year.  It was also one of the best Pride weekends I have had in recent memory.

CGMC in "Over the Rainbow"The weekend started off with opening night of CGMC’s Pride show, “Over the Rainbow,” which featured the music of Judy Garland interspersed with songs about the Stonewall Riots of 1969.  This year being the 40th anniversary of both Judy Garland’s death and the Stonewall Riots, the theme of the show was perfectly selected… even if the original intent was to combine the two stories and show how they related to each other.

As it turns out, they really don’t relate to each other at all– except for the fact that Judy Garland died just days before the riots happened, and that Judy became an icon for gay men both from her portrayal of Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” and for the trials and tribulations she endured during her lifetime.

The Stonewall Riots, of course, were the true defining point of the beginning of the Gay Liberation movement, which sparked GLBT people’s desire to work against, rather than within, the system to gain the rights they so greatly deserved.

False legend has it that the patrons were so upset about the loss of the gay icon that, when the police raided the bar, they reached the point where they just couldn’t take any more pain and fought back. The truth, however, was that, although the reaction of the patrons did have a lot to do with the raid, the patrons either had no idea of the significance of Ms. Garland’s passing, or did not really care either way.  In fact, many of the patrons of the Stonewall Inn were younger, more effeminate youth who were not as emotionally invested in the passing of Ms. Garland, therefore they were probably not fueled by her loss in any particular way.  Still, the connection is uncanny, and made for an interesting show for CGMC.

I loved doing this show.  I loved the music, and I loved the story the songs told; but even moreso, when we started putting the music together with the narrative that our director, Patrick Sinozich, had written; along with stories some of our individual chorus members had contributed; the show became a wonderful story of history– with pain and sorrow, joy and laughter, and hope and pride.

We did one show on Friday night and two shows on Saturday, so by the end of that last show, we were pretty well exhausted.  The weather was hot and muggy, and a soft rain had begun to fall.  So instead of going out to celebrate, we went home and, quite literally, crashed.

We… well.. I guess I should explain why I’m saying “we” instead of “I.”  You see, I’ve actually been dating a nice young man from the chorus in recent weeks.

***SCRATCHING RECORD SOUND*** WHHHHHAAAAAATTTTTT???????

rick_andrewYes, stop the world, and stop the music… it’s true.  I’ve been… DATING! *Bom Bom BOMMMMMMMM!*

The world may now officially end, and the tides may officially turn.  Those of you who have read this blog since the beginning (I can count you on one hand now… 🙂 ) know that I haven’t been much for dating lately… or ever, for that matter.  I guess I’ve always either been entirely too picky, or too afraid to start seeing someone — but lo and behold this adorable guy joined the chorus for this show and we hit it off, so… there you go!  We’re taking it very slow; one day at a time; and just enjoying each other’s company and time.  I like it.  And I like him.  So that’s a very good thing going on in my life lately. 🙂

So, where was I?

Oh yeah… we crashed on Saturday night, while the rain fell and the mugginess of the day subsided.  And as Sunday dawned, we went out to join our chorus friends on the parade route.  It was a glorious day– sunny, clear, cooler, breezy, less humid– a PERFECT day for a parade.  In all my years living in Chicago, I had never seen a more gorgeous morning.  The leaves seemed greener, the grass more lush, and the sky an even more dazzling blue.

The mood leading up to the parade route matched the beauty of the day.  Everyone felt festive and joyful.  There were smiles all around.  Oh yes… this was going to be a GOOD day.

There was a  lot of talk about how the parade was going to be organized this year.  The city came out with a thorough plan for the parade, saying that the entire route would be barricaded, and the crowd would be forced away from the street, allowing the parade to pass easily and swiftly.  I have to say, in all my years of participating in the Chicago Pride Parade, this was the swiftest moving parade I could recall.

That didn’t stop the crowds from stuffing the streets from end to end.  And it certainly didn’t hurt the crowd’s enthusiasm.  As the CGMC float passed (we were generously sponsored by WGN Radio AM 720 – our HUGE thanks to them!), the crowds erupted not only into cheers, but screams of joy.  The Chorus sang a few songs from our Pride show, interspersed with thumping dance tracks and even a few Michael Jackson tunes, all of which the crowd loved.

Michael Jackson’s death provided the soundtrack for many of the floats, as it turned out.  Once the parade was finished, we walked back the way we came and saw a lot of the floats along the way – most of which were playing upbeat Jackson tunes.  It certainly made sense, and the crowd always responded with cheers and sang along.

After we made our way back, and grabbed a bite to eat, we went home and absolutely crashed, exhausted… but snuggling up to a wonderful guy after a weekend full of joy, music and pride made the weekend extra special.

——————————-

Today I received a news bulletin from The Advocate, which told the story about a gay bar in Fort Worth Texas that was raided on Sunday, June 28.  On the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, the same thing that started the entire LGBTQ movement happened again.  It just proved to me that, although we are moving forward in so many ways… we still have a long way to go.

Well Hello!

Howdy! It’s been a while since I’ve actually written anything here. The last week or so has been so incredibly busy I haven’t had much time to do anything except work, come home, and crash from exhaustion. Hopefully this coming week will be better.

So how about some updates? Great idea, right? Well here we go:

1. I never wrote him back.
2. I’m broke. At least until pay day. Which is next Tuesday.
3. I’ve been pretty healthy overall.
4. Autumn has arrived in Chicago. Brr! Time to break out the sweaters!
5. The Cubs are starting the playoffs tomorrow. Yay!
6. I watched the debates on Friday. Obama did well, but I wish he’d stop agreeing with McCain and get a whole lot tougher.
7. McCain whistles while he talks. He needs better denture adhesive.
8. Tina Fey is a goddess.

9. I forgot that this was about me, sorry.
10. The Chorus show is coming along nicely. I have an audition this week.. wish me luck!
11. My favorite TV shows have started up again… thank goodness for the fall season.
12. I’m still not dating anyone.
13. This looks like it’s quickly turning into a “100 Things About Me” list. It’s not, I promise.