Summer Adventures

When you live in a major city, sometimes you need to just get as far away from the crazy city life as you can just to get some perspective on life again.

Sometimes it takes a trip home, wherever that may be.

Sometimes it takes a drive into the country to seeing the trees and rolling hills of farmland.

Sometimes it just takes spending some quality, fun time with friends.

And sometimes, one trip can take care of all of these things.

For the past 12 years, I have been making a semi-annual trek to Saugatuck, MI. The reason for this trip is simple– to get as far away from city living as possible.

So I go camping. To a gay-owned campground.

When I started going to CampIt back in 1994, it was a pretty simple place. There was one area for permanent campers, and two areas for tenting. There were only three showers for the entire campground (for the men– only ONE for the women!), and a small ‘general store’ for various and sundry needs.

The place had the look and feel of a mid-century throwback to good old-fashioned Americana. Signs and buildings were painted in pale hues of turquoise and pink, and gave off a decidedly ‘retro’ feel. It wasn’t exactly pretty. In fact, it was quite primitive. But it was always a lot of fun.

The owner was a gruff, surly guy who lived in the trailer across the driveway from the office-slash-general store. Calling to make reservations was more of a hassle than a pleasure. They often lost your information, but let you in anyway. In some ways, his abrasive nature further added to the charm of the place… but that would soon change.

In the late 90s, the owner of CampIt died, and his partner sold it to a new group of people. They took this place with a lot of kitsch and charm and turned it into a destination with a lot of charm and even some pizzaz. They started to infuse money into improving facilities, expanding the options of the visitors, and adding new features.

They turned it, basically, into a resort, with amenities and added ‘perks’ galore. They added a pool and a new bath house. They expanded the tenting areas three times– once to accommodate a lesbian-only section. And this year they nearly doubled the size of the entire place.

Now imagine this. A campground filled with hundreds of gay men and lesbians. Some coupled, some single. All there to get a little closer to nature.

Now let your mind run wild. Put that many gay men and lesbians in one place, and things are bound to get a little crazy. And fun.

I’m leaving Friday morning and I don’t get back until Tuesday.

I can’t wait to get the hell out of here!!!

Cruise, Interrupted

Sometimes I get so swept up in making grand plans to do things that I don’t take the time to think rationally about what the end consequences can be.

Case in point: My cruise in January of next year.

When I paid the deposit on the cruise, I had a nice little reserve of cash that would go toward a fun, exciting, and exotic event– unlike any I had ever experienced before. I read all of the brochures, I went to the websites, and got wrapped up in all the excitement. I figured I could make it work.

A month or so later, everything has changed.

Medical bills came in from my recent bout with kidney stones. Dental bills began piling up after my root canal. And in the meantime, my rent fell behind a month while I tried to pay everything and keep my head above water.

Something had to give. So the cruise had to go.

I just hung up with Atlantis, and they are going to refund the $500 deposit I paid back to my debit card.

It’s good to dream big. But sometimes it’s necessary to infuse a little pinch of reality into those dreams, just to make sure they’re the right dreams to have.

The day will come when I can afford a big, luxurious trip on a huge ocean liner. So what if that day isn’t coming this year or next. I can wait.

In the meantime, I look forward to weekend trips and camping excursions. They’re just as much fun, and they don’t wreck the pocketbook nearly as badly.

GB:NYC3 In Pictures

I love digital cameras, but sometimes the hard part is getting the pics off the camera and distributed for the world to see… so without any further ado, here is my weekend in pictures. (Click the pics to view them larger on my Flickr account… there’s more pics there as well!):

Karen and Patrick

Karen and Patrick, at Barrage, just after I arrived.

Matthew wants some Tuna

Matthew (a/k/a MAK) getting some Tuna action at Barrage.

Keeping Dry in New York City

Patrick, Karen and me getting rained on at Times Square.

Karen and Patrick at Rockefeller Ctr

Patrick and Karen posing at Rockefeller Center.

The guy's real.. the girl isn't.

Hot model in Boutique Window

Hello, Karen?

Karen and Aaron sharin’ a chat

Karen, Brian and Mark

Karen, Brian and Mark at XL

Jase and Sean

Jase and Sean at the Eagle

Karen and Patrick chat in Central Park

Karen and Patrick chatting in Central Park

Karen and Patrick at Bethesda

Visiting Bethesda Fountain

Patrick and Karen

Karen and Patrick on the pier… LOVE this pic. 🙂
Patrick and Rick

Patrick and me on the pier

Sleeping Beauties

Sexy Sleeping Beauties

Steamed Little Juicy Buns

Steamed Juicy Buns. Right on.
Eight is Enough?

Six is enough? Hardly!

Ok… so after this it’s back to my usual drivel. 🙂

NYC Diary Pt. 3: Sweet Home Chicago

Talk about your whirlwind tours.  This weekend had more whirls and twirls than a flagger at a circuit party.
I’m safe and sound back home in Chicago; back at my desk at work, where I shouldn’t be blogging, but I just have to, because there’s so much to say, and if I don’t get it out now, I’ll be too tired to do it later.

Yesterday was pretty low-key, which was just perfect.  We started off walking through Central Park, which is literally steps away from Patrick’s front door, and is something I had always wanted to do, but never had the chance.  We walked around the Great Circle, watched softball being played on the Great Lawn, wandered through the Ramble, visited Belvedere Castle and the Nature Observatory, and finally visited the famed Bethesda Fountain, where I nearly launched into my rendition of “Prepare Ye The Way Of The Lord” from the opening scene of the 1973 movie “Godspell”.  Thankfully, Patrick and Karen were there so I couldn’t possibly embarrass myself so greatly… although I have a feeling that, given the inclination, Patrick might just have jumped into the pond behind the fountain and shouted “Hey!  I wanna get washed up!”

From Central Park we headed out for an aborted trip to Queens for “Queens Pride” with Matthew and Kevin, who live there… aborted only because Matthew called and said he had had fallen ill and wasn’t going to make it.  So instead, we rerouted and went straight to the gayborhood (note the dichotomy of that statement)– Christopher Street in Greenwich Village.  We wandered up and down the street, stopping a leather shop here, a funny t-shirt shop there, and checking out the boys EVERYWHERE.  At the end of the block was a pier, where, Patrick says, a lot of cruising happens.  We walked out and took some pictures– of us and the boys– and walked back.
At that point, Patrick had to leave for work, so Karen and I headed back to Patrick’s apartment.  She rested while I blogged while Patrick was at work, then met him toward the end of his shift, had a couple drinks and treats there, and then headed over to Marie’s Crisis, a legendary piano bar in Greenwich Village.  A few drinks, some drunken queens, and a sad song or two later, it was time to go home.
My flight out of New York was at 7:30 in the morning, so I set my cell phone for 4:00 and 4:30 with the most annoying possible alarms I could find.  Patrick set his phone as well.
I woke up at 5:30.  Of course!

My exit was so rushed I barely had time to say “goodbye” and “thank you” to Patrick and Karen for all of their warmth, hospitality, and wonderful friendship all weekend long.  What was, on paper, a whirlwind weekend; was, in reality, a wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable time spent making new friends and lasting, treasured memories.
So… I think it’s fitting to say it here:  Thank you, Patrick.  Thank you, Karen.  Thank you for everything.  You are very dear to me in so many ways, and I’m proud to call you my friends.

Thank you, Mark, for organizing the event.  It was so wonderful to finally meet you after all this time.  I think it’s time for a GB:CHICAGO: My Kinda Town… (and of course you’re all invited. :))

And thanks to all the other bloggers I met– some I knew, some I didn’t: Brian, Matthew, David, Jase, Scott, Joe, Glenn, Sean, and other bloggers who I probably met once or twice, but whose blogs I can at least can link to. 🙂
Finally, I leave you with a little snippet of the New York action. I’ll add some photos to ‘accentuate’ this story in the VERY near future, but I just had to share this.

Is it 5:00 yet?

NYC Diary Pt. 2: Drenched and Drinks

Day 2 of the GB:NYC3 Event started with more of the same– rain.¬† But that didn’t deter the intrepid trio of Karen, Patrick and me from exploring the city in our special way.

Karen decided to take her umbrella, but Patrick and I, being “men”, I suppose, decided to leave ours home.¬† Bad decision.¬† Karen’t umbrella was just enough to cover herself… Patrick and I were left to soak.¬† Oh well, that’s what we get.

The first stop was brunch at Louie’s diner, a place a few blocks from Patrick’s pad on the Upper West Side.¬† After that we hit some stores and then headed toward Times Square.¬†

This was my third visit to Times Square, and I have yet to visit on a nice, cool, sunny day.  The first time it was hot as hell and sunny.  Made for nice pictures, but we just about died.  The second time, it was cold and rainy.  And this time it was muggy and rainy.  Seems the rain loves me in NYC. 

By the time we reached Times Square it was absolutely pouring, so we ducked into (of all things) the Toys ‘R’ Us store– mainly to find a bathroom.¬† Karen is a master at finding bathrooms in retail stores.¬† Sometimes she asks someone, but other times, she just has a radar built in that guides her directly to the door.¬† Love her for that.

After we emptied our bladders and took some pictures with the giant T-Rex (see my Fickr account for the full story in photos), we headed toward 7th Avenue, we were gawked at all the beautiful men (as if being in that particular location were going to stop us from gawking) and took photos of nearly-naked models at stores like Abercrombie and Fitch.  I thought we would lose Patrick a few times there.  At the very least, we would have to buy him new underwear.

We met up with Aaron Edwards a/k/a 1000 Words and More at the IBM Building atrium, with some of his Flickr friends.  It was nice to finally meet Aaron after all this time.  It was also nice to sit and rest a while.

We headed back to Patrick’s apartment to get ready for the nighttime excursions.¬† First stop was XL, a bar that I had visited with my friend Ellizzette in 2004, in Chelsea.¬† There we met Mark and Brian and David (Someone in a Tree) and had a few drinks to start out the night.¬† Afterward we headed over to Gym, a sports bar, for a few more drinks, then to Better Burger (which wasn’t all that much better than any other burger I’ve had, IMHO) before walking… and walking… and walking… and WALKING… to the Eagle for the next blogger meet and greet.

Now I have to confess something here.¬† When I heard that we were convening at the Eagle, I was a little nervous for Karen.¬† See, in Chicago, we also have an Eagle.¬† It’s a dark, dingy, and VERY cruisy leather bar, right next to (and attached to) Man’s Country, a sleazy bath house.¬† So yeah, I was a little concerned.¬† But the Eagle in New York is a huge place, with two floors and a rooftop deck.¬† Yeah it was dark and cruisy and all, but it was much more like a ‘typical’ bar than the one in Chicago.¬† Karen was just fine.¬† Not to mention, she was with her boys.¬† We took care of her.

This morning started with a walk through Central Park and trips to Greenwich Village, the Christopher Street Pier, and all spots in between.  Now Karen and I are resting while Patrick is at work, and getting ready for our last night together.  Sigh.

It’s been a wonderful, whirlwind weekend.¬† I’m so glad I did it.¬† I needed this trip.¬† Yeah I could use the money that I spent back in my pocket, but hey… you only live once.¬† So I’m just gonna live and love it.

Wish me a safe flight back. 🙂