Friday, July 10, 2015

Loring Park Episode #53: So Sioux Me

Previously on Loring Park (Adjacent) ...

Jakey and Jared moved to their new home across town.

June was such a busy month! Summer is meant to be that way, I suppose. We are enjoying our new house and new adventures. I ended up bonding with the upstairs neighbor, but she moved. I am hoping for frat boys.


I had a nervous breakdown.

Before you all get nervous and worried, I should specify that I did it in the parking lot of a hospital, where I was going to have my butt looked at. I had stayed at my mom's house the night before, and she didn't wake me up. She had no reason to wake me up because the appointment was at 2 P.M. and I am 28.

I called to get my appointment delayed by half an hour. When I showed up there I was bordering on being late. Also, I wasn't wearing any underwear because I was staying at my mom's house, and I was worried about being sweaty. This was a big deal because they were going to be pulling my pants down.

I walked into the medical center in Maple Grove, realized I didn't know where to go, walked back to the parking lot, called my mother to yell at her (as if that would somehow solve everything), then sat on a bench and kept bawling.

A nurse in a yellow sweater walked by and asked if I was okay. Since this place also had an oncology center, she assumed I had received "bad news". There was no bad news. I just had to have my asshole looked at and I didn't know where to go in this big building, and I overslept, and my phone never works and that's why I can never make an appointment with a therapist and Lord knows I should be on Xanax by now ...

...She very calmly walked me to my appointment, up two floors to an elevator and dropped me off at the station. I realized I didn't have my wallet but they let me sign in anyway. After the appointment was done, my wallet was on the outside of my car but nobody had stolen it. God is real, children.

Yellow is the color of calm and all that is real. Rosie O'Donnell has written essays about yellow, how it was all of those things that fame took away from her. I tweeted her about the nurse. "Nurses r the best," she wrote back. My mother is a nurse. This is perhaps not a coincidence.


The next Friday was pay day, and I reunited with my friend Julie! She was on her way back from a business trip in San Francisco and she and her boyfriend Adam came to my house for Thai food. "Did you know you live just 3.7 miles from the best Thai restaurant ever?!" she exclaimed. They were delayed, which was unfortunate, since my parents were at The Saloon to help my friend Greta in her fundraiser for an AIDS bike ride.

After a few glasses of wine, we headed to The Saloon where I just missed my parents! This is the life. Adam was generously buying me a few drinks, and next thing I knew I felt the need to change shirts with everyone.

 It was all fun and games until I lost my keys. Even though I wear them on a lanyard and I get made fun of for that all the time. I cannot have nice things. I didn't notice they were gone until I was in the cab with Julie, Adam, and a boy with a bun. Then we had to bang on the door and wake up Jared, who was not a happy camper. I wasn't a happy camper, either, but then me and the boy with the bun went, erm, camping. We, um, pitched a tent or two.

"How old are you?" I said while we were making out.
"24," he smiled. "How old are you?"
"Like I'm gonna tell you," I said, and then I took his pants off.

The next morning when you're naked in front of someone is rather liberating. Julie and Adam left in his car, and Julie let me drive her car to work. (And we had to drop off my trick. Who lives above a coffeehouse. My very first hipster. I should cross it off a list. He would cut off the bun a week later. I felt like Delilah. The one from the bible, not the lady I like on the radio who would not approve of a story so salacious.) After my shift was over, I picked up Julie in her car and she drove Jared and I to Big Louie's to play bingo. Julie lives in Apple Valley. I am nominating her for canonization.

Not only did we fail at bingo (which was a 60-number coverall), but Loretta, irate about my lost keys, read me for pure unadulterated filth.

"I don't go out in public and get drunk and take my shirt off and trade clothes with people!" she cried. "If I did that everyone would think I was a big idiot!"
"No, they wouldn't," I said. "You'd be the life of the party. Like, 'oh, that Loretta. She is so wacky.'"
Loretta was not having it. I had as much luck swaying her opinion as I did winning at bingo. I haven't won in forever. My gambling addiction has been about as fruitful as my alcoholism.

I was lucky enough to attend The Reapies, which is like the Emmys for local comedy. It was my fourth consecutive year of not being nominated for anything. I still had a good time. This is Rana May, who told me that I am a stupid little baby. I enjoy her immensely. A comic who is almost 7 feet tall named William Spottedbear suggested I jumped on his shoulders. I did, and then I totally strained that spot where my pectoral muscles are supposed to be. Comedy is all about pain.


My uncle Ander got married!

Ander is my mom's youngest sibling. He's 40, but a young 40. His wife Megan is my age, and her brother is dating Victor! It is a small world amongst the gays of our lives. Ander and I used to be roommates before I moved to Loring Park and began a life of decadence and disarray.

The wedding was held in rural Wisconsin and I was supposed to leave with my mom, but I slept late (shocking!), so I left with my dad and we were almost late. We didn't get lost until the very end.

"All I know is we have to pass Milltown," he said as we drove by a sign for the small town.
"Maybe I will find a boy from Milltown," I said optimistically. "Doesn't that sound like a musical? The Boy from Milltown."
"Son, I'm sure if anyone from Milltown is on your team, they left years ago," my father said.

The wedding was very Pinterest-y. It was held in a barn and inspirational sayings were everywhere. Since Ander and Megan are both interpreters for the deaf and hearing-impaired, when they walked out, the audience surprised them by signing "I Choose You" by Sara Barielles. Everyone cried. I stood next to my 16-year-old cousin Natalie and even she enjoyed it, although she had her arms crossed the whole time because that's how 16-year-old girls are genetically programmed to be posing. I think it goes away at 18 or 19.

Everyone got their own jar with their initials on it to drink beer or wine out of. Thankfully for my space cadet self, there were about 10 "J"s so it didn't matter if I lost mine. My cousin Brendan didn't fare as well because there weren't as many "B"s and he insisted on only having a "B" if it was blue, because blue and Brendan go together and red and Brendan do not.

Victor is a licensed massage therapist so he pushed down on my pec in hopes to make it feel better. It still hurt like a mofo, but he explained the muscles had to release fluid or something. Then Megan's brother graciously let me use his blazer because I was cold. I loved the shirt I was wearing, though. It was a Todd Snyder flannel design that retailed for $195 and I got it for $12.

How gorgeous are my aunt, uncle, and Loretta???

That dog is me at every wedding.

Anyway, I had too much cheap wine!! I got so sick in the bathroom when the wedding was over (and so did my mother). We regrouped enough to head to a bar close to the hotel. We were in Wisconsin so that meant that the bride's 12-year-old brother got to be in the bar with us, and I joked all night that he had a drinking problem.

"I am having a lemon drop," I said. "Richie, what are you getting?"
"Are you really buying me one?" he asked with wide, hopeful eyes.
"No, Richie," I cried. "God."

Also, there was a real Auntie Debby at the wedding!! I tried to photograph what she wrote in the guestbook but my phone wasn't getting service. She was a hoot.

The next day, my parents ventured to Turtle Lake Casino, where I lost $60 (I was winning on the Clue machine but then I had to go get more money and when I came back some dude was there with his wife). I was in a bad mood about it until I got carded at the ATM.

"Sorry, sir," said the guard, "But we have Family Day now and I have to card anyone that looks under 21."

I handed him my ID.

"1986?" he cried. "Well, shit. Keep doing what you're doing."

On the way back, I wanted to take my picture on the green chair that said "Life is great on Highway 8" but my stomach really hurt and even though my mom had pulled over, I was bitchy and crabby and told her I didn't want to do it. I immediately felt shame and regret about it. Life is so damn short. Why did I care about my stomach or how crappy I looked? It would have been a moment for her. I re-learn every day that life is fleeting and short, and I should stay in the moment.


The Thursday before South Dakota, I went to play bingo with Charlie at The Eagle. Charlie got hit on by a Marine who saw me and then offered a pity, "Oh, you're cute, too." Also, Charlie won twice! He dropped me off at The Saloon. You will be shocked to discover that two days before I was to leave town, I lost my fucking cell phone in a taxi cab for the 500th time.


I went to the T-Mobile at Mall of America where an employee with biceps the size of my head suggested that I just get a cheapie $30 phone since I lose my phone so much.

"Thankyousomuch," I said. "ImgoingtoSouthDakotaandIdontwanttogetstuckinthewoods." I continued this rapid speech the entire time because I was worried about my phone AND nervous because he looked like Mr. October.

"You're weird," he whispered with a smile and that is when I knew marriage was imminent.

Before my trip, it was time to discover my sexuality! The Saloon was hosting an event called THE TANK. This was the dress code:

Dress Code: Leather, Neoprene, Latex pants, chaps, harnesses, gear, jackets, boots, shorts, boots, military/police/fire/construction uniforms, flight suits, western wear, athletic gear/sportspack, western wear, or punk/skin gear. Also acceptable: Black or blue jeans with solid white, grey or black t-shirt or NO SHIRT!

I did the most perfectly natural thing, which was to buy a child-size cop uniform from Amazon. I met up with Charlie and Brian. Brian is CRAZY, but in a way that is genuine and not manufactured, and therefore I enjoy him despite his occasional bits of Kleptomania.

On the way in I ran into Esquire, who was on his way to Jetset with a paramour. "Why are you dressed like that?" he asked incredulously. "Are you trying to get into the tank?"

The tank is in a separate part of the bar and is an additional $5 entry, and that is when the dress code comes in. I felt nervous but also inspired. I had been talking to Rocky a lot about it. Rocky is really big into the leather scene and has been very welcoming about anybody who wants to be on the road to a kinky, sex-positive lifestyle. While I am neither kinky nor sex-positive, I would still like to think I'm down for a good time.

Charlie and Brian were not willing to go in the tank. "I'll just strip you," said Charlie, and then we pretended to be Terri Runnels and Trish Stratus in a bra and panties match. "Bra and panties! Bra and panties!" Charlie can come off as effete but he is still 6'3" and has oven mitts for hands and does not always know his own strength.

Amidst my pleas, Brian agreed to go in the tank with me. He was wearing a fur wrap over a tank top. When we got to the black curtain, the bouncer told him he had to take his shirt off when he entered. He rolled his eyes and said he would. He totally didn't. I was getting kind of frustrated. It's not that Brian has body issues (he's 21 and bangin'). If I was going to leave my comfort zone, couldn't my companion do it, too?

I still enjoyed myself. Also, that kid-size cop's uniform was made for a BIG kid, because a jockish man who was 6'1" and 210 (yes, I asked) tried it on and it fit him as well as it did me.

It was very sweaty, and there was a mix of body types -- from morbidly obese to porn-star chiseled. And I loved that, really, because that's the essence of an event like that. You are who you are, born naked. Later, on the porch, I talked with Rocky and a former Mr. Leather Twin Cities.

"I don't do this as a sex thing," I said. "I just want to be a goofball. Like, this is my outfit --"
"It's your gear," said Mr. Leather. "No matter what you're doing, it's your gear."

I have to miss the next Tank event, but I did enjoy myself. Maybe next time I'll do an athlete. Gear. Athlete gear. Not an actual athlete. Although a girl can dream.


After cop duty, it was time for my excursion to Sioux Falls Pride!!!

I was booked on this show on an entire whim. I had met a dear man at Lawrence's after-Pride party last year and I told him I was a comedian. He told me he was in charge of Sioux Falls Pride. I'm sure we both completely doubted the other. Turns out, neither of us were bullshitting and that is how a Minneapolis comedian gets booked for Sioux Falls Pride. Let's rock and roll.

I didn't realize how long the drive there was. The same thing happened when I drove to Duluth three years ago. Also, I was stressed because I hadn't planned any of my sets (I was to do a show in the park in the afternoon and then a show at night at the after-party -- look at my name up above in Size 10 font!). I had this stupid tiny janky phone that only worked when the Wi-Fi was on, and I knew there would be limited Wi-Fi on the four and a half hour trip.

We'll talk about this new obsession of mine next week, but I listened to Christian radio for part of the way. The show was called Up for Debate, because the gist of it is that they take a topic and have two different points of view expressed. I would later learn once gay marriage became the law of the land that not everything is up for debate. Anyway, on this show the topic was yoga! Apparently, you can't be a Christian if you do yoga because you are chanting to Hindu gods. The counterpoint was a woman who made a yoga DVD that is Scripture-centered, so instead of chanting you pray or cite Scripture. I found it all very interesting until Marilyn from Indiana called and somehow compared homosexuality to pedophilia. Fuck you, Marilyn. I was so upset I wanted to immediately pull over and do a downward dog until I was able to relax.

Did I mention it was a long drive? When I finally made it to Albert Lea, I had convinced myself that it would mean I was almost there. The next sign I saw informed that Sioux Falls was 176 miles away.

"AAAAAGGGHHHHH!!!" I screamed at the top of my lungs, not realizing that it could mean my voice could give out before performing. "WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY?"

I found a random mix CD called "Songs About Leaving", which I knew I had made after my sophomore year of UW-Stout when I would be leaving to New York -- a decision that I had always felt was made for me. I mean, yes, by me, but if I would have had it my way I would have stayed at Stout. It's a long and complicated story that is mainly water under the bridge, but it is why my relationship with my mother was terribly strained for many years. We didn't like each other until I was 24. She will deny that because she's my mom, but I'm the son so I'm allowed to say that from 2000-2010, we mixed as well as Dorinda Medley and hard liquor.

Anyway, I had forgotten what songs were on there. One was "It Ends Tonight", which I used when The UW ended. Before Loring Park, there was The UW. It was on a LiveJournal and most of it is private, but I was always happy writing it. My biggest crush in those days was COREY COOPER. He had jet black hair and olive skin and dimples and was just really quiet and smiled a lot. Some people think my love of broskis was a new thing just because there were two that I developed really strong feelings for, but the broski thing was always there. Blame Wisconsin. I randomly saw Corey at Big Louie's playing bingo a few weeks ago. He's still dreamy and smiley. Life is a circle, kids.

So as I drove into the middle of nowhere, a song came on that I hadn't heard in years. And I don't know what happened, but I just had a moment. Where was Nurse Tori when I needed her?

In those years I would make mix CD's for my friends upon graduation or birthdays. On one of them, Loretta insisted I put in the song "My Wish". "It is for the young people in my life," she said. And while at that time I resented that I couldn't see her the way my friends did, I was able to appreciate that now. At the time I thought her words of encouragement -- when offered -- were empty, as if being said to check a box because that's what parents were supposed to say. And here I was, a three-time college dropout, still being financially supported on the edge of 30, and still constantly losing my keys/wallet/cell phone, and yet I was driving four and a half hours to do something that people thought I was actually good at, and I was going to be paid for it. For a brief moment I let myself think that maybe I wasn't a total fuck-up and I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, and it just took me a few extra years to realize that, y'know? Like my parents could almost be proud of me. Give it another year or two and I could really be somebody. I got here on my own.

I got to Sioux Falls about 30 minutes before show time. The Pride Festival was held in a residential neighborhood. I couldn't parallel park to save my life. I almost found a spot but the license plate was a certain person's birthday and I didn't want to look at it. I ended up parking in a corner and getting a $15 ticket. Thanks for making a girl feel welcome, Sioux Falls. I hope you use that money for a Planned Parenthood.

Ivan, the promoter, quickly called me and retrieved me in a golf cart! I arrived behind the stage and was immediately greeted by a giant python (one of the queens, Veronica Kennedy, was going to do an "I'm A Slave 4 U" number).

I did a 10-15 set in the park, and I was nervous. The audience was mainly lesbians and children. Not only did I not want to repeat myself in case people were going to be at the post-party, but I just NOW realized that this meant I couldn't work entirely blue, or even a shade of light blue. I told one joke about confusing lube with Purel. "Because you can't use lube to wash your hands," I said. "That would be sticky. That is all I meant, children."

Ivan got me a hotel room at the Holiday Inn and I later learned that I was supposed to emcee the rest of the show. OOOOOOOPS. I will never work in this town again. I hopped onto a golf cart with Ivan and a young muscular boy named Brandon who is, like, not Amish but whatever comes after Amish. He is literally going to live in a colony later this year and stay there forever. You can't make this stuff up.

I arrived to ICON lounge for the after show, in my new Topman button-up and dress pants. On the way, a Vietnam veteran asked me for money. I didn't have any. I just sheepishly said 'Hello' without making eye contact. He swore. I felt like shit. About myself. About the world. About John Thune, whose office he was sitting outside of.

I got to the backstage area and didn't have deodorant!! Veronica Kennedy graciously let me use hers and her perfume. My friend Kamaree Williams was there and we were going to do a lip-sync number at the end. I had wanted to do "Infinity" by Mariah Carey, but she didn't learn it so three days before hand she asked if we could do "Up Out My Face" by Mariah and Nicki Minaj instead. In retrospect, it was a much better choice, as it's actually a duet.

I got up there and did some jokes. The stage was set up like a runway, so it was hard for the audience to hear me -- and also, this was the pre-show. I was the pre-show for the after-show. So half the audience was, understandably, filing in and not paying attention to the strange little man onstage. Once I walked closer to the end of the stage I did better. Then I started bombing. I had more fun when I stopped doing "jokes" and just talking to the audience. Normally I loathe crowd work but in a venue like this, I think it was better. If only half the audience is going to listen to you (through no fault of their own), it's best to be talking to them, not at them. I found out one woman in the audience was a nurse and after every joke that went awry, I asked her what signs were for a stroke or a heart attack.

Finally, it was time for Kamaree and I to do our number! I still hadn't quite got the second verse down. Veronica Kennedy, who I should really sent a muffin basket to, showed me the classic drag queen trick. "A lot of thissssss," she said, spreading her gloved hands across her face.

Kamaree came out in a BANGIN' outfit. The cute, heterosexual DJ started playing. He did one line and the CD just stopped. Not even skipped. Just fucking stopped. The crowd gasped. I, the "professional" comedian, was at a loss for words.

"This would have never happened in Minneapolis," I quipped.

Wrong choice. They BOOED.

"I'm teasing!!" I yelled. "Where you from?" I asked the cute DJ. "Pierre?"
"Webster," he smiled.
"Webster," I said. "That was my next guess. We'll get through this, you guys. Breathe in Sioux Falls, breathe out Sioux City. Where the hell is Sioux City?"
"Iowa!" the crowd yelled.
"Oh, well, fuck Iowa," I said.

THEN THEY BOOED AGAIN. Did you know Sioux Falls borders Iowa? I sure didn't. #geography

Kamaree came back out, they fixed the CD, and she was the Nicki to my Mimi. It's on her Facebook page if you're lucky enough to be friends with her (I think it's on mine, too, but I post 85 times a day and you gotta dig for it).

After my number was up, I was ready to relax! Justin and Sebastian were fellow volunteers and they let me sit in their VIP group. The drag was amazing. Brandonna Dupri LaReese was the emcee and I would watch her read the phonebook. Alexis Mateo was the headliner and she didn't disappoint. Kamaree did an errant split and scraped the shit out of her leg. I will never be a drag queen, but I'm lucky enough to be at a point in my "career" in which I do these drag-centric shows, because I learn so much from them: How they feed off the crowd, how they completely own their stage, how they color-coordinate. Also, Brandonna's drink of choice is SoCo Lime with a pickle juice chaser. Ewwwwwwwww.

I wasn't super proud of my performance, but while working the room I got wonderful compliments from a lesbian couple who came all the way from the reservation. "I laughed my tattooed make-up off," said one of them. "I am the strangest butch femme you will ever meet." I neglected to tell her that I live with Jared Jordan.

After the show, I ended up talking with Justin's family for a bit, and even unsolicitedly gave parenting advice to his oldest sibling. Because when you have teenagers, you want advice from a 28-year-old with no kids.

Justin and Sebastian went to drop Alexis Mateo off at the Hyatt while Ivan, Brandon and I walked to the Holiday Inn. I locked arms with Brandon like I could. We ended up spotting four heterosexuals on a double date outside a pizza parlor at 2:30 A.M. I guess you can do that in Sioux Falls. I convinced them that Brandon was my ex-boyfriend but we were trying to work things back out.

"You should," said a lovely young woman. "You look so cute together." If she only knew. Brandon spoke about 40 words the entire trip, which is why we were a match made in heaven. If not heaven, then surely Sioux Falls.

We went back to the hotel at 3 A.M. On the way, I ran into these ladies who enjoyed me:

Aren't they flipping gorgeous? And who knew my new demo would be South Dakota lesbians?!

Ivan promptly fell asleep (not that I blame him -- boy was working his ass off) and Justin texted me to come to Brandonna's room. There, I mingled with Justin, Sebastian, Brandonna and Shae Shae LaReese. Everybody got Taco John's and I was shy and coquettish and acted like I didn't want anything.

"BABY," Brandonna said with a thick Southern accent. "You need to eat or you're gonna be hung over in the mornin'." Then I ate all of the potato rounds.

Everyone spilled T about bookings and how much Drag Race girls get paid and I soaked all of it in like it was drag queen sunshine.

The next morning, Ivan asked us for a later check-out and I enjoyed the pool and hot tub. Then he, Sebastian, Justin and I prepared to go to a nearby casino in Iowa to enjoy the buffet and some gambling. First, we stopped in the park so I could see the actual falls of Sioux and get an impromptu history lesson from the boys.

We had almost left Sioux Falls when Brandon texted Ivan and asked what we were doing. "Does this mean I'm invited?" he asked.

"Tell him he needs to be ready," Justin cried. "I'm starving."

"I think Brandon and I broke up last night,"  I said. "I hope this doesn't get awkward."

We picked up Brandon and he was as tall and dreamy and strangely quiet as ever.

Grand Falls Casino is on the Iowa/South Dakota border. South Dakota didn't want a big casino so Iowa pulled a "fuck you" and built one. We got into the parking lot and Ivan told us all to get our ID's. Brandon forgot his at home. God damn, Brandon. No wonder we can't get married.

Still, the champagne buffet was delicious. I had thirds and fourths.
"I love that in the Midwest everything is a 'salad'," Sebastian noted. He was right except for something called Mandarin Orange Fluff, some kind of imitation jello that they didn't even try to make pretty.

Ivan continued to be incredulous that Brandon was going back to the colony. "What happens if they find you with a boy?" he asked.
"There will not be boys like that," he said.
"What if you go to the woods or something?" I asked.
"They don't have woods," he said.
"What if you and a guy friend just, y'know, go to your room for a little bit?" Ivan asked.
"Please socialize about something else," Brandon said tersely. We changed the subject, but I still couldn't believe how surreal and sad the whole thing was. You can't make this stuff up.

I lost $60 at the casino. God damn, South Dakota. Any money that I was paid went to my mother for a car payment and for a new phone -- my co-worker sold me an old one.

Here is a picture of me and Tan Man taken right before I participated in a podcast called This Drug Called Life. Being photographed next to him did nothing for my self-esteem. It was already kind of going downhill because we were at Jetset and Dennis told me I was the token old man in all my pictures, and a week later at The Saloon, Jack had told me I would be so much better-looking if I gained ten pounds. I think I did gain ten pounds, just not in the good way. Look at that muffin top. Also, that is not a boner but a 5-hour energy drink, despite what some people wrote on Facebook. My friend Christopher Plakut told me "If you were any skinnier, you would fall out your asshole" and I think I want that on my epitaph.

Next week: We host the Pre-Pride party! And accidentally host the after-Pride party! OH NO.

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