Thursday, June 16, 2016

Loring Park Episode #60: May I Leave The Stage Now?

This episode begins at The Depot hotel, where my friend Julie, her boyfriend, and others and I went to IGNITE, a semi-annual event in which speakers get five minutes to talk about a topic close to their hearts. I learned about living on houseboats, endangered tigers, grief, the need for more women in STEM-related businesses, and the difference between racism and bias. I felt so smart! It was sponsored by SURLY beer, and I picked the lightest one. They also had food trucks and I had a delicious taco courtesy of Stanley's.


We have so much to talk about! So I'm going through this identity crisis, right? In which I realize that I was never all that good-looking to begin with, but any good looks I did have are, like ... gone. And that's okay. It's what aging is.

"You're not fat," Reid said to me. Reid told me that 35 is the happiest he has ever been because he stopped giving a shit. "You're filling out. You're looking, like, y'know, a thirty-year-old should look like."

Should a 30-year-old still be at the bar? People look at you much differently, and by that I mean they don't really look at you. There is one older man who hates me for some reason. I have no idea why. He walked by me once and brusquely said "Go eat something", and I was feeling fat so I took it as a compliment.

I haven't even entertained the thought of dating since that moment when everything shattered all at once, and that was well over a year ago. For a while I had a crush on Sven, the 20-year-old go-go boy, because it was safe and harmless. Or so I thought.

We have all been going to bingo on Wednesdays lately because at the '90s, it has been at the 60 number threshold FOREVER (bingo queens will know what I'm talking about). I like going because now I have my own postcards for the Sunday night show.

There is me next to Naysha Lopez and Robbie Turner! My sisters. But I am getting ahead of myself and going out of order.

On this night, that postcard wasn't there yet, but it was Brandonna's birthday! Brandonna is the show runner of the '90s who rescued my wallet at Sioux Falls Pride and insisted that I indulge in Taco John's. Anyway, I am a major fan boy for her. She gives me life like an EMT.

I am wearing Steve's shirt in this pic, btw

It was her birthday and I was excited to see her, and Christina Jackson, who was hosting the Wednesday amateur show.

Brandonna graciously introduced herself to Steve, Chuck, and me.

"Are you coming here for Pride?" she smiled. "We're having Robbie Turner and Naysha Lopez."
"Oh, when are you announcing that?" I asked.
"We already have," she said, still smiling. Oooops.
"I'm probably just gonna do The Saloon," Steve said.
Brandonna was still smiling because she is a goddamned professional, but I was absolutely mortified. It's like if someone came into my store and then loudly announced that they would rather be at Macy's. Then Chuck picked me up and Steve sent a Snapchat that made my butt look even bigger. Sigh.

We vamoosed to The Saloon to meet up with Joey. Sven was there in his underwear! He usually doesn't work Wednesdays. Hmm. I gave him a quick hug and thought nothing of it. I still have his tank top.

I had a conversation with Danny, Mr. FM 107.1 himself, about fame. I tried to sound humble and smart, two things I'm not very good at. I had a quick chit-chat with Joey and walked back to the bar. Oh, there was Steve. Oh, there was Sven.

Huh. Well, would you look at that.

I handled it very well. I quickly made a card with a napkin that expressed my happiness for this surprising new relationship. I used ketchup to dot my "i's" with red hearts and salt to convey glitter. I handed it to them with a smile and went back to Danny's bar, where Joey and I discussed our fantasy casts of Spring Awakening.

Oh, wait, no. Instead I FREAKED THE FUCK OUT.

I cut in between the two of them like a scorned lover at a sixth-grade dance and then I started to run home. Then I realized the run was going to be long and it was going to be kind of cold, so I tried to get back in the club. The muscular bouncer informed me I was "done".

This was all karma from the first night Jared and I moved in and I had judged him for getting kicked out of The Saloon on a Wednesday. Who would act in such a way to deserve such a fate? And now it was me. I had become that bitter cranky old man who couldn't control his liquor.

Then I realized that this could have meant I was blacklisted forever! I am having a show next month! It's supposed to benefit charity and pay performers and help me get out of debt! Have I completely ruined my career?

"Wait," I asked Muscles. "Am I banned forever or just for tonight?"
"Just for tonight," he said.
"Oh, okay," I said.

I called Chuck and Joey but they weren't answering their phones, and when they did, they would hang up after five seconds.

Finally, Chuck bartered with the bouncer and acted like a character witness to prove that I was a good and non-violent person.  Muscles seemed bored with the whole thing.

"Fine," he finally said. "I don't care."

It was not a good moment.

Chuck, Steve and I all went home in awkward silence. Chuck slept over and Steve worked early the next day. I was still riled up the next morning so I listened to Beyonce, but it was on YouTube so it was all slowed down and not the same thing. Instead of freaking out, I cleaned up all the cardboard that was all over our kitchen.

It was just like the video but not.


The following weekend was Grand Old Days, but I was retail slaving at the big fancy store. I had fun talking with a mom and her teenage son about the fact that my friend was promoting one of the stages and a Britney Spears impersonator from Vegas and reality TV was going to be there! She politely acted like she was interested.

After work, I was back at the '90s doing my little Sunday night gig (we watch porn, we talk to each other, we play Twister ... it's an intimate two hours of fun), when Brandonna walks in! Brandonna never comes in the men's room! She was with Chad and Matthew of Flip Phone. I fan-girled because I am all in for Brandonna.

Brandonna moved to her right, and behind her was DERRICK BARRY!!

He was as a boy and looks just like he does on the show. He is short and cute and was very pleasant. I was totally trying to act normal and I can barely do that with strangers. He later walked upstairs and met all the '90s queens. When I walked to The Saloon, Doug told me Derrick was there. He was absolutely pleasant to everyone who came up to him -- as was his boyfriend, fellow drag queen Nebraska Thunderfuck -- and I did the same thing I did when Bianca del Rio was at the bar, where I just felt uncomfortable about approaching him. Half of these gays who were dying to get pictures with him were the ones bitching every week that he needed to go home. Someone asked me who he was and THEN tried to get a selfie. That's show business for you. I shook his hand again right when Steve wanted to get a picture, because I am good at ruining moments like that.

The next day, Chad brought Nebraska and Derrick to my store to say hello. I still didn't get a picture because our company has a policy about that, even though technically they were there to say hi to me and not to buy anything.

"OhmygodImJakey," I said.
"I know," Derrick smiled. "I met you twice last night.'
"IswearImnotstalkingyou," I said.
"I've seen you three times," he smiled. "I'm the one that's been stalking you."

We talked about how Minnesota has no clothing tax, and then Nebraska laughed at me when I realized I was tearing up receipt roll paper the entire time I was talking. They were off to the log chute. We are all best friends now.

Also, he's like eight feet tall. Semper Fi, baby.


The boys and I went to bingo again and no one won the cover-all AGAIN! Ugggghhhh. Jared won $3, Mitchel won a few games, and Joey won the cover-all consolation.

While Steve and I had mainly been copacetic, he made a side comment about me being a cock-blocker, and the opera gloves were off, children!

"I said I was sorry about a thousand times," I said. "And I can't call dibs on every cute boy in Minneapolis, but that one I actually had a crush on and I get having a crush on a go-go boy ten years younger isn't the most logical thing in the world, but I had no idea you liked him and I was blindsided by it and it was a visceral reaction and I am not proud and --"

I would have kept talking into next week!

"Okay, Bad Girls Club," Jared said. "What next, you're gonna start clapping in threes?"

It really had very little to do with them and was rooted in my own stupid self-loathing, and it was unfair to them that they received the brunt of my anger and not myself.

The next night, I got to do stand-up at Corner Bar for a show called Pussy Ctrl, which is all WOMEN and empowered by WOMEN. It was a fantastic crowd because I got to talk about Donald Trump vs. Hilary *and* Colton Haynes vs. the boy from The Real O'Neals whose name I still don't know. I was surprised by how many people were there considering how nice it was outside.

The next night, I got to reunite with my friend DIVA! We went to high school together and while I went off to New York, she went the opposite route and had a great life in San Diego for her most of her twenties. She is back here now and we have been longing to reunite. While I assumed she would want to hang out at a "straight" club, I was pleasantly surprised when she was down for hanging out with me and Joey at The Saloon. We had a great time and I can't wait to make more summer memories with her.

                             ***Commercial Break *****

The next night our lives and worlds changed with the tragic event at Pulse in Orlando. I stayed at Joey's that night, with my phone on low battery, trying to get as much information as I could. Zach Lashway, a local reporter here at KARE 11, was up all night tweeting information as quickly as it came in. It absolutely shook me to my core. When I walked home the next morning, I was wearing my "SOME PEOPLE ARE GAY. GET OVER IT." shirt and felt self-conscious about it in a way I wouldn't have questioned just hours ago.

I was an hour late to work that day and left an hour early. Steve, Jared, and I went to the vigil in Loring Park. On the way, we ran into Brett, our tall bartender from The Saloon. He was embarrassed about crying. I assured him not to be. We got to the park and lit candles. There were dogs and people of all ages, creeds, and stripes. It still didn't feel real. I was cold and mainly thought about if I should stop home to get a hoodie. My candle wouldn't light up no matter how many times Jared used his lighter.

As the last speaker was wrapping up, my mother -- who I hadn't heard from all day -- called.

And that is when I just about freaking lost it. I couldn't help but think of the young man who texted his mother from the bathroom stall before he died, or the mother who drove to the club that morning trying to find her son. I couldn't shake the feeling that this could have been any of us, how Pulse in Orlando could have easily been The Saloon in Minneapolis, how the gay bar has long been our safe haven.

All of our insecurities and hang-ups and juvenile problems are all utter bullshit at the end of the day. When you are gay, you choose your own family. I was lucky enough to have both. Not everybody gets to have that.

I don't want to wrap this up with something lame and flowery, how we're all in this together or on we will go, because it is a fucking terrifying world out there. I will only offer that when we stay home, we are letting evil win. We still sent our children to school after Sandy Hook and went to church after Charleston.

My mother came over the next day to help re-decorate the living room and to put up a shower curtain for our upcoming Pride party.

I know there is a rainbow
For me to follow
To get beyond my sorrow
Thunder precedes the sunlight
So I'll be all right
If I can find my rainbow's end

I will be all right
If I can find that rainbow's end

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