Love JetBlue, but not the red eye from Ontario to JFK. Man oh man. It leaves at 11:59 p.m. and gets into NYC at 8:30 a.m., a wee five and a half hours later. It had been my foolish hope to get some sleep on the plane, but these hopes were dashed when I got the middle seat. And, on TBS they were showing back-to-back X Files episodes, so that distracted me for three of the five-and-a-half-hours. I spent two sort of trying out different positions and praying for sleep, and I think I might have actually managed to go unconscious for a minute or two. But then there we were, coming in to Terminal Six. I retrieved my Jeep from Long Term Parking, and headed home, down the Belt Parkway, across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, across Staten Island, 287 to 78, 78 to CR-513, and soon enough, my bleary eyes were taking in the lush greenery of Bucks County, such a huge change from the golden hills of California that had been awing me so recently.
Let me tell you, brothers and sisters, this was an amazing trip. It would be wrong to call it a "vacation," because there was nothing, certainly, that was being vacated. Just the opposite. Dark and airless crevices were filled with air and sunshine. During the past two weeks, despite circumstances and that painful, terrible loss back here in Pennsylvania, I came back to life.
I was reeling from the news of the situation with Faithful Companion in San Diego. The only thing I could do was Not Think About It. Or rather, plunge into it, let the grief wash over me, then climb out, dry myself off, and fill up time and attention with other things. It was startling to me how well this strategy worked. I spent an hour curled on the guest bed in Alpha's well appointed condo sobbing, then got up, went shopping, and made meatloaf and scalloped potatoes for Alpha and his beau, which we ate while we watched Barak Obama give his amazing speech in Minneapolis. And, whilst my meatloaf and scalloped potatoes were in the oven, I ran down the street to meet up with 'bastian for coffee! Such a great guy, and I'm not just writing that because I know he's a devoted reader. That brief hour was one of the highlights of my trip. (And maybe next time we meet I'll be wearing my big ol' Wesco harness boots for 'bastian to enjoy.)
And then, we were off to LA for the Dwell On Design conference, Alpha and I. We stayed at this newish boutique hotel called the Grafton On Sunset. Nice rooms, great pool. It reminded me a bit of what the Grammercy Park Hotel used to be, offering reasonable rates for its then-unrenovated rooms, mostly to music industry types.
The Dwell thing was great. I had the opportunity to quiz a couple of developer guys and architect guys about my ideas on pursuing a career in Construction Management. What I heard was helpful, but not particularly encouraging, along the lines of, "because of the economy, I just laid off fifteen people." Yikes. I've sort of had my fill of insecurities around unemployment.
But then the real blow came when I drove over to USC to have a sit down with the guy who ran their Masters in Construction Management program. He got right to the point: "What was your GPA?" Mine--2.8, I think--sure doesn't cut it with USC. He didn't ask about my work and my life in the twenty years since I earned those grades (Executive Director of a non-profit organization with a budget of $1.8 million, Chief-Of-Staff to a member of the New York State Senate), it was all about me missing my Probability And Statistics final exam when I was nineteen years old.
So basically, to get into USC, I'd have to come in with some really impressive GRE scores, particularly on the math portions.
That was not the answer I was looking for.
So I mulled this for a bit, then forgot about it all completely on Saturday, losing myself in touring contemporary residential architecture on LA's West Side.
Gotta tell you about Friday night.
So awhile ago, I ran across this profile on Recon. This guy had made the intriguing selection in his screen name of picking the name of the model and actor who was murdered by New York City art dealer Andrew Crispo back in the '80s. That got my attention. And it got his attention that I was able to identify the reference in his screen name right off the bat. Y'see, the Crispo murder was quite fascinating to fifteen year old me, and I have a good memory for detail. So he was in LA, and I was going to be in LA, so we agreed to meet up when I was in town.
And meet we did.
And it seems that this guy's artistic endeavors (he's a photographer and runs a gallery devoted to fetish art) and my obsessions dovetail quite closely. He's taken a lot of photographs--some of them downright iconic--of Mr. Tony Ward. When I saw the penultimate episode of Project Runway wherein Tim Gunn visits with Santino Rice in LA and Santino takes him to dinner with his friend Tony and Mr. Tony Ward opens the door to greet them, I think I actually did fall off my chair onto the floor. As far as I'm concerned, they don't come sexier than Tony Ward. At the gallery, I was shown the Tony Ward Toilet, the bathroom curated by Mr. Tony Ward himself, lined with candles and photographs of--and a couple of sketches by--Mr. Tony Ward. And I ended up buying two of them. I couldn't resist. Signed by the artist even.
So anyway, gallery owner guy expressed an interest in photographing me. To be sure, I was all in, exhibitionist ham that I am. And we were talking about my other obsession with nooses when he proposed that those be worked into the photos he takes of me, and I was cool with that. And it sort of grew and grew, so now, I'm going to make a point of being in LA in October, when he's going to have me as a model for a monthly sketch thing that that he does, and as a model of a monthly fetish photography thing that he does, and photograph me, and have me whip somebody at his October opening.
So there I am, in Hollywood, about a block off of Hollywood Boulevard, and there's this guy saying to me, "Baby, I'm gonna make you a star!"
It was my Lana Turner moment!
(Well, kind of.)
Beyond all the strokes to my ego, what a supercool way to get to know and be known by the BDSM community there in LA. October is a long ways away, and who knows what might go down between now and then, but I'm gonna do my best to make this happen.
So back to contemporary residential architecture.
Oh. And Alpha.
Y'know, Alpha and I spent a solid week together, and he seemed to enjoy my company as much as I enjoyed his. For the entire time! Now how often does that happen that I run across someone who not only can put up with me and all my stuff ("I'm taking a bath now. Be with you again in about an hour.") but who I can put up with, too!
And Alpha was just great as a companion on the Dwell Home Tour. We both found some of the design decisions in some of the homes to be a little questionable ("that window can only open four inches because it knocks up against the downspout"). One exception was a house designed by a firm that was something like 3W or W3 or WWW. It was absolutely flawless. And the architect was a great guy. And so was the landscape architect, who was also on-hand. We spent a good two hours going over that place. Just amazing.
And the last house of the day was pretty special, too. It was the Kappe House, designed by Ray Kappe and built in 1967, that is often described as the pinacle of "nature-friendly modernism." It was just too fukken amazing to be believed. I walked through it in a trance. Everything was just so perfect. Although there were all these sort of hideaway places. Like in one of the bathroom, there were what seemed to be a stack of towel bars going up the wall. But wait, those weren't towel bars, that was a ladder, leading up to a little platform under the skylight. Ray Kappe's kids clearly had a blast growing up in that house. And Alpha found it interesting that there were all these sort of built in day beds all over the place. "Clearly there were a lot of orgies that went on in this house. This would be perfect for orgies." And I thought I detected whiffs of that musty marijuana smell coming up from the green shag carpets. Pretty quickly, our minds went to the same same place. "So this past weekend, I went over to Ray Kappe's place. Joan Didion and Mick Jagger and Neal Cassidy and Joni Mitchell were there. We all smoked a lot of pot. And then we fucked." It was the Seventies, after all! What else did people do for fun? Especially if you were in the beautiful surroundings of the Kappe house.
Sunday, Alpha and I were feeling pretty lazy in the morning, so we decided to forgo the Dwell Home tour of loft spaces in Downtown LA. Instead, we headed down the hill to watch LA's Gay Pride Parade on Santa Monica. Our favorite float was by the medical marijuana people, featuring a drag queen with a watering can and a joint as big as a baseball bat. Alpha and I wondered if this was perhaps the Controlled Substances contingent of the parade, and eagerly awaited the Crystal Meth float--millions of pieces of glitter individually glued in place by hand!--but no, other narcotic indulgences went uncelebrated.
We had to cut out early because I was eager to get on with the third leg of my trip, heading off to Palm Springs, even though that would mean parting company with Alpha. As we walked back to the car, I noticed some interesting things about cruising while wearing sunglasses. If you're cruised by some guy wearing sunglasses and you're not wearing sunglasses, it's a little unnerving, because you're not really sure if you're being cruised or not. But if you're wearing sunglasses and you're cruising someone whose not, that can make things awfully interesting, particularly if the guy you're cruising is a cop on duty at the LA Gay Pride Parade. But what's really cool is two guys wearing sunglasses cruising each other, because there's that moment when both of you just know that you're cruising each other, even without being able to see one another's eyes. That totally rocks.
Alpha drove me to Ontario Airport where I rented a car, a silver Jeep Laredo. It was enormous, and with the crappy site-lines I remember from the Jeep Grand Cherokee that I used to drive. Alpha and I said our fond farewells, and I got back on the 10 heading towards Palm Springs.
Ah, Palm Springs. No matter how you enter the Coachella Valley, it's always magical. Either coming over the mountains on that windy road from San Diego with all the little switchbacks and hairpin turns, or on the 10, which takes you right through the wind farm and all those way out of proportion huge turbines. But there it is, an oasis in the middle of the desert, green and glimmering.
During my time, I stayed at the Chaps Inn. I highly recommend the Chaps Inn. Not because of the St. Andrew's Cross standing poolside, not because it's clothing optional, and not because it's walking distance to Koffi, the great coffee place. All those things are important, sure, but what totally blew me away was that of all the clothing-optional gay resorts I've stayed at, and I've been to a few, this one was by far the cleanest. I mean, it was spotless. Scrubbed and polished. With clean soft white sheets on the bed and clean soft fluffy towels hung in the bathroom. And the hosts, Ian and Stewart, are really sweet guys. Just delightful.
As usual, I spent an inordinate amount of time sitting and drinking iced lattes and observing. And thinking things through. Particularly that question of What The Hell Am I Going To Do With The Rest Of My Life? I did make a trip out to a zoo and botanical garden called the Living Desert. And that was pretty special. There were these two roadrunners who were having a good time teasing the coyotes, jumping down from the walls of the enclosure and pretending to be all like "Oh la-di-dah, here I am just minding my own business and not paying any attention at all to the fact that I'm in the middle of the coyote enclosure at the Living Desert. And when one of the poor coyote would take note and come closer, the roadrunners would fly up over the fence.
I swear! Chuck Jones didn't have to look too far for inspiration for that Warner Brothers great. Like, Meeep-meeep! No discarded Acme Explosives Co. boxes were in sight. I think if I worked at the Living Desert I'd have that.
But my days in Palm Springs were pretty blissful. I'd get up without the alarm, go out and sunbathe for a bit, take a swim in the pool, enjoy a nice, long bath, decide where to go for breakfast, plan out my day.
On my second night there, I had this amazing dream. In the dream, I had been given two months to live. Something in my guts. I was working with the Baron to wrap things up in the time I had left to me, dividing the proceeds from the sale of my worldly goods between animal rescue operations and the library of the small, Roman Catholic liberal arts college in Reading, Pennsylvania where I earned that 2.8 GPA way back when. I was leaving them money so they could buy some books on the subject of reconciling Roman Catholic moral theology and homosexuality. The Baron was great about everything. And I was at peace with the situation. Focused and clear-headed. Not taking on too much but just making sure I did all I was able to do in the time I had left to me.
I awoke filled with love and gratitude to the Baron, off in Pennsylvania, minding my house if not my dog, having been relieved of the latter responsibilities by Fortune.
And then an idea took shape.
Not two months, but two years.
In two years, I would set out to accomplish the following:
A.) Learn to weld. And get really good at it.
B.) Get LEED certification.
C.) Master AutoCAD.
D.) Get my California Contractor's License (one of the recommendations that I got from a guy I talked to at the Dwell conference).
E.) Get my Construction Management certificate.
And then, two years down the road, when (it is to be hoped), the economy has picked up some, I'll be prepared to go out there and make a living doing something I enjoy doing, whether that be working for someone else, or setting up my own business. And I'm going to tackle those goals living in Palm Springs, California. A place where I'm always happy. A place where I'll pull over to the side of the road and spend a half an hour watching how the sun going down behind the Sandia Mountains turns the whole sky this beautiful pale purple. A place where it's blazing hot but with only five percent humidity. A place where, from my first visit, I thought, "I could move here tomorrow."
And another thing that, thinking back on it, speaks in Palm Springs' favor.
It was my intention while I was there to get laid. And I managed to do that, but just barely on my last night there. But I met up with this really amazing former Marine for breakfast on Monday morning, felt my heart pounding in my chest with desire when I was introduced to this smoking hot russian man visiting from San Francisco and had that desire reciprocated, and finally, spent a night of carnal extravagance with a man who six years ago got off a bus in Palm Springs with no job, no car, and no money, but who quickly felt himself to be welcomed and embraced by the Coachella Valley and has made a home here and can't see himself living anywhere else in the country. (And he had a great dog, too; a beautiful rhodesian ridgeback, the coming of whom into his life was foretold to him in a dream.)
See what I'm saying?
Meeting these great guys. And not in a stupid Omigod!-You're-The-One!-It's-You-And-Me-Forever! kind of way, and not men who were kinda okay but since I don't seem to have any other options I guess I'll settle for, but really solid, mature, grown-up men with wisdom to impart and each with his own story that I want to hear.
Now don't get all excited. I haven't just come back here to pack a bag and head west. I'm unbelievably unencumbered, but I do have Stuff To Take Care Of. Like the sale of this house and all.
But hey, what better place to start a new life for myself than California, a place which exists for the purpose of starting a new life.
Everything will be all right.
And so here I am. Tonight I'll be sleeping in my own little bed. Tomorrow I head up to NYC to play three games of softball. Walking in the door and not having Faithful Companion come out to greet me was the hardest thing. And just now, when I thought, "time to get ready for bed," it dawned on me that for the first time in twelve years, that wouldn't mean heading out into the night to take Faithful Companion for his walk would be the last thing for the day.
So there you have it. Clarity. Mourning. Peace. Hope. All the rich and multifarious complexity of life. Of any life worth living at any rate. And mine is definitely worth living.