This is to the Orlando shooter and any more like him.  I want you to understand why I hate you.

I am  an older straight woman nearing retirement age (though there will be no retirement for me), and these were my gay friends, though there may have been many more I didn’t even know about since I am old enough to remember when no one dared even talk about it.

Carl – I met him and his straight friend in a record store where I worked in Oklahoma in the early 1970s.  He was a lighthouse for me and I imagine me for him because we were nearly alone in our musical leanings.  He was younger than me and still in high school. He had more personality than nearly anyone else I would ever meet, was the most entertaining person to be around, uniquely hilarious.  Despite that, he dropped out of high school early because of bullying.  He was kind of on the highway to hell because bullying makes you angry and I came along and took him under my wing and he became the little brother I never had.  I saw his wonderfulness clearly.  I could never understand why some could not. I told him he had a unique gift and that I believed in him and that he should be a performer of some kind and even paid for a class.  Years later, when he and I dressed up and went to a gig or club, there was something so right that sometimes when we entered, people would actually applaud.  His was the largest funeral I’ve ever attended.

I moved into an apartment complex that was mostly gay men during the ’80s.  Some of them would become long-term friends.  I would often be the only woman at the swimming pool, and we would make a day of it.  Maybe one would make cocktails and bring to the pool while I brought some ceviche.  We’d bring the silliest inflatables we could find. Among those I met there were:

Tim – He lived in my same unit.  He was so cute that I wished he wasn’t gay and so friendly, and such a good cook.  Tim was very inclusive and would invite me to parties through the 1990s, and take me to gay bars, where guys would shout at me, “Work him, honey.’ We’d share recipes and cook for each other while his white kitty laid on her white fur coat.  We went to the fair with each other and had a moment on the ferris wheel stuck at the top while the fireworks went off.  We bought each other the same big spaghetti pot for our birthdays.

David  – I only knew him for a season or two at the apartments, but it was memorable.  He was a very good looking guy, though not very tall, who had been so popular in his school days that he would escort the homecoming queen.  He was so personable and conversational that I could just sit around the pool and talk to him for hours.

Steve – Also my apartment neighbor, I met Steve and his partner when I had to move a piece of furniture and needed them to open their door to get it in my door.  From that point on, he was just all over me to be friends.  He even told me he always wondered about me and noticed me because of how I did my hair and dressed in the flashy rock clothes.  We loved to visit after I got home from work and have a drink or two.  I remember once he snuck over because his partner had cautioned him not to get carried away and spill wine or something.  So yes, he was sneaking around on his partner to come have a glass of wine with me and talk.  One time he had dropped by while I was trying a pepper puree to serve with asparagus.  Not a whole meal, just an experiment.  He thought it was the greatest thing.

Years later, when I was in a major depression and isolating, he would lure me to his new apartment across town by telling me he was miserable with hemorrhoids and needed me to go to the drugstore for him.  So I went and asked the pharmacy what I should get, and one of the things was colloidal oatmeal.  It’s a packet you put into a tepid bath that is supposed to be comforting.  So I took the stuff to his apartment.  He was in the kitchen and offered me a drink, told me I had to stay for a drink at least, if not dinner, which he was cooking.  I went and got the tepid bath ready for him and poured in the colloidal oatmeal.  It looked like a cat barfed in the tub. Then I told him his bath, such as it was, was ready, and he dutifully went and got into it.  Then he finished dinner and fed me the best chicken and vermouth sauce I’ve ever had before he’d let me leave. I realized some time later he did all that simply to get me out of the house, away from my depression.  He knew I wouldn’t do anything unless someone said they needed me.  So he got into that nasty water just to save me, not the other way around.

Mr. French – was one of my high school teachers.  I had no idea what gay was back then.  No one talked about it.  But he was kind of flamboyant and entertaining and used to sometimes lay on his desk propping his head up with his elbow while he lectured to us.  One day Mr. French stood between my desk and my nemesis’s desk. She was a cheerleader and her minions were always trying to bully me so it was tense between us.  Mr. French one day, and I choose to believe it was intentional, stood between our desks and farted. Then he went back to the front of the room and watched while the pressure built in both of us teenage girls, with our heads lowered and struggled not to laugh until at one point we both snuck a peek at each other to see if the other heard, and the lid came off the pot, thus defusing a long-standing tension between the two of us.

Chris – One of Carl’s partners.  He was the kindest person.  He loved animals and loved gardening and loved and would never hurt Carl. And because Carl loved me, he loved me too.

Joe – We worked together in a record store in the early ’70s . We used to talk about both buying motorcycles and going up north to hear Lou Reed.

Stuart – I had a big crush on Stuart in the very early 1970s in my hippie days and pursued him.  I’d seen him first at a hippie bar and he alone was wearing colorful clothes and stood there so good looking that I had to go up and talk to him.  He was one exotic creature.  One time by chance we both ended up on the same floor crashing after hitchhiking separately to the same city.  His jealous lover watched me like a hawk all night long.  The next time I’d see Stuart not long after that, he was sharing a house with a couple and living in their attic.  To get to him, we had to move the refrigerator and go through the hidden door, climb the stairs, and then Stuart was up there in a wheelchair (low rafters) hiding from his jealous ex-lover.

And there were more, there were the friends and partners of those guys, all of whom played a role in my life, included me, entertained me, helped a single girl move apartments, and were my friends. They are all gone now, have been gone for some years.  I would give anything to have them back, especially now in my old age.  I miss them, I love them, and I need them.

Orlando mass killer and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and anyone else who feels the same, that is why I hate you.  And that is why you are not going to have a pleasant and certainly not rewarding afterlife.  Because all those guys I loved have already passed, and I am not far behind them. And whatever is on the other side, it isn’t going to be good for you. You are not going to be a disciple of whatever deity you think you’re serving.  No one is going to pat you on the back or welcome you to paradise or carry you on their shoulders.  You will have to reckon with those you hurt and those you hated for no reason and with those you never even knew, like me.  You are just an ignorant self-centered sick intolerant cowardly piece of crap who destroyed the lives of a bunch of people, each one of whom was more of a man than you ever were or will be.




Sad Song

I was working in my first record store in Oklahoma City. A guy named Joe worked there too. He was my first fellow Lou Reed fan, and he was gay. Even though I kept up with the glam fanzines, for some time, I still thought Max’s Kansas City was in Kansas City.  Joe and I talked about buying big motorcycles and going there. Once I found out it was actually in NY, this period became the only period of my life I thought maybe I should go to NY.

I guess you could say my first two gay influences were Lou Reed and Gore Vidal. If not for them, how many wonderful friends would I have missed knowing? “Walk on the Wild Side” in many ways brought this country out of the closet.

Just hearing “Walk on the Wild Side” filled my head with visions of platform heels and glitz.  It became and remains an anthem.

Once I was traveling late at night near the Angelina Forest in South Texas when by some miracle of phantom radio signals, Lou Reed came blaring past the local station the radio was tuned to, and not just “Walk on the Wild Side” but a less commercial song I can no longer remember, coming all the way from Chicago, on the “X.” It was like being transported into another world, out there in the dark, made me realize how many possible realities there are and both how near and how far away they are.

I used to play the darkly beautiful “Berlin” a lot. The juxtaposition of beauty and joyful appreciation of the simple things emerged from a thick shadow of sadness. Here was Lou Reed, the quiet poet.
“Staring at my picture book
she looks like Mary, Queen of Scots
She seemed very regal to me
just goes to show how wrong you can be”

So many of his lines became catch phrases. I always loved “just goes to show how wrong you can be,” because it’s so simple and so true.

When “Rock and Roll Animal” came out, that live version of “Sweet Jane” became my favorite guitar dual of all time. Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter parry through the long intro. The sound quality and production of the song was just amazing. The recording in many ways made everything he’d done before pale in comparison, at least to an electric witch like me. “Berlin” was for a special mood. “Rock and Roll Animal” was the best of everything, for anytime.

Lou Reed is one of the only rockers I really wanted to meet but never got to. The label had arranged a dinner once, but it fell through. Maybe that’s why he’s still an enigma to me. He was a true pioneer, a nucleus of a growing genre of music that came together in different ways at different points in time. He influenced music, art, and most of all culture.

To Lou Reed, in his passing, I’d just like to say, “It was very nice. Oh, Honey, it was paradise.”

In Memory of the Gay Teen Suicides

The media attention on the tragic rash of recent gay teen suicides has brought back memories of one of my oldest and dearest friends. He didn’t die by suicide.  He lived through the brutality aimed at him in his conservative community.  I always wondered why the bullies couldn’t see in him what I saw when he came in the record store I managed: a person more sparkling than the rest, full of raw talent, cutting-edge humor, and brilliant imagination.  But then again, maybe they did. Bullies have low self-esteem and tear down others in an attempt to make themselves look superior.  I remember how powerless I felt to help him fight the bullying in high school.  Even with all the considerable charms in his arsenal, he was unable to deflect enough of the abuse at school to feel comfortable continuing to attend.  He would drop out but proudly go on to get his GED years later. 

I remember picking him up one time from school on my motorcycle, an impulsive and desperate attempt to try to buoy his reputation, a gesture that meant nothing to anyone except, of course, to him.  When I first met him, he had only a small but devoted core of friends and family who loved and believed in him, and that’s why he survived; but by the time he died, near 40, the large church was filled to capacity with friends, family and coworkers who all loved him and knew how special he was.  I’ve never been to a larger funeral.  He went from being a bullied unappreciated schoolboy to being the greatest and certainly funniest person most of his friends ever knew, an unforgettable unique character.  I was asked to speak at his funeral nearly 10 years ago now, and I would repeat the poem I read below in honor of all the wonderful GLBT people out there.  I love you all.  Please don’t leave us.

4 April 2001

In Memory of Carl Harris

You shone
like our heroes,
ahead of time.
Your visions lie beyond the horizon
spinning like a planet,
the prettiest star

You were 14, buying T. Rex
posturing elegantly in the aisle
an island in a small town
Terrible beauty
as children plucked your wings

You danced through the obstacle course
dodging this, jumping over that,
slapping life back with your cutting wit,
making me scream with laughter.

You loved it all.

You wore your courage
over your shoulder
head tossed back
a flip remark
your eyes ablaze with laughter

I knew life would never beat you

You carried yourself proudly to the end
Your love and laughter saw me through both good times and bad.
Now your sun has set,
but I know it shines brightly just over the horizon
spinning like a planet
the prettiest star

Photo credit: T. Holman