It's June of 2016 and I am sitting at my computer at the foot of Fuego Volcano in Scatepequez, Guatemala. It's now "rainy season" and it has been raining off and on for a few days...good, my world is turning emerald green. I love green, green is my favorite color and I like the rain too...I pull the down comforter over my head and a couple of dogs are always at my feet.
This morning I am going into Antigua and rush around doing errands, lunch too and then, friends to greet. I am going to Florida next week for one week but my thoughts keep drifting back to the nineteen sixties and the many "Buying Trips" I made to New York...all the "fun" and all the enthusiasm I have always felt for travel, for my work, for life, keeps on rolling along...now and before now, life keeps singing me its alluring song: "there is more to be and see" (and should be/seen). Appetite, I have a great appetite for life.
I have always enhaled deeply on every moment, every adventure and discovery in my life. I've not wanted to miss one thing that has "warmly" touched/brushed by me, my little corner of the world and my part in it. I like almost everything (except bigotry, plain nonsense, exploitation and greed). I am riveted to the small, good and bad, details of life everywhere. Sometimes pushing for the next part of life extra hard...wanting more, even craving more...always wanting the positive and better. There is my extra hard striving as to not "feel" the very insecure nature inside of me that was (not much now) afraid I wouldn't get my share of whatever there was I must have. Sometimes ignoring "difference" in real evidence that appeared before me. There was always the underlying doubt that I was not "good enough" to just be me, or "get enough" to please me and all of you. All sorts of appetities in my life that now amuse me and shock me.
I defied my own doubts about me, mostly. I´ve ignored, or pretended, that LGBTI people were perceived differently than we were (or angrily overeacted when it was clear we were not). We were/are second class slimy monsters according to those who whispered vileness about us/around us (just loud enough for us to hear the slurs). Liars! I was defiant and angry, albeit often secretly, but I often returned the favor of unkindness (secretly or not so much). I desperately sought to have more worth than I thought I was "worth" receiving. I eagerly forced my way through my teenage years and then into adulthood, and grew on my own terms (with kind help of others along the way). There was no handbook of how "to be" for LGBTI people like me. I always, and instinctively, knew the world was wrong about people like us...I was right and the haters of LGBTI people are still wrong...sometimes deadly wrong.
I was obsessed with living and gaining on life. I was self-obsessed and lacked much gratitude for gifts I had been given. This morning, at age 72, I know how fortunate and gifted I have always been. Gifted, as in with gifts, given to me in endless ways by my heritage, my parents, my family, my talents and coworkers and a lengthy lifetime of loved ones and dear friends...we laughed, we´ve cheered, we won/lost and we´ve sometimes cried and even died. Endless giftides, flowing in and out of my life.
The younger me thought he needed to survive those who would shame and harm him. Some of his fear and "nerves" and self-loathing were based on reality...my reality as it really was but also how a few other people, friends and family, thought it was or thought how it ought be. The authentic in me couldn't figure out how to "be" me...just be, me, comfortably. I didn't know about the business of growing into a emotionally secure human being who shared freely, loved others and participated mutually. I drank to help me resist feelings of awkwardness and inferiority. Don't tell anyone, I didn't tell a living soul how terrified I was of not being enough. Or getting enough, of anything desireable. I sometimes prayed "God, help me!"
I remember something startling (sad-chilling) right now. My travel work/pleasure adventures always included a desire for romantic encounters...enchanted, or not, encounters with handsome young men of my own age (sometimes a little older). My idea of healthy men were handsome, popular and filled with laughter and passion for life and me (lasting relationships I thought would be nice/right too). The first decade of my New York "working-buying" visits I was in my twenties the whole time. I was in good shape, attractive in a regular White young guy sort of way and wore fashionable clothes (I was a department store buyer with a 25% discount gold/executive discount card, heavily used). I remained that way, and tried as hard as I could (including taking diet pills if I gained five-six+ pounds) to remain 150 lbs with a 30 inch waistline...I visited the dentist regularly...my smile was genuine and nice...fancy salon type hair cuts too and in and out of gyms, depending. People usually liked me just as I was...but, if I especially liked THEM, I was not comfortable with being around them...I didn't want people I was attracted to, to know I liked them! Even people I just wanted to be liked by socially! Odd? I may have been mostly afraid of rejection, but, in my mind, today, I think I was mostly afraid they might like me, and then what? What do I do? You see, I didn't like me and I certainly didn't want to keep entertaining you with my charming-funny, temporary/artificial, personality! Itimacy, of most any variety, stark sober, was not normal for me with people I admired. I needed, and desired, a buffer, I needed relaxing...I needed the kind of nerve that one gets after a few drinks. Party with me!
Here's the catch: I always drank alcoholicly and smoked Marlboro Cigarettes (only at night) when I was out in the bars cruising or attending parties or meeting someone new...I had "habits" that would become addictive but I was never interested in marijuana or hard drugs. I was a child of sixties, but not a hippie. I was trying as hard as I could to be a more popular me (and "Dancing as fast as I can")...I wanted to be a more desireable version of ME. That is exhausting and it wasn't about self improvement!
Early in my 20's, I was a department store buyer. Salesmen/women took me out for lovely lunches and dinners. I always ordered a drink (or two, not three or I would get drunk). Almost every night (later in the evening) I went out and met friends at various bars. I got drunk almost every night. I almost always, for years, was hung over at work (anywhere)...often I felt dread and almost dead inside but I pretended to be HAPPY/ALIVE so the world wouldn't know the real pain inside of me! I tried extra hard to succeed at work. I needed to succeed.
One trip to New York I was drinking heavily on the plane before landing at JFK. I had a hotel reservation at a "nice", not elegant, hotel on Park Avenue South...I was drunk when I got in the taxi cab and went to the hotel to check in. Drank more in my room, changed my clothes and then had another taxi driver drive me all over New York. A very lonely night on the town: Uptown, Downtown, Midtown, Eastside/Westside...everywhere! I was afraid to arrive at any destination because I didn't want anyone to SEE me as drunk as I was...as drunk as I needed to be to meet that "someone special" who, of course, could not possibly have been interested in a drunk like me! I knew it. After a couple of hours I paid the cabbie and I went back up to my hotel room and looked down on the lights and people on Central Park South. Selfpity: "I would like you to meet Leonard. Len is in his twenties and he is Gay and alone tonight in New York City...you'd love him if you liked him...and, so would he."
To be continued