Life Happening

Sam sent me an e-mail and told me we were going to Keezer’s in Cambridge to pick up a tux. “It’s your run-o'-the-mill tux store. Fifty bucks, it’s where all the Harvard kids get their rentals and I’m built like a box so I don’t care about fuckin’ tapered lines”. He weaves the F-bomb into every conversation like it was a punctuation mark and discards all of the “R’s”. Sam is renting a tux for $50 and spending $300 to attend a fund raiser dinner. If you knew Sam, you would know that this somehow makes sense.

We meet after work and I know why I am there. Sam is color blind and doesn’t trust the Russian store clerk. “Dameron, don’t just stand there and look pretty, help me pick out a vest” he barks at me. At the same time he is talking to the clerk as if he has known him for years. “And I want a tie with a clasp, not like that Mr. Tux crap. I spent two hundred bucks on a tux and I had to use a fuckin’ paper clip on the tie.” The clerk chuckles and wanders through the floor to ceiling boxes to fetch a bow tie. Just then a cute young guy walks by in a rental suit and socks, Sam elbows me, one eyebrow raised and tilts his head towards the young man’s direction. “Nice suit” Sam says. The young guy smiles at Sam and blushes.

This is what I love about Sam. He says what he thinks and never apologizes. To me, Sam is Boston: Brash and outgoing one moment, personable and tender the next. When my husband, Paul and I bought our circa 1940’s mid-rise condo in Cleveland Circle I worried aloud that the Boston College student population might present a noise problem. Sam’s quick reply summed up his personality perfectly:

“That’s city life William, never bothered me. That’s life happening”

We are sitting in a Mexican restaurant in Harvard Square deep into our fourth Margarita after the tux rental. Sam is talking and laughing about an unfortunate man we call “Monkey Boy”, because the hair on his neck does not stop to meet the hair on his back. He grabs a tortilla chip from a basket sitting on the bar next to him. “They leave these appetizers sitting out for bar patrons” he says while crunching down on the chip. I grab a chip and say “Very nice”. Sam laughs and spits out “You’re so fuckin’ gullible”. But that doesn’t stop us from eating someone else’s left over basket of chips.

We could stay out all night laughing and drinking, talking about Monkey boy and pointing out the other “team members” in the bar, but Sam looks at me and says “It’s a school night, William”.

Sam drives me home. As we cross over Comm Ave, a green line T passes into the city night. I am struck with a wave of sentiment for the home I’ve chosen. As the T screeches around the corner Sam says:

“Life Happening, my friend”



Three AM……I am eating salt-less pretzels and drinking Kahlua and Irish cream. The salt-less pretzels were bought in a fit of “no sodium because it’s bad for me” obsession and Kahlua and Irish cream because Nyquil is usually my alcoholic knock-out medicine of choice, but I did not put it on “The List” after it ran out.

Naturally, I open up Facebook to see what my “friends” are up to. It’s a Monday, so most of them have commented on “What a Monday” it was. This is worse than Joan Rivers and the “Bitch stole my look” segment on TV. Although I have to say Celine Dion looks pretty good for a 42 year old woman with twins. Poor thing, her husband is eighty years old and now she’ll have three sets of diapers to change.

I turn back to Facebook and look up my real friends. I say “real” friends because they are the ones that deal with my daily shit and insecurities, unlike Facebook friends that only see the good pictures of me and hear about my amazing day!: Insert LOL and smiley face here. Real friends get the short end of the stick.

The first page I look at is Sam’s. Sam calls it “Stupid Facebook”, never just Facebook. He says the only thing people post is the “stupid” stuff. His profile picture is two years old and he never updates his status. I think the only reason he has Facebook is to use it to pick up guys. As my honest friend, he will tell me things other people would not dare tell me. “Don’t get all concentration camp on me Dameron” is what he told me when I lost twenty pounds. After a new haircut his only comment was “Huh, I like you with more hair”. I respect and expect these comments from him. I am not surprised that he would hate “Stupid Facebook”.

And then there’s Cary. His status updates are obscure 1980’s song lyrics. Not surprisingly, there are twenty four comments of people finishing those lyrics. Cary’s profile picture is always handsome and current. On his page today, there is a carefully orchestrated wall photo of two glasses of champagne and desserts sitting on a porch surrounded by palm trees from his trip to Punta Cana. Sam and I have to laugh about Cary’s oh so gentle e-mail to us when we joined Facebook, telling us he was not “Out” on Facebook; an admonishment. I don’t like to stereotype, but I’m pretty sure he has already outed himself.; Exhibit A) Duran Duran lyrics and Exhibit B) Staged photos of champagne and desserts. But we play along with it. Cary is the empathetic friend that you talk to when you need some positive reinforcement. If he told me I was looking skeletal or had a lesbian hair-cut, it would kill me.

And to round out my trio of real friends, there is my husband, who is asleep somewhere in Canada on a business trip. I wonder if he knows how fortunate I consider myself to breathe the same air he breathes. So, I open up my e-mail and prepare to tell him this. Instead I type the following E-mail:

Subject: Olson Twins

Watching TV and wondering why Mary Kate and Ashley never show their teeth when they smile? Can’t sleep, thinking about you. Love you.

And that is enough. I don’t post anything to Sam and Cary’s wall. These are my “real” friends. They don’t need a status update to know what I am doing or how I feel and that comforts me. Now, maybe I can sleep.


Puppy Training

Winters in New England are like boring guests, they just don’t know when to leave. So, last weekend Paul and I packed our bags and headed to Miami. This annual spring break is what gets me through the winter. While walking to the bus stop through piles of dirty snow encrusted with frozen dog poop I imagine palm trees, sandy beaches and sizzling night life. I hit the gym months ahead of time with my sole motivation being to look good in a swim suit. Shallow, I know, but as Paul always says to me. “It’s not what’s on the inside that counts, but how you look on the outside”.

This year we took a clue from the “Biggest Loser” recording our weight and keeping a log each week of the progress. We decided that a weekly weigh in was best, but because I like to obsess about myself, I weighed in twice a day and it always had to be after my run, fully unclothed and preferably after a bowel movement, to get my true weight, measured in pounds and ounces. My daily run on the treadmill increased from three miles to six miles a day. Two months later and twenty pounds lighter, I was thrilled when one of my co-workers said:

“If you don’t mind my saying, I think you look too thin. You look like a runner from Kenya”.

“Really?” I said with utter glee. I knew that I had hit my goal.

During those same two months Paul was able to shed exactly half a pound. He pulled up his shirt and extended his belly as far as possible; looking twelve months pregnant and rubbing his belly he said:

“Look honey, I think its twins!”

He had given up early and instead of hitting the treadmill, hit the tanning booth, saying only

“Fat looks better tanned”

And this is the difference between us. While I obsess about myself, Paul obsesses about everything else. A short while after we first met, I invited Paul to my apartment. He remarked at how well stocked my refrigerator was. Because I was a newly out gay man, he expected my refrigerator to contain a can of beer, ketchup and a stack of cheese, as any straight man’s refrigerator would be stocked. One month later he was still surprised at how well stocked the fridge was, until upon further inspection, he realized that it was all of the same ingredients. Holding up a clear container of two month old soup, he said in a slightly disgusted tone “Everything has separated into what it used to be”.

From that time forward, Paul would start each visit to my apartment with a garbage bag at the refrigerator removing expired items and making a shopping list for replacements. All of my different colored hangars were replaced with the same white hangars. When I moved into Paul’s house, the closet was re-organized to accommodate my clothes. Once, I “kissed” the back of the garage wall while pulling in my car. The next day marine bumpers where installed and a little stoplight sensor was mounted on the wall to indicate when I was getting too close to the wall.

Paul never complains about these things. As a matter of fact, he seems to revel in them. It is just a part of his nature to engineer his life around me and he is only too happy to do that. We have our roles and I was completely happy with the arrangement until my mother dropped one line:

“Paul treats you like a puppy”.

Parents are good at slipping in those one-liners that have to be extracted by trained therapists. Of course what she meant was that I was a grown man, fully capable of taking care of myself. This bothered me.

I was thinking about this when Paul and I were walking down Ocean Drive in Miami. I saw a man walking a puppy and people were smiling and admiring the pair. The puppy stopped, squatted and pooped on the pavement. The owner, prepared, stooped over and scooped up the pile with a plastic grocery bag, while the puppy licked the owner’s delighted face.

I smiled, turned to Paul and kissed his cheek. Paul smiled and looked at me

“What was that for?”

“That was for taking care of me” I said. And then I told Paul what my mother had told me.

He grinned and said, “You must be the puppy, because you’re the cute one.” He kissed me back, grabbed my hand and said “Pookie, If I am the one cleaning up shit after you, who really is the master?”

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