Life has a strange way of offering second chances.
Let’s hop in the H.G. Wells’ chair/Police Box/Bill and Ted’s telephone booth/DeLorean wayback machine to a year ago. I was supposed to embark on a winery tour of the Napa and Sonoma valleys, finishing up with a few days in San Francisco. Sadly and frustratingly, I was forced to cancel my plans due to work commitments and live it up vicariously through friends who went, feeling destiny slowly twisting its knife in me as they posted pictures and updates on Facebook.(1) The last time I spent any quality time on the West Coast, I still believed in Santa Claus, Jimmy Carter was in the White House, disco was gasping its last breaths, and a quaint little sci fi flick called Star Wars was getting some buzz. I have bits-and-pieces memories of my family’s big road trip from Olympia, WA, down the West Coast to Los Angeles, and then East toward Virginia during that time.(2) The City by the Bay was among our stops, but I was so little that I barely remember any of the experience. Having been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of my geek standing (Multiple times, too. I have the worst lawyers…), I’ve always been fascinated about how and why San Francisco is such a major time travel nexus.(3) So, between my travel/tourism agenda and my sci fi interests, saying this city was high on my travel bucket list is putting it mildly, and I was really disappointed about missing last year’s California adventure. Fortunately, earthquakes hadn’t turned the city into a mutant zombie apocalypse wasteland, nor had Lex Luthor nuked the San Andreas Fault and dropped the West Coast into the Pacific Ocean in the past year (Seriously, I’m glad my lawyers negotiated my case down to “geek” from “misanthrope”).
And, being too kind, fate offered another opportunity for this young man to go West.
Earlier this year, my friend Steve H. and I were talking about a big drag queen fashion show charity event his partner Joël (pronounced “Jo – el”) produces and directs called Project Nunway, and between Steve’s enthusiasm for the event and my own curiosity about all things creative/artistic, counter-culture and non-comformist, I was definitely intrigued about seeing and experiencing it (and honestly, isn’t just about anything involving drag queens going to be pretty damn great?). It was also a big opportunity to see the world Steve built and adopted on the West Coast, something I know he’s wanted to share with his older friends for a long time. Coincidentally, with same-sex marriage recently becoming legal in California, Steve and Joël decided to tie the knot the same weekend (Project Nunway was effectively their bachelor party). Despite Steve’s awareness of my potentially being the one guest in the back waving his arms and yelling “DON’T DO IT! IT’S A TRAP!”, he invited his nearest and dearest to attend his nuptials.
My friendship with Steve dates all the way back to high school, when he first spotted me reading a beginners gaming manual in our study hall/world history class.(4) Later, while waiting for a ride to pick me up after school, he shuffled up to me, mentioned that he spotted me reading said gaming manual, and hit me up with the first line I remember as if he said it yesterday: “You have a big zit on your face…can I pop it?” Whereas others might tell him what to go do with himself in less-than-polite terms or cautiously back away while making as little eye contact as possible, I knew right then and there that this blonde-haired dude with his rascally smile and a too-clever-for-his-own-good twinkle in his eye would be a great friend. As time went on, he introduced me to his then gaming group, and consequently I found a circle of guys whom I’m still friends with to this day. Luckily enough, two more of our childhood friends from that same time – Alex and Michael traveled out for the wedding, too.
Being a socially awkward, geeky kid, I was used to meeting and knowing some off-the-beaten-path types, and where some might appreciate or demand “normal” friends, I was always drawn to and/or enjoyed a more diverse motley eclectic circle of friends and acquaintances. They say travel broadens the mind, but I embrace the philosophy that a broad spectrum of eccentric personalities and friends is just as vital to enjoying a full life, too. The vast majority of the personalities I’ve crossed paths with more-or-less classify as “whimsically strange,” “charmingly unusual” and/or “mostly harmless,” though once in a while you meet a freak of nature who requires pre-emptively blocking them on social networking websites (sometimes while still being introduced to them). For that matter, Steve’s own adventures and encounters in his long road of self-discovery make my own seem tame by comparison.(5)
Nevertheless, Steve and I often compared notes about meeting new friends, dating and relationships, but I comforted myself with knowing that my attracting batshit crazy emotional train wrecks problematic women, as well as my own fumbling attempts at promising relationships might be trumped by Steve’s lifestyle making him the “last man standing” in the “settling down” department. And as our circle of friends tends to cleverly disguise our mini-reunions as each other’s weddings,(6) I was starting to feel like the last upstanding participant in a game of musical chairs. Be that as it may, Steve has walked a long and winding road to reach the happiest day of his life, and I was more than honored to finally meet his long-time partner Joël and share their special day.
(1) Allowing friends to ruthlessly pour salt in each other’s wounds since 2003.
(2) My Dad was an Army officer while I was growing up, which meant that we picked up and moved every few years, and our two years in Washington was the only time spent on the West Coast. While living there, my parents finished the basement of the house we lived in, and in 2010, the current residents were renovating the house. While demoing the place, they found my Mom’s “time capsule” where she wrote both mine and my sister’s names inside the walls. The residents were curious about the names and did a Google search, finding me on Facebook and sharing a few pictures.
(3) For example, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
(4) I won’t tell you what the game was, but the title involves subterranean passages and fire-breathing lizards. I thought I was being pretty sneaky about reading it, but apparently I wasn’t. Also, that world history teacher was a huge influence on me, given his encyclopedic knowledge about history and his constant encouragement to always learn and keep an open mind. Sadly, he was “invited to retire” later because, among his other alleged and possibly questionable proclivities, he enjoyed rearranging the class seating whenever the cheerleaders wore their short-skirt uniforms…not-so-coincidentally moving them to the front of the classroom.
(5) I plan on incorporating elements of his experiences into my own fiction writing and base characters on people he’s come across over the years. For better or for worse, it’s because of Steve that I was well aware of what “furries” were long before the infamous CSI episode featuring them. However, I’m still jealous that Steve has met and hung out with Annie Sprinkle.
(6) With the exception of this past summer.