Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Leaving San Diego 15

I still have to deal with the storage unit and now the days are ticking away. It’s official and the one way plane ticket to Atlanta is bought and paid for. It’s the large stuff from my old bedroom from when I lived with the agoraphobic roommate that is the biggest problem right now. A bed, two night stands, two large book shelves and a desk. It was from Ikea but has been sitting in storage for half its life. It's still good furniture but by just sitting there it was costing me money. Well in reality it’s been costing me money for a couple of years but now it was serious.

I have had luck before giving things away via Craigslist and so I had to turn to that now. I placed an ad at 9 am and by 12:30 had 45 emails. Some begged on behalf of children and some offered money but I answered the first one that sounded like a guy. He said he was a student just getting started in life at school. It tugged at my heart so I made arrangements to meet him at the storage unit at about 4pm and then kicked myself for not doing this months ago and saving a fortune in rent.

At 3:30 I got a call asking for directions. That call was followed by another call at 4:14 for directions then again at 5:00. I thought this guy must really be new to the area and I was really doing him a favor. What a great guy I am. Now he won’t have to sleep on the floor after studying like crazy to get through school.

He finally pulled up in a brand new truck followed by his father who was also in a brand new truck both with Mexican license plates. This stuff wasn’t for a poor college student after all. It was most likely for a shop in Tijuana or the weekend swap meet in San Diego. I was being taken advantage of but I still needed to get rid of this stuff so I bit the bullet and helped them load up both trucks and didn’t say a word.

After they pulled away I locked up my now half empty storage unit, walked over to the dumpster and threw away all the carefully labeled bags containing the hardware they would need to reassemble the furniture.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Leaving San Diego 14

I have a surprising number of lapel pins. Besides the hundreds I have from a business I let die during a particularly nasty break up I have some from various businesses and organizations I’ve had relationships with.

Member pins from the San Diego Zoo..

Toastmasters pins announcing various positions I’ve held in District 5. Club president, Area Governor and one for a position I never held but must have picked up somewhere.

I have two pins shaped like soldiers carrying feathers from a booth at Comic-con promoting a movie I don’t think I ever saw and now can’t even remember the title.

Sarasota School of Natural Healing Arts still in the plastic.

Three small pins with a big R on them for Realtor.

San Diego Gay Rodeo pin was given to me when I was a back up dancer for a drag queen.

Mini badges from law enforcement officers I befriended on planes. These I used. I would put them my coat while walking through the Tenderloin in San Francisco keeping the homeless from approaching me. (I better keep these).

Membership badges from The Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce, the San Diego Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, The San Diego Chamber of Commerce and the El Cajon Chamber of Commerce.

A lapel pin announcing that I was a Junior Rotarion. I’ve never been any kind of Rotarion maybe this was left over from a costume party.

Last, but not least, a rainbow striped Mickey Mouse silhouette from gay days at Disney in Anaheim.

I’m finding it hard to throw away these pins for some reason. Maybe because collectively they look like jewelry. Maybe they because of a value I never really believed in even when I was in the organizations they represent. I’m not about to wear them on a sash like some crazed girl scout drag queen or pin collecting Disney enthusiast but I do have a backpack. I realize they’ll come loose and fall off somewhere. Finding a pin from San Diego might be interesting to someone in Florida or Atlanta.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Leaving San Diego 13

My stack of letters hasn’t shrunk noticeably so I decided to pack them up and take them on the train with me up to Los Angeles to see Joseph. Thinking about him and my life in Sarasota has sparked a writing binge. Of course I have something more pressing to do which is also a good motivator.

As I’m packing them up I noticed a letter written on green construction paper. The signature is a capital H and a smile. The H is for Heidi and the green because she was born on St. Patrick’s Day. I have several great stories that involve Heidi. I recruited her as a fag hag when I was working at an ice cream store and she was in sales at Lane Bryant. We ravaged the French Quarter and even lived together in a mini retirement home for a short time. The letter was in response to me moving in with someone I was dating.

I had such good luck finding Joseph I decided to put my skills to finding Heidi. My luck didn’t hold though. The closest I found was a posting on a hurricane Katrina “Looking For” website dated September 2005. It said “Heidi, try to call home we want to know if you’re alright”. Nothing else showed up on any of my searches.

Leaving San Diego 12

Among my personal correspondence were my awards. Three were large impressive looking documents I always meant to have framed but never seemed to get around to it. One was signed by the former Mayor of San Diego, One signed by the former Governor of California and the third presented to me by the San Diego City Council.

Mayor Dick Murphy stepped down after being referred to nationally as “The Worst Big City Mayor”, former Governor Grey Davis was recalled to be replaced by The Terminator and one of the men who signed my document from the city council died of a heart attack before he went to trail for accepting bribes from strip club owners. History has lessened my initial pride in receiving these documents.

In the trash next to the thick paper and gold seals went a crystal award for business speaking. This honor was bestowed on my be the Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce at a banquet in honor of me and the other recipients for “Outstanding Contributions to the Business Community”. I used to have it displayed in my office with the sun shining through it. That way clients couldn’t help but see how outstanding I was.Of course if they visited any other chamber members offices they’d see we all had them and our outstanding contributions were actually just paying our membership dues on time.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Who's Your Daddy?

excerpt from Raised By White Trash

It’s not thought about often but “Father” should be a pretty straight forward concept and easily defined. That’s in theory anyway. In the rural white trash towns of the plains states it’s a little more complicated. For example legally in Missouri the word Father refers to the man married to a child’s mother at the time of his or her birth.The child’s birth not the mans birth. It’s a roundabout way of saying that your wife’s kid is your responsibility no matter who the sperm donor was.

At face value it sounds barbaric but in pre-paternity test times it was a way to keep men from avoiding child support and parental responsibilities just by saying “not my kid”. I have my doubts that this created any responsibility for anyone. At least the kids of cheating moms with resentful husbands had some financial support promised to them once a month.

When you’re young it just doesn’t occur to you to question your own parentage. Mom is mom and Dad is dad and between worrying about what time Scooby Doo is on and who is going to get to the cereal prize first it just never comes up in conversation.

The topic didn’t come up for me until I was around eight or nine years old. After an evening of randomly driving around town with my mother and siblings. I was sent on an errand to get my dad from the bar at the VFW.I was dropped off to go inside and let him know it was time to come home. It was a dirty trick on my mothers part now that I look back. He would be forced to come home once I was there since I was now in his care and probably shouldn’t be in a bar. It was also a testament to her superb parenting skills abandoning me at a bar in the first place to be driven home by someone in an unknown state of intoxication.

I never called child protective services because at the time I didn’t see it that way. I was on an important mission and got to go someplace my younger brother and sister didn’t. I marched to the front door of the place and found it locked so I knocked. A little shot of fear went through me when there was no answer and the tail lights of our station wagon were already shrinking into the night. I didn’t have a chance to panic. Moments later a little sliding door higher up the door than I could immediately see slid open and a gray face appeared. Smoke and country music poured out the face and the bluish light behind it gave a slightly otherworldly look. This was just like the scene out of The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and her friends are trying to get into the Emerald City. This was so cool.

“I came to get Jim” I told the face. I was proud of myself remembering to say his name instead of just saying “my dad” since “dad” could be anyone.

“No Jim here” said the voice.

“But his truck is here!” I pleaded quickly. I knew it was there since the only reason we were out and driving around in the first place was to find his truck.

The face retreated and the door cracked open. “JD is this your boy?” Said the face that now had a body.

“Yeah, that’s my stepson” Said one of the four people smoking in the otherwise empty bar. Nothing was quite registering but I saw my dad and I remembered my mission. I ran up and said “Mom says it’s time to come home”.

He took a long drag on his cigarette. He was an expert at smoking and could communicate through his exhales. This exhale was in the tone of resignation. “Ok, tell her I’ll finish this beer and be right home”.

“She’s gone already I’m supposed to ride with you.” I don’t remember exactly how I said it. Excited I got to stay? Smarmy because I knew he didn’t have a choice? Probably smarmy.

He knew he was trapped and I knew he wasn’t going to waste a beer so I sat on the barstool. He ordered me a sprite with a cherry in it while I waited for him.

“Who’s JD?” I asked him. Mimicking the hunched over bar pose he and the other men had and trying to look like a grown up.

“That’s what my friends call me. It’s my initials” He was always so boring at home this secret identity idea started to make sense.

I wanted to ask him what a stepson was but I didn’t want to sound like I was dumb. After all I was practically a grown up.. How else could I have gotten in the bar? I thought about it though. “Step” was like stairs and since I was the oldest I was like the top stair. That must be it right? like the oldest is the ‘step’ because it’s higher up. It made sense to me.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Leaving San Diego 11

I couldn’t bring myself to just throw away the rest of the bag of letters, there was just too many of them. I sorted some of them into stacks and put them all in a bag to take home and go through one by one. I don’t think there is necessarily anything important in them but there may be something or someone worth writing about.

Later, at home, in front of the TV I take another look. Past the layer of grade school notes I find several letters postmarked from various countries. In the eighties in an attempt to make contact with the outside world I became a penpal. For a dollar you could get a letter through a service from the back of a newspaper. The letters were all on very thin paper and in the airmail envelopes that used to be necessary for lower rates on international letters. The notes are actually pretty boring accounts of of the lives of people. The only one that I remember sticking out was a Russian that asked me about a lot of the political strife of the time. He had some strange ideas of Americans and how we went about our daily lives. Sadly his letter isn’t among these so I guess I haven’t been perfect at saving notes. The stamps are interesting though. Maybe I’ll save those. How much room can a stamp take up in a suitcase?

When I graduated high school I moved too much to keep track of penpals and when I look at what they wrote I probably got bored pretty fast. I don’t remember ever writing anyone and not getting a letter back but I remember getting letters and not replying. Not the best ambassador of international relations. Maybe when I put this in a book I’ll make a few changes to make me look like a better person.


The next pile of letters is from family and former high school classmates. These were letters actually sent to me after I moved. I realize now it’s a big deal to leave a small town with no intention of coming back. There are a lot of “I will never forget you”s and a few “friends forever”s as well. I didn’t keep up with these people over the years but thanks to the internet and Facebook it’s come back full circle and I’m back in touch with nearly all of the authors of these notes. None of them are famous so their signatures haven’t gone up in value and the letters though obviously heartfelt aren’t very interesting. ... trash.


The next letters I find are a pleasant surprise and really get me thinking. Four letters with envelopes postmarked from Washington state. They’re from Joseph. Joseph was a boy that stayed with me a little while back in the early 90‘s.

As I try to remember the details of our relationship I try to classify it. I think I must have been like a mentor for him or maybe like a father figure. I entertain this idea for a while until I do the math and remember I was only 23 at the time. Besides that I don’t actually remember giving him any advice or guidance. Maybe a big brother figure then. Did I buy him alcohol?

I read the notes and realize I have to find him. I suddenly want to know what’s happened to him. The story of him staying with me in Florida is still in my head but I’m a little fuzzy on a few of the details. I’m learning, too, that another witness of an era in my life always adds something to a memory.

After two hours online I finally have a partial clue. A question on an online forum asking about post hurricane situations where we met in Florida. With that e-mail address I find a four year old ad for a roommate in what looks like some funky commune situation. In the ad it says one of the roommates is gay. I guess Joseph could be gay if not then he’s at least gay friendly. Either way I guess his stay with me didn’t scar him. More searching shows nothing in Washington or Oregon less than a few years old. If it’s him he’s probably not there anymore or may have just gone off the grid.

An hour or so later I find another clue. Photographs of carpentry. No pictures of him but on this website it shows where the pictures were taken. The most recent ones were taken in Los Angeles. This was a great find. It meant that I could search his name associated with LA. It also meant that, unless he’s already moved, he was only an hour away.

I found him in only a few minutes. As a matter of fact I had already seen is profile on Facebook and dismissed it as being too old to be him. I also didn’t originally think the picture looked like him. I kept thinking of him as the “boy” and had a perfect memory of what he looked like. Of course that memory was what he looked like seventeen years ago. I should have checked my Iphone for an age progression application.
I was sure it was him (his brother was on his friends list) but would he even remember me? I decide to be short with my message to him and philosophical about getting a response so I sent the following: Are you now, or have you ever been an imaginary friend? A few days passed before I got the response. Florida. We made arrangements to meet before I moved to Atlanta.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Leaving San Diego 10

I like you, do you like me? yes or no circle one.

That’s the topic of my most common note. None of them have dates but by the gray/beige of he paper and the really wide lines of the pencil leads I would say they date back to around 1976 to 1978 or in other words second to fourth grade. The common theme seems to be attraction with an undertone of rejection fear. The writers have been so kind as to make the response easy and concise though they don’t see, to leave room for explanation of any sort. Of course, as easy as it was to reply, it seems I never did since I still have the notes.

I don’t fool myself into thinking I was particularly popular in grade school. It was merely a fact of the numbers. I got the note because it was my turn. With only fifty boys in our grade at Westview grade school everyone got his chance at a “Do you like me” note.

As I’m sorting through my saved notes I have to wonder why I saved these. When I moved out of my parents house in 1985 there were hundreds of these little notes that I’d saved over they years. I thought I’d thrown them all out. I don’t know how these notes made it to round two of note hoarding. I recognize the few that have names but that doesn’t give me a clue as to why I’ve saved them. I guess it wasn’t important or at least isn’t important anymore. Trash.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Literary tidbits

... he looked me in the eye and his voice became very serious "you are the brightest star in the night sky". I was surprised at how sincere he sounded. On paper that statement would sound corny but I think he really felt it. His eyes got a dreamy far away look in them for a moment then he seemed to focus on something behind me and said "Oh wait, THAT star is much brighter. See it? over there" ...


Darla jolted awake in his arms with an epiphany. "he only has sex with me because I do his laundry" she thought to herself " and I'm better at laundry than he is at sex"


I saw the look on her face when she met my eye. It was something between fear and loathing. Fear I was going to approach her or loathing that I wanted her. I've seen it too much to let it go this time. I approached her.

"I know you think I"m staring at you" I said not giving her a chance to respond. "You're afraid I'm lusting after you or that I'm going to hit on you. Stop flattering yourself you're not that desirable. Besides what world do you live in? What rules are there in your head that whenever someone is looking at you they must want something from you?.. Well I don't want anything from you so you can relax

"Oh by the way, can you let me know when you get ready to leave? I would really like this table it's closest to the electric outlet."

Leaving San Diego 9

There are a lot of photos.

The first round is easiest to get rid of. The people I don’t know anymore. Many of them pictures of children of people I’m not friends with anymore. I have a feeling I only kept them out of guilt. There are parties at jobs at businesses that folded years ago. Some of the pictures I recognize as fellow passengers from cruises I’ve taken. People I wanted to remember forever and so took pictures as a keepsake... whatever their names are. It’s funny since today these same people would probably be on my facebook or at least in contact via e-mail.

In the early 90‘s I escorted groups of older women on cruise ship for AAA. The group was called The Merry Widows so very few were under sixty years old and most were over eighty. Meaning most of these women smiling in their formal portraits next to my twenty three year old self are dead now. Trash.

Next are the terrible pictures of the places I’ve gone. I’m not in any of them so that makes it easier. Blurry images of some plate in a museum in Turkey doesn’t mean anything to me and probably never did. Mosques, Prince Raniers yacht, a city scape at night in a city I can’t figure out. I was a terrible photographer. I remember thinking it was possible even then that these pictures may not come out so I collected post cards from most of these places. I wanted to have really good shots of some of the more important things to see on these trips, The Cliffs of Moher, The Blarney Stone, El Cristo, Vesuvius, etc. But I haven’t looked at them in years. Besides, I’ve seen many of the same shots in books and online so they’re always at my fingertips. Trash.

Pictures of family, old friends and me are a little tougher. I’m pretty sure most of these family pictures have duplicates in the hands of the other people posing. Except maybe a few of the more embarrassing ones of my sister and her rather impressive architectural skills in hair. She’s the type that would throw out such treasures. This makes them harder to get rid of so I set them aside to scan in later. I don’t have a scanner so I just take a picture with my phone. It’s not a perfect solution but it’s enough to harass my little sister. Maybe I’ll show them to her grandchildren or use them for blackmail later.

The pictures of me are a little more difficult. It’s probably due to vanity but I’ve saved these pictures of myself like I’ll need them for evidence in a trial later. “See” I could say holding up a picture of me on stage or in a speedo on a cruise ship “I was young once, I had a great body, I HAD HAIR! I still deserve to be treated like I’m good looking!”. And in the cases of pictures of me with one of the growing number of exes. “See, we were happy once.”

The thinking and rational part of me knows I’ll never go on trial where I’ll have to prove an interesting past but I also know I have a habit of remembering some of the bad things with near perfect clarity. Some of these pictures a really reminders that it wasn’t all bad. Some get trashed, some get saved. After all they won’t take up THAT much room in a suitcase.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Leaving San Diego 8

Twice now I’ve set aside time to go to the storage unit and continue the progress but each time the day comes I can’t bring myself to do it. My excuse was always “No vehicle to donate stuff if I even knew what to get rid of and what to keep”. It wasn’t even confirmed that Atlanta was the destination.

So instead I just do some math. This is why we studied word problems in grade school. Z =The cost for rental truck X minus the replacement cost of personal belongings plus travel expenses to Atlanta which is Y. If Z is greater than $100 then try something else. I tried several “something elses”. How much to take an extra really large suitcase on the flight. How much to have everything shipped via UPS. The math all works out the same. The grand total value of my belongings is less than what it would cost to ship, truck or put in checked in luggage.

But then there’s the artifacts. Over the years I’ve kept souvenirs, letters, t-shirts, post cards etc. All too much to pack but I find myself really loathe to get rid of it. Most of it won’t mean anything to anyone but me. My junk has great value but as soon as it leaves my possession it’s just junk.

TV comes to my rescue. Nothing helps you getting over your own craziness like watching someone more crazy get help. What I mean by that is Hoarders. A TV show about people so obsessed with their belongings they can’t let go of anything. Even trash. I’m not that far along but it’s good to have some perspective.

If you haven’t seen the show they all follow the same basic format. Scene one we get to see the trainwreck of a home the subject lives in and we find out the crises for this person. For example the family could have the kids taken away or the landlord is threatening eviction. The next scene is the introduction of the organizer of therapist depending on the location and the clean up. Seven to eight minutes into the clean up the subject has a breakdown of some sort. I see the similarities. Where I would think of something more fun or more pressing to do to avoid the clean up our subject finds repressed memories of rape or just has a nervous breakdown. Oh the drama.

In the end a few of the homes get cleaned up but the majority don’t. The last few minutes of the show are used to explain that further counseling is needed or in the really dramatic ones the kids get taken away. I like how honest the show is and that it doesn’t try to hide the failures. I like looking at the messes too although I do find myself thinking they’re throwing away some perfectly good stuff and I fight a tiny fleeting urge to go to the rescue of a big wheel or an old Monopoly game missing some pieces.

In this last show I watched there was at least one pearl of wisdom from the counselor. “If the stuff goes away it doesn’t mean the memory does”. I could apply this to my souvenirs as easily as the crazy on tv could apply it to that dirty dixie cup from 1992.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Leaving San Diego 7

Round two at the storage unit.

We’re still not one hundred percent confirmed on the move to Atlanta. This means I have to get rid of things in preparation and still keep things in preparation. I was forced to save and get rid of things at the same time. I took the bus to the unit with the great idea to make a huge dent in my treasures. In the end, two hours later, I got rid of a lot but there was really no discernable difference in mass when it came time to shut the door.

Hundreds of plastic hangers found their way to the dumpster along with several reams of printer paper and office supplies. I threw away enough folders, paperclips, pens and magnetic business cards to open a small office supply store. Two name plates with my name on them from old desks and one from the door to a former office. Hundreds of lapel pins that said “Personally Referred”, business cards, training handouts from business speaking events I hosted and while I was at it I threw out several manuals for training me for several jobs I’ve had in the past. I don’t know why I saved them but I knew I wasn’t going back to work at Fridays or Dairy Queen any time soon.

The reason a lot of things are still there in storage is I can’t part with them just by throwing them away. I think there’s something in many of us that sees some value in objects we paid for and so can’t just throw away that value. It’s the logic that keeps thousands of Trans Ams up on blocks in the front yards of hundreds of trailer parks.

Seven garbage bags full of clothes can attest to the fact I have at least a little of that white trash hoarding gene. I remember buying these suits and looking great in them. I remember who gave me this tie and where I first wore this dinner jacket or that cumber bund. But the fact that they’ve all sat in a box for the past two years means I can definitely do without them. Some of the nicer things have remained looking nice because they refuse to fit me any more. Hope springs eternal on the front but I really can’t haul around jeans for the next several months while I whittled myself down a few waist sizes to fit in them again. Even if they are really nice jeans.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Leaving San Diego 6

For nearly the entire time I’ve lived in San Diego I’ve had a membership to the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park. It was always a great default place for a walk, to take picture or for a date. A lot of first dates happened in these zoos. It was also where I would walk almost daily to help lose weight when I wanted the job as a flight attendant.

My first membership was with my ex. It was one of the few things we liked to go together that wasn’t shopping. After we broke up a friend I’d met that worked at the zoo was kind enough to remove him from our membership and extend mine a few more months. After that I bought a membership. After that it was always a good gift for friends to give. It is a big part of what I consider to be my San Diego.

I’m so thoroughly acquainted with the zoo there’s nothing I feel I haven’t done but I’ll still take the time to say goodbye and will try to get to the Wild Animal Park. The WAP is further and a little more difficult to get to for me without a car.

Leaving San Diego 5

The final word still hasn’t come in for whether or not I’ll actually be moving to Atlanta. I would say it’s about a 75% chance. It’s ok though. Those are still good betting odds so I continue getting things ready. I start telling people.

“Atlanta? You? In the South? you’re going to hate it” I’ve heard this a few times in a few different versions. But these friends don’t realize I’ve lived in The South before. I moved to New Orleans in 1985 from Missouri. I know about the heat, I know about the humidity. But what my friends that really know me worry about is how I’ll deal with the stupidity. The racism. I’ve dealt with that before too, though. After all I’m from Missouri and was raised by white trash.

The nice thing about the announcement that you’re leaving an area is you do get taken out to lunch and dinner by almost everyone you know. Nothing like a sense of scarcity to fill up your social calendar.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Leaving San Diego 4

Round one in the storage unit. I’ve heard it said that the main reasons people put off a chore is because 1) it seems overwhelming or 2) they don’t know how to start or in my case 3) both and no car to haul crap away.
When I put this stuff here to I told myself and anyone who would listen that I wasn’t going to be one of those people to spend more money to store my stuff than my stuff was worth. That was over two years ago. Over $1800 ago. For stuff I’ve recently decided to just get rid of.
Today I just arranged and sifted. Old checks, leases for apartments. Paperwork for a home I no longer own, pay stubs, receipts for businesses, real estate license, tax forms. Five boxes total hand shredded and thrown out.
The papers that are left are a little trickier, Journals, legal documents, pictures etc. Luckily I have time and a storage unit so I shove it back in and lock the door. I’ll be back next week.