About Camping.

When we were kids, my parents would pack-up Amanda and I, load the car with the essentials, connect the pop-up camper, and off across America we go.  I have seen much of this country thanks to them, and those very long road trips.  I didn’t appreciate them at the time, I’m sure.  As an adult though, those are some of my fondest memories.  I often times look back at my childhood, and I wonder how my parents were able to do the things they did, how they afforded it, and managed all of it. This is about camping.

I was a useless kid, when we would go on these trips I never did anything, my parents never asked me for help.  I was such a lazy kid.  I’m just here for your entertainment.  I wish I had paid attention more.  I wish I had appreciated it more.  One year, we went to the Grand Canyon, and my mom was so excited about it.  It was the middle of summer, and hot and humid and gross, and even as a child these things would annoy me.  We drove into the park, and went to the first lookout and parked the car.  We all go out of the car, looked over, and I remember staring blankly unimpressed, ‘Can we go now?’  I was a shit-head from an early age.  We stayed near a dodgy looking Flintstone’s “theme park” though, and that was my saving grace on that trip.  It was literally so shady looking, but for 10 year old Henry it was better then staring at a hole in the ground.  Needless to say, adult Henry wants to go back and appreciate the Grand Canyon, and hike it, and go rafting.   

We had a pop-up camper, with beds and a sink, and air conditioning.  My dad had one of those large conversion vans, little blue lights rimmed the ceiling of it when it got dark out, and we had a TV with a VCR. Since it was just four of us, we had a lot of space.  Needless to say, we weren’t roughing it really, but it was camping none-the-less.  We would have campfires, and grill every meal, and if we wanted a real treat we would go into whatever small town we were in and have breakfast at the local place, or buy fried chicken from gas stations, or order pizza.  We would swim, and because we usually stayed at campground chains we would take part in whatever the nightly activity was.  I was a lucky kid.  My mother recently reminded me of a story of when we went to Vegas.  I don’t know if Circus, Circus is still a thing, but when we went it was, and I hit a winning streak, and ended up walking away with a shit ton of stuffed animals.  When we got to the airport, I guess I insisted that my parents shrink-wrap them and pay the extra money to fly them all back as excessive baggage.  ‘That wasn’t me, mom, that was Amanda.’ ‘That was definitely you that insisted on it…’ She was right. Oh, little gay boy… I know, not camping related…

This weekend, I drove out to Starved Rock to camp for the weekend.  This trip was planned under the impression we would have fall weather, and not the 90-degree’s we ended up getting. Thursday, I ran around collecting camping equipment, and packing it into the car not realizing how much was needed.  I was overwhelmed, this must be how my parents felt, but they also had two brats in tow.  On Friday, we hit the road and pulled into the campground, an open field behind a biker bar called Papa Murph’s, with no showers, but two potter potties in the middle.  We arrived late, and had to set-up in the dark, but settled in fine, and made dinner and a campfire and looked at the stars.  It got cool at night, and I settled into my tent and into the sleeping bag.  I then woke-up to 90 degrees and sweating profusely.  What. The. Fuck. I got out of the tent, Julio was ruffling for the coffee maker.  No way.  Not happening.  ‘Let’s go. We need to find gas, and a Starbucks.’ ‘The closest one is 16 miles away, isn’t that kind of far?’ ‘I literally don’t care right now.’ There was no electricity at this camp, so we needed to charge our phones in the car.  When we got back to camp, iced coffee in hand, I decided to cut the gas, and leave the car on to charge my phone.  No need to waste gas.  Let me come back to this. 

As we sat around the camp in the blistering sun we tried to figure out what to do with the day.  One of my friends, ‘It’s so hot, we could rent a hotel room just to use their pool for a few hours and come back.  It’ll be cheap if we split it.’  ‘And we can shower too. Yes!’  I know, not exactly the camping experience, but that was the best idea ever! We booked the room, packed up the cars, and as I slipped the key in the ignition…. Nothing.  Remember that phone that was charging?  The car battery was completely dead. Henry, you’re a real idiot sometimes.  I didn’t have jumper cables.  ‘There is a group of 20 straight guys over there… one of them has to have cables.’  Sure enough they did, and were nice enough to let me borrow them.  One of them was even nice enough to come jump the car when we couldn’t figure it out after 20 minutes. 

Anyway, this weekend was pretty great. I slept outside in a tent, and we got to swim, and grill and play games and Sunday we went hiking at Starved Rock, and most importantly, I got sit around a campfire with some pretty wonderful people.  And we talked about life, and laughed about stupid shit, and in the end it made me appreciate two things.  One, the crap my parents went through to show two little punks so much of the United States.  Two, that I camped my whole life, and didn’t know how to cause I didn’t appreciate it the way I should have.  Anyway, thanks mom and dad… sorry I thought the Grand Canyon was dumb and the Flintstone’s park was cooler.  Nia, Veronica, Oscar and Julio, thanks for a great weekend under the stars behind the Papa Murph’s, and from keeping me from trying to make friends with the bikers.  Although, maybe they were really nice and not scary?  Guess we’ll never know… 

About My Best Friends Wedding.

It’s been so long since I’ve written anything.  Summer is coming to a close.  As I walked around my neighborhood today, all the U-Haul trucks in the streets, as people are moving in and out of apartments.  Beginnings and endings.  One of the reasons I love Chicago is because of the change in seasons.  Starts and finishes.  It’s September 1st and feels like Fall.  Last weekend, at the tail end of Summer, my friends and I piled into a car to make the long haul to Port Huron, MI.  I waited a week to write this.   I needed a week to digest it all.  By Monday morning, it all felt like a blur.  One week later… I think I have it…. This is about my best friends wedding. 

Amy grew up in Port Huron, MI, which is about a six-hour drive from Chicago.  Twenty minutes into the trip, ‘Are we there yet?’  I’m so annoying.  I really am. ‘Jon, my phone won’t connect to the Bluetooth.’  Ten minutes later, ‘I’m sure you want me to play the music.  Do you want my phone to connect?’  Taking a road trip with me is basically like taking a toddler.  I showed up with a suitcase, a backpack, and a large grocery bag full of snacks.  I basically packed as though I was going on the Oregon Trail.  Friday night, we arrived at the hotel with minimal amount of time for Julio and I to shower and still make the rehearsal on time.  I text Amy midway through the trip, ‘I’m getting in a little before 6pm.  Will I have time to shower?”  “Yes, but just hurry… the church lady is mean and will yell at you if you’re late.”  I laughed it off… it was no joke though… she was having none of me.... I’ll get to that later though. 

The church was beautiful, and as we sat in the pews we watched them do the run through of the ceremony.  At the end, ‘Can I please have the ushers come-up?’ I walked to the front of the church, ‘Ok.  Your job is very important.  You need to make sure that right after the wedding party walks out, you come up to each pew and motion with your hand for them to exit.’  Blank stare.  Won’t people know to exit?  Is my hand gesture necessary?  I didn’t ask questions, ‘Great.  I can do that.’ ‘Have either of you been an usher before?’  ‘No.  Never.’  She had a look of distress on her face.  Listen, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to fuck this up… promise.  ‘You two should sit over there in that first pew on the right, so you’re able to quickly get-up and exit.’ ‘Ok cool, do you think I can sit on the brides side, since that’s where my family will be?’  ‘I just told you that you have to sit there…’  Blank stare again.  I went to catholic school my whole life… I wasn’t going to win this battle.  This was her territory.  I would have sat outside on the sidewalk at that point if that is what she asked me to do. 

The day of the wedding, as everyone got ready, I had to be done early because the church lady assured me I needed to be there an hour before the service.  ‘You have guests in from out of town… the ushers need to be here to greet them.’   Again, no one’s getting there an hour early, but you’re closer to God so I’m just going to do as I’m told.  As I finished getting ready I text Sarah, ‘Are you guys back at the hotel and getting ready?’ ‘YES! Come by.’  ‘Ok, I need to leave for the church, but I want to say bye before I leave.’ In my head I mentally prepared myself.  Ok, you’re going to go down there, and she’s going to be in her wedding dress, and you’ll probably cry, but you’ll share this moment together right before she’s about to get married.  You’ll tell her how beautiful she looks, and tell her how happy you are for her.  I knocked on the door and walked in… Amy is literally standing in front of the mirror wearing her vale, doing her make-up and… wearing her pajamas.  Literally she is standing there wearing cartoon pajamas.  I just laughed… yeah, this makes more sense, actually. 

The reception was done in true Amy and Lucas fashion.  Cake cutting?  No thanks.  Formal introductions?  We can skip that. ‘Let’s get through the speeches and dances so everyone can drink and have a good time.’  The DJ started the night with typical wedding music, at some point, Lucas had enough and all of sudden Nelly and Notorious BIG are blasting over the speakers.  I’m certain I have never seen a more crowded dance floor.  I’m also sure I have never sweat more in my life. I wasn’t dehydrated from drinking, but I was dehydrated from dancing.  At the end of the night I offered my room for the after party, and her cousin offered his as another to watch the UFC fight. 

People strolled in and out the room, and the music blared, and some danced on the beds, and others smoked on the balcony.  How long till this gets shut down?  2am rolls around, and there’s a knock at the door.  Security.  I was expecting you… They didn’t shut us down though.  Instead, they moved us to a conference room on the first floor.  I didn’t last much past 3am, but I think people were up well past 4am.  Only Amy and Lucas would have two after parties, and have the hotel open up a new space so that rest of the hotel could sleep while everyone continues to drink till the sun comes up. 

The next day, most cleared out of the hotel and made their way home.  We went to Amy’s aunt’s cottage.  We sat outside, and had a couple of beers, her cousin Chloe performed a few songs and we relaxed after the chaos that was the past two days.  At night we went to a bar in town, I’m sure it looks the exact way it did 50 years ago.  We told stories about from the weekend, we reminisced about the Chicago years, and we ordered doubles.  It was a perfect weekend. 

Last night, as I was texting with Amy, ‘You know I loved most about this wedding? Realizing how INCREDIBLE people are.’  ‘Actually, I had an idea for a blog, but I didn’t want to take away from focusing on you.’  ‘I don’t need a spotlight.  I reflect the glow of all you assholes.’  That’s why Amy and I are best friends, because that was my takeaway too.  At so many points I looked around that room, and it was filled with such love.  All those people, who travelled to a small city an hour outside of Detroit to celebrate Amy and Lucas.

Monday morning, we piled back into the car, ‘Jon, my phone isn’t connecting… fix it, please.  Also, can we stop at McDonalds?’  In my life, I imagine that my life always has a soundtrack playing in the background.  Many times, the music I cue is done on purpose, and I wonder if anyone else is listening.  As we got onto the highway, I hit play… This band called BOY, and their song ‘Army’ played as we rolled out of Port Huron… Last weekend, in a small town in Michigan… all these incredible people in one room….

“You should see my favorite people
You catch a glimpse of gold through their skins
I walk on air whenever I'm with them
They're where the happiness begins
And I'm alright on my own, but with them I'm much better…”  

 

 

About the Dog.

I haven’t written anything for a while.  I’ll sit at my laptop, stare at the screen, and nothing produces.  I’ve run out of things to say.  That’s probably not true, but my focus is off.  I can’t concentration on one single thing long enough to make sense of it.  If you’ve ever had a conversation with me you know this to be true.  I’ll be talking about one thing, and fall into a tangent I don’t know how to get myself out of. ‘Wait, what was I talking about again?’  Anyway, that’s the reason I haven’t updated.  I need to start making a list of topics.  I’ll be walking down the street and have a stream of thoughts that end up lost in translation as they are quickly forgotten as I move through the day. 

That first paragraph literally has NOTHING to do with the rest of this.  So you see my point, right?  Moving on… I am obsessed with the Facebook, ‘On This Day,’ feature.  I’ll check it everyday, and only occasionally do I cringe at things I wrote, or the pictures that somehow got posted over the years.  Over the last few days though, all of my ‘On This Day,’ posts have been about Billie.  I brought Billie Jean Villa home eight years ago last week.  I was 25. In 2009 over the Forth of July weekend I was sitting around bullshitting with my family at a BBQ.  As my family arrived at my parents house my aunt walked in and noted the absence of her son, ‘JJ isn’t coming, he just got a new dog and he’s a puppy so he stayed home with him.’  Later that afternoon I approached his sister, ‘let’s go see Auto.’  A puppy at eight weeks is sleepy and tiny, and as this little creature sat on my lap I looked at my cousins, ‘I want one.’  My cousin Bri replied, ‘Well go get one… there’s two others. Want me to ask if you could go see them?’  ‘Yes!’ 

I had been living near UIC at the time, and it was a few years after graduating college.   Getting a dog felt like such an adult thing to do, and at the time, I felt like I was an adult.  I was wrong, but I wouldn’t figure that out till years later.  I rushed home to tell my parents about it –my mom was pretty supportive.  She knew I had wanted to get a dog for a while, and had even gone to look at a few with me.  My dad wasn’t so quick to hop on the support train… Dogs are a lot of work and you’re too irresponsible.  You’re never home.  I’m allergic to dogs, so don’t think you can just bring over here.  It’ll make a mess, and I’m not going to be out there cleaning up the yard.  Of course I took a minute to really take in what he was saying, and than I ignored it and decided to listen to the parent that agreed with me.   My moms only request, ‘get the female… the males are stupid.’  She had one bad experience with one male dog…

A few days later I went to visit, and based on my moms advice immediately focused my attention on the girl.  I wish I could remember more about that first visit, and why exactly I did choose the puppy I did, maybe it was my mom, or maybe it was just meant to be.  Either way, I paid the $50, and told them I would be back to pick her up a few days later.  I went back to my parents’ house that night, and my mom and I drove to Target to pick-up what we thought were the necessaries for someone bringing home a puppy.  Food and water bowls, a leash, a collar, dog toys, food, puppy snacks, etc.  Two days later I went to pick her up, and bring her to her new home. 

Amanda went with me to get her.  She had just moved back home from college, and was just as excited as me.  Before we even picked her up Amanda had planned on just going with me back to my apartment because she wanted to hangout with the puppy.   Before heading back to my apartment I stopped by parents house so they could meet her.  This little seven pound eight week old puppy, just gliding around the floor, scared, and timid, and still occasionally losing her balance as she mastered this whole walking thing.  The three of us sat on the floor as Billie Jean made her way around the room slowly walking to each of us.  My dad, still adamant about the decision I had made, sort of ignored all of it.  As I was getting ready to leave, Amanda said she would probably just stay home and not come back to the city with me, ‘No. Just come back with me.’  It was in that moment I realized I was terrified.  I had never had a dog before, and all the pets I did have growing up either died shortly after I got them, or were given away because I lost interest or was scared of them.  I didn’t know anything about having a dog let alone a puppy. 

The car ride home she trembled the whole time, and at my apartment she was unsure of her surroundings, and I was unsure of her.  Amanda stayed up with her after I crawled into bed.  She woke me up shortly after because Billie had an accident in the apartment and she was not about to clean it up.  It was the first time I picked up dog shit.  That was eight years ago, and that is hard to believe.  I didn’t know how to raise a dog, but over the last eight years I have learned little by little, and had lots of help along the way.  The first week I had her I asked my friend Christy to dogsit for me while I was at work, ‘Don’t give her any human food, I’m trying to avoid from doing that.’  I text Christy a lot that day, and when I got home Christy proudly proclaimed, ‘I thought her to sit, and give high-fives.’ ‘Oh my god… that’s amazing.  How did you do that?’  ‘Oh, Henry… let’s just say she likes cheese….’

Over the last eight years Billie Jean and I have grown together.  She’s my little buddy.  The first week I had her I tried to crate train her, I was going to be that kind of pet owner.  A few nights in, she was crying and barking in her crate, clearly upset.  I woke up, opened the door, and she sprinted to my bedroom, jumped on the bed, stared at me with those puppy dog eyes, and has never slept in a crate again.  Eight years has gone by quickly, and every time I come home to her it’s still the best part of my day.  She isn’t really a fan of cuddling at night, she likes her space, but sometimes, if it’s been a rough day for me, I’ll scoop her up, and lay her right under my arm.  She will take a deep breath, lay her head on my chest, and settle in.  She knows. 

Anyway, I could go on and on about her, and how much having her has changed my life for the best.  However, this post is probably long enough… the point is, if you’re questioning whether you should or shouldn’t get a dog, or if you’re able to handle it, all I can say is I didn’t think I could eight years ago.  It was one of the better decisions I made.  Also, my dad, who strongly opposed of the dog adoption, is now madly obsessed with her.  Follow him on Snapchat… it’s basically Billie’s personal account.  I bet we’re both glad I took my moms advice…  

About the other Amanda.

I have had two Amanda’s in my life for over ten years.  One is my sister, and the other is my friend Amanda.  I used to work at Best Buy when I was in college.  I was a Personal Shopper.  Basically, my job was to cater to wealthy white suburban moms… ok they never said they had to be white, but like all the pamphlets were white women.  It was such an odd role, we were not really managed, and we were such assholes.  For some reason we pulled higher rank –it was weird.  One time, the Assistant Manager asked me to clean something, and I gave him a blank stare and walked away.  In my defense, he was an idiot, and I hated him… mostly for being an idiot.

Amanda and I met through a mutual a friend while working at Best Buy, and one night, she asked me to go out with her to see a band play.  It was the first time we were alone together.  Those nights are always strange –two semi-strangers together, and you either connect, or you don’t.  We connected.  We have been friends ever since.  To be honest, she has been a better friend to me, than I have ever been to her.  I can admit that.  When I got laid off in 2015 I called her to tell her, “come stay with me.  I’ll make you dinner and get us wine.”  I spent a few days there.  In the mix of the chaos that was my life at that time, she was the calm.  That’s the kind of friend she is. 

When my sister was in college I would often ask Amanda to come with me to visit. We would pack our shit for the weekend and make the three-hour drive to Madison, WI.  One night we were out, and when everyone else departed we stayed at the bar.  On the walk home we passed these group of guys, college students, and there in the middle of the road was a road sign big enough to block a street off.  A construction sign, ‘No Through Traffic.’  I forget exactly how it transpired, but one of these boys insinuated that because Amanda was a girl she weak.  Amanda looked me square in the eyes, “pick up the other end of that fucking sign, we’re taking it.”  We hauled that sign three blocks back to my sister’s apartment.  That’s Amanda.  Do not tell her she cannot do something.  She will do it, or die trying to.  At the end of that weekend we literally had to demolish that sign to get rid of it. 

A few months ago she started talking about travel nursing.  She needed a break from the life she had been living.  She wanted to feel a sense of adventure.  I encouraged her, and wish I had the ability to do the same thing.  She decided to take the plunge this year and her first stop is Salt Lake City.  She just spent her first full week there.  I’m so proud of her, and I’m so excited to live vicariously through her.  I think sometimes I forget to let people know that I notice.  To let them know that I am thankful… for them.  So this is just that.  A note, to say thanks… Be safe.  Be bold.  Love ya, kiddo… I’m going to find my way to you at some point… promise. 

Don't. Panic.

I won’t. Promise.  Life happens… sometimes you’re prepared, and sometimes you’re not.  No one comes out unscathed. No details on this one –just the broad strokes. I’m not one to call people.  I’ll text.  However, when life falls apart I have a list in my head, and I will begin to make phone calls.  There is an order and a structure.  I’ll need advice, or to vent, and I will reach out for it.  My friends and family will listen; they will let me talk it out.  I’ll eventually find my balance, ‘You’re handling this really well.’  I’ll laugh, ‘what am I supposed to do?  It’s out of my control at this point.’

Friday afternoon, I called Amy, ‘I don’t think I can go to this dinner… I’m mentally drained.’ Without missing a beat, ‘No, that dinner is exactly where you need to be.’  Per usual, ‘you’re right.  I need to go and get out of this apartment.’  I’m an open book, I’ll tell you everything.  I’ll make self-deprecating jokes about my life.  I think my friends sometimes think it’s too much.  I’ll find it humorous.  They’ll look at me, and chuckle, and I’m sure wonder if I’ve lost my marbles.  I’m kidding, of course.  Shit happens though, and if you can’t laugh about it than you have lost.  I refuse to lose. 

Here’s the thing, I have always believed that life is a matter of perspective.  You are in control.  You are driving the car and you get to decide the direction –even when it doesn’t feel that way.  I’ll be overwhelmed for 15 minutes.  What the fuck do I do now? I’ll remind myself, this is going to be ok…. You are going to be ok.  I’ll surround myself with good people, and they too will remind me that it’s a bump in the road.  It is not the end of the road.  I’ll get annoyed with people when their negativity overtakes them.  Why must the glass be half empty?  I refuse to ever become that... to ever have that perspective.

I’ve always had a lifeline.  In fact, I have many, and for that I am grateful.  I think sometimes we forget that though.  We think we’re alone, and it’s so easy to retreat.  I don’t think any of us are though.  I hope, that we all have some sort of support structure.  Even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.  Friday afternoon caused me to stumble.  I wandered off the trail, and not intentionally, but that’s ok.  By 6pm, ‘ok, this is what I’m going to do… I think this is going to be ok.’ 

Today felt like summer.  The weather was perfect.  My weekend is packed with obligations.  I like it that way.  On Friday, my friend Aya was right, ‘it’s the weekend, don’t think about it till Monday.’  I’ll take that advice, because it’s the right advice.  Life’s too short to sweat the small shit.  Even if it doesn’t feel like small shit… it probably is.  At least that’s what I’ll tell myself.  I sat at dinner, ‘it’s probably all going to be ok, right?’  Life would be boring without the hiccups.  What stories would we tell?  I have many stories… but even the shitty ones are funny.  Life is so much better when you laugh about it.  I promise.

About The Boys.

Last weekend, I inserted myself into a situation I shouldn’t have.  My friend Alfonso told me not to, ‘he’s going to get mad at you if you try to say something.’  I don’t read the warning labels… I dive right in.  It’ll all be ok. Two of my friends weren’t talking, and I was not happy about it.  This is about that… this is a story about the boys.  

I came out late.  I’m always late.  I was 25, I think.  I was out one night… way past my bedtime.  Some time around 3am sitting at the bar I was complaining about the shitty music someone played, ‘Who played this shit?’  Roger looked over, ‘I did.’  ‘Oh… Hi I’m Henry….’  That’s how all this started.  That’s how I met my friend Roger.  We ended up hanging out that night, and at 5am we exchanged numbers, ‘text me tomorrow.’  He did, and we have been friends ever since, and it’s because of Roger that I have any gay friends. 

The boys.  My gang of gays.  Last week, chatting with Alfonso… ‘this has to end… we’re family… I’m not interested in us falling apart.’  I’ve talked about how important my friendships are in past posts, and the boys are certainly included in that.  We’re lucky to have each other.  All those years ago Roger brought me in.  He introduced me, and told them I was ok, and they let me in.  Over the years we have evolved and we have grown together.  A few weeks ago I text Alfonso and Julio, ‘There’s this Selena drag show at the Mexican Fine Arts Museum.  My family’s going, come with?’  Without hesitation, ‘I’m in.’ Last weekend we went to that event, with my family, and at some point my mom pulled my friends to the dance floor.  They are family. 

The boys taught me to be gay. I used to be so uncomfortable at gay bars, and probably with myself.  I didn’t fit in.  I was never the loud and proud one.  I was not the one twirling on the dance floor, which you probably wouldn’t believe if you know me now.  I’m lucky to have them.  I’m lucky they let me in.  We can depend on each other, and when shit hits the fan we will be there for each other.  I’ll laugh at how honest we are with each other… we will be out to dinner and I’ll wonder what everyone around us is thinking.  Why would you say that out loud?

My friends got over their beef.  They needed to.  There are so few people that know your history -people that know the real you.  You keep those people around.   We need each other.  We keep each other in check.  I didn’t know eight years ago what I was doing by saying hi to a random guy at a bar, but I’m glad I did, because from that came so much more… the boys.

I wonder what we’ll be like in ten years.  We’re so different today from who we were when we met.  We have grown up together.  We have become better people because of each other.  I have so many stories I could tell, but I’ll save those.  One day I’ll write a TV show or movie about us.  We all bring something to the table… and I love that fucking table. 

About This Weekend. And Friends.

This weekend we had Amy’s bachelorette party in Chicago, and there we were surrounded by all of our friends.  These people who came out for her –to celebrate her.  In our group of friends people show-up –they will make you feel loved.  I flaked on the planning a bit.  Saturday’s activity was non-existent.  I was late in booking something, and we couldn’t get in anywhere.  All my ideas were dead ends.  I told my friend Aaron, ‘I don’t know what we’re going to do.  I guess we’ll figure something out.’  ‘Want me to open the Native for you?’  Without hesitation I responded, ‘yes! We can open the bar early, and it’ll just be our group.  That’s perfect.  If you make the drinks strong I’ll kill you.  I need this group to last the entire day.’ Aaron will poison you.  He tried to too, but pushed less hard then usual.

At the Native we stood around chatting about all those years in Chicago, and being young and stupid.  All of sudden, ‘Amy do you remember when we really became friends?’ Amy replied, ‘You jackass we were always friends, or at least I thought so.’ It wasn’t what I meant, sure we were friends right off the bat, but when did it spill over and begin to feel different.  The types of friendship were you know 100% you can rely on each other no matter what.  You will catch me when I fall, and I you.  I know that night for Amy and I, from my perspective at least.

Amy and I were working together at Scripps in Chicago, and we had already known each other from a couple years back when we worked at a different media company.  People knew we were friends, and when she took a few days off unexpectedly our co-workers started asking me if she was ok. I honestly didn’t realize she had been gone, and when I did I just assumed she was sick.  Finally, I reached out, ‘Hey are you ok?’  ‘Yeah, I’m fine, I broke-up with Chris and just needed a few days.’  I left it at that.  She came back to work the following week.  I never asked what happened.  I didn’t need to know.  If she wanted to tell me she would. Amy and I were still in the early stages of friendship, considering what it turned into, and sometimes people don’t want to share all the details. 

She ended up telling me a couple of weeks later, one night before heading out to get drinks. We went to Glascotts in Lincoln Park, and we had beers and played pool -honestly, I probably just watched, but whatever.  Toward the end of the night we sat on the ledge of the bar in silence, after most of the place had cleared out.  We laughed about stupid shit that night, and as we hit the end of the night, that point were you start to daze off, Mumford & Sons ‘Little Lion Man’ came on.  For some reason I felt compelled, and I put my arm around her, and pulled her a little closer.  We sat on top of that bar, and in that moment I wanted her to know she was going to be ok.  I wanted her to know that from this point on we were in it together.  That night something changed.  That was the night, for me, that we became something more.  In that moment I understood her in a way that I didn’t before.  She let me in, and in turn I knew that I would let her in too. 

I try to remember those moments.  I try to recognize when the dynamic has changed.  Sometimes it’s difficult, but if I think about it long enough it’ll hit me.  There is a point though, when friendships evolve, and that's a pretty special thing.  I don't know if you recognize it in that moment, but looking back I'm certain that was it for me and Amy.  Anyway, this August Amy gets married to a really great guy, and we had a really great time this weekend.  I’m glad it’s over… I’m still exhausted…. But, like everything else we’ve done that has exhausted me… I regret none of it.  Good friends are worth it.  

About La La Land.

I wish I were going home to Chicago right now.  Instead, I’m on a flight to Seattle, only to catch a connecting flight to Victoria, BC, Canada.  I’m tired of traveling, and I don’t really enjoy it.  I’m going to Canada for work, but I decided to fly out early and spend the weekend in LA.  I always wonder how people enjoy traveling for work, maybe they go to interesting places or something.  I just want to be at home, hanging out with my dog, and grabbing dinner with friends.  It’s a Monday night and there’s nothing I’d rather do then go see ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and call it a night.  Instead, I’ll land at 10:30pm, go straight to bed and prepare for a busy few days at our sales summit.  It just sounds exhausting. 

I called an Uber to pick me up from my friends’ house to take me to LAX.   The minute I got into her car she start chatting.  I’m hit or miss in Ubers, most of the time I really like the conversation, but today, I was tired from the weekend, felt I was running late, and trying to reply to text messages and e-mails.  However, she seemed sweet and genuine, so I put my phone down and participated in real life.  Sometimes that’s a difficult thing to do. 

“I wish I was going to LAX like you.”

“No you don’t… I wish I wasn’t going to LAX… I’m just going for work.”

 “Where are you going?”

“Oh, this small city… I don’t know if you would know it…”

Never assume, Henry.  Never.  She proceeded to tell me all about Victoria, and how she had spent some time there a few years back with her family over the summer.  She told me about how good the seafood is, and how everyone is really nice, and how she went to see a Ska band there with her mom by accident.  She was very familiar with Victoria, Canada.  During that 40-minute car ride she told me about travelling and I told her about how much I want to move to LA, and she told me about how much she loved it and where I should I live, and places to check out next time I’m in town.  As I got out of the car, “I’m going to look you up when I move here…”

I’ve been to LA a few times.  Always for work, or passing through too quickly it didn’t really count.  This was the first time I came and actually had time to relax and see the city.  My friend Michelle moved to LA two years ago, and a year ago bought a house in West Hollywood.  We spent the weekend exploring LA, and this time I saw a whole different side of it.  First of all, the weather is perfect, and there is nothing better then being outside all the time.  I loved everything about LA.

I went to hike Runyon Canyon by myself one morning, and on my way down I was texting my friend Amanda,  ‘Let’s move to LA.’  I got back to Michelle’s and I told her I was obsessed with LA, and I was going to move here.  She doesn’t believe me.  She shouldn’t believe me.  I for years told her I was moving to New York when she lived there, and I never even came close.  I might not on this one either.  I could very well land in Chicago on Thursday, be so happy to be home, fall back into my routine, and never really think about it.  Or maybe I won’t.  I really do think I’d fit in well in LA.  For years I thought I would hate it. I thought the traffic would drive me insane, and the people would be too obnoxious for me to handle.  Neither of those things really happened though.  I spent a weekend staying in Michelle’s beautiful home, and driving around in her Benz like I belonged there.  I should probably remind myself, I am not Michelle, and would be slumming it in LA.  Wonder if it’s still as a great under those conditions?  Ok, slumming it is not really accurate… but probably pretty close…

About 'When we Rise.'

I was talking to a friend the other day.  I am in the process of trying to help a different friend plan a long weekend away for his 40th birthday.  I explained it would be myself, and three of my best gay friends.  I asked about a trip he had to Glacier National Park, and the house he had rented on AirBNB.  It sounded like a good idea, to me.  A road trip from Chicago to Montana, a house in the mountains, hiking, and wildlife over a long weekend.  A chance to get away from the city, and sit under the stars and just relax.  I was sold, until, ‘BUT it is not a very gay friendly spot, it’s deep in Montana, I actually wouldn’t recommend for a gay trip.  It’s deep in Trump country.’  I never even thought about that.  It never crossed my mind.  There are still places in this country that are weird about the gays? 

My friend Miles moved to Greece a few years ago.  My group of friends and I would get together on the weekends for dinner, and as the youngest in our group no one was surprised when they all went home, and I would just be starting my night with the gay boys.  Miles was in his 40’s then, and he had the best stories about growing up in the late 80s and 90s.  He would tell me stories about being gay in those days.  On many occasions we would be standing out smoking cigarettes and he would ask where I was going.  I would tell him my plans for the night.  He would shake his head, ‘I hope you guys appreciate what my generation did so you guys could skip down the street without having to worry.  We were throwing bricks through windows so you guys could be a bunch of drunks.’   I would laugh it off, and not think much about it. 

This past weekend I started watching the mini-series ‘When we Rise’ on ABC, which is a re-telling of the rise of the gay rights movement in the United States starting with the Stonewall riots in 1969.  It’s a glimpse into the fight that a generation before me endured.  It’s hard to watch at times.  These kids, who became disenfranchised from society and were unaccepted by their families and the communities they lived in.  Beyond that, they were beaten in the streets, as the rest of society looked away.  The rise of the AIDS epidemic, and a government unwilling to help.  It follows a generation as they took to the streets… as they fought for their rights as a community, and as Americans. 

People often ask what my coming out experience was like –relatively uneventful as far as I’m concerned.  I never really thought much of it.  I sort of feel like, for me, it was one minute I wasn’t gay and the next I was, and no one really cared.  If I had to sum up the overall reaction of the people in my life it would be, ‘Ok, cool.  Where should we go to dinner tonight?  Do you feel like sushi or pizza?’  A generation younger then myself will probably be even more flippant about it.  I’m glad I started watching this show –it’s made me appreciate what so many people went through so that I never really had to live in fear.   I’m well aware I’m also really lucky to have grown up in a liberal progressive city.  Evident by the fact that the rating for ‘When we Rise’ weren’t good.  Let’s be honest, this is still Trump’s America… for me, this show was a reminder to never become complacent.  A reminder, that we’re not done fighting yet.  Worst-case scenario, I end up in conversion therapy, but like, I’ll be there with all the designers, hair stylists and make-up artists so it probably wont be so bad, right? 

About Music.

On a flight back to Chicago from New Orleans.   A couple months ago, on a Monday morning, I called Amy, “What did you do this weekend?”  We exchanged stories as we often do.  Midway through the call, “Oh, we bought tickets to go see the Lumineers.” “Wait, what? Why didn’t you tell me, I would totally have come down and went with you!”  “Just, look-up tickets, it’s a small venue, buy a single ticket and we will figure it out.”  I wasn’t interested in that.  It’s too late, I didn’t want to go and not be able to sit with them.  I ignored the idea, and we moved on.  As I sat at my laptop I went on to Ticketmaster anyway a short while later.  I forgot that there is now an extra option that allows you to pick out your own seats.  I asked Amy out of curiosity, ‘What seats do you have? “  “We are in section C, row 9, seats 6-9.” I looked at the seating map, and as I zoomed in on their section I sat in disbelief.  Their section was mostly sold out, but there were a scattering of single seats left, and one of those seats was seat 5.  “Um, you’re not going to believe this, literally, the seat right next to yours is available… what are the fucking odds?”  “Henry, you have to buy it right now.  It’s a sign.” The universe makes no mistakes.  I bought that ticket immediately.  “It’s Friday night show –I can make this work.  Even if it’s a quick weekend trip.  I’m purchasing now.” 

When I was in college a friend of mine introduced me to the White Stripes.  I was obsessed from the first time I heard them.  One day we were sitting around, and talking about how they were touring, but not stopping in Chicago.  Of course, my immediate thought was, “what’s the next closest city they’re playing?”  They were playing a show in Detroit.  “Let’s just buy tickets and drive to Detroit.” I’m sure he thought I was joking.  I wasn’t.  I looked on Ebay, and clicked the purchase button.  A few days later we made the five-hour drive to Detroit, and stopped in this shady part of town, and met this guy at a bar who had sold us the tickets.  We were in a city neither of us had ever been in –meeting some person we didn’t know.  Anyway, we didn’t die, and we went to that show at the Fox Theater, and it still stands as one of the top ten concerts I’ve ever been to.  We drove back that night, right after the show.  We spent ten hours in a car just to see the White Stripes.  I had class the next day, and I’m sure I went on minimal sleep.  It was worth it. 

A couple of weeks ago I went to see a concert at this small venue by my apartment.  I hadn’t been there before.  I’m always amazed when I find a place I didn’t know about.  Especially music venues –I’ve made the rounds to so many in this city.  The name of the band escapes me right now.  I wasn’t familiar with them, but they were really fun to watch.  The opening act went on, and I engaged.  Listening to a new band for the first time is like meeting a new friend for the first time.  Except it’s a one-sided conversation, and I’m ok with that.  Midway through the opening act, my friend asked me why I was being quiet.  I am loud, and I usually not the quiet one in the corner, and my friends are probably not used that.  Music will silence me.  I want to connect, and I will hang on every lyric, and I will try to relate.  It was worth the trip to New Orleans to see the Lumineer’s on Friday, and I have to believe that the single seat available next to Amy’s was no coincidence. I’m now thirty minutes from landing, as the Lumineer’s play in my headphones.  I’m sure getting my life back in order, and my busy work week will be rough, but it was worth it.  Friday and the Lumineer’s were worth it.  Music is always worth it. 

About Perspective.

Is the glass half full, or half empty? So cliché.  I find myself having the same conversation with many people.  I went to lunch with a friend the other day, and of course the topic of relationships and babies came up.  She told me about how she was starting to question whether she wanted either of those things.  About how she was finally starting to feel comfortable with the idea that maybe it would happen, and maybe it wouldn’t, and she was ok either way.  I can relate.  A couple of weeks ago another friend text me, ‘Do you ever feel like you can no longer relate to your friends who have kids?’  I couldn’t comprehend…’I don’t know, I don’t even think about it.  I’m going to the Grammys on Sunday, so like, I’m ok.’  I’m sure my friends having babies feel like they can’t relate to my life either sometimes. 

The grass is always greener on the other side.  I was at a friend’s wedding a year and half ago, with people I hadn’t seen in years.  Everyone asked the same questions, ‘Are you still living in Wrigley?  What else is new?’  I never have a great answer… yep, five years in Wrigley, single, and pretty much just pretending I’m still 28, while everyone else is getting married, having babies, buying houses, and getting their shit together.  ‘That’s awesome… I see your Facebook posts… we’re all just living vicariously through you.’  Excuse me?  How so?  I don’t get it.  I would much rather be in your situation.   

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my friend Allison and her newborn.  I’m obsessed.  I will just hold him for hours. Watch him sleep, and wait for him to wake-up and wonder what he’s thinking as he stares at me with those big eyes.  I’ll half jokingly tell my friends I just want to be a stay at home dad.  I would be such a good dad.  As much as I love spending time with Simon, I go home at the end of the night.  I do not wake-up at 4am when he needs to be fed.  I’ll ask Allison about being a new mom, and she’ll talk about how happy she is to be a mom, and how much she loves having Simon in her life.  She’ll also openly acknowledge how different things are.  “Yeah, it’s weird, we can’t just pick-up and go out to dinner, or go have drinks with you guys, and we definitely cannot get out of hand like we used to.  We have this responsibility now.”  

Perspective.  We’re always going to be missing out on something.  We are always going to have to give something up.  Neither is right or wrong, or a better fit.  I’m spending the next three months taking weekend trips to New Orleans and LA to visit friends.  I hardly ever turn down an invite to dinner.  I’ll text my friends randomly to go see a movie, and on the weekends I’ll sleep in.  I have zero responsibility to anyone beside myself.  Is that a good thing?  Who knows, but it’s the place I’m in right now.  Maybe that’ll change one day, and I will adapt to that.  I think I’d be happy if I had a kid, or met someone and ended up in a serious relationship.  Life is full of surprises, and I hope that the one thing that always remains is my ability to find happiness regardless of what is going on in my life.  I was unemployed for a year, and some people would probably be filled with anxiety and stress.  I was more like, cool I get to go to the gym during the day, and not be up at 730am every morning.  Perspective.  For me, the grass is greener on whichever side I’m on.  I can’t worry about where everyone else is in life, or what I do or don’t have.  It’s too much effort.  I’d rather work to find the happiness in whichever situation I’m in right now.  I think that’s the right thing to do. 

About this Southside girl I know.

Last night I went to dinner with my friend Jackie.  We went to Chilam Balm in Lakeview.  Tapas, and we ordered far more then we should have.  I love Chilam, and if you haven’t been you need to go.  I’ll go with you.  I’ve known Jackie for fourteen years.  I met Jackie when we both worked at this retail sports store in the south suburbs of Chicago.  We were so young.  I wish I could remember how we became friends… she probably called me an asshole and I was probably like, ‘I think I’m in love.’  Over the years we’ve grown up together, and we’ve became “some-what” adults from those kids who met at nineteen.  We were so dumb. 

One summer we decided to buy tickets to a Cubs/Sox game off of Craigslist.  I don’t know if Stubhub existed, but it was probably too expensive so we went the Craigslist route.  Jackie met me at my parents house, and dressed in our Sox appeal we jumped into my convertible and made our way down to Comiskey Park.  We paid for parking and followed the guys’ instructions.  “Meet me on 35th in front of the park.  I’ll roll down the window and give you guys the tickets and you can give me the money.”  Oh, ok that seems reasonable.  We did the exchange, and made our way to the gate. “I’m sorry sir, these tickets are not working… I think you bought fake tickets.”  “Excuse me? There’s no way… try again.”  I was distraught, however I think Jackie laughed.  She also proceeded to text the guy threatening him. “My family is in the goddamn mafia you fucker… I’ll have them find you if you don’t come return our money. You fucking dick.”  That’s Jackie, and she’s from the Southside and will not take your shit, and I love her for it. 

A few years ago Jackie met her now husband Tim in LA.  I remember her coming home, and telling me she met this guy at a bar in LA and that she really liked him.  Oh, right, he also was Australian, and still lived there.  Now, I’m not always a pessimist, but I was quick to tell her she was being an idiot.  There’s no way this works out.  I was very very very wrong.  After they had been long distance dating for a while she decided to move to Australia.  The night before she left I drove to her house to say bye, and wish her luck, and to remind her I was a phone call a way.  At that time we spent a lot of time together, and I was heartbroken she was leaving.  I took the long way home that night -I needed a minute.  The streets were quiet and empty and when I put on the radio The Cranberries, ‘Dreams,’ was playing.  Music always comes at the right time.

Last night over dinner we caught-up, and it was like no time had passed.  We talked about life, and being 33, and how this was not what we expected.  We talked about the good stuff, and the not so good stuff.  There are no secrets.  We talked about making more of an effort to see each other, and we laughed about the shit that we have been through together over the last fourteen years.  Jackie was my original faux girlfriend.  She was my go-to date for many family parties, and I was hers.  We are such different people now from those kids who met at 19, and shopped at Abercrombie, and drove around endlessly in my convertible thinking we were so cool.   Those 19-year-old versions of us had to remind each other they were going to be ok, and it turns out so did the 33-year-old versions of us.  xo

About the Grammy's...

I started writing this last Monday… it got a little delayed… life…

On a flight back home from LA.  The last twenty-four hours were exhausting.  For as long as I can remember the Grammy’s have been my favorite awards show –it’s music’s biggest night.  When I was kid I was convinced that one day I would host the Grammy’s… shit, maybe I’m still convinced of that.   The summer after I graduated high school my friend and I had tickets to see a concert every other week.  My obsession with seeing music live developed early on.  Last week I bought tickets to see Lady Gaga in San Francisco, because I won’t be able to see her in Chicago.  I have no idea who is going with me, but I bought two tickets assuming I could con someone into going.  Not seeing her wasn’t an option.  Her last album was pure art. I listened to it, and I related to it.  That’s why music is so important to me, because it tells stories –and, if it finds you at the just right moment, it becomes the soundtrack to your story. 

Friday afternoon I was at work, and trying to wind down and figure out how I was going to make it through my busy weekend.  My calendar is full, and I literally committed to being somewhere every second of every day.  Where is my down time?  It doesn’t exist.  I was messaging Amanda earlier in the day when she mentioned, ‘I might have a ticket to the Grammy’s.’  I encouraged her to go.  There’s a chance you’ll never have that offer again.  This might be a once in a lifetime experience.  A short while later she messaged me in a panic, ‘Wait, I have a plus one… do you want to come?’ I hesitated for all of two seconds, ‘YES, of course.’  We left Sunday Morning on a 7am flight to LAX.  We landed at 9am, and went straight to the hotel.  We had just enough time to grab lunch, and for Amanda to get her hair and make-up done before having to head to the Staples Center.  We had tickets to walk the red carpet, but it was chaos trying to find the entrance.  There were people everywhere, and security checkpoints to go through.  We ended up entering to the gates immediately next to the red carpet. 

Our seats were in the upper levels, and still, everyone was dressed formal.  I found that odd.  I don’t know why.  Once the show starts all the vendors shut down.  There is no food or alcohol served, which I also found odd.  I mean, they’re musicians… I just assumed we would walk in to servers handing us glasses of champagne and open bars sponsored by vendors.  Not a chance.   To be in that arena with music’s biggest names, with the people that in 2016 inspired me, or in some way comforted me, or gave me the material I needed to have solo dance parties when no one was looking –it was pretty amazing. We had tickets to the after party next door in the convention center.  The first question everyone asks, ‘Did you meet anyone famous?’ Nah, it was all producers, label people, marketing people, etc.  The drinks were free, the food was good and the space was pretty cool. 

All in all it was a quick, but fun, 48-hour trip.  Many have asked if I would want to go back.  I don’t know if I would.  It was exhausting, and that’s the reason this is just getting posted now.  I did start this on the plane ride home, and then I got distracted… flipping through the movie selections.  Nothing good.  Trying to figure out if the well dressed man across the aisle was gay… he had to be… he ordered red wine, was dressed well, and watching ‘This is Us.’ Finally, I just fell asleep for a while.  Anyway, it was an amazing experience, and I’m so lucky to have been able to attend.  Maybe I’ll hold on to that dream though, and continue to believe that one day I’ll host the Grammys… don’t worry Amanda, you can be my plus one…

About Football...and Other Sports.

My friend sent a group text about getting together to watch the Super Bowl.  Yeah, sure, I like being social so I’ll be there.  Also, Lady Gaga is performing.  I don’t get football or peoples fascination with it.  Most other sports I get, and I’m at least intrigued enough to sit through them.  Not the case with football.  When I was kid the coaches in elementary school tried to recruit me to play.  They suggested it to my dad at this awards dinner we were at.  One of those awards dinner where every kid gets a trophy regardless.  I still laugh at this, because I was so fucking awful at basketball, but like I kept playing for like three years.  I mean, I was really fucking awful.  I imagine if those games were taped they would be hilarious to watch now!  I would just shuffle around just enough to make it appear I was engaged.  I fucking hated it and had zero interest.  I kept playing because afterwards my dad would take me to White Castle and let me order mozzarella sticks.  Seriously.  I think I remember even getting nailed by the ball once because I was zoned out completely.  One time, I had this really great rebound and turned right around and shot a lay-up and got that basketball right in that net.  I remember on that car ride home thinking, ‘Wow, I’m probably really great at this and didn’t know it… maybe I’ll play for the NBA one day.’  Nope… that was definitely a one off. 

Anyway, back to where this started… they tried to recruit me for football and my mom was pretty much like, ‘he’ll get injured and die …no way!’  And I was pretty much like, ‘Yeah mom’s right it’s too dangerous we should listen to her.’  Needless to say we never talked about football again.  In high school, like at most high schools, it was a big deal.  I didn’t only hate football, and going to the games, I hated the rally too.  It all was so obnoxious to me.  I think I went to one game, stayed for like a minute, and then left and drove around the South Side of Chicago listening to Green Day or some shit.  I was not having any of it.  Needless to say, my hatred of football started pretty early on in life.  To this day I cannot tell you the last time I sat through a whole game.  When I was younger my dad would take me to this Super Bowl party that my uncle threw.  My parents never made me do anything I didn’t want to, honestly, they’re saints like that.  So, this is really all self-inflicted.  I would go to the party though because there was unlimited pizza, I got to stay up late, and hang out with my dad.  He would also let me help him pick squares and gamble, and I like those things.  In fact, one time in high school I bet 10 bucks on one of those squares, and wouldn’t you know I fucking won.  Like 150 dollars which was a lot to kid in high school.  I had no clue.  My acting career started in high school when I pretended like I knew all along I had won.  No idea. 

I’m going to go watch this game on Sunday, but let’s be honest, I’m going to sit around and gab with whichever friends are also interested in ignoring the game.  I’ll stop to watch Lady Gaga hoping she makes some sort of statement about Trump.  She probably won’t.  Honestly, I’m struggling to remember who is even playing.  I’m also struggling to understand why tickets are so expensive.  Not just to the Super Bowl, but games in general.  I imagine its cause there aren’t many games throughout the year.  I started writing a blog about Trump, but it was depressing me… so I wrote this instead and I’m happy I did.  This was way more fun.  Also, does any one really care about the commercials any more?  If they’re good I’ll stop to watch those too I suppose…. Go sports #merica’

About the Women's March.

I had an improv show on Friday night.  My friend Ellie was in town and came to see it, and a bunch of us went out for drinks after. The show didn’t end till 11pm, and needless to say I was out later then I should have.  At 11:30pm my friend sent a group text, “Go to bed you two, we have a big day tomorrow.” I looked at it, and thought, ‘Well, that’s not happening.  I’m already here knee deep in a discussion about politics… I’ll be fine in the morning.’  Needless to say I ignored my 8:30am alarm, and finally got myself up about 9am.  I was already running late.  I thought for a second of just pulling the blanket over my head, and texting to say I couldn’t make it.  The thought of showering and getting dressed seemed overwhelming.  I couldn’t cancel.  I knew how much it meant to my friends, and I had promised.  Pull it together, Villa… this a story about the Women’s March on Saturday…

We got into the Loop around 10am, and crowds were beginning to grow.  They initially estimated 20,000 people would be in attendance, and quickly after they doubled that estimation going into the weekend.  We started to make our way toward the holding area, and as we walked through the crowds the thing I noticed was the diversity.  Old people, young people, kids in strollers, gay people, straight people, lesbians, white people, brown people, and everyone else you can imagine.  It has to be the most diverse event I have attended.  People were kind, and patient, and as we moved through the crowd people started to make their way out of the holding area, and then someone informed the crowd, ‘It’s cancelled –the crowd is too big now.  150,000 people are here.’  We started to make our way to Michigan Ave, and as we walked to get out of the area we noticed the crowds were marching anyway.  They came to make a statement –they came to be heard.  We too wanted to be heard, and so we joined them, and marched through the streets of Chicago peacefully.  People made signs, and started chants, and though strangers amongst strangers we were all there as one.

Afterwards, we went to brunch, and TV’s streamed the news coverage, and my social media was flooded with reposted news articles and pictures.  Chicago was one of many cities, at least one march on each continent.  What did we accomplish though? We, as a global community, made a statement this weekend.  We are here, and we have a voice, and we are not ok.  We will not be silent, and we will not be taken for fools.  We will not sit idle, and we will stay vigilant.  Immediately after the election the language changed… we’re going to be ok.  It’s only four years.  There are systems and people that will make sure he doesn’t kill us all. I don’t know if I believe that.  I don’t know if I believe the empire cannot fall.  He was never a successful businessman –he was a fortunate man who came from a wealthy family.  Sure, I’ll give him credit for the branding, and making his name a brand.  However, on his climb to the top he screwed everyone over.  He is a bad person.  Here’s the thing, the people who will suffer most are those that believe he will help them.  America is now Trump Mountain, and he has reached the top, and the mountain will begin to crumble if we are not there to stop it.

I went Saturday to march, and I’m happy I did.  What I do believe is that we have the power and ability to steer the ship.  We are in charge here if we chose to be.  This is the beginning-not the end.  If you haven’t seen Aziz’s open for Saturday Night Live check it out -Aziz got it right.

About Babies.

I went to dinner on Monday with two of my friends, Allison and Aaron.  Allison is incredibly pregnant.  We sat at dinner, and talked about their baby, with a quickly approaching due date. I asked lots of questions… I’m clueless on the subject.  How quickly do you bring him or her home?  So, basically, you have a baby and three days later it’s all your responsibility?  Can you only eat certain foods if your breastfeeding? I was overwhelmed just listening.  Midway through dinner… we ordered another bottle of wine, ‘You realize you’re the first of our group of friends to have a baby?  I’m totally going to be an 'Guncle' to this kid.’  Allison, ‘You’re definitely going to be our kids’ favorite gay uncle.’ The night caught me off guard…. This is a story about why it did and growing up and change…

 I’ve known Allison and Aaron a long time, and in that time, we have certainly had some stories.  There was a two-year period that they rented a house on the river, and had a boat docked on that river.  I’ll refer to this period in my life as the ‘golden years.’  On any given night one of them would send a text, ‘Boat tonight?’  I rarely hesitated, ‘Yep! What time?’  There was always a group of us, and we would have dinner, and afterwards pile onto the boat.  It was a pontoon boat, and we would slowly make our way down the river, travelling through the industrial part of the city, and slowly creeping into the loop.   It’s the craziest thing, to be on that river, and cut the corner near the merchandise mart as the city just engulfs you.  Every trip we brought too much wine, Aaron brought too much Jameson, and collectively we had far too much fun.  How fucking fortunate were we? 

 A little over a year ago, Allison slipped in that her and Aaron were getting married.  Just casually slipped into conversation.  Wait… What?  When? ‘We’re just going to the courthouse, we’re not making it a big deal.’ That didn’t sit well with me.  ‘I’m going to come with.’ I’ll insert myself into situations shamelessly.  I wanted to be there.  I did go with them, and I saw them exchange their vows, and I was happy they were willing to have me there.  Over the years, we have gotten into trouble together, and stayed out too late, and somewhere in between built a private bar, and had too many nightcaps, and Aaron ordered too many shots, and there was the time he got a reality show on Discovery Channel, and most importantly we had the boating years.  They are family, and all these years later we are sitting at dinner talking about babies and those responsibilities. 

 They’re going to be such great parents, and I can’t wait to meet their baby.  I can’t wait to buy him or her annoying toys, and I can’t wait till he or she is walking and I single handedly help them create a mess, and leave at the end of the night knowing that kid had the best time, but Allison and Aaron will hate me! Sorry guys! I always thought I would be so disappointed when my friends got to this point - when our responsibilities changed, but that’s not the case at all.   I’m so happy for them, and having a baby in our little group is going to be cool.  On that note, I need to go buy this kid a welcome to the world present… you’re stuck with the bunch of us.  

About a year ago today.

A year ago, Amy packed up a U-Haul and moved to New Orleans.  Her fiancé is doing his residency there.  I met Amy almost ten years ago.  We worked for the same company, except she was in the Detroit office and I was in Chicago.  We had the same job, and so we worked together often even though she was not in Chicago.  We became friends.  When I left that company she moved to Chicago, and soon after that we became inseparable.  I could tell you countless stories about the shit we went through in this city –the shit that we survived, and maybe I will one day, but this is a story about saying goodbye.  Not to our friendship, of course, but to a period in our lives. 

Amy and I used to be fun.  We wouldn’t let a weekend go by without closing down a 5am bar.  My friends think I’m lying when I say I didn’t realize 5am bars existed before I met Amy, but that’s the truth.  She was the first of my friends that I came out to.  Amy and I had this game we played, we would say we were going to stay in and have a “quiet” night, and hang with the dogs.  Cause you know, we’re adults and can be responsible.  That never happened (and once Four Loco happened… different story though).  On one of those nights, I asked her if she wanted to go out for a nightcap… there was always a nightcap.  Of course she said yes.  We walked down to this gay bar, and we sat at the bar and ordered drinks as anxiety built within me.  She looked at me, “Is this your way of telling me your gay?” She hit me, “You jackass, we could have been coming to fun gay bars this whole time?”  She has always made me feel safe.

Amy moved to New Orleans the first week of January 2016.  I was distraught.  She was, and is, the light. I spent seven years dependent on her friendship.  I was codependent on Amy.  It wasn’t a bad codependent –it was more like a second opinion to make sure I wasn’t fucking things up codependent.  If my life was a game show, ‘Regis, I would like to phone a friend.’ We balanced each other out... And most times we ended up ok, and the times we didn’t the other was there to do damage control.  We had a system worked out –maybe it’s more like a survival plan.

Saying goodbye to her was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  A year ago around this time I didn’t know how I would survive this city without her.  I didn’t think I was capable.  For over seven years she was always there, and in those seven years she helped shape me.  I am who I am in large part because of her.  I ran my first marathon because of Amy.  I learned to be open and honest and real because of Amy.  I became a better person because of Amy.  She has always encouraged me to be better… she pushed me to be better when she felt I wasn’t giving enough.  She has always supported me… no matter how crazy I was, while always making sure I was still being reasonable.

At the start of this year I felt lost.  I felt abandoned.  A year later I feel different.  I think about all the shit we did.  The things we went through together.  The many nights it was just us sitting at a bar trying to figure out life, and what it all meant.  I learned to appreciate what we had, and how fortunate we were to have each other for all those years.  The type of friendship we have is rare.  Family. I’ll be forever grateful for those years Amy and I got to spend being irresponsible.  It was, for me at least, like college all over again, or maybe the second phase of college.  This time though, we were the teachers and we taught each other.  The lessons were not read from a book… they were experienced.

Over the course of this year I realized I was going to be ok. I still miss Amy daily.  I wish I could I still text her, “this week has been awful… I’ll grab wine and come over,” “Can we go watch movies at the theater in our PJ’s?,” “Let’s just go to Jake’s for one.”  Amy and I survived our twenties, and into our thirties, together, and I’m so thankful we had each other.  The day she left we spent over ten hours packing up that U-Haul, as all the memories flooded through my head.  We are one. As we packed the last of the apartment in the truck we walked through her apartment one last time, and we turned off the lights and walked out.  We reached the end of the story.

Over time some of our stories will fade, and the details will become blurry, and I bet her and I will have contradictory opinions on what happened.  To be honest we already do.  That’s ok though, because at the end of it all… we’ll remember we laughed… a lot.  Most of all, for all those years, in a city like this, we felt safe, and I hope I speak for both of us when I say we felt loved.  We had each other.  I get to see Amy in a week… we will sit at dinner with all our friends, and it’ll feel like it always felt.  Safe and loved.  See ya next week… babe…. xox 

About 2016.

I love New Years Eve.  In my head, it’s the reset button… start again.  Last night was the closing night for my improv show, ‘A Christmas Peril.’  The audience was filled with my friends and family.  Afterwards, we went to dinner in Lincoln Park, and I sat at a table of 20 surrounded by friends and family.  It’s moments like this that I realize how lucky I am.  2016 was a shitty year.  I don’t know anyone that necessarily feels differently.  However, as I thought about this post I decided to not focus on that.  Perspective.  So here we go…

2016 was a growth a year.  I started the year without a job.  My best friend moved to New Orleans.  I was lost.  For the first time in a long time I lost my footing.  I’m not often caught off guard.  At the start of 2016 I was caught off guard.  For the first time, in a long time, I was scared.  What now? I had zero direction.  I spent 2016 trying to find myself again.  Who am I?  What’s next?  It was a rebuilding year.  I was fortunate though, because despite the state of my life I was thing was consistent.  I was always surrounded by good people.  I have guidance.  The day of my birthday my friend posted on Facebook, “It takes a village to raise a Henry.”  That is the truth.  That was especially true for this year.  I needed so many distractions this year.  I needed to be around people that I could laugh with.

I could yammer on about how shitty this year was, and how some things didn’t work out, and the disappointment in that.  But why bother?  No one cares, and 2016 wasn’t all bad.  I got a new job, and I actually like it most of the time.  I gained new friends, and became better friends with others.  I got to do improv shows with my friends.  I helped my friends plan their wedding, which was surprisingly really fun for me.  I feel like 2016 made me a better and smarter person.  In 2016 I finally created this blog.  It was always in the back of mind… be unapologetically honest and see what happens. 

I rented a space @ Schuba’s tonight.  A tradition my cousin had years ago.  I’ll just take that over now.  For the second night in a row I’ll get to spend the evening with friends and family.  I made the playlist for tonight –lot’s of Bowie, Prince and George Michael.  I’ll watch the time count down to midnight, and in my head I’ll shake the Etch-A-Sketch and start again.  Anyway, if you’re bored tonight stop by Schuba’s, and regardless of what you do tonight, have a great and safe New Years Eve.  I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings us… x

33.

I woke up 33 today.  Last night I had dinner with friends, and we said it would be a quiet night.  After too many bottles of wine, ‘Well, where to next?” You should never ask me that question, “Well, I turn 33 at midnight, we could go to Jakes.”  “Jakes only seems appropriate…” Needless to say I woke up a little late today, to Facebook notifications, and a phone flooded with kind texts and missed calls.  Here’s how I feel about 33…

I never planned past 30.  When I was in my twenties I gave myself goals.  I knew what I wanted to get out of my twenties.  I wanted to have a career –I wanted to feel like I was on a path and that I at least felt like I was successful.  I wanted to live in the city and experience everything that makes this city so special.  I wanted it to feel like home.  I wanted to have a diverse group of people around me.  I wanted to be around people that would challenge me, and inspire me, and help me grow. Above all, I wanted to have stories to tell.  I didn’t want to ever look back on my twenties and feel like I didn’t do enough.  I did enough.  I accomplished all these things.  I was terrified to turn 30 because I didn’t know what the next chapter was.

My friends said your thirties are your best years, and they were right.  What do I want though for this period of my life, because I know one day I’ll wake up, and I’ll be like… ‘Fuck, I’m 40… now what?’  I haven’t travelled as much as I would like.  I want to finish what I started.  I want to travel more.  I want to work on the things that I’m really passionate about.  I want to write more, and I want to continue doing improv.  I need to find an adult apartment –although I do love my frat pad.  I swear this apartment needs to be the set of a sitcom one day.  In my thirties I want to be healthier.  I need to stop smoking.  I want to be better at my job –I’m not bad at my job, but I know I can be better.  I can push myself.  I want to start a t-shirt line.  I don’t know why, but I do.  It’s in the works.  By 40 I want to work for myself.  I want to find a way to support myself doing something I love –it can’t feel like ‘work’ forever.  These are tangible things.  These aren’t things I’ll tell myself I want to do.. these are things I will do. 

I’m not terrified any more.  My thirties are good.  My horoscope today was the following…

If You Were Born Today, December 22:

You are an emotional person who is very connected to your past. You are exceptionally giving and supportive, sometimes to the point of martyrdom! You have to try not to feel resentful for all that you do for others by keeping this trait in balance. You would make an excellent counselor. Your love life is likely very changeful. You are extremely hard-working and few can do the job as well as you. Sometimes you are impatient with others who don’t seem to have the same work ethic as you, but you must understand that few do! You can be a perfectionist. You are a wonderful combination of conservative and creative or inspired.

This year is a period of constructive accomplishment. You are practical and realistic, and your judgment is especially sound. You also derive much satisfaction from practical achievement. It would behoove you to identify and focus on finding pleasure in the simple things that make you happy.

Your passions and enthusiasm run high, and the trick is to channel this extra energy constructively, which is easier than usual. In fact, you possess more self-discipline than usual. The period ahead is one of greater self-understanding, enterprise, and engaging projects. You easily find extra energy to pour into your pursuits, although you may be placing a lot of pressure on yourself to succeed at times this year. Pacing yourself will be important to stay healthy and happy. Business and ideas are both practical and innovative.

If you know me at all, and I’m guessing you do.  All of that is true.  I don’t know how much to read into horoscopes, but if it is true… well, it’ll be an interesting year.   Tonight, my friends are having a small group of us over for dinner.  We’ll have wine, and we’ll laugh, and I’ll look around that table and be grateful that I am here… at 33…. With so much left to do… 

Thanks.

It’s that time of year.  All the holiday parties are happening, and added to that I know a lot of December birthdays.  Including my own.  Needless to say, this past weekend I threw myself a birthday party.  I’ve done this party every year for the last eight, I believe.  It’s so dumb.  Who throws a birthday party for themselves for turning 33?  I do.  I make myself feel better about it by sprinkling in some Christmas music and saying it’s also a “holiday party.”  Don’t be fooled… it’s not.  I just like to pretend I’m not one of those people that cares about birthdays.  Don’t be fooled… I do.  Admitting you have a problem is the first step? I also just like any reason to convince all my friends to hang out with me.  Really, that should read pressure them to hang out with me. 

The first birthday party I threw for myself was all those years ago on University Lane when I moved into my first apartment.  I don’t remember the details in their entirety, but I’m sure my sister was pouring shots, Dan probably went to pick up pizza at 2am, and Christy was probably lighting shit on fire.  No one has become more mature since.  I’m ok with that. 

Every year I stand in a room full of people and I think about how lucky I am.  These people that I’m fortunate enough to call my family and friends, and these people that always show up.   The week before Christmas, the weather is always awful, and yet so many show up.  This group of really diverse, smart, kind, and funny people that I’m so lucky to have in my life.  My friend Kayla even came in drag.  I asked her to show-up in drag, at first she thought I was kidding. I wasn’t.  I can barely muster up the straight to not look homeless on a daily bases, so I can really appreciate her taking the time to show-up in drag.  All of these people with different stories, and different backgrounds and I have been fortunate enough to have them all in my life. 

Anyway, I say all this to say thanks.  Thank you to everyone that showed up.  I know some couldn’t make it, and that’s ok too.  Next year.  Because, you know, everyone celebrates turning 34 too.  Regardless, ahead of the holiday season, every year it’s a good reminder to me of how grateful I am for all of you.  We live in this messy, sometimes fucked up world, and yet we all found each other.  That’s a really crazy thing for me to sometimes grasp.  Not only that we found each other, but that over time we have built these friendships, and we’ve shared stories, and given each other advice, and we have grown together.  I am a better person because of those experiences that we have shared together.   My birthday wasn’t even this weekend, but on Thursday I turn 33.   I’ll think about all the things I’ve accomplished, and probably a lot about the things I haven’t accomplished, and at some point I’ll remind myself…  Henry, you’re ok, and you have all these people that really care about you. You are going to be just fine… Thanks again… with love… henry.