Yesterday When I Was Young and Gay!

I was 14 years old when I ran away from Toronto to New York City and have been on my own ever since. Up to that point my short life had been very dark, there had been a lot of pain from so many different places that running away felt like the only way out. What hurt then still hurts today. I would spend the next 20+ years trying to come to terms with those memories. I understand people who say the only way to put the bitterness and the pain of betrayal behind us is to forgive, that to allow the hurt someone else has inflicted on us only robs us of our power and ultimatly makes them the winner. I understand that in order for me to put the past where it belongs I need to forgive. Oh really? I've spent years trying to come to terms with that philosophy, I've tried to accept it. I've tried managing those feelings every which way till Sunday and they just won't die! I've been clean and sober for over 10 years now and although I've grown up enough to know that the alternative to sobriety was one road I'll never travel down again, I don't remember ever feeling more comfort or more relief for what haunted me than I felt after a bottle of liquor and a shot of smack. I'm Sorry, I'm just "keepin it real y'all" (I sound so "hood"):o) What I'd give to go back in time with the proper tools to understand the tragedy of addiction because it's probably my biggest regret. I wasted so many years and such a large part of my emotional development chasing the next hit. And while it's true I don't enjoy resenting my sobriety and I certainly don't reccomend it, it has not been without it's challenges! Yes, even my sobriety comes at a price. Of course the thing I resent the most about it is how it forces me to "keep it real" with NO relief. Like Janis once said "there's no night and day, it's just one long f**kin day man". I'm so sad today. I'm so tired. I've lost so many of the friends I once had, friends who took the place of the family I didn't have. And because I was alone I had to create my own family so that's exactly what I did. I was very careful about who I hung out with, who I let in. The streets of New York pre-AIDS were teeming with people who loved to party. "Friends" were everywhere! I think the best times of my entire life were those early years in New York. I will never forget stepping off the train from Toronto. I was in Grand Central Station surrounded by millions of people and just as many sights, sounds and smells. I had a friend in Brooklyn I was going to visit so I hopped in a cab and over the Brooklyn Bridge I went. It was dark and raining so I couldn't see much, but I could feel it. When I got to Flatbush the meter said $7, can you imagine? 7 bucks?! 7 bucks wouldn't take you take you 2 blocks today! When I handed the driver the money he looked at me like I was nuts because all I had was Canadian money! My friend came down, paid him, and up we went to his place. I will never forget that night as long as I live because not only was it my first night in New York City it was a Saturday and my friend couldn't go anywhere because he had a toothache! I was 14 years old and bursting with energy and excitement and I couldn't go anywhere or do anything! Well he called his nephew Junior who picked me up and brought me back to his place to get ready. He had a small 2 bedroom apartment that he shared with his parents. I had so much respect and gratitude for Junior. He looked after both of his parents who, I found out that first night, were both blind! I'll never forget the way he searched my face for some small hint of how I felt about the fact that his parents were blind and the appreciation he felt when without even skipping a beat I went up and hugged them both. There was nothing for me to think about, please, they were both so beautiful. They must have been in their 80's then and from that day until the day he died I don't think I ever had a conversation with Junior when I didn't ask him how his parents were. My first night in New York was very special for other reasons too. We must have gone to 5 or 6 of these small gay house parties without even leaving the neighborhood! A small group of friends would spend the evening together talking and laughing, listening to music, smoking joints and dancing without ever leaving Brooklyn! They just went from house to house! This blew me away because where I came from if you wanted to party with your gay friends you had to go downtown! Yes, that was one of the best nights of my life. When I got up the next morning Alex was still in pain so he told me to get to the Village all I had to do was walk down to the subway, take the D train from the Church St. station and get off at the W4th. So I'm sitting there looking around, bug eyed, because everything was just so different in so many ways from what I had experienced up to that point. Because I was so young and from Canada I had no point of reference. Growing up I'd always dreamed of the New York I saw in the movies, but this was real life. Then it happened. BANG! Like a solar eclipse or a tsunami we thundered out of the dark tunnel onto the Brooklyn Bridge and into the light! Manhattan was right in front of me. I must have been quite the sight because this was bigger than any dream I'd ever dreamed, bigger than any assumptions I'd ever made. I knew New York was big, that the streets were pulsating with energy, that this tiny island was alive under my feet, but until I'd experienced it the way I did that Sunday morning when we shot out of the tunnel and without any warning there it was, anything anyone had ever said about it meant nothing. I got off in the Village and realized, that very first day, that I was home. I have so many memories of those days, but there are a few that tower over the rest. I will never forget walking down Christopher Street one night at about 11pm when all of a sudden this huge gay mob just assembled. From every direction they came with signs and shaking fists, they were pissed! They were protesting the filming of the movie Cruising. The story was about a gay serial killer, played by Al Pacino, who found his victim's in the gay bars and bathouses of Manhatten. I will never forget the power and the solidarity I felt as a young inexperienced gay boy who had come out to his family less than a year earlier. The same family who told him he was sick before having him committed to a mental hospital and then disowned him. I forgot to mention that little fact. I had run away not only from Toronto, but from a nuthouse in Toronto. I had run away from a lot of very deep pain, a lot of inner conflict and confusion. The gay movement in 1977 was still very young and very small. Especially in Toronto. So when I arrived in New York fresh out of the looney bin only to discover whole neighborhood's of people who were like me or who accepted me I knew the reason I'd been put away was bogus. This was a huge revelation. It meant that if I was sick then millions of others and their supporter's were sick too, it meant I wasn't alone. The Village really did become my home, it was a refuge not only in New York itself, but in my heart. I felt safe there. The gay community in New York and especially in Greenwich Village was where I learned about music and fashion and cuisine. These guys had a lot of class and if you were open to discovering it then it was there for the taking. I lived in New York for years and have stories that would make you curl your toes and beg for mercy! How does a 14 year old boy on the run from a mental hospital in Canada, with no money and no support survive in a metropolis like New York City? Looking back I can't believe some of the s**t I did! Now I would NEVER take the kind of chancess that I took back then! Today I'm back in Toronto and I hate it. I don't know how to get myself out of this mess. It just sucks. One would think, after everything I've learned over these many years I'd know enough to save for a rainy day. Well, that's not what happened and I hate myself for it. I'm almost 50 years old, oh my god, I can hardly type that number nevermind say it or accept it. If I haven't figured something out in the next, say, 5 years, I'm oiutta here. There is nothing worse than being an old gay guy with no money who depends on social programs funded by the government to survive. No way. Screw that mess. I'm ugly and broke, not stupid! Can you imagine? I saw this dcumentary on PBS one night about the elderly in this old age home in Seattle. Before every meal they'd be lined up 10 deep in their wheelchairs outside the dining room, waiting for the doors to open. When they finally did those geezers turned into animals, it was every man for himself. This relativly organized group of seniors just lost it, canes and fists were flying as they tried to get into the dining room in front of each other and to the "premium seats". They were vicious, I couldn't believe it. I'd rather buy the farm before anything like that happens to me. No way. Today I am scared, for sure, that's how you feel sometimes when your alone in the world. Many of the friends I had for years, especially the ones I made in New York in the late 70's and early 80's are gone now and that can be painful at times because of how much I miss them. As I get older I'm realizing there are certain lines I won't cross and being at the mercy of a provincially funded old age facility is one of them. All I really want at this point in my life is a way to support myself that's not too complicated. What I'd really love is a way to make a living doing something I like that also contributes in some way to the community. That would be perfect. And the second thing I want is to get the h*ll out of Toronto. Ya know that old saying that no one cares about you when your down? That has never been more evident than in Toronto. It's a cold place to be, it's very big and it's entire identity is lost in commercial development and greed. I speak from personal experience. I would never have found the kindness and the acceptance in Toronto that I found in New York back in the day. The only reason I'm here is because I got robbed in Costa Rica! Really! I'd been living there illegally for 2 years so when I was robbed I was stranded and had to go to the Embassy, of course I got caught and they repatriated me, not back to Vancouver, where I'd been living for 5 years prior to CR, but to Toronto because, get this, it was the closest point of entry! I am here against my will! I am a political refugee! Does that sound believable? :o) Yep, they sent me home and dumped me wherever was cheapest! Well today's rant has reached it's conclusion, I'm gonna make myself a peanut butter sandwich and ponder my present circumstances some more. Maybe I can come up with a way out of this town! -- Via -- Via
Cyberdish Cyberdish
46-50, M
Sep 8, 2012