Freedom 2018

Guest Post by Leland Coffey

    The year was 2014.  I was a Navy Veteran who had segued  his Naval career into a job with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Hartwell Dam.  It is located on the border of South Carolina and Georgia with redneckery afoot from all directions, and “Conservative Christians” as abundant as country music and rebel flags.  

    Including my 6 years of Navy time I had a total of 27 years of distinguished government service.  I had been legally married earlier that summer to my partner of 9 years in a small but intimate ceremony in Central Park, New York City.  I had become a fitness buff, a certified personal trainer, and an instructor of multiple classes at my local gym.  

    At 5’9”, 190 pounds, and 3% body fat I was in the best shape of my life. In the fall of that year, just as I was about to turn 46, I did some professional modeling for the very first time for a very well known photographer in Dallas, which gave me the opportunity to become a spokesmodel for several clothing companies.  

Photo by Mack Sturgis

    I had a beautiful home, an amazing group of friends, 3 dogs, the respect of my peers, and two beautiful adult children who were successful.  My life, to all who were around me peering in, seemed just perfect.  

    Flash forward to 2017.  My marriage was over.  I had stopped teaching classes at my gym, and let my personal training certification lapse.  I had gained 30 pounds, and for the first time in my life I was having health problems.  My blood pressure was high, my anxiety was through the roof and I began taking anti-depressants just to keep it under control.  

    I had to have surgery due to an umbilical hernia.  The friends that I had had all but disappeared, and those that remained lived at least two states away.  All of my dogs had either passed away or ran away.  

    My career with the federal government, which had now been a 30 year span, was about to come to an abrupt and unseemly end.  I was forced out for what my superiors sited as “conduct unbecoming.”  The respect I had earned turned into whispers and quiet pity.  In 3 years, my life had turned into a complete shit show.  

    I can summarize the cause of the vast majority of my work woes with one word: SLUT.  The issue with work was at least partially my fault.  I do take responsibility for that. At the very least I had a hand in it.  In all fairness, I was a slut.  An Instagram slut to be exact.  

    Not that there is anything wrong with that (may the gods look down upon you with favor and a stirring in their loins, oh ye Instagram hoes!), but a government employee being a slut was not the type of behavior that is looked at with favor.  

    There is a larger story there.  I had a fellow employee who had begun transitioning from a male to a female.  In addition to making my sexual orientation public by adding my husband to all of my federal benefits, I had been very vocal about my unwavering support for Molly as she went through her journey.              

    While almost all of my coworkers avoided and ridiculed her, I was her confidant and her staunch advocate.  Watching what she went through, it has made me acutely aware that supporting the trans community, in any way I can, is my chosen philanthropy. 

    In fact, in some ways her choice to follow through with embracing her truth and setting herself free inspired me to unravel the binds that I had placed upon myself.  Freedom is never actually free.  It can come at great cost.  But the rewards can be boundless.

    But I digress.  Still though, I have to look at myself and recognize that at the end of the day the fault for my career to plummet lies with me in some form and fashion.  

    The reasons why my marriage fell apart are multi-faceted, however, again, to strip it down to the bare bones: WHORE!  Our marriage had begun to degrade the moment we said “I do.”  I blame myself.  I had become disavowed with my spouse for a number of reasons, which are not necessarily important to this story. 

    I am not trying to say that this was not a two-way street or that he was completely innocent.  The point of this article, though, is taking responsibility for my actions, and hopefully learning something in the process.   

    This, in addition to the loss of my mother after an excruciating battle with breast cancer, made me question everything.  Religion, my place in the world, the boundaries to which I had submitted myself to, monogamy, sexuality… the list goes on and on.  

    I looked for friendship, comfort and compatibility in other people and, before I knew it, I had realized that my husband and I were not compatible. There were so many small things that led to this.  For one thing, I had been in relationships since I was 20.  I never had the opportunity to be single and explore that.      

    I am also the consummate care-giver.  Maybe its the dad in me.  I love to cook for people, to make them feel safe and loved and tend to their needs.  To build them up and help them realize their true value and give them the things that they desire.              

    Oftentimes I do these things at my own expense, and to be seen as the “good guy”.  And while I think these are all good qualities, you cannot do this at your own expense.  Eventually the resentment for being the people pleaser will wield its ugly head.  

    The driving force in my life, for most of my life, was to be seen as the good guy - good…at…everything - the man who has it all.  I excelled in school.  I said and did the things that I thought would make others look favorably upon me when I was married to a woman (yep, that’s a WHOLE other story!).  I had two children (a boy and a girl, both who I must say in my best efforts to try to not fuck them up, have become lovely human beings).  

    I was a perfect catholic boy who was active in my church and even taught Sunday school.  I became a decorated military man (though in my mind I always imagined being out to sea in some page right out of a Tom of Finland sketch with dicks the size of my arm all around me!).  And for 24 years I stayed in a career that was not my calling, all because it made me look good.  

     I even flashed my shit all over Instagram like I was Sharon Stone, and although my spirit animal is a naked wolf writhing around in the forest in his best fur, I must admit I liked the attention.  

    So, after living for 49 years where the majority of my decisions were based on being popular, or admired, or liked by other people, 2018 is my year.  I have made the conscious decision to live my life by my terms.  Though I am not entirely sure that I am completely self aware enough to always realize what those terms might be. 

    However, in the vein and song of George Micheal, for 2018 and the years that follow, FREEDOM is my mantra.  George is my idol.  His songs all speak to me on so many levels.  He lived his life entirely on his terms.  In addition to his music, he quietly donated the vast majority of his time and his money to causes he believed in, but did so without any fanfare or recognition.  And when he made missteps he chose to own them.

      In that spirit, I choose to be free.  Free to explore my sexuality, in whatever sick, twisted and depraved form that might be.  I want to be a writer, a model, a dancer, a fitness guru, and a world traveler.  I want to be able to love and be loved without the confines of conventional relationships holding me back.  

    I want to look inward and like the person I see because he makes ME happy.  Of course, my intention is never to let my new sense of direction and fulfillment encroach on the lives, liberties and libidos of others.  Only to enhance them, and hopefully in the process, mine as well.  

    It started with a move.  After 17 years in the south it was time for a change.  Cleveland seemed like a good fit.  New home, new furniture, new car, new attitude!  I have found a job here that helps me maintain a certain amount of anonymity while still being able to be around people and be social: a grocery delivery service.  

    I have also begun the process of teaching classes again at my local gym and getting re-certified as a personal trainer.  I am becoming social again, and making new friends.  I am getting my health under control, my blood pressure is back to normal and I have lost 10 pounds in a month.  

    I am about to embark on some new modeling projects one of which is a campaign for positive body image for men.  I am mending errors in my past, apologizing to those who deserve it, and kindly leaving those in my rear view that are not good for me.  

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    I have two brand new, beautiful rescue pups. They need me just as much as I need them. I have one brand new relationship from someone very surprising.  We are so much alike in so many ways it’s scary.  

    He and I have both been able to explore our sexuality together in a way we never could before.  He is equal parts care giver and care taker.  He’s so beautiful it hurts my feelings and he has an ass that turns bottoms into tops!  And yet, he’s completely insecure, and has no idea of all of the gifts he possesses.  

    And, just in order to keep my inner hooker alive, 6 months before my 50th birthday, for the first time in my life, I will be a GoGo Bear. My stage name will be Daddy Lee.  He is my alter ego - the one brave enough to unapologetically help me find myself, and help me dance like no-one is watching.   

     “Listen Without Prejudice” is my favorite George Michael album.  The last song on the album is called “Waiting”.  He sings “there ain’t no point in moving on until you’ve got somewhere to go” and “all those insecurities that have held me down for so long, I can’t say I’ve found a cure for these but at least I know them so they’re not so strong”.  

    I do have somewhere to go.  I am walking towards MY life.  It belongs to ME.  I recognize my faults, but I also realize they are part of what makes me inherently ME.  Waiting is not an option.  Join me, won’t you?  

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Surfing Into The Unknown

    Being in a relationship where both partners do social work means that you don’t necessarily make a combined income of a bajillion dollars per year.  Luke and I both had decent wages, but we’ve always had to be very intentional about how we spend our money - especially when it comes to travel.  More often than not, we vacationed where we could find deals rather than the trendiest destinations.

    Being a music geek sometimes dictates my travel as well.  When you tart out over the lesser known bands, chances are you’ll have to fly elsewhere in order to see them in on their limited tour.  Several years ago, when an artist that BOTH Luke and I loved (that’s rare) did only a few shows in the US, we decided to take a trip somewhere to see the show.  The only logical date would be the concert in New York - not a cheap place for anything.


    I imagined we could swing it though because I had recently signed up for some golf subscription thing in order to get two buy-one-get-one-free airline vouchers.  I have about as much interest in golf as I do in gas chambers.  But I figured I could dupe them by signing up and then cancelling to keep the vouchers.

    As it turned out, those golf buttholes were the ones who duped me.  When I logged on to the website to purchase my buy-one-get-one-free ticket, the cost of the first ticket was a double the price.  And then, because I have the attention span of a gnat, I accidentally forgot to cancel the subscription and got charged for the first month (so who’s the butthole really?).

    We figured we could make up for the loss by getting a super cheap hotel.  But apparently those don’t exist in New York.  Even a place in Brooklyn looked to be out of our price range.  By now, we had bought our plane tickets and the tickets for the concert.  We wouldn’t back out.

    “What if we… ummm… ‘couchsurfed’,” I sheepishly suggested to Luke.  With Luke being a bit more reserved than me, I knew the idea wouldn’t fly with him.  So I added some extra sheep in there hoping to at least pique his curiosity.

    “What is that?” he asked.  “What does that even mean?”

    “Well, we can go online and find someone to host us for free.”

    “That’s a thing?  No.  We can’t do something like that.  Nothing in life is ever ‘free.’  It could be dangerous.”

    Maybe he was right.  Or maybe he wasn’t.  I knew a couple people in college who talked about doing this and they always seemed to keep staying alive, or, at the very least, untraumatized.  And to be honest, I was SO cheap that I would have been down to deal with an itty-bitty-tiny-bit of trauma in order to save a few bucks.  Nothing violent.  Just... like... if our host made us talk to puppets or something.  

    I understood why Luke felt hesitant though.  Things like AirBnB didn’t exist yet.  Staying with strangers from the internet was unheard of - especially free of charge.  Doing so meant diving into the unknown.  We would be in this other person’s hands and that felt totally vulnerable to him (and any normal human being).

    But by this time in my life, I had already become an abnormal human being - embracing my vulnerability.  Wonderful things were happening because of it.  Why couldn’t the same be true for our travel?  After pounding Luke with all of my overly-trusting optimism (and seeing the steep price of even the New York hostels), he agreed that we could give it a shot.

    I went on the CouchSurfing website (an underground concept at the time), and seeing how we were newbies without any feedback, I knew I’d have to connect with a host on a personal level rather than just a mere request.  So, I went in search of fellow naturists - something else I had been experimenting with in my desires to challenge fear.  I had found nudists to be the most welcome people.

    When an older New York naturist accepted our request and said we could sleep on the hide-a-bed couch in the living room of his one bedroom apartment, I was thrilled.  Luke?  Not so much.

    “He’s just going to expect us to have sex with him,” he said.

    Luke is by no means a pessimist.  In fact, his pinky finger sees more good in mankind than I do in my whole right arm (the arm I use to shake my fist at God sometimes).  But fear tends to fill our brains with doubts.  I couldn’t blame him.  In the unknown, we can only see how the glass is half empty.  

    When we arrived in New York, our host, Michael, gave us impeccable instructions on how to find his place.  He met us outside, still dressed in his work attire which looked more expensive than our furniture.  His place was small but gorgeous.  At the first chance we got, we looked up online how much he paid for it - almost $900k.  


    First thing’s first when I travel, I needed to find a grocery store and get some food.  I hate eating out all the time on trips.  It’s unhealthy and expensive.  But would Michael be okay with us using and storing things in his kitchen?  Not only was he fine with it, but he told us the best and closest grocery store to get our food.

    That first night, we asked Michael if we could take him to dinner as a gesture of thanks.  He gladly accepted and chose a small restaurant in the Chelsea neighborhood so that he could show us how to get there from his place.  After dinner, he would explain how to get to the various neighborhoods of New York - including Time Square which was only a ten minute walk from his place.  

    One thing I absolutely wanted to do on this trip was go to the nude beach in Sandy Hook.  However this was across the river in New Jersey - not an easy place to get to.  But since Michael as a naturist, he was all too familiar on how to do this.  

    Thank God we had his help.  Without his guidance, we wouldn’t have been able to make it to the ferry in time - much less find the freakin boat.  Michael even recommended a good deli to get sandwiches before catching the fairy.  Our day at the nude beach was a total success.

    That afternoon, when we got back to the apartment, Michael had just opened a bottle of wine and asked if we would like any.  Michael was a big wine aficionado and this became the norm for the rest of the week.  If we got to his place around the same time he got off work, he’d uncork something delicious for us.  Obviously you don’t find men uncorking bottles of wine when you get back to your hotel room.  

    Though one thing did suck: he didn’t have air conditioning.  Our trip took place in June and this made for some hot sweaty nights.  But we were saving $300 a night.  And I hadn’t yet had to talk to any puppets.  Towards the end of the week, Luke and I knew how to navigate the streets of New York like pros - or at least pro tourists.

    On our final night in New York, Michael’s neighbors scored a bunch of tickets to an off-broadway play we both wanted to see and invited us all to join them.  They were an older Jewish couple who were so adorably stereotypical, I just wanted to start chowing down on gefilte fish right then and there.  

    The play, called “Next Fall,” centered around a gay couple.  Several friends had recommended it because it closely paralleled my and Luke’s relationship.  One guy was older while the other was younger.  One guy was religious while the other was atheist.  ONE GUY WAS EVEN NAMED LUKE!  It was some seriously spooky shit.

    Spoiler alert (in case this play ever gets turned into a movie one day), the character, Luke, died at the end.  I was so distraught and belligerent with tears afterwards, I demanded that my Luke and I immediately break up.  The thing that makes me feel most vulnerable in this world is the idea of losing someone I love.  For me, it is NOT better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.  It’s way better to just not love. (I’m still trying to work on this)

    Michael suggested we all go out for dessert afterwards to calm my hysteria.  It worked.  There are no wounds that a ridiculously dense flourless chocolate cake cannot heal.  By the end of dessert, I was ready to further heal my wounds by going to a seedy New York bar where anything could happen.  Michael told us exactly where we needed to go - though he didn’t join us.

    Michael’s suggestion lived up to its name (its name being “The Cock”) and we had so much fun in this alternate universe that we completely lost track of time.  When we realized it was 3 a.m., Luke and I hightailed it out of there.  We had to get back to the apartment and pack up to get to the airport in time for our 6 a.m. flight.  

    The taxi waited outside for us as Luke took a quick shower and I shoved our things in the suitcases.  Both still slightly drunk, we woke up Michael to hug him goodbye.  We would genuinely miss this man.  Luke and I hadn’t just found an excellent host, but also a new friend.

    After having gotten no sleep, we got on the plane looking like extras from “The Night of the Living Dead” - the ones where they don’t even try to make the make-up look good.  But aside from our terrible faces, we sat there amazed by the New York vacation we just had.  It was far better than if he had stayed in a hotel.


    That’s the thing about the unknown.  All that fear distorts the glass of water and we can only see how it as half empty.  It isn’t until we have surf our way into the unknown that we discover how half full that glass really was.  And sometimes, on a rare occasion like this, the glass of water will overfloweth.

    When we got back to our home in Denver (and after getting some real sleep), we decided that CouchSurfing would be an integral part of our travels from then on.  But being the kind of people who wanted to offer what we wished to receive, we knew we’d have to do some hosting ourselves.  This would bring on a whole new set of wonderful connections with people from all over the world.

    Like all good things, this underground treasure of travel would eventually come to an end.  CouchSurfing still exists, but when it became a B-Corp and tried to go mainstream, the concept somehow got lost.  But, in the end, it was better to have tried it, loved it, and lost it rather than to have never tried it at all.


Copyright © 2018 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

A Thin-Skinned Remedy

    They say in order to be successful on Instagram, you have to post photos within a “brand” - not like brands of products, although some of the big time influencers will do that.  This is more like boundaries of ideas that you create so that followers can routinely enjoy your photos.  The tighter you stick to this brand, the better you will do on Instagram.

    I had decided that my brand would be a mix of humor, inspiration, and a whole lot of nakedness.  These aspects are all true to my real life.  I am a goofy guy who strives to be optimistic and likes to take his clothes off.  But it probably makes my Instagram inconsistently consistent - or consistently inconsistent.  I can’t figure out which one.

    Either way, I don’t want to look narcissistic or self obsessed - which is ironic when you post nothing but photos of yourself (and your dog on a rare occasion).  Therefore I try to balance out the fleshy photos with something not-so-naked approximately every other post.  

 Photo by JR Moore

Photo by JR Moore

    I want people to know that I am more than just flesh.  While I certainly do enjoy bringing the flesh, I have a brain too - which I guess is also technically flesh but you know what I mean.  I don’t want to become a mere sexual object to everyone.  My writing is often just as naked as I am and I love it when people get that.

    Stripping down to tell transparent stories has come to mean a lot to me.  If I can simultaneously take my clothes off and open up people’s minds, then I have done my work for the day (aside from that damn book I’m trying to write).  Since sex sells, I might as well help sell some introspective food for thought.  

    And recently I tried offering up some extra “fleshy food for thought” on World AIDS Day.  I posted a stockpile photo of me removing my shirt - revealing a red ribbon on my chest ala Superman style.  The sexy shot has always gotten a powerful response and this year was no exception.  My followers liked it.  

    A few days later, I posted an essay on the blog inspired by World AIDS Day - a story about a surprising sneak-attack of my struggle with my own HIV status ten years later.  That got a great response too.  Life was good.  I was creating universal awareness through sharing my vulnerable photos and personal tales (rather than just my tail).

    Then, nearly a month after the Instagram post with the red ribbon, another user posted this comment on the red ribbon photo: “If you play with fire, you get burned. And even after that, you still sexualize yourself.  Stereotype.”

    Of course, this comment took me back.  However, the thing that really surprised me wasn’t what he wrote, but rather what I wrote back to him.  I said… absolutely nothing.  I didn’t write anything back.  I didn’t respond at all.  This is not typical of me.  

    I often admit that I struggle to be one of those people who simply “don’t give a fuck.”  Honestly, I don’t think those people actually exist all that often anyway.  The only person I’ve ever witnessed to TRULY not give a fuck is that old man who goes to the mall wearing sweat shorts and knee high black socks with sandals.  No joke - I legitimately admire that guy.

    Of course, I wanted to give a fuck when this guy posted that comment.  The insinuation that I deserved my HIV diagnosis because I continue to act like a “stereotype” has a certain sting to it.  I wanted to write some hyper-intelligent epic burn that would totally make him gravel for the HIV communities’ forgiveness.

    But this was nothing new.  We’ve all dealt with online haters and I’ve already written about a particular encounter on this blog before.  At that time, my partner was the one who told me to just let it go.  He tends to be the angel on my left shoulder who combats the devil on my right - which is really just my Freudian desires to punch stupid people in the face.

    With this more recent hateful HIV comment, my brain did start to run through all the different heroic things I could say to this man.  But I stopped myself.  This time, I somehow instinctively knew to let it go.  Not bad for a guy who’s therapist once officially gave him the unofficial diagnosis of being “thin-skinned.”  Though I wasn’t sure exactly how I did this.

    I wanted to figure out how exactly I came to letting it go so easily.  But first, I figured I’d try an experiment.  I decided to publish a screenshot of his comment on my Instagram story (for the non-IG-users, that’s a section of content that only lasts for 24 hours).  

    I published the shot twice.  The first one pointed out the comment with the note “OUCH” attached.  Then, with the second shot, I added a statement:  “Everyone has the right to a healthy sexual self esteem… regardless of their age, gender, body type, or HIV status!”

 Original HIV photo by JR Moore

Original HIV photo by JR Moore

    Okay, so doing this technically doesn’t look like I had let it go at all.  The exclamation point certainly didn’t help either.  But it was meant as a passionate punctuation to express a sense of enthusiastic optimism.  As I told a few of the folks who wrote in on the Instagram Story: I just wanted to take something negative that someone put out in the universe… and turn it around to put something positive out into the universe.  

    I didn’t care if the guy saw it.  I wanted people to see it.  I want to raise awareness about how attitudes like this still exist in the world.  In the day of undetectable status and PrEP, it seems like hardly anyone thinks like this anymore.  But they do.  They still lurk around in shadows waiting to pop out at any moment and make you feel like shit for having sex or having a disease.  And perhaps “letting it go” didn’t necessarily need to be synonymous with being quiet about it.

    After doing this Instagram Story, something else surprising happened.  I went from ignoring this guy’s comments to actually being glad that he wrote it.  With having the opportunity to post it, I really did catch people's attention and got over a hundred messages of unwavering support and kind words back.  It showed me that for every negative butthole out there, there are a hundred people who are waiting to show their love.

    It also gave me a sense of grace with this guy.  People who attack others online probably don’t lead happy lives.  Happy people don’t need to write terrible things to others so that they can feel superior about themselves.  And thus I genuinely felt bad for him - although he probably couldn’t give two shits.  

    This little experiment was teaching me the value of what can happen when you respond with thicker skin.  By writing something positive for everyone else, my energy was spent feeling better about myself for what I said... than feeling dumpy about the negative thing this other guy said.  

    Then it hit me: the reason why I was able to let it go.  Since pursuing my dream of becoming an independent writer, things have become incredibly stressful.  Writing a book, maintaining a blog, and managing social media gets super overwhelming.  And it takes a long LONG time before it’ll ever pay off. 

    So, in order to combat this stress, I’ve been practicing a little mental health trick that almost everyone (who has been to a therapist) already knows about.  I have been keeping a “gratitude journal.”  Every night, before I go to bed, I write down ten things I am grateful for.  You’re supposed to do it when you first wake up too.  But it’s hard enough for me to not just crawl around on the floor and drool in the morning - let alone write in a journal.

    I know doing a gratitude journal sounds fairly hoaky.  But it’s amazing the terrible things we can tell ourselves when instant success doesn’t land in our laps.  So, even if it feels totally dumb, practicing gratitude and self love, like this, can help us see the awesome things we might be missing.

    These practices have been legitimately helping my brain.  Even though I’m continuing to run out of money, I still feel encouraged to keep working hard and finish writing the book (which will hopefully be the first of many).  

    But what I didn’t expect was that this new energy would spooge over into other areas in my life.  Because I have been getting more solid in liking myself, I didn’t really care about what this guy had said.  Yes, I am HIV positive.  And yes, stripping down helps me connect with my audience in a fun way (it also helps me deal with my body image issues).  Whether he understood all that or not... was none of my business.

    Perhaps this whole gratitude journal thing is a solution for thin-skin.  What other people think or say about us doesn’t feel as aggravating when we are grateful for what we have and *GASP* actually like ourselves.  Besides, hating on the haters won’t make the haters hate any less.  But maybe a little love will.

    Of course, having thin-skin is a lot like having HIV.  The remedy needs a multifaceted approach.  We can take our little (big) pill and we can write down our little (big) thanks, but there’s other health and wellness needed to REALLY make this work.  And like HIV, thin-skin lies dormant... waiting for the chance that we might somehow fuck up our treatment.

    In the end, I don’t have any plans to tone down the naked part of my brand on Instagram.  Nor do I have plans to ramp it up.  I am perfectly happy with how it is, regardless of one man’s nasty comments.  I like feeling good about my body even if it makes me look like a silly ho.  And I like encouraging others to try and feel the same about themselves - at least about the way they see their body (not necessarily the "silly ho" part).


    Then, not even a week after that user posted his ill-intended comment, I got a private message from someone else.  It said, “A ‘writer’ that only has body shots? So confused by these selfie accounts.  Are you inspired by nothing more [than] narcissistic photos of yourself?”

    I did decide to respond to this one - differently than I ever have with a hater.  First, I invited him to read my writing.  Then I told him that he had a handsome profile photo.  Then I told him it was cool that he was an architect.  Then I told him that I hoped he enjoyed living in Minneapolis - that I always heard great things about it.  Then I took my pollyanna ass to the gym and didn’t give it a second thought.


Copyright © 2018 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

A Funeral For A Birthday

    Last October, while hanging out with the neighbors on our back porch, my partner, Luke, got a call from our old friend Isaiah.  Isaiah is one of those great people who we unfortunately don’t hang out with or keep in touch with enough - a terrible side effect of ALL this adulting we ALL have to do ALL of the time.

    Being that we don’t talk to him often, Luke figured the call must have been important.  So, he stepped away to answer.  As it turned out, Isaiah’s stepfather unexpectedly passed away.  He wanted to know if Luke would officiate the funeral.  

    It often surprises people when they find out that Luke used to work in ministry and is still ordained.  It’s irony at its most delicious seeing as how I sometimes behave like the devil’s house boy.  Luke still often uses his ordination to officiate weddings.  Funerals are more rare.  As one can imagine, they take an emotional toll. 


But he had already done a service for a friend of Isaiah’s who took his own life a few years back.  This was the only time we had met his stepfather, so obviously we weren’t close with this man.  However, the family and friends loved the way Luke officiated the prior funeral for the friend, so it only seemed natural that he help with this one, too.

Luke agreed to do the officiation and told me the date.

“Oh, the day of my birthday,” I said.

“Shit.  I didn’t even think of that.  I’m sorry, love.  I’ll call him back and tell him I can’t do it.”

We both immediately knew that this wasn’t the right solution.  I wanted to be there for our friend.  We adore him and this is what friends do.  

“No, you should still do it,” I told him.  “We haven’t made any plans for my birthday yet.”

In any case, the truth is that I kind of hate my birthday.  Not because it’s a sign of me getting older or anything like that.  More so because I get frustrated in trying to figure out what to actually do for it.     

Do I just be simple and not make a big deal of it?  But it’s a good reason to bring people together.  Do I have some kind of party at the house?  That takes so much work and money.  Do I see if folks want to meet up at a bar?  That makes people spend their own money and everyone seems awkward trying to talk over the loud music.  My brain then short circuits and catches on fire.

With my birthday being ten days before Halloween, Luke suggested we do a pumpkin carving party at the house.  This reminded me of how my mom always made me have Halloween themed birthdays growing up.  It would enrage me because all I ever wanted was a Christmas themed birthday so that I could play Santa and people would bring ME gifts (instead of the other way around).  Mother refused to compromise. 

Anyhow, Luke’s simple and totes-adorbs-idea didn’t sound all that much like something I’d do anyway.  Sure, I’ve become a bit of a homebody and am currently sober.  But I had a reputation for being that edgy guy with the tattoos.  My desires to face fears have given me a provocative reputation.  A pumpkin carving party sounded way too cheesy and tame for a guy like me.  

Though this year’s birthday wasn’t a milestone (which I just accidentally spelled “mildstone”), it did land on a Saturday which only happens, like what, every six years?  It felt like I had to do SOMETHING interesting.  But each time I tried to think about it, I went back to that same back-and-forth thinking that always just ends in procrastination.

With time running out, I finally just opted for the pumpkin carving deal and figured I’d keep the invite list small - just thirty of my closest friends.  After sending out the invite, only six of them RSVP’d.  This didn’t make me feel better about the whole thing.  Rather, I felt pretty lame.

Plus, this all DID kind of make me feel older.  Maybe I actually was worried about aging.  About to turn thirty-six, I hadn’t even achieved what I set out to accomplish by the time I turned thirty-five.  And lately, I’ve been constantly checking the crown of my head to see if I’m losing hair the same way my father did.  

One thing I do enjoy about my birthday is when all the people on Facebook write nice notes on my wall.  However, when I woke up the morning of, no one had done this. With having gotten a few well-wishes on messenger, I knew this all had to be due to some glitch.  But still, my birthday was just starting to feel like a cursed day.

When my mother called, she did say that Facebook wouldn’t allow her to write anything.  I researched it and realized I had put a block on allowing people to post on my wall.  I did this a while back when I got tired of folks posting invitations for me to come play games where we have to crush candy or something.

Around 5:30 p.m., we got to the church for the funeral and helped Isaiah set up.  I volunteered to work the audio - which really just meant that I would sit there and play two songs at their respective times.  It’s probably about the most I should even be entrusted with.  


The funeral itself was not large.  His stepfather didn’t have a ton of people in his life.  But the people who he did have loved him a lot.  When Isaiah did his speech during the service, the tears that rolled down his cheeks were enough to make a few tears roll down yours too - even if you didn’t know this man.    

    I’ve surprisingly gone to more funerals than I imagine someone typically would by their mid-thirties.  And I’ve noticed that when we go to funerals, we usually walk away thinking two things.

    The first being that we wonder what our own funeral would be like.  Would it be a sad time for grieving or an uplifting celebration of life?  What kind of food would be served?  Who would speak?  Will there be a slideshow?  What songs will get played?  For a music geek, that’s the most important one.

This all probably sounds like the most morose thing you can think about on your birthday.  But the other thing you think about after walking away from a funeral is how you’ve got to stop wallowing around in self pity and appreciate what you’ve got.  And this is quite possibly the best thing a person can think about on their birthday.  I felt entirely fortunate that Isaiah invited us to be a part of his families important day.

When we got home, we only had about thirty minutes before our guests would start arriving.  As they showed up, things turned out just as small as Facebook had promised.  But where I once would’ve considered this tragic, I now felt fairly fortunate.  Instead of a large party, where everyone would huddle in corners talking only with those they knew, the energy flowed freely even between those who had just met for the first time.  Life felt good.


I don’t particularly like carving pumpkins. The insides feel all yucky and they smell weird.  I have no artistic ability and I have a tendency to accidentally cut myself when messing around with sharp objects.  However, on this night, I was having an amazing time.  Hearing my friends laugh made me feel lucky to be alive so that I could enjoy such good things with such great people.

Like the funeral, this didn’t have to be big in order to feel significant.  Perhaps when social butterflies get older, we start to realize that life should be more about quality than quantity.  And these friends who did show up to carve pumpkins totally brought the quality.  

This is not to say that those who didn’t show up were not quality people.  The invite had gone out with just barely a week to spare and some folks already had plans.  But if I was being honest with myself, I would admit that “quality” didn’t apply to every single person on that original invite list.  Why did I do such things?

In the end, I am the kind of person who needs human connection in order to feel… well, connected.  Being in the presence of others, whether they are friends or acquaintances or otherwise, brings me a sense of joy in life.  That’s not a bad thing.  But perhaps I don't need hundreds of Facebook wall posts or thirty friends to show up to know that I am loved. 

And who cares if I am getting older anyway?  Because after going to a funeral for your birthday, you remember that aging is a pleasure denied by many.   

Luke and I would like to thank Isaiah and his family for giving us the honor to help out in their time of need.  Additional and special thanks to Isaiah for letting me write this essay.  I love you, buddy.


Copyright © 2018 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

Drawn To Something New

When two friends of mine recently (and nerve-wrackingly) agreed to pose for a gay erotic drawing group, I decided to take this opportunity to face one of my own nerve-wracking fears as well.  Unfortunately, this didn’t mean I would be stripping down with them.  Rather, I’d be sitting on the other side, trying to sketch out all their sexy, lusty, thirst-inducing poses.

While I may be able to write a decent story, I pretty much have no other artistic ability.  I can’t even write with a pen like a normal person, much less draw a picture.  Honestly… if I tried to draw a cute, baby seal diving into the ocean, I’m certain it would somehow look like a zeppelin hurling downward into a fiery death.  But when you have two handsome friends willing to get naked and pose together for the sake of art, it helps to run towards such fear and try something new.

 Photo by Daniel Takespictures

Photo by Daniel Takespictures

If you’ve been following me for even, like, thirty seconds, it should come as no surprise that I have posed for this group many times over the last seven years.  I’d always choose acquaintances or friends that I found really attractive; but never had sex with.  To me, nothing creates better sexual tension than getting naked with someone for the first time.  

These friends and I could feel each other’s hearts beat wildly in each other’s chests as we’d embrace each other’s bodies in the buff... in front of fifteen people.  We’d be so close to doing things we so badly wanted, and yet we couldn’t go a single inch further in order to hold still for our onlookers.

And that was one aspect that had me intrigued about my friends who were now posing.  They wouldn’t be getting naked together for the first time.  Logan and Greg were actually a couple, and I wondered how their dynamic would differ from the way I pose with other guys.  It also didn’t hurt that both of them are very handsome.

Therefore, when I found out about their posing for this group, I figured it was a win/win situation - though both wins would be for me.  I could get out of my comfort zone by trying to draw AND it also gave me an innocent excuse to see two sexy friends get naked.   

Like a total art pro, I brought a stack of printer paper and a few mechanical pencils.  Meanwhile, the other drawers had giant pads of paper - some with easels.  They used a wide array of tools ranging from size and color to even charcoal.  None of this made me feel very confident in what I was about to do.  But that’s the cool thing about the group: they don’t require any skill level and everyone encourages each other.  The same goes for the models.

The evening kicked off with five two-minute poses to get things warmed up.  Then came a five-minute pose followed by a ten-minute one.  The first hour rounds out with a twenty- minute pose. Then everyone takes a fifteen-minute break.  

The fun thing about the two-minute and five-minute poses is that the models can be more dynamic in what they can do with their bodies.  Once things ramp up to the ten or twenty- minute poses, they have to be a little more cautious and relaxed about it.  Holding still gets astonishingly difficult with the longer you do it.  

For the two-minute poses, Logan and Greg did not let us down.  At one point, Greg even planked on top of Logan for the full two minutes.  Do you know how hard a two-minute plank is?!  I can’t do that!!!  So, if I sensed any disappointment, it came from my own inability to get an arm or a leg or even a butt on paper in this short amount of time.

During the five and ten-minute poses, Logan straddled Greg and they lovingly gazed into each other’s eyes.  It was sexy and sweet.  With their getting comfortable being in the spotlight, my anxieties about drawing began to slip away too.  I found myself at ease with the curves of these human shapes (including those butts).


For their first twenty-minute pose, they sat across from one another on the posing couch - an awesome antique once known as a “fainting couch.”  Instead of trying to draw both of them, I focused just on Greg purely based on his positioning.  With his side facing me, I wouldn’t have too much foreshortening (which apparently is a bitch to do).  

By the end of this round, I actually started to feel proud of what I was generating.  Sure, I made his neck gigantic and couldn’t finagle his hands, fingers, or feet to save my life.  But you could at least tell he was a human being - or at the very least, a burly, handsome amputee.  Maybe this drawing thing didn’t suck so badly after all.   


    The time came for the break which I desperately needed.  My hand wanted a little rest after trying a little too hard that first round.  Plus, I was hungry.  Drawing can apparently work up an appetite.  The group provides snacks, but I urgently scarfed down a burrito that I snuck in - hoping no one would see me eating the most ridiculous of all foods to bring to an erotic drawing group.  

    In the second round, they’d do one ten and two twenty-minutes poses.  Things only got sweeter for Greg and Logan.  They did a couple different takes on cuddling one another.  You could occasionally hear them whispering sweet nothings into each other’s ears.  Though technically I didn’t know if they were “nothings.”  They could’ve been talking about the North Korean nuclear missile crisis for all I know.  Either way, you could sense that they whispered about it with love.  

Their whole dynamic came off more romantic than erotic, which can surprisingly be a nice change of pace sometimes.  Sex can often overshadow love.  And seeing them do this as a couple made me slightly envious.  

My partner, being the private/slightly-more-reserved guy that he is, would never join me in such sexy, provocative ventures.  Fortunately, he’s great about my desire to seek such thrills and gave me his blessing to do it with others. 

After the evening would end, I’d ask Greg and Logan what they thought the differences might be posing as a couple vs with a friend (or possibly even a stranger). 

“Being together almost five years, I’ve explored Greg’s sexy body many times over and know many of his best attributes to show off,” Logan said.  “We’ve been able to try poses at home before stepping in front of the group.”

“There’s already chemistry there,” Greg added.  “We’re already comfortable doing sexual acts or imitating them together.  We don’t have to fumble around with someone new - feeling like a first date.”


    Whenever I pose with a friend, it often does feel like we ARE fumbling around to figure each other out - despite the high sexual tensions.  You never quite know what the other person is comfortable with.  Is he okay with imitating doggy style in front of fifteen dudes?  If so, does he want to be the top or the bottom?  You’re both put on the spot to figure out in a matter of seconds.

I could also see how, if the models ended up in a position that didn’t feel natural or okay, the artists could sense it.  And now being in the artist seat, I know that I wouldn’t necessarily want to draw hot naked men acting awkward.  Though if “Hot Naked Men Acting Awkward” were the title of a new play, I would definitely want to go see that.

“Except I think a disadvantage to being a couple would be that you don’t get to build chemistry with another person during the session - going from holding each other’s hand to maybe a big finale,” Greg said.  “Talking with the artists, it seems that they enjoy seeing the chemistry increase throughout the session.”

I guess this was where my posing with platonic friends had some leverage.  Once we get past that first-date-fumbling-feeling, the two of us are ready to tear into each other by the final round.  It makes you squirm with desire while trying to hold still like that.  Sometimes you begin to move a hand or a mouth just enough to do something you’ve been dying to do.  Although it makes it tough for the artists to draw, somehow, I don’t think they mind much at all.

But this didn’t necessarily mean that Greg and Logan, as a couple, couldn’t bring on a grand finale.  For the first twenty-minute pose of the final round, they ditched the romance and went full-fledged for the erotic.  Logan laid back.  Greg straddled on top.  A dick was grabbed.  I’ll leave it at that.

I found myself getting completely flummoxed and desperately trying to sketch this while ignoring the tent that I totally just pitched in my own pants.  Well, of course it was in my own pants.  If I pitched it in somebody else’s pants, this would have been a very different kind of group.  

With my heart robbing my brain of all its blood and shoving it down into my crotch, it suddenly became super difficult to concentrate.  The other artists didn’t seem to have this problem.  But me?  Now I couldn’t draw those human curves anymore.  My eraser started hitting the paper more than the graphite.

I wanted to just give up and enjoy the views.  But I couldn’t just be some pervy weirdo - sitting there, watching while chewing a piece of gum (ya know… after that burrito I ate earlier).  I had to draw SOMETHING!  I remembered that earlier during a break, another artist gave me some advice to not be so literal in my drawings.  

On that account, I figured, FUCK IT!  If I can’t draw curves, then I’ll ONLY draw straight lines!  Thus, in my sudden sexual frustration, I surprised myself in accidentally drawing bearded “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots” riding each other cowboy style.  With extra minutes to spare, I went ahead and added the chintzy game’s name to the page - just to make it official.

For their final pose, they kept things on the erotic side with a standing position - their hands on each other each while facing opposite directions.  I decided to stick with my Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em theme as these robots would now be giving each other hand jobs.  I added some robot hearts to bring back in their romance that I equally enjoyed before.  Why not have the best of both worlds?  I called it “Love Jobs.”

After their grand finale (which ended up being very grand), all the artists clapped and applauded Logan and Greg for their hard work (so to speak).  I knew first-hand how exhausted they must have been, but in the best of ways.

To my surprise, I even felt exhausted as an artist.  Who knew that drawing things could take so much energy?  Though this might have been my own doing.  I tend to hold my breath when I concentrate… or when I see good looking men without their clothes on… for three hours.

At the end, the organizer busts out a tip jar so that the artist can donate money to the models for their work.  That’s another reason I enjoy doing this.  I make good money with it.  

Having been in bartending, I know the importance of a good tip.  So even though I’m not yet making money as a writer, I still whipped out my twenty-dollar bill and shoved it hard and deep into Logan and Greg’s jar.

Everyone began checking out each other’s artwork - complimenting the weird interpretations just as much as the skilled talents.  They laughed along with my oddball sense of humor and the robots.  And I realized that, despite how much I dreaded having to draw, I had had such an incredibly fun evening.  

  You could see the joy on their faces at the end (among other things throughout the evening).  With all of us having similar happy highs, it reminded me of an important factor of facing your fears: it’s often MOST fun when you do it with a group of great people - regardless of what it is you might be doing.  

After having drawn, I’m excited to get back on the other side of this unique experience.  Greg and Logan’s bang-up job certainly filled me with all sorts of new ideas.  And my time to pose again is coming up here in a few months.  This means, that soon here, I’ll have to find a new friend who’s willing to strip down and get very still with me.

Each time I pose with someone, it’s terrifying in the best of ways.  I feel fortunate to not let the fear hold me back in things like this.  I recommend it to anyone who wants to overcome a fear and discover that life doesn’t have to be boring.  The rush and thrill are absolutely worth it.

So, if you are in the Denver/Boulder area and are interested in this experience, email me at with some photos and a message on why you’d want to do this.  I can pass your info on to the group’s organizer.  And who knows?  Maybe we could pose together! 

Thank you to Logan T. and Greg H. for allowing me write this essay and share their experience.  You guys are awesome!


Copyright © 2018 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

Jet Setter Setback

When I got back from Folsom (yes, I’m mentioning Folsom one last time) at the end of September, I might have had a tiny, little nervous breakdown.  It had nothing to do with Folsom though.  Rather it was because my partner, Luke, and I were supposed to leave for yet another trip - this time to Portland.  And I only had five days between the two.  

Luke didn’t join me for the filthy San Fran street fair.  He is a bit of an introvert who doesn’t like big crowds, or dancing, or debauchery.  I, on the other hand, tend to thrive in these environments.  Though this shouldn't be surprising seeing as when we did our trip to Chicago back in July, I kind of ran us all over the bar scene.


Luke needed a vacation for him - something a little slower paced.  He had always loved the beauty and the easy vibe of Portland.  I had never been before but continuously heard about the great hiking, great beaches, great restaurants, and the male strippers who can go all the way nude.  This certainly sounded like a paradise to me.    

Plus, I could meet one of my favorite fellow bloggers, Michael James Schneider (  He’s a great writer and has the MOST clever photos on Instagram (see: @blcksmth).  And then I could do a photo shoot with Kenton Waltz (see: @kentonwaltz).  I’ve been enjoying his work on Instagram too.  And then I could go reconnect with one of my new found Folsom friends, Kevin (see: @pdx_saipp).  See how good I do at “relaxing?”

Between these trips, some folks have inquired how I’ve been able to live this jet setting lifestyle when I keep proclaiming to be a broke ass writer.  It all began earlier this year when Southwest Airlines lured me into signing up for their credit card with a 50,000 bonus point offer.  After researching their point system, I figured this could be good for two or three trips (depending on whether Luke traveled with me or not).

Then I discovered Southwest’s “Companion Pass” benefit.  All you have to do is reach 110,000 points in a calendar year, and then you could designate someone to fly with you for free for the remainder of that year and the year after that.  You could use this whether you booked flights with money or with points AND there was no limit on to how often you can use it.

However getting 110,000 points means spending $110,000 on the credit card.  Even if my 50,000 bonus points counted towards it, I’d still never spend sixty grand in a year.  That’s not what broke ass writers do.

This kind of irked me about Southwest’s Companion Pass.  It felt like it was just giving wealthy people more free shit.  I had a major Bernie Sander’s moment about it and began googling to see if I could find a way to cheat the system.  It didn’t take long before I discovered a solution.

According to several bloggers, these bonus points for new cards do count towards the Companion Pass.  So all you need to do, after getting your personal card, is to sign up for a business card and get an additional 60,000 bonus points.  All of these points funnel into the same account so it will equal 110,000 points.

There’s no way that Southwest will let people get away with that!  Right?  As I skimmed through these blog posts, I read a bunch of comments from readers who said they tried it and that it actually worked.  I already had the personal card for a couple of months.  Why not give it a shot?  

I haven’t ever applied for a business card before, so I was nervous.  Luckily I found another blog post that laid it all out for this exact situation (  I applied online describing myself as a sole proprietor.  The online response said they needed more time to process.  Like the business card blog suggested, I immediately called the reconsideration line.  The operator grilled me with the questions I had prepared for.  Then I waited anxiously while he put me on hold to determine my future travel fate.

After a few too many minutes, he returned and told me congratulations.  I had been approved!  I had been approved?!  But he didn’t ask for any proof of the information I gave him.  I could've made the whole thing up!  Instead I only made some of it up.  That makes me a decent person still… I think.

Once I spent the minimum amount to get that new 60,000 point bonus, I received yet another congratulations - this time from the airline saying I had, in fact, achieved the Companion Pass.  I could NOT believe this worked.  I immediately jumped online and began researching all of our options.  I became a man with a mission.  

Let’s book San Francisco to visit our friends in July!  Let’s book New Orleans in August for Southern Decadence!  I might as well go see one of my favorite bands in Seattle in September!  Oh wait, our San Franciscan friends can’t do July.  Well, let’s do Chicago for a do-over trip then!  Our first time there sucked.  

And I could just do San Francisco after Seattle for Folsom!  But wait, Luke wishes he could go to Seattle too!  He can’t because of work.  So I’ll just go back with him at the beginning of October!  No biggie!  We might as well start with Portland while we’re at it!   I’ve always wanted to go there.  Oh, and I’ve been dying to get back to San Diego!  I’ll just hop over there at the end of October!

Southwest makes it almost a little too easy to cancel your trips when you book with points.  So when Luke realized he’d hate Southern Decadence (remember: he’s an introvert), we nixed it and got our points back - no questions asked.  Same for when we canceled the initial trip to San Fran and then switched it to Chicago.  I’m not sure if this is how real jet setters act, but all of these bookings and unpunishable changes-of-mind were flooding my veins with oxytocin.  I couldn’t get enough.


What I didn’t account for was that, when you go on vacation, you don’t do any work - no matter how much you promise yourself that you will.  Maybe some adults do, but evidently I didn’t have the discipline for it.  In fact, I struggled with discipline even when I worked at home.  How did I think I could pull this off?

Amongst these travels, I’d try to work ahead.  Yet all it did was keep me at the bare minimum with The Bare InkSlinger.  I couldn’t get to the REALLY important stuff and the longer it started to take me, the more I felt like I was churning my wheels in a mud pit.  And this is how I became a total mess in the five days between my San Fran trip and our Portland/Seattle trip - so much to do, such little time… and I don’t work well under pressure.

I’d try to rip through my work during the day and break for the gym in the afternoon.  The gym provides a little escape where I can just go be brainless and lift heavy things for a while like a neanderthal.  Except when I’d get back home, I’d realize that I didn’t make enough headway and that my savings were starting to run out. My neanderthal high would quickly get replaced with depression.  

Luke would give me a welcome-home-hug to which I’d barely say a word.  Instead, I'd him away so that I could go do more work in the office.  I would sit at the computer struggling to keep the stress at bay.  All this travel might be making my dreams slip from my fingertips and I didn’t know what to do.

Three days before the Portland trip, Luke stopped me on my way to the office.  “Love, I feel like you are mad at me,” he said.  Him being a therapist and my having been in social work, we have a knack for communicating what’s on our minds.  Oh, and “love” is our creepy (romantic) nickname for each other.

Knowing he felt this way broke my heart.  So like any well rounded human being, I went into full panic mode on him right then and there.  I grabbed him, and hugged him, and suddenly had trouble breathing.  I began shouting out random phrases of hopelessness into his chest.  I CAN’T GET ANYTHING DONE!  NONE OF THIS IS EVER GOING TO WORK!  I’M GOING TO HAVE TO GO DRIVE FOR UBER TO MAKE MONEY AND I’LL NEVER GET TO WRITE AGAIN!  I JUST NEED TO GIVE UP!

“Love, we have to cancel the Portland trip.”

“What?  Oh, no.  That’s not an option,” I told him as I headed back to the office to go do more work (smart, huh?).

I couldn’t dare cancel.  Michael (the blogger) and I were supposed to collaborate on one of his awesome photos and maybe even a blog post.  I had a photoshoot lined up with Kenton (the photographer).  We were supposed to get drinks with Kevin (the Folsom friend).  And Patrick (the Portland host) had already blocked off time to let us stay with him.

Still, none of this convinced Luke that the trip was a good idea and he continued to try to talk some sense into me (that bastard).  However it wasn’t just about these other people I hated canceling on.  I didn’t want to cancel because this would be the only chance Luke could travel with me for a while.  He didn’t get to join me in Seattle or San Francisco and I’d be going to San Diego without him too.  It wasn't fair.

Luke admitted that he would be sad to not go on the trip.  But then again, he would be more sad if I didn’t succeed at my dream of writing.  He believed in my work and, for him, making it happen was the most important thing in the world.  

I felt awful.  I felt selfish.  I got to go on these other trips and he would have to forgo his.  But telling yourself things like this does not help cure a nervous breakdowns - not even a small one.  It only increased my anxiety more.  Luke asked me to give it some serious and realistic thought.

The next evening, I got a phone call that my father went into the hospital with chest pains.  They would run some tests and keep him over night for observations.  Everything turned out fine, and this clearly felt like the universe was telling me a message: slow down - pay attention to the things that need paying attention to (sometimes the universe doesn’t have the best grammar).

I took a step back along with a deep breath.  My mistake had become painstakingly clear.  I was too much of a sucker for a good deal and I thought if we didn’t take advantage of all this free travel, then we’d be missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime.  But this lifetime opportunity was impacting my life right now.  Becoming a jet setter had become more of a setback.

To be honest, the travel was hardly even fun anymore.  It became like a drug.  Getting on that airplane gave me an immediate high.  But returning back home felt like I needed to go to some travel based methadone clinic.  This had to stop.

I cancelled the trip and we got our points back.  When I texted the Portland peeps, they were disappointed, but kind and empathetic. And although my heart weighed heavy that Luke and I weren’t enjoying a vacation together, a weight was simultaneously lifting off of my shoulders - making it easier to breathe again over the coming days.  Oh, and I decided to increase my mental health medications too.  

Luke’s sacrifice also did something else for me.  It kicked me in the ass to focus harder and have more discipline in my work.  If he had to give up his vacation, then I had to make my time worth his while.  I couldn’t let it all be for nothing.  So during the days we should’ve been in Portland, I put my head down and wrote like a crackhead who’s jonesing for his next flight.  I finally got the headway I needed in my work.  

I’m slowly starting to understand an unfortunate reality: the more I try to do everything, the less likely I will ever accomplish anything.  And I will never be able to slow down when I continue to fill my life with a hundred different adventures.  I don’t want to end up in the hospital with my own set of chest pains.  Luke and I might have the travel opportunity of a lifetime, but, in the end, I won’t get anywhere as long as I keep trying to go everywhere.


Copyright © 2018 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

Unprofessional Decency

    Because I have the amazing problem of hardly ever being able to say “no,” I recently booked a trip to see some friends in San Diego over Halloween weekend.  And because I also have the amazing problem of always overwhelming myself, I decided to go ahead and book some work with a couple photographers during my visit. 

    One of the photographers, Drew, may not have gotten the best first impression of me.  On Saturday, he wanted to shoot all day and, in order to hit all the great locations, he wanted to pick me up at 6 a.m.  I am not a morning person.  You'd be more likely to see an image of Jesus miraculously burned into your toast than you would see me up and crushing it at 6 a.m.  

    Drew is an incredibly talented photographer who runs both “DQ Fotography” and “SKINmages” (DQ’s naughty brother).  Drew and I had been talking on Instagram for quite some time - which is how I lure in most photographers.  I stalk them, like and comment on their photos, and if they send me a message of interest, I pretend to be totally caught by surprise.

    Who?  Me?  You want to work with ME?  But I look nothing like the guys in your photos!  I am so flattered!  Hold on!  Let me book my ticket!  I’d say of some sorts.


    The truth is that I don’t, nor will I probably ever, consider myself a “model.”  Instead, I like to use the term “poser.”  I “pose” for photographers.  This title also works because I constantly feel like a con-artist when I’ve somehow convinced them to let me get in front of their camera.  On any given shoot, I often imagine the “fraud police” will suddenly bust through the door, throw on some handcuffs, and drag me out of there.  

    Because of this, I always try to show photographers how incredibly committed and professional  I am (or pretend to be) with the shoot.  And even before meeting Drew, I was already blowing it.  I declined his 6 a.m. pick up time and pushed for 7 a.m.  But I had a really great excuse: ZOMBIES.

    Friday night, before the shoot, I planned to join some friends at a Halloween revamp of an amusement park in Orange County.  I couldn’t possibly bail on it.  I already bought the ticket (two days before the trip).  Plus, Elvira was going to be there!  ELVIRA!!!  The mother-fuckin’ Mistress of the Dark!!!

    Drew patiently agreed and I told my friends that we had to leave the amusement park absolutely no later than 11 p.m. so that I could get at least six hours of sleep.  That evening, I delighted in zombies chasing me around, acting as though they were going to eat my brains.  We didn’t leave until after midnight, getting me to bed at nearly 2 a.m.

    Before crashing, I texted Drew, asking if he could pick me up at 8 a.m., hoping he would get it the next morning.  He replied right away, stating he was still up as well and that we could meet at nine. I could already tell I liked him. 

    Even with the extra sleep time, I was the one who looked like a zombie that morning.  It didn’t matter how long I showered or how much lotion I put on my face or how good I blow-dried my hair.  Fortunately, Drew still found me suitable for the lens.

    On our drive to the first location, we surprisingly found it easy to make conversation with each other.  Drew had been reading the blog and so he already knew WAY too much about me.  Even though we didn’t have much in common, we enjoyed talking nonetheless.  

    Our second location would take place in the backyard of a young gay couple I also chatted with on Instagram.  One of them had sent me a photo of their outdoor shower which they built from an old clawfoot tub.  It made for an incredibly unique setting that neither of us could resist.  However, we didn’t expect that we’d stumble upon a goldmine of other amazing backdrops to shoot with too.

    Their backyard connected with the next-door neighbors, another gay couple, who were strong into the fetish scene.  They had dungeons, locker rooms and army barracks.  We had slotted ourselves for two hours at this location.  We ended up staying there for five.  Needless to say, we didn’t get all of the shooting done we had hoped to for the day.

    “Sooooo, would you want to shoot tomorrow too?” Drew asked like a teenage boy asking a girl out to prom.

    “Absolutely!  Let’s do it!”  I said like the teenage girl desperately waiting to get asked to prom.    


    But the next day would take an unexpected turn.  In order to catch up on our zzzz’s, we purposefully got a late start.  While we had the main goals of shooting at the beach, and then later his studio, we decided to get some more intimate style shots in the lovely bedroom that I occupied during my stay (as if stripping down naked in front of the camera wasn’t intimate enough already).

    And no, the bedroom was not where the unexpected turn took place - in case you were wondering if said turn involved something more naughty (it’s not that kind of story).  Rather, the turn took place in the car as we sat in all that charming SoCal traffic I’m super jealous of not having (actually, Denver’s traffic has gotten pretty bad too).

      Drew went back to discussing my work on the blog.  He wanted to know more about my HIV status.  How did I find out?  Did I know when it happened?  Did I have any idea who gave it to me?  Was I angry at them?

    Normally this is how I discuss my HIV story with the curious.  They ask whatever and I answer whatever.  But with all the traffic time on our hands, I decided to bypass the questions and just to tell the entire story from start to finish.  It’s quite a complicated one actually - a story of friendship, broken condoms, rattled lives, and human connection.

    When I got to the part when I went in for the confirmatory results, something strange started to happen.  My throat got all hurty and my eyeballs felt especially moist.  Hurty-throats and extra-moist-eyeballs are the worst!   They can mean only one thing: you’re about to cry when you really, REALLY don’t want to.

    I tried taking a couple deep breaths to keep it all at bay - hoping Drew wouldn’t notice.  As I talked about going home with my new diagnosis, my voice quivered and a tear rolled down my cheek.  I tried to stealthily wipe it away.

    “It’s okay,” Drew said kindly.  “You can cry.”

    Fuck.  He noticed.

    “I don’t know why this is happening,” I told him - trying to excuse myself.  “I have told this story hundreds of times.”

    This was true too.  Not long after this diagnosis, I decided to be completely open about it - which, due to the stigma, was completely unheard of at the time.  I went on to become a local public figure who did interviews for print and radio.  I became a mentor to other newly diagnosed guys in my community.  I did numerous public speaking gigs in front of thousands of people.  And I wrote my own, local column about it for four years.

    It had been ten years since my diagnosis (in case you were wondering why I said “radio” instead of “podcast”).  It was the root of my belief in transparency.  Why in the hell was this hitting me so hard now?  

    I couldn’t cry in front of the photographer.  Sure, I am all about transparency, but THIS WAS EMBARRASSING!!!  I needed to convince him I was a sexy grown man - not a sniveling little wuss.  My second attempt at poser professionalism with Drew was quickly going down the drain.  

    Perhaps the tears came because I had just spent two and a half days in front of the camera (including the other photographer on Friday).  Getting photographed like this feels incredibly vulnerable.  Or maybe it was because Drew and I had already shared somewhat vulnerable stories with each other and thus telling him my most vulnerable one put a bigger heart on my sleeve.  Who knows?  Did it even matter?

    I guess in some way, as I sat there sobbing into the passenger side window, it felt nice to feel so affected by it after all these years.  Somehow, I found relief in the idea that the thing that changed the trajectory of my life still had an impact.  If it didn’t, I could have very likely returned to behaving like the unappreciative douche bag I was before.  

    We stopped for some food and while waiting for our orders, I rushed to the bathroom to splash some cold water on my face in hopes of it looking less puffy.  Although it would have made for honest photos, it wasn’t quite the look either of us wanted when it came to the beach.

    During the rest of our drive, Drew suddenly felt a freedom to open-up about his own sad story.  Both his parents died right as he was finishing up with high school - first his mother (who he was very close to) and then his father.  He had nowhere to go.  A loving family had taken him in, but his path continued to remain confusing and uncertain.  Somehow, he didn’t cry at all while telling me about it.  

    Fortunately, some other friends met up with us at the beach so we could multitask in some leisure time with the shoot.  They pulled us out of our black hole and into some more upbeat conversations.  Before we knew it, the sun started going down and we hadn't shot a thing.  We scrambled to get some while we still had some daylight left.  The same thing happened when one of these friends joined us for dinner.  By the time we left the restaurant, it was well after 9 p.m. I began to sense a pattern here.


    Our final location would take place at Drew’s studio.  On our way there, we got immersed in heavy conversations yet again - this time talking about things we rarely tell anyone.  Never have I had a photoshoot turn into a mutual kind of therapy.  Being vulnerable with each other gave us the kind of unprofessional decency to deeply confide in one another.

    Times like this are the reason I choose to be open about my HIV status, and live a transparent life.  Sure, I may have just accidentally cried in front of someone I was trying to impress, but it reminded me of how much my diagnosis still meant to me, and it gave someone else the opportunity to share a profound part of their life as well.  Because transparency isn’t just about telling our own stories, it’s also about the way we listen to others.

    We didn’t start the studio work until almost midnight.  Drew became a different man in this environment - more serious, focused, and demanding of my posing.  He challenged me on my camera skills in a way that made me simultaneously uncertain and determined.  We finally wrapped up around 3:30 a.m. and I found myself exhausted and fully back in zombie mode.  Drew still had to drive me home.

    “Sooo, I still have a few more ideas.  Would you want to shoot tomorrow too?”  He asked like a new friend, eager to hang out again. 

    “Absolutely!  Let’s do it!” I said like a friend who was just as eager.

    I had wanted so badly to be an image of professionalism and physical perfection.  However, since grief never really goes away, it snuck up on me when I least expected it.  And I happened to be with someone who let me let it out.  Though instead of letting it out, I ended up letting go…I let go of being perfect for the photographer, and it got me something far better than just some incredible photos.  

Happy World AIDS Day.


Copyright © 2017 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.
All photos courtesy of SKINmages and DQ Fotography.  
Photo Copyright © 2017 SKINmages and DQ Fotography, All rights reserved.

Bring Cash, Pay the Dancers

Guest Post by Dave Wheeler

The guy at the next table looks ready to throw in the towel. He moves a straw through the ice in his glass, keeping his gaze low. In fact, his eyes move between precisely two locations: his drink, practically empty, and the woman next to him, presumably his date. She’s having a grand old time, thoroughly engaged with the evening’s entertainment. He, however, seems beyond uncomfortable. To be honest, my friends and I are as confused as he must be as to why he’s here.

Here being Portland’s Silverado. A gay nightclub known for its male dancers.

Okay, dancers may be overstating the talent. None of these guys studied with Bob Fosse. Each shuffles onstage where there is a metal pole for them to use however they wish. One emerges wearing tearaway pants, another in booty shorts. Several cut to the chase and arrive in nothing but thongs, pouches strained from tumescence mustering all the erotic charge of cow udders. 

They commence with a five to ten minute routine that reveals more and more of their physiques, during which the audience is encouraged—sensually—to tip. You know: strippers. And every last one has a chiseled body that gleams under the stage lights. It’s just a pity so few have learned how to move.

The one in tearaways bobs around without moving his feet. Booty shorts makes himself useful by climbing the pole, but there’s no sense of rhythm. One thong-wearer wags his engorged pouch in an unnerving interpretation of The Twist, while another practically stomps around the stage wearing a scowl that, I have to assume, is supposed to inspire our inner subs. 


Between sets, they mingle, but few exhibit strong conversational skills. (Studied with Fosse? I doubt half of them could spell Fosse.) So it’s not really dancing, and they’re not getting by on winning personalities. This is really all about gratuitous nudity, much to the chagrin of the guy at the next table. It’s not fair of me to assume he’s straight.

But I’m going to.

The thing about stripclubs, though, is that the suggestion is often more titillating than the reality. I enjoy naked men just as much as the next guy (er—you know what I mean), but after about fifteen minutes, the novelty wears off and you realize you’re just seeing the same ass again and again. This isn’t a well-choreographed Kazaky video; it’s dudes doing what we’ve all done in the mirror since we were old enough to lock the bathroom door: the helicopter. Give me an hour and I’m about as disinterested as our straight friend over here.

Not because I’m prudish, but because I’m stingy! As a working artist myself, I appreciate when I can get paid, so I try to extend that courtesy to performers. Nobody likes getting stiffed—so to speak.

Nevertheless, I should tell you that the suggestion this time was mine. My boyfriend and I had come to Portland from Seattle for MLK weekend and met up with a couple friends for a night out. Only, the city had just been pummeled by an ice storm. The mood had been souring with every slip on the sidewalk, every gust of freezing wind. We all wanted to be at home under blankets, but we’d had these plans for weeks.


You know what would keep us warm? I said at dinner. Strippers. Little did I know that that side of Silverado doesn’t open until 10pm. This we discovered while sipping drinks in the quiet, empty bar side of said establishment immediately after our meal. Fortunately for us, the bartenders remove their shirts, and go-go boys start grinding nearby, around nine.

This is when I met Steel.

Do you remember when you first saw Channing Tatum, as a young bi-curious soccer player in She’s the Man, the teen comedy adaptation of Twelfth Night? (The only way to see Shakespeare in my opinion.) Or perhaps you recall the scene in the WB’s Everwood when Chris Pratt was a shirtless lifeguard.

What I’m saying is that I have an occasional weakness for dopey all-American jocks and Steel could have been a teen heartthrob in the early 2000s. But like Duke and Bright were then, he feels now like my little secret.

He made small talk as I fed dollars to his waistband. “It’s so cold outside,” he said as he gyrated in pink briefs to the music with a grace that far outperformed his colleagues. He cupped his crotch, playfully wincing. “I’m waiting for my balls to come back down.” He grinned, kept dancing. “Gotta warm up.”

This guy knows what he’s doing. 

I surely had that look on my face: a smile with jaw dangling, eyes sparkling but not blinking. I couldn’t seem to remember what words were or how to form them. I didn’t want to leave, but didn’t think it wise to spend all my limited cash in one place. Before I returned to my friends, Steel wanted to make sure he’d see me on the other side.

He would.

And when he finds me there, I’ve managed to return to my senses enough to flirt a little. I forget now most details of our conversation, just that he’s a metalworker during the warmer months. (Steel apparently nods to more than just his buns!) He strips during the winter, when construction gigs are scarce.

By the time he asks if I want to see what he does up in his office—flashing that wide, inviting grin—I’d half forgotten he was at work. I throw a wave to my friends as Steel wraps his big naked biceps around my arm and leads me away.

What’s happening between us only dawns on me when we reach the top of the staircase and I see four stalls and four wooden chairs behind four curtains. These could easily be converted into voting booths should middle school gymnasia and local libraries need overflow come Election Day. But that dark hour in November is behind us now. There is only Steel and the music.

“How much?” I ask, but it is especially loud up here.

"Forty or ten?” he replies.

A forty-minute lap dance sounds excessive, but the look he gives me has me considering it. Seriously. I catch myself, though, and go for ten.

He sits me down and climbs onto my lap. Leaning in, he lays down the rules: “I can touch you, but you can only touch my arms, legs and chest. You can’t touch my dick. No fingering or anything. OK?”

He smells like sandalwood and laundry. His skin is warm, his muscles taut, his grip on my shoulders firm. He has brown eyes; if I had my guess, he’s a Cancer. (Another weakness of mine.) I melt. Agreed.

How he moves over me, without ever seeming to break contact, is nothing short of a miracle. He’d make Fosse proud. A tiger is a tiger, not a lamb, mein Herr! Steel writhes, shifts and twists, bringing his chest to my face before cocking his shoulders and rolling his torso backward, grinding against my hips.

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After slipping my belt off, he loops it around my neck and cinches it as if it were a leash, and I his new pet. My hand lingers too low and he slaps it away, then wags an index finger. Naughty, naughty. Without missing a beat, he twists again, placing black booted feet against the wall behind me, his palms on the floor. His hot pink derriere undulates in the air before me. 

God, ten minutes is not enough. And I still don’t know how much this is gonna cost. The thought crosses my mind that this guy likes me enough that the first one might be on the house. But even in the moment I know how ridiculous that is. Besides: He. Is. Earning. It. 

Before he’s through, Steel reaches behind me, and slides his left thumb below the waist of my jeans. He digs it right between my medius and maximus glutes. Suddenly there are waves of warm energy pulsing up my back and down my right leg. Whoa!

“Do you like that?” he asks, eyes flashing with mischief. “There’s one on each side.” He drives his other thumb in and I writhe beneath him, nearly sliding out of the chair.

When it’s over, my hair is a mess and my body is exhausted, the way a good workout feels. “That was amazing,” I understate. “What do I owe you?”

Even though I know better, I expect to hear some grand generous declaration like, It’s up to you or Don’t worry about it. So when he says, “Forty,” I start to sweat. Forty for ten. Obviously, Dave. Get over yourself.

That is about twice what I would have agreed to, had I not been positively moony. Stingy as I am, however, I owe him compensation for the goods and services he has provided me. They were good, and I am more than adequately serviced: fair’s fair.

I grab my wallet and search my pockets, coming up with thirty-nine and a weak, guilty smile. As I sputter about not having heard him correctly, he snatches the bills from my hand and tousles my hair again.

Now comes the generous don’t worry about it, but I feel cheap anyway. The stiff I never want to be. Still, he helps return my appearance to some semblance of respectability—all with a smile no less—and escorts me back to the main floor.

There I find my friends in talks with another dancer, the dom in the thong. Still with the scowl, he’s offering them a two-fer, but they decline. Not enough cash. Seems to be going around. So I think it’s best we make our exit (as it appears our poor straight compatriot already has, without his date).

But before we do, I ask my boyfriend for a dollar. I want to square up with Steel, but he’s already got a new guy on his arm, headed for the stairs, laughing, flirting. The man knows what he’s doing. He’s the best dancer in the house, has totally changed my outlook on stripclubs, and my glutes are going to be sore in the exact shape of his thumbprints for the next thirty-six hours. He could get upset over a buck, but you get farther on a smile than a scowl.

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Dave Wheeler is the author of the poetry collection Contingency Plans, and his essays have been published by CatapultThe Stranger, and The Morning News. Follow him on Instagram.


Published by The Bare InkSlinger, Courtesy of David Wheeler.  
Copyright © 2017 David Wheeler, All rights reserved.

The Worst-Case-Scenario-er

    Last spring, I ended up getting a bizarre ear ache which prompted me to find an Ear, Nose, and Throat  Doctor.  As he examined my many face holes, he asked if I knew that my septum (thin cartilage that divides the left and right chambers of the nose from each other) was crooked.  This was, in fact, brand new information to me.  I knew I had a hard time breathing through my nose, but I just thought that was normal for everyone. 

    “There’s a really simple procedure to fix it,” the doctor said.  “It’s called a ‘Septoplasty.’  You don’t even have to do the gauze packing like your uncle might tell you about.”

    I didn’t know what he was talking about with this “gauze packing.”  I never had an uncle who sat me down to talk about such things.  However, the idea of not being a total mouth breather anymore did feel rather appealing.


    The doctor himself seemed like a weird uncle who’d tell me about such things.  He acted awkward and disheveled, like he might want to start wearing velcro shoes because, at any minute, he could forget how to tie his regular ones.  He certainly didn’t seem like the kind of doctor who'd you want doing surgery on you.  But a simple procedure?  Maybe.   

    Each time I visited for follow ups, I asked him more about this simple procedure.  Could it help me stop sounding all nasally when I talked?  Would I stop waking up in the middle of the night with terrible dry mouth?  Could I stop struggling to close my mouth when I chew my food?  Yes, yes, and… well, maybe.  My oversized teeth can take part of the blame for that last one.

    This procedure sounded like it really could help me.  I called up his assistant and got it scheduled for the beginning of August.  She emailed me the paperwork that would tell me everything I needed to know.  

    Meanwhile, my parents had been wanting to come visit Luke and me sometime soon.  I figured this timing would work perfectly.  I would have a little downtime after the procedure which meant more time to visit with them.  

    As that week approached, I began to read the paperwork more closely, and my parents (retired medical professionals) started filling me in on the reality.  I wouldn't just receive some local anesthetic.  I’d have to go completely under.  I wouldn’t be able to work for a week.  I wouldn’t be able to workout or travel for two weeks!  This Septoplasty sounded more like full on surgery rather than a simple procedure.  Wait!  Are “surgery” and “procedure” actually synonyms?! 

    To me, a procedure is more like a diabetic going to a podiatrist to get their toe nails cut.  This sounded way more invasive.  When it comes to full anesthesia, I am terrified.  What if the anesthesiologist dozes off in the middle of the surgery and accidentally kills me? 

    This might sound like the thoughts of a hypochondriac, but really, I am more of a “worst-case-scenario-er.”  And it’s not so irrational when you take into account that one of my father’s colleagues did this very thing.  I called my dad in a nervous panic.  

    “Scottie, the chances of something like that are 1 in 400,000,” my father tried offering some logic (how dare he!).

    What my father didn’t understand was that, to a worst-case-scenario-er, the statistics don’t matter.  I WILL be that 1 in 400,000 case.  Thus in the nights leading up to the surgery, I’d snuggle up to Luke and our dog in bed and tell them goodnight as if it would be my last.  Suddenly I felt vain and silly for even wanting this “procedure.”  

    The morning of the now “surgery” arrived and both of my parents, plus Luke, came with me.  Things started rather quickly as the nurse took me back, stabbed the IV on my wrist, and began asking medical questions.  They let Luke come back to help ease my nerves.

    Dr. Disheveled ventured over to talk us through everything and the anesthesiologist quickly followed.  He informed us that, while under the anesthesia, he’d be taking a tube and sticking it down my throat in order to do the breathing for me.  I was not at all pleased with this information.

    As the time drew near, the nurse got ready to administer Versed into my IV.  THIS I was excited for.  I remembered it from when I had my tonsils out as a teenager.  Approximately 4.2 seconds after she injected it, I began giggling relentlessly.  

    “You seriously felt it THAT fast?!” Luke said, not quite believing my new state of bliss.

    I nodded that it was indeed fantastic and wondered why I couldn’t just take some home with me.  As someone who is somewhat struggling with his sobriety, I could seriously use it when going out to the bar.  

    The nurse asked questions.  I made jokes.  Luke laughed.  I laughed.  We had tears coming down our faces.  We were all having fun.  Well, except for the nurse.

    Then they started rolling me back.  I said goodbye to Luke and entered a white round room with medical professionals buzzing all around me.  The anesthesiologist put a mask over my nose and mouth and told me to breath normally.  The room turned dark.  And then I died.


    Just kidding.  I lived.  However I woke up feeling like I had just died.   Luke and my parents were already sitting by my side, offering me ice chips.  I absolutely wanted them and, as Luke scooped them into my mouth, I nearly gagged due to my throat being so wickedly sore.

    Dr. Disheveled came by and described the surgery as “very boring.” I guess this was his way of saying it went routine.  However he did inform us that the septum had been worse off than he expected.  Both airways were fairly blocked. 

    The nurse came by and began giving the discharge instructions.  For three days, I’d have to “park it” and do absolutely nothing for myself.  For two weeks, I’d have to sleep with my head elevated to the same degree as the hospital bed.  It felt a solid 45 degrees upright.  How on earth would I sleep like that?  The nurse asked if I had a recliner.  Who was I?  Babe Ruth?  

     We would have to change the gauze pads under my nose as needed.  And by “as needed,” they meant whenever it got soaked from the bloody drainage that would come from my nose.  I’d need to take pain meds, antibiotics, and more pain meds for swelling.

    Upon getting home, Luke bolted to go fill all the prescriptions and I had to pee.  My father helped me up, walked me to the bathroom, and warned me that it might be difficult after all that anesthesia.  The fact that he stayed in the bathroom and kept his hand on my back to keep me stable didn’t help.  I’m pee shy enough as it is.

    I hadn’t intended on taking the pain meds.  I wanted to go it au naturale.  However Luke got stuck in traffic and the anesthesia really began to wear off.  The moment he got home, I threw my crunchy granola desires down the drain an opted for the Oxycodone.  My face freakin hurt.  

    The drainage from my nose filled up the gauze pads faster than I expected.  And to make matters worse, some of the drainage would slip past that gauze and go underneath my beard, making it incredibly difficult to “gently wipe away” from my face.  It was wet and disgusting.

    While my parents went off to go get the delicious pizza that everyone would be eating except for me, I freaked out and begged Luke to shave my beard.  This proved to be no easy task either.  I cried as he tried to be gentle with buzzing along my cheeks.  He decided it best to not use the razor on top of that.  Our dog, Steuben, couldn't stop smelling my wounded nose and newly trimmed face.


    That night, my mother built a ramp of pillows on the bed so that I could sleep elevated like in the hospital bed.  She was quite impressed by her comfy handy work, but I couldn’t appreciate it.  I kept waking up in the middle of the night in pain because I couldn’t switch sides like I usually do.

    What had I done to myself?  Was this even going to be worth it?  As a worst-case-scenario-er, I truly imagined I would somehow permanently stay like this.  I get that way when I have colds too.  It’s totally irrational, but when you feel like hell, you feel like it’ll never end.  

    Of course in three days, I could walk around the house by myself again.  In five days, my appetite returned back to normal.  And in seven days, I had no more excuses to not do my work.  Of course, my face still hurt and my energy levels were low.  Nevertheless, I could potentially see a light at the end of this pitiful tunnel.

    Eleven days after the surgery I went back to Dr. Disheveled to have the stints in my nose removed.  It immediately relieved the pressure in my face and FINALLY… I could breathe!  It was strange and wonderful and a tad cold.  However I wasn’t out of the woods just yet.  For the next month, I still couldn’t blow my nose and/or pick it (as if I would ever).  Instead, I would have to use a Neti pot a couple of times a day to rinse it out.  Thank God I already kinda conquered my Neti fears (essay & video here).

    I didn’t keep up with my Netti pottings though.  I just didn’t seem to have all that much snot to begin with.  But the snot I did have seemed different from before.  Maybe those with normal nose breath have a different color and consistency.  I didn’t think much of it because it’s gross and who thinks about such things all day long?

    When I returned to his office a few weeks later, Dr. Disheveled asked about the quality of my nasal mucus.  “Has it been yellow or green?”

    “Yes,” I replied.

    He did a double take.  “It has?”


    “Well, that could be a sign of a staph infection.”

    “WHAT?!”  I have a fucking staph infection!

    I immediately confused staph with MRSA and thought I was going to die.  Staphylococcus is a type of bacteria that lives on the skin of even healthy folks.  Though when it works its way into a wound and goes untreated, it can get serious.  MRSA is an antibiotic resistant version of staph and it had now invaded my body.

    The doctor took a look and confirmed that MRSA had NOT invaded my body, but that it was indeed a standard staph infection.  He prescribed even more antibiotics that I dreaded taking and a topical ointment that I’d have to swirl up in each nostril with a q-tip three to four times a day.  

    The ointment often gave the illusion of boogers in my nose and people kindly pointed it out on a daily basis.  It did not boast well for my ego.  As I got back to pouring the saline solution through my nose, something occurred to me: the Neti Pot was to remove and keep the nose clean of bacteria, not to just simply remove snot.  I completely messed up my own treatment.  

    Then I realized something else.  As a worst-case-scenario-er, I got so pre-occupied with the big (unlikely) stuff, that I hardly paid attention to the small (and likelier) stuff.  Freaking out over the worst case scenario didn’t do me any good.  It had, in fact, totally backfired on me.  My own irrational fears ended up prolonging my recovery.

    Being a worst-case-scenario-er obviously didn’t any kind of benefit to the experience.  When we perseverate over these things, it just creates a ton of tension and sadness which then leads to stress and fatigue.  Plus, as I clearly demonstrated, when we get so absorbed by the things that aren’t within our power, we might be prone to overlooking the things that ARE within our power.  And that could ironically lead to a situation actually worth worrying about.

    It has now been three months since my Septoplasty and my staph infection is long gone.  For the most part, I’m pretty sure that the surgery was worth it.  Breathing through my nose does seem better - although not quite as much as I had hoped.  Still, I catch myself being less of a mouth breather than before.  So that’s good.  And if nothing else, it taught me to try (emphasis on “try”) and be more mindful about the things I can change vs the things I can’t.  

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go use my Neti Pot. 


Copyright © 2017 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.


    Before jetting off to San Francisco for Folsom, my friends and I decided to stop in Seattle for a concert.  I opted to fly in a couple days early so I could get reacquainted with this great city. I hadn’t been in 14 years, and even then, it was more of a family trip.  I couldn’t really pull away to do the super gay city things that I truly wanted. 

    But my early arrival would also give me the opportunity to finally try and network with David Wheeler, a book critic and a fellow writer.  His essays have appeared in Catapult, The Stranger, and The Morning News.  We had been chatting for quite some time and it would be an amazing opportunity to connect.  I’ve also been trying to lure him into writing a guest blog post on here too.  You can check him out on Instagram and Twitter @daviewheeler.  His tumblr is also definitely worth the look as well.

    Networking is not a strength of mine though.  I practically have tumble weeds blowing across my LinkedIn account.  The only business cards I have ever handed out were to prospective readers.  I’ve yet to make any connections that could help take my writing where it probably needs to go.

    Upon meeting David at our designated coffee shop, he immediately struck my fetish for cute-nerdy guys.  And as much as I wanted to pull him in a dark hallway to make out, we kept our meeting professional.  We talked about the biz, our works, and where we saw ourselves in the future.  When our time ended, I completely forgot to give him a business card.


    On the day of our flight to San Francisco, my friends and I, being the responsible adults we are, nearly missed out flight.  We rushed to the gate so quickly that I didn’t even have time to pee or get a sandwich (two very important things for me when I fly).  Of course, when we actually got to the gate, I found myself still having to wait for my boarding group to get called.  

    As I politely snuck my way into the queue (rather than shoving my way in), I noticed a gentleman walking up to the premier boarding line.  Suddenly I realized it was Dan Savage. My heart dropped straight down into my gut.  For someone who wants to network, this flight just took an ironic twist.  I could potentially network with one of America’s most famous gay writers (living).

    But this set my gut on fire - in the nervous way, not the diarrhea way.  Señor Savage was almost a little too famous.  As I’ve written before, I do NOT like meeting famous people. It’s tough enough to walk up and introduce myself to dudes at the bar.  How would I introduce myself to someone who gets approached all the time?  Would it annoy them?  What if I stutter?  What if they’re dicks?  The fact that his husband, and a very, very pretty young man were with him only made the idea more nerve wracking.  But with them being in premier boarding, they’d get on the plane long before me anyway.

    When I boarded the plane, it occurred to me that I managed to somehow lose my boarding pass AND completely forgot my seat assignment.  I had to sheepishly ask the flight attendant for help.  As he kindly looked up my seat assignment, I then saw Dan Savage sitting in the front row of first class right in front of me.  Was now the time to try and introduce myself?

    He had his headphones on and his head down focusing on his phone.  This man clearly did not want any human contact.  I also noticed he and his husband didn’t even sit together.  Were they fighting?  They both did kind of look grumpy.  But then again, they were both on their phones.  Now was definitely not the time.

    Besides, the flight attendant would not stop talking.  And he was kind of cute, and he was wearing Invisalign, and I kinda wanted to ask him about it because I've been Invisa-curious about fixing my slightly jacked up teeth. This is not a paid endorsement, by the way. I really want to know how this shit works.  The flight attendant would later offer me some free alcohol to which I would have to politely decline because of my stupid sobriety.  Damn.  I’ve always wanted to get drunk on a plane.  

    After my new flight attendant friend figured out my seat, I made my way back there like a semi-normal human being.  Immediately, I began texting my partner and a couple friends of my close encounter of the awkward kind.

    “You should go back up to his seat and introduce yourself,” one friend wrote back.

    This wouldn’t have worked.  He sat by the window and I’d have to reach over the other passenger to shake his hand.  Besides, we reached the point where everyone had to stay seated so the plane could taxi.

    “You should tweet at him right now,” another friend said.

    “NO WAY!  I don’t even follow him on Twitter.  Besides, what would I say?  ‘I’m sitting twenty rows behind you.’ That’s so stalkery!”

    Although this did give me the idea to at least go on Twitter and follow him.  Dan Savage clearly had this Twitter thing down.  He had 315.4k followers.  I did not have this Twitter thing down.  I had 304 followers (notice the lack of a “k” behind that number).  Twitter just doesn’t get my boat going.  I’d rather engage with people on Instagram.  Regardless, a tweet would do me no good.

    When my partner suggested meeting him once I get off the flight, I informed him that this wouldn’t work either.  Dan Savage was sitting in the first row.  He’d be long gone by the time I got off the plane.

    “Baggage claim?” my partner wrote.

    “Oh good point. God dammit.”  I couldn't make anymore excuses.

    Sure enough, when I got to baggage claim, they were standing right there waiting.  I had to do this.  I always talk about how facing our fears is so healthy.  This would be no different.

    I walked over to them and began grinning like a mentally challenged person (I can say that because I’ve worked with mentally challenged people).  It was hard for them NOT to notice me.  They stopped talking and waited for me to start.

    “Hi.  I don’t want to interrupt,” I started out.  “But I just wanted to come over and say I am a big fan.”

    “Oh well thank you,” Dan Savage said politely.  “I would shake your hand but I have a cold right now.” 

    “Oh now worries.  I just wanted to say that I’ve recently started my own writing career and it’s going really well, and you’ve been a big influence for me.”

    My fumbling comments weren’t entirely true.  While I do absolutely respect his work, I could hardly call myself a big fan seeing as how I’ve never listened to his podcast or read any of his books.  I’ve just always known about him and liked what I’ve seen in his interviews.  But that certainly couldn’t be my approach.

    “Nice.  What do you write about?”  He asked.  

    “Oh… well… I… I write a blog.  It’s on ‘baring it all.’  I know it’s just a blog but it’s going really, really well.”  I always feel like I have to justify myself when I tell people I am a blogger - as if I don’t then they won’t take me seriously.  

    He nodded kindly.  Then things went uncomfortably silent.

    “Do you mind if we get a selfie really quick?” I asked.

    My hands get really shaky when I try to talk a selfie as it is.  Factor in my nerves here, and suddenly I had Parkinson’s (I can say that because my father has Parkinson’s).  The photos kept turning out blurry and I finally gave up and pretended like a got a good one so that I didn’t wear out my already questionable welcome.


    After I walked away, I kicked myself for having totally blown it.  Sure I mustered up the guts to go talk to a famous person, but all I did was act like a giddy fan.  In no way did I actually network. 

    When I explained my writing, it would have been the perfect opportunity to hand him my business card and promote myself.  I could have said something like “My work is really taking off.  I’ve grown a vast audience in less than a year and I think it’d be fun to collaborate with you sometime.  Feel free to check out my work if you're curious at all.”

    Chances are he gets stuff like that allof the time from aspiring writers.  He probably would have thrown my card away at the next available trash bin.  But what if I had piqued his interest JUST enough?  It could have changed the course of my entire career.  Oh well.  I tried not beating myself up too much.  There was nothing I could really do.  

    My friends and I got our bags and made our way to the airport concourse train.  As we walked up, there was Dan Savage waiting for the same train car.  I tried to casually never make eye contact just so he’d know that this was purely a coincidence - not a following.

    After that train, I had to go to the kiosks to get a ticket for the BART (the San Francisco public train system).  The kiosks filled up quickly and due to my impatience, I ran to the other side to see if there was less of a line.  Instead, I ended up seeing Dan Savage.  This was getting awkward.  We exchanged smiles that said “Can you believe this?”  Although I’m sure we were not believing the same thing.

    As my friends and I made our way to the train, we purposefully didn’t choose to sit in the first car as to avoid yet another encounter.  As we got in the third car over, there he was: more Dan Savage.  As it turned out, I didn’t need Twitter to look like a fucking stalker.  Any chance of re-approaching him with a business card was now officially down the toilet. 

    The next day, when my friend and I decided to go to the Mr. S Leather store for their big Folsom event, Dan Savage was there yet again - handing out free beer to the patrons.  Perhaps they paid him to do it or maybe he did it for some charitable cause.  Either way, it made me wonder if he lied about having a cold to not shake my hand, or if he was faking his health and getting his germs all over the beer.  It didn’t matter.  I think.

    For the rest of the weekend, I successfully didn’t have anymore Dan Savage sightings to further my embarrassment.  However, I did start seeing lots of those ridiculously hot Instagay celebrities.  I decided to utilize them in order to improve my networking skills.  They couldn’t do anything for my writing, but they’d be great practice for introducing myself to intimidating people.  All of them were kind, making each one easier to talk to than the last.  I even made out with one of them.  Though he was fairly drunk at the time.

    While I didn't let fear stop me from meeting Dan Savage, I did let my nervousness stop me from doing it well.  I forgot that when we face our fears, we have to also not psych ourselves out as well.  Blowing it with Dan Savage taught me that when I get another opportunity to rub shoulders with someone just as big, I need to take a deep breath, collect my thoughts, and make a half-way decent plan as to what I want to say.

    Until that day comes, I’m perfectly happy networking with the brilliant, non-famous writers, like David, who really do inspire me to keep going on this journey.  And if nothing else, I will at least learn to have my damn business card in my hand.


Copyright © 2017 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

Folsom: The Final Frontier

Caution: the following essay contains strong sexual themes that may be too graphic for some readers.  NSFW version available.

    I’m not sure exactly what I wanted to get out of Folsom Street Fair when I decided to go this year.  It would be my first time and people have always told me I’d love it.  This felt odd seeing as how I am not a big fetish guy.  Rather, I’d describe myself as “vanilla kink.”  So if anything, this could be great opportunity to have my mind BLOWN.  For some, space is the Final Frontier.  For me, it might just be one of the world’s largest fetish festivals. 

    Though my first challenge was to figure out what in the hell to wear for the fair.  I do find leather sexy so I own a couple of harnesses myself.  Thankfully some friends kindly let me borrow their gear so that I could have more options - leather boots, more harnesses, a black jockstrap, and some wrestling singlets.  I took photos of seven options and sent them to various friends.  Each of them selected something different.   

    For the fair itself, I wanted to wear the least clothing possible without being totally naked.  I narrowed it down to two choices.  The first was my white jock with tube socks.  If anything, I’m more of a vintage guy than a leather guy so it fit my personality.  The other was a black jock (borrowed) with leather boots (borrowed) and a harness (mine).  I felt like a total badass wearing it and it truly fit the Folsom style. 

    On the one hand, I wanted to stand out.  On the other hand, I wanted to fit in.  I couldn’t decide!  Which do I choose?  WHICH DO I CHOOSE?!  This is where I am a bit of a weirdo.  Not too many people would have an existential crisis about how to dress for their first fetish fair.  So naturally, I panicked and packed it all (on top of my regular clothes) hoping that none of it would explode out as I handed my bag to the nice woman at the airline counter.


    One of things about Folsom is that the weekend is packed full of parties - most in the style of the gay circuit party.  This was something I had never really done either, but I’ve always been a little circuit-curious. There were multiple parties happening day and night.  Instead of having an existential crisis about choosing these, I decided just to follow my friends choices which were often cheaper anyway (because I’m a broke ass writer).  

    Our Friday night kicked off with the bear party known as Bearracuda.  I had been to these before and loved the attitude of all body types being accepted.  And although I love a good bear, I found myself trying to flirt with a non-bear couple on the dance floor.

    In truth, I’m not that good at flirting. I struggle to offer more than a smirk and a second of eye contact, and then turn away as I don’t know what to do next.  It’s up to my flirty counterpart to make the next move.  It probably wouldn’t be so difficult if I drank.  But in my recent choice of sobriety, flirting has become more difficult than ever.     

    As the night wrapped up, the couple (now incredibly drunk) put the pressure on to go home with them.  I turned them down as it felt like breaking one of my cardinal rules: never hook up with someone just for the sake of hooking up with someone.  On the other hand, I figured this was Folsom and the weekend was all about letting go of my inhibitions.

    As nice as they were, I shouldn’t have let go of my inhibitions.  Being so drunk, both of them kept dozing off during our play time.  Then neither of them seemed to get on the same page with what was okay and what was off limits.  My being dead sober left me wide awake and way too aware of it all.

    Then one passed out while other then kept saying, “Yeah, fuck me baby.”

    For me, being called “baby” is a total boner killer.  He said it like ten times and with each demand, I got softer and softer.  Finally I called it a night and ordered a ride back to home base.  Of course as I tried to casually slip out the door, I realized I had grabbed the wrong phone and had to sheepishly go back and knock to get the right one.

    The next day, my friends wanted to go to Mr. S Leather - a huge bondage gear and fetish clothing store that’s been around for nearly four decades.  Evidently this is a big event in itself as the store hands out beer while it’s packed with people shopping.  

    Upon arrival, I immediately got separated from my friends and had to explore on my own.  When I turned the corner to go into the harness section, I was startled by a guy in a sling getting pounded right then and there.  Nevertheless, this was more of a surprise than a shock.  I had seen this kind of thing in bathhouses and just didn’t expect it to happen right there in the store.  Thus my mind wasn’t super blown.

    I then met a handsome, hairy employee working in the lube section.  Evidentially BOTH of us were bad at flirting time and we kept skirting around our attraction to one another.  He kept showing me a number of lube options as we continued to flounder and miss these perfectly slippery segues. 

    Per the lube salesman’s suggestion, I tried on a harness that everyone ended up loving.  I barely escaped from the store without dropping $200 on it (remember: broke ass writer).  Fortunately I had to leave to go hang out with one of my best friends who relocated to San Fran a couple years ago.  He and his partner were intellectual quiet types who had no major desire to participate in the weekend’s shenanigans.

    However before meeting them, I decided to make a quick stop at a daytime party called “Big Muscle.”  I had no intentions of going to this party, but I wanted to stop out front to say hello to a couple who did go to this event.  I met one of them on the train coming in from the San Fran airport and was struck by his overwhelming good looks.  He wanted me to come by so that I could meet his partner as well.  

    “You should come in,” they both suggested after our introductions.

    “No,” I told them.  “I have to go meet up with some local friends.”

    “That’s too bad,” they said.  “The dicks are just starting to come out.”

    “Dicks are coming out?!” I perked up like a groundhog who had been dying to see his shadow. 

    When they told me the cover charge was only $15, I felt like I’d practically be saving money!  I called my local friends and told them I’d have to see them at dinner instead.  I felt a bit like a douche, but c’mon… DICKS!

    I entered the venue to find an overwhelming scene of half naked men dancing everywhere - on the floor, on a stage, up the walls, on balconies.  Three minutes and forty-eight seconds later, dicks did in fact come out.  I promised I’d only stay an hour.  Though seeing as how dance-floor-dicks were also new to me, I wound up staying until the end at 6pm.

    I rushed over to meet my local friends for dinner and was suddenly transported to an entirely different world.  The restaurant was nice and suddenly I felt stupid slutty wearing torn up jean shorts and a muscle tee cut so thin that I was practically shirtless.  These friends told intellectual jokes that went over my head and reminisced about how ponderosa pine trees smell of butterscotch.  I adored them.  Things were calm.  I actually needed this.

    Sunday came and so did the actual street fair itself.  I returned to my conundrum of what to wear.  I had actually worn the black jock and harness to Bearracuda.  Still though… do I fit in or do I stand out?  God, I hate making decisions.  I opted for the white tube socks and jock vintage getup and threw on some tiny shorts and a tank over it.  I didn’t want to touch my bare ass on the public transit seats.

    When I arrived at Folsom Street Fair, I could hardly pay attention to the surroundings because I suddenly had two missions: 1. coat myself in sunblock and 2. find food as fast as possible.  Fortunately I met up with another Denver friend to help me achieve both of these.  

    But before food, I had to stop and get a photo of two guys getting it on in a window from a second floor apartment.  This surprised me.  It was hardly even noon yet.  That’s WAY too early for window sex.  Or I guess the real shock was that they didn’t care that any of us onlookers were taking photos.  My slight exhibitionist side felt a little envious of them.

    Other friends joined us and we began venturing our way through the crowds.  We witnessed people being tied up with rope while others were getting spanked with paddles.  We saw the puppy play pen where guys dawned leather dog masks and trotted on all fours.  I didn’t understand.  None of this was blowing my mind.  Obviously I needed something more obscure.  I needed the folks my friends warned me about. 

    Where was the fisting booth? Where was the woman sitting in a baby pool of urine (to clarify… the urine would be from adults, not babies)? And where were the guys who fill their balls with so much saline… they become huge and grotesquely hang between their legs?!  I wanted my freaks, dammit!

    I began to wonder if this was an unfortunate side effect of living such an open minded and exploratory life.  I enjoy being a spectator of all things unconventional so that I leave no stone unturned.  But what happens when you unturn all the stones?  Is my curious nature just like heroin?  Is enough never enough?  Had I already reached my "Final Frontier?"  

      In order to feel our boundaries slightly pushed, I challenged some friends to at least go full monty with me in the middle of the street for a photo.  None of us had ever done such a thing - especially with so many people around.  We bared our junk and got the shots.  And yet this didn’t feel all that thrilling either.

    Then something occurred to me: as we took our dicks out for the photo op, no one around us actually cared.  There were no double takes, no whispers behind our backs, and no shaming of any kind.  In my pursuit of shock value, I realized that I was completely missing the best part.

    We were existing in a world where everyone could be their most unconventional selves and NO ONE WOULD CARE.  I have heard about this kind of thing happening at Burning Man (another item on my bucket list), but I didn’t realize I could also find it here.  When it came to obsessing over which outfit I’d wear, it ended up that it never really mattered.  All that mattered was whichever one felt best for me.  THIS was what I came to Folsom for - not to necessarily find a fuck, but rather to not give a fuck.  

    For the rest of the day, my fascination turned from my craving of shock value to my new found sense of comfort.  I let a straight couple smack me in the rear with their newly purchased paddle.  I hopped on a random guys’ back to take photos of a gay sex show happening on stage.  And I signed up for the Mr. S newsletter so I could make my first attempt at flirting with a guy in a pup mask.  Instead of wanting the day to be something else, it turned into exactly what I needed it to be.  Oh, and apparently I just missed the guys with the saline balls.  

    That evening, my friends and I went to the closing party called “Deviants.”  In my newfound sense of freedom, I decided to challenge myself on my sober flirting skills.  Instead of quickly looking away after my eye contact and smile, I’d make my way over and introduce myself to these men.  Each guy got easier than the last.  I even made out with a few of them too.

    At the end of the night, I came face-to-face with yet another decision: go home with a dashing ginger or hold out for the after party that would be riddled with orgies.  I chose the ginger.  He was a fellow writer and seemed kind (and also coherent).  

    Instead of getting it on right when we got through the door, we sat and ate sandwiches while asking each other deep and personal questions.  Conceivably this was my fetish: uninhibited human connection - be it from sexual expression or deep conversation.  Of course, taking a shower with him before going back home felt pretty damn good too.

    The next morning I woke up feeling slightly baffled by the weekend.  Had it been overwhelming or underwhelming?  I just didn’t know.  Either way, my final day in San Francisco had arrived and I wanted to do something easy and local.  Ideally I would have gone to Marshall’s Beach - a nude beach right by the Golden Gate bridge.  Except I didn’t know how to get there and all the locals were hurting too badly (from alcohol and drugs, not my flirting) to take me.  So I settled on going to Dolores Park. 

    I ordered up a ride share and upon getting in the car, I was bombarded by yet another good looking gay couple in the back seat.  We made conversation and they informed me, ironically, of their own plans to go to Marshall’s Beach.  I fished around for an invite and luckily they took the bait and invited me along. 

    As we made our way onto the beach, we stumbled upon something none of us expected to see: fisting... fisting on a beach… where sand was present.  However it wasn’t just any old beach fisting.  It was, in fact, a fisting train - three men, two fists, and a whole lot of love.  This was apparently not typical for Marshall’s Beach.  Either way, my mind was officially (and finally) blown!

    My new found friends and I didn’t engage in any fisting of our own, or any other sexual activity for that matter.  Rather we laid out, chatted, took photos, and just soaked up our afternoon of spontaneous, naked camaraderie.  Maybe this was another fetish for me: random, impromptu social nudity.  Most people find it incredibly weird, and yet, for me, it makes me feel alive and intensely engaged with the present moment.  My brain doesn’t wander off to worry about money or my work.  And perhaps this is what fetish is all about.

    Before I came on this trip, I read an article online about the “38 Folsom Street Fair DOs and DON’Ts.”  Number twenty-eight said “Don’t expect Folsom to change your life.”  Then number thirty-nine said “Do expect Folsom to change your life.”  So did Folsom change my life or not change my life?  The answer to both… is yes.  I had reached some kind of frontier over that weekend.  But, in the end, frontiers are never really final.

    Thank you, San Francisco, for the unforgettable weekend.  I look forward to being inside you again soon.  


Copyright © 2017 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

Workplace Rejection

    When a different agency took over the organization that I once loved working for, my co-workers and I suddenly found ourselves jolted into a much more corporate environment. All the luxuries we had been accustomed to got stripped away for a more bureaucratic and micromanaging environment. We tried rebelling in all sorts of ways. I, personally, created a wallpaper for my computer that said “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” Upper management hardly blinked and, if anything, we were just being aggressively passive-aggressive.

    Really, we just needed to say “adios” and find employment elsewhere. I had started going on job interview after job interview, and, unfortunately each time, I found myself as the runner up. Always a brides maid, and never a bride. Always a Susan Lucci, and never a Daytime Emmy Award winning actress. Although second place should feel encouraging, it started to become totally frustrating.


    Then one day, my friend, Seth, called me up. He was the head therapist over at an agency that worked with the well being of gay men. They had a position open - one that would have an emphasis with HIV.

    “You’re the perfect guy for the job,” he said. “You’re smart. You already have a social work background. You’re so well known in the HIV community. And you're edgy as fuck. I think you could really help shake things up around here.”

    I had become a bit of a poster boy in my city after writing a column on poz life in the local gay rag. I also regularly mentored newly diagnosed guys on a volunteer basis. Being able to get paid to do this indeed sounded like a dream job. Plus I do like shaking things up… or down… or even to the left.

    At the interview, I sat with Seth, and three of his co-workers, around an over sized table. There was the brunette guy who wrapped himself in an afghan and drank his herbal tea. Then came the blond guy who apparently made the afghans for everyone in the office. And finally there was the muscle guy who barely had anything to say. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a team like this? The interview went well and they were eager to have me on board.

    For the second round, I had to prepare a scenario in which I would do an outreach in the community. We had to role play it with a list of questions they already prepared. For some reason, they all decided that Muscles had to go first and this slightly enraged him. As far as my history with role playing, it was by far the most awkward - especially since it was being video recorded for their upper management. But it think this all went well again. At least Seth seemed pleased.

    One night, before the third interview, I was talking about the position out of pure enthusiasm with someone at a party. An acquaintance overheard and butted in.

    “Oh God, do NOT go work for Don,” he said so boisterously that everyone turned and looked.

    “Uh, who is Don?” I asked.

    “He oversees the whole program and he is one of biggest, narcissistic, sociopathic assholes I have ever worked with!”

    Before I could ask him to elaborate, he stomped off. But it didn’t make sense. Back at the office, those guys seemed happy at their job. I liked them - even grumpy Muscles. They didn’t at all act like they worked for a horrible, narcissistic asshole. Knowing that this acquaintance had a touch for the drama, I didn’t take his words too much to heart and went on shoving my mouth full of hummus.

    For the third and final interview, this was where I would meet with the now legendarily evil Don and the rest of their upper management. It was down to me and one other guy. To give myself an advantage, I created a portfolio of my writings and my work in the HIV community.

    Looking at it, I suddenly became very impressed with my all that I had achieved in my work so far.

    Dressed to the nines in my best business suit (which was probably a seven at best), I presented the portfolio to Don and some other folks whose roles I didn't entirely understand. Aside from the gold rings on his fingers and gold chains that popped out from his dress shirt (making him look like a Soprano), he seemed like a lovely man. They all acted incredibly impressed by work and were eager to make their decision by that afternoon.

    When Seth called five hours later, I confidently picked up the phone ready to accept their offer.

    “I’m sorry, Scott,” he said. “They ended up going with the other guy.”

    I was stunned. My heart instantly broke. This was supposed to be MY dream job. MINE!

    “What?” I said. “But why? I thought you said this job was as good as mine.”

    “It was. You were even more qualified than this other guy. But they went with him because he is bilingual and he asked for less money.”

    “BUT YOU TOLD ME TO ASK FOR THAT AMOUNT OF MONEY!” I shouted in the phone with a similar sense of drama as that acquaintance at the party.

    Seth actually was kind enough to come over to my house and console me in person. He was frustrated. He talked about how they all made a huge mistake. He didn’t even know how we was going to deal with them on their upcoming business trip to San Francisco for a training.

    Seth was trying to rub ointment on my wounds however he didn’t realize that he just accidentally shoved in some salt instead. I had always wanted to work in a job where I could occasionally travel for it. Something just always seemed so romantic about that - especially when you got to go to major cities. Now I couldn’t stop imagining them all jetting off with this new guy in their awesome jobs while I was the loser stuck back home in the job he hated.

    I’d love to say that, next, I floated on to invent some twelve step program in order to deal with this rejection, but that’s not the case. Instead, I lost sight of all that I had accomplished in my life. I felt like Carrie. Ya know… from that one movie called “Carrie.” This group of cool kids made me feel like I fit in only to then throw a bucket of pigs blood on me. I had been made the fool and I hated them for it.

    If I ever saw Tea-Drinker and Afghan-Maker out and about, I’d certainly offer up pleasantries and kind words as if they hadn't totally rejected me. But really in my head, I was thinking about how nice it would be to punch them in the throat. Not too hard. I didn’t want to hurt them. But just enough to make them uncomfortable - maybe make them cough a little bit.

    Of course, since I couldn’t do that, I’d do the next best thing in order to cope: talk trash about them in my head. What a bunch of pollyannas! I’d think. Drinking their teas and knitting their blankets! That’s not gonna help the gay community! None of them are even HIV positive! How do they know what it's like? Seth was right! I WAS too edgy for that job! I mean, sure, I drink herbal tea too but I do it in a mug with a skull on it, dammit!


    Clearly I was not doing a good job of handling this. It was taking forever to piece back together the self esteem that had been shredded. I’d dealt with rejection fairly well before (see previous essay). But something about this one was way more difficult. I had gotten my hopes up way too high. Plus the other workplace rejections compounded this dismissal even harder. Susan Lucci must have been on some seriously good antidepressants, because, how she didn’t totally lose her shit and drive her car straight through the door at the Emmy headquarters, I will never know.

    Six months later, I caught wind that the guy they did hire had put in his two weeks notice. And some time after that, Tea-Drinker apparently quit too. Perhaps legendarily evil Don was as awful as he was made out to be. Even though time had healed some of my wounds by now, I still found a lot of comfort in this.

    At the last AIDS Walk, I had stopped to talk to a couple of other acquaintances who had ended up working there as well. Individually, they both told me about their plans to get out. And it finally set in my brain that I should be grateful for not getting this job. I would have, in fact, entirely hated it.

    When it comes to rejection for something so promising, we can easily make up all this crazy stuff in our heads as a result of our new found low self esteem. But the reality is… we have no idea what’s happening on the other side of those walls. That dream job could really be a total nightmare. That woman with the perfect marriage could have a husband who can’t stop cheating on her. The guy with the fancy car could be swimming in debt. Rarely is anything as it seems and, ironically, missing out on it can often be our saving grace.

    Perhaps this was the key to coping with such rejection: remembering that the reason something looks so amazing is because we want it to be so amazing. I had essentially blinded myself with the hopes of finding a most amazing job. Looking back, the warning signs were there. But I had gone so far deep into that mentality that I could hardly see that the grass wasn’t actually going to be greener on the other side. So, if anything, the person who let me down the most... was myself.

    A couple weeks ago, I actually ran into Muscles, from the interviews. I hardly recognized him because we were both wearing towels (I’ll let you do the math on that one).

    “I am so thankful you guys didn’t hire me for that job,” I told him.

    He laughed. “Really you should be,” He said. “It was awful there.”

    It occurred to me that this was the first time I had seen him out of that office and thus, simultaneously, it was also the first time I had seen him smile. He wasn’t a grumpy person. He was a man who hated his place of employment - much like myself in my other job at the time. How did I notice that?

    Muscles filled me in on more details about the terrible work environment. The co-workers constantly had their own drama. Their health benefits were awful (apparently each doctor visit had a one hundred dollar copay). And the description of legendary evil Don being a narcissistic sociopath was a surprisingly pretty accurate description.

    And with all that, I suddenly felt like a total jerk. I felt awful for thinking all those bad thoughts about Tea-Drinker and Afghan-Maker. It was a stupid defense mechanism to cope with my own feelings of failure. Ridiculing them never got me anywhere anyway. On the contrary, it just made me feel worse. I hate hating people. And as I’ve said before, one simply cannot build themselves up by tearing others down.

    I realized that it didn’t matter who was pollyanna and who was edgy. It didn’t matter what kind of mug we used to drink our herbal teas. In the end, guys like Tea-Drinker and Afghan-Maker and me were all one in the same. We just wanted to be in jobs that didn’t totally suck and putting my resentment on them wasn’t the correct route to find my way back to self worth. Susan Lucci would eventually get that Emmy. And if she can wait through 19 nominations to get it, then certainly we can have the grace and patience to find a workplace that we love.


Copyright © 2017 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

Friend Zoned for the Good

Caution: the following essay contains strong sexual themes that may be too personal for some readers.

    When my partner, Luke, and I got comfortable with having an open relationship, we decided to experiment with getting on the gay apps.  We still didn’t want to be the kind of couple who was banging everyone in town.  Not that there’s anything wrong with banging everyone in town.  Some of my best friends bang everyone in town.  But we just wanted to make sure it didn’t become a runaway train - in a few different respects.

    Luke got on first and his train certainly seemed to stay on the tracks (if you know what I mean… which, if you do, is good… cuz I don't).  He was having fun talking with lots of guys and occasionally having his allotted hookup.  I’m not sure why I waited to join the apps.  But once Luke showed me the various men (and occasional friends) he chatted with, I instantly came down with a severe case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and had to join.

    It quickly became clear why all of my friends had all been so addicted to these things.  In a major city, your options quadruple and sometimes they can even be delivered to your door in thirty minutes or less - just like pizza.  But also like pizza, I would just kind of be filled with regret afterwards, no matter how greasy and fun it got.  

    I don't find anything wrong with hooking up from apps.  But the more I did it, the more I learned it wasn’t for me.  It made sex feel like doing errands.  First, I’m gonna go to the gym.  Then I gotta pick up the dry-cleaning and then go fuck this guy.  After that I’ll pick up the dog’s medicine, get some groceries and I’ll be home.

    After a year’s time, I finally declared myself as one of THOSE guys who states, in their app profile, that they DON’T do hookups.  This, of course, would annoy most people.  However, when a guy struck up a decent conversation, I could tell it was genuine and that we could possibly bang on our own chemistry rather than just out of necessity.

    This very thing happened with a guy named Craig, whose profile named also happened to be “Craig.”  I wondered if this meant that he lacked any sense of creativity and therefore wouldn’t be all that interesting.  But either way, this tall, hairy guy had a dashing mix of being an otter, nerdy cute, and classically handsome all at the same time.  In all honesty, I probably would have foregone my need for a good conversation first.

    Apparently, we had met once before.  A mutual friend introduced us when we all accidentally ran into each other at the naked hiking spot I love so dearly.  But somehow, I had no recollection of this.  As much as I love it when guys don’t remember getting naked with me, I didn’t want to give Craig that same feeling, so I pretended to remember that moment too.

    After a month or so of chatting, we finally met up at a sushi place near his house.  Our conversations flowed effortlessly and we made each other laugh a ton.  One of the sushi dishes came out with a strobe-light centerpiece and for the first time in my life, I took a picture (or a video rather) of food and posted it to social media.  It would also be the last.

    He invited me back to his place to keep hanging out.  His dog absolutely hated me, but we had a shared love for music videos and, thus, we stayed up into the wee hours showing off our favorites.  Finally, we capped off the evening with some banging sex.

    At least I think it was banging.  I couldn’t tell.  I had been enjoying the night so much and he was so freakin’ cute that I suddenly got all self-conscious.  Once I got inside my head, I started getting worried that I may not stay hard.  I think this is what they meant by “twitterpated” in the classic children’s movie “Bambie.” 

    Craig and I continued to hang out and have sex, and while I successfully stayed hard each time, I continued to overthink it and would give slightly mediocre performances in the sack.  It was then that I caught myself having a crush on Craig.  It was more of a small, schoolboy crush really… like the time I had a crush on the gym teacher in middle school… or the time I had a crush on my high school science teacher… and then the time I had a crush on my first writing professor.  OK.  Apparently, I had a thing for teachers.  But the point is that these were loose feelings based in fantasy - nothing concrete in reality.

    So, no part of me wanted to suddenly leave Luke and run away with Craig.  Luke was ultimately the only one I wanted to be with.  So, nothing would ever happen with this little crush.  And that was totally fine.  As long as Craig and I could make a little bacon on the regular, I’d be more than happy with the situation.

    But after a few weeks of our trademarked, slightly awkward action, the sexy part of our friendship quickly got canned by Craig.  Without any real explanation, things felt more confusing than ever.  A couple times, I tried bringing it up, but the vague answers wouldn’t clarify much of anything.  Finally, I had come to the realization that I had been “friend zoned.”

    This was kind of weird seeing as how we would have actually only ever remained friends anyway.  Though it just goes to show that being friend zoned can come in many different forms.  This was the version where we became friends who didn’t have sex and I felt rather disappointed about it for several months afterwards.  

    But in time, a new kind of friendship began to emerge between Craig and me.  Sure, we didn’t get it on, but we started to confide in each other on some seriously deep levels.  We told each other things that we admittedly didn’t feel comfortable telling anyone else.  And we gave some of the best and most genuine critical feedback I ever had with anyone.


    I helped walk Craig through the times when his new and exciting relationship got a little rocky.  He helped me when my steady and long term relationship got a little frustrating.  And it occurred to me that it was years since I had a good friend like this (probably because I kept having sex with them).

    I realized that getting friend zoned by Craig was quite possibly the best thing that could have ever happened.  He and I genuinely did fall in love with each other, but in the most non-romantic of ways.  It was exactly the kind of friendship that could only be described by the intro song of “The Golden Girls.”  And it was absolutely worth NOT having sex for.

    More recently, Craig had his own experience with a friend-zoner.  As usual, I had the pleasure of getting to be there for him and help him make sense of it - especially as a now experienced friend-zonee.  Like mine, his disappointment would eventually turn into gratitude, and it had us both talking about this odd aspect of life.

      As Craig put it, getting friend zoned feels like getting dumped by somebody you aren’t even dating.  It’s a unique kind of heartbreak that causes a unique kind of anxiety.  Who are we now that we aren’t fucking?  Are we even still friends?  As disheartening as getting friend zoned is, we’ve come to understand that it’s not necessarily a bad thing - especially when it paves the way for a better friendship.  

    “I think it’s just a nature of navigating relationships as gay men and finding our chosen families.  We lead with our dicks and then either our brain or heart kicks in,“ Craig said.  “When I think about it, nearly every single one of my closest gay friendships is with a guy I’ve either friend zoned or been friend zoned by.”

    Even before I learned this value of getting friend zoned, I felt a similar sentiment.  Some gay men act appalled at those who regularly start off friendships with sex.  But when you think about it, it’s a luxury that straight people don’t get to so easily have.  

    When a straight friend of mine went through his divorce, he was having a legitimately tough time making friends.  He said, “I don’t understand it.  How are you so good at making friends?”

    “Well, it’s different in Gay World,” I told him.  “In Gay World, we all just wanna fuck each other.”

    I meant it to be a crass joke.  But, in all seriousness, it felt like a bit of truth sat in there.  Even when things start out on a superficial level, it’s kind of cool that it can lend itself to something deeper that’s not necessarily romantic.  Sure, there are those guys who then just end up with a group of friends who look like themselves (icky).  But aside from that, is this really all that bad?

    Not to get all meta about it, but if Craig hadn’t have friend zoned me, The Bare InkSlinger probably wouldn’t even exist.  As it turned out, he does have a creative side that extends beyond his in inability to come up with a screen name other than just his first name.  Because of his experience in branding and marketing (his website linked), he was able to help me take all my brain goo and create a truly interesting concept around my writing.  He even pushed me to take the bold step of getting naked on here (feel free to send him thank you letters).  

    If we had kept fucking, we probably would have butterfly-effected our way into a situation where that wouldn't have been possible.  So, while getting friend zoned felt like I was somehow falling short, it was actually because Craig sensed the opportunity for so much more.  And in the end, that felt way better than sex.     

    To this day, Craig swears that our sex really wasn’t awkward and that I gave a fine performance in the sack.  But like the best of friends sometimes do, he might just be telling me what I need to hear.  None of that matters anyway.  It’s truly in the past.  All that matters now is the cool thing that came from it.  So my dear Craig, as the classic song goes… “Thank you for being a friend (and not a friend with benefits).”


Copyright © 2017 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

An AIDS Walk Asshole

     When I realized that AIDS Walk Colorado was only a few days away, I naturally began to panic.  I am whole heartedly committed to fundraising for charitable events, even when I fail to raise funds for myself. It probably appeases urban hippie liberal guilt.  However, this fundraiser -my most regular one- nearly slipped right past me.

     I scrambled to figure out a clever pitch so I could convince friends to give me a few hundred bucks.  I needed at least one hundred just so I could get the damn AIDS Walk T-shirt.  I called it “$300 In 3 Days.”  And because I am fortunate to know some wildly wonderful people, we managed to raise together nearly $400 in less than two days.  Their generosity instantly calmed my nerves, if not giving me a double dose of the warm fuzzies.

     Nevertheless, something else had me nervous.  What would the AIDS Walk be like this year?  Last year, there had been a dramatic drop in participation.  Apparently it had been on the decline ever since 2015, but last year it was BAD.  It was as if they had Martin Shkreli be the guest emcee or something.  By the way, if that name doesn’t ring a bell, he was the guy who bought out Daraprim, a medication used in some HIV/AIDS treatments, and raised the price 5,000%.


     After last year’s Walk, articles popped up saying that it could be its last.  The organizers were thinking of turning next years’ into a smaller “memorial event.” This idea made me slightly cringe.  It didn’t make any sense.  This disease rapidly continues to gain so much hope. So now, as a solution, they wanted to make the event even MORE somber?  I didn’t want this to happen.

     So when we made our way through to the park and over to the event, I felt relief when I saw that nothing had changed.  Sure, everything had gotten a little smaller, but more or less it was basically the same - the same check-in tables, the same stage with the same big banner, the same little makeshift store with the same additional shirts for sale (aside from the hundred dollar fundraiser one), and the same vendor booths with the same free shwag.

     Then something occurred to me: maybe this was the problem.  They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  Although I think this phrase mostly refers to the mind-bludgering politics in this country, perhaps the same could be true for a major fundraiser on the decline.

     As my partner and I made our way to the check-in table, we stopped to talk to a friendly acquaintance.  He expressed his disappointment in this year’s even lower turn out.  I agreed and offered up my opinion that something needed to change.

     “Well, I don’t see YOU stepping up to help,” he said in a not-so-friendly way.

     I immediately wanted to slap him.  But I couldn’t.  He was right.  Besides, I don’t slap people anyway.  Instead I just awkwardly agree and then look down at my feet wondering what my toes might look like all squished together in my shoes.

     We then went over to the check-in tables where I gave a girl all my information.

     “Great,” she said, “I got you all checked in.”  She smiled at me blankly as if we were done.

     “Uh… Wait. What about my shirt?” I asked her. I NEEDED that fucking shirt. I had gotten one every single year since my own diagnosis in 2007 and it was proof that I could do something for people OTHER than myself.  I NEEDED that fucking proof.

     “Oh, you only get that when you raise more than a hundred dollars,” she muttered as if I had done no such thing.

     “Yeah. I raised almost four hundred,” I said.

      She looked confused.  “Oh… Uh… Well. That’s not on this list.  But I will get you one anyway.  What’s your size?”

     I couldn’t tell if everyone’s numbers weren’t on her list, or just mine.  Either way, she handed the t-shirt over skeptically and without any kudos for my job well done.  I NEEDED those fucking kudos.

      The shirt itself was rather uninspiring too.  Although it had a clever design with an AIDS ribbon forming the number “30” (due to it being the 30th anniversary), this sat on the bottom corner of the shirt.  In the center of the chest (where the ribbon should have gone), it said “Colorado Health Network.”  While they are a great organization I fully support, this layout made the shirt look corporate.  I wouldn’t even bother turning it into a bad muscle tank like I did with last year’s shirt.

     When the walk actually started, it looked more like we were all making our way to jury duty.  We came here because we had to, not because we wanted to.  That was the impression. Once upon a time, people were dying.  The devastation and loss was enough to get folks to participate.  Now that people are rarely dying (at least in our modern country), that same urgency no longer exists.  But still, a need for help seriously continues.  It’s just harder to see.

     Among the swarm of all the lackluster, my brain began to wander off, thinking about possible new motivators.  What else could we do?  What could change?  How can we get people to be excited about this?  How can we make this more fun?

     I know “AIDS” and “fun” don’t really go hand-in-hand, but truth be told, people don’t really get all that psyched up for a “small memorial event.”  When it comes to raising money and doing a 5k walk or run, they want to have smiles on their faces and a laugh with their friends.  They want a unique experience and to “can’t believe” what they just did.  They want bragging rights and solid content for their social media.

     Obstacle courses.  People freaking love obstacle courses!  You can’t throw a stone without hitting someone who’s wearing a shirt for the Tough Mudder or the Spartan Race or the Zombie Run or the Warrior Dash (and eagerly awaiting for you to ask them about it).  My partner once did a race called the “Devil Dash” where obstacles had a “seven deadly sins” theme.

     Zombies and sins probably don't fit well for a walk/race supporting HIV and AIDS, but you get the idea.  The organization can come up with its own theme, even if it’s just the color red representing the iconic color of the AIDS ribbon. Participants could receive a blank white t-shirt with a secret design printed on it.  In one obstacle, they could flop into a vat of red water, dying their shirt and revealing the design.

     Or you could throw shit on people.  Well, not literal shit.  But, like, red dust something.  I constantly see social media posts of people covered in all sorts of neon substances from whatever race that does that.

     There could even be a kids course.  Do you know how much money little Johnny or Janet could raise?  I’m not a father so I don’t know what people are naming their kids these days.  But if they are cute enough, friends and family won’t be able to resist giving money so they could raise funds for a good cause AND have the time of their lives.

     Maybe those other races might rent out some of their obstacles for “free” so they could get a big tax write off for it.  Although I am not sure how any of that works.

     Or maybe the AIDS Walk could switch things up by holding the event at night… and making it a glow-in-the-dark theme.  If there’s something people love more than getting shit thrown on them, it’s wearing weird and wild costumes that glow.  Could you imagine how cool it would look to have the routed city streets filled with people wearing all sorts of red glowing gear?  The visual luminance would have both participants and onlookers buzzing for months and excited to do it again next year.

     And to top it off, when participants cross the finish line, there could be a DJ and a dance floor to keep the night of red glowing goodness going.  Plus, this would make for a great excuse to sell loads of alcohol at a high mark up and raise even more funds.  “IT’S ALL FOR A GOOD CAUSE!,” people would shout as they accidentally vomit from the hundred dollars worth of booze they just drank.

     AIDS Walk could also make money off of the glow gear itself.  Again, don’t companies want to donate products for a tax write off?  If not, then maybe at least some extremely cheap versions can be shipped in from China.

     Having never planned a major 5k charitable event, I don’t really know if ideas like these are all that feasible.  One would think that if it meant this much to me, I would join the board or the committee that plans the AIDS Walk Colorado and win over their hearts to such concepts.  But I’d never do that.  I just don't have it in me at this point in my life.  And I have been on boards before - they make me want to pull my hair out… one strand at a time.

     Instead, I’ll probably just pass this essay on to a friend who works for the organization, hoping he will pass it on to the board or the organizers.  This terribly passive move makes me realize something else:  I may not be quite as whole heartedly committed to charity as I’d like to think.  Ultimately, all of this might just make me another asshole with yet another opinion.

     When we neared the end of the walk, we saw two sad little signs that simply said “finish.”  No balloon archway way stood tall to welcome us back.  No cheer squad jumped up and down to cheer us for our efforts.  Unfortunately, it seemed all too appropriate.  And although I won’t step up and join whatever committee to make the difference that’s needed, hopefully I’m at least an asshole who can help spark some new ideas.  And make them glow.  Because, in the end, I don’t want to see AIDS Walk Colorado cross it’s own sad little finish line.

Special thanks to this year's donors:  Glen Trupp, Casey Peel, Sinead Kasch, Gage Grotty-Garrett, Wesley Peterson, Bublz LaRue, Kathy Capell, Kevin Lole, Kyle Oliveria, and Richard Viken.

Additional thanks to my guest editor Migue Martínez Vázquez - @okmigue2


Copyright © 2017 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

A Watched Clock Always Boils

    As I sat in the dingy, old classroom, it took everything in me to not get up, walk over, and punch the middle-aged Chinese woman in the face.  Normally I didn’t daydream of such violence.  But time began running out and the all the reasons I came here were slowly slipping from my finger tips.

    Back when I decided to try and make a living off my writing, I had the unfortunate realization that I’d also have to become a business.  Alas, I don’t have an entrepreneurial bone in my body.  Math hurts my brain and I can barely remember to write things down in my calendar.  Most paperwork stays on the top of my desk rather than in the filing cabinets and I haven't even checked my PO Box since I got it.  

    However instead of feeling all road blocked and self defeated (like most of the time), I decided to take a more proactive approach.  I skimmed through the catalogue of a local adult education center to see if they had anything that could help.  In no time, I found myself signing up for all sorts of classes: taxes for the small business owner, copyrights and trademarks, google analytics, iPhone photography, and how to get good sleep.

    Those last two might not seem all that related to business.  But I figured it couldn’t hurt to bone up my game on Instagram, as well as not lay awake all night thinking about all the various ways I could fail.  Oh, which reminds me, then there was the class on how to not fail under pressure.

    The iPhonephotography course came first.  Except when I walked in the classroom, I realized I might not have paid close enough attention to the course description.  Out of seven students, I was the youngest by about 30 years.  To give you further perspective, I am currently 35 years old.  

    When the teacher went around the room and asked what brought them to this class, literally each of them said they wanted to learn how to take better photos of their grandchildren.  One woman was tired of accidentally getting pictures of her feet all the time.  It was actually all kinds of adorable.

    When the teacher taught us that, in order to save time, you can simply swipe up from the lock screen to quickly find the camera icon, then I knew I had taken the wrong class.  Some people didn’t know this?  I so badly wanted to raise my hand and say that you can also get to the camera by just swiping left from the lock screen.  However this information might make their heads explode, and I didn’t have time to clean up all those elderly brains.  

    Next came the class on how to get good sleep.  However, the day before, I got a phone call from the school saying that it would be cancelled.  Since I was the ONLY person who signed up, they didn’t have enough students enrolled to put it on.  You win again, insomnia. 

    Finally the class on Copyrights and Trademarks arrived - something I could actually sink my teeth into when it came to business.  I was the first one to get there.  When the teacher arrived, he looked like that crazy, disheveled uncle who would use a time machine to go back in time and simply get his haircut in the 1970s.  As goofy as he looked, he introduced himself with 23 years of copyright law experience.

    The next student who arrived seemed like Mr. Rogers’ illegitimate son.  He began handing out smiley face pins that we could hook to our shirts.  “Everyone can use a smile!” he said with a grin so sweet that it automatically meant he had to be a serial killer.  The teacher was delighted.  I played along. 

    Then walked in the Asian woman - the person who, for the next hour and a half, would be the bane of my existence.  I don't know what it was, but I could tell she would be trouble right from the start.  

    “Aren’t there supposed to be two of you?” the teacher asked her, wondering the whereabouts of her husband.

    “Ah yes, he in tha cah,” she said.  “He much slowah than me.”

    Now, before I continue on with this story, let me apologize for my poor attempts at phonetically writing out her Chinese accent.  My liberal side feels like I’m being slightly stereotypical (and therefore slightly racist) for doing this.  But this is literally how she spoke.  Her jutty English knew no R’s and were replaced with an “h” or “ah” or occasional “w” sound.  If you're wondering why I didn’t just swap “L” and “R,” well it’s because that’s the Japanese accent.  Now who’s racist?  

    After waiting a few more minutes, the husband still didn’t come in.  Since the woman didn’t seem to be all that concerned, the teacher went outside to find out what was going on.  When the teacher came back, he informed us that the husband was just sitting in the car, not attempting to get out or come to the class.  Finally the woman got up to grab this man and bring him in.

    Melanie and George Chow were the owners/publishers of a free, state wide newspaper for the Chinese community.  Melanie clearly ruled their marriage with an iron fist.  George practically didn’t speak unless she gave him permission.  I didn’t know if this was a cultural thing or not, but typically I’d appreciate a powerful woman.  However in this case, her power began to dominate the entire class.

    During our introductions, which should typically take no more than twenty seconds, Melanie deemed it necessary to take twenty minutes to explain their situation.  Like all free publications, they made their income from the advertisements.  They hadn’t ever thought about copyrights until recently when another publication stole one of their ads without their consent.  Melanie wanted her questions answered immediately.  It became clear that she hadn’t come to the class to learn, she had come for some personal legal counsel.  To her, no one else existed in the room.  

    To make matters worse, the teacher actually decided to answer her questions rather than just move on with the material (hence the twenty minutes).  You could tell he attempted to do this in a way that educated the rest of us, but it only helped in the slightest.  I needed foundational knowledge, not specific scenarios.  Before I knew it, the clock suddenly said fifteen more minutes had passed.

    Each time the teacher did move on with the course material, it’d last for about five minutes before Melanie would burst out with more irrelevant questions.  He had enabled her for all this one-on-one attention. And she seemed to have a lot of problems.  What if she played copyrighted music on her one hour program at the local Chinese radio station?  Who would be at fault?  Then of course she wanted to know what to do about the time some hooligan stole all of their papers from a newsstand.

    It often gets said that a watched pot never boils.  However when it comes to watching a clock, our brains always seem to heat up at a rapid pace.  And here in this classroom, my brain began to bubble in no time.  All of the irritability was making my squirm in my seat.  I could tell that even Mr. Rogers Junior was getting tense.  

    “How we going to sue the person who take ouh papah?” she screamed, wanting revenge on these Chinese-newspaper-stealing-thugs.

    I checked the clock again.  We were closing in on an hour of class.  Surely the teacher wouldn’t answer this.  How was it even related?

    “You can’t sue them,” he said.  “Your newspapers are free.  You deemed the value of your product at zero and therefore the worth of what they stole is also at zero.”

    This logic seemed clear to everyone except her.  Thus the answer didn't satisfy her in the least.  So Melanie began to argue her desire to sue people from all different angles. 

    “So what if we sell papah for twenty-fi cent and tell stoh employee to tell customah that it weally fwee,” Melanie suggested.

    With only thirty minutes left in the class, the teacher actually started answering this one too and suddenly, my brain began to boileth over.

    “OH MY GOD!”  I let out an involuntary whisper scream. This was the kind of “oh my god” that said “oh my god, are you kidding me with this shit?” or “oh my god, please, for the love of God, just shut the fuck up!”  I would seriously rather kick a bunch of rabbits with my bare feet than deal with this anymore.

    The teacher caught on to our frustrations and tried to rush through the rest of the course content in the twenty-nothing minutes remaining.  But it was too late.  I would be walking away with probably 40% of what I should have learned.  I would most definitely be calling the school tomorrow to ask for a refund or freebie to the next class.  

    When the teacher handed out the forms to rate the class and his performance, I realized that in order to get my refund or second chance, I’d have to be honest.  Although I explained why, I rated the class poor and his doings as average.  I knew he would see them, but I didn’t care.

    Seeing as how Melanie and George left first, Mr. Rogers Junior and I decided to corner the teacher and ask him our last ditch questions.  It was the least he could do.  To our surprise, he didn’t just apologize for everything, but he stayed for nearly a whole additional ninety minutes longer to talk with us.  Not only would I walk away with 100% of the course content, but I’d learn so many specific items to my own journey as a blogger/writer/public figure.  He even offered to help fine-tune some legal paperwork for me pro-bono.  

    Suddenly, I felt terrible for writing him that poor review.  I stared at the envelope which contained them and wondered if there was a way I could steal them out of his hand and re-write mine. But alas it would be impossible.  The school staff would read it after all the good that this guy unexpectedly did for me.

    When clocks cause our brains to boil, we can easily become shortsighted.  I let my temperament with the situation get ahead of me and in that, I misjudged the very man who would offer to be some of my greatest help.  When I got home and told my partner about all of it, he… well he first asked why in the hell I had a smiley face pinned to my shirt.  And then he suggested writing an email to the school to correct my review, and also give additional gushes of the teacher’s sudden, extensive help.  

    The next day, I sent an email to the teacher with the paperwork that he promised to review.  The longer it took to get a response, the more I began counting time again with the passing days.  To a new disappointment, I never heard back from him.  And with that, there was only one thing I could do: still send the school that email telling them how much I appreciated his work. Because instead of letting my brain reach yet another boiling point what didn't come through, I chose to remain thoughtful of what did.


Copyright © 2017 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

Be Right Back

Hola InkReaders,

As I was writing the essay for this week, I took a break to have a "little procedure."  As it turns out, the whole thing wasn't so little after all.  As you can expect, I will write more about it in detail for a future essay.  But for now, the post surgery recovery has kicked my ass and I haven't been able to do any writing ever since.  So I will be moving this week's essay back to next week.  I hope you understand.

Much love,

The Bare InkSlinger 

Ballin Like a Blogger

    Six weeks ago, when I announced that I had quit my job in bartending to pursue this whole “writing thing” full time, some people felt concerned for me - like REALLY REALLY concerned.  I had made this decision based on several other people’s belief in me.  But now, my more anxious advocates began to enter my floodgates.  And my floodgates have enough trouble keeping themselves shut as it is.  

    “I’m really worried for you,” a friend/customer/former-naked-yoga-classmate said.  “I remember when Towleroad sent out an email begging for subscribers to click on his ads.  If they didn’t, he couldn’t afford to keep it going and would get shut down.”

    I had never heard of Towleroad because, as I admitted from the beginning, I never actually read any blogs.  I went onto his site and immediately discovered… well, that we had pronounced the name entirely wrong.  I’m sure it happens to the best of us.  People can hardly get my blog’s name right.  But then I discovered how he was no longer a “he,” but rather had become a “leading online news source” with more than 50 authors. 

    It all started as a personal blog of Andy Towle.  From editor in chief at Genre magazine to working in feature film development at Twentieth Century Fox, this man boasted an impressive resume.  I couldn’t tell if it’s evolution made me feel hopeful or nervous.  Either way, I immediately knew what my friend/customer/former-naked-yoga-classmate didn’t mean to actually say. If a guy like Towle struggled to keep his blog financially viable, what chance would I have?

    The question on everyone’s mind kept boiling down to this: “How does one make money as a blogger?”  I've come to learn that some bloggers out there don't like to disclose how they be ballin.  But that's not how I roll.  I don't want to be some cat burglar, all dressed up in black, sneaking around and making stealthy financial gains from under the noses of my followers.

    So for this week’s essay, I figured I would once again embrace that sense of total transparency, explain what I have learned, and how I plan to put it into action.  I want to strip off the black burglar outfit and show that I have nothing to hide.  And for those of you curious on starting your own blogs (as I’m getting asked more and more), pay extra attention.

 All Photography by  Rob Kavalek

All Photography by Rob Kavalek

    First off, a blogger could start charging for their content.  Fortunately I wouldn’t even have to charge much.  If all newsletter subscribers pledged just one dollar per essay, I could sustain a minimally decent living - enough to afford a few more apples each week (occasionally organic if I’m feeling fancy).  And that’d only be around $26 per year for all of these delightful little stories that hopefully don’t ever suck.

    But in the end, I don’t want to go this route.  As transparent and upfront as it is, I love giving away my blog content for free.  It seems like everyone nickel-and-dimes each other these days.  So the idea of offering up something for absolutely nothing has become a bit romantic.  This is why I keep our home available for travelers on CouchSurfing rather than AirBnB.  Our guests constantly say how we should start charging for the guest room.  However giving it away to help those in need of a solid vacation just feels better than getting a fistful of cash.

    Another way, I could start ballin’ like a blogger is to put ads up on the site.  But alas, I don't want to do this either.  Again, nowadays, we all get slapped in the face with so many ads.  Everywhere we turn, ours eyes get assaulted with them.  I can’t quite tell if we’ve grown tired of it or have just become numb to it.  But it just seems like one less thing the world needs.  Plus having ads on the blog would slow down the site and tweak it’s lovely appearance that I worked ever so hard to create.  Ads would have to be a last resort.

    Then there’s the idea of doing partnerships.  I actually plan to go with this option as my first experiment in making a living as an independent writer - which is ironic seeing as how I don’t fully comprehend how this would even work for a blog like this.  For instance, a blog expert that blogged on blogging might partnership with other sites that help build blogs.  Those sites would then pay this blog expert blogger to recommend them to his audience.  

    It’s like a wordy product placement that makes sense for a field expert, but not for a storyteller like me.  How on earth would I fit products into my stories?  Could you imagine what that might read like?

“I couldn’t believe what Jasper just said.  How dare he accuse me of stealing!  I was so upset that I immediately ran downstairs and started doing laundry with the Boulder Clean all natural laundry detergent.  Boulder Clean gets all the stains out without any harsh chemicals.  But would I ever get these stains out of mine and Jasper’s relationship?”

    Ugh.  That’s terrible.  By the way, Boulder Clean is a real product that I really use.  They didn’t pay me to write that awful example.  But a friend of mine works for them and we will see if I can convince him to write me a check after using them to demonstrate such atrocity.  To be continued…

    So anyway, in an effort to not destroy my storytelling, my partnerships will have to look a little different.  Luckily a new online vendor, Undies & Lube™, contacted me with a great idea.  We could combine forces to create a new under/lube bundle with some Bare InkSlinger twist on it.  Together we will sell this for a limited time.  Those who want it can buy it.  Those who don’t want it can ignore it and just keep reading.  Everyone's a winner.  Maybe.  I think.  

    At first, I worried that partnershipping with an underwear and lube vendor might look a bit too tawdry.  But as someone else objectively pointed out, it's actually well within my brand of body positivity and sex positivity.  Sticking within my brand means my audience won't have to worry about me suddenly trying to sell them tupperware or anything.  Truth be told, I’ve actually already been offered to sell toothpaste.  Even though I certainly have the big teeth to hawk it, I politely turned it down as I don't often write about dental hygiene.

    Regardless of how I do partnerships, my oath to my audience is that I will ALWAYS be transparent about it.  If I get paid to endorse something, or am given free product to promote on the blog or on Instagram (this concept is getting insanely popular on Instagram), I will be honest and acknowledge it.  I would also only do this for items that I actually use or think worthy of use.  I would never promote something I thought sucked. 

    And the final way a blogger makes money is by opening an online store to sell shwag within their brand.  I’ve been watching how other online personalities or public figures do this, and while some do it well, others can do it poorly.  Let’s just say that I don’t want to merely slap my logo or face on a t-shirt or phone case and call it a day.  I don’t want to turn my audience into walking billboards for me.  

    Okay, fine.  There probably WILL be t-shirts.  But through my love of words and artwork, and my good fortune to collaborate with some seriously talented folk, I hope to create some really cool, unique items that people would actually want to buy.  This way, I could hopefully sustain a living by selling original artworks, photography, etc to then keeping my blog content sustainably free.

    By now, I know what you’re thinking.  This all sounds fairly risky.  Actually you may now be thinking of how much laundry you need to get done (I know I am).  But either way, don’t worry.  You will eventually get your laundry done and I will eventually make a living as a writer.  Fingers crossed.

    The fact is that this venture really is truly risky.  I have no idea if my partnerships will interfere with people’s enjoyment of my work, or if my online goods will spark anyone’s interest.  But attempting it will be a whole lot better than going back to the bureaucratic, nine-to-five cubicle from which I narrowly escaped before it fully killed my soul.  And, as much as I enjoyed slinging drinks at the bar, the late night hours and consistent over alcohol consumption began prodding at my Bipolar side.  That’s not even a joke.

    I had spent a whole lifetime of playing it safe and all it got me was being uncomfortably comfortable.  In order to break free from this, one has to take risks.  These various ways of making a living certainly sound like a shit ton of work with a potentially unstable result.  But sometimes the only thing crazier than taking a huge risk, is that of taking none at all.


Copyright © 2017 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

Photography Copyright © 2017 Rob Kavalek, Used With Permission

Ask and Ye Shall Achieve

    As my partner and I waited in line to meet one of my most favorite musicians ever, I began to break a small sweat.  Meeting your heroes has a certain terrifying edge to it.  You wonder whether they will act kind or rude.  And even if you aren’t religious, you pray a little that you don’t accidentally spit a fleck of food on their shoulder as you tell them how much you love them.

    Being a music geek, meeting such artists gets me particularly riled up.  And this particular musician was Amanda Palmer.  While some know the name well, others have never heard of her.  She began her music career as the brilliant mind behind the “punk cabaret” duo known as The Dresden Dolls.  But she really came into the limelight when she broke free from her record label and then broke a record for one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns to date.

 Photo by Laquena

Photo by Laquena

    Ms. Palmer asked for $100,000 to make the album and all the business that goes along with it.  The lowest giver of $1 or $5 would get musical downloads.  The highest giver of $5,000 or $10,000 would get their own house party where Amanda (or the full band) would play.  I almost considered the $5,000 option but then just threw in $25 for the deluxe edition CD instead.  

    Amanda Palmer ended up raising nearly $1.2 million and controversy quickly ensued.  She defied the industry standard of the record labels and not everyone would take too kindly to this.  Palmer then went on to do a TED Talk called “The Art of Asking” where she explained “I think people have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is ‘How do we make people pay for music?’ What if we started asking ‘How do we let people pay for music?’”

    The release of her book (also titled “The Art of Asking”) recounted her life lived this way and it was also the reason Luke and I had stood in line to meet her.  We had gone to the book reading/meet-n-greet at Denver’s most notorious book shop.  

    As she discusses, people don’t like asking for things.  It makes them feel vulnerable.  I understood exactly what she meant.  So in the spirit of living my own vulnerable life, I decided that I would ask her for something very different than an autograph.  Rather, I would ask Amanda Palmer… for a new tattoo.

    Technically this would be the 5th time I met Palmer.  The first had been at a small film festival called “Fuck the Back Row.”  Her voice was so strained that she couldn’t say a word.  Instead, she playfully tried to pinch my nipple as we posed for the camera.  

    The second time was during the first True Colors tour hosted by Cindy Lauper.  The Dresden Dolls played in the line up and I was one of the only audience members to be rocking out to their incredibly unique, off brand form of rowdy show-tune-esque music.  They announced they'd be meeting fans and signing autographs.  I rushed over to the table and patiently waited in line.  But when I got to the front, I realized I didn’t have anything for them to sign.  So I panicked and did the only thing any normal person would do: took off my shirt so they could sign the back of that.

    The prime meeting came after The Dresden Dolls broke up.  Palmer had gone solo but they decided to do a reunion tour.  I met up with my buddy, Matt, in Atlanta.  Prior to our arrival, I sent Palmer an email telling her my story about HIV and how her music gave me the courage to be open and even start up a non-profit social group to connect young people living with the virus.  I called it “Gravity” after one of their songs.  The night of the show, at the last minute, I got two backstage passes to meet them.  It was only us. No other fans.  Palmer gushed over my tattoos (one of which was the symbol from their second album).  She demanded a photo with them and together, we cried over my story.

    The fourth time came in a typical record store meet-n-greet.  I went back to properly waiting my turn in the queue.  Palmer didn’t quite remember our meeting in Atlanta, but she pretended to after I tried jogging her memory.  She was kind as always as I asked her to sign my hoodie and the album.  Then I got the hell out of the way so the next fan could do the same.

    You’d think all of these meetings would make one a “pro” at coming face-to-face with their favorite musician.  But now back in the bookstore, I felt just as nervous and terrified as ever, knowing that I’d be asking for a little more than just an autograph.  What if she said ‘no?’  What if she told me to fuck off?  Asking someone to draw a new tattoo on you is kind of a lot of pressure.  It takes time and thought.  Our limited time could only make it that much more intense.

    Palmer’s arrival to the store had been delayed because of the flight.  She was exhausted and after the reading, she declared that they’d make a pillow fort right there in the book store so that she could lay down and meet fans on the floor.  It was cute and bohemian - everything I loved about her and everything I wished I could be.  Any moment now, Bette Middler would burst through the wall, not unlike the Kool-Aid man, and declare how Palmer was indeed the "wind beneath my wings."

    When our time arrived, Luke and I got down with Palmer, one on each side as she ushered us down.  She signed our books and Luke commented on how beautiful she was up close.  She didn’t shoot down his compliment or act bashfully flattered.  She said a simple “thank you,” which I also admired.

    The time had come to ask her for this favor.  “So, I, ummm, was, ummmm, wondering if you would, ummm.”  Just spit it out, for God’s sake! I thought to myself.  “If instead of an autograph, you’d draw me a new tattoo?”

    I pointed to the empty space next to the symbol from her second album.  

    She glanced it with a blank stare.  I think her precise words were, “Fuck yeah!”


    “Hold on, though,” she said.  “Wait.  I need a second.  I want it to match the aesthetic of the rest of your tattoos.”

    She was actually taking this seriously! I did exactly as told and waited with the giddiest of patience.  

    “Ok, I know what I am going to do,” she made her final decision.  She began stroking the sharpie against my arm.  I had no clue what she was doing.  It reminded me of that game we play as kids where someone draws an image on your back with their finger and then you have to guess what they did.  And you think they drew a penis but they swore they had just drawn a car.

    “Ok, done!” she said.  “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to get it tattooed.”

    I looked down.

    “Your tattoo artist will have to clean up,” she added.

    “What is it?” I asked.  I couldn’t tell.

    “It’s an abstract flower,” she said.  “It’s like the ones I used to give away when I was a street performer.  Since I never got to give you one then, this me giving you one now. 

    “Oh my god, I love it,” I gushed and slightly lied. I just couldn’t tell what to think and over the years I’ve learned that when it comes to getting a tattoo, you need to be damned certain.    

    But Palmer wasn’t done explaining.  “I want it to also serve as a reminder,” she said, “to always accept what others are willing to offer you.”

    Well, fuck!  She just gave it some serious meaning. Now I HAVE to get it tattooed.

    As we started to get up, thinking our turn had come to an end, Palmer told us to stop and get back down with her.  “I want to cuddle with you two handsome men for just a little bit longer.”

    There we laid, Amanda spooning me while Luke spooned her from behind (after spooning, I think it’s fair to be on a first name basis).  I couldn’t stop laughing.  It was quite possibly the best, most perfect three-way that I would ever have.

    After the meeting, I asked Luke what he REALLY thought of what she had drawn.  He confirmed that it would definitely make a great tattoo.  So I avoided all showering until I could get into the shop the next day and have the artist needle over what she had done (rather than just trying to re-create it).  Per Palmer’s suggestion, he cleaned it up and it indeed fit the aesthetic of the rest of my tattoos.  She knew exactly what she was doing.    

    Palmer also knows exactly what she’s talking about when it comes to the concept of asking.  Society doesn’t like asking for things.  It feels shameful as if we cannot suffice for ourselves.  Then the fear of rejection makes us feel weak and vulnerable.  I know I certainly felt more vulnerable asking for something like this - something far more than what I was “supposed to.”

    Here’s the thing.  Even though a thesaurus will lump both in the same, weakness and vulnerability are not truly synonyms.  They don’t exactly mean the same thing and they certainly aren't mutually exclusive to one another.  Someone, in fact, and more often than not, can be vulnerable with a sense of strength - especially when it is you putting yourself in the position of vulnerability.

    It took courage to ask Palmer for the tattoo and, after the fact, I realized the actual payoff far outweighed the potential risk.  Had I let fear or pride stop me, I wouldn’t have had this amazing story to tell.  Being vulnerable and asking for more than “I should” paid off.

    Since meeting Palmer, I have adopted “asking” as part of my experiment in living the vulnerable life.  I ask for things all the time - from airport transportation to help painting the house.  Of course I offer some kind of compensation - whether it be the little money I have or some bizarre slices of pizza (chicken, jalapeño, and pineapple… anyone?)

     I have been amazed at what one can achieve by doing this. It goes beyond badass tattoos and simple favors.  Over this last year, I have gone as far as asking several talented friends for their professional help in the development of my social media and this blog.  I won’t name names (yet) but they know who they are and I cannot thank them enough for this supportive sense of human connection that keeps me feeling motivated and thriving.

    Whenever I need help, I do feel a little vulnerable about it.  But I just look at my tattoo and remind myself of Amanda Palmer’s words: be willing to accept what others are willing to offer you.  And in the end, we won’t really know what others are willing to offer us… unless we ask first.


Copyright © 2017 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

Giving the Right Amount of Fucks

    The parking garage at my gym has this weird design where we have to drive on the left side instead of the right.  This seemingly pointless British blueprint makes it somewhat difficult to park in the already tight spaces.  I often have to back in-and-out a couple times so that I don’t scrape my car or knock a mirror against a concrete pillar.  It’s all very obnoxious.

    One day, while following a Jaguar up the ramp to the next level, I saw some open spaces ahead.  As expected, the Jaguar opted for the first open spot.  But as unexpected, he deemed it necessary to back in rather than just pull forward.  Because of this, I, the car behind me, and now the car on the other side… all had to wait for him to make his many extra adjustments so that he may park his car this way.

    I normally get slightly enraged when I get behind the wheel anyway.  Then when someone inconveniences others in order to make something slightly more convenient for themselves, it just makes my brain want to explode.  So the longer we all sat waiting for this guy to park his schmancy machine in this unwarrantedly special way, the more I began to roll my eyes and shoot the driver dirty looks - hoping he’d see them.

    Once he finally parked and hopped out, I saw that Jaguar himself was a guy I had noticed dozens of times at the gym before.  He was cute -  maybe slightly younger than me, blond and short with a tight little body.  His boyfriend had a similar build but with a different ethnicity.  Our small gym has a strong social vibe and the two of them always seemed quite friendly with others.  So somewhere in the back of my head, I had imagined I might befriend them at some point too.  

    However now, by the way Jaguar (the guy) looked at me as he walked from his car, I could tell I had blown my chance at a good first impression.  Clearly he saw the many eye rollings and dirty glares I had wanted him to see.  This felt awkward, but in an effort to not be bothered by any of it, I told myself that little saying we all do from time-to-time.  Whatever.  I don’t give a fuck.

    We grow up spewing this kind of rhetoric as teenagers, and as adults, it oddly never seems to really leave us.  I see it all the time on social media in it’s classic form as well as the now more modern and trendy “no fucks given.”  It’s the ironic lie that we use to convince ourselves (and everyone else) that something REALLY MOST DEFINITELY does NOT bother us.  

    Of course we give fucks though - especially on social media.  If we didn’t, then we wouldn’t need to make such a bold statement about it in the first place.  We also wouldn’t need to take twenty selfies and then narrow it down to five, then down to one, then choose a filter and then try to think of a witty comment and an even wittier hashtag to go along with it.  

    In the end, if something truly didn’t bother us, a mere shrug would suffice.  We could just simply go back to wondering what a “torta” is and why we should totally eat it after we drive by that random Mexican restaurant (you know it’s authentic because it looks sketchy).

    After seeing Jaguar a few more times at the gym, I began to feel bad about the dirty looks I dished up at him.  I don’t like responding to negative energy with more negative energy.  Responding to a douche by acting like a douche does not undouche the situation - it just makes it douchier.  That’s, like, Quantum Theory or something. *twirls hair*

    Anyway, the point is I began to realize that I did, in fact, give a fuck about what this guy thought.  But in my last ten years of living vulnerably, I’ve learned that this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Caring about what folks think often just means being conscientious.  And if more people acted with conscience, then the world would look like quite the different place.

     Thus I wanted a second chance with Jaguar.  I wanted him to know that I wasn’t such a bad guy after all.  So as I continued to see him at the gym, I’d do whatever I could for him to notice my delightful and easy-going nature.  If I caught him looking in my direction, I’d offer up a small, friendly and polite smile.  If we both went for the water fountain at the same time, I’d step back and offer it to him first.  If we bumped into each other while going into the locker room when the other came out, I’d cheerfully excuse myself and bid him a great day.  

    Although none of this really worked.  He wouldn’t ever smile back.  He didn’t thank me for letting him have that first sip of water.  He didn’t bid me a good day in return.  Jaguar didn’t seem to have any problem getting chummy with some of the other gym-goers.  So why not me?

    When a friend briefly worked at the gym, he secretly informed me that he and Jaguar had recently hooked up off of Grindr.  

    “Oh?” I said, surprised.  “I didn’t know he and his boyfriend had an open relationship.”

    “Apparently they don’t,” my friend said.  “He admitted that he’s cheating on him.”

    I actually found this information rather uninteresting.  In truth, I get so bored with how bad gay guys (and humans in general) are at monogamy that I don't find the concept of “cheating” all that juicy.  Everyone cheats on everyone.  It seems the norm.  

    However I started to wonder if I could somehow use this information as a way to get Jaguar to like me.  Maybe if I told him that I knew his dirty little secrets, he’d think of me as this totally awesome guy who doesn’t narc or gossip. However I had to retract this thought as soon as possible. It would have totally been emotional blackmail - the method of a sociopath (of which I am not - kind of). 

    On a recent day while working out my back, I wanted to do some pull-ups on the rack that hung between the two cable systems.  This set-up offers plenty of room so that people can use both comfortably without accidentally touching each other (heaven forbid).  Jaguar had been using one of the cables and seeing as how we had enough space, I jumped in and started doing my pull-ups.          

    The moment Jaguar noticed me hanging behind him, he immediately stopped his cable bicep curl and stomped off, letting out a loud scoff.  It sounded like a parrot had just been punched in the stomach.  With its unavoidable volume, it seemed clear that Jaguar wanted me to hear how much I displeased him.

    A short while later, he walked off the gym floor and headed back towards the locker room.  Seeing as how he didn’t put back several of the weights he had been using, I imagined that he intended to come back.  But as I quickly wrapped up my own work out, I found him undressing and getting ready to go in the steam room. I also love a post workout steam so I planned on heading there myself. 

    In the steam room, Jaguar and I sat, alone, across from one another.  He wore his towel high up and tightly around his waist.  I barely wore mine at all, leaving it undone with just a small flap hanging over my junk.  This was how I usually sat in there.  In a gender specific steam room like this, I generally try to remain as least covered as possible.

    I realized I had a golden opportunity here.  If I couldn't get him to like me by being polite and if I couldn’t even try by emotionally blackmailing him, then I could at least get him to like me by using my body.  I know.  This sounds a fair bit shitty and shallow.  Plus I hate it when the ONLY thing people like about me is my body.  But desperate times call for desperate measures.  

    Therefore I began striking-a-pose while slowly (aka sensually) massaging my pecs and arms while keeping Jaguar in my peripheral.  He didn’t once glance over.  So of course I had to take my rolfing hands down to my inner thighs.  Still nothing.  Finally I just decided FUCK IT, I’ll just get naked.  That’ll be extreme enough to get his attention.  And if he isn’t faithful to his boyfriend, then he’ll be into it.  Right?

    I took the piece of towel that covered my crotch and lifted it up to wipe the sweat from my forehead.  I then tossed it aside now leaving myself fully exposed.  Not only did Jaguar NOT look at me, but he began turning his whole self away from me.  I clearly had made him uncomfortable as he now sat facing the wall.  A moment later, he got up and just walked out.

    There I remained… naked, alone and totally pathetic.  What the hell was I doing?  Had I just tried to seduce him?  Did I try to get him to further cheat on his boyfriend in hopes to get a little validation - the kind of validation I don’t even like?  The time had come to officially end this ridiculousness.  I was acting exactly how I described above: desperate.  Jaguar didn't like me.  End of story.  And I had to be okay with it. 

    In a culture where we constantly try to convince ourselves (and everyone else) that we don’t give a fuck, it becomes difficult to tell not only when we do give a fuck, but when we actually give too many.  Also when we give fucks so blindly, we start to not only lose sight of the bigger picture, but we lose sight of ourselves.  

    I hopped out of the shower just as Jaguar gathered his final things and left the locker room.  I noticed a few more ways that he’d further insult my injury.  He left his wet towels on the floor rather than putting them in the bin where they’re supposed to go.  And he left his locker door sitting wide open.

    I finally realized that Jaguar was actually kind of a twat.  He made everyone wait while he parked.  He couldn’t share space or pick up his equipment off the gym floor.  He didn’t stay faithful to his boyfriend.  And he wouldn’t even pick up his towels or be bothered to close a fucking door.  In an effort to get him to hold me in some kind of high regard, I barely noticed all the ways that he only really regarded himself.  This all made me feel even worse about giving so many fucks.

    Sometime later, my friend, who briefly worked at the gym, texted (with an eye rolling emoji) to tell me how Jaguar was still pursuing him.  He not only wanted more hook-ups, but he wanted something a bit more emotional too.  The more my friend tried to shut this down, the more Jaguar pursued him.  Jaguar might have been a twat, but he was a twat that pursued my friend with a similar desire for validation that I pursued him.  This is human nature.  And it doesn’t matter how good or bad we are, we all do it in some form or another.  

    I still continue to see Jaguar at the gym, but now I truly don’t care whether he likes me or not.  Though with every sighting, I smile inwardly to myself with a little reminder.  It’s okay to give fucks.  Just be aware of how and why you give them.  Also try to save your best fucksgivings for those who would give a fuck about you.  And always try your best to not give too many.  Rarely can much good come of that.    


Copyright © 2017 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

A Pulsating Need For Pride

    When June rolls around, folks start to buzz on their excitement for the arrival of PrideFest and opinions start to fly.  While most are excited about it, there are those who act like it is the worst idea since Pepsi tried to go Crystal.  They think it comes off as either too mainstream, or just full of weirdos and not mainstream enough.  Ironically, these opposing groups are simply landing on the same page… just from opposite ends of the spectrum.  And I find this totally and utterly fascinating.

    I don’t have any strong opinions as to whether gays need to be radical or conventional, and, to no surprise, my love for pride runs in the middle of the road as well. I love it enough to go to a few parties, throw in a bar or two, and have some cocktails while enjoying the festivities. But I don’t love it so much that I continuously snort bumps of cocaine so that I may continue to burst forth with rainbows all weekend long.  Cocaine and I do not mix very well anyway. 

 "SENSIBLE GUN LAWS NOW!!!" - A limited edition t-shirt by German industrial band KMFMD.  All proceeds went to help the victims and families of The Pulse Nightclub shooting. 

"SENSIBLE GUN LAWS NOW!!!" - A limited edition t-shirt by German industrial band KMFMD.  All proceeds went to help the victims and families of The Pulse Nightclub shooting. 

    Last year, my parents had the brilliant idea of organizing the family to go on a week long cruise in order to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.  I loved the idea but it unfortunately meant that I would have to miss PrideFest in my home city of Denver, CO.  And to rub some pricey salt on my gay wounds, this cruise would cost $3,000 for my partner, Luke, and I.  For that kinda dough, we could’ve gone on a gay cruise and totally lost our gay minds that way.  But nonetheless, we couldn’t not join my family on this venture.

    Luke also happens to be one of those people who don’t like PrideFest.  So missing it didn’t matter as much to him.  His dislikes don’t have anything to do with unconventional vs mainstream matters - rather he’s just an introvert who doesn’t like being surrounded by thousands and thousands of people.  He’d rather just mow the lawn than go to a bar.  This gets tough for an extrovert like me. While he will occasionally go to a bar with me, I miss having a partner in crime.  

    With the totally not gay cruise leaving port on a Sunday, we decided to get to Orlando that prior Thursday to visit/stay with an old friend and get in some good gay, vacationing that way.  We saw alligators and held snakes at Gatorworld.  We got to strip down and relax at the nude beach.  And we even got soaked running through a rainstorm in the middle of Disney Springs.  

    Seeing as how two out of three required me to take my clothes off (the second being my drenched clothes once we got out of the rainstorm and into the car), this did seem like a true vacation for us (well, me).  But I definitely wanted something with even more shenanigans - the kind that might later require a rear shot of penicillin.  We dipped our toes in the local bar scene on Friday so on Saturday, I just wanted to go ahead and dive right in the deep end.

    When asking our friends and locals on bar advice, they gave a few recommendations, one of which included a nightclub called Pulse.  They said it would be Latin night.  This always rings a certain nostalgia for me since, once upon a time, I was an honorary Mexican.  Not a latino, but a Mexican.  My first serious relationship was with an undocumented worker and I just fell in love with the culture.  Then I studied abroad for a summer in Guadalajara becoming totally bilingual in Spanish.  I later lost it when I ended up in a job that didn’t require it.

    But seeing as how Luke didn’t have any south of the border sentiments of his own, Pulse nightclub didn’t make much sense for us.  I felt lucky just to get him out with me.  I didn’t want to push my luck any further. Besides, that was a life I had long since left behind.  Thus we decided to go bar hopping - meeting up with some guys we had met the night before.  They, and their friends, took us to the deep end that I so desired and we found ourselves closing the joints at 2 a.m.

    The next morning came quicker than we anticipated with my silenced cellphone vibrating nonstop.  I tried my best to ignore it but whoever kept calling deemed it absolutely necessary to disrupt my last ounces of slumber.  Finally, I picked it up to look at the screen.

    “Who’s calling?” Luke asked, barely lifting his head from the pillow.  

    “Ugh, it’s my mom,” I said.  She’s probably just calling to make sure we wake up in time to meet them at the ship.”  They never trust me.  So I ignored it again.  That’ll teach ‘em how responsible I am!

    But she didn’t give up.  Normally the woman isn’t this persistent.  If I wanted to sleep in any bit more, I would have to answer and assure her that we still had plenty of time.  

    I picked up, “Hello?”

    She gasped.  “Oh thank God you’re okay!”

    “Of course I’m okay.  What are you talking about?”

    It was almost as if she didn’t hear me.  She sounded panicked.  “We couldn’t get ahold of you! I started to get so worried!  I knew you guys went out to the bars last night and I didn’t know if you were safe.  When you didn’t answer I started...”  She paused.  “I didn’t know if you had been… if you had been shot.” 

    Shot?  What was she talking about?  I could hear her nearly burst into tears as she started to fill me in on all the details.  There would be no going back to sleep after this.

    Luke and I came out of the guest room to find our friend and his partner awake with their eyes glued to the news.  The four of us sat together watching as reporters tried to piece together the horrors of the Pulse nightclub shooting that happened that very evening.  Suddenly having “plenty of time” turned into having “barely enough time.”  

    On the drive from Orlando to Port Canaveral, I got on Facebook and marked ourselves as “safe.”  Many of our friends knew we were going to be partying it up at the local bars that night.  I tried not to think about the eerie proximity to it all but I couldn’t help it.  As haunted brains usually do, mine raced through it all.

    What if we had gone to Pulse that night?  Or what if the attacker had targeted our bar?  It was a huge, crowded space worthy of a mass shooting!  What would Luke and I have done the moment we heard the first shots?  Would we have found shelter?  A place to hide until it was over, hoping the killer just wouldn’t stumble upon us?  Or would we try to find a way out of there without getting noticed?

    Or worse... What would have happened if I had been shot?  What would it be like to lay on the ground, looking up into Luke’s eyes with his excruciating pain being the last thing I see?  I only thought of this scenario first because it was slightly (SLIGHTLY) easier to digest than the one where I have to watch the life literally pour out of him.  It would have been my fault for forcing him to go out with me.  These thoughts twisted my stomach into knots and it took everything I could to not let the floodgates burst open from behind my eyes.

    When we arrived to the meet my family, I rushed to hug them a little quicker and a little harder than normal - even my oldest sister who I had been at odds with over the last year.  Suddenly my frustrations with her didn’t seem so huge.  But oddly, none of us spoke of Pulse - not in that moment anyway.  The disconcerting thought of it all just had us too spooked.  

    Prior to the cruise, people told us that there would be some kind of LGBT meet-up group during that first night.  Now while physically on the boat, Luke became just as adamant about attending this as I had been.  Though it felt nearly impossible to find.  The info had been written on a small place card and then placed on a small placard located in a small spot on this really, really big ship.  

    The event itself also felt rather disappointing.  No signs existed to tell us whether or not we came to the right spot.  No cruise staff had been there to orchestrate the meet-up.  The gays were just left to fend for themselves on figuring out who each other were and how to strike up conversation with one another.  We imagined that Royal Caribbean probably didn’t slack like this when it came to their Alcoholics Anonymous group (also listed on the little placard).  

    We figured it out anyway and met a small but fairly diverse group of gays. There was Luke and I - the mismatched counterculturist and traditionalist couple with the open relationship.  Then there was the handsomely heteronormative couple from Ireland, Andy and Matt, who had just gotten married and decided to take a caribbean cruise for their honeymoon.  After that came Jason, the hilarious hipster otter who took amazingly dirty photos with the towel animals left on his bed by the cruise staff.  And finally we had Tyler, the twinkiest of all twinks who couldn’t be more of a twink even if he had a twinkle in his eye (which I think he had).

    Okay, so there weren’t any lesbians.  Plus we were all white.  So I guess this actually wasn’t the most diverse group of gays ever.  But it was a freakin cruise.  What could we expect?  The point is that, under any other circumstances, our various fractions of gay men might not have been so quick to click.  And even though none of us would actually say it, the Pulse shooting gave us all a need for community and Pride.  

    This became especially essential after we realized there would be absolutely NO MENTION of the Pulse shooting on the cruise ship at any time.  One would think there would have been something - maybe a candle light vigil or even just a small announcement at dinner to keep the victims and their families in people’s thoughts.  

    As we got to know the gay cruise staff on the boat, we learned of their own great disappointment that the cruise line didn’t take any kind of step.  They told us how they asked their employers to do something.  But in the end… there’d be nothing. Everyone agreed that had a mass shooting occurred at a non-gay establishment, there would have been some kind of mention to recognize it on the ship. After feeling like vulnerably attacked citizens, Royal Caribbean left us all feeling like second class citizens.  

    Now, I felt especially awful that we wouldn’t get back in time for Denver’s PrideFest.  I bet that even the staunchest of pride-pessimists would’ve felt inspired enough to put their differences aside and show up for their community.  But in a group of gay men who, before, could've easily dismissed one another, we made our own community and felt proud to be among each other.  Even the Grinch’s heart would surely have exploded.

    After going through all of this - being so close to ground zero and then suddenly getting whisked away from it all only to find solace in those who don’t “do gay” the same way each other do - I began to realize that the biggest enemy of the gays isn’t radical terrorists or even Donald Trump.  Rather our greatest enemy is that of our own complacency. And the trash-talking of one another is our most nuclear weapon.  It weakens us from within.  

    So what if a guy wants to run around in a jockstrap and angel wings?  Who cares if a couple wants to have a monogamous relationship and adopt a bunch of beautiful test tube babies?  Our renouncement of each other can do more damage than our outfits or choices ever could.  What matters is that we support each others freedom to be who we choose through ideas and concepts like that of “pride.”  When we stand stronger together, we can then stand up to those other enemies.  And I promise… your beautiful babies won’t get scarred by the jock-strap-angel-wing guy.  

    Despite the fact that I didn’t get to make it to last year’s suddenly-so-necessary PrideFest, I wouldn’t have traded my time with the fellas from the boat for anything.  We’ve kept in touch with all of them - except Tyler.  We lost him mid-ship to his love for the straight boys.  Otherwise we all joke that one day… we will take a reunion cruise together.  This will be the “PrideFest” that we once created ourselves.  

    It’s funny how we value our connection to something most when it finds itself in crisis or loss.  We don’t appreciate our tough jobs until we get laid off.  We don’t treasure our introverted partners enough until they get cancer.  And we don’t fully respect our community until it’s under siege.  

    When we get overly critical with those from our own community, the time has come to stop and think of those who lost their lives so that we could even have a community: past, present, and future - Stonewall, Pulse, and TBD.  Our ability to prevail in the face of adversity is something certainly worth taking pride in.  But we can only continue to succeed as long as we are proud of each other too.


Copyright © 2017 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.