Soulard Mardi-Gras – 2012
Barbara – my brain coach – has been encouraging me to shoot more just for shits-n-gigglesand brought up the current orchid show at The Missouri Botanical Gardens… I figured it’d be something to invite Chad along to since he’s bozo for plants and any excuse to eat at the Persian joint down in that neck of the woods is a good thing.
The show was contained in a large sky-lit, heavily climate controlled room attached to the Missouri Botanical Garden’s main entry… Along the winding path through the exhibit you’re confronted with all types of orchids (some of which I’ve never seen before) along with these strange Myan-themed decorations.
I mean – to the defense of the gardens… They put on the show every year and I reckon they feel the need to “dress” up the show with extra stuff to keep interest up for people to return every year….
… that or there’re hiding a meth-adicted window dresser from the department store era in the basement and let them out once a year to blow off steam.
So anyway – you’ve got this room full of pretty flowers populated by these moss-covered mannequins in various poses… yeah – kinda creepy…. and kinda hot if you transpose my hirsute fetish in a Swamp-Thing kinda way.
and yea – when I downloaded my pics – I had more pics of moss-covered limbs than orchids.
I’m not a flower freak anyway… What’s important is I got out and played some.
Mardi Gras is a big deal for towns with French names.
Hit JJ’s and have bloody marys while waiting for the Soulard Shuttle.
Took the shuttle – a school buss this time installed with what seemed to be anti-shocks… That or mischevious driver who knew exactly where to Â speed up to get folks in the back airborne.
Made a B-Line straight to Janet’s party. (My print vendor of a decade plus who has a huge back yard, a porta-potty, free beer and good cajun inspired eats.
Swam into the masses to find Mikey who was stuck working at the coffee garden’sbeer booth.
Waled back hypnotized by the masses of drunk people… Think people watching on steroids *and* mushrooms.
Pop-in on Matt & Dennis, who used to have a big party, but now just lord over their backyard and leer at the drunk kids stagger by.
Return to Janet’s for more eats and socializing around the fire.
Catch the shuttle back to JJ’s… It was rougher on the way back.
Mill about at JJ’s for a round.
Home by 4pm for a huge nap followed by pizza and cheesy sci-fi.
Today marks the tenth anniversary of when my partner Kevin West and I invited a young man byÂ the name of Chad Grimm into our relationship. This invitation came after a year or so of a blurringÂ between the boundaries of friends and lovers. We were youngâ€¦ We were fearlessâ€¦ We didnâ€™tÂ care much for convention.
A decade laterâ€¦ Weâ€™re middle-agedâ€¦. Weâ€™re still fearlessâ€¦. We donâ€™t even know whatÂ conventional means now.
So whatâ€™s changed in a decade?
Everythingâ€¦ and nothingâ€¦
And *THAT* is part of the reason why after the midlife crisis trigger of seeing my dad off the planetÂ I crawled up my own ass so far that the only hope of ever getting out would be to move forward,Â aim for the throat and puke myself outâ€¦ preferably in front of a mirror and just stand there andÂ look at myself.
So here I am. Soaked to the bone from my own emotional entrailsâ€¦ lookingâ€¦ trying to recognizeÂ myselfâ€¦ itâ€™s been a while.
Prior to the trigger, the emotional geometry of our triad relationship had shifted. Kevin and I hadÂ morphed into bitchy spouses. Our contrast when harnessed and thrown at a project is profound.Â Without a focus this energy turned into regular conflict and bickering. Our physical and romanticÂ connection suffered as a result. Meanwhile our individual connections to Chad stayed intact.
This is where our unconventional situation would present new, albeit mind-fuck-worthy,Â challenges. Were Kevin and I in the traditional two-person model we would have simply had anÂ amicable parting of ways citing great chemistry on many levels but not enough to keep us in closeÂ quarters (without constantly trying to kill each other). But we didnâ€™tâ€¦ We couldnâ€™tâ€¦ We both wereÂ bound together by what could arguably be called the most reliable, easy-going, gentle, wonderfulÂ man on this planet.
So like two magnets of opposite poles we started orbiting Chadâ€¦ Staying out of eachotherâ€™s way -Â but this had detrimental side effects, namely:
1. The build up of unarticulated resentment.
2. Chad, though being in a 1200 square foot house with two other grown men, feeling completelyÂ alone as Kevin and I would subconsciously separate and stay occupied in our own spaces.
This disharmony would just start to break through to the surface right around the time my fatherÂ received his final and deadly diagnosis. At that point all bets were off and as I prepared for one ofÂ the biggest trials lifeâ€™s thrown at me â€“ I had to put everything on hold. Everything. For the next yearÂ and a half I did what needed to be done: care for and comfort the man responsible for myÂ existence during his demise.
Dad would be freed from illness in December of 2008 leaving me shell shocked for months. But asÂ soon as the ringing in my ears started to subside, the noise from everything else Iâ€™d shelved beforeÂ started to become audibleâ€¦ louderâ€¦ deafening.
This triggered a depression backlash of wicked proportion. By April Iâ€™d picked up cigarettes again. IÂ couldnâ€™t focusâ€¦ I seriously began to think I was loosing it. Iâ€™d continue this spiral until June whichÂ marked the ten year anniversary of Kevin and I when I called a family conference to talkâ€¦ to sayÂ what needed to be said.
We agreed that we had indeed turned into sparing rather than romantic partners and asked: â€œwhyÂ *ARE* we mimicking our parents?â€ Weâ€™d never obeyed convention before â€“ why were we living inÂ the hetero psychic booby trap of â€œbitter, old married couple?â€
I reasonedâ€¦ pleadedâ€¦ that I wanted to refocus on what was right between Kevin and Iâ€¦ and ifÂ that meant a redefining as â€œfriends who share a common loverâ€ â€“ then so be it. Kin is kin â€“ andÂ these two guys who Iâ€™ve just trudged through hell with were â€“ if at the very leastâ€¦. â€œFamilyâ€.
Hereâ€™s where we get to the curve-ball in the story that sent me the rest of the way up my ownÂ asshole where I dropped my flashlight and let go for the guide rope.
For years now Iâ€™d been checking and restraining myÂ predisposedÂ sexual and romanticÂ appetiteâ€¦ Even with the newly relaxed boundaries, the customary bear-culture casual approach toÂ sexual encounters left me feeling like shit rather than sated. Funny if you think about itâ€¦ for bigÂ boys â€“ the stereotype sexually eats Chinese. Youâ€™re just hungry again 3 hours later.
Iâ€™d actually learned this in my late twentiesâ€¦. The best sex is connected sex. If I donâ€™t really knowÂ you, (and like you), Iâ€™ll just wind up feeling gross later.
The universe providesâ€¦ Sometimes too well and ill timed.
Iâ€™d run into charming ginger-bearded bloke on FaceBook who happened to not only live in SaintÂ Louis. I introduced myself with a coy â€œCURTSEYâ€ on hisÂ wall and immediately threw him at Kevin who shared some interests with the guy. When I reflect back on myÂ actions now â€“ I was totally setting up a chess move â€“ calculating that if i threw some sexualÂ distraction at Kevin, it would free up some of the limited resource which was Chad for me.
Shortly there after and a week after â€œthe big talkâ€, Chad and I would leave for a two-week trip toÂ London during which Kevin and the outsider would meet, hit it off as friends and casually have someÂ fun.
MOOO ha ha ha ha ha! Â My manipulative bullshit seemed to have worked!
We returned from the UK to stories of the nice, cute guy from FaceBook we had to meetâ€¦ and weÂ wouldâ€¦ the following week.
And thatâ€™s where all my clever planning backfired right in my face.
The bait and I clickedâ€¦ hardâ€¦
This newcomer was a late bloomer. Through in his mid-thirties, heâ€™d just come out afterÂ suppressing his sexual identity through his adult life.
Our click became a deafening bang when we discovered that our natural chemistry served as aÂ release valve for our pent up aggression. We became lovers. A few months later while laying inÂ eachotherâ€™s arms weâ€™d stare at each other and nearly simultaneously start a half-constructed,Â mumbled sentence: â€œIâ€¦. urâ€¦ think I luhhhâ€¦.â€, catch ourselves and again nearly in unison chuckle-gasp and could just sayâ€¦ â€œyeahâ€¦ Wooah.â€
We were feeling something a lot more than the by now established kick-ass, completely depravedÂ sexual chemistry we were enjoying. <strike>We were</strike> I was falling in loveâ€¦
Right about here is where I drop the flashlight and start making a series of mistakes which wind upÂ hurting EVERYONE (new and old) in my life and has lead me to where I am nowâ€¦ standing hereÂ puke covered and wondering who that mess is in the mirror.
My freakishly wise friend Rico on recap I think nailed it on the headâ€¦ â€œJimâ€¦ you never stopÂ moving.â€ Â And thatâ€™s precisely what I didâ€¦ or more like what I didnâ€™t doâ€¦ STOPÂ and let my family ofÂ eight years adjust to the productive realizations weâ€™d just made. We never had the chance to evenÂ find out if the triangleâ€™s new shape would work.
**addendum way after the fact** –
Rico also spoke these words which I let fall on deaf ears:
“Jim.. He’s not the one.”
Instead Iâ€™d successfully distracted myself from completing the task-at-hand by opening up andÂ falling in love with someone who was not interested in (let alone equipped for) becoming part of a polygon.
By this time Iâ€™m long-gone up my own assholeâ€¦ my paralysis and confusion threw up obstaclesÂ between the outsider and what was his first love.Â First loves are rough. We all remember our first. TheÂ intensityâ€¦ The newness of it allâ€¦ The sheer mass of predisposed notions of what you â€œthinkâ€ itâ€™sÂ supposed to be like.
Shakespeare couldnâ€™t have concocted a more tragic set-up. The outsider perceived my inaction as anÂ unwillingness to let go. I couldnâ€™tâ€¦ You canâ€™t let Â go of what youâ€™re not sure what youâ€™re holdingÂ onto.
This lover and I would go through several revs of splitting up and getting back together again. EachÂ time weâ€™d return to each otherâ€™s arms both frustrated and relieved at the sheer power of what I thought was a connection.
Confusion and doubt are the STDs of the soulâ€¦ WowÂ theyâ€™re catchy.Â By late 2010 theÂ unconquered obstacles due to my own confusion had spread to my loverâ€¦ he began to driftÂ and seek what he perceived as missing with â€œusâ€â€¦. with others.
Sensing this and helplessly in love I went into overdrive throwing attention at the outsider at the expenseÂ of everythingâ€¦. Everythingâ€¦. My workâ€¦ financesâ€¦ friendsâ€¦ familyâ€¦ as well as my connection toÂ Chad.
Instead of caring for a dying parent â€“ I was now caring for a dying love affair.
All this energy that could have shored up and resolved the new shape of â€œJim, Chad and Kevinâ€Â making room for transitional change like new love â€“ or negate change completely throughÂ compromise and perspective shifts.
The outsider and my relationship would implode in late Januaryâ€¦ Our love overrun with confusion andÂ doubt. We agreed to split and promised to try and figure out â€œwhatâ€ we can be to each otherâ€¦
It all became a ball of confusion andÂ inaction â€“ all fueled by the fear of loosing my family.
So what am I left with?
An unrequited lover with whom I have a profound and terrifyingly unique bond to.
A new re-found friend and true confidant in a good man by the name of Kevin West.
And a banged up angel of a manÂ named Chad GrimmÂ whoâ€™s been the captive punching bag in theÂ middle .
And me standing here covered in goo from slowly turning myself inside out.
The best relationships are those held together by bonds â€“ not binds. Iâ€™d rather have my closestÂ â€whateversâ€ or â€œwhateverâ€ stand beside me â€¦ not because theyâ€™re chained there by promises,Â expectations, property, fear, etc.
Love will arrange things how theyâ€™re meant be as soon as we unbind everything.
Iâ€™ve been under this rats nest of unresolved crap that has just been causing more messesâ€¦ (nextÂ up! Â â€All about Dadâ€™s Houseâ€ â€“ film at 11).
To my friendsâ€¦ my family Chad & Kevinâ€¦ Â Iâ€™m so sorryâ€¦.Â I appreciate you more than Iâ€™ll ever be able to express.
Happy Anniversary 3@10