Category Archives: Queer stuff
I was sitting on the back porch, overlooking all our neighbours. When I was 15, our house had a massive back yard that took up the core of the residential city block. Everyone’s back yard bordered on ours. From the porch I could see into the yards of a lot of families, yards where their personal lives spilled out from their houses: broken ride-em toys, unpainted fences, half assed atrium renos. The general public would see the perfect front lawns when driving by but I was privy to a more intimate view. As I sat there I thought about these people whom I didn’t know and how parts of their lives were fueling my curiosity. I then mirrored it back to my life and wondered if I was normal. Would ever be normal.
Margaret came out from the back door.
Margaret was our “family friend”. The woman who stuck with both Mom and Dad simultaneously during the separation and subsequent divorce. Not an easy feat. She became friends with my Mom first, meeting at the public library, where Mom did some finances for the board. Margaret and my Mom hit it off fast – both liberated women working in respectable, power positions, both single (Mom, in a way, since Dad was busy all the time), both highly intelligent. I can’t recall a time when Margaret wasn’t part of our family while living in Brockvegas.
Margaret was familiar with the family. That is to say, she had carte blanche to speak her mind in any family situation. So often my parents would turn to her and ask “What the hell did we do wrong in bringing up X?” X being whatever sibling had been discovered smoking, or drinking, or doing unspeakable teenage things. Being a librarian she had access to vast amounts of knowledge, which she would store in he head, which Mom and Dad relied on like we now rely on Google. She would often be invited over for Sunday dinners (I could see her condo from where I was sitting) and as a trademark joke, push herself back from a massive dinner for 6 with a sigh and a dead pan “Well, that was good. What there was of it.” She could get away with comments like that. We welcomed them.
“Ted, what’s wrong?”
I stare ahead. I can’t respond. I want to cry. I want to get angry. I’m having an “off” day where I’m dealing with my homosexuality, school, unrequited love (football jock best friend), and my family disintegrating all around me.
“I know right now it seems really tough. But everyone of your family loves you. I love you.”
I notice that the neighbour just south of us is out in her back yard, puttering around her garden, getting it ready for the fall.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
The neighbour is on her knees. Digging. I still can’t say anything. I think I’m crying but I can’t bring myself to make a sound.
She puts a hand on my shoulder. “I’m not your family. So I can be someone you can talk to. I’m always here.”
Margaret didn’t know that 30 minutes earlier I had decided not to kill myself. But somehow I think she did. Probably because I had a face that looked like a beat-down hound dog on a hot summer day.
Needless to say I didn’t kill myself (ooo ooo or am I wriiiting from the graaaave??), and I did talk to Margaret a lot since then. These days I wish I had talked more.
Mom gave me a clipping from the Brockvegas local rag – Margaret had retired from being the head of the public library and despite being retired, was still sitting on a ton of committees and boards. I absolutely love how she explains that in her job, “The challenging part was trying to discover exactly what people wanted to know about a subject”, as if she was embodying Google decades before it existed.
I wish her all the best.
For weeks leading up to our Disney trip, 20 years after my disastrous EPCOT trip, I had some reservations going back. I was 42 years old and thought I was too mature, too jaded to enjoy Disney any more. To use the English vernacular I thought it was “naff“. Even though I loved Disney’s animation as a teen, somewhere while I was moving to Bittertown, I lost my love of Disney as a whole. Though secretly, way down inside, I still wanted to go to The World.
My first impression of Magic Kingdom was manipulative. It stripped me and fed me and made me happy like some bizarre Star Trek episode where the crew is fed by parasitic aliens.
When we got to the Transportation and Ticketing Center (where all major monorail lines converge to the different points in The World
PROTIP: Ask to sit at the front of the monorail, up with the pilot. They have room for 4 people!* see comments) my excitement was like a lava bubble, pushing up on the crusty exterior of my stodginess. The monorail ride itself was an item off my bucket list, so the rest of the day would be more of the same, right? We came down the ramp from the station, passed the security/ticket gates and walked towards the Magic Kingdom’s gate.
And as we approached… a steam engine pulled in, all bells and steam and hooting whistle. Wow…!
We passed through the archway into Town Square and HOLY CRAP THERE’S A PARADE GOING ON!! A real American parade. Know that if you ever wanted to actually see the difference between a Canadian and an American, watch their parades. The US parades are regimented, all pomp and ceremony. Canadian parades are loosey goosey and may or may not include uniforms, rarely do they have pageant queens on a tractor dressed up as a pig. I digress. The parade we walked into was a full on AMERICAN PARADE. Red white and blue everywhere. Bands playing, dancers, characters, flags, the whole bit.
I realized something quickly – that reality was being folded here. That this wasn’t the outside world. It was another world. And as soon as I realized that, I let go of the outside world like it was a hot rock and immersed myself in this new place. Disney’s reality was so much more vivid. I’m sure this is what the first audience who screened Wizard of Oz experienced when Dorothy left her destroyed house.
And then I saw the castle. An utter anachronism rising out of an old American main street. I had seen it so many times before, electronically. Burned into my consciousness like a plasma TV set to CNN. A balloon managed to free itself and floated up into the blue sky…
I gulped back a sob and felt my heart surge upward – the magma crested the crusty exterior and I cried a bit. Thankfully SharkBoy didn’t make a thing of it. I was happy.
The point of this post has morphed over a couple days. Originally I wanted to say how Disney physically and emotionally manipulates you when you enter a park. Then I wanted to write about how SharkBoy has manipulated me into loving Disney. Now I feel I’m trying to manipulate you, dear reader, into experiencing the “magic”. I sort of feel like I’m trying to put an alien brain slug on your cranium. And in some ways Disney acts like a virus – spreading joy and happiness like mindless zombies, outward into the cultural world. But it’s a good thing. Seriously. Come here. Let me put this on your head.
I’m not going to sugar coat it, much like Disney would. Here’s your bullet to your brain, Bambi’s Mom: Disney World is very expensive. To put it into perspective: a week at one of DW’s value resorts (basic but fun landscaping, basic room, basic pool, cafeteria type restaurant) equals one month of some poor soul’s HIV medication. Yeah. That much.
When I first realized that Disney wasn’t for the unwashed was when SharkBoy handed me a pamphlet of the various types of park entrance tickets, even before we talked about flights or hotels. I remember it well because after seeing the prices I wanted to run screaming into the mall (ProTip: there are usually park info kiosks in every Disney store). I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe something around $100 per person for the week because it was Disney and Disney = nice! Not expensive or seemingly greedy. Oh how Disney naive I was. I couldn’t believe the prices for just going into a bloody amusement park.
Of course, it’s more than just an amusement park. If you want that, go get overcharged at Universal (bazinga!). At the time I didn’t know how much more the parks actually were than just rides and carnival. I can say that the entrance fees are steep, but worth it. And with careful planning and knowing what you’re going to do while there and how you’re going to get around you can save yourself some dollars.
Here’s another reality you may have to take a .22 to the brain for: Splurge on the park tickets.
When I opened the pamphlet my eyes immediately saw prices starting in the hundreds. Next to the prices that went up in $50/$100 increments for add-ons and extra days. I went apeshit in my head. Take a look at this US$ screen shot from Disney’s own site:
SharkBoy pulled me off the ceiling and explained that like all good sliding marketing variables, the price of a daily ticket goes down the more days/options you buy.
In my little screen grab you’ll see that I’ve chosen a Seven Day, Park Hopper with Water Park option ticket, for the grand total of $380US. We always choose the Park Hopper with Water Parks for a couple reasons: As we get old, we like to cut the day in bits: morning at one park, back to the hotel for shower (it is hot muggy Florida, you know) or disco nap or both, dinner at Epcot or Hollywood Studios and off to where the best fireworks are that night. You could say we’re A.D.D. old farts.
I can’t imagine not getting the Hopper option. I would expect if you did then you’re the kind of person who knows EXACTLY how you’re going to spend EACH DAY in EACH PARK without any kind of deviation to your plans. That’s fucking hard core, man. And strangely anal.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re freakishly organized ahead of time. There is an EXCEL spread sheet on SharkBoy’s hard drive that has our days at the parks planned out, but when we get there, we have the option of lighting that list on fire and dancing around it like Lost Boys. We like he liberty that the Hopper option affords. We choose it mostly for another factor, dining, which I’ll get to in another post…
The water parks are something I’d be kind of upset if we didn’t go to because Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon are the two best themed, most beautiful landscaped parks I’ve ever been in. I don’t think I would go if I was going less than three days though, because that would cut into park time big time. But they are beautiful, a lot of fun and welcome on a hot Florida day.
I digress. These are the options we’ve always chosen and they’ve always been good for us. You can say we like the structure but yet love the option of veering off the plan to something unexpected. I know I would be seriously disappointed if I discovered after entering a park on a non-Hopper ticket that the fireworks for the night were at another park.
Take into consideration that you’ll probably not use a day in the park on the day you’re leaving Orlando so you can drop a day if need be, but the savings isn’t that much if you’ve been there over 5 days (ooo you got yourself the price of a extra fancy Starbucks coffee!). If you’re around for a half day, that’s a good time to visit Downtown Disney and shop for crap. This isn’t much of a tip, so much to make the pricing scheme less daunting.
Next up, I’ll talk a bit about hotels! See you real soon!
In less than 80 days, SharkBoy and I will be going on a dream vacation.
Okay not a DREAM vacation, like seeing the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields or viewing a radioactive hole in the ground at Chernobyl, no. We’re going back to the World. That is, Disney World. The added plus for this vacation, the added spin, is that we’re spending 4 days on Disney’s newest ship, The Dream (see what I did there?). Go look at the video if only to see the freaking waterslide that hangs over the side of the ship! (singsong)Awwwesome!(/singsong)
The ship will be literally one month old when we board. The carpet will be fresh. The staff will be sparkling. The linen will be bed bug free (I hope). By the time we get on board, Sharkboy estimates that no less than 8 families/couples will have used our room. I have a good feeling that we’ll be the first queer couple to be in that particular cabin. I’ve been fantasizing that we’ll be the first gay couple to travel on the Dream, too.
Which brings me to my first moment of pre-vacation dread. The Disney cruises are super-“family” orientated. When you arrive at the port, you are called onto the gangplank thusly: a cluster of crew gather at the entrance, shipside, and with microphone in hand, announce your arrival on the ship. Thankfully there’s no real big audience other than staff, since everyone is eager to explore and get to their rooms.
If you’re thinking ahead, you’ve seen my dread. Two 45-something bald guys coming on board together, no kids, get microphoned across the ship’s atrium. While I’m dying to know how we’ll be announced (“Announcing Mr and Mr Paquette-Healey!!”), I don’t do well with everyone looking at my big gay entrance. Well we’ve always said we should live a little more “out and proud”. Not that I’m saying gay people should be seen, not heard. Fuck that. If you can’t handle my “family” then fuck off. No, I’m worried that there is a stigma of pedophilia that surrounds the notion of two middle aged men on a ship where at least half the populace are children. I’ve seen the concern in parents’ eyes before when SharkBoy and I travel to Disney: moms culling their children closer when we join a touring group, or ride, or bus. SharkBoy generally diffuses these situations with a kind word or a joke and we all relax – something he does quite well on DisneyWorld busses for some reason. Which will be a future post.
Despite being reassured from every person who’s been onboard and by Disney’s own marketing materials, the ship isn’t just for kids. There are designated areas for adults only and such. But I know that we’re going to get the questioning looks. Thankfully our last cruise (the one where I was surprised that when you sail out of New Jersey you have to suffer with spending two weeks with people from New Jersey) has taught me not to give one flying fuck what other people think of you and you should be having your own fun on vacation.
Actually I’m not that chuffed. From what I’ve read on various cruise web forums, the Disney ships might be devoid of gay passengers, but the gay crew will latch onto you like cultural leeches. Extra desserts for me!
Curiously inversely, our last cruise was our longest at 12 days, while this one will be the shortest at 4 days, at literally the same price. We board on Sunday, Monday is Nassau, then over to their private island, Castaway Cay, then home. I figure that’s the best amount of time for being on a self contained floating city where 2/3rd of the populace adores Dora the Explorer.
In the next couple days I’ll be writing about tips and tricks for visiting the World. I hope you come back soon and check them out!
Have a magical day!
Update: Thanks to W in the comments, this thread over on DIS makes the p-vacation dread disappear
I thought about jumping on the band wagon and doing one of those hip and trendy “It Gets Better Video” that everyone is doing but I sort of have to take myself out of the equation.
See, in grade school, I was the bully.
Okay I wasn’t a good bully, not like some character out of a Steven King novel, materializing out of nowhere at the last page of a chapter and relentlessly terrorizing the hero for three hundred subsequent pages. No, I was just a jerk.
In grade 5, there was a kid I absolutely hated. Time has eroded the reason why but I remember standing in line to get back into the school after one recess and thinking that That Shillkin kid need a face full of knuckles to shut him up. At the time I was a weedy kid. Thin and unremarkable. As my gaze drifted over the crowd I saw Peter. Peter Hickling. Now HE was a bully – taller and thicker than any other kid in his grade, yet stupid as a cedar plank. Probably why he was a bully. Hum. Probably why I was a bully…
The next day I took a dollar to school and got Peter alone. I offered him cash to punch That Shillkin kid. He’d get paid when the job was done, preferably after school away from teachers. Yeah, that’s right I was a little thug.
Later, as I walked home from school, right in front of the St Francis Xavier church, in broad daylight, Peter and a couple of his friends cornered me and shoved me down for that dollar. I never learned if I got what I paid for. Sort of.
I did decide from that moment on I would never interfere with anyone’s life in a negative way, ever again.*
Of course, as a teenager, I broke that rule so many times – like a politician to a prostitute.
All of the times I broke that rule were stupid, dramatic teen crap, but the one time I regret the most is calling a gay kid in school a “fag”, yet knowing exactly what I was at the time. It’s a stain on my moral past I just can’t seem to erase, no matter how much club soda I use. I’ve since come clean to him via Facebook (yay internet!) but ultimately, being Italian and ex-Catholic, the embarrassment of that still sits around.
So while I agree utterly with the whole “It Gets Better” campaign, I don’t feel I have the right to speak about it.
…which I’ve just done…
But you know what I mean. I guess I’d say “Yeah it does get better, but don’t mess up the foundation of how things get better.”
Oh and also, “Clothes get better too.”*I know how hypocritical it is to say this yet I work in Online Marketing. Shaddap
This was my first time participating in an AIDS walk. Why did I wait so long? I can’t really say – apprehension? Worried I’d be branded? Lazy? Likely “yes” to all those but I do apologize for waiting so long. It was a great day for a walk and our meager contribution might have been small, I do feel like I belonged to something larger.
Well… “larger” is a relative term. In Joan River’s biopic A Piece of Work, she tells an AIDS joke (I’m paraphrasing): Joan mentions that she delivers meals to AIDS suffers and complains that so many are surviving that when she went to one house the guy opened the door, sees her, and says “You again?! Look, just leave it over there, I’m going to the gym.” She says, “The GYM?! Look, either the virus or my fists, someone is going to die today.”
Testament that the drugs that are out there are working in controlling the disease. If you call liver cancer or diabetes “control”. Regardless, you rarely hear of anyone wasting away like they use to. Just …complications.
We walked down Yonge Street, and as we neared Ryerson University, a young girl huffing a 7-11 slushie yelled into the crowd “YEAH! FUCK AIDS!!!” Most of the route-side volunteers were teenage girls, screaming their support and egging us on. Women were certainly represented on this day.
As we left the Corporate sponsored, post-walk drag show we passed the coffee shop at Church and Alexander, lovingly called The Bear Store, and we saw a few friends just sitting there. A lot of gay men who were not in the walk.
You can see where I’m going with this. The disease, and it’s funding, seems to be in decline.
But not gone.
Okay enough soap box yammerin’. Here’s some pictures![smooth=id:23;]
I’m standing with a co-worker at my night job.
“I have a new thing,” he tells me. “I like leaving obscure videos running on the monitors.”
What a fun idea, I think. I don’t want to be subversive but it’s a fun way to inject personality into a retail job.
“I get next to girls and put on Usher videos from YouTube and they’re all like whaaa?”
I suggest: “Next time try Klaus Nomi.”
“David Bowie’s dress designer from the 70s.”
“He wore dresses?”
He wanders off. Ten minutes later he comes back.
“Dude…” is all he can say.
Just some video of the Pride Run and some special dancers throughout the weekend.
Holy crap! With all that was going on in my life the last couple weeks I utterly forgot to create my superhelpful Pride tips! I apologize, incoming tourists, for this oversight.
Here’s my last couple entries:
Both still stand, with a couple interesting edits:
PLEASE. However attractive the patio at O’Grady’s looks during the summer fun sun, scope out their food portions and how frantic their staff are. I can assure you that at least one of those points will be a disappointment. This goes for pretty much all restaurants on Church. Take a moment and look at the menu and the actual portions they’re placing in front of people before eating on Church Street. If you must, go to The Church Street Diner. These boys are back and have their head screwed on right.
There are Three Parades now, in the spirit of inclusion and togetherness: The Trans March, the Dyke March and the Pride Parade. Next year we will have enough time during Pride week to have the “I can hold the iPhone 4 without losing bars” parade as well as the “Do these shoes make me look bisexual?” parade.
If you’re trying to pick up a local, don’t mention the G20. We are still sore from it (see below). This year I would suggest combing your hair to look like a wet badger fell on your scalp from a great height, with a slight swirl, will get you laid. It’s working for Justin Beeper or whatever his name is. That or wearing jeans that are so skinny in the leg, yet make your ass look like you’ve dropped the remnants of a spicy burrito in the backside. Tsk. Kids today.
You might have heard that Pride was pulled back from the precipice of disaster by allowing a certain group to keep nasty words in their name while the streets of our fair city were overrun with thugs in black hoodies kicking the shit out of Starbucks on Yonge Street. Know that Torontonians have had their damn fill of political posturing and just want to have fun. If you have an axe to grind, make sure you find like minded people to grind it into.
That’s about it! I wish all your Pride miracles come true!