Tea With The Cardinal

21 03 2015
All Aboard

All Aboard

My Hammam experience was far from thought on the train ride back to London. I was preparing for my next important interview — with an Irish Catholic Cardinal. I met the Cardinal a week earlier during a World AIDS Day mass in London’s Mayfair District. I approached him after mass during an informal coffee and conversation session inside the fellowship hall of the Church of the Immaculate Conception Farm Street. I gave him my card and disclosed my Catholic hertiage and interest in the Church. Much to my surprise, he responded a few days later, via e-mail, requesting I visit with him at his home in southwest London.

I left Paris before the break of dawn. The Euro Star is worth every penny. It is fast and connects people swiftly under the English Channel on a daily basis. This particular car was full. The man sitting next to me was a French businessman who shared his copy of “The Spectator” Magazine. I found the content, while obviously conservative, quite interesting. He asked about America, I said the country appeared headed for a re-run of the 1992 election. I asked about France, specifically the rise of Marine Le Pen’s National Front. Ms. Le Pen was quite the talk back at the Paris hostel where I had camped out for the weekend. Many of the young ladies I polled in the kitchen one evening during dinner had rejected the notion that Ms. Le Pen was a feminist. I found this fasnicating as I did most of the Parisan culture.

The French businessman dismissed any assertion that Ms. Le Pen was not a woman. He seemed only interested in my thoughts on Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. I said an election between the two would be costly. After that we said nothing more on that subject. Once we arrived in London, he made a quick dash for the door, saying he was late for a business meeting. I was in no hurry, my appointment with the Cardinal was later in the afternoon, so I hung around the train station and took a few pictures. Much like Gare du Nord, London’s St. Pancras station is fascinatingly put together with a mix of modern conveniences built into old world architecture.

The Cardinal lived south of the River Thames. I got off the tube in Stockwell, directions in hand, and proceeded past an Irish corner pub and into a section of government housing projects. Once I arrived at the apartment, I noticed a sign on the front of the door which declared, “Sonny Does Not Live Here. Nor JD nor Taylor. Wrong Door!! No Sex No Drugs.” I found this quite interesting even though I was after neither, instead seeking simple counsel. Back in the south of Florida, I had begun writing about AIDS. The subject was challenging and broadened my journalistic abilities. It has traditionally been written about in the American media as a horror story and yet I was discovering more and more remarkable tales of bravery.

Cardinal Warning

Cardinal Warning

I was hoping the Cardinal could give me the United Kingdom’s perspective. I knocked on the door and Vincent invited me in.

“Come in, John, I’ve been expecting you,” he said. “The kettle is on.”

His apartment was full of books. It was small, humble and somewhat disheveled. I was there for almost three hours. Talking, sharing life stories. It was amazing. During our visit, a man and his apprentice came to check on the water line. Vincent was the building superintendent and the men needed direction. I said hello but nothing more. Once they left, I began my probe.

The Church, Disease, Power, Charity and, most important of all … Surrender.

 

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Liftoff in Lauderdale

21 11 2014

At the Tip of the Sphere again.

I’ve been back in Florida for a little over one month now. I’m writing a lot and people are taking notice. My list of clients is an impressive one and soon I embark on perhaps my greatest adventure yet.

078

Pause and reflect? No time for that.

A man reaches a point in his life when training is over, school is out and the desire to swim in a larger pool is what moves him.

Glacier served me well. The management skills I attained in Montana are enabling me to navigate South Florida’s often trecherous waters. Treading lightly in Little Havana and South Beach, I take the bulk of my assignments instead on more friendly turf in North Miami and Fort Lauderdale. I continue to move the discussion forward with each article.

Politically, the party I belong to was defeated soundly at the ballox box during November’s midterm elections. Republicans are rising in America and some of their far right operatives have made great gains in social doctrine in Europe and Africa.

David, God bless him, remains loyal to our partnership and has become an extraordinary chef in the kitchen. We share laughs and spirited discussion over candlelight dinners. Our home is a collection of antiques we inherited from the owner. It is full of love.

The kitchen, he says, still needs some work. It’s a tight space, Golden Girlish in design. We listen to local NPR newscasts over coffee and breakfast.

Condo life is interesting. Miami life is amazing.

But a cold front is coming. I’m ready for it.

Et Vous?





Velvet Raging

28 03 2014
Miami Design District

Miami Design District

For about a month now I have been in a constant state of agitation, frustration, confusment. And, worst of all, depression.

South Florida — and all of her quirky games — is weighing on me. I recognize living in a metropolitan, urban area is no piece of cake and there are certain aspects of unpleasantness here that I have come to terms with. (horrible traffic, chief among them.) The attitudes of the gay community has been tough to get used to. For a community that craves acceptance, the judging it can dish out is down right devastating. There are certain pockets of Wilton Manors and Miami Beach I would dare not visit for fear of being ripped to shreads at first sight.

The irony here is I came to South Florida to experience and live in a free and open society. The idea was to relocate from a place where I was merely tolerated to somewhere where I could be celebrated. Dreamy stuff, I know, but, hey, why not? I’m afraid, however, I will leave the Sunshine State with a bitterness I have never held before.

But let’s look to the bright side, shall we. David says my cup is always half empty. He enjoys the difficulties that life throws at you much more than I do. Waiting around for a repair man, fixing a broken appliance or getting stuck in traffic for hours is nothing new to him. His health is also improving after another round with the prostate cancer. I wish I had his patience and caring.

But I do not. We are from different generations. I am driven. Driven by ambition to succeed. To conqueor.

And yet I do not know who I am.

It was the gays who bailed out my journalism career. Credit must be given there. I have reported largely about LGBT issues since arriving here in October and remain truely grateful for the work, the paychecks and the opportunity to return to writing. There are occasions when I am indeed, “gay” or happy as the old timers once referred to it. But I am not a homosexual. I am a bisexual and I am finding this out more and more about myself as I continue on life’s journey.

I miss Ann and what we had in Yellowstone. We chat only briefly via Facebook now. I worry I have broken her heart.

The agitation in my life seems to stem from a desire to do everything by the book, play by the rules and yet still come out ahead. This appears to be a fantasy. My strive for independence has been costly. I am nearly broke once again. Working freelance gives me the ability to set my own schedule and type away on a keyboard in my pajamas, but it does not pay all the bills. Thankfully, David is helping with that — and our partnership has never been stronger.

I suppose when you reach a certain point in life you began to set keener priorities. Getting out of Panama City was the right thing to do, that much is clear. I was blacklisted from working in the region and it was time to move on. It is remarkable I have been able to make such an impact in South Florida during just a six month period. Again, I am grateful to the publishers of SFGN for this opportunity.

I think the root of my depression can be found in my work. In writing about the move for equality for gays and lesbians I seem to be frustrated that I have not found my equal. I wonder if I ever will. I am not worried about making up for lost time and I do not dwell on mistakes of the past or relationships lost. I am not consumed by money, although I still seek a stable existence.

I realize now it is validation I am after. And soon I will travel across this great land of ours in that quest for answers.





Chantel’s Story

16 02 2014

New Year. New Life. Much to be grateful for and humble.

I am working a lot. New York calls quite frequently now. I am living on a golf course where they host professional tournaments. Physically, I am in the best shape of my life. It almost feels like a dream.

But it’s not.

Chantel has yet to respond to my emails. We toured Art Basel together and dined on Lincoln Road where she granted me an interview. Balans, she insisted, would do. As we walked the outdoors mall in Miami Beach, I playfully teased her that the N.F.L. was looking to expand in the European market and I was not referring to soccer. She was having none of it.

Chantel turned into much more than I had bargined for. She was young — 29 as a matter of fact, but at first glance it would be easy for someone to mistake her for much younger. I had observed throughout the day that she was clearly a person who could get things done. She had such confidence when speaking with the gallery representatives at Art Basel. This, no doubt, instilled by her mother. Chantel spoke of her mother fondly, saying she was responsible for raising social justice awareness in the family, particularly those key issues on the continent of Africa.

“She told us which brands not to buy from,” Chantel said of her mother’s consumer advice.

We were in the convention center for hours. We talked about a lot of issues of importance in Britain and America. People stared at us. I was flattered to be in her company.

“I believe the human spirit is inherently good,” I said. Chantel was not as convinced. She seemed more interested in my taste of art and design than my philosophical views.

At Balans, Chantel proposed we dine inside so I could conduct the interview free of the hustle and bustle of Lincoln Road. She asked the manager if she could use her Balans card at this location. He said yes, but I took the the bill. Chantel told me she attended a prestigous university in London — a red brick school as I recall — and was on her way to Los Angeles in hopes of publishing a novella about sexuality. She also admited to having a girlfriend — confirming her bisexuality which she revealed during our walk through the convention center. She refused to give her name.

She then turned the tables as I hurried to jot down her words.

“John, have you ever written about human trafficing?” Chantel asked.

I was stunned. The burger I had woofed down just minutes before suddenly felt like coming up.

“Pardon me,” I said.

“In your writings, John, have you ever covered sex workers?” she asked again.

I had not. It was just not the kind of topic I was assigned while working the sports desk back in Dothan, Alabama. But I was not naive about the subject matter. Chantel, it turns out, had done the research, extensive research, in Britain, America, Thailand and Africa. She then asked me if I had ever been a “rent boy” ?!

I said no, of course. This conversation began to make me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to say next. The interview was over.

We hugged as we parted ways outside of Balans.

“Be well,” she said.

I have yet to receive any e-mail from Chantel acknowledging our meeting.

Her story is now a mystery.

Ghosts

Ghosts