The Great Migration

18 02 2018

Doors are closing in South Florida. A new world awaits on the West Coast.

We have managed to rebuild our lives to a certain extent following David’s hospitalization. This with the help of dearly loved friends. David is even back to work, although his duties at the church have been re-assigned. This was welcome on my part. He is still involved in some political clubs, which I tolerate, in trust that the endless arguments and debates keep him sharp.

We have decided to give it a go on the other side of the continent — the Pacific Northwest. We have exhausted our search for a new apartment here and the numbers just won’t work. South Florida has taught me a lot about complex living. Real estate here is a tricky business. The building boom has produced a new wave of luxurious hi-rise apartments, shoreline McMansions and expensive homes.

It has been difficult finding an acceptable place. When the next move you make could be your last, you scruntinze and do your research more thoroughly. There can be no oversights in regards to buildings, neighborhoods, associations or landlords.

Palm Aire Exit

I admire David’s strength and composure during this difficult time so much. I wish I could provide more help myself.

“Help does not always come in financial forms,” my friend Billy sent in a text meant to cheer me up.

Ever the socialist, Billy had migrated to the West Coast last year, giving up Chicago for San Francisco. A far off land for a boy from the Florida Panhandle.

One thing I have learned about living in crisis is the pieces of information you trust with other parties can have bruising affects. This goes for family as well. Mother doesn’t need to know every initimate health decision and vice-versa. Gallbladder surgery taught me that.

Government is only a safety net in our lives and even that has holes.

South Florida taught me that naivety will be taken advantage of quickly and exploited for profit and gain. Kindness in this multicultural metropolis is rare and internal community disfunction all too common. There could be a better life hidden somewhere in the Tropics that I, as a journalist, was not privileged to cover.

We were married here. Moments in the Keys did produce love and joy but were fleeting in contrast to horror stories up the peninsula. Stories of hurricanes, violent crime, drug-addled parties, disease outbreaks and other terrible incidents.

Add the recent school shooting to the Orlando massacre and Fort Lauderdale airport attack and you really have to wonder what kind of tourism this state is pitching? Sounds like training grounds for Syria.

I remember how pumped up and ready to take on the dragon I was when we moved here five years ago. Ultimately it became about adaptation — trying to keep some of your core values intact without falling victim to fatal flames.

The dragon is firmly entrenched here, investigative journalists beware. If you look closely, follow the money trail and ask too many questions you may not enjoy what is brought out of the water.

I did make lasting friendships here and my character forever shaped by events too impactful to forget. With Godspeed we forge ahead to a new life.

“We’re not fleeing,” David said. “We’re moving on.”

Viscaya

 

 

 

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Weathering The Storm

27 09 2017

Uprooted Olive Tree

Hurricane battered we enter the autumn of this chapter. There are no physical seasons in Florida. Only hot and hotter.

I’ve been going to see my friend Jubal lately. He doesn’t have any cats and I’m okay with that. We are roughly the same age. A contemporary you might say. He gets me which is why he can invite me into his inner sanctuary or send me away without hestitation.

Jubal owns a loft in Fort Lauderdale, near the city’s urban core. He works with his hands and often goes away for months to work on ships. He is intelligent in a way I cannot think. Like a lot of my friends, Jubal believes the world is screwed and yet he seems to come up with an amusing antidote for all of the world’s ills.

As we stood on his rooftop watching jets hum all around, Jubal noticed me studying the surroundings.

“No, we’re not in the country,” Jubal remarked.

Buildings in the horizon and the sounds of bus brakes and car horns on the streets below signal we are indeed in a city.

Night comes quicker now. Darkness gaining the upperhand on light. Hurricane Irma wrecked havoc on South Florida and the Keys. Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico. Jubal called the storms “weak.” It was his way of projecting strength in the face of challenging times. The jets we watched arriving and departing were not all commerical passenger airliners. Some were four engine turboprop transport planes carrying supplies on search and rescue missions.

“San Juan will come back,” Jubal said in a serious tone. It was a rare moment for him.

The hurricane season was yet another blow in a depressing year. What started with a change in Washington has went downhill fast. Tricked into thinking I could be a politician again and fueled by ego and regret — a dangerous combination — I lost a summer to grief. Knowing I need to snap out of it before hit with a real loss to my soul I have begun seeking atonement.

David continues to care for me and is a dedicated and loving spouse. Geraldo, Daniel, Jubal and Horacio are friends I deeply love. I am grateful people still pay me to write. Freelance journalism, contrary to what some might say, is not free.

I continue to seek adventures in far off lands and until that day comes I will make the most of my time with family and friends in Florida. As my therapist tells me, we create our own attitudes. We can choose to create sadness or joy. I’m ready for joy. Let me take this phone call.

Ciao For Now. 

 

 





Bottoms Up

26 05 2017

Here we are starting over again. Looking for work after a brief flirtation with politics. In the gutter looking up at the stars, wrote Oscar Wilde.

The summer approaches again in Florida. I have become numb to the lasting heatrays and all of the complexities of urban dwelling. I rarely go to Miami anymore. I don’t have enough money to go many places.

David and some friends have encouraged me to get back in the gym. I’ve been playing golf and basketball again and swimming regularly. I’m surprised how well my body has held up.

I considered running again for the state house but after two months on the trial determined it was the wrong district and wrong role. I remain in contact with friends from the park service and maintain hope a position will open up. It would be nice to breathe fresh mountain air again.

Last week, David and I attended a presentation from the Sierra Club. Members of the executive committee discussed pollution of Florida’s waterways and various other environmental concerns. I asked one of the speakers if she felt South Florida had an overpopulation problem.

“The world does,” was her response.

The arrival of more and more people in Florida means draining the swamp to house them. There is another way, however, but it would take acts of kindness, sacrifice and generousity to get there. Not exactly known traits a keen political observer would recognize from current Republican leadership.

In many parts of the South Florida shoreline sit towering condominums and apartment buildings. For half of the year they operate at significantly less capacity due to retreating Canadians. There are quite a few old buildings on the east side of Interstate 95 in South Florida. Old properties, in some cases. In dire need of rehabilitation.

And condemnation.

After recognizing a problem, it takes a community — or village, if you prefer, — to improve a habitat fit for all humanity. Good deeds, Pat from Palm Beach tells me.

“You can only resist and be against everything for so long before it wears you out,” Pat said during our recent phone conversation.

Living positively with a can do spirit while avoiding the pitfalls negativity produces is the plan. This my inner call to action.

It won’t be easy. Florida is such a weird state. It’s diverse melting pot is, at times, exhausting.

I take comfort in the fact that periods of hardships strengthen resolve and make families better when they emerge from a struggle. My friend Geraldo is doing so much better. His recovery brings tears to my eyes. My brother is settling into life as a divorced father. I wish him patience and compassion to continue giving the girls a healthy upbringing.

And now I look to David, my loyal husband, an offer a humble plea. After rehabbing our reps in Florida, I hope we can visit your family on the West Coast. Our eight years together has not been equitable in meeting the in-laws. I’d like to change that.

For the better, of course.

Koreshan State Historic Site

 

 

 





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?





Getting ready for Glacier

14 05 2014

Hi Ho Hi Ho it’s back to the wilderness I go.

Soon I embark on another summer of duty in America’s National Parks. This year I am headed to Glacier National Park in northwest Montana on the border with Canada. This was a late decision as I had planned to return to Yellowstone and negotiated, what I thought, was a better contract. And then in early April, out of the blue, I got the call from the human resources director for Xanterra Parks & Resorts, the new concessionaire at Glacier.

“We would like to steal you away from Yellowstone, John,” the nice lady on the other end of the phone said.

I was flattered. For the first time in a long time I was a hot commodity in the workplace.

I explained to Glacier’s recruiter that I was committed to Yellowstone and had just signed a new contract. I was excited to be moving to a new location — Lake Hotel — the park’s oldest hotel and by far the swankiest facility in hundreds of miles. The Glacier recruiter, however, was relentless.

“John, Lake McDonald Lodge is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and we sure would like you to be a part of that,” she said.

Wow. A Lodge with my family name. How could I not listen to the offer.

I agreed to hear her out and she then proceded to ask me a few general management questions. She was interested in how I would handle certain situations of dispute and what not. They were also aware of my certification by the National Association for Interpretation and all those years of studying French seemed to be finally paying off.

Satisfied with my answers the recruiter said she would call back later with an offer. I returned to writing my gay stories, still planning to return to Yellowstone, yet intrigued by this new development.

I kept David apprised of the situation. The move to South Florida had certainly been a struggle and finding a steady paycheck that offered a fair wage was the goal. We were both still dealing with closing the door up in Panama City, trying to sell a house that was draining us of the proper resources required to make the transition to South Florida a success.

I tried to remain chipper, but my freelancing barely kept gas in the tank and food on the table. I began to lose weight from the stress of it all. Living in poverty is truly awful no matter how hard you try to look to the bright side. I could write a book just on my demoralizing experiences at the food pantry.

So when the recruiter from Glacier called back with her offer I was stunned. They wanted me in management at a salary I had not received in what seemed like forever. I accepted immediately and called Yellowstone with the news. They understood.

If there is one thing I have learned — and learned well — through the last six years of my walk through poverty, it is grace. I know, deeply, what it is like to have nothing and to be invisible to society. I know the hurt of shame, the yearning of hope and the compassion of community. While soul crushing as this journey has been at times, I believe it has made me a better person. Stronger and much wiser.

I now leave for a summer to work in my fortress of solitude. Eager to see what life throws at me next.

 





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.





Art Basel Introductions

28 12 2013

Miami and I have battled to a stand still.

Some — actually probably most — thought I could not make it here. The traffic, the people, all the realities that come with living in a metropolitian market. It has been a different change of pace than sleepy Panama City and certainly worlds away from what I experienced in Yellowstone.

David is on the mend, recovering from an invasive procedure. His surgeon reminds me a little bit of Albert Einstein. He’s from the North and now practices at a Catholic medical center in Broward County, Florida. Needless to say, he is a busy man.

The doc has also been educating me on the realities of ObamaCare — the good, the bad and the ugly.

“They didn’t consult a physician when they passed this thing,” is his biggest complaint.

No matter how you slice it, whoever has the most money will always come out on top in capitalistic America, because the best drugs cost the most money. This we are painfully learning.

But alas, there have been good times here as well.

My work is getting published a lot. One of my Instagram photos even appeared in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. A few of my stories have gone national, including a fun little preview of the Gay Ski Week in Aspen, Colorado.

But it was Art Basel where I wanted to make my mark. I had my eye on this event for quite some time. It has a reputation in art circles for gathering elite galleries together from around the world to showcase groundbreaking modern art. I attended the first installation in Miami Beach years ago as a wide eyed young features writer for the Panama City News-Herald. I remember it being pretentious beyond belief. Little has changed in that regard.

David and I drove down to Miami Beach in the Beamer on a Saturday afternoon. Although just 24 miles away it took nearly two hours with the traffic. We chose to take U.S. 1 (or Federal Highway as it is also known) and I was pleasantly surprised with the gentrification taking place in North Miami. Once over the causeway and into Miami Beach, parking became the issue as we circled the streets looking for a spot to land. Parking was never an issue in the Panhandle. Here it is part of everyday living. I’m getting used to that.

Chantal at the Co-Op

Chantal at the Co-Op

Once on foot we strolled through several exhibits, including the “public” portion of Art Basel erected on the lawn outside of the Bass Museum. There were interesting pieces, but rarely did I find something I would display proudly in my home. It was a lot of message and shock art. Eventually, we found our way into a Lincoln Road co-op … and that is where I met Chantal.

She was volunteering at the co-op, visiting Miami from Great Britain, a tall slender young lady of mixed features with a delicate British accent. I informed her I was a journalist looking for a story. And, oh boy, did she have one for me.

Not long into our discussion, Chantal revealed she too was a writer and her subject matter focused on sexuality. I took her picture and she introduced me to a few of her newfound friends. All was quite cordial. “Have you been to the convention center?,” she asked.

I had, but refused to pay the high dollar entrance fee. My press request had been denied two weeks eariler. The Swiss, I was told, were being quite stringent with access.

“I have two VIP passes for Sunday, would you care to go with me?,” Chantal asked.

The offer surprised me. I glanced quickly at David, emersed in conversation across the room, but realizing I didn’t need his approval, I accepted Chantal’s offer and quickly made arrangements to call her tomorrow. I would be returning to Art Basel for one more day with a lot to prove and a story to tell.