Posts Tagged charity

The Next Chapter

Two years ago, I started this blog. I began writing because I felt alone. I knew there had to be other gay men out there who were looking for the same thing I was, and I wanted a way to connect with them.

grindrAt the time, I just ended my first gay relationship, and I found myself in very unchartered waters. I was already out to close friends, but not publicly. Because I had so few gay friends and a strong aversion to gay bars, I had to find a mate digitally. I began serial dating, at one point going on four dates in four days — And thus, One Gay At A Time was born.

Since the beginning, I have gone on MANY dates and put myself in many situations well outside my comfort zone. I have not only grown more comfortable in my own skin, but I’ve also grown up as a gay man. I got all the hookups out of my system and began searching for a meaningful, long-term relationship.

This blog began as an open forum diary of the daily occurrences I encountered navigating the gay world. I told my side of the story honestly in hopes that others out there would be able to relate, comment and most importantly, realize they are not alone.

The time has come for the next chapter of my life and for this blog. For quite some time I’ve been blogging about CK (aka Clark Kent or Superman). You’ve gotten to know him through my eyes in the early stages of our relationship. It’s been some time since I’ve blogged, and I apologize for leaving you, my readers in the lurch. I do not mean to abandon the small community I’ve worked so hard to foster, but I’ve been struggling with the next chapter of the blog.

When I first told CK about the blog, he was very open to and even grew excited about the idea of my writing our relationship. Over time, as you could probably understand, his excitement waned, and we began to argue about the content of the blog.

I had to make a choice between the blog and my man. It’s quite obvious which I chose. As a result, I will no longer be blogging about the specifics of my relationship with CK. However, in lieu of continuing to finish our story in a daily dairy format, let me catch you up on what has happened since July. Here are some of the highlights…

In July, CK joined my family for our annual beach vacation. While I went for the entire week, he only joined us for a few days. It was the first time we’d spent an extended period of time apart, and with my trust/cheating baggage, it was a true test of my sanity. I was thrilled and relieved when he finally arrived. It was also nice that he would finally get to spend some real-time getting to know my parents.

In early August, I traveled to Miami, CK’s birthplace to surprise his family with a visit to celebrate the birthdays of his two beautiful nephews (turning 1 and 2 only a week apart). I felt incredibly special taking this trip with CK. I was meeting his ENTIRE extended family. Before this point, I’d only met his mother. I was welcomed into the family with open arms and came to grow strong bonds with them over just a handful of days. This was unchartered territory for both of us, as I’d never been brought home to meet the family by anyone other than my high school girlfriend, and he’d never brought a man home to meet everyone before. It could not have worked out better!

Around Labor Day, CK and I went on week-long vacation to the Hamptons with 15 of my friends and family. While there, our relationship grew very strained. I felt he was trying too hard to impress my friends. I wanted him to be himself so all of them would come to love the man I knew, not the man I felt he was trying to be for them. By the end of the week, I reached my breaking point. I was so stressed out from organizing the vacation and ensuring everyone was happy that I made myself miserable, and I took it out on the person closest to me. In the penultimate moment of the trip, one night we not only exchanged words but also fists and shoves, as my closest friends and sister witnessed the lowest moment of our relationship.

It took a lot of time for CK and I to figure things out. This wasn’t the first time our relationship reached physicality, but I hoped it was the last. It also took a long time for things to return to normal between CK, me and my circle of friends. My sister wasn’t speaking to me for over a month and my friends had semi-ostracized me from typical gatherings. I burned a lot of bridges on that trip, and I am still working to rebuild them today. You can expect to read about my experiences and feelings dealing with issues such as physical violence in a relationship as one of the topics I will cover in coming posts.

In September, CK and I found an apartment in Hoboken to call our own. We moved in together in the midst of Hurricane Sandy’s wake on November 2. Although the experience of moving immediately following a hurricane is incredibly overwhelming, we are both stronger as a result of the experience. In my experience, moving in with a lover is unlike sharing a space with any other. You’ll certainly be reading about my experiences and the things I’ve learned from this experience as well.

After Sandy exhausted my last modicum of energy, I decided I was too tired to shave my upper lip. CK and I both decided to raise awareness and funds to fight prostate cancer by growing mustaches for Movember. I proudly raised over $500 for charity as a result of my stache, and I was thrilled when we both shaved them off — We both looked like pedophiles.

For the first time in my life, I had someone to take home to meet my family for Thanksgiving. Before venturing home, I sent my extended maternal family an email to get the awkwardness out of the way. You’ll be pleased to know my family welcomed him with open arms. I imagine coming out to extended family creates a lot of anxiety for man, as it did for me, so I hope sharing my experiences will encourage more to share the truth with the ones they love.

When I returned to Hoboken after Thanksgiving, preparations began immediately for what would have been my Sixth Annual Holiday Bash. This year, it became Our First Annual Holiday Bash. I finally had someone to share the hosting duties with, making it extra special.

Although CK and I spent Christmas apart, after all the festivities with my family, I hopped on a flight down to Miami to spend the rest of the holiday season and New Years Eve with my man and his family. CK’s sister and brother-in-law planned a trip with their two boys to Disney World for two days. After a little persuading, I convinced CK we should join them. I preferred Disney to a raucous gay party any day, and it was truly magical to see Disney World through the eyes of a two-year-old.

In February, CK and I took a romantic trip to Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY. Although it seems we can’t go anywhere without having some kind of quarrel like an old married couple, the trip was amazing and couldn’t have come at a better time. We went ice skating, snow shoeing, swimming, hiking, and much more. It was a perfect escape for both of us to get out of the city and away from the bustle of it all after the holidays.

In between, there have been countless brunches, parties, trips, nights out, Broadway shows, fights… Oh yea, and plenty of sex — Can’t forget the sex! Overall, things have been going well for us. You have good days and bad days, but you have to realize the bad days are just there so you appreciate the good ones all the more. I am thrilled to announce, this past Saturday, CK and I celebrated our one-year anniversary at the restaurant we went to on our first date, Frankies Spuntino 570. Although we waited nearly an hour, the evening was perfect, and I look forward to many more years together.

Although I won’t be detailing the specifics of my relationship going forward, I hope to share with you what I have learned along the way. It’s not easy being in a relationship, but then again, the things that are worth it never really are.

To my most dedicated readers who haven’t let me lack of posting stop them from commenting words of support on my blog, thank you. You are what has motivated me to get back into this once again. I feel like many of you have integrated my writing into your daily routines, and I have left you with your morning coffee in hand and no reading material. You will not see the frequency of posts you may have grown accustomed in the past, but I still hope you find time in your lives for One Gay At A Time.

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Indiana Jones

On my walk home from work, I called my new Grindr friend to see if we were still on for drinks that evening. Sadly, however, he told me he wasn’t sure he would be able to make it. He still had to walk his two dogs and had a few things he needed to take care of. I was very anxious to meet him that night because it was the last opportunity I would have before heading to Martha’s Vineyard for a week. I know when momentum breaks, enthusiasm also wanes. I told him, “Well, go take care of what you need to do, and if you still think you can do it later, let me know.” He was worried I was missing out on other plans waiting around for him, but I assured him I had nothing planned for the evening. He wasn’t keeping me from anything. Such a gentleman.

As time passed, I had the idea to just invite him to my apartment to share a bottle of wine. It was a very nice night, and I have a comfortable balcony we could sit and chat on. I texted him the idea, and he happily agreed. An hour passed, and I heard nothing from him. I cut up different cheeses and laid them out on a nice platter with grapes, crackers, and chocolate covered espresso beans. Just as I was about to call him, I heard a buzz at my door. I buzzed him in and told him to come to the second floor. I opened the door to find exactly what I expected to see. He threw his arms open and gave me a big hug, exclaiming, “I made it!” I’m a big fan of hugs and feel people don’t hug enough theses days. After a sweet embrace, he sat and I poured him a glass of wine. He commented on how nice my apartment was and told me how easy it was to get there.

I asked if he wanted to sit on the balcony and he graciously obliged. We grabbed the cheese platter and wine and made our way outside.

He began by asking my family background. I told him my father’s side is German and my mother’s side is Polish, Irish and Welsh. I am a European mutt. He told me his grandfather was a Nazi who escaped Germany once he realized what was going on and that he was in over his head. He came to the US and started a famous steakhouse. His grandmother was a Native American bootlegger from who made moonshine. I’ll let you figure out how the two met. They then divorced when she ran away with a man in a terrorizing biker gang

The previous night, he told me he was a cowboy at one point in high school in another county. He explained how similar this was to Brokeback Mountain (minus the sex), as men were paired up. Like all the other pairs, he developed an extremely close bond with the man he was paired up with much akin to a brotherhood. When the time came for “Indiana Jones” to move back to the states to go to college, he had to say goodbye to this close friend. They stayed up all night reminiscing and crying about how much they would miss each other. I was so very touched by this story. I asked where his friend is now, and I was shocked and disappointed to find they haven’t been in touch since he left. I scolded him and told him to rebuild that connection.

When he came back to the states, he went to art school. He was always fascinated by art, anthropology and archeology. After he graduated, he traveled to India and fell in love with the culture. He told me about how ingrained in the local society he became. He wasn’t simply a tourist.

When he came back to the states, he was setting up his studio. He was cleaning things up and came across a windfall possibly worth millions. Instead of taking this money and living a high life, squandering it on a lavish lifestyle, he did the unthinkable. He took the money and built a hospital in the remote areas of India. When I learned of this, I was truly amazed. It was an ultimate act of selflessness. I was sitting next to one of the greatest men of my generation. After building the hospital, he decided to start a charity. I watched multiple videos on YouTube describing the work he is doing. He has built schools and hospitals and set up women’s centers. Someone even followed him around for five years and made a film about his life and his work.

The previous night, I was watching Labyrinth. The subject of David Bowie came up. Indiana Jones not only worked with him, but knew him on a more personal level. He worked with many celebrities beyond Bowie. Through his charity, he has worked with people from Bono to the Dalai Lama. Through his work and art, he has worked on many movie sets, such as Beloved and Chicago. He’s actually close enough friends with Renee Zellweger that she texted him when she started dating Bradley Cooper. When I asked him who his favorite person to work with was, he replied, “No one’s ever asked me that before. Hmmm. Mother Theresa. She has this sexiness about her. And, not in the typical sense obviously.” I retorted, “No. I completely understand. She’d have to have a certain charisma about her to produce such a following. She has to be persuasive. I see that same charisma in you. I can see why you are so successful.”

I’m not a celebrity whore. They are people just like you and me. I treat them as such. I definitely respect their work, but I’m not going to go crazy just because they scribbled on a piece of paper for me. This man is a worldwide celebrity, but I don’t think he knows it. I made it a point to tell him. He’s known by people all over the world from the most remote corners of India to the Himalayas to Africa to the U.S. People greet him with warmth and respect. He truly is doing good all over the world.

I, of course, asked about the Oprah thing. He was very humble about the experience and tried to downplay the whole thing. I am most impressed by the media impressions something like that generates. His story reached so many people. I can’t imagine what it did for his organization. He was also in O magazine. When he was telling me about the movie about his life and the need for distribution or a venue, I simply suggested he contact Oprah’s people and get it on her new OWN network. He thought it was a brilliant idea and said he would make a point to mention it to the director/producer.

I asked him about his charity and how much overhead he had. He explained that a majority of it is simply him. I asked, “Well, who answers the phone?” He detailed a small staff, but it really all boiled down to him and his board of directors. We talked about his need to find someone who could take over the reins when he was no longer able to do so. It would be a shame for all that hard work to just stop because the driving force behind it disappeared. He needed to find a protegé.

He took the time to tell me not only about all the good works his charity is involved with, but also about his personal life too. We talked about his partner and he showed me some pictures of him, his dogs, his house in Vermont he tries to escape to, etc. It was nice to get to know him on a personal level.

When we finished the bottle of wine and the entire cheese plate, it was time for him to head home. He had to pack for his upcoming trip to India. As he stood up, he said, “We spent so much time talking about me, next time I want to hear all about you!” I joked, “You’re life is slightly more interesting than mine!” I walked him to the door, and we exchanged another embrace.

As I walked to my room, I had a smile from ear to ear. Who would have thought I was capable of finding such an amazing friend on Grindr? But, I did. This would be the start of a beautiful friendship, and I looked forward to every minute of it!

 

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