Giving Thanks, 2014 Edition

It’s Thanksgiving Eve. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, a day to consider how we are blessed (in a fortunate way/not simply a “Christian” way) and a day to consider – honestly – just how lucky we are.

It would be easy for me to say that 2014 has sucked so far, and ask The Universe just where the hell my “blessings” are.

In August 2014, I closed my business after almost seven years of (literally) blood, sweat and tears. Mostly tears. The closing of my business was a bit devastating emotionally and certainly was, and continues to be, somewhat crushing financially as well. With the closing of my business came my return to the employment market as a job SEEKER – I hadn’t “filled out an application” in more than probably twenty years; each of my jobs before opening my own business was the result of scouting by my then-future employer – I got ASKED to work with them. Reciting my high school GPA and “Other Interests” was something very alien and foreign to me.

The summer and fall of 2014, I stood by and watched as state after state achieved marriage equality, while my state CONTINUES to maintain an almost pre-Stonewall attitude around this issue. And earlier this month, somehow my state granted the madman that is our governor the power of four more years to destroy our state. And don’t even ask me about what happened in the Senate.

Probably saddest, in October of 2014, I lost my father, my beloved Pop-pop, to a long and valiant battle with cancer. I lost Grammy (my mom) six years ago and, during the time since, my Dad and I had become closer than ever; in fact, it was like getting to know him all over again. I called Pop-pop every day. I miss him, and I miss my Mom. A lot. A well-intentioned friend called me an “orphan” upon finding out my Pop-pop had passed away. I am NOT an orphan. I have two AMAZING parents – they are just away from me now, for the time being. They are now two amazing guardian angels.

Those are just the “highlights” of 2104 for me but – you know what? The year has been pretty great to me as well…

While I closed my business, I embarked on not one but TWO new endeavors, one at a cherished public institution in my adopted hometown and one in a new design venture with a new partner who is, in fact, my husband. Both careers look bright and, while I am “starting on the ground floor” at both, good things are already happening at each. Two days ago, I got promoted at “my day job” and assumed a new position within the organization, a position that suggests career growth and a stable, secure future. As far as my new design venture goes, working with my life partner/husband is a joy and our new firm is already developing a following. Hooray!

Even though Ohio (my state) is in The Dark Ages as far as marriage equality goes, I am legally-married to my husband and we will soon be celebrating the one year anniversary of his Green Card approval (that was a L-O-N-G journey/struggle, chronicled in many previous posts here on this blog). If it is possible, I think that guy loves me more every day – and I love him more, too. Eventually, Ohio will “see the light” and finally join the 21st Century with regard to LGBT rights and equality.

Finally, while I miss BOTH my parents every day, I am happy to know that they are reunited and happy. And contrary to what I feared, being “parent-less” has not left me feeling rudderless or adrift. Rather, I feel empowered and almost a bit reckless (but in a good way). The state of answering only to yourself for your actions (and your spouse, of course!) is actually a very liberating one. I like it. I miss Grammy and Pop-pop terribly but the freedom they have given me is a great, great gift.

So all in all, 2014? Maybe NOT so bad so far… Sure, heck – I hope 2015 will be even better but we still DO have almost a month of 2014 left. Who knows? It may still turn out to be the best year ever…

It’s funny. I was looking for a profound, “deep” quote about being thankful and ran across this sage advice from Oprah Winfrey herself. Who’da ever thought I’d be sharing inspiring Oprah quotes on my blog? Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thanksgiving Oprah

Challenge Accepted

Given all the upheaval and turmoil/change in my life recently, I have vowed to attempt DO the following:

ugly day

I have to admit, many days since 28 August this goal has been all-but-impossible to achieve. That admission aside, things ARE gradually getting better and each day IS actually getting less ugly and more beautiful. Thanks, Universe!

Monday Memes 21 (Black)

Years ago, when I moved to Cleveland, for a short time I managed an indie coffee shop – LONG before the meteoric rise of Peet’s and Starbucks and Caribou and the like. The coffee shop  was called Arabica and it was in a trendy-cool little mall called Coventryard (yes, it IS spelled that way). The year was probably like 1984 or 1985 – I was in my mid-twenties, a fresh-faced farm boy from Shelby, Ohio, now living in Cleveland – a HUGE city compared to where I had come from. Anyway, for about six months, I managed this coffee house and it was here that I met my first openly gay man (Wade) and my first self-proclaimed bisexual man (Douglas). I adored them instantly and we became fast friends…

Wade and Douglas were a colorful pair – at one time they had been lovers (briefly) but – in a moment of sincere love for one another and logical thinking – decided they would be better best friends than boyfriends (plus Douglas had that whole “bi” thing happening). Anyway, they were great to me, nurturing and patient, loving and paternal, and helped me really get comfortable with my own sexuality.

They had a zillion ridiculous stories but this is one of my favorites:

One day, without any preface, Douglas looks at me and says, “Wade and I wore all black for six months. I mean, black EVERYTHING – shirts, shoes, pants, socks, underwear, everything. I even bought some black condoms.” (Remarkably, there was a condom store in our trendy little neighborhood called, appropriately enough, “Condom-nation”).

I was intrigued.

wearing black

“Why?” I asked, seeking to gain some enlightenment or understanding that the experience had imparted to Wade and Douglas. “Why? Why all black for six months?”

Without missing a beat, Wade – who was standing behind the counter with us, making an iced coffee, sashayed past me and announced, “Just to see if we could do it.”

Design-Quote-until-something-darker-comes-out-copy

That was it – a 180 day trial of endurance, just to see if they could “do it.” I asked what happened on the the 181st day.

“Nothing,” said Douglas. “I just started wearing other colors of clothes again.”

At the time it made me smile, and it still does. I guess this story popped into my head recently because I ran across these memes. all relating to black, wearing black or seeking out black. As a designer, my life is full of color and yet I still find myself oddly and irresistibly drawn to black. Maybe Douglas and Wade had some insight they never shared with me…

black

I think about those days from time to time, and wonder what ever became of those two. I had heard that Wade passed away in the early 90’s, a casualty of HIV; I saw Douglas once, a few years after our work experience together, walking hand in hand with a knock-out woman at our local “high-end” mall. I didn’t speak, and I kinda’ regret that.

I hope those two somehow know/knew what a positive and important impact they had on my life and personal development. And how – in addition to everything else – they instilled in me a love and respect for black. Not brown, not orange, not navy blue – black will ALWAYS be black.

A Dream Redefined

As a young gay boy growing up in the middle of nowhere (Shelby, Ohio), I always had a vision of what my “grown-up” life would be: I’d have a fabulous job, have fabulous friends, live in a fabulous city, wear fabulous clothes, take the train to work (I’d be too fabulous to drive) and – well, I think you get the picture. An experience-hungry gay teen in a town of, like, 8000 people (most of them my cousins), dreaming of a fantasy life in a major metropolitan area. I always thought my life would look like this:

Commuters on a TrainYeah, that handsome guy on the left would have been me (like I EVER looked like that), taking the train into “the city” to my job (no doubt in advertising or public relations), stealing a peek at the uptight lady-in-a-power-suit’s New York Times. These didn’t even exist when I was fifteen but I am SO sure I would have had a kale smoothie – with an energy boost – for breakfast, I would have “worked out” at lunch (maybe racquetball for 45 minutes?) and then I would have taken the train home to my handsome “boyfriend” in the tony suburb we lived in outside the city – I’m thinking it would have been like a 40 minute commute, each way. Once home, I would have popped some great-but-not-overly-pretentious wine and my love and I would have watched the shows we taped on the VCR the night before. Bliss.

Fast forward thirty years into reality…

I do have a job I enjoy – two jobs, really – but to be honest, I am making about the same dough I made when I was twenty-five. Instead of a smartly-cut suit, I wear a logo’d polo shirt and khakis to work every day, and my sleek attache case has been replaced with my brown bag lunch. I did make it to a “big city” – well, actually, I live in Cleveland, Ohio, the 45th largest city in America. I love smoothies, but the kind made with peanut butter, honey and bananas. Exercise? YUK! And I do not live with my boyfriend – I actually live with my legally-married HUSBAND (although we prefer the term spouse) and my commute from work is a seventeen minute bus ride to a mildly tony suburb of Cleveland. There is no wine; I quit drinking more than a decade ago. And the VHS has been replaced by On Demand/a VCR.rtabus

Is my life what I imagined/hoped it would be? No – it’s even better!

I have a man that completes me in every way, after a lifetime of false-starts and failed relationships. Today I left my job at one of our city’s most-revered public institutions, walked past our world-class art museum as well as the permanent home of our world famous orchestra, thru the campus of a prestigious private college and waited at the bus stop outside the campus cathedral. While I didn’t get to “steal” a Wall Street Journal or Times read, I sat next to a lovely lady that was chatty, obviously an immigrant and just super delightful and polite. No one did any break dancing on the bus, and no one gave me a card that said s/he was (insert disability here) and selling these cards to make a living. I stepped on the bus at 5:38P; at 6:05P, I was in my PJ’s, missing my Beloved (he works tonight 5-10P). I called a couple of friends and then made a cup of instant coffee with “fancy” flavored creamer. I am now waiting for my Beloved to get home from work. It’s been a great day.

Dreams are great but seldom turn out to be all we imagined them to be. If, like me, you get lucky – your life will be even better than you imagined! I had a rough draft for my life in my head, one which I thought was perfection. The reality is, my life is honestly more perfect now than I could have ever dreamed.

Would I like to “hit” The Powerball for $160 million dollars? You bet but, all in all, I am pretty blessed. Thanks, Universe! I appreciate it!

Impressions – Gay Games 9 (Take Two)

As Gay Games 9 approaches its close, I must confess  – I am a little sad…

Gay Games Nightime BannerFor eight days in August, our city felt very “international” to me, worldly and sophisticated. I keep hearing good reports about the games and, in fact, met several participants (and three medalists – two gold, one silver) at work today. The Games participants were all proudly wearing their respective medals – as they should be. One woman had traveled from Russia to play badminton – she was lovely, with limited English but so proud and happy to be here. I actually asked if I could hug her, told her how moved I had been to see the Russian delegation at the Opening Ceremonies and then she asked if I would take a picture of her and her partner for them. I was honored.

Another medal winner was a proud gentleman who said he had trained for more than two years to compete in the swimming competitions, then went on to say how beautiful and welcoming Cleveland was, what a fantastic job the local Gay Games 9 committee had done and how he would remember this experience forever. The last athlete was a “bruised-up” lady – seems she was the goalie on the American ice hockey team (which lost to the Canadian team, boo!) She seemed to actually be beaming when I asked about her medal, then she shook my hand and asked if I would take a picture with her! I was flattered (and of course said “Yes!”) Like the others, she mentioned what an amazing experience the Games had been for her and how warm, friendly and welcoming everyone was in Cleveland.

14GayGamesMedalFrontlowresCleveland? Akron? You kick ass… As someone worried – and dare I admit, skeptical? – about our city’s ability to pull the games off, I will be the first one to admit I was SO WRONG and that Cleveland and Akron have made me “proud to be from CLE!”

While I am happy that the athletes have all enjoyed an amazing experience, I must selfishly share that I, too, have had an amazing experience. Cleveland feels “new” to me, full of potential and possibility. And while maybe I didn’t get a medal (or did I?), that renewed spirit and faith in our city is an even greater reward. Congrats again, Gay Games 9, and all the people that made you happen. I couldn’t be prouder of my city!

 

Oh yeah, that’s right…

Today, alone at work, I had a major epiphany – and gave myself a mental “High Five!”

high fiveYou see, this happened today: As I was working on a project for one of my design clients, it suddenly clicked for me that I WAS indeed a “professional” interior designer – here’s why…

For more than fifteen years, I worked in a number of showrooms in our regional design center, a “trade-only” facility with products and resources available only thru interior designers and architects. That experience was, in fact, one of the main reasons I pursued a career as a professional interior designer. I not only loved the products and the process but – no offense to any interior designer that may be reading this post – many times I felt I WAS the designer on many projects… Designers would come into the various showrooms where I worked, throw me a floor plan or a paint chip, give me a rough idea of what they wanted and then went to lunch while I “schemed” a room with textiles and wallpapers, or “space-planned” their projects with a furniture lay-out. Don’t get me wrong – I loved it, and it was to my advantage, commission-wise, to be “helpful” to the designers. They made out, I learned and made money, it was good for all of us. Anyway…

During the financial boom of the late 90’s, there was a tony gated community constructed here in Cleveland named after a fruit – I’ll call it Tangerine Trail (not its real name, but close). The houses were all big and new, covered in painted barn board with diagonal siding designs, faux Palladian-style windows and great big “great rooms.” Every designer who was anybody here in Cleveland boasted of the number of houses/clients they had in Tangerine Trail. It created a sort of social caste system for them.

Lo and behold, now these twenty-something years later, I am doing a house in Tangerine Trail – re-doing it, actually, taking down all the barn board and leather-texture wallpaper so loved when the house was new, designed by one of my design forefathers in luscious shades of taupe, taupe and more taupe. It is a project I have been working on for a while – the couple that own the house are super nice and fun, which makes my job easier for sure. But for as long as I have worked with them, it never “connected” with me that I – little old me, humble decorator – was now doing one of the “prestige houses” done (quite probably) by one of the designers I had helped those many long years ago… It almost feels like I have done this house twice now – that “vintage Donghia” wallpaper we are removing looks vaguely familiar… So, yeah. High Five, Tim buddy. Twenty-five years later, you have arrived…  😉

CLE PRIDE “Wrap Up” 2014

Today (actually yesterday, at this point) was the 26th Annual Gay PRIDE celebration in Cleveland, Ohio. As with a number of years past, I was unable to attend due to work obligations and just general “grown-upp’ed-ness.” It is Sunday morning, 12:52 AM as I write this, and I know “the clubs” are still teeming with post-PRIDE revelers, riding the high of a day spent just “being gay,” fueled by inspiring speeches, I’m sure an electrifying performance by CLE PRIDE headliner Debra Gibson (the former “Electric Youth” Debbie Gibson of my early/mid 20’s), an army of female impersonators, gender queers, gay families with kids, gay families with dogs/cats/iguanas, LGBT vets, Gay and Gray groups, etc.

And The “Beer Garden,” the most popular attraction at any gay PRIDE celebration.   😉

PrideParadeRainbowBannerI found this image on BING; if you know the source/photographer, please let me know so I can credit it properly.

As for me? I just woke up beside three piles of clean-but-yet-to-be-folded laundry on my bed. It appears I have slept thru another PRIDE…

I mean no disrespect, and have actually enjoyed the images/status updates that have peppered my Facebook page all day. Cleveland PRIDE is 26 years old, one of the oldest continual PRIDE celebrations in America. That fact alone is a source of PRIDE (get it?) According to Cleveland.com (see link above), early estimates place PRIDE attendance this year at around 32,000 people. Not bad, CLE, not bad. Is it the 500,000 that Capitol PRIDE (Columbus, Ohio) boasted, or the over one MILLION said to attend World PRIDE in Toronto a week or so ago? Not even close – but I am PROUD of our PRIDE here in Cleveland, and thankful for its continued presence in our community.

I wish I could have supported PRIDE this year, but as so often happens, life and responsibilities got in the way again. For years I attended PRIDE and felt connected to a much larger community than was typically my day-to-day existence. For one day, for those few hours, we ARE all just one people – the barriers of sexuality, gender, race, class, age and ability all seem to fall away and for those few magical hours, we are all the same. I think THAT is the true magic and meaning/purpose of any PRIDE event. I never thought of it as a coming together of all these diverse groups within our own community, our community just being one diverse group within the much larger context of the general population; instead, I always likened gay PRIDE to a pride rally in high school – you know, the event before a big game where all the sub-groups of school (jocks, nerds, The Plastics, the every mans, all of them) just come together under one, singular umbrella to celebrate and build spirit. That is what PRIDE feels like to me – a gathering of many different people with one common goal – to celebrate all the facets of the LGBTQQIT/SA experience (we have WAY too many letters now, LOL!)

So, CONGRATS Cleveland, on another year of PRIDE! I hope the “party” goes beyond the next few hours, after the bars close, and continues for days, weeks, months and years to come. If “The Gays” know one thing, it is how to throw a party – let’s keep the spirit and purpose of this one going for as long as possible…

An Open Letter to Winter

23 March 2014

Dear Mr./Ms. Winter,

I trust this note finds you well. I gather you are, in fact, well as witnessed by the ever-so-random snowflakes cascading beautifully past my window as I write this note. Sure, this snowfall would probably barely be classified as a “trace” but – having lived in Ohio my whole life, as well as having endured the seemingly endless winter currently upon us – I know how quickly that can change.

I’m not here to “ask” you anything – like “Please let Spring come,” or to scold you, as in “Cleveland’s first snowfall of the current ‘season’ was 24 October 2013 – five months ago… There are FOUR seasons – everyone gets a turn and your turn is over.” Nope. I’m not going to try to beg you or shame you or reason with you. I just wrote to let you know, you win…

truceThat’s right – you win. I surrender. I give up. Come on, bury me in your Winter whiteness. Cover me with snow and ice and cold. Sentence me to live out my life filled with short gray days devoid of sunlight. I don’t care any more. You have played a brilliant psychological game, teasing me with some sun, then returning to cold and darkness for weeks; some temps above freezing, followed by a 24-hour plunge back to near sub-arctic temps. I am broken. I simply do not have enough “fire” in me to even bitch about it any more. It’s over…

Move the glacier in over Cleveland. Take me to your cold, ice prison and get it over with. As I said, you win.

With deep contempt and resentment, I remain,

Tim in CLE

Thoughts on MOCA Cleveland

Today my Beloved and I weathered the formidable Cleveland elements and took a trip (finally!) to the now not-so-new MOCA Cleveland. This temple to modern art is based in a monolithic building that showcases rotating exhibits by contemporary artists and has generally been well-received and much-praised by my fair city. It is a little embarrassing to admit that it has taken me this long to get down there and check it out. As a big CLE and arts supporter, I should have been there sooner…

My thoughts ABOUT the museum are probably not going to win me a lot of fans, though.

MOCA Clevelandphoto above courtesy craveablecleveland.com

MOCA Cleveland is a dynamic venue whose sole purpose is to highlight contemporary art. The staff was AMAZING today, and everyone was really, really welcoming, well-spoken, passionate and super nice. The two exhibits currently on display were engaging and thought-provoking. I mean, that is what art is supposed to do, correct – provoke thought?

My issue is with the building. With all due respect to architects everywhere, I wish you would all get out of your heads a little. MOCA is a perfect example of this – to me, the building is essentially one HUGE staircase inside a warehouse. Sorry. The building looks AMAZING from the outside so, understandably, I was expecting the same WOW! on the INSIDE. Not the case, in my humble opinion. And listen, I get it – the space must be flexible so it can house rotating exhibits in different mediums and scales. The facility is also available for special event rentals, so it has to be accommodating and appealing/appropriate for that market. Please, don’t get me wrong – the museum is impressive enough but – honestly? Inside is one staircase – a GIANT staircase – but one staircase, and a few diagonally-slanted windows that provide some architectural interest. Otherwise it is paint and steel and concrete. It seems to me there were missed opportunities, missed moments.

It is the trend, especially recently, for museums and other public buildings to hold design competitions for new facilities – I imagine, in part, to push architects and designers to think outside the norm and push design boundaries to create significant architectural statements for these organizations. I think most people know about Frank Gehry’s “wedding cake” buildings and similar, identity-driven architecture. “Statement” architecture like that is awesome. But maybe I am just an old curmudgeon – I want buildings to look cool AND make sense, too.

Sorry, MOCA Cleveland, your building was a disappointment to me. It was like being handed the most beautifully-wrapped gift, only to open it and find three pairs of socks inside. Architects, please – while I cannot even fathom the engineering and construction skills needed to create a staircase, just know that – at least for this guy – there is nothing exciting about 700 risers and treads. Please try harder, OK? Thanks…