Sunday, August 3rd 2014 was the first time I had been in a gay bar in over 23 years. I went right after church to go visit my friend George (a.k.a. Carmella Marcella Garcia) who I hadn’t seen in 27 years.
It was a trip.
Yes, it is a gay bar, it is the famous (infamous?) Parliament House (PH). It is known around the world from what I have been told. I have never been to it or even driven by it… until that Sunday.
Now, my face did appear over it for a little while. Yep, way up high in the form of a billboard when I worked at Exodus. That idea seems so stupid/insulting now … 8, 10 years (?) later. My apologies for being a poster-boy, literally looking down on, and insulting the PH patrons.
Truly, I apologize. I hate thinking about that.
I got to the hotel before George arrived to check in. OH … did I mention that this gay bar is also a “resort?” Yep, hotel rooms and everything. Pool area, bar, restaurant … I joked with George, “this is like a Gayopolis!” I had heard PH had all these various amenities but seeing it in real life was quite an experience.
We had lunch at the PH restaurant. The barely dressed man in the advert underneath the Plexiglas tabletop was promoting an upcoming party, but I didn’t catch the details because I was busy chuckling. I was thinking, “This sure ain’t Cracker Barrel.”
Sidenote: The PH had a great grilled chicken caesar wrap though. Good food! <– was a bit shocked by that. I would never have associated any kind of bar/club with food that tasted good when sober. That just didn’t happen back in my party days …
As I sat in the lobby waiting on George, I have to admit I was nervous. It was a bit about seeing George after almost three decades, but it was most about wondering if someone in the bar might recognize me (longshot, #vain). I worried for a moment someone would see me and start yelling or something. Of course I recognize that as transference of my sadness over some of my past projects with Exodus. If someone did end up doing that, I probably deserved some or all of their ire. However, I know my nervousness indicated my own feelings of unease with some of the things I had been a part of.
Like those stupid billboards …
I was not nervous about anyone I know finding out I was there. My closest friends knew of course, because I was excited to see George. No one else probably cares, and if they do, they can say something or ask. Regardless, when I posted pictures with George and Ericka (Miss America 2004 who is a friend of George as well) I tagged them and “checked-in” social media-wise at the Parliament House. So, I didn’t have a problem with people I know knowing I was there because I have nothing to hide.
I did wonder if going to a gay bar would feel nostalgic. I started going to gay bars when I was 17. I stopped around the age of 23 (23 years ago.) It was not a good scene for me. So, not having been in one in forever … I wondered if it would be like some odd homecoming …
Nope. Not really.
I was there from about 12:45 to about 3:00 in the afternoon so I didn’t see it with loud music, lights, and drag queens swinging from the disco balls (there were an inordinate amount of disco balls over the main bar area.) Instead, it was just a big empty bar with a bunch of middle-aged dudes hanging out in the back by the Gayopolis pool.
If there is ever a movie about my life this scene would be titled, “Navigating Through The Sea of Speedo Bears.” In my fully clothed, baggy blue jeans, plaid shirt, and self-conscious insecurities about my past right-wing activities … I felt a bit conspicuous. Probably didn’t have to feel that way, just did.
I didn’t feel nostalgic or at home, until I heard George’s voice.
He sounded like the George I knew. His southern accent was an echo of my teenage home and I loved talking with and of course hugging him after all these years. I have no doubt the Lord used him to save my life when I was homeless/suicidal gay 19-year-old. Click here if you do not know the backstory and would like to read about it. Seeing George put everything in a less self-focussed perspective, because at the end of the day… who cares how I feel, my past, or what was happening at the pool in Gayopolis … I got to see/hug/talk to/and thank again, George!
I am delighted to see him again.
We caught up with each other. He shared about what was going on with him and his trip down to Florida. His trip was a bit of a mix between work and visiting friends. He asked me what was going on and I shared a bit about my own recent history and questions I am facing. As always, he was kind and supportive. I enjoyed watching his eyes light up with that great smile. He shared his thoughts humbly and directly. I appreciated his input, insight, and willingness to share a meal with me.
Plus, he’s hilarious. Seriously, George + Ericka + another of their friends = fun.
George has a good heart and does seek to do right by others. He is a good person and I am so glad we have gotten acquainted again.
So yeah, going to a gay bar after all this time was a trip. But you know, grace opens doors, stripped bare my legalistic/cluttered heart, and revived a transcendent joy based in gratitude. The most powerful memory of this excursion is the joy I felt when seeing the face of a good friend. Love you George!