It was on this day in 2014 that I completed the first draft of my first book. I was so relieved to have accomplished it, yet I never looked at it again, nor did I ever share it with anyone, not even my husband.
Yeah. Lame, right?
But I wrote it for myself to prove that I could. It was something I’d always wanted to do, but always wimped out when my inner critic’s voice overpowered my own narrative. So I finally did it and was proud of what it was.
Then a lot of things happened! Soon after I finished the book, we found out we had been matched with a child for adoption. That fell apart a few months later, and then a few months after that, we did end up adopting a child… A different child, who’s now our son. (Sunshine of my life, I might add.)
That brought us to August 2015, when I had surgery to remove the cancer in my testicle, and then three days later, got on a plane to move to California. (Because one life changing event at a time wasn’t enough, and we were on a schedule.)
And finally, we find ourselves at August 20, 2016. I set a goal to write 20,000 words in 20 days, starting at the first of the month. I’m happy to reveal that I met that goal and have my first draft of a second book.
So what’s next? 20,000 words is typically classified as a novella. That seems to be my comfort zone for now. The previous book was in that range too. It’s enough to put some real meat on the bones of the story, establish characters, plot, and settings, but it’s a quick read too. Those are the books I tend to enjoy reading as well. And this one is something I’d like to seriously consider moving forward with.
I’m going to let it rest for awhile, take a break and come back to it with a fresh set of eyes. Then I need to round up some trusted people to read it and give input. After that, I think it would be wise to find an editor. Writers need editors. Most of us are too sensitive, too emotionally tied to what we’ve created, and an objective third party can take something from good to great.
I fell in love with the story. It’s very personal for me. I used elements of my cancer surgery and recovery to give a unique perspective to the protagonist. The story’s set in the outskirts of San Francisco, so that was endlessly fun to write about.
That’s where I’m at today. I’ll post an update when I have one.
Dear right testicle,
Today is the one year anniversary since we said goodbye. I’ve thought about you often, and sometimes feel like you’re still here with me. It’s bittersweet to think of the time we had together. You looked so perky and perfect next to my left one. I really felt you two belonged together.
But now you’re gone, and sometimes when I search for you, I’m startled to find just a lone uniball in a sagging sack. There’s an empty space in me since you went away. Why, oh why, did you betray me? You grew that awful tumor, putting my whole body at risk, just because you felt the need to show off and grow twice your size to put your partner to shame.
Still, despite the ways you hurt me, I will remember you fondly and feel sad that you’re gone. I guess that’s how it is with love sometimes. And I did love you. I really did.
Now all I can do is hope that my left testicle treats me better than you have, and won’t betray me. For if he abandons me too, a part of me will never be able to stand tall again.
Rest in peace, you mean little bastard.
To celebrate Pride month, Daniel and I have been catching up on some of the iconic gay movies of the 1990s, many of which were pivotal in my life as a gay teenager.
These films were campy, often with cringe-inducing dialogue delivered by colorful characters based heavily on stereotypes. Although the movies may have not been worthy of an Oscar, they are still significant to our history.
The 1990s was the first decade in which we really saw LGBT characters in mainstream cinema. Previous decades were dotted with them here and there, and homosexual subtext dates back to the very beginning of film-making. But now they were finally out and proud. Homosexuality was the focus of the films. Previously we usually just saw gay people as the quirky sidekick who delivered a few lines and then disappeared.
But the thing that’s really surprised and disappointed me is how difficult it is to attain these movies if you want to view them today. Many of them have not been converted to Blu-ray. They aren’t available to stream digitally on Netflix, or purchase on iTunes. Essentially they have died with the DVD copies, which are often out of print.
I signed up for Netflix’s DVD service because it was the easiest and most cost-effective way to view them. Many of them arrived on battered and scratched discs, which I shudder to think they may be the last copies in rotation.
One movie that really has a special place in my heart is Trick. I think it’s one of the first gay-themed movies I ever rented at Blockbuster. (Sidenote: Remember when you had to rush to Blockbuster on Friday to snatch up the good New Releases before they were gone?)
Trick is the story of a young gay man looking for love in New York City, who ends up hooking up with a go-go dancer. Will they fall in love, or will our protagonist end up heartbroken and alone in the morning? This movie has drag queens, fag hags, musical theatre references, and any other cliche you can think of. But it’s a charming movie which has received several DVD releases, but has never been remastered for digital, which means it’s doubtful future generations will get to see it.
Another fun one is Boys Life. It’s three stories about young gay men coming of age and coming out in the early 1990s. There are red ribbons, Silence = Death shirts, and an entire storyline built around the phrase “Friends of Dorothy,” which was the gay equivalent of a secret handshake. These are all elements that were deeply integrated into our culture back then, captured in cinema.
I hope someday these films will be given a proper transfer for the digital age. As silly as some of them were, they gave us hope, especially those of us who grew up in a small town. It was the first time I saw characters onscreen who were struggling with the same problems I had, and I felt a little less alone in the world.
Sometimes I really hate the mainstream news media.
I blame them for catapulting Donald Trump to the top of the Republican primary, when he should have been written off from day one. The media gave him free exposure 24/7 for a year, so it’s no surprise that he became the presumptive nominee. That’s how marketing and psychology works. When you’re exposed to a candidate day after day, he’ll become familiar and likeable to you, no matter how much you disagree with him.
And now it seems the news media is manipulating the narrative of what happened in Orlando, less than 48 hours after the shootings occurred.
This was an attack on the LGBT community.
There is no way around it. 49 lives were claimed, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. And it happened because the patrons were at a gay club.
This needs to be the focus on every news program and in every article. Those victims were targeted for their sexuality. It is homophobic. It is discriminatory. And it is simply hateful.
But the dialogue has quickly shifted, and now the media is focused on ISIS, on terrorism, on Islam, on gun control, and what it all means for the safety of Americans. These are all valid talking points, but I’ve noticed that journalists and news casters are shying away from the words “gay” and “LGBT.” They don’t seem to want to say those things. Perhaps it’s far more comfortable and familiar to talk about terrorism than it is to acknowledge the gay community.
Well it’s time to get uncomfortable people! Because it’s real and it happened to gay people on U.S. soil. Gays were the victims. Gays were the target. Gays died because even in 2016, we still live in a culture of hatred and homophobia.
Religious groups have contributed to this hatred. Politicians have contributed to this hatred. And yes, even the news media has contributed to this hatred of the LGBT citizens.
So don’t you dare try to take this away from us. The men and women who died that night deserve to be acknowledged. And can we please stop showing those goddamn bathroom selfies of the shooter?! Let’s focus on the poor victims whose lives were cut short, all because of who they love.
It was all because they were gay.
We recently went back to Nashville and were able to experience the city we once lived in after being away for over half a year.
The place is really booming. I often see articles that suggest Nashville is one of the top 10 “it” places to live, and it was easy to see why. There’s been so much growth and there’s so much to do at any given time.
The people were much friendlier than they are here in California. I miss that a lot. The food was delicious. We ate a lot of BBQ and drank a lot of Sweet Tea.
If you’re not from the South, Sweet Tea is not the same as regular tea with sugar in it. It’s made with a thick syrup that’s probably on par, if not worse, than regular soda as far as how unhealthy it is. But it tasted so good. The funny thing is that when we lived in Nashville, I rarely ever had BBQ or Sweet Tea, but something about being back in the city as a guest made me crave the local favorites.
Gay rugby teams from around the world were in Nashville for the Bingham Cup. When we went out to the bar with friends, the place was filled with tall, husky rugby players and I suddenly found myself feeling like an ant trying to navigate a place that used to be familiar territory. Admittedly, Daniel and I didn’t go out much after we were married, and even less after we became Dads. So it took awhile to adjust to the loud, crowded atmosphere, especially with the additional rugby teams taking over the place.
Funny story though: As we were sitting in a booth with our friends, we saw a guy standing at the bar just casually getting finger banged underneath his shorts like it was no big deal. The guy doing it was sipping a drink with one hand while he probed with the other. And then the recipient of the fingering (the fingeree?) reached over and started fingering another guy under his shorts.
Meanwhile, several feet away, two other rugby guys were standing at a table talking, and one had his hand down the other’s shorts, giving him an aggressive hand job. Their faces were all casual, just having a conversation. What could they possibly be discussing in the middle of a jack-off session—the stock market, politics, the season finale of Scandal?
In all the years we lived in Nashville, I can honestly say we never witnessed finger banging and hand jobs being casually and openly served in the gay bars. At least we witnessed something unusual to tell a story about.
We had a fun trip and it made me happy to see our family and friends. It was certainly a visit we won’t forget.
Our son is learning about farm animals and the sounds they make, and he quite enjoys them. Sheep seem to be his favorite, which is a big deal for my mom, because she loves sheep too.
Yesterday, as I watched our son playing with his toys, it occurred to me that he might really love Farmville. You remember Farmville, don’t you? It’s the place we wasted so much of our time in 2010. A simpler time, before we were overwhelmed with Snapchat and Instagram, and endless news feeds about Donald Trump.
Today I visited my old Farmville, and I immediately felt a rush of nostalgia as I returned to the familiar place, which had been unchanged by time. Zynga was even kind enough to preserve my grape crops, which surely should have been dead by now.
My son watched in wonder as the screen filled up with trees and vineyards, and all the magical places I’d laid out when I designed my home. That’s when I caught my breath upon realizing it… I was living in my Farmville.
Talk about the law of attraction at work. I had a yellow Tuscan villa, much like the yellow house we have now in California (obviously not identical, but close enough to recognize the similarity). There was a pool in the backyard and fruit trees, again, just like our current home. There was even a small playground in the side yard of my farm, because even back then, I knew someday we’d have a child. It was truly amazing to realize that years ago, I put an intention out in the universe, and it had finally manifested.
My farm was always about building my dreams. Most people treated it as a novelty, where they threw down some chicken coops and plants, and competitively tried to earn as much virtual coin in the shortest amount of time. But it wasn’t about that for me. In fact, I hated clutter and chaos, so I had scaled it back to reflect the world I wanted to live in. There are courtyards and arbors, and a little chapel where Daniel and I got married… Halloween haunted houses and cupid’s castle… Now if only I could turn those cotton candy trees into a reality.
It’s funny how the long and winding road of life can end up taking us exactly where we’re supposed to be, and how our dreams can gradually come true without us even seeing the design unfold.
Well, I made it. 2016 is almost here and a few months ago, I wasn’t even confident I’d make it this far. By goddammit, I did, and I plan to be here for many years—decades—to come!
On this day a year ago, if you told me what the new year would bring me, I would never believe you. If you told me I would be moving from Tennessee to California, that I’d become a father, and that I’d survive cancer… No way. I’d say you had me confused with someone else. There’s no way that would be my life you were describing. But it was, and it is.
As we say goodbye to another year, I am thankful for the love and support of family, and friends, and even the kindness of strangers, who have touched my life in some way and helped me on this journey.
I’m excited to begin a new year with a fresh perspective, and I really hate to say it… But please, please let this just be a boring year. I just want to live in the Golden State in peace and good health with my husband and son, and other then the excitement of watching our little baby grow up, I hope there are no major events to report a year from now.
Happy New Year to all, and to all a good night.
I finally feel like I can breathe a sigh of relief. My follow-up blood work and CT scans confirmed I am cancer-free. I was technically cancer-free three months ago, but the doctors expressed some concern (a less than 5% chance) that microscopic cells had spread to my lymph-nodes. Now that these results have come back, I finally feel able to accept that I’m free from those shackles.
A lot has changed in three months. We live in California now. I’m not sure how we survived the move. Having cancer, having surgery, going through recovery, taking all our personal belongings and saying goodbye to people we loved. Whew. Just typing it out puts me in a state of disbelief. But somehow we did it.
Our son is perhaps just days away from taking his first steps. This morning, he started standing up with the help of furniture. I couldn’t believe it when I saw him standing up in his bed, with that huge grin on his face. He knew what he’d done and he was proud of it. It breaks my heart a little.
I’ve been looking through photos and videos, taken just mere months ago, and feeling like they were only yesterday. How did this little baby, whom I held in my arms day after day, night after night, turn into this active little boy, giggling and playing, and growing up much too fast. Every parent talks about how quickly their children grow up. I knew it was true. I never doubted it. But I also wasn’t prepared. It just rips your heart out in a way I can’t describe.
I love who he’s growing up to be. He matures a little each day, and becomes better and better at communication. Sometimes I look at him and our eyes meet, and I capture this moment of “knowing” that we’ve connected somehow. And yet I miss the days when he was just a little spud, whose little head fit in the nook of my shoulder.
Ah, that nook. Parents know that nook. We spend less and less time cuddling, and someday his head won’t fit there at all.
What was the point of my story…?
Life changing, babies growing up, life speeding by.
Well this is just a combination of thoughts, and feelings, and memories. Tomorrow I will start a new day, reaffirmed as cancer-free, and clinging desperately to each moment of our son’s time as an infant.
I decided to write a letter to Mrs. Madrigal, the fictional character from the Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin. I associate her with warmth, wisdom, and comfort, living in my favorite city in the world. It makes me happy to imagine her reading this, and it actually helped to write this letter. Even though Mrs. Madrigal may not be real, she is always alive in my heart.
Dear Mrs. Madrigal,
I’ve been upset about the news I received today because it wasn’t what I was hoping for. I wanted to hear that everything was okay. I wanted to hear that all my worries were gone. And although the news I received was mostly good—that I’m cancer-free, it still feels like I have to hold my breath as we wait for my three month test to see if any signs show that it’s spread to my lymph nodes. Three months feels like a very long time.
I know I haven’t had the best attitude about this. I know that bigger things are happening to other people, and people endure worse fates every day. But this is the biggest thing that’s happened to me, and that’s where all the fear, sadness, and anger comes from. I can only feel to the extent of my own experience, and I’m doing my very best to understand all these changes. It feels bigger than I am, and so far beyond my control. I just hate it.
But I am trying to be brave, and strong, and happy, because I know that’s what you’d want me to be. And as soon as I get the chance, I’m going to come to San Francisco to see you again.
I am looking forward to living in California and I can’t wait to live in our new house. I think you’ll like it. It’s a Spanish Ranch style, with a Tuscan yellow stucco exterior. I love it because it’s just so ridiculously Californian, and so different from the traditional middle-America brick house we have now.
We never saw ourselves as the type to live in a Ranch house. We’ve preferred having the division of two stories. But this one is different. It’s a very smart layout, with plenty of privacy for guests on the opposite side of the house. As soon as we saw it, we fell in love and knew it was meant to be our new home.
There’s a park across the street with a bike trail right by our house. No cars to worry about. It’s great because I hate walking in our neighborhood now, right by such a busy road. I get nervous about a driver going up onto the sidewalk, especially after what I witnessed that time a few years ago. I probably would have died that day if I hadn’t crossed the street when I did. So I’m glad that with our new home, there will be a safe place for us to walk with our son and our dog nearby.
I feel better thinking about these things, and imagining the life that waits for us there. Maybe I’ll feel better after we move. It won’t be much longer.
And I’ll feel better when I go to San Francisco again and stop by Barbary Lane. It’s going to be quite a workout climbing the streets of Russian Hill, especially with a stroller! But I’m ready for the challenge. I have to wait six weeks to heal before doing anything strenuous, and I’m so ready to get out and be active again.
Thank you for listening, Mrs. Madrigal. See you soon.
Alright, moment of truth.
The good news first. I am cancer-free, as far as the lab results show. There are no cancer markers in my blood work and nothing has been detected. The doctors removed all the of the tumor/testicle and everything attached to it (tubing, blood vessels, etc). No wonder I feel like someone took an ice cream scoop to my insides! Ouch.
The sort of bad news… There were cancer cells outside of the tumor in the blood vessels attached to that testicle. So that means the cancer cells had just begun to spread outside and the doctor was able to remove all of those. As of this moment, there is nothing left there.
BUT, since they did start to spread, there is a very low chance that it had spread to my lymph nodes in my stomach. If that happened, there could be microscopic cancer cells that are undetectable. We have two options…
1) Go ahead and have one round of radiation therapy on my stomach, which would effectively kill any and all cancer cells that may or may not be there. The benefit is that we could be completely confident that all cancer cells are gone. The risk is that radiation therapy is harsh, and there is controversial information that suggests radiation may create new tumors in the body. The medical community has not arrived at a clear answer on this. But my doctor is not recommending this path right now, and we agree with him. We don’t want to start treatment for something when we don’t know if it’s there.
2) Sit tight and do nothing for now, and then just make plans to go in every 3 months for blood work and CT scans. This would allow the doctor to closely monitor the situation, and if cancer was detected in my lymph nodes, it could be treated. The benefit is that this requires no treatment now. The risk is that if there are still cancer cells in my body, they will be more aggressive by the time they show up, and require a little more treatment. This makes me very nervous and uncomfortable, but it’s the best option we see.
I know I should be happy, but I am just angry. I’m angry because I wanted a clean bill of health. Whenever things don’t go the way we want, it’s human nature to get angry. And that’s how I feel. Babies express this so openly and freely. As we get older, we’re taught to suppress and contain it, but I don’t want to suppress it. I’m fucking pissed.
Now I have to worry and obsess and wait for 3 months to come and do new tests. And then 3 months after that. It feels like a constant cycle to find out if those cells ever spread. And if they did, they are already there. It’s not like I can pray them away.
I will work on a more positive attitude later. For now, I’m just going to feel what I feel… And make some brownies. And have some ice cream. There will probably be some alcohol involved too.