Issue 409

Walking on Ice

Where I come from, a pop is something you get on your ass—not something you order at a restaurant. This and other lessons mark a boy from the South transplanted to the Midwest.

Exhibit A: my first date in Minneapolis.

I wanted so desperately to impress him. I’d met him only once before, but he was handsome, intelligent, and sweet. Prince Charming, at last!

I spray on some cologne—my best—and out the door I go. I spot him waiting for me in a pickup truck. He rolls down his window, and calls, “Over here, sexy!”

I blush—and, as I’m making my way down the sidewalk, I bust my ass. Hard. In front of my building, in front of Mr. Charming, my foot finds a sliver of ice, and off my balance I go.

It takes a moment to register I’ve fallen. I sit up. My jeans convey every grain of the cold concrete beneath. I don’t care. I think of nothing else but running back to my apartment, and never showing my face in Minneapolis again.

Before I escape, he’s at my side. “Awwww,” he says, as he helps me to my feet like I’m a handicapped puppy dog. Of course, I slip getting up, and nearly pull him down with me. We’re off to a fabulous start.

On the way to dinner, I learn that the cold on my ass isn’t just cold. It’s snow. (Aside: If you want to know embarrassment, let a puddle of water accumulate under you on the passenger seat of Prince Charming’s car.) He isn’t mad, though. He lets me clean up my puddle with the towel he keeps for his dog in the back seat. Cringe.

At dinner, determined I’m not going to make any unnecessary mistakes driven by alcohol (I can do that all by myself), I order a Diet Coke, he orders beer, and our server recaps: “All right, one pop and a Miller Light.”

My face goes blank. Where I come from, a “pop” is something you get when you misbehave. It’s a slap on your ass, just shy of a full-fledged spanking. Of course, on date night, seemingly-trivial knowledge like “pop” also means “soda” becomes paramount—and, for me, goes out the door. Mr. Doesn’t Slip on Ice notes my confusion, and laughs.

I flush red with embarrassment, and I look down.

Un-f***ing-believable, Justin, I scold myself. He thinks you’re a complete klutz; he thinks you’re ridiculously oblivious; he thinks you’re an idiot; oh, and he probably thinks you’re insecure.

This will be the last time I see him, I decide—or any public place in Minneapolis. I’m trapped in an episode of Seinfeld, and I suddenly feel empathy for George.

“Hey,” my date pulls back my attention.

I look at him without raising my head.

“I like your accent,” he says.

His eyes are honest. Damn eyes.

He smiles at me in a way that erases my self-consciousness, and I realize he doesn’t find my quirks amusing. He finds them endearing.

The rest of our date is perfect. We talk about growing up in dysfunction, about other cultural differences I might find, about how nervous we both were for the evening. He makes me feel as if I’ve known him forever.

When we get home, he walks me to my door, advising I may otherwise injure myself—and under the street lamp in that frigid air, he wraps his arms around me, and he kisses me.

It’s one of those moments that takes 10 seconds, but lasts forever.

Things didn’t work out with him, but this is how I think of Minnesota, through the lens of this memory: standing in the snow, a boy from the South yet to find friends, all my insecurities on display, in the embrace of a charming, wonderfully-real person.

A year later, I’m still learning to walk on ice—but I’ve since made lifelong friends, memories on lakeside summer nights, and some unforgettable first dates.

My friends from home often call me on winter nights to remind me of the weather I’m missing. They regale me with memories I’m not a part of. They try eagerly to make me jealous—but their efforts always fall flat, because they haven’t experienced Minnesota as we do.

Minnesota is a place that has it all without acting like it. It’s a fusion of beauty, truth, humility, and tolerance—the opportunities here to be oneself are rarely more plentiful or so authentic—and if learning to walk on ice is what I have to do to stay, count me in.

I love it here, and I’ve never looked back.

GLBT Wedding Expo Reprises at Park Plaza Hotel

Appropriately enough, on Valentine’s Day Eve, February 13, Noon-4 PM, the seventh annual GLBT Life & Wedding Expo takes place at the Park Plaza Hotel, 4460 West 78th Street Circle, Bloomington. The event is presented by the Park Plaza Hotel, Rainbow Wedding Network, and Twin City Bride. Savii Formalwear is sponsoring tuxes; Adagio is providing music; and Smitty Boyz is doing hair and makeup. Read the rest of this entry »

Letters

Arts Organizations Left Out

Recently, a “Best Of” article [“On the Townsend,” Lavender, December 16] highlighted the Best Productions of 2010 in Minneapolis/St. Paul. On this list were many fantastic performances from area theater companies, both large and small. The list was great; however, there seemed to be a large amount of arts organizations left out. Read the rest of this entry »

Talk Isn’t Cheap

Let me stress: This essay is not an accusation that Sarah Palin’s grammar of divisiveness and vocabulary of violence directly set mass shooter Jared Loughner off on his January 8 rampage.

But words are powerful, and do influence—if not trigger—actions. Words are not important then, but irrelevant now. You can’t have it both ways. Read the rest of this entry »

Queer As Folks

Besen Will Visit Minneapolis on Truth Wins Out Tour

Activist Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out is on an 11-state tour to discuss the harm caused by programs that claim to turn gay people straight through prayer and therapy. At each stop, he shows a multimedia presentation pointing out the psychological damage caused by these unscientific religious programs. On January 31, 6:30-8 PM, he will be at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1101 Fourth Avenue South, Minneapolis. For other regional appearances, visit www.TruthWinsOut.org.

Historic Wesley Church Launches Inclusive New Incarnation

Built in 1891, historic Wesley Church, 101 East Grant Street, Minneapolis, which formerly was a United Methodist congregation, is launching an inclusive new incarnation. Welcoming everyone, including the GLBT community, its motto is: “Offering Hope and Encouragement to ALL People.” Reverend Greg Renstrom is the minister. Beginning February 5 and 6, worship takes place Saturday, 12:15 PM; and Sunday, 9:30 AM and 7 PM. For more information, call (612) 871-3586.

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Interviews with Cheryl Gordon and Michele Harris & Richard Adams and Ross Kyllo

Let’s face it: Finding someone, winning someone, and keeping someone who is agreeable to finding, winning, and keeping you takes diplomacy, along with courage, nerve, balance, and stamina.

Lavender recently approached two long-term couples—21 and 29 years, respectively—asking the partners, Cheryl Gordon and Michele Harris, and Richard Adams and Ross Kyllo, to share.

Cheryl Gordon and Michele Harris

How long have you been together? Tell us a bit about yourselves.

Harris: Cheryl and I met in 1990, and have lived together for 21 years. We started a marketing and design firm together called Carbon Creative in the basement of our first house in 2000, which we now run from the first floor of our duplex in Uptown. We have twins, a boy and girl, who are 6 years old.

When and where did you meet? Was it an epiphany? Was it mutual, or did one pursue?

Gordon: We met at a bar in Champaign, Illinois, way back in the last century. We saw each other from across the room. Michele asked me to dance. I said no. She ran away before I could explain why—I was sick—and then avoided me each time we saw each other for the next several weeks. I was crazy about her from the minute I saw her. We talked on the phone for hours, and I quickly knew she was as interesting and funny as she was attractive. We can still talk for hours.

Harris: It was pretty “aha!” from the start for me—kind of the lust-at-first-sight thing. Of course, you really have to get to know someone before you can call it love, but there was definitely something magical between us. That had also been the first night in my life that I had asked anyone to dance, and she turned me down. I even wrote about it in one of my novels. [Harris is C.M. Harris, local author of The Children of Mother Glory and Enter Oblivion]. Once we got to know each other, we clicked on a more cerebral level. We wanted a lot of the same things out of life, and coupled with our attraction, it all went pretty U-Haul from there.

Is Valentine’s Day an important or fun one for you? Do you still try to do something “special” together? Cards? Mushy, Romantic, Funny?

Harris: We still try to do a little something for each other for Valentine’s Day. But I think we both enjoy watching the kids get their Valentines even more.

Gordon: Usually funny.

What’s your most memorable or embarrassing Valentine’s Day?

Gordon: A couple years ago, we were in Florida at my Mom’s winter home. Michele had my Valentine’s gift sent to us. Let’s just say it was a very personal plaything. Naturally, my family wanted to know what was in the box. We left it to their imagination. I don’t know which of us was more embarrassed.

Is one of you the Romantic and the other the Pragmatist?

Harris: I’m generally more pragmatic and single-minded, while Cheryl is more idealistic and empathetic.

Obviously, every day can’t be a perfect Valentine. Have you any tips for keeping Valentine’s Day alive over the years?

Gordon: It’s easy to get lazy. There’s no shame in scheduling time to be romantic. Someone once told us if the dirty dishes in the sink are bothering you, wash them—don’t whine about it. We were at a stage in our relationship where we were power-struggling over things like that. Somehow, that advice was all we needed to move on.

How does Valentine’s Day today compare to when you were kids? Did you yearn to give or get a Valentine to/from a sweetheart of the “wrong” gender?

Harris: Ooh, another thing I’ve written about. I sent Secret Admirer notes to a girl I was crazy about. She actually reciprocated for a while. Then, it all came crashing down on us once the parents got involved. But in a way, that gave me hope. I always wanted to find my “soul mate” and be “married,” without really understanding the scope of such a commitment. Caring about someone has to happen every single day, not just once a year.

What else would you like to share about the spirit of Valentine’s Day?

Gordon: At some point early in our relationship, we decided that we were OK with being in a codependent relationship. We love to play, and developed many of the same likes and dislikes. If I’m going on a bike ride or a movie or out for a drink, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather go with than Michele.

Michele: Read Dan Savage!
Richard Adams and Ross Kyllo

Tell us a bit about yourselves.

Adams: I’ve been in private practice [psychology] for the past 30 years. Seven years ago, Ross was certified as a Life Coach, and we reorganized my company into ours, Garuda Coaching & Consulting.

Kyllo: I also work for Minneapolis Public Schools as a Special Education Assistant in the area of autism.

How long have you been together? When and where did you meet? Was it an epiphany? Was it mutual, or did one pursue?

Adams: We will have been together 29 years this Valentine’s Day. We met in the fall of 1981—neither of us recorded the specific date. [Adams had been invited to a dinner as a possible match for the host. That didn’t happen, but he spotted Kyllo.] I was immediately attracted. I also thought he was out of my league. We left that evening without any plans to get together, and, honestly, I didn’t even see it as a possibility. In retrospect, the attraction was mutual, but neither of us had the courage to pursue it.

Kyllo: I walked in the door, and seconds later, noticed Richard sitting on the sofa—I can still see him in that moment. I can’t say I said to myself, “That’s the man I am going to be with for the rest of my life.” However, it was as if something came into my heart, and I couldn’t wait to meet him.

[Early in 1982, the two met again by chance, each of them on the eve of a trip.]

Adams: Still cautious not to betray much, we thought it might be a good idea to get together. I got back on Valentine’s Day, and nervously called Ross. I suggested the Zoogie’s First Annual Valentine’s Day Ball at the Minneapolis Hyatt Hotel. The extravaganza featured Divine. I was intrigued, but Ross had no idea who Divine was.

Kyllo: We sat at a table very close to the front, and when Divine came out. I was horrified. Even though I’d been operating as a “gay” man for six years, I was still fairly prudish, and was very judgmental of “camp.” When Divine came out, and I witnessed Richard’s extreme enjoyment, I thought to myself, “Oh, dear, what have I done?” It was great evening, however, and our second date at Winfield Potters in St. Anthony Main in Minneapolis made our union a done deal.

Is Valentine’s Day an important or fun one for you? Do you still try to do something “special” together? Cards? Mushy, Romantic, Funny?

Adams: We decided Valentine’s Day was our anniversary, and returned the Hyatt for 10 years. We do something special every year, usually going out, but we both love to cook, and increasingly often, we celebrate at home.

What’s your most memorable or embarrassing Valentine’s Day?

Adams: The most memorable Valentine’s Day was in 1986, when we traveled to Bali. We arrived exhausted after Pan Am’s final Pacific flight, a train trip across Java, and a precarious bus-on-a-ferry ride to Bali. We kept the Hyatt tradition alive by spending three days we really couldn’t afford at the Bali Hyatt, with drinks delivered to our beach chairs by liveried waiters.

Kyllo: I even managed to go down to a hotel shop, and find a stuffed animal to give to Richard—another tradition we started when we first met! We still have the two originals, “Stiggy and Finney.”

Obviously, every day can’t be a perfect Valentine. Have you any tips for keeping Valentine’s Day alive over the years?

Adams: After a year, we moved into a house I’d been renting in Seward, and we lived there a year, and worked out our first conflicts. We then bought [our present] house, over the past 27 years renovating every part of it. I look forward every day to coming home to Ross in this house. We’ve worked hard, and fought about just about everything. It all just brought us closer, knowing one another better, and loving one another more.

Kyllo: We love to travel. We enjoy cooking, listening to music, and hiking in nature. There are times when I play the piano, and Richard will sing. We both enjoy the mindless box [TV], and spend many evenings together in front of it. We enjoy entertaining, and while we do go out, the older we get, staying home is the preferred option. Our home is probably my second greatest love—Richard being the first, of course!
What else would you like to share about the spirit of Valentine’s Day?

Kyllo: I think that “love” can only be defined individually, and as to what “love” feels like, all I can say with certainty is that for 29 years, I have never not wanted to be in a relationship with Richard. I have certainly—at times—been “fed-up”; “pissed-off”; “sick-and-tired” of; or “disappointed” by aspects of our relationship, and yet, I have always wanted to find ways to make it work. I do feel that our honesty with one another, as painful as it may be at times, has played a key role. We say the words “I love you” often in any given day—and that works for us! Valentine’s in many ways rejuvenates my commitment. I/we have saved every card given and received, and the sentiments [printed] in the cards, and what we personally wrote inside, still hold true in my heart. I’m still very much “in love” with and “love” my partner, Richard.

Written in Stone Granite Transformations Offers Affordable Renovations Without the Mess!

Diane Follestad, co-owner with her husband, Doug, of Granite Transformations since 2008, recently spoke with Lavender about wonders awaiting your home through engineered stone. Founded 15 years ago, the company now has 80 franchises in the United States, offering environmentally-friendly composite granite and Trend glass tiles and surfaces. Read the rest of this entry »

Minneapolis Hosts National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Creating Change Conference

More than 2,000 GLBT-rights advocates will gather in Minneapolis February 2-5 to strategize and organize for the critical year ahead. Hosting the annual Creating Change Conference is the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), whose mission is to build the grassroots power of the GLBT community by training activists, as well as through other means to be discussed and demonstrated during the gathering. Read the rest of this entry »

Big Gay News

Local News

Pawlenty Supports Reinstating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is pursuing a bid for the Republican Presidential nomination, told a talk radio host in early January that if elected President, he would reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He said, “I have been a public supporter of maintaining Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and I would support reinstating it as well.” Read the rest of this entry »

Remembering Krissy Bates

Whenever our community achieves a first of some kind, it’s typically cause for celebration. But when transgender woman Krissy Bates recently was found brutally murdered in her Downtown Minneapolis apartment, becoming the city’s first homicide victim of 2011, all we as a community could do was mourn. Read the rest of this entry »

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