Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Experiment, Part 9

The Destination

brainThe next day, I had a lot on my mind.

There was, of course, the kiss. What did it mean? Was it a good thing or a bad thing? A sign of moving on or weakness?

Then, there was the whole question of Eric. He’d asked if he could take me to my last dinner in Canada. It was clear that he wanted to be a friend, but what did that mean?

And finally, what did returning home mean? I’d had the trip of a lifetime and experimented with my very identity. This was a direction I intended to keep going in life. Despite the residual heartache of breaking up with Mark, I knew I was in a better place in life. As the trip came to an end, I knew I had to bring part of that satisfaction back to my everyday life in Utah.

It was a misty, gloomy day. A day that the morning fog rolled in and dropped anchor. I spent my time walking around the city alone. It provided me more time to explore while visiting the last museums on my itinerary. These were my last glimpses of history and culture before I made my way home. halifax-aerial-1 My mind weighed very little on the matters of my thesis and research, constantly jumping back to what life would be like in less than twenty-four hours. How could I take part of this life back with me? Being satisfied? Being open and happy?

I met up with Eric after the museums had closed and he’d finished his shift at work. We’d both had a good day, but a lot was on our minds. Making our way from the dorm towards the waterfront we stopped at the Economy Shoe Shop Restaurant.

“So what’s on your mind, GMB? What time are you leaving tomorrow?

“4 am,” I said in disgust.

“You’re probably better off staying up all night then. I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I knew I was going to see my family and friends so soon.”

“That’s my plan, but for other reasons. I’m paranoid of missing the flight and sleeping through my alarm.”

“If you don’t mind, I’ll keep you company. We can just chat all night.”

A few hours later, we were in my dorm room sitting on the floor next to each other. We pulled out my laptop and shared pictures of our exes. He opened up about his breakdown after Alan’s infidelity and I revealed that I was afraid I’d never feel the same again.

“You won’t,” Eric said. “Your first is always your first. You’ll meet somebody different, but feel just as good. Someday.”

It was one of those moments in which irony trailed behind the words as he spoke them and they reached our ears. It was time for both of us to move on.

We spent the next hours holding each other until the airport shuttle called. We ended the night with a single, tender kiss.

Goodbye kiss It was a goodbye. It was a thank you. It was joy.

It was an answer I pondered on the taxi and on the plane back into Salt Lake:

This is who you are and you have nothing to be ashamed of.

End of series.inuksuk4

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Experiment, Part 8

The Taste

Just as in my experience at the pub, the bar proved to be nothing intimidating. I was an alien to this culture and it seemed that being in this world of drinking and not being of it was more than possible. It was perhaps one of the most satisfying nights of my trip. Eric and Geri told me the stories about their breakups, their triumphs, their screw-ups, and their social lives.

It was the first time I felt like part of a group of gay friends. I had Cole, but branching out any further than that seemed too risky. What would people think if they knew?

“Time for your initiation,” Eric said as he and Geri pulled me towards the exit. “You’re going to your first gay club.”

Reflections is pretty tame. It has a young crowd and we’ll keep you out of trouble.”

Eric paid my cover as he leaned over and whispered, “You’re fresh meat. All of the guys are going to be all over you if you don’t stick with me or Geri. It’s probably best we act like a couple tonight.”

nightlife Sure enough, as I walked in I was struck by two things: First, the atmosphere was breathtaking. It was just what I’d expected. Exciting, flashing lights. A packed dance floor. Loud, remixed music. And second, as I entered the room, I felt the piercing stares of thirty men interested in a new face.

Sensing my anxiety and my exhilaration, Eric and Geri flanked me on our way to the bar. “Two bottles of water,” Eric said. “One’s yours. Don’t be so nervous. We’re here for you.”

We all stood there for a bit, scanning the crowd. They took turns pointing out the deviants.

“That’s The Scotsman. He’s always after Geri even though he’s not interested.”

“Yeah. Definitely not interested. Oh, and that’s Alex, the Craigslist Cowboy.

“I’d advise you to steer clear of that one,” Eric chuckled.

Geri excused himself to go dance. “Are you sure you don’t want to join me?”

“I’ll save the actual dancing for next time,” I responded. “Thanks for sticking with me, Eric. It’s all so new.”

balcony We made our way upstairs to watch the dance floor and get a little space for a nice conversation. Acting the faux couple, he put his arm around me and I sat on his lap. He explained parliamentary politics and Canadian history as I told him about my mission, my research, and life back home.

As 3 am approached, he offered to walk me back to the dorms I was staying at. Midway back, I realized we were still holding hands. We stopped at some stairs in front of a church as the conversation waxed more personal.

“You know, GMB, you fascinate me. If I grew up in Utah, I think I’d be screwed up, but you’re so level-headed. You deserve a medal or something. I say you apply for refugee status and find a nice boy here.”

I blushed.

“May I kiss you?”

I was deeply conflicted. This was a special moment. We had connected on a deep level, but was it too soon?

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” I said. “It’s so soon.”

“I understand.” He opened up a lot about Alan (his last boyfriend) now in Europe. I opened up more about Mark and what the trip had been like up to and including my breakdown.

“Are you sure a kiss wouldn’t help?” he asked.

It’s worth a try and he’s a good guy. It can’t hurt. I leaned in.

eric kiss2 It was a rush of emotions. The warmth on my lips was relieving and wonderful in so many ways, but tinged somehow with the taste of betrayal. Had I made a mistake?

End, Part 8

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Experiment, Part 7

The Canucks

Halifax_at_night There I was in the big city. Not only would I have no one to please or appearances to keep. I would have a world of urban opportunities open to me. Museums, public transportation, night life, etc.

These last couple of days were going to be casual. None of my plans were pressing or quite as directly related to my research topic, so I had some time to go out and have fun. But what did fun mean without social expectations? Where was I going to find this fun?

To answer that question, I went to the desk at the place I was staying and started up a conversation with the guy at the desk. Eric was tall, pretty masculine looking, and really confident. I asked about the campus and if anything was going on since it was summer. A few events came up and then we started talking about me and home.

“Yeah. Utah’s a pretty boring place. There’s a lot of outdoor stuff, but it’s a kind of suffocating atmosphere.”

“What do you mean, GMB?”

“It’s bland. Very little diversity. It’s nice to be somewhere different.”

“Makes sense.”

Our conversation was interrupted. A cute young man with dark features, a prominent nose, and a winning smile appeared at the door.

“Hey, Geri. This is GMB. He’s here a couple of days from Utah.”

“Nice to meet you, GMB”

The second he opened his mouth, I thought He’s so gay…. Score!

“What are you up to tonight?” Eric asked.” We’ve got to do something. It’s Friday.

“I don’t know,” said Geri. “Maybe a movie?”

“Anything but Mamma Mia. My moms said it wasn’t very good. Plus, I don’t think I can stand a musical tonight.”

Moms? I thought. This definitely isn’t Utah.

“You just had a bad experience when you were dating Mark.”

“Mark?” I said, “That’s my ex’s name.” (It was the easiest coming out ever).

“When you came through that door for the first time,” Eric said, “I turned to the girl with me at the desk and said ‘He’s either gay or American.’ Little did I know you’d turn out to be both!” We all had a good laugh.

“Why don’t you join us?” Geri suggested.

I wasn’t about to pass up the invitation of two seasoned gay boys. I had so much I wanted to learn and experience. They, too, had questions about the gay life in Utah at dinner.

“You’re honestly telling me you’re a virgin? You don’t smoke, you’ve never drank, and you’ve never even been to a gay club? That’s it. We’re going to Reflections tonight after we hit the bar. We have to get this boy educated,” Eric said.

“I don’t know,” Geri said. “Is this really something you’d want to do, GMB? You’re new meat and the guys will be all over you.”

“Why not? Everyone needs a first time.”

“Okay,” he said, “we’ll flank you so nobody assaults you.”

“Tonight, we’re your decoy dates. Whenever somebody tries to hit on you, one of us will be there to help.”

Lower Deck

A few minutes later, we made our way to The Lower Deck, a bar on the waterfront. I got inline and showed my ID for the first time ever. After a brief holdup (my ID's didn’t look like the pre-mission me at all), we made our way inside. It was just like the movies.

I found the cacophony of loud conversations scattered across the bar hall oddly mystifying. Friends of twenty years or more gathered for a conversation in the corner. Four forty-somethings on a double date. The performing band’s spouses sitting together scoping the crowds reactions.

Geri and Eric got in line to order drinks.

“Enjoying yourself?” Geri asked.

“It’s crazy. I love it.”

“I’d offer you a pint, but I know you don’t.”

Seeing a friend, he excused himself and went off to chat after I asked him where the bathrooms were. I came and returned.

“Hey, Eric. I’m ba—”

Just then, a random woman interrupted us. “Hey, handsome. What are you doing tonight?” she asked, grabbing my butt for a feel.

I was in shock. Was this what sexual harassment felt like?

Eric quickly came over, grabbed my hand and kissed me on the cheek. “Great, hun, we’re almost to the front of the line.”

The woman apologized profusely. “I had no idea. I’m so sorry!… You two are so cute together.” Eric and I kept a straight face until she was out of sight and we busted up.

Leaning over to me, he whispered, “I bet that never happens in Utah!”

End, Part 7.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Experiment, Part 6

The Next Step

Like coins, every aspect of life has two sides.

coin_flip I had reached the most lonely point in my life. I was in a land completely foreign to me with people who knew nothing of my situation. The other side of loneliness became more and more apparent as my trip continued. I spent four days on the road conducting interviews, taking pictures, visiting museums, and working hard.

Each day I told myself, “You’re lucky. There are few who are able to do anything like this as an undergrad—alone.”

There it was again. That word. I was alone, but in a good way. Exercising true independence for the first time, I was getting closer to becoming the person I aspired to ultimately be.

This trip forced me to plan and revise those plans as necessary. It took me to the ocean for the first time in my life, to the greenest on an adventure down a mineshaft, and through the greenest forests I’d ever seen.

This was definitely marked progress. I was beginning to recognize what I amounted to despite what seemed like the ultimate rejection. The obvious revelation that my value didn’t hinge on someone else was slow-in-coming and not without relapses. I had to raise myself out of this depression by being what I’d considered selfish.

All of my actions were driven by those around me—driven by what they would feel or do or say about this innocent kid who had the single shred of acceptance of his sexuality pulled out from under him. I was being driven by fear when I needed to be guided by the very potential peeking through the cracks in the foundation of my crumbling life.

Pull yourself together. You have work to do.


There is no reason not to love you. You live life the best way you know how. You care about others. You are living up to the potential bestowed upon you.

Being prideful (or what some would consider confident) and selfish (self-respecting) proved the necessary solution. Paradoxically, caring for and respected myself were the only ways I would keep myself from emotionally barricading myself or physically removing myself from my own life.


As I made my way over the bridge to the final destination of my trip, the capitol of the province, something came over me. What I was telling myself was finally coming together with the world opening up before me.

I was here because I belonged here. I had done the work. I had made the effort. I had used my time, my talent, and my intellect to do research that only I could do.

I realized just like any other of the hundreds of thousands of people in that city, I had my place and I belonged even if it wasn’t exactly the place or purpose I’d envisioned just months before with Mark.

End, Part 6

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cooking with the Stars: Speedy Chicken Posole with Avocado and Lime

By no means do I intend for this to become a regular thing, but I have to share this amazing recipe. It comes from the magazine Sunset: Living in the West. The recipe is a spicy soup with a southwestern flair.

Jacqueline and Cole came over for dinner and brought along a few guests. If I were to rate my recipe, it would definitely get a 4.5 out of 5 (because I’m impossible to please as many will tell you…. Just kidding… sort of… ask Cole).

They brought along some special guests who helped us cook and enjoy the meal. DSCN0122 Ryan Reynolds brought over the ingredients.

DSCN0129 Lady Gaga helped with the cooking. Here she is mincing the onions and the garlic.

DSCN0144Glee’s Sue wasn’t the best dinner guest. “You call that posole?! I know hunger strikers with better taste!”

Here’s the recipe (again, from Sunset: Living in the West):

Time: 45 minutes. This dish, using canned hominy, takes a fraction of the time needed for regular posole. Serve with warm corn tortillas.

Yield: Serves 4 or 5


3 large poblano chiles (1 lb. total)
6 garlic cloves
1 large onion
2 cans (14 1/2 oz. each) white hominy
1 1/2 pounds boned, skinned chicken thighs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano*, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons ground red New Mexico chiles*
Garnishes: sliced avocado, lime wedges, cilantro sprigs, and sour cream


1. Preheat broiler. When hot, broil poblanos on a baking sheet until blackened, turning as needed, about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a food processor, whirl garlic to mince. Cut onion in chunks and pulse with garlic until chopped; set aside. Drain hominy; set aside.
3. Cut chicken into 1- to 1 1/2-in. chunks and sprinkle with salt and 1 tsp. oregano. Heat oil in a 5- to 6-qt. pan over high heat. Brown half the chicken lightly, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer meat to a plate. Repeat with remaining chicken.
4. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add onion mixture and remaining 1 tsp. oregano to pan and sauté until onion is softened, 3 minutes. Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe bowl, microwave broth until steaming, about 3 minutes. Add ground chiles to pan and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds.
5. Add broth, hominy, and chicken to pan. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer to blend flavors, 10 minutes.
6. Remove stems, skins, and seeds from poblanos and discard; chop poblanos.
7. Stir poblanos into posole and cook 1 minute. Ladle into bowls; top with garnishes.

*Find Mexican oregano at well-stocked grocery stores, along with ground red New Mexico chiles.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

What the Heck is Boxing Day? and Other Holiday Lessons I’ve Gleaned from TV

TV may rot our brains, but sure makes up for it sometimes.  Christmas is one of those times (and every Wednesday night there’s an episode of Glee showing). 

Inspired by the resident TV-holic’s column on mental floss, I came up with a list of my favorite holiday lessons:

1. Boxing Day?  What kind of a holiday is that!?

MASH day afterI’m sure that many of you have looked at a calendar and wondered about little ol’ Dec. 26.  Behind Christmas and  Christmas Eve, this little holiday gets overlooked (mostly because we don’t celebrate it here).  It’s the day that servants and royalty traded places for a day to learn about each other.  Winchester works in the kitchen while Klinger acts as Coronel.  Perspective is the only present anybody unwraps on this day. 

2. Being with Those You Love Is Healing in Itself

Snowed in, the gang of The Mary Tyler Moore Show agrees to participate in the filming of a holiday-themed episode of Sue Ann’s show The Happy Homemaker.  Due to a series of squabbles earlier, Murray, Ted, Lou, and Mare start out pretty testy, but by the end of the night, their hearts are warmed by the holiday spirit and each other’s company.  See the transition here:


3. Singing Can Get You Out of Any Awkward Situation

Perhaps not a very good lesson (or true), but hilarious.  For those of you who don’t know, this delightfully edgy show (The Catherine Tate Show) out of the UK.  It’s also the basis of the first conversation I ever had with Mark.

Perhaps, the better lesson is have some tact.

4. Every Family is Dysfunctional

I often tell people that my second mission in life is to keep 30 Rock from becoming the next Arrested Development (cancelled after three seasons after winning a countless number of awards).  Episodes like Ludachristmas are the reason for that. 

Jack’s insanely cold mother, Colleen (played by Elaine Stritch), is in from Florida for a holiday visit.   This trip coincides with that of the hyperbolically stable and supportive Lemons, Liz’s family.  As Jack starts to identify with the Lemons and prefer their company, NUP_111912_0133 she makes it her mission to teach him a valuable lesson.  The holiday message of this episode is bold: every family has its problems, so there’s no reason to envy or compare yourself to someone else’s family situation.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Family Stone and My Christmas Movie Lineup

Last night, me and my friends had a little Christmas celebration.  A little shopping with Jacqueline and Cole, we set out to make an amazing Chicken Posole.  (More on that Sunday). 

This Christmas season has been a busy one.  As I’ve committed myself to a social life, a dating life, a work life, rehearsals, and the goal to write every day, I’ve found myself with no time to sit back and relax with any Christmas movies.  That was until last night. 

TheFamilyStone After dinner, Serenity and Emily joined us as we watched The Family Stone.  It was the first time we’d all been together in far too long.  We crowded into my room and gathered round the television.  As Jacqueline worked on Serenity’s nails, Cole, Emily, and I plopped down on my bed and got comfortable. 

(No platonic cuddling was involved.  We’re just not cool with that). 

Being the one Christmas movie I’d decidedly set a goal to see this year, I had some pretty high expectations and the film delivered.  It immediately struck me as something authentic.  None of the characters seemed over the top.  Their decisions, though sometimes impulsive, make sense.  And finally, the relationships between the characters help us understand them and why they are each the individuals that they are.

Here are 5 great scenes:

1. Playing Charades

image Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Meredith finds herself humiliated in front of her potential future family with an impossible charades clue. 

Everyone needs to be initiated with embarrassment.  That’s the case with my group of friends.  Each one of us has at least one. 

2. Making Dinner


Feeling the outsider, conservative Meredith finally connects with someone—Brian, her potential brother-in-law’s partner.  Brian’s one of the only outsiders who’s managed to make it into the stone family.  At one time or another, we’ve all been an outsider.  It’s truly tender when he recognizes that and offers his help.

3. Nature vs. Nurture


Meredith upsets her boyfriend’s mother Sybil when she asks why any parent would want a gay child.

Meredith (following five minutes rambling on the subject and rising tension in the room) says. “I just think any parent would want a normal child.”

“Goddammit!” Sybil shouts to stop her from hurting everyone more.

Everyone is important.  Everyone has challenges.  And parents love their children regardless of what those challenges might be.

4. The Present


Thoughtful gifts can bring people together.  This photo of Sybil comes to symbolize the Stone’s love for each other.

5. The Ending


As Cole pointed out (in the fashion of Jeremy Denk), the last scene’s soundtrack is elegantly simple.  Three notes are repeated over and over again as it becomes clear that people are what bring families together and that unconditional love is what provides us the only reliable foundation for the future. 



Merry Christmas!



Here are a few of my other Christmas favorites:

Love Actually
A Christmas Story
It’s a Wonderful Life
Muppet Christmas Carol
Home Alone (I prefer the second)
White Christmas
Holiday Inn

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Unconventional Christmas Playlist

I distinctly remember when I was eleven years old a certain car trip with my father. We had visited the neighbors and left them some Christmas goodies. Standard fare for my parents: crocheted dish towels and hand-dipped chocolates.

Snow Car The time came, though, to take a twenty-minute drive to leave a present with my father's boss. I joined him for the visit because I'd appreciated his boss's sarcastic wit even as a child and in part because he wasn't your typical guy living in residential Utah. I also found him intriguing because he was an atheist.

The light irony of taking him a Christmas present was not lost on me, but I kept it to myself. My father and I have never been one for conversation. We're talkative in our own spheres, but disconnected in many senses of the word. That trip, on Christmas Eve several years ago, was spent listening to a countdown on the radio. NPR was presenting the 100 best Holiday songs ranging from vocal to instrumental, from fun to somber, and from secular to religious.

npr-rocks At that point, I fell in love with NPR. (I'll recount my love affair with Diane Rehm some other, more appropriate time). I gained a real appreciation for the range of music that comes with the holiday season.  Here are a few of the songs that perked my ears up in that afternoon and afterwards (click on the titles of lyrics): 

1. We Need A Little Christmas

Let’s face it.  This one is perhaps the gayest Christmas song of all time.  It captures the excitement of singing, cooking, and—of course—decorating.  From the Broadway musical Mame, it engrosses us in the anticipation of the holiday season unlike any other song.  You’d think my father would figure out my sexuality then and there.

2. El Tamborilero (The Little Drummer Boy) - Tito Puente

Tito Puente and Christmas.  The combination is as fun as it sounds.  Some great Latin rhythms

3. All I want for Christmas is a Hippopotamus

This one’s just preposterous, but that’s why it works.  It was a novelty song for a zoo back in the day. 

4. I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus

Yes, I meant 'Daddy.'  And No, it isn't what you think….

Daddy Kissing Santa

Click the title for lyrics and an explanation. 

5. You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

I’m not sure how to describe the appeal of this one.  I guess it has something to do with the Grinch (like Ebenezer Scrooge or Rudolph) being one of the most interesting Christmas characters ever. 

6. Blanca Navidad (White Christmas)

This is a really spicy (salsa) version of the song.  Luis Enrique’s voice is like chocolate.  If there were a Christmas number in The Emperor's New Groove, this is what it would sound like.  As far as translations go, I think I might like this one better than the original.  Here he is (not quite as hot as usual…):

7. Carol of the Bells

From the first time I saw Home Alone, John Williams’ orchestration of the song, I got chills. 

8. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

What gay Christmas list would be complete without an appearance from Judy Garland?  This number from Meet Me in St. Louis produces instant tears.  Her voice is so beautiful and this scene is ten times as tender as the song alone.

9. My Grown Up Christmas List

Perhaps the corniest song on my list, this number by Amy Grant seems to sum up the spirit of the holiday very well.  Selflessly, the song asks for:

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list.

This is what I wish for many people in my life:  peace, friendship, happiness, acceptance, justice, and unconditional love.  May others treat you with the respect you deserve and the same tenderness everyone should expect whether you’re poor or rich, out or closeted, religious or atheist.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Christmas Reading List

One of my favorite Christmas memories took place just a few years ago. It was a snowy night and we found ourselves at Cole’s place for a holiday party.

After a night of games and treats, we sat in his living room taking a breather. We sat around and looked at each other debating what we should do when Cole stood up and grabbed a basket between the television stand and the fireplace.

“Who wants to hear a story?” Cole asked, pulling a book from the basket.

None of us were quite sure what to make of the question. All of us were high school graduates and some of us college graduates, so the concept of Cole reading us a story seemed slightly foreign. In an instant, though, we’d warmed to the idea of being kids again and he started reading.

redrangerbreathedWe sat there as he read to us Red Ranger Came Calling which details the story of a boy calling himself “The Red Ranger of Mars.” It’s not your same old rehashed imagery or story. It appeals to even the cynics who have a hard time getting into the holidays. That night through the amazing illustrations and lively conversations, we learned that “Sometimes folks need something to believe in” and “Sometimes folks need someone to believe in them.”

Sometimes we do need to take a step back and think like kids again.

In the holiday spirit, I have collected some of my favorite kids Christmas books:

1. How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

grinch Standard holiday fare. We all know the story and have it engrained in our minds by the Boris Karloff-narrated, Chuck Jones-animated version of the story. It’s a classic, so I’ll leave it at that. (No comment on the movie adaptation…).

2. 'Twas The Night Before Christmas

Night Before Christmas 3 Again, not much in the way of originality here. It’s a classic story we all know. A poem approaching it’s bicentennial, it was originally written by Henry Livingston, Jr. and later revised by Clemente Clarke Moore. There are plenty of interesting and original takes and illustrations on the story out there. Take a look. I've been told the Tasha Tudor-illustrated version is a good one.

3. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Polar Express

I remember this one always flying off the shelves in the elementary school library. Everybody wanted to take it home so their parents could read it to them. Probably appealing for its illustrations and the concept, which some train companies actually copy.

4. A Wish for Wings That Work by Berke Breathed

Wings That Work Breathed also penned and illustrated the aforementioned Red Ranger Came Calling as well as the comic strip Bloom County. He has a knack for humoring adults and children alike and getting at some pretty deep stuff just by wowing you with some quick with and a few strokes of the brush.

5. The Twelve Days of Christmas illustrated by Jack Kent

12 days of christmas This is a hilarious illustrated representation of the song. It takes the song quite literally and I haven’t seen this book since I was eight years old. It disappeared from the library and I never saw it after my first read. Someday, I will spontaneously buy this book after a bad day.

6. Christmas in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little house Christmas Confession time: I love Laura Ingalls Wilder. Every night I would read a few chapters of one of the Little House books to my mother from the age of seven.

7. You Are Special by Max Lucado

You Are Special This is just an affirming book that shows that being ourselves is what really matters. I suppose I’ve always associated it with Christmas because it was part of a Sunday School Christmas lesson.

No matter who you are, how you were made (or how you believe you were made), or how people treat you, there are good people out there that love you in this world. There is no greater Christmas lesson than that.

Here are some other suggestions from friends:

Snowmen at Night and Snowmen at Christmas
(Both by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner)

A Child's Christmas in Wales
Dylan Thomas

Merry Christmas, Ernest & Celestine
Gabrielle Vincent

A snowman named just Bob and A snowgirl named just Sue
Mark Kimball Moulton

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
Susan Wojciechowski

Santa Claustrophobia
Mike Reiss

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Experiment, Part 5

The Breakdown

The next morning, I made my way to the Avis store to pick up a rental car. The time had come for a trip across the province to visit some museums and do some interviews as well as an informal survey of the landscape—to know a people, you must understand the place out of which they grow.

I hopped in the car and set off for a six-hour drive alone. The traffic wasn’t anything to complain about. The weather was perfect. The scenery was as spectacularly green as I’d expected.

Not long into the journey, any confidence I’d had about being on my own, of being smart or valued, of being over Mark had vanished.

I was alone.

BreakdownEverything reminded me of him and how I was not good enough. I flashed back to our first date in the amphitheater watching 30 Rock, to my first kiss in Ensign Downs Park overlooking the Salt Lake Valley, and finally to his sudden disappearance from my life. It was in every sense a flood of emotions. It poured over me with suffocating force.

Every song on the radio just seemed to pull me closer to a watery grave of depression. My cheer-me-up sing-along music even seemed to pull me down. One song in particular stung very deep: Mika’s Erase. Our discussions about Mika being the new Freddy Mercury resurfaced as I listened:

I shouldn’t have said the things I said
Lookin’ for love we left for dead
In a grave without a stone.

As soon as you hear my voice
Don’t hesitate
Put your finger on the button

Erase my love, I bet you can’t erase my touch
You’re tryin’ to replace a feelin’ without a name
With somebody else’s face in your head.


The words pulled me down because for the first time I was open to the lyrics and meanings, to the bitterness and sweetness, to the tragedy and irony of life. For the first time in life I felt like I was able to understand the range of human emotions and write about how they are expressed (or repressed).

That said, feeling like I could never be loved—that every good man would reject me in that way—made recovery difficult. I turned off the radio and drove.

An hour later, I pulled over bracing the biggest hailstorm I’d ever seen. Marble-sized stones pounded against the window. The sheet of water streaming down the windshield kept me from seeing beyond the front bumper. I had no choice but to sit and think, so there I sat for forty-five minutes as the lyrics passed through my head again and again:

When the pain won’t go away
You might as well
Put your finger on the trigger

Erase my love, I bet you can’t erase my touch
You’re tryin’ to replace a feelin’ without a name
With somebody else’s face in your head.

The hailstorm ended, but the sun was nowhere in sight.

I wiped away the tears, looked in the mirror and said to myself, “GMB. pull yourself together. You have work to do.”

End, Part 5

This story is on hiatus until after Christmas. I don’t want to be a downer on the holiday cheer. Plus, I’ve just had something very similar come to pass with another boy. Indeed, timing is a funny thing when it comes to my writing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Experiment, Part 4

The Hippie

The morning after our little non-discussion, Leandra and I made it way to the college where I’d be doing archival work for a couple of days.  It was a tiny town with a college population higher than that of the actual town.  (Canadian versions of Ephraim, Utah, if you will).

P1000402Despite having worked on college campuses for years, there was  something enthralling about seeing so many people my age being young and having fun.  Between semesters, the campus was dead, but there was still plenty to do.  There was always something to do—a concert in the park to benefit MS research, readings in coffee shops, independent movies playing in the one-screen movie theater. 

I kept myself busy and found myself running into the same group of people fairly often.  Among them was a dread-locked hippie with horn-rimmed glasses named Terry.  He was himself.  Happy. Stable. Involved.  Loved.  Everyone in town knew him and held him in their highest regard. 

P1000403 We first met while in the archives.  He was doing work on students expelled from the college back in its Baptist days.  After a couple more run-ins at the coffee shop and on campus, he insisted, “While you’re here, you have to come to Wednesday at Paddy’s Pub.  It’s the thing everybody looks forward to in town.”

So, later that night, there I was.  23 years old and in my first pub (or bar of any form really).  My first time around people my age who didn’t assume I was Mormon or perhaps even know what to assume of a member of The Church.  The only times I’d been outside of Utah were 1) on my mission 2) school trips and 3) family vacations. 

P1000324Even within Utah, my interactions with non-members were limited.  Aside from professors, and a few friends, my life was completely filled with people who held the same religious beliefs.  At first, I sat alone.  Terry was nowhere in sight and I was enjoying the music of open mic night.  For being a tiny town, everyone knew how to sing or at least lead a sea shanty. 

As I looked around, I realized no one was judging me based on my sexuality or beliefs let alone the fact that I chose the house root beer over the house draft.  Even if I were to go up to that mic and announce my sexuality to everyone, nothing would change after that initial laugh. 

P1000412Terry showed up with his friend Sasha and we spent the night  talking about his ghost tours of the city, sipping our drinks, and listening to the talent.  (I esp. enjoyed this talented Indie artist Morgan Tobias.  Check her out).

All of the talk from my youth about The World being a scary place that persecutes us or doesn’t let us be who we are or believe what we believe made no sense at the moment.  These people really were nothing to fear. I didn’t need to drink to have a decent conversation with them or gain some sense of acceptance. 

I was me.

That was enough for me and everyone around me. 

End, Part 4

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Chicken Stroganoff


Again, I had the urge to do something completely different, so I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite recipes (in honor of my Meryl’s Julie and Julia coming out on DVD). I seldom cook a meal more than an hour or so, but for a recent dinner party I held, I decided to go all out, having some friends (Serenity, Cole, Jacqueline, and Matilde) over to my new apartment.

The dish is Latin American and delicious (without being spicy if you’re concerned), but doesn’t stand too well as leftovers.

Here’s what you’ll need to serve 4:

4 chicken breasts cubed
Lime juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. mustard
1/2 cup milk
2 cans table cream
mushrooms (the more the better in my opinion)
Potato sticks

By the end, it should look something like the picture above but lighter (below are pictures of the process and the results).


  1. Wash cubed chicken with lime.
  2. Fry with oil until almost ready.
  3. Add mustard and salt (more than you think).
  4. Mix and fry until golden brown
  5. Stir in milk and cream.
  6. Heat until boils.
  7. Add mushrooms.
  8. Add ketchup if color is unpleasant.
  9. Serve over rice.
  10. For garnish and texture, add potato sticks as desired.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Experiment, Part 3

The Unspoken Understanding

Canada MapFlag Upon arriving in “The True North Strong and Free,” I met up with my research contact, Leandra. In the mayhem following my flight’s cancellation, we managed to connect after a few hours.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work one-on-one with an expert in my field. We’d been planning this research project for months (since before I had even considered the possibility of being gay), so it was an immense relief to meet her and start our work. We discussed how our passions and lives had led us to the field as well as our family lives. She wasn’t at all what I’d expected. A very tall woman, shy but immensely passionate, with uniquely short hair and a remarkable smile.

For whatever reason, there was an instant personal and professional connection. Leandra was the middle of three daughters; I was the middle of three sons. Academia had engrossed us both from an early age. We both loved to write—confident in our academic talents, but hesitant about our creative abilities. It was the first time somebody didn’t automatically assume I was straight. It was refreshing, but impersonal.

We spent four days together discussing so many fascinating things: the local geology, the extreme tides, ship wrecks, the French Indian Wars, folk music, Anne of Green Gables, ferry rides, wildlife, life during World War I & II. Although we were hard at work (or perhaps as a result of it), discussion of our personal lives quickly tapered off after that initial meeting.

On the third night, following a quiet dinner with a woman she arranged for me to interview, we sat on her porch sipping tea and putting aside the research for a few hours. I pulled out some of my poetry and the blue writing journal I began as a missionary.

DSCN0037 I’d received it in the MTC and nearly four years later it was half-filled with attempts at formal poetry and essays as well as outlines of books and telenovelas. She asked me to read her something and I shared a poem from the perspective of Michelangelo’s David as he’s being sculpted, or rather the stone that became the statue. I share only a portion because it’s about to be published; email me if you’d like to see the rest. michelangelos_david1

The gritty mist of yesterday
now lines the floor—
a dusty sea of pebbles.
Bits of myself now lay
at my “feet”.

The hands—
they tear at my blighted marble
flesh as
my silent strength
slips away.

“You raise a very interesting point, GMB. Although we might view David as the perfect form of man, who’s to say that conforming to some sort of mold of perfection is what any of us want out of life… or even beyond this life?”

No one had ever understood what I’d written on such a level (except, perhaps, for Cole or Jeannie). “It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. You know. It’s difficult to grow up in a really conservative community.”

“I’ve never quite been in that situation, but I can sympathize."

We left our personal discussion at that both of us aware that something in the other’s life was lurking under the surface.

I was indeed struggling with the idea of being perfect—I was the golden boy: perfect grades, faithful missionary and member of the church, supportive friend and brother—yet I felt unfulfilled.

She was struggling with her own demons. I avoided prying into Leandra’s personal life (partly because it isn’t in my nature), but I think we both felt at ease that someone from an entirely different place and culture could connect on such a simple idea of not fitting the mold.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Experiment, Part 2

Part 2: The Mormon

For the first time in a long while, things were feeling oddly natural despite being terrified at the possibility of a same-sex relationship my entire life. (When I was 10, this homophobia caused me to stop watching Ellen’s sitcom when she came out). Giving Marcelo my number was a huge step.

While I’d never had the gumption or the desire to do the same with a woman after 23 years of mental and emotional conditioning, this felt like a step in the right direction. He gave me his number and we’ve kept in touch although we’ve never managed to be in the same city at the same time.

Gate SignI saw him off to his gate and made my way over to mine only to find that it had been delayed a few hours. This being the first time I’d ever flown alone, I became a little apprehensive. Making some effort to be social and distract myself, I entered a couple of conversations and put myself at ease when the woman at the ticket counter made the announcement, “Flight 816 to Canada has been cancelled please form a single file line to the ticket counter so that we can resolve this issue and get you home.”

As travelers tend to do, a swarm of passengers immediately accosted the counter, leaving the more laidback behind.

“I can’t believe this,” I heard. “Now I have to let my husband know I won’t make it to our anniversary dinner.”

“Well, Steph, at least he won’t miss the Maple Leafs game now,” a man said chuckling to himself.

“Cut it out, Carson.” Another man cut in, “She hasn’t seen him in three weeks.”

“And this kid’s probably got a girlfriend waiting for him,” Carson said, pointing at me.

Aware that he’d noticed my eavesdropping, I said, “No. Nobody’s waiting for me….anymore.” I laughed awkwardly and they left it at that.

Carson and Steph (on their way back from Ecuador) along with Wallace (a quiet executive in the Cayman Islands) introduced themselves and expressed their delight that I was visiting their country to conduct research.

“Where are you from?” Steph asked.


“Ah. Mormonlandia, eh?” Carson joked.

The time had come to be open about another part of my identity. “The last time I was on a plane, I was actually coming back from a mission in South America.”

They had their fair share of questions regarding polygamy, the Word of Wisdom, and mission life. They also shared admiration for their Mormon neighbors and the temples they had seen. Over Queens Court Hotelthe next 12 hours, I answered these questions as we enjoyed a series of adventures—finding a cab, getting a hotel (see left) at a reasonable price, chatting over dinner in Chinatown, and making the 4 am run to another airport.

And, as a gesture of their Canadian hospitality, they refused to let me pay for anything. “You’re our guest,” Steph assured me. Regardless of my race, religion, or sexual orientation, they would have treated me the same way.

As we bid our goodbyes and went in four different directions, I realized

  1. That I was in love with Canada


  2. That just as I felt at ease with being gay on this trip, I was also content with my identity as a member of the Church.

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