2005—While most people think of Fire Island at the gay summer escape from the New York City, there were other places just as special and unique. In this case, Andrew Ruth’s annual summer birthday celebration at his home upstate New York. More chill than Fire Island but all equally hot.
1999: I stumbled into this “chat room” innocently enough thinking how cool it was that I could talk to other people in my small part of the world right there on my work computer. AOL literally changed my life.
We found each other in this “room” and arranged to meet at a busy Shell oil station late one afternoon. I rationalized in my head that I was not getting the sex I needed at home. After all, my wife and I had one toddler keeping us busy and another kid on the way. Her feet were swollen, her back ached, and all she wanted from life was mashed potatoes and a good night’s sleep. Having sex with a man was not cheating. And, I was not gay because it was just a blow job.
The Feral Boys were a group of a little over a dozen young gay men in San Francisco who formed a sort of fraternity in the early 2010s. We were all recent transplants to the city, and had moved there for school, or to be a part of the tech gold rush, or to leave small town homes and start a gay life in a gay metropolis. We came to be students, models, artists, DJs, and gogo boys. What we had in common was a love for unbridled hedonism: art, sex, music, parties, and living like we would be 22 forever.
Thanksgiving used to be a time when I would go home and see family. This tradition ended 6 years ago when I moved across the country in my mid twenties and the distance between California and New York was too much for a long weekend.
When I moved to New York City I became involved with the a project to build an AIDS Memorial in the West Village. This led to a career pivot working for LGBT focused organizations and I then began acquiring a close network of friends from a diverse spectrum of the LGBT community.
2012-2013: For better or worse, bars are the center of gravity in the gay community. We make our friends, find our lovers, express ourselves creatively, and even fund-raise for our charitable organizations and sports teams, in bars. For many of us, walking into a gay bar is the first step we take into living our gay lives. One of the best aspects of being a gay man is the ability to walk into a gay bar anywhere in the country and immediately feel at home.
In all my years at the Pines, my housemates were always fellow worker bees who toiled hard for our time at the beach. Our delight in arriving there, especially in the Plague years, was sometimes overwhelming as seen in this photo circa 1991. Celebrating left to right are an ecstatic Gray Coleman, an incandescent Tom Shoemaker, a blissful Steve Yorra, a thrilled Bill Goeren and a somewhat blurred but equally happy yours truly. Actually, I think we were also hamming it up under a thunderstorm, but this photo still illustrates what a unique and joyous place Fire Island was to many of us. – Steve Bolerjack
My second buddy was a florist who lived at home. I’d bring him to Ray’s and my house where we’d dangle our feet in the pool, and talk about spirituality and death. When he died, his mother told me that he wanted me to speak at his funeral. She stipulated, though, that I couldn’t say he was gay, nor how he died. In the early 1980s, there wasn’t much family acceptance, much less pride, and AIDS was thought of as a shameful disease. Rather than not speak, I agreed, and talked in code to the appreciative gay men, all of whom sat together in the back rows. Jimmy was a florist, I reminded them, who knew that a flower’s duty was to bloom, regardless of whether others liked or appreciated it. He appreciated the beauty of all flowers, and loved himself as a unique, beautiful flower that had bloomed as nature intended. His elderly aunts thought the imagery was lovely, his mother’s fears were quieted, and I smiled feeling that Jimmy would be grateful for the effort.
NOTE: Viktor Carrasquero, a young Venezuelan emigre in Hong Kong, is unable to join Capturing Rainbows at present, but has authorized us to share the following story from his early life.
Back in 1998, I first had direct contact with Luis Llovera, one of my neighbours back then. He was a year older than me, so he must have been 13 years old. I was cycling around town and I got a flat tire, as I was getting closer to my house. Luis saw struggling little me and hurried to help me. This wasn’t the first time I noticed him, anyway. I’d seen him ever since I was a little kid, and for years I’d created all sorts of mythologies about what his personality was like. Nothing really happened in this encounter: I was still too shy to say anything beyond ‘thank you’, and I was too nervous to put thought into articulate words. This was, however, the beginning of years of encounters.
Gustavo Otto and Bryan Hogan were a handsome, well-built Manhattan couple. Gustavo, a graceful Chilean, graciously posed nude for my camera in our lush garden, while I captured him in various positions.