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.
Spring, 1972 – As a third-year American student at the University of Manitoba (UM) in Winnipeg, Canada in the early 1970s, I was eager to find other gay men and to participate in the energetic wave of gay rights activism that immediately followed Stonewall. At that time, Winnipeg was quite conservative, with only two “discreet” gay bars and a private, gay social club that did not have a liquor license. Neither the bars nor the private club appealed to me. The folks at both bars were pleasant but, except for those in drag, most guys seemed closeted and fearful of being outed. One of the bars even disallowed close dancing by same-sex couples because of Manitoba’s strict liquor laws. I wanted something more than forlornly staring into my beer behind blacked-out windows.
2004ish – I was staying in a friend’s apartment on 17th Street off Eighth Avenue in Chelsea, then Manhattan’s gayest neighborhood, while visiting NYC from Miami in 2004 or so. I returned from a day spent running around town to find the block cordoned off and a number of NYC firemen standing nearby preventing bystanders from getting too close.
A few pictures of Michael Dowell and me in the early-to-mid-90s. We lost Michael in 1995. The last shot is a self-portrait he drew of himself coming back to me after an extended stay with his family. It actually captures his happy, adventurous “let’s go” gait. He was hilarious, sweet and always game for a new experience. We’d met in late 1989 at a bar called Trunks in West Hollywood. He was wearing a beige cowboy shirt under a mink vest… yes, mink. He winked at me and I laughed a little, but thought he was cute. I’d like to say those six years were non-tumultuous ones in my early 20s, but there were quarrels, money issues, struggles over our future stability and ultimately a health scare that would become increasingly evident and then eventually take him away from me. It’s difficult for me to think of this as ‘just’ gay history, though our fashions would suggest otherwise. But history is just life as seen through a lens from the future. And tumultuous or not, this was a lovely part of mine.