OUT OF THE BOX: Introduction

Mother, you made him small, it was you who started him;
In your sight he was new, over his new eyes you arched
The friendly world and warded off the world that was alien.
Ah, where are the years when you shielded him just by placing
Your slender form between him and the surging abyss?
How much you hid from him then. The room that filled with suspicion
At night: you made it harmless; and out of the refuge of your heart
You mixed a more human space in with his night-space.
And you set down the lamp, not in that darkness, but in
Your own nearer presence, and it glowed at him like a friend.
There wasn’t a creak that your smile could not explain,
As though you had long known just when the floor would do that . . .
And he listened and was soothed. So powerful was your presence
As you tenderly stood by the bed; his fate,
Tall and cloaked, retreated behind the wardrobe, and his restless
Future, delayed for a while, adapted to the folds of the curtain.

I grew up surrounded by beautiful woodcuts like this one, Utamaro's "Mother and Baby under Mosquito Netting."

I grew up surrounded by beautiful woodcuts like this one, Utamaro’s “Mother and Baby under Mosquito Netting”: “Ah, where are the years when you shielded him just by placing / Your slender form between him and the surging abyss?”

And he himself, as he lay there, relieved, with the sweetness
Of the gentle world you had made for him dissolving beneath
His drowsy eyelids, into the foretaste of sleep—:
He seemed protected . . . But inside: who could ward off,
Who could divert, the floods of origin inside him?
Ah, there was no trace of caution in that sleeper; sleeping,
Yes but dreaming, but flushed with what fevers: how he threw himself in.
All at once new, trembling, how he was caught up
And entangled in the spreading tendrils of inner event
Already twined into patterns, into strangling undergrowth, prowling
Bestial shapes. How he submitted—. Loved.
. . . . How could he help
Loving what smiled at him. Even before he knew you,
He had loved it, for already while you carried him inside you, it
Was dissolved in the water that makes the embryo weightless.

No, we don’t accomplish our love in a single year
As the flowers do; an immemorial sap
Flows up through our arms when we love.

~Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies, III, 1923~

"All at once new, trembling, how he was caught up / And entangled in the spreading tendrils of inner event…" (Image: Maurice Sendak, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE)

This was one of my favorite books as a child: “All at once new, trembling, how he was caught up / And entangled in the spreading tendrils of inner event…” (Credit: Maurice Sendak)

This memoir was easy—and difficult—to write. My mother, my friends*, and I wrote it together. Between 1994, as I got ready to graduate from Seattle University and went on a Jesuit retreat and got my first lengthy letter from my mother, and about 2004, when the letters ceased coming in the mail with her identifiable handwriting on the envelope, the memoir was writing itself, out of joy and pain and yearning.

It has taken me ten years to share it with a wide audience.

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As the millennium approached and e-mail became more ubiquitous, we still chose the traditional epistolary format, as did my friends. There was always something romantic, at least for me, about actually writing a letter, as we aligned ourselves with letter writers from centuries before (some of the first novels, especially by women, chose the epistolary format), working out our needs and loves and frustrations with paper and pen and sometimes printer ink. Writing letters afforded us more space to write, slowed down the pace of our thoughts, increased the tension as each letter left our part of the world and entered the cavern of the mailbox, allowed us the climactic experience (a climax to the expectation, the waiting) of walking to the front door, slitting open an envelope, unfolding a crisp tri-fold, and drinking in each others’ carefully crafted thoughts, rather than simply opening up a button on our computer screen with one touch, scanning the screen, then deciding whether to hit the reply button or which folder to stick it in.

Writing, folding, addressing, licking, walking, sending, waiting—these are all very personal and active and intimate actions. Therefore, choosing to present this decade in my life as letters instead of writing them as prose narrative was an easy decision.  I want to welcome you into our conversation.

It often amazes people that all these letters still exist. It’s not like they are prehistoric tablets or medieval books bound to be museum artifacts. But it is fortuitous that I’ve kept them, stored them in an office box for over a decade, and even more so a blessing that these people shared their words with me time and time again. I’ve gone back to the box every so often, at least once a year, and read myself and my mother and my friends back to myself, shared them with new friends. I’ve read them to students and colleagues, sometimes in public forum. Now, I hope that this memoir has captured the spirit of those letters in a composite way. I pass them on to you.

As you read or listen, you will begin to recognize from their words and their style the writers’ identities. Their particular ways of expressing themselves will characterize them as much as their emotions and beliefs. You will hear a diversity of opinions and spiritualities and strategies for living; some will resonate with you, others will be more discordant. Some will likely anger, others will likely sadden. Whether you agree or disagree with any viewpoint within these pages, it has been my intention to create no heroes, no villains—only people who are, myself included, sometimes loving, sometimes (always?) selfish, always genuine.

You will get to know us gradually. Details will emerge that will be fleshed out only later. You will have to fill in gaps of sometimes months, but you will also encounter letters written back and forth, simultaneously, within the same week—our needs, loves, and frustrations almost psychically devoted to paper at the same time. One drawback for you, the reader or audience member, is that you will often have to infer or create details and motivations and causes (perhaps based on patterns in your own life), since the letters won’t mention how my mother once punched through a window to grab at her brother; how often she found herself kicked out of the house, with nothing to eat; how she had an affinity for graveyards and a disdain for school nuns; how she excelled in English and science classes at Queen Anne High (and how I majored in English and minored in Biology); how she fell in love with a shy boy from Tokyo who liked cars and drawing; how she found an outlet for her aggressions in judo; how my father went to Vietnam shortly after they were married at the First Congregationalist Church and how she lived with his mother, my ba-chan, while he humped the forest as a radio operator and, as his PTSD would later reveal, killed many people; how he had an affinity later on for war films and battlefield dioramas; how her liberalism morphed into conservatism when she found out about the hot tub in the rectory at Blessed Sacrament; how my mother asked him to remarry her in the Catholic church. The letters won’t reveal how I found my first porn magazine stuffed in the bundles of recycled newspaper from the neighbor across the street; how I borrowed friends’ cars in high school and went to adult bookstores during our lunch hour; how my father took me on a father-son trip to Vancouver and I got my first view of a woman sliding down a pole, then left the club to pray for his soul; how the Infant of Prague statue looking down over my bed made doing anything alone in bed a guilty, dirty thing; how I’ve never had sex with a woman. Some of this stuff you don’t need to know. Some of this “stuff” is just that—stuff from my life, stuff that you might recognize, in variations, in your own lives. Or is it more than just “stuff”? Is it everything?

You will also discover that this memoir has no happy ending. Mother doesn’t join P-FLAG and fight for gay rights, Son doesn’t anticipate a tearful reunion, neither compromises in the end. But both become tired. By the end, we’ve lulled each other to sleep with our epistolary mantras. I do not apologize for the ending. See it rather as the inevitable end to a ten-year lullaby or, if what you read or hear has not the qualities of a lullaby, then a ten-year bedtime story filled with every emotion you can imagine, with gods and goddesses, victories and defeats, lies and passion, angels, demons, and seas red with apocalyptic blood. It is in, perhaps, the constancy and tenacity of the collective letters of each person—my searching, my mother’s constant pleading, my friends’ devotion—that this memoir’s force and, I hope, beauty and humanity lies.

In his autobiography Les Mots (Words), Sartre claims that autobiographical narration is obituary in its nature, allowing the living to create a space where they can reexamine their lives and interpret them for others. This reexamination allows, I suppose, the living writer to recreate, remold, and even reform parts of his life (in the confessional box of the pages) and to highlight that sliver of his existence that has been meaningful and formative for himself, and also potentially meaningful and formative for readers. Again, I do not apologize for the ending: this sliver did not end happily. You will read or hear of happiness and happy times within many of the letters, but the ultimate happiness, change, or triumph a reader or audience might seek will only come in what the reader does with what they’ve read afterward.

This is for the sons and daughters who are trying to figure out who they are. For the mothers who are walking a thin edge between duty and the abyss. It’s what happened to me and what could happen to any of us. In the end, however, were it not for our open line of communication, I wonder what would have happened. If it would have been even worse. Or if it made it worse. The irony of trying to communicate with another human being is that it can lead to miscommunication or, in this case, a complete failure to communicate and a drifting off to sleep. That’s all I know, and all I can tell you. As a son or daughter, a mother, a friend, it’s up to you to decide which route to take when dealing with other human beings. To write or not to write. To talk or not to talk. To try, to risk. Or not to.

Love,

Dominic

* All names other than mine and my partner Scott’s will appear as letters (e.g., “D,” “H,” etc.) to protect the privacy of the authors of these letters and those mentioned in them.  I hope you get to know my letter (pardon the pun) friends by their “letters,” since many of them will appear numerous times.

June 20, 2004: WE’VE WRITTEN IT TOGETHER

Let’s start at the end…

Dear Mom,

I am compiling all the correspondence we’ve shared over the years into a memoir. I’m including letters sent and unsent, letters between us and letters to and from my friends, professors, confessors, journal entries never shared—all the writing that reveals who we were and who we’ve become. I’ve been storing everything in a Stor-All office box, stock number 03325.

It’s so strange reading letter after birthday card after Mass card after article filled with your mixture of grief and hate and love.

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These are only the article clippings (and probably only half of them). I had to put in the two extensions for the dining room table to even fit them all here.

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A tiny selection of the letters and cards and Post-It notes.

I know you love me so much. But, as you’ve told me, you’ve cut the cords.

Fortunately (or is it unfortunately?) you will never be able to fully cut the cords. You will never be completely free of me. I will never be completely free of you. Because there is still some fragment of your old self left, I’m sure. The bitterness, the paranoia, the fear, the use of religion in the name of hate, the refusal to face reality—all these things obscure the smile that smiles back at me from one of the last family photos we took, sitting on the brown couch in the living room, hastily arranged with all the dogs, leaving enough room for dad to perch on the side after starting the timer. I like to show people that picture. Invariably, they mistake ba-chan for my mom and think you’re my older sister. You look so young and beautiful in that picture.

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(R-L): Mom, me, grandmother (ba-chan), sister, dad (and three really big dogs–oh, and one of our four cats).

Maybe once I’m done, you can proof it for me. You’ll be able to read yourself back to me, read myself back to me, and see if what I’ve written isn’t true.

How could it not be true? We’ve all written it together.

Love,

Dominic

May 2, 1994: I THINK I CAN

Now, let’s go back to the beginning…

Dear Dominic,

I will try my best not to embarrass you, even though mothers usually manage to do just that! I will write you other letters in the future, but they will be more personal, more emotional. Letters you may want to keep and read from time to time should you ever need reminding that you are my sunshine, my joy. There are so many memories it’s difficult to choose—they are all wonderful.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 8.40.47 AM

According to my birth certificate (and Google Maps), this is where I spent the first year or so of my life, on Whitman Ave. in Shoreline.

When you were born, the nurses made a big fuss over you because you were so strong. Only one day old and you could lift your head off the bed with wide eyes exploring already. The search had begun and you were eager to begin.

Early on you had a love for music. No matter what project you were involved in, you would drop everything when Sesame Street or the Cheerios commercial would come on TV and wiggle and jiggle happily in the playpen.

By age four, you eagerly attended pre-school and devoured activities and met with other kids—always so happy! One day, as your pre-school teacher and I looked on, a little boy walked up to you and asked, “What are you?” Not who, but what! We stood silent as you pondered the question and then casually threw up your hands happily, saying, “Why, I’m Dominic—just Dominic!” and then went about your business. I’ll never forget it.

Every teacher, everyone you met as you grew, recognized what I knew—you were a genuinely secure child. Happy, zealous, but refined and always mature for your age. I trust that you have always been happy. You threw yourself into life!

My mother used to call me her little "imp."  Looking at this photo, I can tell why.

My mother used to call me her little “imp.” Looking at this photo, I can tell why.

The grade school years at Bagley—my favorite. All the spelling bees and awards. The fun times. Remember when I dressed up as a witch and scared all the kids—egg and flour mask, peanut butter warts! Fun times!

The somewhat trying years in junior high and the developing excellence at Ingraham High School. You not only grew academically there, but it was in high school that your Faith began to really grow. You bucked the system and aligned yourself with the small but fervent Christian element in the midst of the secular, anti-Christian, amoral neo-paganism prevelant then and now. How I swelled with pride when you wore all those great Christian t-shirts to school and plastered pro-life stickers over all your books!

To my knowledge, you had no enemies. I believe your friendliness, your conviction, and your enthusiasm led most kids to respect you.

Remember the Baccalaureate you organized? The school didn’t want to offend non-Christians, but you persevered. The problem was to come up with a speaker who would deliver the proper message while being someone that couldn’t be rejected! You found him and wouldn’t take no for an answer! A black Baptist preacher in snakeskin cowboy boots; a former football player who spoke eloquently about moral absolutes. For love, against hate; for brotherhood against racism. Yes! I’m sure I embarrassed you that day, a little, since I was the only one who jumped up and yelled “Amen!”

Me, bucking the system.

Me, bucking the system.

I believe you are a fairly well-balanced person and I hope you will remain so. You have accomplished so much. Your hard work in high school earned you scholarships for college, without which advanced study would have been far more difficult. Seattle University has been extremely generous to you and I know you will remember when you’re a great professor to be generous to Seattle U. Remember to always be grateful for the splendid education you’ve received—you really are in your element at a Catholic university.

I believe that you could be anything you choose to be—which reminds me! If you ever write a book about your life, you should title it I Think I Can, after one of your favorite childhood stories—the little blue engine who kept saying “I think I can, I think I can.” You did think you could, then and now. Don’t let age deter you or hold you back: if you think you can and work at it—and pray for it—you will accomplish all you desire.

Remember two last things (I could go on indefinitely, but I won’t). All good things come from God through His Son. If you accomplish nothing else in life, be faithful to Him and He will give you all the rest in Eternity. And remember, next to Jesus, we love you best!

With love always as you continue your search*,

Mom and Dad

* Written on the occasion of my senior year Search Retreat at Seattle University, during which each retreatant received a bag of letters that had been written to him or her by family members, friends, professors. It was all just a little too much: dimly lit retreat center room, probably a fireplace, candles on the floors, and tissue boxes scattered around the room.

May 6, 1994: ALL THINGS IN COMMON

Dear Dominic,*

Our buddy Plato once said, “Friends have all things in common.” That doesn’t mean that friends agree on every issue; it means that the importance of friendship transcends the people who share it. It’s a reflection of divine love, I think. It makes us bigger than we were, more noble. It is a large part of why we are here. Without friends, life would not be as sweet.

You’ve been a friend to me for more than seven years now. That’s twenty-one in dog years. A long time, and yet it’s rushed by in a twinkling. It seems like only yesterday we were sitting in Ms. “E”‘s sewing class, and you were explaining that Yoda was the Antichrist. I still chuckle when I think of those days. In fact, the still-unfinished tapestry of our friendship is rife with such humorous scenes. Like the time we were at the Academic Decathlon in Olympia, and I crashed my grandma’s car, and the highway patrol came along, and “T” took a picture of you sitting in the back seat of the trooper’s car, and you ripped up the picture because you thought your mom would think you’d been up to no good if she saw it.

Dominic, our friendship thus far has been defined as much by what we haven’t done as what we have, but that’s okay. I still hold out hope that we’ll eventually scale Mt. Lassen together, bike from here to Mexico, collaborate on the Great American Novel, egg “M”‘s house, make play clothes from your mother’s drapery. These are a few of my favorite thoughts. When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling down, I simply remember some of these things, and then I don’t feel so bad. I can think of your good humor and companionship, and it cheers me up even when you’re not around. That’s quite a gift.

Dan and I in Olympia, Washington, to receive a governor's scholarship.

“D” and I in Olympia, Washington, to receive a governor’s scholarship.

The following is an excerpt take from the journal I keep. I wrote it in January.

I want to write some things about my friend Dominic. Dominic is my best friend. I love him as I love all my brothers; as a bonus, I also get along with him.

Dominic is a teacher. He is teaching me to play the classical guitar. He is also teaching me about faith and good will, and this he does by example.

He’s got a fun sense of humor—reminds me of myself in this way and other ways.

I don’t know whether I am Dominic’s best friend, but he treats me as though I am. He treats everyone well, as far as I’ve seen, and this helps to remind me to endeavor to behave similarly. I do think his good influence has rubbed off on me. In return, I have bequeathed Dominic with a smarter mouth and an unrelenting skepticism. I’d say that’s a fair trade. At the time of this writing, Dominic is planning to become an English professor.

Good luck at Marquette. I wish you all the best. I will miss you.

Your friend,

“D”

* Written for Search Retreat.

May 10, 1994: EVERYTHING ON THE TABLE

Dear Dominic,

This is a letter to express my appreciation of you as a friend and as a person. Your persistence in attempting to best me at racquetball time after time reveals an underlying value of persistence that has gotten you to this point in your life and will carry you forward in your endeavors in Academics and your Walk with the Lord.

In this time when you’re about to graduate and go off into the wild blue yonder and I will rarely see you, I want to let you know that I have greatly enjoyed the good times we have had in our friendship. I thank you for your good humor that put up with the many times that I gave you a hard time at work. I thoroughly enjoyed the many dirt- and bulb-throwing fights we had at the greenhouse and the ability you showed to catch dirt with your face.

"R" and I on one of our cross country ski trips.

“R” and I on one of our cross country ski trips.

On a more serious note, Dominic, I appreciate your overwhelming commitment to your church and family.

I was a seasoned altar boy at the Carmelite Monastery (these are the wonderful cloistered nuns), but also began exploring Protestant churches, mainly evangelical, during high school.

I was a seasoned altar boy at the Carmelite Monastery (these are the wonderful cloistered nuns), but also began exploring Protestant churches, mainly evangelical, during high school.  “R” was one of the bad boys who taught me about the, you know, Bible.

Your genuineness in expressing your feelings in a manner that lays everything on the table is very admirable. In addition, I appreciate the genuineness and honesty of your heart in expressing areas of weakness and feelings of uncertainty. You are truly a special friend that I appreciate more than you will ever know, a friend that I can have fun with, simply talk with, and most importantly a friend in whom I can confide my deepest thoughts, struggles, and concerns—without reservation. Good luck in Milwaukee.

Most sincerely,

“R”

May 31, 1994: MAGNA CUM LAUDE

Dear Dominic,

The root causes of all difficulty are disobedience and pride. You rarely gave me difficulty—and see the result? You are now a college grad (magna cum laude!) with a great future ahead of you. Musically talented, a well-rounded, well-adjusted guy everybody likes.

Seattle University graduation.

Seattle University graduation.

I pray so hard everyday for all of us. I’m so happy you love us, Dominic. You have always been the only joy in my life. Yes, I love your sister, but we’ll never be close again—I accept that. And Dad—I have more respect for him than anyone alive. How all around wonderful he’s turned out. Flawed, yes, like all of us, but I wouldn’t trade him for anyone. Please keep praying for his conversion. It’s so important—it’s everything. Only eternity matters.

Love,

Mom

August 22, 1994: CARPE DIEM SUCKS

Dear Dominic,

I just received you first (out of many, you say?) letters.

No dice, buddy. Uh uh. There’s no way in hell I am going to lose you, my best friend whom I love so very much. There’s no way that I’m going to lose you to the devil. Sorry. That’s just not going to happen. You’ve got one feisty little chick over here in Seattle. Satan’s gonna have to do battle. Ok?

And you better believe that it’s Satan, Dominic, because it is. It really is. You’ve done so much for God with your life—high school, your friends, family, the way you treat other people. Satan knows that you’d be a powerful ally to God if/when you decide to give yourself fully to His blessed love.

First, I am going to tell you what I did today and yesterday. Dominic, I spent the night at my grandmother’s house in Port Orchard. There’s one thing you and I are going to do when you get back for Christmas: I’m going to personally take you to visit her. You’ll love her. And I’ve told her so much about you, Dom. I told her that you thought you were homosexual, and I had good reason. If there’s ever a time that I get depressed, confused, or whatever, I call her up. She loves God like you would ever dream of loving and trusting in Him. I told her about our conversation, and about what I said and advised you to do (of which she was 100% in support), and she vehemently warned me, “Oooooh, ‘M’! Don’t you dare, don’t you dare lose him to the devil! Uh uh! Fight him all the way. Oh, no. Don’t let him go!” And that’s what I intend to do. How, I don’t as yet know. Because I don’t want you to think I’m fanatic about this.

Because I believe this is a very serious, very real situation.  I hope you do, too, Dom, in the same way!  If you don’t–if you don’t believe that Satan is pulling your heart strings, well, my friend, he’s already won…

You’re confused, so you told me, so I heard, so I gathered from our conversation. I’m going to say what I said before, then: You are a very emotional young man—you love to experience emotion. The Wilde blurb fits you to a tee, my dear friend, and that’s the key: too much emotion is dangerous! Dangerous, because it draws you away from God, so that God no longer is #1. Your emotions become your top priority.

Before I go on, though, I want to ask you this again: Do you believe in God, as a personal being who loves you very much?  Do you believe in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for you to save your soul from eternal damnation (and it exists!)?  Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the breath of God that grants us peace and joy?

Dom, I’m not going to pray that you’ll “go straight,” because I don’t believe you ever went “crooked.” I’m not saying this out of an unwillingness to admit anything, either. The feelings you experienced for Gary were very human. I’m not going to downplay them and say that you were imagining them. I’m looking at your words for what they’re worth—you needed to write them, and I’m so glad I was here to receive them! I’m so glad you’ve accepted me as your friend.  God brought you and me together, do you believe that?  Please tell me…

You need to look back on what you’ve grown up with: the faith that has been your foundation for the 21 years of your life.  With one change: the perspective…

The world, the Honors Program, your indulged emotions—all these tell you that it’s good to “keep an open mind,” to experience everything to its fullest. Carpe diem. Well, guess what, Dom? Carpe diem sucks. It’s crap. No, it can be, if the day isn’t seized for the glory of God. God first, my friend, then your will and intellect, then your emotions last.

The Honors Program at Seattle University opened up a whole new world for me of literature, philosophy, history, art.  I learned that there  were "more things in Heaven and Earth" than were "dreamt of in [my] philosophy."

The Honors Program at Seattle University opened up a whole new world for me of literature, philosophy, history, art. I learned that there were “more things in Heaven and Earth” than were “dreamt of in [my] philosophy.”

Do you want to continue being selfish and to feed yourself on your emotions in a state of confusion? Or will you replace yourself for/with God, selflessly and humbly? Right now, you have been doing the former, and that’s wrong and that’s a sin, my boy. Yes, it is. Commandment #1 is not a suggestion— in a state of confusion? Or will you replace yourself for/with God, selflessly and humbly? Right now, you have been doing the former, and that’s wrong and that’s a sin, my boy. Yes, it is. Commandment #1 is not a suggestion—you are no god. Off to confession, and please write and tell me why you didn’t go, if you decide not to. I’d certainly like to hear your excuse.

Oh, Dominic.  Your letter made sense to me, be reassured.  I only wish, sometimes, that I could be there with you…I agree with your friend that God gave you this experience–the feelings are not futile.  The feelings are the reason.  You can use this attraction for a purpose–a renewed knowledge that Satan’s power is a reality.  However, your feelings not being futile does not mean they are right.  If you don’t believe you’ve sinned, and if you don’t believe you’ve fallen into the trap of the New Age way of thinking, then stop reading… But your willingness to ‘glance’ at II Peter and James showed me that you want to get rid of this confusion with God’s help.  (I already advised you to see Fr. Roach, and I recommend it again.)  Our prayers exchanged and offered together over the phone are another reason.

My friend, I love you and you got me. To be honest, I thought I was in love with you at one point. But what did I know about that? I, who’d never had a kiss (gasp!). But I’m not going to be your savior—there’s only one guy for that. All I can do is give you love and encouragement and a few slaps now and then when you get nonsensical.

My good college friend Maggie, giving me the basics: on my birthday, but also in this letter.

My good college friend “M” giving me the basics: on my birthday, but also in this letter.

Sometimes you piss me off. And sometimes you make me laugh. I love your laugh. I love you. Write soon.

Love always,

“M”

 

September 26, 1994: STAY AWAY FROM GIRLS!

Dear Dominic,

I really miss you, especially if I let myself dwell on the miles. I’m afraid—I guess I won’t ever relax until we’re all in heaven together—I hope! Keep us all in your prayers. Don’t neglect prayer! Nothing is more important than saving our souls. (Have you decided to wear your scapular again? I bet you don’t miss me giving instructions?!)

An empty bedroom.  Saying goodbye to 8417 Linden Avenue North.

An empty bedroom. Saying goodbye to 8417 Linden Avenue North.

I wish you were home, or in Pullman anyway! I could have brought you a pie this week!

I love you! Can’t wait til December.

(And stay away from girls!)

Love,

Mom

September 27, 1994: MIKE, OR NERD AT A GAY BAR

September 27, 1994

Dear Journal,

It turns out that “L”

is fresh out of school—just got his PhD in psychology
is working on training at the VA hospital in geriatrics
is most importantly, and surprisingly, Catholic
used to sing for a church group
loves to read, and has to to get to sleep
is clean-cut and dresses preppy
is strikingly handsome—why else did I follow him through the bar?

This Friday, at 7:00, I’m going to meet him at the Water Street Brewery for dinner. I can’t believe I’m thinking about what I’m going to wear, whether I should get my hair trimmed. I guess this is what I’ve wanted for a while—but with a guy like “L”? What are the chances of running into someone like him in the middle of a crowded, smoky dance floor?! And on the night I decided to walk straight from the library to the Third Ward—wearing khaki pants, a button-down shirt and tie, a cheesy tweed jacket, and carrying an umbrella . . . an English grad school nerd at a gay bar.

This is probably what I looked like that night I walked the two miles from my apartment to the bar.

This is probably what I looked like that night I walked the two miles from my apartment to the bar.

October 3, 1994: A MORE DISTANT LOCATION

Dear Dominic,

I am pleased that you are in a more distant location in which you can develop your own personality and lifestyle. When one lives at home, one is caused to accommodate the pressure and demands of parents who never seem to realize that one grows up and is no longer a child in school. My comment, here, is not a complaint, but a general observation based on many years or contact with numerous young friends.

If some of us seem somewhat interesting, it is because we have seen more things happen, we have journeyed longer, we have struggled more intensely with ideas and experiments. Perhaps we are not really interesting, but only peculiar, quaint, or eccentric.

Sincerely yours,

“H”

Howard taught Spanish and Health when I was in high school, but taught more than that: camping, hiking, fishing, bicycling, respect for Nature and for God.  He remains a good, true friend.

“H” taught Spanish and Health when I was in high school, but taught more than that: camping, hiking, fishing, bicycling, respect for Nature and for God. He remains a good, true friend.