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Month: January 2023

Daddy Issues in ‘9 Princes in Amber’

Recently saw the news that they’re developing Roger Zelazny’s Amber Chronicles for the screen, and I’ve rarely been so excited. The ten book series of Corwin and his son Merlin are filled with adventure, romance, philosophy, politics, and the drama that is family.

I started reading these books in the mid 80s, I guess? I was probably 9 or 10. They were some of my dad’s favorite books, so it was something we could share. Opportunities to bond with my dad were rare, to say the least, so this world we could inhabit together was pretty meaningful. My folks separated around then, and that’s never easy. There was always the hope that they’d work things out (retrospect very glad they did not!), and that hope was reinforced by my dad having so many of his things still at the house. The day he came to get his stuff was the day that hope died for good, but what really bothered me was when he came down to the bookshelves in my room and took these books. It just felt like a low-blow at a time when I was already pretty low.

When I turned 13, I saved up allowance money to buy the series for myself. Because all roads lead to Amber, sure, but all roads also need to lead to self-sufficience.

I’ve gone back and read them many times since, and never thought about that new adolescent and what going out to get those books for himself on his own meant. Not until I saw the recent announcement. It’s weird what memories linger under the surface, what emotional flotsam and jetsam floats to shore at the weirdest times.

There’s a part of the second and third book in the series where (SPOILER ALERT) Corwin becomes friends with this guy called Ganelon, who turns out to be Corwin’s father. Corwin feels doubly betrayed. First, he’s been getting lied to, yes, but the worse betrayal is that Corwin had actually started to like his father. I get it, Corwin. I do. Which just goes to show, on this Shadow Earth or another, it’s always complicated when it comes to fathers and sons.

Old Dr. Homo

It was the spring of 2005. I was managing Buddys, a gay bar here in Edmonton. A new crop of little gaybies was starting to frequent the bar, and because they saw me there 4-5 nights a week, we became part of each other’s lives. They were 18, 19, 20, ish, and I was there at the ripe old age of 28, wise in the ways of the gay world, the all knowing omnipresent when it came to their baby gay dramas. They came to me with questions about work and school and, of course, sex and dating and love. I don’t know why; maybe it looked like I had the answers, with the boyfriend and the great job and the endless party I was living.

They began to call me Old Dr. Homo.

That was eighteen years ago now. There are now gaybies going to EVO that were not even born when I was servings shots and solutions. I am now much older than 28, with 18 more years of gay life experience to impart, including anecdotal evidence of the damage of addiction, the power of recovery, and of course, more on sex and dating and love.

This weekend, I was offering some semi-unsolicited advice to some of this newest generation of Edmonton gays, and I realized how much life has been crammed into those 18 years. I wonder if I still look like I have the answers, what with the profound lack of boyfriend, but still the great job and the endless party I live.

Edmonton gay life in 2005 was very different than Edmonton queer life in 2023, but some things do remain the same. We make bad choices. We all need help sometimes. We all want connection. And we all do crave some greater purpose.

That message in my DMs where someone looks to me for some guidance or support, or just an ear? That’s the greater purpose I’ve been honored to find, 18 years and counting.

To Scotty, Josh, Mykee, and Lizzie – the Dr. Homo patients of 2005 <3

Lost Boy, Lost Girl

She was at the bar this weekend and it broke my heart.
I remember him at seventeen, the infectious high-energy he filled the Roost with. He shouldn’t have been there, of course, not at that age, but we didn’t know he was seventeen until he celebrated his eighteenth birthday. By that point, the damage was done, and whatever, he’d latched onto our group so he’d been safe anyway.
He was going to be a star, we could see that, the queen that became his mother and I. Even just as that smiling seventeen-year-old, the star power was shining through. It wasn’t long before she was on the stage, riding on a wave of applause.

A few years later, a different bar.
I needed staff, yes, but I needed talent too, talent I knew would deliver a new energy to this new challenge. Of course I thought of her. She was a great fit, and formed a nucleus of the next generation of queens. When the snow began to fall at Buddys, was he in that blizzard? If so, only briefly. It seemed he would be the one that escaped that endless winter.

She was at the bar this weekend and it broke my heart.
She did not escape.
The snow that fell at Buddys is nothing compared to the monster she met, wherever she first met it. Meth is the soul destroyer. It sinks its teeth and claws into the beautiful and the broken and it does not let go. It has taken so many. I have seen people fight it off, only to fall back to it later. And in this case, whether its on or off currently, the damage is done. The talent and the beauty of that long-distant seventeen-year-old has been eroded. Now, all that is left is the permasketch of long-term use, a sketch that shows itself in the sudden outbursts of anger, or enthusiasm, or sadness, none of which are bad by themselves but all that emerge without sense of appropriate or awareness of others. That’s what it does, this soul destroyer, it leaves shadows in the brain that are always there. And her outbursts are at them, more than the people who actually get burst at. But she doesn’t know, she doesn’t see.

I wonder if, inside the shadow-swept sketch of the meth-eaten mind, she is still riding that wave of applause. Maybe she doesn’t see the shadows, just the spotlight. Or maybe it’s even worse, maybe he’s still there, that seventeen-year-old, trapped in a cage, screaming out for help, and no help is coming. The people who might have helped are gone. The people now, they don’t know her. They don’t know who she was or how she was, and maybe they haven’t ever had to watch the soul of a friend be whittled down by addiction. I hope they never do. I understand why they don’t have patience though. Why should they have to tolerate the shadow-swept sketch of someone who means nothing to them? They don’t.

She was at the bar this weekend and it broke my heart.
Because she can’t come back. Somehow, I have to take away from her the remaining tenuous connection to a community she helped to build and one she still needs. Because the gays and theys of today don’t know her, and don’t want to know her, and I can’t blame them. I don’t want to know who she is now. Her behaviour isn’t right, and we all know it. But I still remember the boy she was, and it’s hard to say goodbye.


While I typically don’t do New Year resolutions, I thought 2023 should start off with some promises to myself, to set the tone for the coming twelve months

When triggered, I will take five deep breaths before reacting, to allow myself to assess intent rather than simply responding to impact. While its true people need to be aware of the impact of their own words and actions, the simple truth is, we cannot control what others do or say. We can control how we respond though, and I think I’ll find a lot more happiness if I remember that others’ words will not hurt me unless I choose to let them.

I will not attack allies. It is easy, when in pain, to lash out at those closest to us, and that’s super counter-productive. Friends, partners, etc are there to support yes, but that is not unconditional and shouldn’t ever be taken for granted. Allies aren’t perfect, but attacking them does nothing except water down their willingness to ally.

I will remember that while the customer is not always right, they are still important. Customer service is, as everyone who has worked it knows, a bitch, and when you mingle in liquor, that bitchiness can increase. The fine line between not taking bullshit or abuse and trying to please the customer seems to be getting blurrier and blurrier in this angrier and more entitled age we find ourselves in, but I just need to remember that we can’t do anything we do without customers to do it for.

I will stop putting out bad energy into the universe when it comes to the club. The last few months have been emotionally and financially very difficult, but the defeatist attitude it has given me needs to end. We too often self-fulfill the negative as easily as the positive, and this is not what I want to manifest for myself in 2023. (In fact, if you ever hear me say something about closing the bar, slap me across my face and make me buy you a drink so I STOP)

I will not let one angry hater overpower the voices that are positive, grateful, appreciative, and present.

I will create something every day, even if its just a few sentences scribbled down… and I will not beat myself up if I don’t.

I will allow myself to fall the fuck in love with Rome, because it’s been a long time coming.

I will try to imbue every day with kindness and appreciation because I have lived, and continue to live, a blessed life filled with magic and opportunity.