Sunday, December 15, 2019

Out and About – Spring & Summer 2019


This has been a really difficult post to write and pull together, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve been working on it for months now.

It’s been difficult because a lot of significant and heavy things have happened in my life in the time frame this post covers. I should also say that it’s not just spring and summer that’s covered, but also autumn and winter! How is this possible?, you may well ask. . . . Well, I made two trips to Australia this year, one in the northern hemisphere’s spring, which meant it was autumn in Australia, and one in the northern hemisphere’s summer, which was winter in Australia (above).

Yes, I’ve been through a lot this past year. My dear Dad died, I started working full time as a Palliative Care chaplain, I moved house . . . twice, I ended a four-year relationship, and I walked away from someone in my life for whom I’d developed an almost overwhelming surge of desire and resentment. (No, not the healthiest of mixes!)

When in Australia in May, I shared via Facebook the photo at right. A dear friend later contacted me and said, “I found myself looking intently [at your photo] and I thought/felt a sense of change therein.”

My friend was very perceptive. For the experiences of the past year have changed me.

Related to this is the more recent experience of another dear friend asking me if I was “doing okay.” She asked because at an event we were both at she thought I “looked sad.” I said that, for sure, the events of the past twelve months were catching up with me, especially now that the chill of winter was setting in. But I also said that it’s a sadness that I’m okay with. It’s not that I’m debilitatingly depressed or despondent; I just find myself in a place and time when, more than anything, I’m feeling very thoughtful and a little sad.

And I’m okay with that. It’s understandable and appropriate. I have, after all, experienced a number of endings. But also a number of beginnings. . . . and a very real sense that, as Senegalese singer-songwriter Daby Touré sings, this is the time.

I feel it deep within me. . . . Feel that it is not only a time of new beginnings but also of new understandings, new possibilities, a new level of awareness and action.

And I’m not just talking about within my personal life. I’m sure everyone reading this knows that the whole of humanity is currently being challenged by things like the climate crisis and the rise of right-wing authoritarianism. Such things can be paralyzing for some, but I see them as challenging us to evolve our way of being in the world.

Indeed, my “Out and About” series has long been a way of documenting my life as an “out” gay man, seeking to be all “about” the Spirit-inspired work of embodying God’s justice and compassion in both my own life and in the wider world. It’s a series I’ve maintained in one form or another for the last 12 years – starting in 2007 and continuing in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

So let’s get started with this latest special (and overdue) installment . . .

Above and left: My friend Adnan, with whom on March 31, 2019 I spent time at Diamond Lake in south Minneapolis.

Here we enjoyed the warmth of the sun in that in-between time well known to Minnesotans. It’s that time when the snow and ice of winter have mostly gone but the greening of spring is yet to take place.

Above: Charley, the cat of my housemate Connie, enjoying the spring sunshine. I lived with Connie and Charley on the 52nd block of Chicago Ave. in south Minneapolis from mid-December 2018 until the end of September 2019.

Above and below: Connie is a gifted vocalist, and on June 6, 2019 she relaunched her singing career after a hiatus of several years with a performance at Jazz Central in Minneapolis. Accompanying her on piano was Marc Zigenhagen.

Above: Spring sunset – Minneapolis, April 8, 2019.

Above: Despite my move in December 2018, I was still in walking distance of the Prayer Tree (photographed here on April 8, 2019).

Above and left: My dear friends the McDonald sisters (from left) Rita, Kate, Brigid, and Jane at the March 23, 2019 premiere of Sisters of Peace, a play about their inspiring lives written by Doris Baizley and directed by Barbra Berlovitz.

For more images and commentary about this event and the McDonald sisters, click here.

My friends Joan and Matt hosted the ninth Queer Movie Night on Saturday, April 6, 2019. The film they chose for us to watch and discuss was Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, the 2017 American documentary about the life of Scotty Bowers, a former Marine who became a legendary escort and sexual procurer to closeted gay celebrities from the 1940s to the 1980s. As one critic notes, “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood offers plenty of prurient thrills for film fans, but beyond the gossip lies a poignantly illuminating look at decades of sexual mores.”

Pictured above (from left) are James, Brian, Hugh, Brent, Omar, Pete, Jeffrey, Matt, Joan, Brent, Hae, and David.

For more about our Queer Movie Night series, click here.

Above: At right with (from left) my then-boyfriend Brent, Brent Vanderlinden, David, Hugh, and Jeffrey.

Above: Catching up with my former fellow chaplain residents Hae and Katie – Minneapolis, April 14, 2019.

Above: A portrait that my friend Hae took of me in the skyway system of downtown Minneapolis – Sunday, April 14, 2019.

Above and below: Two portraits of Adnan that I took on the Mississippi River bluffs below the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul – Tuesday, April 16, 2019.

Above: On the evening of Friday, April 19, Brent and I were guests of our friends John and George to a lovely dinner they prepared at their home in northeast Minneapolis. I had the honor of officiating George and John’s wedding in September 2017.

Above: My friend Pete with his niece and nephew – Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019.

Above: With my colleagues on the Palliative Care team of Mercy Hospital, Coon Rapids – April 18, 2019. I serve as chaplain on the team. I started part-time in this position in September 2018, and went full-time in January 2019. It was agreed upon in my acceptance interview for the position that I would take five weeks off in the spring of 2019 to return to Australia and visit my family as it had been almost two years since I last visited my homeland. (As you may recall, on that particular visit home a very special celebration took place.)

I left Minneapolis for what would be the first of two trips to Australia this year on Easter Sunday, April 21, which was also my Dad’s 82nd birthday.

This visit home turned out to be very different from previous ones, in that apart from a brief trip to my hometown of Gunnedah, I spent all of my time with my parents in Port Macquarie, the coastal town where they've resided since 2002. This was because of my Dad’s health issues, which I very quickly discovered were much more serious than I had been told. In addition, my Mum was having a difficult time dealing with Dad’s physical and cognitive decline. And so it was important that I be with them and support them as best I could. And so that’s what I did.

Right: With Mum and Dad – Guruk, Tuesday, April 30, 2019.

Australian Sojourn – April-May 2019
On Sacred Ground
In the Land of the Kamilaroi
Meeting a Living Legend
Flower Moon Rising
A Walk Along Lighthouse Beach
Jojo Zaho – “Let Your Faboriginality Shine Through”
Recognising and Honoring Australia’s First Naturalists
Port Macquarie Days

Above: By the end of my time in Australia, Dad's health had deteriorated to the point where he had to be hospitalized. During my last days in Port Macquarie, my brother Tim and I helped and supported Mum as she secured a place for Dad in the nursing home of St. Agnes, the retirement village in which they resided. She would remain in their villa in the independent living section of St. Agnes.

Above: I returned to Minnesota – and to spring blooms – on May 30, 2019.

Deandre, my “best mate in the States,” pictured on May 31 (above) and June 8, 2019 (below).

Above: Brent, Pete, and Jeffrey outside the Hi-Lo Diner in south Minneapolis where we enjoyed brunch on Sunday, June 16, 2019.

Above: Friends Ben and Phil – St. Paul, June 16, 2019.

Above: Darling Amelia, granddaughter of my friends Noelle and John, pictured not only with a dragon but also with a dragon egg! – June 2, 2019.

Above and below: Adnan, with whom I spent time by the Mississippi River on Wednesday, June 19, 2019.

My friends Rico and Alex hosted the tenth Queer Movie Night on Saturday, June 22, 2019 at their beautiful lakeside home in Zimmerman, MN. The film they chose for us to watch and discuss was Tom of Finland, a 2017 Finnish biographical drama film directed by Dome Karukoski about the life and art of Touko Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland, a Finnish homoerotic artist.

Los Angeles Times film critic Gary Goldstein writes that “Tom of Finland entertainingly recounts an intriguing and vital chapter of 20th-century gay history with style and deference,” while Jamie Neish notes that the film “treats the man in question with respect, keen to introduce him to an audience who may not be familiar with the work he did that changed so many peoples’ lives, encouraging them to be who they were and not suffer in silence.”

Pictured above (from left) are Rico, Hugh, Brent, and me.

For more about our Queer Movie Night series, click here.

Above: On June 23, 2019 my friend Hae and I saw Cuban singer Mayito Rivera perform at the Lake Harriet Bandshell in Minneapolis.

Above: With friends Sue and Barb at the June 30, 2019 rally and march against the Trump administration’s rhetoric and policies on immigration, especially as they relate to the inhumane practice of separating families seeking asylum at the southern border.

For the march and rally I wore a t-shirt in support of Marianne Williamson’s presidential campaign as I appreciate not only the forceful way that Williamson denounces the Trump administration’s immigration policies but also her follow-up call to action, one that she powerfully articulated during the June 27 Democratic Presidential Debate in Miami (below): “Trump has politicized fear but we will politicize love.”

And that’s exactly what I and many others understood ourselves to be doing as we protested and marched through the streets of south Minneapolis on June 30. We were embodying compassion and demanding justice for our immigrant brothers and sisters.

For more images and commentary, click here.

Above: With Brent, celebrating the Fourth of July at the St. Paul home of our friends John and Noelle.

Above: Friends John, Noah, Ethan, and Kathy – July 10, 2019. We were celebrating John’s birthday.

Above and below: Deandre at Can-Can Wonderland in St. Paul – July 12, 2019.

Above and right: Two of my last portraits of Adnan, taken in my attic room in south Minneapolis on the evening of Tuesday, July 16, 2019.

Four days later, Adnan left for Somalia where he entered into a family-arranged marriage.

My friends Jim and Art hosted the eleventh Queer Movie Night on Saturday, July 27, 2019.

Pictured above (from left) are Kathleen, Omar, Art, Pete, Jeffrey, John, Rico, Steven, Matt, and Joan.

The film that Jim chose for us to watch and discuss was The Pass, starring Russell Tovey and Arinze Kene.

Directed by Ben A. Williams and based on a play by John Donnelly, The Pass (2016) tells the story of a gay relationship between two English football players, and how their lives unfold over the course of a decade. The film was nominated at the 2017 BAFTA Awards, in the category of Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer for John Donnelly (writing) and Ben Williams (direction). The Guardian gives the film four out of five stars and says, “Its stage roots show through at times, but this story of homoerotic tension between two football players is well made and acted.”

For more about our Queer Movie Night series, click here.

Above: Deandre at Average Joe’s Archery in Coon Rapids – Saturday, July 27, 2019. For another picture of our time at this popular establishment, click here.

Above: With three of my work colleagues at Sociable Cider Werks, Minneapolis – Thursday, August 1, 2019. From left: Andrea, me, Wendy, and Lauren.

Above: A portrait of my friend Brian – Friday, August 2, 2019. Brian’s standing in front of the fountain in the newly renovated Peavey Plaza in downtown Minneapolis.

Early on Saturday morning, August 3, 2019, I received a phone call from Mum, telling me that Dad was in the last days of his life and was receiving hospice care at Emmaus Nursing Home in Port Macquarie. I left the next day for Australia for a month-long visit.

Dad died August 5 while I was enroute. It was a day I never actually experienced as it was the day I “lost” as I traveled westward across the International Date Line to Australia from the U.S.

Although I did not make it in time to be with Dad before he passed, I am incredibly thankful for the five weeks I spent with him and Mum just two months earlier; at a time when Dad’s health was really beginning to deteriorate. We had a very meaningful time together, and I remember thinking as I was returning to the U.S. at the end of May that if Dad were to “go tomorrow,” it would be okay; there was no unfinished business or nothing left unsaid. I felt blessed in this awareness and reality as I embarked on my second trip back to Australia this year.

Australian Sojourn – August 2019
Remembering and Celebrating Dad
Family Time in Guruk . . . and Glimpses of Somaliland
Across the Mountains . . . from Guruk to Gunnedah
An Unexpected Visitor
Family Time in Gunnedah
Return to Guruk
In Northern Rivers Country
Photo of the Day – September 4, 2019

Above: Within two weeks of my return to Minneapolis on Wednesday, September 4, I began moving into a new place – an attic apartment of a triplex in the Seward neighborhood of south Minneapolis.

My move felt like coming full circle as Seward is right next to the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, where I lived for three years when I first arrived in Minneapolis 25 years ago!

Right: My boyfriend Brent helping me paint the bedroom of my new digs.

Above: Fast-forward a few weeks to October and my room looking much more homey!

Above and below: A series of portraits I took of Brent when we were at Minnehaha Falls on Saturday, September 7, 2019.

Left: After four years together, here’s what would be our last picture as a dating couple. For reasons that I don’t need to go into here, I broke up with Brent a little over a month after we took this selfie together at Minnehaha Falls on September 7, 2019. I’m happy to say we remain good friends.

Above: Late summer blooms – September 13, 2019.

Above: The Prayer Tree, photographed on Thursday, September 19, 2019, four days before the autumn equinox.

Spring 2019 Wild Reed posts of note:
A Day Both Holy and Magical
O Dancer of Creation
Progressive Perspectives on the Mueller Report, “Russiagate,” and the Real Trump Scandals
Saaxiib Qurux Badan, 3/29/2019
Celebrating the “Sisters of Peace”
“Pulsating and Mesmeric”: The French Afro-Funk of Vaudou Game
In This In-Between Time
Ilhan Omar: Stepping Into Her Power
Adnan . . . with Sunset Reflections and Jet Trail
Sweet Darkness
This Holy Trinity
Australian Sojourn – April-May 2019
Remembering and Celebrating Dusty
Marianne Williamson: Reaching for Higher Ground
Progressive Perspectives on Joe Biden’s Presidential Run
Beto, Biden and Buttigieg: “Empty Suits and Poll-Tested Brands”
Pete Buttigieg, White Privilege, and Identity Politics
“A Lefty With Soul”: Why Presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson Deserves Some Serious Attention
Celebrating Mabo
James Baldwin’s Potent Interweavings of Race, Homoeroticism, and the Spiritual
John Gehring on Why Catholics Should Participate in LGBTQ Pride Parades
A Dance of Queer Love
Adnan . . . Amidst Mississippi Reflections and Forest Green

Summer 2019 Wild Reed posts of note:
A Summer Solstice Reflection
The Queer Liberation March: Bringing Back the Spirit of Stonewall
Barbara Smith on Why She Left the Mainstream LGBTQI Movement
Honoring Óscar and Valeria
Marianne Williamson Plans on Sharing Some “Big Truths” on Tonight’s Debate Stage
Remembering the Stonewall Uprising on Its 50th Anniversary
Friar André Maria: Quote of the Day – June 28, 2019
Demanding Justice and Embodying Compassion for Separated Families
Ibram X. Kendi: “Patriotism on the Fourth of July is Resistance”
In a Historic First, Country Music’s Latest Star Is a Queer Black Man
Saaxiib Qurux Badan, 7/14/2019
To Whom the Future of America Belongs
An Insightful Takeaway from the Mueller Hearing
Presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson: “We’re Living at a Critical Moment in Our Democracy”
Daby Touré
Caitlin Johnstone: “Status Quo Politicians Are Infinitely ‘Weirder’ Than Marianne Williamson”
Australian Sojourn – August 2019
Marianne Williamson on What It Will Take to Defeat Donald Trump
“This Woman Is Going to Win the Nomination”: Matt Taibbi on Marianne Williamson in Iowa
Five Powerful Responses to the Amazon Fires
Historian Martin Duberman on the Rightward Shift of the Gay Movement
God Rest Us

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Out and About – Winter 2018-2019
Out and About – Autumn 2018
Out and About – Summer 2018
Out and About – Spring 2018 (Part I)
Out and About – Spring 2018 (Part II)

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

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