Sitka by the Sea

IMG_0832I’m not an icy editor who fell into a romantic fling with Ryan Reynolds (how I wish!)— but I did spend some time in Sitka, Alaska. Over the last two weeks, I had two 30-hour layovers in this seaside city, a highly sought-after trip among my coworkers.

The town is a quaint port of call, teeming with cruise passengers and sleepy otherwise— luckily, we avoided any ship arrivals.

Part I: The Initial Experience

I was giddy the entire flight up, poring over the company issued Alaska Briefing Guide. Flying is a touch different up north, what with the desolate terrain and cowboy antics on the Final Frontier. I was also lucky enough to fly with a check airman (not as part of any sort of examination, thankfully) who had been there several times, so I knew I had backup. When I told him that I had never been to Sitka, let alone Alaska, he said, “Great! It’s your leg.” The approach we chose to the airport circled us around an extinct volcano with clouds spilling over the side. I was mostly focused on the aircraft. Mostly.

IMG_0836When we got settled at the hotel, one of my flight attendants accompanied me to my namesake restaurant: The Mean Queen. We split a pizza, and I made friends with a random guy who worked on a private yacht that had docked and was to leave in the morning. Downstairs at the Mean Queen was the only night life in Sitka— I twerked once or twice, and we walked back to the hotel, a glimmer of sunlight just above the mountains at nearly 11 p.m.

The next day, we planned to rummage around the town before taking what was supposed to be a leisurely hike. Not rising too early, we ventured to the farmer’s market and picked up a loaf of raspberry infused bread and shared it over coffee— the loaf was local and delicious and only $3. How could we say no?

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“Hill” is an understatement.

But here’s where things got lost in translation. We started the hike with wide gravel trails: with limited research, we embarked on the Gavan Hill Trail, which said it was only one mile to a scenic outlook. I’m not sure how they measured that mile, but it was certainly more than that. It was also not flat at all. While my booty may look great from all the stairs and uphill climb, it was a strenuous hike. In fact, I lost my flight attendants about three quarters of the way through. They couldn’t make it any farther, and admittedly, hardly could I. But I didn’t come all this way just to turn back— no, I was going to see this scenic viewpoint, dammit!

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Bear spray, not beer can!

They left, and I kept on trucking. My thunderous thighs are quite strong, though, and I have a habit of pushing myself too hard. Mind over matter, stairs galore and switchbacks later, I finally made it to what looked like a patio deck and a bench. A lovely lady who turned out to be from Seattle was sitting there, waiting for her husband who had trekked even farther. She was kind enough to take my picture as proof of accomplishment. The view was stunning, but what I really wanted to see would have taken me even longer. No energy and no water (I know, dumb choice), only armed with bear spray, I rested for a minute before my long trek back. Another family had showed up to the overlook, and I kept the kindness alive by taking their picture. Risking giardiasis, I took a sip from a mountain stream; it was absolutely delicious, and I’m happy to report that my bowels are normal.

 

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I couldn’t be more on brand if I tried.

Eventually, I made it back to the hotel where I rewarded myself with a hefty portion of halibut fish and chips, plus a glass of wine. The sun was setting, putting a nice glow on the mountains, and I retreated to my hotel room. It’s a pastime of mine, but I was looking through the guest directory and found actual stationery and envelopes. I conked out after I wrote two letters to beloveds, only to blast off out of Alaska the next morning. As the passengers were deplaning in Seattle, I bid them adieu; lo and behold, the girl from the top of the mountain recognized me from the hike!

Part II: A Culinary Exploration 

We landed in Sitka again, this time approaching from a different way but no less beautiful than the time before. As is tradition, I guess, the entire crew went out to the Mean Queen and had so much pizza to share— we even ran into some Southwest flight attendants who had been nonrevs on our flight. I didn’t twerk this time, however, but I was feeling low key.

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Just shut up.

That same sentiment followed into the next day, when I got up and got ready at my own pace. The farmer’s market is only every other weekend, so that was out of the running; however, last week I stumbled upon a coffeeshop in the back of a bookstore, which is totally my MO. I had a slice of Big Daddy cake, because duh, and I perused the bookstore when it opened. My nose led me to a reindeer dog stand (like a hotdog, but reindeer!). Rudolph never had a chance— this beautiful link of love was wrapped in duck prosciutto, drizzled with raspberry-chipotle jam and balsamic glaze, and topped with grilled onions. Be still my artery-clogged heart!

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Sitka was once under Russian rule, if you could tell. 

The night before, though, a captain who joined us for leisure (because he knew the flight attendant) was raving about a local restaurant called Ludvig’s. He said that it’s hard to get into, because it only seats a limited number of guests, and a lot of times it takes a couple weeks to get a reservation. This piqued my interest, as I’m all about bougie exclusivity. I gave them a rang and left a message, saying that I’d like to put my name in the hat for dinner for one. They called me back later that day, and much to my dismay, they were completely booked.

Until an hour later, they called back and said that they had misheard my message and didn’t realize that it was just for one person— I scored the last seat in the house for the night! In an upcoming post, because it deserves that much attention, I’ll regale you with my experience there. As the captain who recommended it said, “Don’t even look at the bill.” And boy howdy, was he right. But I digress…

IMG_0967Alaska didn’t disappoint in both adventures, each time just as lovely as the next. A gate agent invited me to go paddle boarding with her next time I’m there, which only points to the generosity and hospitality that Alaskans harbor. I didn’t get any Sitka overnights for August, but anything could happen on the swap board. My hippie side was vibing— I could feel the energy of the expanse, the lack of people and civilization. For the first weekend, my Verizon service decided not to work well, and the hotel Wi-Fi left more to be desired— so I was truly unplugged for the duration. Prior to this work block, I was hanging out with friends in New York City, and just a week later I was exploring a new-to-me state— this airline life is dynamic and blessed!

 

 

Soundtrack:

North to Alaska — Johnny Horton

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Bringing Home Maxine

IMG_6582.JPG“I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ no babies,” but taking home a 737 MAX 8 aircraft with Sunwing Airlines might come close.

A few weeks ago, my dear friend Johnathan told me that he was asked to come to Seattle to pick up his airline’s new bird. As is customary for most deliveries, employees are asked to attend— frontline and corporate employees, pilots, flight attendants, you name it. It is, after all, an empty airplane that needs to get back to base.

I looked forward to his visit, because he lives in Canada and across the continent at that. But to my surprise and complete honor, he asked if I would be able to accompany him on the actual delivery flight. After a quick check of my schedule, as if it actually mattered, I gave him a resounding, “YAAAAAS!” I’ve done a few interesting things in my budding aviation career, like flown a Caravan with only 11 hours on it— but this tops everything.

And yet, I also had no idea what was in store. The night before the flight, I went to a cocktail reception with representatives from both Boeing and Sunwing. I met Johnathan’s coworkers and the people who made the entire event happen. As I was stand

ing in line to get a Manhattan, naturally, a man named Mark introduced himself to me. He asked what I did, and I responded that I’m a pilot for SkyWest, joining the flight with Johnathan— “Oh, I know SkyWest. Jerry Atkin’s airline, yes?” Formerly, I responded, but yes. (It’s not often that people know of SkyWest, let alone the old president.) We exchanged pleasantries, and that’s when Johnathan told me that Mark is, actually, the president of Sunwing. I was floored, because he was the most approachable, nonchalant, and charming guy— which, as I’m told, is the case in the office as well.

Fast forward to the next morning, meeting everyone in the lobby of the Fairmont Olympic hotel— bright eyed and bushy tailed, we loaded the bus and headed off to Boeing’s Seattle Delivery Facility. We were both confused at the verbiage of our host, in that they wanted us to put our luggage on carts to be loaded on to the plane. Thinking that it would be checked underneath, and not wanting to part with our carry ons (because we’re experienced nonrevvers, people! We know what happens when you lose sight of your bags!), we carried them up the stairs despite the furrowed brows of the Boeing employees. It turns out, however, that they would have given us our baggage later— they were just being extremely generous.

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The schedule was as follows: quality time with Maxine, a ribbon cutting ceremony, a luncheon, and departure. As we twirled about the exterior, it was photoshoot time— both of Maxine and us, of course. It was in this moment that I reveled in Seattle’s rich aviation history, probably since I’ve moved there. Over the years, I’ve been to the Museum of Flight, the Future of Flight Aviation Center, Boeing’s production lines and the like— but as Boeing after Boeing formed the conga line to SeaTac overhead, I had an existential I-can’t-believe-I-live-here moment.

After the luncheon, which had details down to the Sunwing-inspired orange tablecloths and cookies, we proceeded through security; although not required, it’s a Boeing protocol due to those pesky and uncertain Canadian characters.

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We boarded up and oohed and ahhhed at the interior. The intoxicating new airplane smell and the relaxing mood lights set the scene for our four-hour journey across the continent. As we perused the cabin, noting the new features. All four homosexuals present attempted to get in the lav, and, surprisingly, we mostly fit! President Mark was there to document such a historic event. Happy Pride?!

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How many gays can fit in a 737 MAX 8 lav?

It was then time to take our seats and make preparations for getting underway. Despite claiming to be an aisle person, Johnathan sat behind me for the takeoff and promised to return upon reaching 10,000 feet. We departed runway 14R at KBFI for the promised land of the Great White North. Maxine revved up, and off we went! Cruising by SeaTac and making a pass at Mt. Rainier, I was distracted by the views not to notice how incredibly quiet she is! And as someone who flies every week, whether for work or pleasure, noise is fatiguing.

We made our way eastbound, loaded up and truckin’. Given my excellent aviator skills and sense of direction, I felt the presence of my homeland beneath me— it was then that I looked out the window to see the entire Flathead Valley in Montana, where I learned to fly. Clear as day, the Mission Mountains bathed in an afternoon glow, and I shared with Johnathan the incredible views, regaling him with my epiphany of exactly when and where I knew I wanted to be a pilot. Pictures will never do this justice.

Waving goodbye to the Rockies and hello to the high plains, it was time to get our party on. We went to the forward galley for some refreshments of the bubbly sort. The first popped bottle erupted with delight, indicating that Boeing wanted to shake up the party. Seeing this as a moment to take command, Mark assured us that he could open a bottle without the fizz. This was partially true, and things were going well until just a tiny portion of the cork made way for the contents under pressure— but all the champs took aim at a flight attendant cornered in the galley with nowhere to run. Johnathan and I both watched this in slow motion while she was drenched in booze. We all got a good giggle out of it!

And then we were fed. Although they were out of the steak by the time they got to us in the back (which, by the way, no one really spread out and mostly concentrated near the front of the plane. We, however, enjoyed our space with the random artwork sitting in the aft rows). We weren’t disappointed. Beef can be cooked a number of ways, but only one and not to order on an aircraft (I’m looking at you, United, on my recent Polaris excursion). We opted for the salmon, keeping with the aesthetic of the Pacific Northwest, paired with a lovely white wine. Feeling quite divine, we traipsed to the flight deck for a sunset tour.

At this point, we were over northern Minnesota. I asked the captain if we would celebrate penetrating Canadian airspace by blasting Celine Dion over the PA. This didn’t happen, sadly. Meanwhile, I was geeking out over the big displays, gleaning pertinent information of the plane. A senior captain paired with a badass junior FO, the flight crew recounted to me how impressed they were with Maxine.

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We returned to our seats and got comfortable for the descent— this time switching sides of the aircraft. According to the arrival procedure, this would be the most advantageous side of the aircraft to see the skyline of Toronto. Again, pictures don’t do it justice. We landed, captured by an #avgeek friend of Johnathan, and made our way through customs. Johnathan had Nexus, and I went through the flight crew line, because, well, I am flight crew…just not on that flight. At any rate, the Canadians warmly welcomed me into their fine country, and we made our way into the city.

Johnathan’s apartment is in an absolutely stunning location just off Church street. To my Queer as Folk fans, we were in the thick of things— and I actually went to Woody’s! Meeting his friends, some avgeeks some not, I was enveloped in the hospitality of Canadian culture. We could take several notes here in ‘Murica.

Following a darling brunch, we headed to Billy Bishop Toronto City airport for Doors Open. Air Canada and Porter represented the airline delegation, and we twirled around the premises.

Disclaimer on Canada in general: I think it’s fake— but not in a disingenuous way. It seems like most things are in order, in a way that the United States cannot compare. This isn’t to say that they don’t have their fair share of problems (especially considering the recent election in Ontario with a Trumpian candidate winning the ticket). But there’s a general air of prosperity and ease of life, rooted in courtesy and respect. Perhaps I’m dwelling in a utopic daydream as a form of escapism. I am and always will be a proud American, but we could do so much better— and Canada proves that to me with each visit, regardless of the coast.

I’m a big hippie at heart, and I’m always attempting to “live in the present moment.” And I can say with complete certainty that I cherished every moment of the weekend. As I’ve told him in private and publicly as well, I’m honored that Johnathan invited me. This was a big deal for not only him— a bucket list item— but his airline in general. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was so happy to have this plane come home. We all have our opinions regarding the 737: that it’s tired, that it’s old hat, that Boeing needs to revamp its midsize narrow body fleet. I don’t disagree. For humans and airplanes, one can only be stretched so much. But Maxine will be a great fit for Sunwing, and this entire event was incredible and profound.

IMG_0172I can’t speak for Johnathan, other than what I saw on his cute face, but I sure as hell didn’t wipe off the cheesy grin until I landed back in Seattle, flying right over from whence we came. And no sooner than I had left to go back to work, Maxine made her first revenue flight that Sunday morning to Punta Cana, mere hours after we had parked— I guess Mark wanted her to make money right away!

Smooth was the entire weekend— the people, the airplane, and the flight (one of the smoother flights I’ve been on in a while, I might add!). Perhaps I’ll see her again in the skies sometime. But in the meantime, she’s busy reclaiming her time!

 

Soundtrack, because it wasn’t played:

Céline Dion – Taking Chances

There’s No Place Like Homo

Coming here from The Evergrey? Welcome! This is my account of the singles event promoted from last week’s newsletter.

“I don’t think I’ve reached that level of desperation,” my friend responded after I asked him to accompany me. “Well, I guess I have. So I’m going,” I sassed back.

The Not Creepy Gathering for People Who are Single and Want to Fall in Love event seemed like the perfect place for me— borderline desperate but new transplant to Seattle with a very limited dating history.

I walked into the Fremont Abbey Arts Center, the chandeliers demure and romantic and poised for an enchantment. Making an entrance fashionably and fashionably late, I slapped on a nametag with the male symbol (a hint to the other love-seekers as to the type of person I’m attracted) and took a sigh of relief— we’re all in this together!

After a darling singer (Arthur James, woof!) crooned me into a lustful trance, Jenna Bean Veatch came to the stage. Jenna’s enigmatic presence instantly made me feel at ease, and we began with her first exercise: everyone is cute! This was the first chance everyone had at scoping out a potential mate; and, surprisingly, I did find everyone cute in their own way— I saw a few faces that piqued my interest.

When we got into breakout sessions, randomly forming groups of two to four, something happened— I started to realize that I was the only gay guy in the room. Now, having grown up in a small town in the Midwest, this was not a new feeling for me— but rather an old one, an isolating one, and not one I ever thought I’d experience in Seattle.

I bumped into a new friend I had made the minute I got there, Lily, and I confided in her, “I don’t think there’s another gay person here.” I had seen several queer women, adorning both the female and male symbols on their nametags. And go fam! But that isn’t my romantic demographic. Lily said, “What! There has to be! Do a lap, and if you don’t find someone, I’ll buy you a drink.” Not one to turn down a bevvie, I did as instructed. Alas, I truly was the only homosexual man in the room. Seattle, you’ve disappointed me! The 10% rule was not in my favor.

Even though I didn’t find love in that room, I found the content very inspiring. The last exercise pushed many out of their comfort zone, getting up on stage and finishing the statement, “I want…[in a partner].” As the women addressed the audience and made compelling statements about what they want in a partner, I felt their empowerment, and that was the real prize of this event. My statement? “I want to find the only homosexual in the room and commiserate over the fact that we’re the only homosexuals in the room.” (A friendly straight man gave me the name of his “gay friend.” My fellow queers will commence in an eyeroll with me. Thank you, sir, but no thank you.)

I retreated back to Capitol Hill to be amongst my people, The Gays™, snuggled up in my bungalow, and took out an Armistead Maupin novel. I didn’t come away empty handed, as I have the satisfaction of putting myself out there and looking my loneliness head on— so, my Seattleites, if you happen to know of a tall, dark, and handsome gay man with a dog who might be attracted to a short, stocky, 20 something, flamboyantly homosexual airline pilot, hit a girl up!

I don’t speak German, but I can if you like: Berlin

I’ve threatened to take this trip before, had a close call last month, and then decided to take the plunge. In sort of a pre-birthday, cathartic adventure.

Berlin has long been on my list of cities to visit. It has a rich history, modern flair, and delicious German men. I mean food. (And men.)

My trip started with the good and the bad— I decided to leave directly from Seattle, heading to Paris where I would connect on Air France. A ZED (Zonal Employee Discount offered to airline personnel) fare would only cost ~$60 from Paris to Berlin, leaving roughly an hour after I landed in Charles de Gaulle. Look, I was content, but miffed, that I missed Delta One to Paris by just one seat— free travel is a luxury. But as I was accepting fate in seat 35J, the greatest words ever spoken were told to me: “Mr. Barnhart, we have an upgrade for you. You’re now in 12B.”

When I am graced with the pleasure of riding in a premium seat, I have a routine. With my dinner courses, I watch a blockbuster film, one recently released. Then I sleep for a few hours, only to wake up for breakfast— that’s when I watch a classic film. I hadn’t seen The Shape of Water, which one practically every Oscar, so I made my way through it— I found it confusing and bizarre, but I was tipsy and drifted into a slumber. When I woke up, I watched the comforting and familiar All About Eve and enjoyed my frittata as we entered European airspace. But my fears quelled as I learned via Wi-Fi that Air France was going on strike; the loads for my Berlin flight had gone to hell, and there weren’t many options getting out of Paris. I made an executive decision to leave via train after waiting in a hot and stuffy customs hall for over an hour— eight hours and 143€ later, I rolled into Berlin Hauptbahnhof, tired and happy to make it to my intended destination— life is a journey, eh?

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I got to my Airbnb, lucky that my host was still awake. I opted for an Airbnb because I

was not trying to live the hostel life on this adventure, and hotel rooms are often exorbitant in Europe. I ascended the spiral staircase to the artist loft in a courtyard, and Mushtaq was waiting for me. Meeting him was the highlight of my trip; he’s a 65 year old Indian native, living in Berlin for some 40 years. He is a supremely talented artist, and his space adorns his works— some paintings, some multimedia, all very impressive. Even the piece he was working on throughout my stay changed drastically over three days!

Mushtaq and I spoke the same language— English, sure, but he was also a gate agent for Pan Am back in the day. His stories of travel and helping passengers far exceed mine in geography and flair (once, he helped Tim Curry track down a missing wig in time for a performance in Berlin). And his overwhelming generosity made my stay so heartwarming. “Young sir,” he said as I started to rise in the morning, “Would you like to join me for a coffee?” And we would, as he helped me plan my day.

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Mushtaq! 

The problem I face when I visit Europe is my overwhelming desire to live on the continent again; I studied abroad in Madrid circa 2013, and it was the most life changing experience of my life. It solidified my vagabond wanderlust, my yearnings to go, see, do, explore, and meet people and places of all kinds. Mushtaq talked about his becoming a cosmopolitan, and I pondered that word— all of my friends from my study abroad programs are exactly that, American born but living in all corners of the earth. I don’t think I could give up my citizenship, but I certainly subscribe to a higher notion that I am not completely American, that my personhood supersedes the borders of our nation.

If my chosen profession and industry could give me the option to do such a thing, I would. And I will, once I find a way to do it. If I get based on the east coast and bid my schedules heavy for half a month, while retreating to Europe for the other half, that would be my utopia. I would also have to make a ton of money to swing that, too. Notwithstanding, the continent calls my name.

Berlin itself was mesmerizing— a city marred with political grief and stature. I walked 30+ miles over the course of three days, and my ankles just now have healed to a point where it doesn’t hurt to walk anymore. I trotted all over the city, occasionally using public transport to cover the long distances. My first day, I started off in Mitte where I was staying, and I traipsed all the way down to Brandenberg Tor and the Reichstag building. After that, I made it to Checkpoint Charlie where the US policed the comings and goings between East and West Berlin.

IMG_2946The second day, I went to Tempelhof Airfield. It’s more or less abandoned, but the city is in the stages for revamping it as a common space— even though I’m an aviation fanatic, I got weird vibes from the place; my German roots were uncomfortable. So I ate my way through those feelings by having the best kebap in the city, as recommended by my friend Jay, with whom I met up later.

We went to this incredible rooftop bar, very scene and scenic as the sun set. Jay and I met through NGPA, and he’s completing his Master’s degree abroad— a great source of jealousy for me! We caught up, and I reveled in the delight of having friends abroad.

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#NGPAeverywhere

On my last day, I did two somber things on a perfectly cloudy day— I visited the East Side Gallery, the last remnants of the Berlin Wall. I thought I would go there for a few minutes, “see it,” and then leave; but I ended up walking the entire thing twice. I was in awe of the art, most of it making political comments in a stunning way. The bright colors, the visceral notions, and raw emotion of it drew me in. I also went to the Monument for the Murdered Jews of Europe, a place where I wish I could have spent more time, despite the morose nature of the site. Some people left flowers, others left notes of sympathy. That there are people in this world who believe the Holocaust never happened boggles my mind— and this monument holds a bold reverence for their ignorance.

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And just as soon as I got there, it was time to leave. I took the direct flight from Berlin to Newark on United, and I was treated yet again to a first class experience.

I lead a bougie, globetrotting life at my leisure— and it’s not without shortcomings. I schlepped back to Seattle in middle seat economy, the flight time nearing that of a transatlantic crossing. And the very next day, I started a trip for work. Exhausting? Yes. Worth it? Ja, absolut!

Appropriate German soundtrack that was in my head throughout the entire trip: Nena – 99 Luftballons

Neither Here Nor There: Friendship

“Oh, I see you’ve met Robbie. He makes fast friends with everyone,” the cheeky bastard announced to a group whom I had just met.

This was several years ago at an event, yet those words have stuck with me. I can’t make up my mind if I’m offended or not.

It’s partly true— I am friendly. I could make friends with a wall. But his snide comment did get me thinking about the various levels of my friendships.

There are the acquaintances, the good friends, fringe friends, college friends, friends you see once a year at a conference, close friends, friends you call up when you’re in town, friends who call you in the middle of the night— and it all somehow culminates into your best friend, your very best friend. For me, admittedly, I throw around the term “best” friend too often. The fact is that they’re all my best friends, and they know it. They have enough confidence in our relationship not to question whether or not they are.

And best friends have spats. Where friends run awry, however, is when they do not take responsibility for their actions. Owning up and saying, “Wow. I am so sorry. I did not know that made you feel that way, and I am a huge dick for saying that,” shows true care and compassion for not only the friend, but the friendship overall. And if that friend is not willing to concede and make amends, then we’re at an impasse.

You Can’t Sit With Us:

I’ve been accused of being popular. And my humility will neither confirm nor deny that. I do know a lot of people, and I like the majority of them. But here’s the plain truth: it is not enough for people to like you. Popularity isn’t a game of who can name drop or post pictures with the “in” crowd. You actually have to do something with these relationships. You must care. Because it might not seem like it at first, but as friendships go on, the levels of understanding come to the surface. Your true intentions bubble up and over,  and eventually, out spills the tea— for better or for worse.

You won’t believe me, but I’m just going to say it: I feel like an extroverted introvert (ENFP if you’re nosey). The reason you won’t believe me is that, if you’ve ever seen me, you know what a buzzing, flamboyant burst of energy I can be— but that’s how I am in the presence of people. 90% of the time out of the view of the public, I’m holed up underneath the covers, likely watching CNN and retreating from the world. In brief, when I’m on, I’m on.

I don’t know that I belong to any one group but rather float around all of them. I like to stick my foot into every pool and get the temperature from each. I do know, however, that I do attempt to surround myself with only the best people— people who are much smarter than I am, achieve way more than I ever will, and have a deeper sense of self that I could ever discover. This is a testament to the way I was raised by my dear mommy, and a promise I will uphold.

Friendships in the digital age:

Friendships founded on social media can be powerful— and also disposable. How easy is it to unfriend someone? My general rule is this: if you’re going to be my “friend” on Facebook, I have to have met you in person at least once, and I have to want to at least have lunch with you. (Either that, or your life is so full of drama that I absolutely want to see what happens next.) There are exceptions to this rule, of course. If I’m 99% sure I’ve met you through an event or networking, I’ll likely add you— because I don’t have much to hide on my social medias. That’s how living authentically works. It’s not to say I don’t have my secrets or value my privacy. But I do a decent job of policing how and what I post.

You can’t hang out with someone and look at your phone— it’s “rude” and “inconsiderate.” But it’s also not how we operate in 2018. What I absolutely love is having a day-long of activities with a friend, and later on, I can’t find textual representations of what we’ve discussed. There’s no record other than the memory in my head— you know, actual human interaction? How novel!

Friend Breakups:

Sometimes, it has to happen. When a person no longer brings joy into your life, or it becomes one-sided, that person has to go. I’ve committed a friend breakup before. I’ve also been broken up with before. On one hand, it hurts, both doing the breakup and being on the receiving end. But on the other hand, it can be very liberating, again in both situations.

With a particular friend some years ago, I was fed up with their constant negativity. I kept getting invitations to their pity parties, and I only had the energy to attend every now and then. But that negativity turned into dependency, wherein this friend started treating my other friends like crap. So the friendship fizzled out, and I severed ties. And it sucks, because I want the best for that person, even if they can’t get out of their spiraling downfall.

On the other side of the coin, when I’ve been broken up with, it brings up a ton of questions— am I the toxic person in this situation? What warranted this sudden removal from their life? I know I’m a lot to handle, but I’m also fiercely loyal. Again, I wish them both well on their journeys. Though having played some role in their life, I was no longer to be involved anymore— willingly or otherwise. C’est la vie.

Bottom line:

As I make this flying career into a lifestyle, several things come as a result. You might think it’s glamorous. And it’s a whirlwind, but it’s also very exhausting. It’s difficult enough to make friends in your mid 20s, outside of work no less. But add in the varying, nonstandard schedules that don’t always include free weekends, and you get a mess of, “Hey, I’m actually in town!” texts that may or may not get attention. When I left Chicago, I was craving more diversity in my friends’ professions; I’m slowly growing that friend base in Seattle. But it’s still hard to marry my flexibility with the grounded people at home.

I won’t ever stop meeting people and making connections— it’s in my spirit and truly gives me life. But the number of friends I have won’t devalue or dilute the attention or meaning to each one. And it’s not bound by any one geographic location. Perhaps it’s a luxury of my profession; perhaps it’s a curse of a vagabond.

Soundtrack, obvious yet always relevant:

The Golden Girls theme song

An incredibly insufficient slideshow of darling friends (readily available from my phone):

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The Exposé: State of the Heart Address

IMG_2362What this is, and isn’t 

This is an exposé of sorts. This is an incredibly personal regalement of my romantic endeavors— or lack thereof.  There are aspects that will remain private and details undivulged. But know that, in truth, this isn’t for you. This is for me— so that I may continue the journey and grow in a new light. I’m not prowling for pity, and I’m not looking for “the one” to rear his beautiful head from such a revealing post. This also isn’t to discredit any past attempts at romance on my part or any other’s; all of my experiences, for good and for bad, have led up to this moment, and I embrace this part of the rocky road to love.

Bold assertion: I don’t think I’ve been in true, romantic love before. I might’ve come close, and I don’t doubt that the emotions I felt tended toward the romantic side— but I’m unsure if I’ve actually felt that deep, intense, pure romantic feeling for another person. Connection, sure. But love? Likely, no.
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I’ve been on this earth for a quarter of a century (in this lifetime, at least), and since I came out over 12 years ago, I have never had any sort of substantial relationship that didn’t go past the range of one night to a month and a half. And I’ve also been very prone, tragically, to the delusion that my feelings with someone else were requited, when in fact they weren’t. It’s a touch embarrassing not to be on the same page. It’s also a touch embarrassing not to have experienced this— yet.

There have been a few instances where I’ve felt a pure, romantic connection with another person— one was extremely toxic, the other went absolutely nowhere, except The Friend Zone™.  The first lasted years, with random meetings and ultimately felt like having my heart dragged behind a truck down an empty highway. He wasn’t there for me, but I couldn’t be told otherwise; nearly all of my friends and family were dismayed time and time again when I would keep this person in my purview. But what did I know? All I felt for him was a yearning that he never reciprocated— and he knew that. Perhaps it was manipulation, and perhaps I wanted to let myself feel some sort of twisted view of love, despite the tricky strings around it. (The latest one is too much of an open wound to explain.)

The problem is that I’m extremely loyal— I’d make an excellent boyfriend or an even better dog.

The Apps

Scrolling. I find myself doing it mindlessly, passing by hundreds of faces in search of a friendly one. And oftentimes I don’t click on a pretty face because I think that I know that they won’t message me.

This catalogue of potential mates is overwhelming— swiping to exhaustion, hoping to find a glimmer of a match somewhere within an abyss of endless profiles. It truly doesn’t matter about the specific app; Grindr, Scruff, Tinder, Bumble, all that jazz— it’s the same people.

One way to thwart all of this negativity is to delete them and find people “organically.” But queer people have rarely met organically— always in the back alleys and dark, seedy bars unbeknownst to the public. And in a charming way, I like that. This subculture within the gay culture is fascinating to me. So, I guess I’ll keep them for the time being, because it’s still a way to meet new people— so long as I have the mindset that not every person who chats me up is my long-lost lover, and not every person who ignores me is a giant asshole. All in all, they’re useful.

My dear friend, mentor, and yoga instructor once asked me, “Do you want sex? Or do you want love? Because the two are very different.” And those questions have plagued me for years. Of course I want both. And I’m sure it’s mind-blowing when the two can be combined— and if that isn’t a euphemism, I don’t know what is.

 Non-monogamy amidst monogamy: Is one guy even worth it?

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There’s a satirical article floating around entitled, Experts Warn That This Polyamorous Relationship Could Expand To Cover All Of Seattle By 2021and if that ain’t the truth! It seems as though almost every online profile touts of an “open relationship” or “I’ve already found the guy of my dreams; we’re just looking for a third.” My textbook response is, “I can’t even handle one relationship, let alone several at the same time.” Plus, I’m an only child, so I need the attention on me, thank you very much. It’s not that I’m against polyamory as a whole. Dear friends of mine engage in it, and it works out for them. I just feel, at this moment, incapable of opening myself up to more than one person.

If and when I find him:

Maybe I’m under an illusion that a relationship has a sense of finality, that you might spend eternity with your beloved. After all, isn’t that how movies go? Those blissful, cinematic moments do happen in real life.

And that is mostly how I’ve pursued romantic endeavors— why go after you without the intent of something long term? Now I know that this is a mistake. Living in the moment and loving wholeheartedly, regardless of the duration of the situation, that’s where the sweet spot is. It’s opening up and handling vulnerability and uncertainty with care and curiosity— but it also means leaving yourself stranded in unbridled emotion and despair when it doesn’t work out in your favor. Love is, as I’ve been told, what remains when the lust is gone.

I’m not unique or alone in this destitute feeling of a romantic abyss. I know for certain that there are just as many gay (and straight) people in my predicament. As convenient as dating and hooking up are in this technological age, the more overwhelming and vapid it has become. I will never have a porn star body, nor will I be a knight in shining armor. I will have my pitfalls and breakdowns just as any other human being will— but I’m throwing it out to The Universe that I might have this chance for unrequited, butterfly, feelings.

When I was a gaybie, my adopted gay uncle told me, “You’ll have your heart broken. But you’re also going to break some hearts.” I didn’t believe that I had that capacity. But I know I have over the years, without intentionally meaning to do so. Being rejected is no fun, and I used to be bitter about it. Now, I’ve cultivated a sense of softness and curiosity about rejection— and I don’t take it to heart anymore— mostly. It used to mean that I was the inadequate one, that I was somehow lacking.  For any number of reasons, though, rejections happen. The Friend Zone™ is an awful place to be. My friend in college noticed this about me early on and said, “You need to stop being everyone’s best friend.” The problem is that I don’t know how to not be friendly (however, don’t confuse that with not being a bitch. I’m perfectly capable in that department).

If I had to choose an ideal partner, he’d be reserved, stoic, charming with a bit of an assholish flair. Like Billy Eichner, except quieter.

The Dating Scene:

I abhor the institution of dating. Quite frankly, it’s nerve-wracking and boring. The mere notion of going out to dinner to engage in small talk about menial things, all the while being surveyed for sexual compatibility— it’s nothing more than a job interview for the bedroom. Because I am so friendly, I don’t have an issue conversing; where I fall short is letting people in, giving away my insecurities and letting go of their expectations.

I’m not opposed to it overall. In fact, I’ve gone on a few dates since moving to Seattle— part of that whole looking your fears head on tactic. It’s not that it went poorly. It’s just that I didn’t connect with them and disliked the hype.

Of course, there are logistical challenges in dating, due to my industry. But I also refuse to date within said industry— most of us are insane. The only feat that would prove to be beneficial is that air crew would understand the lifestyle, schedule, and lingo.

Bottom line:

I’m an enigma, an extravagant (and downright extra) personality, and I’m a lot to handle. Hell, I can’t handle myself most days. And I know that finding a partner is neither like shopping on Amazon (but HOW nice would it be for a husband to be delivered in two days?) nor signing up for a gym membership. It’s not that easy, I never thought it would be, and I definitely haven’t experienced ease in this entire journey.

Three of heartsI wear my heart on my sleeve, and it shows when my friends ask about my love life. I am humbled that they have a genuine interest in seeing my happiness through a romantic partner (and I swear to god— if someone tags me in one more thing about Anderson Cooper’s breakup!). They want me to be ok. I want to be ok. But maybe not being ok will allow me to dissect and disassemble what is years’ worth of angst and hope and worry— and through that crumbling, I can renew a positive direction in what is the State of My Heart.

 

Soundtrack, sappy yet profound:

Brandi Carlile — Wherever Is Your Heart

Waking Up

New Year, Golden Me

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It’s 2018.

And in 2018, I will turn 26— on April 26th, no less, making this my Golden birthday. The golden birthday is the age one turns that corresponds to the actual date of their birth. So, in my true extra fashion, I’m considering this my Golden Year.

The yogic question, “Are you awake?” doesn’t just ponder if one is not sleeping— it asks whether one is physically, spiritually aware of their surroundings. For the longest time, I thought I was. But over the course of the last year, and especially within the last few months, I’m learning that I’m quite the snoozer!

At the risk of using a corny airplane reference, I’ve learned that life does not reach a certain point where the autopilot can be turned on, and the rest is smooth sailing, erm, flying. One must continuously work for each and every day to make life at least bearable and the fullest. Are you thinking um, duh? I guess I was fooled by adults in my younger years that, once you “make it” in the real world, it somehow gets easier. But I’ve been quoting a John Mayer song recently, “I just found out that there’s no such thing as the real world.” (I do want to scream at the top of my lungs.)

I’ve also been duped into thinking that we know more as we grow older— but my path has led me to believe that I’m more unknowing than anything. What this begs of me is to stay curious and malleable in the mind; the more rigid one becomes in their thinking, more work it is to cope at a later date.

Life right now is sort of like pulling sheets out of the dryer— most everything is dry, only to find out that a pillow case wadded up in the corner of a fitted sheet. Warm but damp and not quite there yet— I think about getting there and having it: the life, whatever that means. A well-established career, a loving relationship, and dogs (so, so many dogs); a network of friends and professional contacts. But the illusion is that it already exists, that there is no such thing as “getting there” or “having it.” It’s right there in front of me, waiting to be experienced.

No, this isn’t settling. Don’t mistake my happiness for complacency.

Why is it such a bother to experience joy?

There are barriers to accepting one’s true pleasures. For me, there are a few things that make me light up— languages, aviation, yoga, and travel. But I oftentimes don’t do what would most assuredly bring me joy for fear of falling short of that expectation. And I’m calling bullshit on myself.

That’s why I compiled an absurdly long list of things that would make me happy, not just in spite of my Golden Year, but because of it. I won’t divulge the half of it, because some of it is private (I do have some secrets, after all) and sacred— and parts of it I don’t even know yet.

The catalyst for this epiphany was an experience I had recently with a very striking individual for whom I have a sincere attraction. It was beyond physical, a connection unlike any I’ve had before. I was so dumbfounded by all of it that I kept questioning myself (and a litany of friends) if my emotions were validated, attempting to keep myself in check.
IMG_2504I put my heart on the line, held it out in front of him like a dog bringing back a dead animal to its owner— see! Lookie what I brought for you! It nice. It for you. It special. Need treats and pats thx. Sitting in that awkward vulnerability makes my heart pound, daringly, but that increased heart rate surpasses any fleeing and hiding. I can’t say that I didn’t try, and I can’t say that I didn’t put it all out there. Because if I had held back, I wouldn’t know one way or the other (and, for the record, the jury is still out, but that’s a topic for another day). What I discovered is that being vulnerable isn’t cowering in weakness, it’s the crux of strength. I said what I needed to say (here we go with John Mayer again, sheesh!) for myself, regardless of the outcome.

Maybe I’m having a Diane-Keaton-divorcee moment, despite never having had any sort of meaningful romantic relationship.

Maybe I’ve been afraid to start for fear of not being able to stop.

In a sense, I feel like I’ve been asleep forever.

Albeit groggy, it’s time to wake up.

 

Soundtrack for this post, appropriately featured in a mediocre commercial:

LP – Into The Wild