Pride Month: FREE Gay Chapter Meadows Are Not Forever
Here’s the link to Amazon, and here’s a short reader review, in part.
One of the things I loved most about this story is the fact that it dealt with, and focused on, real emotion’s that most people have had to face. Especially when it came to dealing with families that may or may not be accepting of their LGBT kids. This is simply put a real, honest to God old-fashion love story filled with angst, uncertainty and all the other messy things people falling in love have to go through.
More On the Lavender Scare and Straight Privilege
I’m glad we’re focusing more on The Lavender Scare, and that we’re not forgetting about it. It was a horrible time for ‘gay’ people in this country and it should never be forgotten. The straight privilege, and what they did to ‘gay’ people, is astounding.
A guy named Josh Howard has put together a documentary about what it was like during the Lavender Scare and it was released on June 7. This article is actually an interview with Howard, where he explains his motivation and the process.
I came across David Johnson’s book. It had been out for several years, and I happened to come across it. I was reading it just wondering how is it possible I don’t know any of this stuff? I started talking with other people, even gay historians.
Here’s the link, and they do give more back story about the Lavender Scare in case you’re not familiar with it. I read a lot of biographies about Presidents and First Ladies and never once do I come across anything but straight privilege. The only time I ever came across anything remotely ‘gay’ was with President Johnson’s administration. Johnson had a long time adviser who got arrested for gay sex in a YMCA, and it ruined the man’s entire life. I posted about that one, here.
After the experience with Harold, something deep inside Cade changed that night. He set the old electric alarm clock that he’d used in high school so he wouldn’t be late for the auditions in Philadelphia, and then he rested his head on his pillow and thought about what had happened that night and what had led him to the situation in the first place. He pulled the covers up to his neck and clenched his fists. He’d never forget Harold’s wife’s stunned expression and he’d never forget the fear in Harold’s eyes when he’d walked in on them having sex. It’s a good thing Cade hadn’t walked in naked. He’d thought about doing that when he’d arrived at Harold’s, but changed his mind. Thinking about the entire scene made him shudder. How stupid could he have been? He hadn’t asked Harold any questions about his life; he hadn’t gone into any of the little details he should have been paying attention to with a new man.
Cade couldn’t deny he’d enjoyed the sex as much as Harold. That wasn’t the issue. The issue was trust. Cade may have enjoyed the sex even more than Harold, but he would never have done it if he’d known Harold was a married man. When he thought about his past experiences with other men like Harold, especially the most recent with Kevin, his superficial relationship with Harold wasn’t that much different from his relationship with Kevin. For all Cade knew, Kevin was married to a woman and he was sneaking around on the down low, too.
Cade fell asleep on his back that night and he must have remained that way all night long. It was such a deep sleep he didn’t remember any dreams; the noisy hum of the air conditioner in his window didn’t seem as loud anymore. The softer hum from his electric clock didn’t make him want to throw it across the room. And when the alarm woke him the next morning, it felt as though a minute had passed instead of seven hours.
His mother and father wouldn’t wake up until seven, and wouldn’t be downstairs until eight. His father had been feeling so much better since he’d received the shots he’d slept in the master bedroom with Cade’s mother that night…the first time in two months according to Cade’s mother. Cade wasn’t sure about Alice Smith. He couldn’t seem to remember which days she came and which she didn’t. But he knew if she was coming that morning she wouldn’t be there until at least eight o’clock, which was plenty of time for Cade to shower, dress, and hit the road for Philadelphia. He didn’t want to face Alice Smith right away, not after what had happened with Harold the night before.
He’d been to plenty of auditions like this before and he knew how to dress. Outrageous colors and weird hairstyles usually attracted a lot of attention at first, but it never landed a potential contestant a contract. These colorful types were never taken seriously. The producers of these so-called reality shows…they were all staged to a certain extent…wanted hot and sexy for the most part.
Cade chose a black suit jacket, a new pair of low-rise jeans, and a white dress shirt with pale blue pinstripes. He wore black leather Pradas and thin black socks. On his wrist, he wore a knock off Gucci watch he’d purchased at a flea market…no one could tell the difference. Cade didn’t have a huge wardrobe, but what he did own fared simple, classic, and tasteful. He was tan and didn’t have to worry about circles beneath his eyes. And because he’d slept so soundly that night, there were no bags beneath his eyes either. He styled his hair a little differently than he normally did. He used a new product that Meadow’s stylist had recommended and scrunched his short dark hair forward on top into a spiky wedge affair. When he realized it took him almost fifteen minutes to get his hair to have the right messy appeal, he gazed into the mirror and smiled.
When he backed his mother’s big old Imperial out of the garage a few minutes later, his parents were still in their room. He’d already asked for permission to drive her car to Philadelphia. He didn’t feel comfortable taking his father’s newer car. He would pick up coffee at one of the fast food places in Pennsville near the turnpike entrance. He checked to be sure there was enough gasoline in the tank so he wouldn’t have to stop on the way.
On any other day, Cade would have had to borrow his father’s new Cadillac because Daisy refused to drive anything other than the Imperial. His parents were going to a luncheon that afternoon at the Country Club and Cade’s father was feeling so much better he’d told Cade the night before he’d drive his own car that day. Cade had shrugged and said he didn’t mind taking the Imperial. Though it guzzled gas and it wasn’t easy to park in the city, the massive old car made him feel safe and secure. He knew why his mother loved it so much and refused to part with it.
There wasn’t much traffic in New Jersey. He took the interstate north on the Jersey side, passing through dead flat farmland and little towns with odd names like Repaupo and Oldmans Township. He hadn’t seen road signs with these names in years; he hadn’t passed through these towns since he’d been in high school. He’d once fooled around with a guy on another high school baseball team from a town called Gibbstown. Cade smiled at the road sign pointing to the exit that led to Gibbstown. It brought back bittersweet memories because the guy had been so interested in men and so closeted at the same time he often talked about women. Cade hadn’t been out of the closet back then either…it was high school…but he’d never pretended to be interested in women, not once.
This baseball player he’d fooled around with had been dating a cheerleader and at the same time fooling around with Cade in the back of a pick-up truck on hidden dirt roads in the woods. He’d even bought Cade a small gold bracelet. They’d done everything two young gay men could do together in bed, and yet when Cade saw him at baseball games the guy always turned his head and pretended they didn’t know each other. It was as exciting as it was humiliating, and Cade just shrugged and kept it going until they graduated and the guy said he was getting engaged to the cheerleader because she was pregnant. That’s when he knew he had to get out of antiquated southern New Jersey and begin his life somewhere else. His only consolation years later was taking pleasure in the fact that even though he’d done the same things with the baseball player the cheerleader had done, he couldn’t get pregnant.
When Cade reached the Ben Franklin Bridge, traffic grew heavier and Cade sat back in the comfortable white leather seat and took a deep breath. It felt good to be in a city, any city. He unfolded the toll money from his jacket and smiled. While he waited in traffic to pay the toll, he took in the sights and sounds and smells of the urban atmosphere. Philadelphia wasn’t New York; it wasn’t Los Angeles either. But it was a city with tall buildings, good restaurants, and busses and cabs and it made Cade’s heart beat faster. He suddenly felt alive again and free to do anything he wanted to do. Gone were the stipulations and guidelines of small town rural life. Gone were the little white churches that seemed to rule everyone’s life with religions that may or may not have been based on fairytales. And though the hot city air was thick with pollution, he finally felt as if he could breathe again.
He decided not the take any chances by parking the old Imperial on the street and opted for an expensive indoor parking garage not far from the hotel. He was a half hour early and he didn’t have to rush. When he stepped out of the garage onto Market Street and glanced up at the statue of Ben Franklin on top of Philadelphia City Hall, he squared his shoulders and set his jaw. A few things had changed, but Philadelphia was pretty much the same as he remembered. But none of the changes mattered; it was the main connection to the civilized world that mattered, especially for people who lived in the deepest part of southern New Jersey where in some parts they still killed muskrats for stew.
The auditions were being held in a nice hotel, but not the best hotel in the city. He’d figured this was a low budget show and didn’t expect the Ritz. Cade crossed into the lobby and asked the concierge where they were holding the auditions for The Gay Bachelor. The concierge was a nice looking man in his thirties. He smiled at Cade and looked him up and down. Then he told Cade the auditions were being held in a small banquet room on the first floor, at the back end of the main lobby. Cade thanked him and handed him ten dollars for being so helpful.
On the way, he sent Meadow a text that read, “I’m on my way in right now. Wish me luck.” It was eight in the morning in Philadelphia, which meant it was only five in Hollywood. He didn’t expect her to reply.
But the minute he put his phone in his pocket, he received an alert. Meadow wrote, “Knock’em dead. Let me know how it turns out.” This made him smile. He needed her support. If she’d sent him a text at five in the morning, he would have replied just as fast.
When he entered the banquet room, he glanced around at the large group of men. Some were standing; others were already seated in folding chairs that had been set up in rows. It wasn’t the largest crowd Cade had ever seen for a reality show audition, at least not by Hollywood or New York standards. But there was stiff competition. A lot of them were just as nice looking as Cade, if not better. Cade had once gone to an audition for a reality show called, The Terminator, where he’d waited outside in a line that wrapped around Hollywood Boulevard with hundreds waiting to get a chance at fame and fortune.
This crowd appeared tame compared to that. He figured it was probably because it was a gay show and you had to be openly gay to participate. That’s when he felt a sinking feeling in his gut. He hadn’t told his parents anything about the show. He’d just said he was going on an audition for a TV show, not a gayTV show. He wasn’t sure how they’d react if he was selected and he went on national TV and told the entire world he was openly gay. Then all of Salem County would know. He could see his mother clutching her chest and falling into a wing chair. He could see his father’s furrowed eyebrows and turned down lips as he struggled to hold his balance.
In the same respect, Cade didn’t care anymore, especially after his experience with Harold. He realized he was angry now; he felt used and duped. He squared his back and stepped into the audition room. This time he took a seat in the front row, not the last row like he usually did at these things. And this time he decided to be himself, not the flamboyant, effeminate gay man he sometimes pretended to be in Los Angeles to please people. He didn’t care anymore if that’s what “they” wanted him to be. He didn’t care if being himself ruined his chances of getting on the show. Cade had never been bullied as a child or as a teenager. His personal story would never make headlines or endearing posts for social media. In fact, Cade had never been bullied or abused at all for being gay. And that’s because when he acted like himself, no one ever screwed around with him. He was a man, nothing more or less. And in spite of the fact that his sexuality was a huge part of him, it did not define him in any particular way.
It was the strangest feeling, this unusual sense of confidence and self-actualization. He wondered if it would last. He sat down, folded his hands on his lap, and waited for the auditions to begin. He even laughed out loud. The last time he’d felt this strong and decisive was after a six month cycle Meadow had gone through with a crock pot. Someone had given Meadow a crock pot for Christmas one year and she’d become obsessed with crock pot cookery. She’d slow-cooked everything from spaghetti and meatballs to whole chicken down to watery flat mush. By June of that year, while Cade was eating a particularly wretched crock pot version of corned beef and cabbage on a wet rainy day, he glanced across the table and told Meadow if he had to eat one more, soggy vegetable, one more overcooked piece of meat, or one more mushy potato, he’d lose his mind and his stomach.
Meadow laughed and said she’d only been doing it because she thought he liked it. She said she’d grown sick of crock pot food months earlier. They threw the crock pot out that night and bought a grill for the patio the next day. And when they both worked long days, they either cooked something fast on the grill or ordered take out.
This was how Cade felt that morning. He was finished pretending…to everyone…even to gay people. His days of faking flamboyance and outrageousness because he thought that’s what people wanted from gay men were over. He didn’t care if they weren’t amused or entertained by him anymore. No more clown and court jester. He wasn’t put on this earth for their amusement…or pity. And even though he was sitting in a room waiting to audition for a TV show that could change his entire life, he didn’t care if they thought he might be too boring to be on TV because he wasn’t lisping, he wasn’t double snapping fingers, and his hands weren’t on his hips.
At nine, the room quieted and all the men who were there to audition sat down in the rows of folding chairs. When three men dressed in casual clothes walked into the banquet room carrying briefcases, Cade looked up and blinked. Two of the men were ordinary, a little shaggy looking, with baggy slacks that didn’t fit very well under oversized polo shirts that hung off their rounded shoulders. But one of the men was tall and thin and attractive, with dark hair and a perfectly trimmed goatee. He wore a black V-neck short sleeve shirt and dark gray pinstripe slacks. The Rolex watch on his tanned wrist jumped out and Cade felt like sinking to the floor and crawling under the folding chair. This was the same man he’d backed into at the airport earlier that week when he’d been talking to Meadow on the phone.
Cade took a second glance; just in case he’d been mistaken the first time. His heart started beating faster and his face felt warm. There was no doubt about it. It was the same guy, only without a chocolate cupcake all over this time. Cade would never forget this guy’s bright green eyes or the chocolate cupcake crumbs all over his neatly trimmed goatee. And he’d never forget the guy’s indignant expression.
The three men huddled up front for a few minutes, with their backs to the potential contestants. Then one of the ordinary looking guys with a beard turned and faced the crowd with a blank gaze. “We’ll be handing out forms. You are to fill out the forms, with your names, and we’ll collect them. Then you are to come into the room across the hall when we call your name. There’s box of pencils here in case you didn’t bring anything to write with. And, those who don’t come when they are called will not get an audition. We’re not waiting around. We want to get through this round today.” He turned back and pulled a stack of papers from his briefcase and the other two guys each took a pile of forms. His speech didn’t impress Cade. They always acted firm and strict that way at these auditions. It created a sense of control and power over the potential contestants.
Compared to most of the auditions for reality shows Cade had been on, this process seemed extremely simple, bordering amateur, which made Cade uneasy. Sometimes they handed out numbers, other times they did things with a color codes. But Cade assumed they were keeping it simple because the crowd was so small. He wondered if the crowd that had showed up in Los Angeles and New York had been just as small. Cade didn’t remember all the cities where they’d auditioned gay men, but he knew they were looking for a cross section of gay men from all over the country, which hadn’t been exactly clear to him. Cade had already decided to use his New Jersey address, because they probably already had the Los Angeles contestants chosen. Besides, Salem County was really where Cade was from. And he believed that when someone comes from a small town, no matter where they go in life in the end they will always be from that small town.
For a moment, Cade thought the good looking guy with the black V-neck shirt might wind up passing out the forms to the guys in the back row and he’d be safe for a while. But the good looking guy took his share and walked to the other end of the front row. From the way it looked, he seemed to be the guy in charge of everything. He had an air about him that suggested authority. When he spoke or gestured, the other two guys seemed to listen and follow his orders. Cade leaned to his right and asked the blond guy sitting next to him, “Who is the guy with the black shirt? He looks kind of serious, almost mean.”
The blond guy smiled and said, “That’s Anderson Randolph. He’s the producer of the show. He’s the dude in charge.”
Cade frowned. “So he’sthe guy in charge, and he gets the final say. I was wondering.”
The young blond nodded. “He’s the man to impress. I read that he fought hard to get this show on the air. He’s been pitching it to the networks for five years and they’ve been turning him down because they weren’t sure America was ready for an all gay reality show. The networks didn’t think America was ready for the concept of a gay bachelor dating a group of gay men with the intention of marrying.” He laughed and rubbed his chin. “I’m not sure if they are ready. But I figured it couldn’t hurt to audition.”
Cade was sorry he hadn’t done any research for this show. He used to research them all before he auditioned, but then became jaded and just started showing up. “Are you from this area?” Cade asked. He didn’t comment on the concept of the show. He was familiar with a straight TV reality show where a straight bachelor went through a series of young woman who might be possible future wives. Cade was assuming this show would be a gay version of the straight show and Cade wasn’t sure America was ready for something like that either. They were still getting used to RuPaul and that wasn’t even a big network. What on earth would mainstream America do when they found out there are gay men who don’t care about fashion and floral arrangements? The straight women who loved the Sex in the City gay stereotypes would be devastated to find out not all gay men cared about their shoes and their hair; the straight men who weren’t threatened by effeminate gay men wouldn’t know how to react when they learned some of their favorite professional athletes might like penis more than pussy.
The blond guy smiled. “Fuck no. I’m from LA, born and raised. I just came here for this audition because I thought I’d have a better chance to get on the show here than in LA. Are you from this area?”
Cade nodded and said, “I live in Hollywood now, too, and I’ve been there for a while. But I grew up in southern New Jersey, about fifty miles south of here. So I guess I’m considered local.”
Anderson Randolph was in the middle of the front row, only six guys away from them. So the blond guy smiled and said, “Good luck.” Then he turned his back on Cade and gazed up toward Anderson with his brightest, phoniest audition smile.
Cade looked down at his lap and clenched his teeth. With any luck at all, Anderson wouldn’t remember him and there wouldn’t be any awkward moments. But when Anderson stood in front of Cade and Cade reached for the form without looking up, Anderson said, “You look familiar. But I can’t seem to place you.” He spoke fast, with an authoritative tone and no apparent accent.
Cade lifted his eyes, but not his entire head. “I don’t think we’ve met,” Cade said. This was a good sign; maybe Anderson would never remember the chocolate cupcake incident.
Anderson looked him up and down again; he pinched his lips and tilted his head sideways. “That’s so odd. You look so familiar. I guess you just remind me of someone.” Then he moved to the next guy and Cade took a deep breath.
The blond guy next to Cade said, “Lucky you.”
Cade tilted his head. “Why?”
“He must like you if you look familiar,” the guy said.
Cade shrugged and said, “I hope so.”
* * * * *
They didn’t call Cade’s name until five o’clock that afternoon. He texted Meadow in between, played games on his phone, and checked his e-mail. He met a few guys and talked with them in the hall. A few were local, but a lot seemed to be from either New York or Los Angeles. He noticed one thing that made him smile. It felt as though he was in the middle of a cross section of gay men that came from every single part of the LGBT community. Some were stereotypes, with effeminate qualities that included plucked eyebrows and eyeliner. And others were just the opposite, with crude voices and streetwise attitude that included using the word fuck in every sentence and wearing plaid flannel shirts. One heavyset guy with a beard worked in construction. Two skinny guys with brassy bleached hair had sparkles all over their faces and performed as drag queens part time. And then there were guys like Cade, the gay men who didn’t fit into any particular category and looked just like the rest of the world.
Of course one stocky guy with a Brooklyn accent followed Cade to the men’s room and said, “Hey baby,” while Cade was washing his hands. The guy had dark hair and wore a tight black T-shirt. His muscles were so large and he was so pumped Cade wouldn’t have been surprised if the guy had a cycle of steroids in his back pocket just in case.
Cade smiled without looking at him and said, “Hello.” He didn’t want to make eye contact. Guys like this always gravitated to him, whether he made eye contact or not. But when he did make eye contact, they never left him alone.
“I been watchin you tawkin to people,” the guy said. His voice was deep and he dropped his Gs.
Cade reached for the paper towels. “It’s been a long day.” It was well after four thirty by then. He hadn’t eaten a thing all day. The only thing he was thinking about now was pulling into the first fast food drive thru window he could find on his way back to Salem County, the food revolution police be damned. He’d been through every food trend there was with Meadow. She’d even been vegan for a while. She’d recently stopped the gluten-free diet after losing only two pounds and a half a dozen friends in one week.
Then the guy put his hand on Cade’s butt and squeezed it. “You’re one of the cute ones in there. I’ll bet you know how to treat a real man like me really nice.”
Cade rolled his eyes and stepped back. He’d met pushy guys in bathrooms, but never this obnoxious. This guy’s approach was almost surreal. “Well that’s obviously not something you know how to do.” Cade had had enough of men like this. This guy reminded him of Harold. Before his experience with Harold, Cade might have fallen for this guy’s idiotic lines and his big pumped up muscles. He had a new rule: no more casual sex with anyone.
As Cade turned to leave, the guy lifted his arms and said, “Sorry, princess. Didn’t mean to upset you, sweetie.” He spoke with a sardonic, condescending tone, implying Cade was less of a man than he was.
Cade stopped and turned back to face the guy. He felt the blood rush to his head and he clenched his fists. The bathroom door opened but Cade didn’t turn to see who had entered. He raised his fists and glared at the guy with the New York accent. Then he crossed back to the sink and poked the guy in his puffed out steroid induced chest. “Let’s get one thing straight, you fucking asshole,” Cade said. “I’m not our fucking princess. I’m not your sweetie and I’m not your baby. I’m a total stranger and you don’t have the right to touch me, fondle me, or make sexual references to me unless I give you the signal that it’s okay. And as far as I know, I didn’t give you any signals. I ignored you, without eye contact. I was washing my hands and minding my own goddamn business.”
The big guy just stood there with his hands hanging at his sides gaping at Cade. His face turned red and he said, “Cool. No problem. I was just joking around. No offense, man. No need to go psycho on me, dude.”
Cade knew he’d overacted. He knew he could have handled the situation with more finesse and style and gotten his point across. But he was still reeling over what had happened with Harold and he wasn’t in the mood to be treated like a piece of shit.
He took a deep breath and turned around. When he looked up, he saw Anderson Randolph standing near the door. He should have turned around to see who had entered the men’s room sooner. Now he’d done it. He shouldn’t have lost his temper so fast. Now he was really screwed. The producer of the show had seen him go batshit on a total stranger and he’d never get selected for this show. He walked by Anderson without saying a word and headed back to the banquet room. But he was beginning to think it might wise to just keep walking right back to the car and go home.