Sunday, May 18, 2014

Your Thoughts on My Freedom Fantasy

My kids live with me 361 days a year.  The other four days Gabbie has them, but only because I'm working in Minneapolis.

Sometimes, when I feel especially trapped in my 361-day routine, I fantasize about permanently relocating to Minnesota.  It's a glorious thought because I know no one would follow me there.  I'd have total independence and the uncompromised opportunity to create a new life entirely of my own choosing.

At other times I wonder if this fantasy is exactly that, a fantasy.  How do I know that I'd like living 2000 miles away from my kids?  How do I know I'd like living alone?  How do I know I'd like living in the Midwest?  How do I know I wouldn't be miserable during six months of Winter?  I don't.  I mean, I instinctively feel like I'd be much happier, but is that a good enough reason to make such a radical change???

If I moved, I'd have a much more fulfilling job...and the low cost of living would be a big perk...but I don't know if I'd ever feel at home.  Are friends and community easy to find in Minneapolis?  Or would I struggle there even more than I have in San Francisco?

My four days a year in Minneapolis consist of two separate weekends, six months apart.  With no kids and no work after 8pm, I have the extremely rare opportunity to do whatever I want in a city where no one knows me.  Yet, when I'm there, I find it hard to make the most of the time.

I try to pretend that I've just moved there and it's my first weekend alone.  What should I do?  Where should I go?  What can I experience that would help me feel at home?
A typical group at the Saloon.  See any white Lutherans?

One thing I've done is spend time in various gay bars.  I'm familiar with the San Francisco bar scene, how is Minneapolis different?  If I was forced to choose one bar as the focal point of my social life, which bar would it be?

In Minneapolis, I've spent a Friday night at the Eagle/Bolt, a Saturday night at the Gay 90s, a Friday night at Lush and two Saturday nights at the Saloon.  I also spent a short time, early on a Friday night, at the Jetset Bar.  I haven't been to the Brass Rail because it looked gross from the outside.  I had planned to watch the Vikings play at the neighborhood-ish 19 Bar but it was closed on the Sunday that I drove by.  There's another bar, The Town House, in St Paul, but that's kind of out of the way so I haven't been there yet.
Patrons of the Eagle/Bolt

The most surprising thing about all my Minneapolis bar visits has been how the "Minnesota nice" stereotype hasn't included BSing with strangers.  No one has been rude but the guys only seem to talk to other guys that they already know.  San Francisco bars are friendlier, which is something I didn't expect.
Gay 90s, minus the groups of 22yo straight girls

The other thing that's odd in Minneapolis is the dominance of the twenties crowd.  The Saloon, in my view, is the best bar in town, but even so, only about 10% of the patrons I've seen look to be over the age of 40.  The Eagle has a more mature, bearish crowd but on the night I was there it was dead, dead, dead.  In contrast, the mature crowd in San Francisco is large, visible and dominates quite a few bars.
Lush - Nice place, felt suburban

Because I haven't seen many age-appropriate men in Minneapolis I wonder if they don't exist or if they have largely abandoned the bars?  If they don't socialize in bars, how do they meet and how is a new arrival supposed to get connected?
Jetset.  Do people go here?

Meet-up groups??

After three trips to Minneapolis in the past year I don't feel like I've gained any pivotal insights.  That's been frustrating; I'd like to resolve my Freedom Fantasy one way or the other.  I'd like to feel, on a gut-level, that moving to Minneapolis is the right thing, OR, I'd like to be convinced that it's a terrible idea so I can stop daydreaming about it.  Because neither of those things has happened, my thoughts remain in an endless wash-and-spin cycle:

Move or stay?
Move or stay?
Move or stay?
Brass Rail.  Very tired and unappealing.

Perhaps I'm delusional, but one issue that doesn't especially concern me is whether my kids would be upset if I moved.  I mean, at first, I know they would be.  My daughter would be furious.  But it would also be her decision to move with me or stay.  If she stayed, as I expect she would, then she'd be the one making the decision for us to have a long-distance relationship, not me.  My son would be upset too, at first, but he's about to get his driver's license and he has tons of friends so, really, having me around in person isn't going to be that important to him, going forward.
19 Bar.  Wake me up when it opens.

All told, I think the kids would adapt to connecting on Skype and by phone pretty easily.  Their lives are already so technology-saturated it would probably feel pretty normal to them to maintain our bond through a pixelated screen anyway.

Because I still haven't had that "A-ha!" moment where I realize that moving is the right decision, I remain locked in my life as a single, "straight" suburban dad.   If I ever felt a strong sense of mid-life gay community in Minneapolis I'd be much more tempted to take the polar plunge.  Part of the reason I'm posting this entry if because I have this hope that at least one reader could point me in the right direction for how to do that, but maybe what I'm hoping to find in Minneapolis just doesn't exist.
The Town House in St. Paul

What are your thoughts on this matter?  Should I stay and continue to plod along or should I go and take my chances that life will be meaningfully better?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Big news, after seven long years

Charlie, my wife's alcoholic, illiterate, homeless, druggie, violent ex-boyfriend, has been deported back to England.  Even better, he'll never be allowed to come back.


It's amazing that this has finally happened.  Just a few weeks ago there were rumors he was going to be released in the US as a free man.


Now that the Seven Year Charlie Nightmare is officially over I can't help but reflect on how he dramatically changed my life.

More than three years ago, when he was in jail the last time, Gabbie told me she didn't miss him.  Seeing that as my big opportunity to get rid of him, I asked her if she would support getting him deported.  She said she would.  I got him transferred to Immigration custody where he eventually had a hearing in front of a judge.  For reasons we'll never know that judge let him go.

As soon as Gabbie knew he was going to be released she dropped everything and was there to pick him up.  At first I wondered if that was a self-protective tactic on her part, but over the next two weeks I saw that nothing about their relationship had changed.  That's when I threw in the towel.

With no end to their totally dysfunctional relationship in sight I said to her one night, "I don't know why we're still together.  I mean, you're in love with him...and I'm gay."

"What?!!  You're gay?"

I'll never understand why she was surprised by that.  When I came out to her the first time SHE MOVED OUT FOR TWO MONTHS.  In the 19 years in between, I never renounced my coming out - even when Gabbie would occasionally tell me she KNEW I was going to leave her for someONE someday.  Instead I told her I was never going to leave, which was true.

Now that Charlie is finally gone I can't help but wonder what would have happened if he'd been deported the first time.  I know I wouldn't have come out again.  I assume that Gabbie and I would have continued on as we had pre-Charlie.  We were a pretty normal couple, and we certainly loved each other, as we do now.

The thing about my second coming out is that, once I did it, Gabbie never looked back.  Several times before and afterward I pleaded with her to dump Charlie and stay with me.  Once, when we were on a five day cruise alone together, I gave it my all and begged for hours.  Yet, all she would say was, "I love you sweetie but it's not going to happen." much as the emotional part of me looks back with deep regret that Charlie wasn't deported the first time, my rational mind wonders if I shouldn't be thankful he wasn't.  While I can't say that my life is immeasurably better for having come out again, I am optimistic about my future.  I honestly don't know that I'll ever be in a relationship again but I do love the idea that, once my kids are out of the house, I'll have true freedom for the first time in my life.  I'm looking forward to deciding exactly when, where, how and with who I spend my time.

The guilt of having married a woman under false pretenses made me a doormat in virtually every way.  Should I have been glad to stay a doormat forever?  No, I don't think so.  Especially if it was for someone who didn't fight to stay with me and make our marriage work.  Why should I sacrifice so much for her when she was unwilling to do the same for me?

I just wish I could get over sadness of it all.  Losing the most important relationship of my life with someone who I love so's a painful loss.  Even so, I know that someday I'll get over it.  I have no choice, really.  I just hope that happens sooner rather than later, especially now that I don't have to worry about Charlie anymore.

For those of you who have been reading and commenting on my horrific Charlie stories for the past several years - thanks for your support.  I look forward to soldiering on, and perhaps someday, having more good news to report.