Life In The Apocalypse 4. Thursday April 2, 2020

Discerning Daddy

I have been in “lockdown” for 18 days. Roughly. There was a day or two in those early days where I went to the gym. My boyfriend and I have driven to the beach, and once into the Angeles National Forrest, exploring the mountains. I go for walks. And bike rides.

And we are finding ways to have fun, sexy adventures. On Sunday night we joined a zoom circle jerk group, jerking off with 15 other guys. During our drive through the mountains we pulled over in the flats to pee. He ended up fucking me over a rock, the expanse of sky and mountains breathtaking.

One of the things I’ve learned during this time: I’m not built for cynicism. I’m not built for fear. Even as things are getting scary, even in those moments, alone in bed, when I can’t breathe, sure I am dying, afraid about money, about my career, I still keep falling back on hope.

I find that most people are being super kind, friendly.

Here’s a story: a week ago I was at Pavilions. A man and I reached for the same last jar of pasta sauce. I pulled my hand back, saying sorry, and he smiled at me, took three jars of the same pasta sauce out of his cart and handed them to me.

“I already have too many,” he said.

I was in my teens and early 20’s when AIDS hit New York City. I watched as many of my mother’s friends died. Young gay men, a community devastated.

One of these men, David, before he got sick, told me,

“We are all learning about who we are right now. All of us. The whole world. It’s easy to be nice and kind, to stay hopeful, when the world is on your side. It’s almost impossible when the world turns on you. But that’s when you need it the most. It’s these times that define us. What kind of a man do I want to be?”

Before he got sick David was tall and muscular, beefy and hairy. The last time I was home my mom showed me a picture of him right before he died. He looked emaciated: so skinny he was almost unrecognizable. His cheeks were sunken in.

He was sitting outside, by the river, smiling. That smile will forever stay with me. That smile is the man I want to be in this time.

18 days and it’s not easy. My Facebook page is filled with people who are sick, know someone who is sick, posts about people who have died, non-stop information about the virus. I find myself getting annoyed at small little things that happen in my house. Annoyed at my roommates, my boyfriend, the dog and cats: but then I remember how lucky I am. That we are all here. Together.

There is a lot to be afraid of. And then there is that picture of David, who knew he was dying, but smiling anyway. And there is a lot to be hopeful about too.

Even if it’s the fucking apocalypse I have to believe there is still beauty.
My best friend Amy taught me this very important mantra, that I keep written on an index card on my desk, and as a screenshot on my phone:

What if it’s all just going to be ok?

These words save me in times of doubt and fear.

And I’m really glad my boyfriend still wants to fuck me in parks. That’s gotta count for something.

Life In The Apocalypse 3. Thursday March 26, 2020

Discerning Daddy

Today’s record, GoGo Penquin, A Humdrum Star, Deluxe.

I woke up feeling discouraged today. And horny.

I keep thinking, this has to have meaning. I have to find a way to allow what is happening in the world to change me.

I’ve been meditating a lot. Jerking off less than I would have thought. I bought a bike and try to spend an hour each day riding it, exploring new neighborhoods. I go for walks. It’s nice to be out, even if at a distance, seeing the world, knowing that all of you are out there too. I try to smile and say hi. I read somewhere that saying hi, that smiling, is good for the immune system. Either way, it makes me feel better.

And I’ve been writing.

I set a goal for myself: I will read two new books a week and I will spend less time on my phone.

But today I woke up feeling discouraged.

“I think things are going to go back to normal sooner than we think,” my friend texts me from San Francisco. She is married with two kids. The four of them quarantined in their two-bedroom apartment in the Mission.

“I hope so,” I write back, but what I am really thinking is: what is normal? What does that mean exactly?

“By your birthday for sure,” she texts. “God, it has to be all over by then don’t you think?”

My birthday is May 8. And I don’t know what to think.

“I think this is just going to be what it is.” I say to her when she answers her phone, deciding we needed more than just texting.

“I don’t think I can live like this,” she says to me. “I have no space. Nowhere to go.”

We are silent: the two of us breathing.

“Sometimes I could just run away,” she says. She says it softly. “Sometimes I think I could just run away and leave them all behind. Does that make me a bad person? A horrible mom?”

“No,” I say.

“What if I did it? Would it make me a horrible person then?”

“You won’t do it so it doesn’t matter.”
“Remember when we were in College and we would eat mushrooms and wander around the Lower East Side and the Village? And we felt so free. So limitless. I want that feeling back.”

“Let’s add it to the list of life in the age of coronavirus goals,” I say, and we both laugh.

It’s so easy to be sad. To be afraid. It’s so easy to struggle against what is happening: to deny it even as the rising tide of it seems to be growing. It is so easy to say it’s just a conspiracy.

It would also be so easy to just sit on my couch and watch Netflix and jerk off to Pornhub (they’ve even made their premium videos free during the crisis…it’s an endless cornucopia of gang bangs and bareback loads).

And yet I can’t help it: I need there to be meaning to this. I need it to have an impact. I don’t want to resist what is happening. I don’t want to slip into denial so I can just go back to normal when this is over.

When I found out I was HIV positive I remember thinking, “This will change me. It should change me. I want it to change me.” When Jon died I refused let him just slip away, to allow the sadness of it to destroy me, instead I demanded it have meaning. Because if I could find the meaning in what had happened then I could find a way to not just survive but to grow.

I want to do more than just survive this. I want to live. I want to experience. I want to grow.

And some days I will wake up discouraged. Some nights I will be so wrecked by anxiety and fear I can’t breathe.

But then I will get out of bed. I will read and write and drink coffee and then I will get on my bike and I will ride through the empty streets, saying hi to anyone I see. And I will eat lunch with my boyfriend and I will reach out to my friends and my mom and dad and brother, I will send dirty jokes to my nephews, and search for pink and sparkly headphones for my nieces and I will say to myself: this matters. This will mean something. This can change us if we let it. Even in all the fear and loss and pain this can be an opportunity.

If we let it.

Check out my book, Accidental Warlocks, on Amazon. Your support means everything.

Life In The Apocalypse 2. Tuesday March 18, 2020

Discerning Daddy

Today’s record, Bon Iver, “For Emma, Forever Ago”.

Every morning begins with panic. Not at the virus, or the fear of becoming sick, but at what we might have lost. And fear for what is coming.

I get out of bed, 8:30am. I think, why? Why not just sleep? Why not just turn the tv on and hunker down and just fuck it all…but I make my coffee. I open my book. I write in my journal. I choose the records I’m going to listen to, and I get to work.

Because I have faith. I have hope. That we will come out the other side. I’m not sure what the other side looks like, or what we will look like, but I know there is an other side.

I had a friend in New York, years ago, 1992. In my book, Accidental Warlocks, I called him Laurent. Laurent had AIDS. I would go sit in his apartment in Chelsea and read him Lorca poems, we would sit in one of those pools you could buy at Kmart, the small ones: he had it set up in his living room. We drank champagne and ate strawberries and chocolate and talked. He would tell outrageous stories about orgies and alien abductions and art.

“I believe we are beautiful,” he said to me one night, sitting on the couch, listening as the rain outside hit against his window, purple lesions on his chest like a map of his past, a prediction of his future. “Even when all we can see is the ugly, I still believe we are beautiful. Just a few years ago the world seemed happy to let all our gay brothers and sisters die, but we haven’t died yet. We are still here. Filthy and gorgeous, the most beautiful of all the ugly little monsters. I love every single one of us.”

Back then we came together to mourn, we danced and went out, we threw ourselves into each other, the only safe havens we knew. Now we are told to stay away from each other. We are told about social distancing and that it is safer in isolation.

My friend Jake and I went for a walk through Echo Park yesterday. My boyfriend and I ate Lasagna and cuddled up on the couch last night. I FaceTime with my ex in Berlin. I check in on friends. My brother told me that one of my nieces, she’s 12, facetimes with her friend as she makes herself snacks.

“Sometimes they don’t even talk.” He says to me over the phone, from the East Coast. “They just do their thing, but it’s like they are doing it together.”

These connections, to our friends, families and our partners, are essential. In some ways they are more important now than ever.

Alex and Matias and I will go outside later and lift our DIY weights and stretch and jump rope and get as much sun as we can. I will meet a friend for a walk (we keep six feet from each other but we can still talk, we can still feel close). And I will keep writing.

And I will have faith. And hope. In us.

“We are all there is,” Laurent said to me. “We are the reason.”

He put on a record. We got high and danced in his living room, the fading summer light golden through his windows.

I fell back into the couch, too high to really understand what was being said to me. But I remember this, I remember this the most, Laurent standing bathed in that golden fading sunlight, breathless and beautiful, and saying,

“And if they all turn their backs on us, if the whole world refuses to see us, I will always see you. We will be family. We will save us.”

And the panic has subsided a little. Just the act of writing this to you, whoever you are, has saved me a little. Because I know you are out there. You are reading this. And maybe you understand, maybe you can identify a little, and maybe this act alone will remind us both:

We are not alone.

Life In The Apocalypse Part One. Tuesday March 17, 2020

Discerning Daddy

Record of the Day: Francis and the Lights: Farewell, Starlite! (“My City is Gone” is my favorite song on this album, but fuck this record is incredible)

It is easy to be afraid. It is easy to allow what is happening around us, the fear and panic, the lines at grocery stores, the mixed messages handed down from our President, to overwhelm us.

I woke up today and looked at the NYTimes and instantly started to panic. Sunday night, the bar I work at in LA, the Eagle, shut down, along with all the bars in Los Angeles. My household all works in gay bars and in queer nightlife. This is going to affect us.

This is going to affect all of us. In ways none of us can understand.

Not just the virus itself, but how we handle the virus. Currently, watching the Trump Administration, it doesn’t feel like we are handling it well. It feels like we are racing toward more panic and fear.

I am a 51-year-old HIV Positive gay man. I remember clearly the AIDS pandemic that decimated our community in the 80’s and 90’s, which still continues today with close to 37 million people living with HIV/AIDS world-wide and almost 800,000 people still dying yearly. I remember the fear and the loss and the horrific mishandling of the situation by the Reagan Administration.

I also remember falling in love. I remember making out with cute boys on dance floors. I remember my community and the way, in spite of all the death and fear and abandonment by our families and government, that we took care of each other.

We are still that community. We are strong. I have so much faith in us. Who I am as a man, as an artists and a writer, who I am as a human being, is intrinsically linked to my queerness. To my community.

With the gay bars and queer spaces being closed down across the country, I am looking for ways to connect. To stay together even as we are told to be social distancing.

Isolation will not save us. I believe we are stronger together.

I am thinking of ways to maintain that balance: safety and community.

I’ve been thinking about online queer book groups, bike rides through the empty streets (you can keep a safe distance but still be together), walks and hikes.

Are there ways to volunteer in this time? Things that will get us out and together but still maintaining personal safety?

I live in a house with two other gay mean. My boyfriend lives just blocks away. This morning, one of my roommates, Matias, was in our front yard lifting DIY weights Alex made from bricks, plastic bags and towels. We are jumping rope and doing yoga. My coworkers and I from the Eagle have a group chat where we check in on each other and share information. Last night we made a family chicken soup dinner and watched horror movies. I Facetime with friends around the world.

I am finding ways to reach out, to be together, I am finding ways to survive this new life.

And I am writing. Because that is how I ascribe meaning to the world. And right now we need meaning.

I’d love to hear the ways you are finding meaning and community in the world right now. Feel free to comment and message and let us all know that we are still here. Together.

Look for my daily instalments of Life in the Apocalypse. Without you there is no meaning. I’m counting on us.

How I Learned to Allow Love and Partnership to be the Foundations I Build My Life On

Discerning Daddy

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to choose another person, to be their partner, to build a life with them, and how to do that in a way that doesn’t require sacrificing my individualism, my own self-journey and adventure.

I’ve never been very successful at balance. I move people in too quickly, I’ve made my partner and our relationship a priority at the expense of my own needs and well-being, and then I end up resenting them because I’m not where I want to be in my life, or I am not moving in the direction of my goals: I am stagnated and I blame my partner. I blame what I see as the prison of my relationship.

In the past, when I’ve felt this resentment, I’ve found ways to sabotage the relationship. I’ve cheated. Left them for someone new. I’ve started fights. I’ve let the resentment grow: it is their fault that I am not a successful writer. It is their fault I am unhappy or unsatisfied. They are holding me back. If I were single, if I had a different kind of boyfriend…if only I was free…

Recently my partner asked me if I felt like I was being held emotionally hostage. It was a funny question because it came out of nowhere, but for some reason it felt incredibly important.

And the answer was clear: The only person who can hold me emotionally hostage is myself. The only person holding me back is me. Everyone else is just living their lives the best they can.
If I am stagnated in my life or career then I need to look inside, not at the people I love, because the responsibility is mine.

A few weeks ago I was given the honor of reading a piece about love at the memorial of a friend of mine’s husband. They had been together for 54 years. I am still stunned by this fact: 54 years with one person.

The two of them built a magnificent life together. They lived in LA and Berlin and Cologne. They supported each other. Took care of each other. Stood by each other while they chased their dreams.

“He was always there. With me. Cheering me on. Wanting me to succeed. Never once did he try to stop me from going after the life I wanted. Having that kind of support, that kind of love, it was the foundation I built my whole life on.”

This idea that love is a foundation on which we build our dreams and lives, that our partners are the support we fall back on in times of success and in times of failure was a revelation to me. The idea that we are here to help carry each other. To encourage each other.

Love is not a prison. It is the escape route. It is the way out of the prison. Having someone by my side, being in this relationship, it is the foundation, the security, that I can build my dreams on.

There is a balance here. One I am still trying to find. How to be a partner and a lover, a friend to the man I choose, and how to be a partner and friend to myself: how to bring these two things together and give them the attention and support they both deserve.

I look forward to the life my dude and I are building. I look forward to the adventures and the journey and the love. I look forward to building something together. But I also look forward to the life I will create for myself: as an artist, a man, as someone seeking adventure.

I haven’t found the perfect key here. I’d love to hear how you guys manage all this.

And thanks for reading. None of this happens without you.

If you’d like to read more you can find my book, Accidental Warlock, on Amazon.

Who Am I? Or Why Ocean Vuong Hates Me

Discerning Daddy

It is Monday, February 10th, 2020, at 9:17am, and I am wondering why Ocean Vuong hates me.

The truth is, Ocean Vuong, the writer of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, doesn’t hate me. He doesn’t even know me.
But I’ve decided I know him. I know exactly who he is. He is who I want to be, or well, he has probably nothing to do with who I think he is, but still, in my mind, he is the embodiment of what I want: hardwood floored New York City Apartments, Jazz and Classical Music, windows with fire-escapes to sit on, conversations about art and writing and music, about life and philosophy and books.

He has books. I know it. Lots of books and amazing chairs to sit in and he is smart and respected and people want to sit with him and listen to what he has to say. And if he didn’t hate me, or if he knew me, we would sit, we would be friends and drink tea and my life would look exactly how I know it is supposed to look.

Exactly how it doesn’t look. Except I do have hardwood floors. And I have a record player that plays lots of Milt Jackson, and I have books everywhere…so what is it that I’m missing?

What is this feeling?

I have everything I’ve ever wanted. I have hardwood floors. I have a house, rundown, in desperate need of work but still: a house, a 1910 craftsman, in Hollywood. I don’t own it, but it’s mine. I have a boyfriend who loves me. I have readers who read me. I’ve published a book. I get to travel. I have chairs to sit in, though I wish they were more comfortable…the point is…I have the life I am jealous of.

Mostly.

And yet I still feel…lost.

I keep coming back to this gnawing question: Who the Fuck am I?

I am 51 years old. I am Queer. I am HIV Positive. I am a writer. I am a son and a brother and a partner and a friend and yet…who the fuck am I? How did I end up here, as this particular Jeff Leavell?

I’m sorry if you find yourself wondering when I’m going to talk about getting pissed on, or my philosophical stance on fisting, or poly-open-monogamous relationships, or all the ways and times I’ve been fucked.

I’m sorry if you came here to get your dick hard.

Sometimes I have these visions of the Jeff Leavell I want to be right now: I am walking the canals of Amsterdam, or climbing through the winding hill streets of some ancient City, and I am always alone. I am happy to be alone. I am on an adventure. I find a café and I sit, and I read. Next to me men are playing chess. A mother and daughter share a carafe of wine. It is always white wine. And the sun is out.

Or I am in Paris, crossing the Seine, wandering slowly toward Shakespeare & Company. I will sit in a chair and I will read. I will pretend that I live just up the hill, in the Latin Quarter.

I will not be afraid. I will no longer wonder who I am: because I will be exactly that man, right there, sitting in the large chair in the famous book store in Paris, and I will know, without a doubt that when I leave I will be swallowed up in the beauty of the City…and later that night I will meet a group of writers and poets and artists and we will eat dinner at a small restaurant and we will talk about what we are working on, about life, we will talk about the world.

I am so consumed with fear right now. I am so consumed with self-doubt. My skin itches so bad I want to claw my way out. My brain is on fire: my thoughts racing.

I want to write a fantasy for you: some decadent adventure I had while in Berlin, getting fucked so hard I almost forgot my name, or about gang bangs in Madrid, or falling in love in the rain in London…I want to write about anything but this moment, right now, where I am:

In Hollywood, on a Monday morning, struggling to find that word, any fucking word, just a word that will explain to you exactly what I am feeling.

Do you ever wonder how you will pay your phone bill? Or if you will be evicted because you can no longer pay your rent? Do you ever wonder if everyone you love will finally leave you, all alone, with nothing? Do you ever think that you missed every opportunity, that you fucked up so bad that now you will never get to live the life you always dreamed of?

Because I am terrified. That is what this feeling is: this feeling that my life is slowly dripping away, floating passed me and I am not participating, I am no longer a character in my life: just a bystander.

What if this feeling is no longer the fear of failure, but failure itself?

And then what? I am a 51-year-old, HIV Postive, Queer, failure?

And Jesus Fucking Christ, it’s just Monday, 10:21 am…and I’m already here, drowning in this self-doubt, this fear, this abject failure.

Do you ever have that feeling? What do you do in those moments when you’re so fucking scared that you’re immobilized?

Because if you do ever feel this way, lost, unsure, like your life is passing you by, that you’ve somehow missed the person you were supposed to be and you have no power: you’re not alone.

I’m right here with you.

So today, this is what I’m going to do: I’m going to play a Stan Getz album, Focus, and I’m going to write until I can’t, until the fear becomes so intolerable I might scream, and then I will take my little dog Paco and go for a walk, and maybe later I will meet a friend for tea, and I will try to remember that some days are just like this. Some weeks. Some months.

But I do have power. And that the writing will save me.

And that I’m not alone.

My father used to tell me, “Fear is just the lie you tell yourself so you don’t have to get up and actually do something. You can spend the next ten years afraid, or you can take ten minutes and put your shoes on and go do something. If you’re lucky you’re going to be 65 one day. And you will have either done the thing you’ve dreamed of or not. Which one would you rather be true at 65?” And my other favorite, “Worrying is just like praying for what you don’t want.”

And my mother once said, “I’d rather see you fail at something you love than succeed at something you hate.”

I’m going to commit to a walk. And to writing a blog post once a week. To finishing the projects I’ve started so that at 65 I actually can look back and say: yeah, I did that. Regardless of the outcome: I did it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. I know this isn’t my normal kind of post (I promise, I’ll get your dick hard again soon). And I’d love to hear your dreams. Even if they terrify you. Even if they seem impossible.

And I apologize to Ocean Vuong. I have no idea what kind of life you have, and there is no reason to think you hate me. He did write a fucking beautiful book, though. You should go read it if you haven’t.

CHICAGO: REFELCTIONS ON LIFE, DEATH, SEX, AND LOVE

Discerning Daddy

When I was 15 I fell madly in love with a boy named Eric. His father lived in the Dakota, Eric’s bedroom windows looking out over Central Park West, and Strawberry Fields. I would spend weekends at Eric’s place. We would lie in bed jerking off, kissing and fucking. During the day, when Eric would lock himself in his bedroom and paint, I would go across the street to the park, and cruise the Rambles.

I would spend hours wandering those trails, trying to see how many guys I could get to touch me, to let me fuck them, how many different guys I could make cum by sucking them off.

And then I would return to Eric. We would get high on opium laced joints and he would tell me about what he had created: Eric believed his work was inspired by beings who lived in other dimensions. Eric believed that there were worlds within worlds, and if we closed our eyes we could see past the thin veil of our existence: we could see into the endless expanse.

Eric would wake me up late at night. He would be crying. He would tell me that he had to get out. He had to get away. I knew he was falling under the spell of whatever madness ate at him. And maybe a part of me understood it: understood the burning in his brain, the voices.

We would go for long walks, down Central Park West to 59th, meeting Broadway, through Times Square, and into the Village. He would sit in Thompkins Square Park, listening to the drums play, listening to the drunks and the conspiracy theorists yelling at the sky, and I would wander down 7th street to the stoop where the dope dealers stood.

A bag of dope for each of us. Enough to quiet our screaming heads. And we would sit on benches, waiting for the sun to come up, telling each other wild dreams of who we would be, of love and adventure. I was going to be a poet, a writer, Eric was going to be an artist, he was going to be a cult leader: and one day, when we were older, we would find each other again, and we would spend the rest of our lives in love somewhere in the desert, or in Paris, or Tunisia, or maybe in an apartment in Chelsea.

When Eric moved to Sedona to live with his mother I thought my whole world would fall apart. I had never known pain like that in my life. Eric is the first man I ever really loved.

And the loss of him ripped through me, tore at me, like losing a part of myself.

I didn’t know then what I know now: that even though it felt like dying, it wouldn’t kill me. I didn’t know then that I am strong, and that love, even the loss of love, will just make me stronger.

My mother, Beverly, used to talk about the fires that burned in her head. How they would burn bright and then dark. How life was an endless battle between those fires. Beautiful and destructive and consuming.

“We are like that, you and me. We burn bright. And that burning can make life feel endlessly magical, but if you aren’t careful those fires will consume you and everyone you have loved.”

She’s right of course. Those fires have consumed me over and over. Like heroin. Like the screaming thoughts in my head.

The first time I kissed Eric was in Madison New Jersey, where my father was living, where his mother lived before moving to Sedona. We were on the golf course, it was three in the morning, and Eric was sure that the night sky was full of alien crafts, that the shadows were hiding whispering men, we were tripping on mushrooms and I think I kissed him because I wanted to shut him up as much as I actually wanted to kiss him.

He held me. He was so warm. I was high enough to feel us becoming one. I was high enough to believe we could stay like that forever, breathing in the night.

Clay’s likes to ask me when I knew I was in love with him, and I never want to tell him, because what if I fell in love with him first? Because I resist him, I don’t want him to think I love him as much as I do: I’m afraid of falling in love with Clay’s: I’m afraid of losing him. I’m so afraid of losing some battle that is a self-made construct: I am so afraid of giving in, and yet here is a secret: when I give in I win. Every time. When I give in I no longer even care about winning: I’m just happy.

But lately I’ve been thinking about it a lot too. When did I fall in love with Clay’s? Was it the night he showed up alone at Ostbahnhoff, a warehouse party in Downtown LA, where I was with my boyfriend, Noah, who was visiting from Berlin with friends of ours? Clay’s stood there, on the dance floor, watching me, something about his eyes, the way he looked at me: I wanted to walk up to him, to kiss him: I wanted the whole world to stop so it could be just the two of us. He smiled: maybe I fell in love with him the first time I ever saw him smile because Clay’s has one of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen: because even though he wouldn’t agree with me, I know it is true: Clay’s smile that night was so full of hope and dreams and life , or maybe it was the first time I realized he was just as scared as I was, or the night, driving home from another warehouse party and we pulled over on the side of the road and he fell asleep, because I wouldn’t let him sleep over yet, because I was still refusing to give in, and his head was on my shoulder and I listened to him breath: listened to him live.

When did I fall in love with you, Clay’s?

Was it the time you asked me to come to the Eagle and watch you dance, and I did. I got dressed and drove to the Eagle and you danced for me. And I knew: this was important. It was important that I did that.

My mother would tell me we had been in love forever. Before we even met: that our love was just waiting for us to find it.

I come from the kind of women who believe in magic and love and destiny: the kind of women who have spent their lives refusing to be anything other than who they are.

Maybe I have loved you forever, Clay’s. Sometimes that is exactly how it feels.

Clay’s and I fuck. A lot. And we fight. And we burn as bright as we can: and we do everything we can not to be consumed, even when all I want is to be consumed.

When I got sober the thing I was most afraid of was losing what made me special, of becoming like everyone else: a man who goes to work, who grows old, who loses his dreams. What I didn’t realize was that the drugs were the things that were holding me back, the things that were robbing me of my real fire, of my true dreams.

Sobriety is a challenge for me. The voices in my head, the anger, the jealousy, the obsessive thoughts. I struggle with quieting my head so I can hear who I really am: that little voice underneath it all.

This is amplified in my relationship. I am slowly realizing that when I am mad at Clay’s, or jealous, or scared, it rarely has anything to do with him, or us, but with all the stories I have built from that very first kiss with Eric, through all the men I have loved, through all the loss and all the dreams that didn’t come true and all the fear: sometimes I have to step away from Clay’s and realize: this isn’t about us . It’s about me.

Because, like anyone who has made it 51 years, I am damaged, and that’s ok. It’s actually kind of beautiful. If I let it be. We are all these amazing, damaged survivors: we are the ones who get to tell the stories.

Clay’s grew up in Nebraska. He moved to Chicago when he was 27 to be an actor and an artist: to be the man he really always was. So going for a three day trip to Chicago was going home for Clay’s.

The most amazing thing about going home with someone, going back to where they were creating the dreams that would define them, is you get to meet all the people who loved them. You get to see them outside of the context of the life you have together: you get to see Them.

Maybe you fall in love with someone many times: maybe it isn’t one time. Maybe I fell in love with Clay’s listening to stories his friends told me of the actor, of the young man, of the crazy man: of my man. Or maybe it was the night we stood in the middle of a sex party at Jackhammer and Clay’s wouldn’t let me go, whispering in my ear, “Mine,” or when he walked me around Sidetrack in Boys Town excited to show me his world.

Or maybe it was when he showed me all the places he had fucked, or sucked dick, the dark rooms and the guys he had met there. Or walking all the way from Downtown to Edgewater where we were staying because he wanted me to see everything: the theatres he had performed in and the apartments he had lived in: he wanted me to love Chicago as much as he did: he wanted me to catch the dream.

This is what it means to get to get to know someone: to learn them: to see them. There were those moments in Chicago where I realized: This is Clay’s. This is a Clay’s I’ve never met before. This is a whole new Clay’s for me to fall in love with.

And we got to fuck some really hot dudes together, and I got jealous, and we fought, but mostly we walked and we talked and we grew: and we fed the fires so they could feed us.

My mother had a friend, David. David was gay. He would spend summer weekends on fire Island, he bartended at a gay bar in New Hope. David would spend weeks with us, sleeping in our guest room, telling my brother and I wildly inappropriate stories about all his adventures. Stories I would jerk off to, hungry for life.

David was the first man I ever knew who died of AIDS. I remember being at his funeral, all the men crying: it was the early years, the years we were still able to cry: before all the funerals my mother would make me go to: “Because we owe it to them. We owe it to all of them.” After the funeral we went to Washington Square Park and someone played a pop song I can’t remember on a big black radio and we all danced and I remember the way the sun burned against the buildings, the way the clouds rolled over the City, and the way a summer rain fell, and we still danced.

And I remember my mother saying, when I asked her why we were dancing: “Because what else are you going to do? It’s either dance or die, baby boy. So we’re gonna dance.”

When I found out I was HIV positive I was terrified to tell my mother. Because she had lost everyone, all those men who had helped raise me, because there came a time when we no longer danced, when we no longer cried: a time when we just knew: eventually they would all be dead.

I remember calling her. I couldn’t stop crying. I kept saying, “I’m so sorry, mom, I’m so sorry.”

And she said to me, “Baby. I love you more than anything in the whole world. This is just a thing. Just one more thing. It will not take you down.”

And of course she was right. I sero-converted in the age of undetectable viral loads and PreP and TASP, in the age where this would not kill me. But I felt guilty. I felt ashamed. Like I had let her down.

“You will make this something important,” she said to me. “You will use this to change your life.”

Maybe I fell in love with Clay’s when his dick was buried deep inside this little muscle dude we met in Chicago, when he reached out for me, his eyes connecting with mine: and I saw him there, I saw him loving me as he fucked that guy, or maybe it was when the three of us were kissing and I felt Clay’s hand taking mine in his, his fingers interlocking with mine…

…because this is what life is, isn’t it? All the dreams and all the love and all the loss and all the living…the burning as bright as we can without being consumed…

We fight and we fuck and we dream and we burn bright…and we love…and I wonder if Eric is the leader of his own cult in the desert, or if he is in Paris, or Tunisia, in some studio making brilliant art, or maybe he is a banker, or a homeless man, or maybe he’s dead, and I wonder who David would have been if he hadn’t have died of AIDS, or all those men who we could have loved, but instead, we turned our backs on, who as a nation we allowed to die alone from a disease that for me, in 2019 is totally manageable, and I can make their deaths matter: I can make David, who was so beautiful and funny and vibrant: I can make him matter…by loving Clay’s, by following my dreams all the way to the end, even the ones that never manifest: just by living and not giving in…

And maybe the first time I fell in love with you Clay’s was when…

Art work by Clay’s Manzer.

How a Three-Way Taught Me To Feel Safe in My Relationship

Discerning Daddy

I struggle a lot with trust. I’m also territorial. I don’t like sharing what’s mine.

Like all of us, I can feel insecure, not good enough: afraid that I will lose something valuable.

I can create stories in my head where I will be betrayed and abandoned.

The thing about these fears is that they are contrary to what is real. I am not alone. I’m surrounded by people who love me. I have friends. I have an amazing boyfriend. And to be honest, I have bunch of ex-boyfriends who are still some of my best friends.

Clay and I have had a bunch of really successful three-ways, and some group sex experiences, but it wasn’t until recently that I learned something valuable:

I go into a lot of these scenarios treating the other guy(s) as a potential threat, and my boyfriend as something that belongs to me. And really, neither of those things are true.

Clay and I both agree: we want to be able to fuck other guys. We want to be able to explore and have adventures. But for now, we choose to do that together. It’s our form of monogamy. I’ve talked about this a lot so I won’t go deep, but one of the things I like about our arrangement is we get to experience something new, while also experiencing each other as something new.

Recently we decided to meet up with Trent. Both Clay and I have fucked Trent in the past. He’s someone we are both comfortable with.

And yet I found myself getting insecure, worried that maybe I wouldn’t be good enough, all the things my head can do to tell me that I won’t be enough. I began to view Trent as the threat and Clay as the possession that would be stolen from me.

While Clay and I were waiting for Trent to show up he looked at me and asked,

“Will it bother you if I kiss him? He and I…we have a history. It can get kind of passionate.”

For a second something like fury burst through me, but I saw it for what it was: fear. And then I thought: What’s the point of having some other dude over if we can’t kiss them, or be passionate: what’s the point of any of this if we have to censor who we are?

The truth is, if I thought about it: the idea of Clay making out with some other guy was hot as fuck. The thought of Clay holding me, touching me, while I made out with another guy makes my dick hard right now writing this.

The only thing holding me back from really enjoying these experiences, from fully realizing my sexuality and my partners sexuality, is myself.

My fear.

Trent was coming over to be with us. Not Jeff. Not Clay. But Us. There is something beautiful about that. And then I thought: it’s our job to make Trent feel special, to make him feel desired: we were inviting him into our world, and he deserved the best welcome we could give.

Watching Clay make out with Trent was breathtaking in how hot it was. The two of us kissing Trent, exploring him, taking turns fucking him, making him the center of our world, was one of the hottest experiences I’ve had in a long time.

And if I ever doubted how safe I was with Clay, how secure I am, he taught me, in those moments, how loved I am. He would check in with me, touch me, kiss me, make sure I knew that we were together in this. That this was our adventure.

We can be filthy pigs. I loved licking Clay’s cum out of Trent, filling Trent with two of my own loads, making out with Trent while Clay fucked him, and watching the two of them make out while I fucked Trent, but more than that there was a shared intimacy between the three of us, something that connected us, for those brief moments we were all together.

And I found myself falling deeper in love with my man. Trusting him. Desiring him. There is nothing hotter than watching my dude with another guy, being able to connect with him in a whole knew way.

After Trent left Clay and I went on a date, the two of us, to dinner. Then we came home and curled up on the couch and watched scary movies. Then we fucked and fell asleep holding each other.

I’ll still get jealous. It’s part of who I am. But I think I learned that even in those moments all I have to do is remember the truth: I am loved. And I am safe.

I encourage you to go out and explore. To challenge yourself: to find a way past your fear. And to take care of each other. And to be kind. It was the kindness that helped me the most: to remember that Trent was a good man, not my enemy, and that Clay was my partner, not my possession. To be kind and loving to them both in those moments, no matter how filthy or piggy we got: because we can be all of it: filthy, dirty, nasty, loving, kind pigs.

I’d love to hear your stories. And adventures. And the ways you challenge yourself!

Thanks so much for reading. Without you none of this matters.

THE IMPORTANCE OF QUEER VISIBILITY: WHY I WRITE ABOUT SEX, BEING HIV POSITIVE, KINK, RELATIONSHIPS AND BEING QUEER AS FUCK

Discerning Daddy

I met Ivan in Berlin a year ago. We had been chatting on Scruff for a few days and finally decided to meet at Populus Cafe on the canal in Kreuzberg.

At the time Ivan was in Berlin studying Political Science for a year, before returning home to Russia.

Ivan was 22 years old. He had come out when he got to Berlin. But he was still careful on social media, didn’t show his face on the apps, never sent out any sex pics with his face in them.

Because he was afraid.

Being gay in Berlin was a lot different than being gay in Russia.

“It would destroy my mother.” He said to me. We were sitting at one of the tables outside. People rode bikes, they walked hand in hand, drinking beers and flat whites, laughing. The City was alive with summer. “My brothers would kill me.”

“When do you go back?”

“Three Weeks. I’ve been looking for a job here, but it isn’t easy. My Visa ends. I’m not an EU Citizen.”

We walked along the canal and made out on one of the many bridges. He held me tight. He ran his hand down my back and grabbed onto my ass.

“I wonder if I’ll ever be able to do this again.”

“Make out with a guy?”

“Like this. Out in the open. Not caring what anyone thinks. Not being afraid.”

We spent the rest of the day at his apartment in Mitte. We fucked and made food and watched bad horror movies and fucked some more.

A week later I returned to Los Angeles. Another city where you can make out and hold hands and love whoever you want.

In May, right around the time of my birthday, Ivan messaged me on Instagram.

“I am in Amsterdam visiting a friend for a few days. I tested HIV Positive. I am afraid. I don’t know what will happen if I go back. I am afraid to go to the doctors. I am afraid to tell my family. I keep reading your stories about being HIV Positive and they give me hope. You make me feel less alone.”

A few weeks ago I was with my boyfriend, Clay, in Hollywood. We were picking up movie tickets on Hollywood and Highland. Swarms of tourists. Families from all over the country taking pictures with Spider Man and Darth Vader and Michael Jackson.

We were holding hands. A father gave us a look of disapproval and he said something to his little boy. The boy laughed. For a moment I thought about pulling my hand away, avoiding any conflict or embarrassment.

Instead I held on tighter. I got on my tippy toes (Clay is six feet to my five five so I have to reach high for kisses!) and kissed him.

Because this is my city. My world. And no one gets to tell me I can’t hold my boyfriend’s hand on the street.

And who the fuck knows? Maybe that little boy will grow up into a big ole queer teenager and he will remember the two guys making out right there, in the middle of the street, not giving a fuck what his dad or anyone else thought.

And that’s the point. That’s why. Every time we hold hands in public. Every time we kiss those we love (or just like or want to fuck) on the street. Every time we say I love you or show intimacy and affection, we are making a statement to the world: That we are here. And you are not alone.

I got an email a while back regarding a story of mine:

“I read your blog piece, “Getting Pissed on Taught me the Secret to Being Free”. You and your partner should be ashamed. I am a gay man. I do not live in liberal California. I believe in Jesus and in restraint and monogamy. It is gay men like you, sexual deviants and predators, who are teaching the straight-normal world that we are all amoral perverts. We will make America Great Again, and there will be no place for men like you.”

He’s absolutely right. I am a sexual deviant and a pervert, and I do not give a fuck what straight, normal, gay, or anyone else thinks about that. This is my life. My sexuality. My relationship. And I live according to my values.

To be kind and loving. To be honest (or as honest as I can be). To be open. To try to grow. To be tolerant. To have compassion for myself and those around me.

And to be visible so those who can’t be will know they aren’t alone.

I write about getting pissed on and group sex and getting fucked in public. I write about falling in love. I write about my struggles with jealousy and fear and intimacy, about getting sober and being HIV Positive. I try to explore all of who I am openly and honestly because I can. Because I will not be jailed, I will not be beaten, my family will not turn their backs on me.

I think those of us living in places like LA and New York, San Francisco and Chicago, have an obligation to be visible. Whether you’re two dads or two moms raising a family, trans or gender fluid, a slut or asexual, open or monogamous, we need to be seen: all of us. The whole spectrum.

Because there are people out there like my friend Ivan who are afraid that they will die if they express their truth.

So for them, I’m gonna keep screaming it as loud and as graphically as I can.

And I’m not gonna back down for anyone.

If you’d like to read more of my writing check out the stories on my blog or my book, Accidental Warlocks, on Amazon.

Your support means everything to me. We are in this together.

ON JEALOUSY AND FUCKING AND BEING TRUE TO WHO I AM: EVEN WHEN I DON’T ALWAYS LOVE WHO I AM

Discerning Daddy

Sometimes I am jealous as fuck. And I don’t even always have my shit together about it.

There is this expectation that we are supposed to be super chill about our partners fucking other dudes, making out with them at the bars, flirting with them on the dating apps. There’s this constant, hidden message: If you aren’t open and cool with it than there is something inherently wrong with you. And if you have any inclination toward monogamy you must be incredibly unenlightened.

So I’m just going to say it: I’m an incredibly unenlightened fucking cave man who can’t stand the idea of my man with another man. Except, when suddenly, I think it’s the hottest thing in the world.

Because sex, and love, and relationships are complicated as fuck, and I don’t believe there is any one way, and to be honest, I think maybe the closest thing I can get to is being fluid with my sexuality and the openness in my relationship.

Sometimes I love to watch my dude fuck another man. Sometimes my favorite thing to do is go to an afterhours or a sex club and watch my man suck a bunch of dicks. I love when he fucks me when a bunch of guys stand around and watch, jerking off. One of my favorite fantasies is me and another bottom totally spoiling him.

And I get to do all those things with him.

But there are other times when I lie in bed driving myself insane with the exact same scenarios. Imagining him falling in love, leaving me, or being bored with me and only being able to get off with another guy.

Because not only am I jealous as fuck, I can be insecure, and afraid: that I’m not enough, or good enough, or that I will be left alone, and that ultimately I will die alone.

Sometimes I want to be the only man he wants to fuck. And it hurts to know that I will never be the only man he wants to fuck.

But if I were honest, he is not the only man I want to fuck either.

My jealousy and insecurities aren’t even based in rational thought. They are these deep down wells of emotion that come from nowhere, screaming at me and causing me to do and say stupid, mean, petty things.

I want to be one of those guys who doesn’t care what my man is doing when I’m not around. Totally fine sitting in the living room watching Rachel Maddow while some trick comes over so my boyfriend can fuck him on our bed.

But I’m not that guy. I don’t even know how to be that guy. And really, maybe that guy isn’t even that guy. At least not the way I’m imagining him.

So I have to find a way to be myself.

And I have to be honest about my desires, and what I want. Because let’s get real. I want us both to fuck other guys. I want to share them with my man and I want them all to myself. I want to get nasty piggy and do dirty slutty shit. Sometimes I want to do a lot of nasty piggy dirty slutty shit.

The hardest thing for me to accept is that I am powerless over what my partner does. Just as he is powerless over what I do.

I have been manipulative, I have tried to control him, I’ve started fights because I caught him looking at an ex, or any number of things I’m super ashamed of. Things that I don’t think are true to my nature, but they are. They are just as much a part of me as the good and kind and generous and loving things are. I just have to figure out how to accept them without nurturing them.

And then I have to be honest. And tell him I’m scared. To be vulnerable. And to try to grow. To try to be the man I want to be. To be deserving of the man he is.

Because that’s the point, right? To find a way, even if that way is messy and scary and sometimes makes me look bad, to be real and vulnerable, to rise above my pride and my shame to become the Jeff I know I can be.

Right now I’m working on a middle ground. I’m not ready for 100% open and I don’t think monogamy is the right path for me either. So we are monogamy-ish. We can do whatever we want together. We can fuck, go to sex parties, put on shows, have threeways and fourways and group sex. We can do whatever we want.

Together.

And what I’m learning is to say, hey, I don’t want to do that right now. I’m not feeling comfortable. I’m sorry.

Because that’s also about being vulnerable. Admitting that sometimes I don’t feel safe. And not making that about him. Because it’s never really about him.

And trusting that he will have my back. Because he always does.

It’s not easy for me to say no. To say I’m not comfortable, especially when it comes to sex. I think I should always be ready, always hard, always horny, always down to fuck and get fucked.

But I’m not.

Sometimes I’m emo. Sometimes I just want him, his dick inside me, his kisses. Sometimes I’m just not in that head space.

And that’s ok.

Here’s the deal, here’s the reason I’m sharing this not so sexy side of myself: Because it is ok. And the more we accept that side of us, the more we stop feeling ashamed and get honest, the more we will be true to who we are. The easier it’ll be to be vulnerable when the jealousy arises, instead of angry. The easier it will be to approach him and myself with love, and compassion, and not insecurity and fear.

I am ok. And if I’m ok, considering the things I’ve done, I’m pretty fucking sure you are ok too.

Feel free to reach out to me if you have things related to this you want to share. It makes me feel less alone if we are all in this together. Or if you just want to ask me questions. Or to tell me that you get it. Or that you think I’m crazy as fuck (you’d be right, I am.).

Also, it’d be a big deal if you’d check out my book, Accidental Warlocks, on Amazon. Your support makes it possible for me to keep writing. Without you there is no point. We are in this together!