Big Gay Superheroes Part 1 – Where Are All The Sisters??

I’ve been a comic book fan, or more precisely, a super hero fan, most of my life. As part of my pop culture oeuvre, I am a reigning expert in most things spandex-y and superheroic, and my vast knowledge of these amazing creatures in capes and tights dates back to one icy cold December day in the late 1970s, in the beautiful seaside town of Baddeck.

At that time, I, along with my parents and younger sister, were visiting my great aunt Jessie, who lived in the neighboring community of South Haven. It was almost Christmas, and we were delivering presents to this woman who was like a grandmother to me, and at the same time running about this small town doing errands and stocking up on winter supplies for her modest, turn of the century farmhouse. Because I was so helpful carrying bags and boxes and holding doors for others, I was rewarded with a whole dollar – a king’s ransom at the time I assure you- to splurge on anything that caught my fancy at Stone’s Drugstore, our final stop for the day, and the closest thing to a shopping experience in this sleepy little town. Wandering the aisles, my eyes darting up and down and all around, as I considered candy treats and coloring books, yellow parachute men and silver slinkys, until finally I came, face to face and dead in my tracks, to a large “spinner rack”, full to overflowing with brightly colored and ever so inviting comic books. As I scanned the various titles starring Spider-man and Fantastic Four, Superman and Batman, I found myself drawn to one called the Justice League of America, and within a story titled “2000 Light Years to Christmas” (I’m not even kidding!) Being the holiday season, I took the whole story theme as a sign, and snatched the book up and ran off to the counter to pay the massive cover price of 60 cents, not caring to spend my left over change on candy or chocolate bars, but instead jumping up and down pleading COULD WE PLEASE GO so I could snuggle up in the back of the car and begin to consume my new treasure. But instead of consuming it, it seemed the book, and the very comic book world itself, was about to consume me.

I had seen comic books before of course, and was familiar with most of their costumed adventurers, but never had I seen them gathered together before so gallantly, fighting for truth, justice and the American way (whatever that meant!) Superman! Wonder Woman! Batman! The Flash! Green Lantern! Green Arrow! Black Canary! Firestorm! It was a pantheon of heroes, eager to transport me away on their noble adventures. And truly god like and heroic they seemed….not the Marvel everyman that Spidey represented, or the cutting edge sci fi technology of the Fantastic Four or Iron Man, the utter Id run wild of the Incredible Hulk or the rah rah Americana of Captain America himself. No, these mythical creatures seemed to watch over and protect all mankind, to walk among us but not be one of us, and I was truly captivated by that very divide and distinction in their nature.

But then I grew up. Sort of.

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The Story of Stuff – Part Deux!

When I moved in to my first grown up apartment – and no, I don’t mean those 6’x8′ cellar dungeons I used to call home during university days….the small, cramped space where I’d stockpile my expensive and rarely used textbooks and musty vinyl collection, with a noisy refrigerator whose sole purpose for being was to keep the beer icy cold – I literally had an overstuffed and well cat clawed blue couch that travelled with me from my parent’s home in CB, a small TV liberated from my older sister, a 5-year-old Dell computer that worked best depending on how hard I might kick it,  an eclectic and rather obsessively organized CD collection, and a small crowded bookshelf, filled with Stephen King and Anne Rice’s finest, next to classics like The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye from my former English major days. The small kitchen contained a few mismatched pots, pans and dishes salvaged from the aforementioned and ever so helpful big sis….but no kitchen table. There was no need, as work and a fairly active social life left little time or desire to eat at “home”. The open concept living room/dining room contained neither a coffee table or end tables, as it seemed to me that might only collect mess and clutter. And, as you might recall, the misguided words from a kindly ol’ nun from my childhood left me  somewhat deeply  changed, with the undying impression that clutter was somehow… wrong. Bad. Evil , even. And so I’d have none of that. In a sense, I learned to recycle long before it became vogue or….you know…necesarry to save our environment and the future of all humanity and all that.  Mail would quickly be opened, then filed and/or shredded. Empty cans and bottles collected and dropped off on the curb, where some poor homeless dude would quickly make off with them. Countertops sparkled, floors shined, and dishes safely stacked away behind cupboard doors, avoiding any prying eyes. If I needed to take note of something or write it down, I would often need to write it on my hand or home to remember it, as a scrap of paper to simply jot things down was simply nowhere to be found. Things seemed sterile and safe, clean and simple, and I often joked with friends that if I needed to move away quickly for whatever reason – say I finally won a million dollars or decided finally that my arch nemesis of the moment must die and I needed to flee the country quickly -I could probably pack all I needed or wanted in a small box and be off into the sunset.   And I continued this way for years, and my orderly universe continued to spin neatly on its axis, a life lived clean and clutter free.  Where everything had its place, and it’s place was….well,  tidy.

And then….along came Shawn.

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The Story of Stuff! – Part One

Growing up, our house always seemed to be the central hub of activity in our neighborhood. On any given day, you’d find a posse of screaming 7 and 8 year olds, running through the yard swinging taped together leftover Christmas wrap holders substituting for light sabers as we acted out our favorite scenes from Star Wars. Or find a gaggle of teenage girls crowded into a small pink bedroom around a portable record player, talking about boys they liked, and dancing and singing to the likes of Donna Summer and KC and the Sunshine Band. Or a herd of teenage boys draped all over the furniture in the living room, cheering for their favourite baseball team on TV (Toronto Blue Jays!) all the while pretending not to notice or care about those teenage girls giggling away just a floor above. And as much as our house was so often full of people, it was also full of stuff. Lots of stuff. My mother, for instance, had a fondness for Blue Mountain Pottery, Royal Albert Blossomtime china, and her own rough-hewn but lovingly handmade bowls and oddities that she spun into creation twice a month at her ceramics class, and you’d find examples of these on table tops and wall shelves and mantles all through the house. My father was a huge sports nut, particularly hockey, and there were many nods on walls and shelves to his favourite team, the Leafs. My oldest brother suffered a rather gripping fascination with all things militaristic, with a growing collection of amry and navy memorabilia to commemorate the same. My other brother was practically a bowling legend at his junior high school, and seemed to arrive home with an even bigger and increasingly more garish trophy once a week to complete for the already limited shelf space. My older sister was the pretty, popular girl at school, and with her came all those trappings of clothes, makeup, and hair products aplenty, enough to overwhelm her bedroom and our tiny shared bathroom. As for my younger sister, her interests were mostly my interests, and she seemed agreeable to whatever toy, movie, game, or TV fad that struck my fancy at the time. And so we’d often alternate from having my 12” GI Joe action figures (not dolls!) rescue all the Tetley tea animals from the war zone that became our dining room table, to running over those evil Barbies gifted to her by a cousin of ours with my Tonka Trucks in the driveway (so um….maybe that part’s a bit disturbing in retrospect), but never remembering to clean up after ourselves once finished our great make-believe adventures. And so with all these varied people about, with all their varied interests , stuff began to accumulate. And the house, with both it’s inhabitants and their belongings, always appeared very full. Although we were each charged with our very own individual chores to aid in the upkeep of the home – my oldest brother was praised as being the world’s greatest vacuum cleaner guy, while my specialty was window washing, mainly because I was so obsessive I wouldn’t walk away ‘til it was spot and streak free! – and as much as our parent’s worked hard to instill the very ideals of good proper housekeeping, things inevitably always ended up feeling a bit cluttered and….well….lived in.

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Life Partners (aka Big Gay Wedding Toasts)

`Acceptance. To feel respect and approval from our family, our friends, our fellow man. Something we all yearn for, something we all seek, whether we recognize or admit to it or not. Acceptance can come in many forms, sometimes after long periods of searching for it, after struggles and struggles to work towards it, and sometimes – out of nowhere – when we most least expect it. For me, one of the singular and most life affirming moments that I’ve felt this degree of acceptance was a few years ago at my dear friend Elaine’s wedding.

Elaine and I met through the workplace almost 8 years ago now. In just a short time, we developed an amazing friendship, in a brother from another mother kind of way….well, except she’d be a sister. We bonded over music and food and beer and dancing, and shared a very similar, very wicked Gaelic sense of humour. That, and the girl is absolutely stunningly beautiful, and DAMN – we thought – we looked good together as we went off to take on the town on one of our many adventures. Ironically, and although I am (ahem) a few years older than she, we grew up (me in Whitney Pier, Elaine in New Waterford) about 25 minutes apart in good ol’ Cape Breton, but never met until our paths crossed here.

Anyway, the fun continued, and then one day….er make that night at the Lower Deck, Elaine meets Andy, this good looking, rugby playin’ transplanted Newfoundlander now living and working in the Valley, and the sparks flew. In a magical, here come the fireworks kinda way. And then….nothing. Andy was presumably back home, but had her number, but still, no phone call. The first day I said “don’t be silly, of course he’ll call! You just wait!” The next day, seeing Elaine’s disappointed face, I said “Um, maybe he’s busy, or maybe his dog ate the phone number you think?” And after the third day of no contact, I cried “forget that loser, we’ll go cruising for another one, a better one next Saturday!” (Yes, I literally did teach my buddy how to “cruise” guys, to her great success, but that’s a story for another day!) But then, wouldn’t you know it, Andy phoned that very night. And every night after that. And suddenly he started visiting his sister Charmaine (I love this girl! And a beer rep sister….I mean, come on, seriously, how cool is that??) in the city And months later, moved himself to the city and before long they were completely inseparable, and within a year or so happily engaged to be married.

With this exciting news, Elaine’s Ma Kaye was a more frequent visitor to town, eager to help plan her youngest daughter’s wedding. After hearing so much about her mom, a very lively spirit if ever there was one, well-known in our homeland of Cape Breton for her love of music and step dancing, I was excited for the chance to finally meet her. And we did meet, although rather unexpectedly during the work day, when I ran into them in the hospital corridor where we both worked, on an afternoon Kaye stopped by for a visit. Elaine greeted me with a big hug, while her mom gave me a quick, polite smile but kept walking. “Ma, THIS is my friend Colin that you’ve heard so much about!” Kaye looked at me quizzically, then back to Elaine. “Huh, this is Colin? This guy? Really?” To me “Are you sure?” “MA!” Elaine cried, looking just slightly mortified. “Yup, 100 percent!” I laughed, assuming she must mean my sexuality, “but if I weren’t I would’ve run off with your daughter here years ago, just so you know!”. Elaine continued to apologize long after, and noted what came out of her mom later was even “worse”, something about how I didn’t seem to look gay or act gay, and people must look at me and think “wow, what a waste, with no girlfriend, no wife.” But I thought her mom’s reaction quite funny and amusing, and knew her comments were to be taken lightly. “Come on,” I’d say, “We ARE from Cape Breton! The only point of reference many of our peeps back home have these days is Jack MacFarland, by way of Jack Tripper. Kaye and I came to grow quite close over the following weeks, and she came to love Shawn even more, and the three of us delighted in each other’s company and our ability to make each other laugh, usually at Andy and Elaine’s eye popping and/or eye rolling expense.

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