The Non-Fiction Archives: 2012-2014

Previously written articles, essays, media commentaries and reaction pieces. Media-related pieces can now be found on my blog while other entries of a more personal nature (and admittedly sadder and darker on occasion) can now be found on howwwl


The So-Called American Dream: (Some) Frustrations of a 21st-Century Thirty-Foursomething

posted Jul 11, 2013, 3:28 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Jul 11, 2013, 3:30 AM ]

The other day, a friend of mine sent me an MSN article about the uncertainty of the American Dream in today's economic climate and how it's becoming extremely difficult to rise up the financial ladder but once there, it's even harder to remain there -- with or without an education.


Still, generation after generation continues to be told that an education is the gateway to success if you work hard enough. Such success has typically been indicated by having a great job that affords you a nice house with a reliable car in a safe neighborhood. And nothing can stand in your way because the world is your oyster. 


Blah, blah and blah. We've been lied to. 


"Lied to" might be a bit harsh. Misguided might be better.


Because those great jobs are becoming fewer and farther between unless you live in Asia or are imported from those areas because you know shit that Americans don't (or aren't being taught). It's criminal that so many jobs have gone overseas without anything but Walmart and new technologies to replace them, the latter of which few people of a certain age are qualified for anyway. And no one wants to teach new tricks to an old dog so a lot of the jobs that do come up are being filled by people raised in this technology age (who don't even know what a Zack Morris phone is).


The tradition of learning a skill or trade and finding a job right out of high school or college that fits your qualifications is gone because employers now want you to have all the skills. But they only want you to have experience in one or two of them even though they're combining multiple positions into one or two to save money. And forget about keeping that job for 30 or 40 years while collecting a pension at the end of it to carry you through to death because every week it seems that companies merge, are bought out or just go out of business. Or you have a manager who's threatened by the fact that you have a brain -- which you actually use -- and aren't the mindless pushover they thought they were hiring. So that job doesn't last as long as it probably should. 


But even if you do hit on a solid career path and shove your way up the corporate ladder to reach a certain position before you're 30 in order to start a family, it requires more hours than there are in the week because companies are trying to do more with less to protect their already-safe bottom lines. Sure it pays well but at a certain point you look for similar jobs with other companies thinking they understand the concept of the work/life balance as they say they do -- only to find out they don't.


So you've been lied to again -- not misguided, lied to.


Then you burnout and seek to change careers. There goes that family plan.


Now you have to start over. And chances are you aren't going to make that same amount of money right away. Or anytime soon. Or ever again. So you struggle financially and emotionally. You bounce town to town up and down the dial trying to find a way back into anything that's not what you were doing before. And you probably have to do this a few more times before you fall into a new career path -- not choose, fall. 


In the meantime, the cost of living goes up and wages continue to go down because people are scared. Jobs are hard to find unless you're in demand -- which most of us aren't because we're just human capital to most companies. So if you're offered a job, you take it at whatever salary is offered because you've been out of work for so long and just need SOMETHING -- even if it winds up being what they were doing before.


Companies know this. They're in the driver's seat and taking full of advantage of the fact they have a growing employee pool in the back seat bound and gagged with few options until they throw you out at the side of the road because they've reduced you to a desperate shadow of your former bright-eyed, ambitious self who graduated college with the mindset that the world is your oyster only to find that in reality, that oyster is clamped shut.


So you either move back home with you parents or enter into a roommate situation because the cost of rent is too high in areas where there is anything of interest going on to live alone and still be able to eat. 


Then you have to have a car -- unless you live in one of those areas where there is anything of interest going on that has, at the very least, somewhat decent mass transportation.


Then there are the student loans -- which were supposed to be worth taking out in the first place because you should have been able to get a job to cover them in the second place, but it's not quite so. 


So now you to wonder if a college education is worth anything anymore beyond the experience -- an experience that may or may not net you a job at all since everyone after the class of 2000 seems to have graduated into the same varying levels of economic recession that reports keep trying to say is over.


Lucky us. 


So now the younger generations, save for the very rare of these who land a cushy job in finance or technology right out of college, are finding it nearly impossible to start their adult lives. At 22, life comes down to a decision of paying off the student loans slowly and be in debt for the next 20 years while you save for a house (which is going to be hard to do without a decent job) or paying off the loans now and postpone saving for the the down payment on house (which is going to be hard to do without a decent job) because it's impossible to do both.


By and large, we early to mid-thirtysomethings are the first generation who have so far been unable to do better than our parents, which sucks because most of us want to -- even if to just be able to help them out should they fall on hard financial times (because God knows it's harder for a Baby Boomer to find their way back into a job market that values youth for the cheaper labor than wisdom that employers should want to pay a little more for).


We're the first generation for whom college degrees are largely irrelevant despite the fact that they're still necessary and even required despite their general uselessness. Going to college after high school used to be a big deal, but now everyone goes. And everyone is going for the same specific type of work because only certain sectors are growing, hiring or still in demand. The broad-based education I received is no longer valued. Employers are no longer as interested in a Moss-of-all-trades. They now want trade masters.


But fear not. There is always temp work -- the fastest-growing sector of the current shitshow we call a job market. (I'm currently temping but it works for me right now. Still, it doesn't work for everyone who finds themselves having to do it.) Just don't ever get sick because you don't get any benefits. Don't break anything because then the insurance company you're required to purchase coverage from is just looking for a way to not have to pay for it anyway. And don't expect any level of job security because no such a thing exists anymore.


So go get a trade, young people. Become a mechanic because people will always need a car. And most of them will be used because people can't afford a new one anymore. Screw college unless your family can legitimately afford it or the college is going to fork out a lot of scholarship money for the pleasure of having you on their student roster. And don't get into bed with Citibank -- or any bank for that matter. They, like a lot of employers, are just out to screw you as hard and as raw as they can.


None of this is everyone's experience. Some of it isn't even mine. But it's a lot of people's. So change your vision of what the American Dream is because it's no longer having a decent job that affords you a nice house with a reliable car in a safe neighborhood. Now it's just surviving.


And who dreams of just surviving?



With contributions from Seva Naymark. 

"Studio Visits": Paintings by Seth Ruggles Hiler - A Q&A About Faces, Portraiture and Francis Bacon

posted Jun 19, 2013, 3:17 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Jun 19, 2013, 3:44 PM ]



This is a re-posting of a Q&A that was previously conducted by Philip F. Clark with the artist Seth Ruggles Hiler, a longtime friend of mine whose most recent collection of paintings called “Studio Visits” is currently on display at the DUO Multicultural Arts Center in New York City.

“Studio Visits” is a series of portraits utilizing amateur models in and around Orange, NJ, where Hiler maintains an art studio.

Raised in Boonton, NJ, Hiler now lives in Montclair, NJ with his husband Nicolas. “Studio Visits” is his sixth solo show and runs through July 12.




Why is the face such a powerful subject for you? What is it that portraiture provides for you as a painter, that your other subjects do not? 

Art in any form or style affirms our existence as humans. It can connect us to our own space when we realize the invented volume of objects created on a two dimensional surface. Art can also connect us to another space, taking us far away from our current reality when there is a negation of figuration through abstraction. Either way it subconsciously reminds us that we are here.

When the subject matter is the human face, our existence is not only confirmed but connection to another’s actuality is established (or at least the idea of another’s existence). The experience of seeing is heightened all that much more. My mentor in college, the painter Jerome Witkin said, “The human face is the most powerful image. You can’t make it up, you have to build it up.” That is what I have been trying to do since I met him.


In this time of mass celebrity, we have gone way beyond what in the 80s was referred to as “face time”—or actually spending time in front of someone rather than on our computers. The irony is that everyone on Facebook presents their “portrait” to others, as a stand-in for actually being with them. What do you think has created this culture? 

It’s just the time-line for human “progress” -- our need for speed and our need to connect to as much as possible. The great irony in this “social networking” and even “online dating” is that it is not about “face time”. It is not actually social. Someone can sit alone in a dark room forever, not connecting to anyone in person. It is like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, but rather than light bulbs, there are computer screens lighting the secluded room.

Connection has become very removed, very sterile, very electronic and without vulnerability. Yet, people will share the most personal information and images because there is no fear of intimacy. It is virtual intimacy.


How do you choose your subjects for a portrait? What is some of the thinking process as you create the paintings or drawings? Do you work from life or photographs, from imagination or from a bit of all of these things? 

In previous series I chose my subjects from people I knew: friends, family, neighbors, significant others, fellow artists and people I came across in my daily travels. But since last September -- when I moved to my new studio in Orange, New Jersey, I began to seek out local subjects on apps on my phone and invited them to come for a photo session.

I experiment with poses, lighting and placement in the environment of my own space. The whole time, I talk to my subjects. This makes them feel more comfortable. It also helps me to learn more about them and connect with them on a deeper level.

Over time I go through all of the photos and choose which ones I think will work but it is a repeated process of revisiting them. I see which images I can connect to and which ones will translate into paint successfully. I am thinking about the medium, the size of the canvas and how to design the composition.

The plans often change several times before I actually begin a painting but I need that time to figure it out. Sometimes I will do drawing studies before I begin painting and sometimes I will do such drawings when I am in the middle of the painting process. Often I will do multiple paintings from the same initial visit by a subject.


Your faces are dynamic for the application of their color, certainly, which literally is “in your face”; however, they compel the viewer because of the expressions—the gestures of the face. These are not parlor portraits, and the intensity of the connection between painter and subject is tangible and potent. The heightened sense of eye contact is also what makes them so strong. Yet too, in some of the images, the subjects are not looking at you—but are completely with you. How do you achieve this? 

I think it is a matter of sitting with the sitter and then sitting with the painting itself. I have to capture the natural moment, one that creates a definite feeling that describes my experience of, and being with, the subject. My other option is to use my subject as an opportunity to explore an emotion I want to portray.

My studio is filled with several paintings that are in progress simultaneously. This allows me to take each painting through many layers and phases—the “building up” that Jerome was talking about. With each application of paint and the time spent with it (and without it) I can make a more dramatic or subtler feeling. It’s really just pushing paint around -- well, at least until it makes sense to me.


Your work makes me think of Francis Bacon’s portraits—not in imitation of them, but in the sense that the canvas is reverberating as you look at the faces. He captured the face in action; your portraits capture emotion in action. 

Bacon is one of my great inspirations. I have repeatedly pored over books of his images and read David Sylvester’s interviews with him and have seen a few of the pieces in London. But it all came together at his retrospective at the Met a few summers ago. To look at the whole body of work—his progression—and see hints of his processes was amazing, a true treat.

But the most powerful moment of the exhibit for me was coming across his small triptych of self-portraits. I said to my friend, “Well, now I know the definition of self-portrait.” It was a self-exploration on canvas and very generous of him to create. Was he doing it for himself, or for us? It doesn’t matter. We are going through that process with him. The action is not about blurs caused by open shutters. It is about moving into depths.

In response to my work capturing emotions in action, I think it is about connecting to what feels genuine. I try not to make things look staged. Only truth is timeless. And if I capture that natural emotion, it may seem to be in motion. It can move forward with us, even though the image is sustained in one “frame”.

The objective side of visual art is about relationships which your brain creates, using your eyes to connect similar things as well as notice differences. Through the design of an image artists are able to move the eye around the two-dimensional surface. We can’t give an exact road map. But we can offer options for linking or contrasting parts of the composition with elements such as line, shape, tone, weight, size, direction, color, etc. I have more power over these elements than a photographer has with film or pixels. And I have total control in my color decisions.

The color in my portraits may not seem truthful, but they strengthen my capacity in creating those visual relationships and also those emotional responses. The use of color is one of my tools in “capturing” emotions in action.


Where do you feel portraiture as a contemporary subject is today? What is being explored that is new, or revelatory? Who is our Mona Lisa? Our American Gothic? 

Everyone is. It’s all about self-portraiture today. Photography changed the way we viewed ourselves and it was the mode of portraiture and art in general for the twentieth century—still photography along with motion pictures. Yes, many artists expressed themselves through photographic self-portraiture, but right now, because of digital photography in conjunction with the internet, you don’t even have to be an artist to produce and “exhibit” your self-portrait.

Bacon worked a lot with photo booth picture strips to create his own self-portraits. Not only was it great and accessible reference material, I think it was a statement on the convention of the apparatus. Here was a machine in a public space capturing people in a very private and emotionally vulnerable way.

Usually the photo booths were used to photograph friends or lovers hamming it up for the camera, playing out their relationship in a campy fashion. Bacon did not use it to act out anything. He photographed himself in the absence of another. It was a serious self-examination, just like the resulting paintings.

Today we even have a program on our Mac computers called Photo Booth. It allows us to shoot unlimited “pics” of ourselves with instant gratification and with the power to edit and change anything about the image—from the facial expression to the tilt of our head to the lighting and color scheme. The function of the original photo booth is obsolete and we now have total control. And to make us even more powerful in this situation, with literally a few clicks of the mouse we can expose our self-portraits to the whole world.


How do you get to the “inside” of your subjects so that you can reveal this on the surface, with paint? What is needed to reach such an intimate exploration? 

If I tell you, I may have to kill you. (Laughter). All threats aside...what is needed is something that clicks in my brain, something that makes me know that it is worth doing. When drawing or painting from life, I can usually find something interesting in any subject. They are there, sitting in front of me and I am able to shift and get them from any angle I want. There is also energy flowing from the person that I can feel. I use it to understand them and also to define them in paint.

I am not always so lucky to have people sit for me in person. I actually do a lot of drawing from pictures I find online. I have a whole series of drawings called “Cropped”, based on the idea we were discussing earlier of this being the age of digital irony—distant intimacy.

So, when I seek out these virtual sitters, the picture itself has to make sense to me—the vulnerability, the joy, the macho facade—it has to speak to me. Now, I don’t know what is inside of these strangers, but I do know what they have revealed facially and through the image they have chosen to represent themselves. Their choices inform my understanding and lead to my interpretation of them as subjects.


How does the portrait lie? 

Portraits don’t lie. They interpret. When something is available by interpretation the possibilities are endless.


In your extended training at the New York Academy of Art, how did you develop as a portraitist and what were some of the foundations that you learned as a student there? How were these helpful to you, and how do they continue to be? 

Drawing. Drawing. Drawing. At the Academy we worked from life almost every day for two years. And when we were not working from life we were studying anatomy and figure structure—the human form “unconceptualized.” This gave me a great understanding of representational art, the science behind it and the history of approaches to it.

But it took me time to loosen up after leaving the Academy so that I could be free to be expressive while still applying the concepts I had learned.


What portrait has captured your attention and emotions most? What were the qualities that were present that made you have such a strong reaction? 

Lucien Freud’s Portrait of John Minton from 1952. It was commissioned by the painter John Minton after he had seen Freud’s small portrait of Francis Bacon earlier that year.

Five years later, Minton committed suicide. In the portrait, Freud captures this timeless sorrow. The man has a strong presence, but not of importance—almost of his present, eventual invisibility. 

I am working toward being able to capture such presence and emotion in my work.


For those of you in the New York City area, Seth's "Studio Visits" exhibition run through July 12 at the DUO Multicultural Center in the East Village. 

 

More of Seth's work can be seen on his website at www.sethruggleshiler.com

 

You can find Seth on Facebook by searching under "Seth Ruggles Hiler-Destino" or you can email him directly at sethruggleshiler@mac.com. 

 

Seth is also looking to boost his twitter presence, so you are encouraged to engage with him on his @sethhiler feed about art, life, his work. 

The Atheist and the Ye (Me) of Evolving (and/or Wavering) Faith: Two New Approaches to Religion

posted Jun 9, 2013, 10:05 PM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Jun 9, 2013, 10:08 PM ]

Jimmi Campkin, posted a piece on Howwwl called “Why I Am An Atheist…Actually Why AM I An Atheist?” that I found very well-written and well-balanced. It reminded me of a piece I wrote about my own evolving belief in God.

With his permission, I am posting it here:


Why I Am An Atheist…Actually, Why AM I An Atheist?

I don't actually know why I am an Atheist. Well, I know why obviously, but I can't remember what specific event caused me to fall into my views. Some people can pinpoint the moment they broke (or joined) with religion, but for me I suppose it was more a gradual erosion.

I talk as though I was once religious and lost the faith. Actually, although I would've called myself a Christian, I wasn't a very good one. Unlike my Christian friends, I didn't love God... I was absolutely terrified of him. From the age of nine to the age of twelve, I spent most of my time thinking about Hell and every little transgression - nothing particularly untoward in a pre-teen child (because I was a good boy) - caused me no end of anguish. The first time I masturbated, I remember thinking afterward, "Well that's it... you've definitely blown it now… one way ticket to Hell and damnation."

As I got older, the fear faded. My religious beliefs became more amorphous and secular, like a religious pick-and-mix. For a while, I believed that if you did good in the world and died you went to a 'heaven', but if you committed evil you were reincarnated like a video game continue where you had another go at life to see if you could get it right this time.

I still had a fascination with Jesus, and I deliberately kept a postcard of him on my wall and would 'ask' him for advice. I even went to the trouble of making sure none of my new rock 'n' roll posters were higher than he was. But eventually he came down as well, tossed into a shoebox. I suppose it is at that point, aged around sixteen or seventeen, that my Atheism begins.

I've never really found the label particularly helpful and I am not keen to embrace it. For one thing, I think most Atheists would agree that it's misleading to group people together into a part of society who Do Not Believe In God as though they've made a conscious choice. A much larger pool of society Do Not Believe That They Can Fly, but that's not a belief, that's just knowledge - all the evidence points to a fact. If one ascends to a multi-story car park and then jumps whilst flapping their arms, the outcome is going to be disastrous.

It is Atheists’ precise lack of belief and their penchant for hard, nailed fact that makes them want to stand out. They want to say, “We are the normal ones... you've got the funny ideas.” The burden of proof, they argue, should lie with those stating the 'fact' whilst flying in the face of geological, astrological and evolutionary evidence.

This is part of another reason why I shy away from the Atheist tag. To be Atheist is apparently to be lacking in creativity and narrow-minded, according to many that I have spoken to in the past. In fact, one person whom I went to University with was surprised to hear that I was a writer. Ignoring the misuse of 'narrow-minded' (which is someone who deliberately ignores fact to pursue their own opinion), there is something of the Charles Babbage about Atheism sometimes - correcting a piece of poetry because the metaphor wasn't scientifically precise.

It's important to mention Science here because it is the popular argument that Science Doesn't Know Everything. It doesn't. It knows its limitations and it is willing to change when the evidence throws up something new. If Science was a religion, it would've allowed women to be bishops, gays to be wed and condoms to be distributed to the parts of HIV-affected Africa years ago.

Unlike some militant Atheists, and that's another tag they despise, I have time for faith in the world. I don't want to obliterate all religions. A world without religious belief would be a far less colourful and vibrant place. Religion is often hoisted high into the branches of a tree and beaten with sticks, and there are certain things that perhaps it is answerable to, but too often the real evil lies behind a person, or people, or an aspect of a particular culture or society which somehow gets absorbed as a 'religious' matter when there is no mention of it anywhere in the holy texts.

Religion too often has been and continues to be used to control -- from the subjugation of women to racial discrimination. I completely respect anyone who is religious. I think it is a fantastic thing to be able to channel this sort of faith. But I cannot help being pro-choice on a variety of matters and I shy away from anyone who decides that their faith should dictate how someone else lives or how they should use their body. I am pro-choice when it comes to contraception, abortion, marriage. If you want to do it ok, if you don't fine, but do not impose yourself on anyone else's liberties.

I get an inkling of what it is to feel that 'faith' and 'love', but it is by proxy rather than directly through me. I adore churches and cathedrals as buildings and I think they are monuments to sheer faith. When I go into a cathedral and I look up, I don't see God; I see impossibly high columns and carvings, made with the most rudimentary of tools and placed in situ by brave people with basic technology and no safety harnesses to catch them if they fall. To climb so high to place a piece of limestone at the top of an arch without all the modern fail-safes we have today must've taken more than courage. It took faith, a belief that what they were doing was good and that, when finished, this building would be a pilgrimage site for their fellow believers.

I do believe in an afterlife, but it is perhaps a bit more macabre than ascending up to heaven or being presented before God's love. Life after death for me isn't celestial, it's biological - worms, bacteria and the very things that caused life to exist in the first place.

We are all products of the very things that we wipe away with our bottles of Mr. Muscle. I still find that a positive thing. Life goes on, even in the most extraordinary circumstances. Just as a fallen tree becomes a haven for a million different things, so the body in the ground does the same.

Actually, I am cheating a bit. When I die, I wish to be cremated, although I suppose the ash at least will make the ground fertile. I want no religious texts at all during my service, just songs that reflected my personality (if anyone wants to write a song called 'What A W****r', you'd be doing me a really big favour). Then I want to be scattered in a particular place that I have always loved so that I'll always be there.

Obviously, I won't be 'there' at all, but it makes no difference to me. I suppose that is a faith in a way, a faith in connection with a piece of geography, a landscape carved from glaciers in the dim and distant past -- a connection with something that isn't really there, except in my own mind.

In answer to the original question...I don't know why I'm an Atheist. I just…am.


And with my own permission, I am posting my similarly-themed piece (also for Howwwl): 

Do You Believe in God? A Loaded Answer to a Loaded Question

The short answer is yes, I believe in God. The long answer is that my belief in him has changed over the last several months.

Growing up, God was a far more foreboding entity. He was all-knowing, all-powerful, vengeful and omnipresent. He could bless your life or he could curse it. The blessings came from being a good person. The curses came from being a bad one.

But I quickly discovered that there were a lot of bad people doing well and a lot of good people going through a lot of shit. Of course, "God's plan" and "God's mysterious ways" allowed the faithful to continue being faithful -- probably because there was no other choice. I myself continued to do this throughout college and into my early adulthood in Los Angeles.

It wasn't until I stopped going to church altogether in 2004 that my concept of him began to change. I had long since known that God and church were mutually exclusive. You could believe in God and not go to church. You could also go to church and be as Godless as Satan himself. I realized that I didn't need church to have God.

So I spent what used to be church time on Sunday mornings biking from my apartment in the Westwood section of Los Angeles to the Pacific Ocean. Lo and behold, even there I managed to find God. I didn't need him in a building. I no longer needed anyone telling me how to have a relationship with him. My mindset was changing. As a result, my concept of God changed and my relationship with God changed.

I still prayed to him, but in my own way. I put into practice the notion that my prayers to God could be in the form of conversations. Being an actor at heart, I called them monologues. Sometimes they took place while riding my bicycle. A lot of times they took place in the shower. Or on the toilet.

Those monologues helped me work out a lot of shit in recent years (no pun intended) -- a disastrous move to NY in early 2006, a depressed return to LA in late 2006, the Great Sadness of 2009 while living in Massachusetts which led to a second return to LA that August and then the Collective Failure of 2012.

It's the latter that brings me to the second significant shift in my belief in God.

I've been unemployed since July of 2011. A lot of this can admittedly be explained by my own stubbornness. I felt that writing was my life's calling and I had been doing it on the side for far too long, so the layoff was an opportune time to answer that call. I was hellbent on establishing a writing career and refused to look for a survival job. Instead, I expanded the scope of my blog. I built a website for myself. I wrote about people's projects. I profiled actors' about their career goals. I did Q&A's with authors about books of theirs that I loved. I concluded a two-year-long short fiction story series. And I self-published a book.

I thought that surely my efforts would be richly rewarded and that, despite the naysayers, God would help me turn this into a sustainable living. After all, faith without works is dead. I believed and trusted in God that he would guide my words and direct them to the right people who saw what I saw in what I was doing. Last year, I renewed the lease to my apartment on faith that the money would be there come the first of every month.

For eleven months, it was. Then I had to give up my apartment because I still had no job and had exhausted all my reserves. I was selling DVDs to Amoeba records in Hollywood to survive. I sold, gave away or donated my beloved furniture, CDs, DVDs and books that have traveled with me over the course of several moves. While it was nice to purge, it hurt my soul to have to do it.

None of this was a surprise to me. I knew this was all a possibility. I also knew that God would see me through. I knew this. I exercised more faith in him during this time than I ever had in my life. I exercised more faith in him during this time than most people who go to church weekly and espouse how much they trust in God ever actually do.

But the funny thing about faith is that at a certain point, even the most unwavering begins to waver. And while some people seek ways to renew it, I recently had to draw the line. There are some things that even God himself shouldn't get away with -- devastating earthquakes, destructive hurricanes, tsunamis, senseless murders, rapes, homeless senior citizens, homeless veterans, homeless young people, CEOs collective massive paychecks for driving companies into the ground on account of their incompetence while those who worked so hard for them can barely make ends meet each month.

These are things for which I call God to task. And he should be ashamed of himself for allowing this shit to take place. But no, he's God. He has mysterious ways. He knows all. He sees all. He cares. Or so he says. Or so we're told. I just have a hard time believing such rhetoric these days.

So do I believe in God? Yes. I still do. I just no longer take him for the all-knowing, all-powerful, omnipresent force that I once did. Because if he is and does nothing to mitigate any of the above, then he's a asshole. If things could be worse had it not been for him, then he's weakening against the forces of the enemy. Therefore, he's just another spiritual entity. But he's no one I want to turn to in times of trouble, uncertainty or pain.

Or, if the book of Job in the Bible is any indication, we're all suffering from one big pissing contest between God and the Devil. And that's really not acceptable for someone who wants to be called God.

What Becomes of the Unemploy-ed?: From Movin' On Up to Scratchin' and Survivin'

posted Mar 14, 2013, 2:09 PM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Mar 28, 2013, 3:41 PM ]

This is essentially another “lost” piece. It was originally submitted to a digital magazine a couple months ago but they had more content than space for that particular issue and couldn’t run it. But this is why I have my own website.

I intend for this to be my last piece about unemployment as I’ve said about all I can say about how impossible the job search has become when you have education and experience but no real reputation, no solid contacts (as opposed to just people you know) and a work history that reeks of instability. We get it, I'm frustrated. I'm moving on. 

That said, keep in mind that no matter what numbers the National Labor Statistics Board reports about how reduced jobless claims signal a recovering economy or that all these new jobs have been created, a walk down any major street of any major U.S. city will show you evidence to contrary. Talk to ten of your friends and I would stake my life that at least two of them are unemployed or underemployed. Extrapolate that over adult U.S. population and those are your real statistics.

A lot of people have given up looking for jobs, which is understandable after the 18-month mark when the calls stop coming in (if they ever did at all). It’s quite amazing how every job board lists hundreds of jobs that never seem to get filled for any number of reasons or, more likely, were all but filled before the listing when up in the first place. 

A lot of jobs have simply been reclassified so as to count as a new job while other new jobs are mostly being filled by people coming in from other jobs. After all, even in these tenuous times with a job market everyone knows is in the shitter, there is still a stigma to employment gaps. Even if you fill it with some sort of experience, it won’t be seen as having value because it may not have been paid or you set out to gain in on your own. So the long-unemployed are still being considered undesirable because a lot of the prevailing mindsets don’t evolve with the times:

Case in point #1 – the concept of being “overqualified”. It’s idiotic. At the sixth and ninth month of unemployment,                                  maybe. But after a year, not so much. People need a job. It’s simple as that. Just because they’ve been a paper-pusher for ten years doesn’t mean they’re too good to make a goddamn latte.

Case in point #2 – the fear that people coming from a certain background taking on shit survival work will leave as soon as something better comes along. It’s also idiotic – for two reasons: once again, after six or nine months of unemployment, maybe. But after a year, people just want to work and it doesn’t matter what they do as long as they can eat, pay rent and keep up with bills. It’s simple as that. Besides, someone of less experience and accomplishments can just as easily come in, stay two months and then leave because they either want to do something else or they just don’t care. So playing the odds in their favor is once again a flawed and outdated mindset.

For those who have not been unemployed for long stretches of time within in the last ten years or even the last five years, this is probably quite incomprehensible. After all, there are always temp agencies, grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants, etc. Maybe so, but when THEY become competitive and become selective about who they hire, there’s a problem.

So most of the still-unemployed have reached Plan Z without no other options and no idea what else to do. Where are the answers then? There are none. There are just perfectly qualified people falling through the cracks. They worked hard but hit a series of devastating bumps in the road – in many cases, through no fault of their own. Sometimes things just happen and shit just sucks. They’re not lazy. They’re not too good. They’re just having a hard time and trying to figure out what to do with few resources, if any at all, to fall back on.

So in the absence of actually being able to help, just be understanding. In the absence of understanding, have some compassion. In the absence of either, keep it to yourself.

All this being said, the below piece is about a nameless, faceless young man who finds himself in a situation where he has to make a radical decision to avoid the streets or moving in with his parents:

A college-educated early thirtysomething gets laid off from a job and essentially his nearly decade-long career in a shrinking, struggling-to-evolve industry he has labored in since graduating college. The job wasn’t the best paying, but it afforded the young man a nice one-bedroom apartment and an active social life.

The young man takes this new opportunity to pursue a longstanding passion, which ultimately does not prove as financially sustaining as he had hoped.

Rather than attempt to launch some sort of career comeback, the young man opts instead to secure some shit survival work until he can figure out what to do next. You know the type of work – hourly, temporary and most likely to be in some customer service capacity. He sets his mind on a local, neighborhoody coffee shop or café.

To cover his bases, the young man utilizes the typical job search conventions of the day. He posts a resume on Career Builder and Monster just in case a not-so-shitty salaried job should happen to fall into his lap. He checks their job listings every couple of days, but offerings aren’t as great as their Super Bowl commercials would portend. If the young man were interested in and skilled in business-to-business sales or insurance sales, he’d be set. Still, he does his due diligence by submitting himself for the occasional job for which he believes he is perfectly qualified but must not be qualified enough. 

Several friends suggested the young man also sign up with a few temp agencies. While they may have had success with them, the young man has not. Ever. But he signs up with a few anyway if for no other reason than to prove himself correct about their utter uselessness to him.

Sometimes the young man hates being right. One temp agency told him they couldn’t place him for lack of specific administrative experience (because eight years in an office setting renders one unable to make copies, send faxes, set up meetings and file shit). Another was completely unresponsive. A third contacted him but ultimately had nothing for him. And a fourth was just as useless as the previous three.

Then there was Craig’s List. The young man had his doubts about the caliber of jobs being listed on there, but he’d previously found some decent apartments on the site so thought that perhaps he would find something tolerable by way of a job.

But perhaps not, as the rate of response was just low as that on Career Builder and Monster. The young man began to notice something about the job listings: employers were looking for specific types of experience (such as making killer lattes) while the young man had general experience in several different areas (such as customer service, advertising and administrative). Though the necessary skills (works well with others, professionalism and able to establish relationships) were transferrable and easy to build upon or customize for each specific type of work, employers didn’t seem to see it the same way.

This put the young man in an interesting vortex of job searching hell – too qualified for the coffee shop/café work he was actively going for, too inexperienced in making lattes, too long out of his previous career to go back, but lacking the basic knowledge to enter into a new career such as technology or online marketing.

The resourceful young man decides to alter his approach and expand the scope of his search beyond a specific area. He’d always heard of pounding the pavement as being something people did many moons ago when, as he had been told, you could just walk into an office unannounced or without an appointment, drop off a resume and actually be seriously considered for any current or future openings. You might even get an interview. Hell, you might actually get a job.

He’d also heard of this thing called a “Help Wanted” sign that stores and restaurants would post in their windows. In those days, you walked in and asked to fill out an application. Perhaps you got the job on the spot, or maybe you had to come back and meet with someone. Then a decision would be made.

But what the young man found in his pavement pounding were instructions to fill out an application online, submit a resume online, leave a resume (yes, even for café jobs) or come in during certain hours to drop off a resume. The first time the young man did the latter, he was rejected on the spot -- for a runner/busser position.

As was the case with Career Builder, Monster and Craig’s List, the rate of response was frustratingly low.

Then the young man got to thinking that some places just don’t put out “Help Wanted” but may be hiring. So in his explorations, the young man made notes of places he’d like to work at, checked out their website for job openings and applied. In the absence of such he’d send a resume with a note asking about their formal application process.

Strangely, he found a modicum of success, at least in terms of a response, with this approach – but still no job. Some places were staffed up, others weren’t hiring and one scheduled an interview with him only to cancel it half an hour later because they had just hired a couple of people.

Now out of ideas, with no leads and no better for wear, the young man must simply continue to spin his wheels just in case a job somehow manifests even though he fears that is not going to happen. Because there are two truths working against him: it is indeed easier to find a job when you have one…

Sidebar: this never made any sense to anyone with any in the first place. Why wouldn’t you hire someone who’s been out of work for some time? They’re clearly going to be more enthusiastic about working and ready to hit the ground running. Someone coming off another job is just going to be worn out from that previous job. Why else would they be leaving it? And who is going to be in need of a vacation first? The person coming off an extended one or the person who hasn’t had one in two years?

…and you really have to know someone to get in anywhere – even a local coffee shop or café. The young man knows a lot of people, but a lot of those people are in his same boat as he.

Where does this leave the young man?

It leaves him with a college degree, a decade of professional work experience, strong interpersonal skills, a great personality, innate capabilities to learn quickly, versatility to work within a team, ability to work on his own and a track record of making the most of any position he holds.

But still unable to find any work – which meant the young man had to move out of the one-bedroom apartment he really liked. And because he steadfastly refuses to move back home, the young man now sleeps on a really good friend’s couch (and is eternally grateful to this friend), eats very cheaply (and rather sporadically), and wonders how the next several weeks will play out.

There is a third truth, though. The young man has only found one job by actually looking – and that was eighteen years ago. While this doesn’t mean he will stop looking, this realization constitutes the lone, miniscule glimpse of hope for those next several weeks. Like the last job he had, which fell into his lap out of nowhere through a headhunter who happened upon his resume online, lightning could strike thrice.

This, or finding a job is just a LOT different than it was eighteen years ago and the young man just needs to continue to adapt. Or he could just abandon the job search altogether because either way, he loses out.

Occasionally, the young man wonders where he went wrong. At which point in his life did things take this ever-deteriorating turn? Maybe he shouldn’t have taken that one job. Or that other job. Or moved to that place. Or moved to that other place. Or moved back to that first place only to leave again and then return.

Perhaps the young man’s biggest problem has nothing to do with him. Perhaps the young man would have fared better as a cute young blond chippie with a narrow waist, flat stomach, skinny legs and big tits without the good sense God gave a goose.

Maybe he shouldn’t have tried to put down roots anywhere and just lived everywhere until he landed somewhere because he clearly doesn't belong anywhere. But either way, something’s wrong. Or nothing’s wrong and he’s just waiting his turn for things to right themselves (0ne never truly understands what’s really going on until looking back on it from the other side.)

So the young man has decided to just live everywhere until he lands somewhere. He certainly knows enough people in enough places to temporarily call their home his. And who knows? Maybe this is exactly what he needs to scratch his way back on up. Anything is possible and good, bad or indifferent -- anything can happen. 

The "Lost" Pieces: What's Been Written and Submitted But Never Printed or Published

posted Feb 1, 2013, 1:18 PM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Feb 1, 2013, 1:24 PM ]

I have occasionally been asked to write articular pieces that for some reason or another never wind up being used or published or printed or posted. 

Since I refuse to let any of my brilliance go unseen by the world, here are three such pieces: 

This first piece, about why I was putting myself through yet another relocation, was originally written in November for the digital San Francisco-based Kraven Magazine. It was not included in their December edition in favor of my piece about Straight Bartenders working in Gay Bars. 


Here We Go Again: New Jersey to Los Angeles to New York to Los Angeles to 
Massachusetts to Los Angeles to….Pick a Place and Stick With It! 

Well, here we are again…

It’s the great running gag of my life – yet ANOTHER move. For fans of the TV show Friends, my numerous moves are akin to Ross Geller’s numerous divorces. Over the last decade or so, I’ve averaged about one per year -- including two in 2006 alone (that was a bad year.)

Some of you may be asking the question why I don’t just pick a place and stick with it. It’s a very valid, simple question. But like most questions asked of me, this is one that doesn’t have a simple answer.

It all began in September of 2001. I was four months out of college with no job, no prospects and very few contacts. I was raised in northern New Jersey and figured I would just work in New York City because that’s just what people from North Jersey aspired to do. While I was waiting for something to manifest in New York City, I spent two weeks in Atlanta with family friends and another week in Los Angeles with college friends.

A couple months later, a sublet opened up in my college friends’ Los Angeles apartment. With nothing going on for me in New York, I decided to move from the 90s version of Mayberry where I grew up to the spawling, expansive City of Angels. I soon found a job, established a social life and joined a church (because that’s what I did in those days).

Then the Perfect Storm of Life hit me. By 2005, I had come out of the closet, my parents were headed for divorce and my career in TV advertising hit a peak that I pushed for but was woefully unprepared to handle. I was paranoid, scared and in therapy. Inspired by the movie version of Rent, I decided to quit that really good job and move to New York City with my best childhood friend Jasper. Together we would create a circle of Friends and live like Will Truman of Will & Grace – because that’s what people thought when they went bat shit crazy.

Believe it or not, this did not work out as planned. Jasper opted out of moving with me. I couldn’t find a job despite over thirty interviews, hundreds of resume submissions, dozens of applications filed and signings with several temp agencies and staffing firms. The sticking point with most of them was my lack of a clear answer as to why I had left Los Angeles in the first place. From my vantage point, this was really none of their business in the second place and should have had no bearing on my getting hired since I was already living there in the third place. But what makes sense to me doesn’t always make sense to other people – and vice versa.

New York City and I parted ways after nine depressing months. So I went back to Los Angeles to get the life back that I had abandoned.

Believe it or not, this also did not work out as planned. I moved back into my old apartment and slept on a couch for nine months waiting to move back into my now-occupied old room. I took a job at an advertising agency hoping to find some way back into my old career with my old company – even though I was embarrassed and ashamed for having quit in the fourth place.

Less than a year after returning to Los Angeles in defeat, I let my old life go. But I didn’t particularly like the new one, so I accepted a job transfer to the thriving metropolis of Marlborough, Massachusetts located thirty miles west of Boston. For the better part of twenty-two months, I tucked myself away into an apartment in the early 21st century version of Mayberry -- a quaint, quintessential New England town twenty miles south of the office.

Then that job went to pot. Because I had moved to the area for work and had largely eschewed much of a social life (though I all but fell in love with a classically trained pianist who lived in Boston proper), I decided to make one more final triumphant return to Los Angeles. With a new outlook on life, on Los Angeles and on the previous four years, I was hell bent on finally become the writer I never thought I was before but always wanted to be.

I took another job in TV advertising with the intent that it would be my last job in that shrinking industry. While it financed the writing I was doing on the side, I knew it wasn’t a fit. Eventually, they knew it wasn’t a fit. After eighteen months, we all knew it wasn’t a fit and I was laid off – which set me free to write full-time.

As you read this, I have been unemployed for a year-and-a-half but have worked steadily to establish myself as a writer. I’ve interviewed up-and-coming actors. I co-wrote a web series. I appeared in three others. I completed a short story series. I launched my own website. I helped with the casting of a short film. I self-published a book. All the while I stubbornly refused to go back into advertising (not that anyone within it asked me to come back in the fifth place). I even more stubbornly refused to get another survival job because I wasn’t going to give up fifty hours per week of valuable time spewing forth brilliance into the Universe.

But sometimes it takes having to borrow money from your father to come to terms about certain things. Perhaps you aren’t going to have that writing career you wanted…yet…or at all (fret not -- I’m always going to write). Perhaps you’re going to have to move out of that Hollywood apartment you really love. Perhaps you’re going to actually have to find fifty other hours per week to spew forth brilliance into the Universe so that someone can pay you chicken feed in exchange for some form of service that will put money into their wallets. Perhaps the city you love so much isn’t the place for you anymore. Perhaps you’re going to have to start over…again. Perhaps you’re going to have to move…again.

This brings us to my latest flirtation with relocation and the ever-lingering question as to why:

Well, why not?

On one hand, I have neither an apartment nor a job in Los Angeles – two things I can have (or not have depending on how you look at it) anywhere. On the other hand, it might be easier to have neither in a place that’s more familiar and where you have friends. On the other other hand, the best way to maintain those friendships is to not be the guy they are trying to avoid because you want to spend a week on their couch.

Admittedly, this is a situation I put myself in with a series of very risky decisions that may or may not have worked out – once again depending on how you look at it. But no matter how you look at it, I wouldn’t change anything about the last eighteen months. I would make the exact same decisions and live with them just like I am now.

There’s a freedom to being at such a crossroads and able to choose where to start over…again. And if you’re going to start over again, you may as well start over again someplace completely new to you as opposed to someplace rich with personal history where you’ve already started over three times.

At the end of the day, one choice is safe and familiar. The other is exciting and rife with possibilities. While I laugh and shake my head at the thought of moving…again…at the age of thirty-three, I pride myself on knowing that when something is no longer working, I make a change because at the root of all these changes is a desire to find my life – wherever it may be.

Is it possible that I may have eventually found my life in New York City, Massachusetts or Los Angeles? Maybe. Did I want to wait and find out? No. Will it catch up to me or will I catch up to it? I sure as hell hope so – and soon.

So eenie, meanie, miney mo -- I’m headed up to San Francisco. And no, I can’t just go back to Los Angeles if it doesn’t work out. In the case of such an event, my next stop will be Barcelona.


This next piece was written in June shortly after West Hollywood Pride. I had been volunteering with Equality California for a couple of months. After my first couple of visits, word spread that I was a writer and I was tasked with writing an article about being a volunteer. I submitted the article and after some minor back-and-forth edits, I was told that they may want to place it with "broader media organs". As far as I know, that did not happen. No worries. That's why I have a website. 

I worked with Equality California from about May until September of 2012, when I put myself on a writing intensive. Then my life fell apart and I never wound up going back. 

An Activist is Born

“Hello, may I speak to Terrence Moss?”

“This is Terrence Moss.”

And so it began. On the other end of the line was a phone canvasser from Equality California. But she caught me at a bad time. I was holding court at Larrabee’s bar.

Still, I didn’t want to be rude to her because the worst thing she was doing was her job. As she was going through her spiel, I tried to figure out when and where I signed up to be on their radar in the first place. It was probably outside a grocery store or on a prominent street corner where I tend to sign up for any number of things. When you live in Hollywood and your primary mode of transportation is your Vans shoes, one street canvasser tends to blur into another and into another until you can’t keep up with all the organizations in the first place that you can’t even remember you’re supporting in the second place.

I was familiar with EQCA in the sense that they existed, but not so much in what they did. I knew their work was important so I couldn’t really say no to anything – which is how I wound up already being a monthly donor in the third place. But when the phone canvasser asked me to come in and make calls to voters about one of their current initiatives, that’s exactly what I did because I don’t like to talk to people on the phone. When she asked me if I wanted to join one of their street canvassing events, that’s exactly what I did because I don’t like to talk to people to their faces.

Then, just as I was sounding like one of those jerks who are all about rights but not necessarily the fight for them, she told me that I could come in and do data entry. We hit a jackpot. Data entry didn’t require any talking.

This was a Sunday. I went in that Thursday to do the three hours of volunteer work I had signed up for. I had planned to just do those three hours and move on with my life feeling good about myself, but well…

I walked into the West Hollywood office of EQCA at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Crescent Heights Avenue. I was welcomed enthusiastically and introduced to everyone within the general vicinity. They set me up with a computer, data to input and a quick training session.

As I started working, I observed the cast of characters sitting around the table that day – a group of young people with varying personalities who don’t just get along for the sake of the work at hand. They seemed to actually enjoy doing that work alongside one another and even enjoyed each other’s company outside the office.

There was Stella who, despite her young age, has already been at this for a few years. Because of that young age, she is able to maintain a wide-eyed enthusiasm to fight the good fight without any noticeable level of jade.

Nell is equally young. And no matter how innocuous any comment she makes may be, the slow delivery and high, heavy timbre of her voice makes anything she says even funnier.

Nancy is a few years older than Stella and Nell but has already been married for several years. She speaks of her husband with an even mix of giddy school girl affection and the loving exasperation of a middle-aged woman.

Sony is a higher-up who is feared, admired and respected in equal parts by his underlings. The nature of his work keeps him focused, more serious and behind closed doors in meetings or conference calls. Occasionally, though albeit briefly, he’ll join in the light reverie before moving on to the next task.

And the there’s Raul, who bounds into a room with a playful energy that you’re still basking in after he’s already passed through into the next one.

As the new guy, they were all interested in my story – who I was, what I did and where I was from. They even invited me to lunch with them, but I had to decline on account of the fact that I’d only be there for three hours.

At the end of those three hours, I gathered my things. Stella asked if I could come back the following week. With pleas from Nell and Nancy, how could I say no?

Over the course of the ensuing weeks, I met more and more people. I started to feel less like a volunteer and more like a part of the organization as a whole – even if I was just doing data entry. But it was through data entry that I was able to find out more about the initiatives such as the FAIR Education Act and SB 1172 that EQCA was working on. I began to understand my small part in the process. I started to take ownership of my contribution. It wasn’t just data entry. It was becoming what I swore I never would…

I was having one of those “getting to know you” conversations with Bella when she told me about EQCA’s participation in LA Pride. She asked if I wanted to work the booth at the festival and march in the parade. I said yes to both.

In recent weeks, I’ve been a bit fired up about the continued string of teen suicides due to bullying. I’ve been paying more attention to the marriage fight – first with the passage of Amendment One in North Carolina and then the measure in Washington State that put gay marriage on their ballot (our fate yet again in the questionable hands of voters).

I have never considered myself to be an activist – nor have I ever wanted to be. So much of this fire has been burning on Facebook and Google-Plus. I’ve always considered activism to be on the front lines involving confrontation with the opposition under the threat of violence. It’s scary. And takes far more bravery than I feel I have.

So that was never anything I was interested in.

But activism takes on many forms and it doesn’t have to have anything to do with or even be called activism.

For me, it’s been about sharing my personal experiences in a way that people can relate to or at least understand. It’s been about being truthful and honest about who I am and what I’m about. It’s been about presenting myself in such a way that contradicts long-held misconceptions about gay life, gay culture and gay men -- without pandering.

Marching with EQCA at LA Pride was a turning point for me on three levels. It solidified for me what I was really doing with them and why. It forced me to admit to myself that I am more of an activist than I ever wanted to be. And it made me feel a part of something really important and life-changing for millions of people.

So until we achieve equality for all in all aspects of life (including marriage), until EVERYONE’S history is taught in schools (FAIR Education Act), until our young people aren’t being subjected to torturous conversion therapies that have no scientific basis (SB 1172), until young people are no longer bullied in their schools, until young people are no longer killing themselves and until young people are no longer being kicked out of their homes simply for being who they are, then there is work for me to do.

A new breed of activist has been born. You may want to warn the opposition.


At the end of 2011, an actor friend of mine took some control over his career to create, write, produce and star in his own web series. I appeared in it, wrote a couple of promotional pieces, interviewed the lead actors and profiled them for this website. 

Once all five produced episodes were posted to YouTube, my actor friend sought to take the project into new directions. An upscale food/wine/nightlife magazine had approached him about putting together a piece for their launch issue. Since I had so much material from our earlier interview, my friend came to me to help him put together a similar piece tailored to the magazine. 

I have no idea what became of the article or the magazine itself but no worries -- this is why I have a website. 


“HE’S NO HEAVY – HE’S MY BARTENDER!”
Actor and Producer David Gunning Parlays Years of Service I
ndustry 
Experience 
into “Bitter Bartender” TV project.

“I started washing dishes in my mid-teens,” David Gunning begins as he recounts his experience in the service industry. “And then it just seemed to be this cycle of upgrading.”

This sounds like the typical Hollywood story. But while many actors and actresses resent such experience as they pursue their dreams only to put it behind them once they achieve them, both industries have run hand-in-hand during much of Gunning’s career.

It’s a typically bright and sunny weekday morning in Los Angeles speaking with Gunning at a Hollywood coffee shop. A busy schedule these days left him with only an hour to meet before hitting the gym. He apologized for his appearance -- basketball shorts, a tee-shirt and mussy hair. We’re practically old friends so I took no offense and bought him a cup of tea as a gesture of acceptance for his humble apology.

Gunning graduated with a degree in Communications and Theatre from Temple University in Philadelphia. He also trained as a broadcaster. By senior year, he was working with a local station announcing football games.

Toward the end of college, he also began taking commercial classes. With strikingly handsome features, it wasn’t long before Gunning started booking commercial work.

By his final graduating days, Gunning also found himself on live television reporting the traffic for WCAU – NBC10 in Philadelphia.

“That was a pretty crazy time for me. Monday through Friday, I would take the bus from Philly to New York a couple times a week to audition. If I didn’t have any auditions, I would drive from Philly to Cape May, New Jersey to work as a service bartender,” Gunning recalls.

His schedule was even busier on the weekends. “I’d wake up at three o’clock in the morning to get to the news station and report the traffic until noon. Then I would head into downtown Philly to tend bar Saturday night and then be back at the news station the following morning to report live for NBC10,” Gunning adds.

“I used to tell them that the harder I work, the more it will pay off,” Gunning explains about why he was working so much when he already had a job working in television. “But it was all a blur to say the least.”

That hard work did pay off for Gunning. How wound up booking his first national commercial that summer for Budweiser, along with a few regionals. Those projects funded his move to New York City to pursue his true dream of working as a TV and Film actor.

He took a job at a restaurant/nightclub on Sixth Avenue in the Garment District while studying acting at the Penny Templeton Studio in Midtown and Black Nexxus with Susan Batson.

Working at the bar also helped Gunning become a member of the Screen Actors Guild. A few of his regulars were casting directors who brought him in to read for roles. He eventually booked a few of them and became eligible for Guild membership.

“Working in the restaurant industry has always been a great blessing in disguise,” Gunning states.

Gunning made the transition to Los Angeles a little over a year later, where he enrolled in the Stella Adler Academy and found work at a local bar/nightclub in West Hollywood.

For quite some time, Gunning had wanted to create or write his own series. A slow night at work last year sparked inspiration. “Every customer that night seemed to present some kind of ridiculous story in my mind. I thought to myself, ‘Ok, this is it. You can’t write this type of idiocy, but you can certainly write about it.’”

That idea became the self-funded Bitter Bartender, under the basic premise of “Everything the bartender wanted to say to you…but couldn’t.”

For the next two weeks, Gunning fleshed out the first several episodes of such a series and sent them to a director friend of his to help him tighten the scripts. He then presented them to a local director in Hollywood, who had two seasons of his own web series under his belt. The director in turn presented it to the rest of his production team.

By March, five episodes had been shot, edited and uploaded to YouTube.

“For me, Bitter Bartender is a tribute to anyone who’s ever had to work in hospitality or deal with the public,” Gunning says. “A lot of people don’t understand the type of struggles wait staff and bar staff go through when dealing with the public because they’ve never worked in the industry.”

Gunning wants people to be entertained by Bitter Bartender, but he also wants people to learn a lesson that will make things easier for the bartender and the customer. He feels that there are so many things people can learn from a show like Bitter Bartender.

With the following admonishment that “a bartender can make or break your night”, he offers the following tips:

  • Don’t just ignorantly order without acknowledging the bartender’s existence.
  • Know what you want to drink and how to order it properly.
  • Understand that the bartender is a normal human being working their job. They’re not there to be your slave. They have a job just like you have a job. You wouldn’t walk into someone’s office and grab them, poke them or demand whatever you want -- so you shouldn’t act like that at a bar either.
  • When have you a question, make sure it’s short and succinct. Don’t have an attitude or act entitled. If the bartender gives you an answer you don’t like, work with them. You make the bartender’s job a lot easier when you’re nice. Copping an attitude is just not acceptable. Be friendly to your bartender and they’ll be friendly to you.
  • Make sure you tip properly. Bartenders are making their money off of tips. They’re not working a bar for hourly wage. And the standard tip is 20% (or more) for good service.

Gunning says that the biggest mistake a customer can make is to tell the bartender how to do their job. He lists out the top ten phrases that are completely frowned upon by bartenders:

    10. “Hook it up.”

    9. “Give me less ice.”

    8. “Lemme get a Grey Goose and Vodka.”

    7. “How much is…”

    6. “No, no, no. That’s not how you make that drink. Let ME tell YOU how to make it.”

    5. “Yo, I’m a bartender.”

    4. “Do you sell blended drinks?”

    3. “Hey, there’s no liquor in here!” (Before he or she tastes their drink.)

    2. “It’s my birthday, can I get a free drink?”

    1. “So…what’s your REAL job?”

These types of phrases are what drive Gunning’s thoughts as he continues writing episodes of Bitter Bartender. When asked what’s next for the series, his reply was simple: “Bigger and better things.”

“It’s going to be larger than just being on the web, but at the stage that it’s in right now I can’t really say,” he explains.

Gunning says he’s ready for bigger and better. “I honestly feel like everything I’ve gone through as an actor and in the restaurant industry has been preparation. I feel like I’ve taken all the proper steps to begin a really successful Hollywood career. I understand the process. I understand how people work. I understand the casting side, the production side, the post-production side and the side of being an actor.”


Gunning’s recent work includes commercials for Toyota, Time Warner as well as a national print campaign for MGM Grand (he’s also the face of their website) which appeared in “Vanity Fair” and “US Weekly”. He recently co-produced “Stigma”, a short film which is currently in post-production. When Gunning is not acting, writing or producing, he studies Kenpo Karate, in which he currently holds a green belt. 

The five episodes of the “Bitter Bartender” web series can be accessed through the following link: http://www.youtube.com/bitterbartendTV

Terrence Moss is an independent writer and America’s foremost opinionist (a self-designation) who operates a website for original longform content at www.terrencemoss.com that features actor/actress profiles, commentaries, reaction pieces, essays and a short fiction story series. 

Running Through the Closet Door: the Coming Out Stories of Terrence Moss

posted Oct 16, 2012, 10:33 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Oct 16, 2012, 1:29 PM ]

Apparently, it was National Coming Out Day on the 11th. Since I don’t seem to have a concept of time these days, I am belatedly offering up my coming out story – actually, stories.


THE CLOSET DOOR OPENS 

Believe it or not, I had a girlfriend in college. This was during the days when I was singing in the University gospel choir, going to church when I could and trying to overcome what I then considered to be “a demon of homosexuality.”

Girlfriend or no girlfriend, I knew I was gay. Other people knew I was gay. The rest either suspected but didn’t feel it was their place to ask or just chose not to acknowledge it because I didn’t. Either way, few people ever said anything. And those who did didn’t say it to me.

At least not until 2001. By that time I was living in Los Angeles. In this first instance, I was standing in line outside a Beverly Hills club for a birthday party with two of my roommates, one of their girlfriends and their friend Jay. During the resulting conversation from an extended wait stemming from only one set of knockers between the five of us, Jay and I had the following conversation:

Jay: You’re gay, right?

Me: Why? Are you interested?

Jay (laughs): No.

Me: Well…sometimes I feel like a nut, sometimes I don’t.

Jay: I see. But let me tell you this, I like you. If anyone ever gives you grief for being gay, you let me know and I will kick their ass.

It was a comforting gesture. But I still wasn’t ready to admit to being gay. I went with the “nut” thing for a while before telling people I was bisexual, asexual, nonsexual, pansexual and even amoebic.

A couple of years later, two friends of mine from the ad industry I was working in at the time invited me out for happy hour drinks at a hotel bar in Santa Monica. I had no idea there was an agenda – which was to let me know that they knew I was gay, they didn’t care, they loved me, I was wonderful and to just come out.

The door was now fully opened, but I just wasn’t quite ready to walk though it yet. Instead, I prepared myself for the possibility of becoming estranged from my family once I did. A vision appeared to me one weekend morning as I was roller blading along the beach. I sat down on a rock at the end of the bike path with the weight of needing and wanting to come out weighing on me. I saw my relationship with my mother, my father and my younger brother reduced to an annual snail mail exchange of Christmas cards and birthday cards.

I didn’t necessarily like it, but if that was the price I had to pay for the freedom to be who I knew I was, then I was willing to pay it. In retrospect, this is how I knew I was more ready to come out than I had ever been before.


MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND, 2004 

I came out to myself first.

My roommate at the time coordinated an annual Memorial Day weekend trip to Las Vegas. For the first time, I went – with 11 straight guys. Outside of a steak dinner the second night, I largely did my own thing. The first night, I went to a piano bar at New York, New York while they went to a strip club. The second night, I went to a gay club…while they went to a strip club.

I danced that night with a hot Mexican and then a slightly inebriated cutie from North Carolina who was engaged to be married to a woman but wanted to cut loose. It wasn’t long before his shirt disappeared. But while I was trying to woo him, a far more aggressive sort was doing the same thing and quickly made off with him.

Frustrated, I left the club and called a new friend from work, appropriately named Angel, who had told me he was going to also be in Vegas that same weekend. As I sat down on the curb across the street from the club waiting for him to call me back, I realized that I had been fighting a losing game. Being gay wasn’t anything I could pray away or repress or hope for something straighter. And I finally accepted that.

Angel called me back and though it was the middle of the night, he was still out and about and met up with me at the bar in my hotel. We chatted until daybreak four hours later. He left and I went upstairs to my room. As I snuck in, one of the eleven told me he was heading back to LA. I decided to join him.

During the ride back, Chroner told me that my sexual proclivities and I had been a topic of discussion amongst the group. He asked me if I was gay. Without hesitation or fear or shame, I simply told him “yes”. Both the car ride and our friendship continued. Simple as that.


THE CONVERSATION WITH MOTHER 

By the spring of 2005, my brother was engaged to be married. During an otherwise innocuous phone call with my mother about the upcoming wedding, the following conversation took place:

Me: I hope you enjoy it [the wedding], because it’ll probably be your only one.

Mom: What’s that supposed to mean?

Me: What do you think it means?

Mom: What are you trying to tell me?

Me: What are you trying to hear?

Mom: Are you wanting to tell me something?

Me: Are you wanting to know something?

Mom: I’m not doing this with you. (a pause) Are you gay?

Me: Yes.

Mom: I know.

Me: Then why did you ask?

Mom: Because I wanted to hear it from you.

Me: What tipped you off?

Mom: Kindergarten.

Me: Kindergarten? What could I have possibly done in Kindergarten to give you the impression I was gay?

Mom: I don’t know. I just saw it.

I hadn’t intended on telling her during that phone call. In fact, at the time of that conversation, I still wasn’t even sure I ever wanted to tell her -- or anyone else for that matter. She told me that it was a harder life. I told her I couldn’t imagine life being any harder than it already had been – at least within the confines of my head space.

My mother went on to blame herself and wonder what she may have said or done to cause me to be gay. She then asked (perhaps to herself, perhaps to me) what she could have said or done to change it – as if anything of the sort was possible. I assured her there was nothing she said or did then, nothing she could have said or done then and nothing she can say or do now.

She wasn’t necessarily okay with this news but she was happy to finally know what she already knew.

Technically, it wasn’t our first conversation about my being gay. In late 2001, as I was packing up my childhood room in preparation for my parent’s move from New Jersey back to Illinois, my mother came across three E. Lynn Harris novels with pictures of fully clothed, but affectionate men on the cover.

Mom (holding the books in her hand and looking at the covers): Is there something I need to know?

Me (looking at the books in her hand): No, but when there is, I’ll let you know.

It was a lie – a necessary lie. Fortunately, the truth has since come out. Pun intended.


THE LETTER TO FATHER 

In 2006, my parents were divorced and my father was remarried rather quickly – at least quickly from my vantage point. At the time, I was living in New York and he was living in Illinois, so I was left out of much of the process. I hadn’t met his future wife until just before their wedding. I didn’t even know they were dating until shortly before that. In fact, I didn’t even know she existed until shortly before that. Hell, I didn’t even know he had re-entered the dating pool in the first place. 

While my father was on his honeymoon, I penned a letter to him expressing my feelings about how everything transpired. As a means of trying to understand why, I utilized this letter to tell him I was gay. I emailed it to him, ten pages in total, after he returned from his honeymoon.

A couple days later, he called me:

Dad: I got your letter.

Me: And?

Dad: You’re a very good writer.

Me: Thanks.

Dad: And I already knew you were.

Me: I figured as much. I suppose nursery school tipped you off.

He wasn’t necessarily thrilled with the news but he told me that he loves me more than the fact that he doesn’t like the fact that I’m gay.


BROTHER ACT 

By the end of 2007, I had been transferred to Massachusetts for work. Now that I was back on the east coast (again), my sister-in-law was adamant that I spend Christmas with them in Baltimore. After nearly two years of depressed upheaval moving to New York, retreating back to Los Angeles and then relocating back to the east coast just a month prior, all I wanted for Christmas was time to adjust and space to myself.

In explaining this to my brother on the telephone, I opened up about what was really on my mind – my being gay, his not knowing it and my unwillingness to tell him.

And so I did. But I’m pretty certain he already knew.

In 2004, my mother, my father and my brother had descended upon southern California for my grandmother’s 70th birthday party. My brother stayed with me and I invited him to join me for Friday happy hour with some friends from work. While we typically went to the Abbey, I figured my brother wouldn’t want to go there given his religious ways. Instead, we went to Q’s across the street from the office.

After a couple of hours, the group decided to head over to the Abbey. Having spent this time with my friends and I, I asked my brother if he wanted to go -- to which he responded with an emphatic “no”. So that settled that -- and led to an awkwardly silent trip to the 3rd Street Promenade for lack of a better idea as to how to entertain him.

But by the time I officially came out to my brother, he was married with a young son. His priorities had changed. His mindset had changed. I still wasn’t sure where he stood on the issue of homosexuality, but my being gay was the least of his worries at that point in his life. What I always feared would be a painfully religious discussion about homosexuality turned out to be a mere glossing over of the news as he was more concerned with whether or not I was going to go down to Baltimore for Christmas to see my nephew.


OUT AND ABOUT AND PROUD 

I’m now 33. I’ve been out for eight-and-a-half years. I’ve said this before, but being gay has been the greatest blessing of my life. It’s allowed me to open, loving, free and my wholly authentic self.

I’ve lost a couple of friends. One stopped talking to me because he had to hear from someone else that I was gay. Ironically, my reasoning for not telling him was because I was afraid of such a reaction. Still, I’ll never know if that reaction would have been different had he heard the news directly from me.

Another friend distanced himself from me once the struggle to overcome being gay became acceptance of it.

I inadvertently alienated other friends who knew me as a closet case one day, blinked and then found me marching in Gay Pride Parades the next day. Because so much of my process was internal, my life as a gay man was just about living it openly as opposed to processing what that new life entailed and then living it. Some friends just went along with it, some struggled to do so and others fell by the wayside.

But for the most part, most people already knew and didn’t care. And others loved me for me and saw my being gay as just a part of who I already was.


AND WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THIS? 

My less-than-thrilled parents may never get to thrilled, but I credit them with some surprising evolution.

A few years ago, my mother was working at a call center in Virginia. She told me about a young mother who worked with her and suspected her six-year-old son was gay. Knowing that my mother had a gay son in his late twenties, the young mother asked my mother what she should do. My mother told her not to pray that he isn’t gay, but to pray for guidance in how to deal with it in a way that he knows he is still loved.

Compare this to an understandably nervous mother of an uncomfortable 16-year-old boy watching Ellen’s coming out episode in April of 1997 – ironically after Good Friday Service at church:

Mom (watching me watch the show): If you’re planning on coming out, you just stay right in there because I can’t deal with that right now.

Since then, I’ve taken her to Basix Café in gay West Hollywood for brunch and Larrabee’s in gay West Hollywood for post-Mother’s Day brunch drinks. Now she’s just waiting for me to bring home son-in-law.

I spent last Thanksgiving with my father in Illinois. For the first time, we spoke honestly and at length about my life as a gay man. He told me about a question that his pastor had posited in a leadership meeting about whether or not they would allow an openly gay couple to serve in ministry. My father wasn’t sure. Ultimately, because this church teaches from the Word of God and abides by the principles therein, they decided they could not allow it. However, the church let the couple know that they would be welcomed with warm, open and loving arms as members of the congregation.

I couldn’t fault them for that.

My father then told me that through his wife, he has met more and more homosexuals over the last few years and talked with them about the lifestyle. Much of it he doesn’t understand. Some of it he may never understand. But in all his discussions and all his pondering over the issue, he comes back to one thing: the Word of God. And while he can’t see himself ever wavering on his stance that homosexuality goes against the Word of God, such a stance will always come secondary to loving that homosexual as he would love himself.

I liked hearing that.

In June, he had the following to say in my Father’s Day piece: I am blessed to have you as my son, gay or straight! 


I imagine a lot of parents feel this way. A lot don’t. That’s their loss and their problem. I came out after I was grown and living on my own. So I know it can’t be easy for young people who are still depending on their parents for financial support.

But where those parents are deficient in their ability to love their gay sons and daughters, they need to know that open arms are out there waiting for them on the other side of coming out.

And we’re waiting.

11 Years, 11 Landmarks: Reflecting on My 11th Angelenoversary

posted Sep 4, 2012, 3:22 PM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Sep 4, 2012, 3:23 PM ]

Today is the 11th anniversary of my first move to Los Angeles. Having been here as long as I have (two relocations to and from the east coast notwithstanding), various places in and around the city bring back memories of days gone by – and some that still remain. 

To commemorate the occasion, here are some of these landmarks and their associated memories. Some of them are tripled and quadrupled up because they’re essentially the same thing:


5700, 6500, 11800 Wilshire 

My first three jobs here were all on Wilshire Boulevard. The first was at a media buying firm at 5700 in the Miracle Mile District. At the time, this building also housed the industry publication Variety as well as E! Entertainment and Spelling Entertainment. I only worked here for four months before getting laid off.

But I quickly found a new job as a sales assistant at a firm that sold advertising time on local television stations across the country. Located at 6500 Wilshire on the corner of San Vicente just across the street from Beverly Hills, I once shared an elevator with Mister T. I worked for this company for one year and four months before taking a job with CBS – inarguably the best of the crop of jobs I have held.

CBS was located at 11800 just west of the 405 freeway in West LA. We shared the building with then-sister network UPN (now defunct), so I saw the likes of Tyra Banks, Kim Coles and a pre-Oscar Jaime Foxx. It was a seven minute commute from my apartment in Westwood, but half an hour going back because of traffic. You couldn’t ask for a better arrangement than that. During my latter months with CBS, I would go home and take naps during my lunch hour (and a half). So of course I had to muck it up.

Though the CBS offices have since moved to Studio City, I still get a visceral reaction when I pass by the building on the 720 Metro because leaving that job was a major turning point in my young adult life that still has reverberations for me even today. One of these days I’d like to look back and know that this was a good move – however necessary I deemed it at the time.


Kinnard Avenue, Detroit Street, Brockton Avenue, Cassil Place, Fuller Avenue

Five moves to and from Los Angeles have netted me five different Los Angeles addresses. The first was Kinnard Avenue in Westwood. I moved here on three separate occasions: September 2001 under a sublease, January 2003 as a named leaser and then again in August of 2006 after my disastrous stint in New York.

That sublease ended after about four months and I took up residence on Detroit Street near Sunset and LaBrea in Hollywood. After a year there, I was invited back into the Kinnard Avenue apartment, where I remained for three years. To date, that is the longest I have ever lived in one apartment since moving away from home.

After returning from New York, I spent another nine months back at the Kinnard address before moving into a West LA studio on Brockton Avenue. I wound up living there for less than a year before being transferred to Massachusetts for work in 2007.

After my final return to LA from Massachusetts in August of 2009, I landed back in Hollywood and to another studio on Cassil Place just east of Sunset and Highland for fourteen months. At the very end of 2010, I moved into my current apartment on Fuller Avenue – where I’d love to break my record of three years at the same location with the same address.

 

Jiffy Lube in Westwood

During my first Tour of Duty in LA from September 2001 to January 2006, I actually had a car (which I named “Grace”). During my second stay on Kinnard Avenue from 2003 to 2006, whenever Grace was due for an oil change -- or whatever else the mechanics found that may or may not have needed to be fixed but I had fixed anyway to be on the safe side – I would take her to the Jiffy Lube in Westwood.

This was usually on a Saturday morning, which was about late morning or early afternoon on the East Coast where most of my friends were.

While I was waiting for my car to be serviced, I’d stand outside and talk on the phone with my friends on the east coast – usually my best friend Jasper.

It’s amazing how comparably simple my life was in those days.


Numero Uno, Wilshire & Highland 

When I worked at 6500 Wilshire, three or four of us sales assistants would go out to lunch at any of four places – Andre’s on 3rd and Fairfax (which doubled for the Italian restaurant and the Chinese restaurant situated side-by-side in a K-Mart/Whole Foods shopping center), Benito’s on Beverly and Fairfax, Koo Koo Roo on Wilshire and Curson or Numero Uno on Wilshire and Highland.

In those days, they had a great lunch special: a personal pizza, a side salad and a soft drink for $5.95. I’d have my pizza with sausage and tomatoes. Yummy.

Years later, I had my 28th birthday party there. This was between the New York and Massachusetts stints. I called it an August Gathering but I didn’t tell anyone it was my birthday until I pulled out a birthday cake with the number “28” on it. A few people got upset and insisted on candles and singing – despite my fervent protests.

When I had my 30th birthday party there, I had just returned from Massachusetts the week prior. My mother brought balloons and decorations so everyone knew it was my birthday. Resistance against the candles and the singing was beyond futile.


Starbucks, Wilshire & Highland 

In the same strip as the Numero Uno, there is a Starbucks. My friend Jerome, whom I met at church in 2002, and I would meet here rather frequently to discuss the issues of the day. Though we continue to meet up to this day, this location was our most frequent meeting place.

It was here that I took a liking to a barista named Jeff, who made a cameo at my 28th and 30th birthday parties at Numero Uno – even bringing a gift.

That young barista is now a working actor.

 

New Life Christian Center, Adams & LaBrea

Believe it or not, there was a time I ACTUALLY WENT TO CHURCH. As a matter of fact, I was raised in church. My father was and remains a minister but most of my participation after I went off to college was of my own choosing. I joined the gospel choir and went to church whenever I could get to one.

As soon as I moved to LA, I sought out a church to attend. I visited a few places that just didn’t feel right. Then I stumbled across New Life Christian Center, then only in existence for a few years. It was December 2001 and I was soon headed home for Christmas.

I liked the format of the service: a lengthy praise & worship, a welcome of visitors, “halftime” (the greeting of fellow congregants), the sermon, offering and dismissal. Services were at 10am, so we were out by noon to enjoy the rest of the day.

When the pastor led the congregation in “Feliz Navidad” during the offertory period at the first service I attended there, I knew I had found the right church for me.

I immediately got involved with the high school ministry working under a married couple. But they left the church shortly thereafter so I was put in charge of it. I wasn’t much older than the young people in the ministry but I did the best I could and the ministry grew.

It was exhausting – especially when people offered their advice but none of their physical support. Eventually, others did come in to help out and I was reassigned to the junior high ministry.

By the spring of 2004, the entire gay thing was really taking a hold of me. I found myself hanging out in West Hollywood on Saturday nights and then teaching Sunday School the following morning. This didn’t sit well with me so something had to give.

Outside a club during a Memorial Day weekend trip to Las Vegas, I came out to myself. I stepped down from the ministry and withdrew my membership from the church.


Runyon Canyon 

Runyon Canyon is a trail through the Hollywood Hills that I started hiking in January 2010 as my primary form of exercise. At the time I lived just east of Sunset and Highland. I had a goal to reach 100 hikes over the course of that year. I had a full-time job then so that required diligence on holidays and weekends to get up and go. To keep myself accountable, I had been keeping track of the hikes via Facebook postings.

Due to some December rains, my 100th hike came in just under the wire. After the 100th, I kept counting and posting because I saw no reason not to. Around this time, I moved to an apartment on Fuller Avenue – in part to be closer to Runyon.

By the 200th hike, people knew more about my Runyon hikes than anything I had been writing and posting. I was laid off from work by this time, so the hikes occurred far more frequently.

I decided to stop counting and posting with the 300th hike because by that point I saw no reason to continue doing so. If hiking wasn’t ingrained in me to after the 300th, then I deserved to gain all the weight in the world. Plus, 300 is a nice even number. And besides, what’s really the difference between saying “I’ve hiked Runyon Canyon over 300 times” and “I’ve hiked Runyon Canyon over 400 times”?

 

Coffee Bean, Westwood & Ohio

During my second and third stays on Kinnard Avenue, I would occasionally go to this Coffee Bean to read, write and people watch. I didn’t go there as much as I would have liked but it factored majorly into the Erick Davidson story series.

 

The Avco, Wilshire & Gayley

Until my mother and I saw The Help here last year, I hadn’t been to this movie theatre since that first stay on Kinnard Avenue. My roommates at the time were either in the movie business or movie business-adjacent. Either way, they loved movies.

Many Friday nights after work, we’d get together for dinner and a movie. These movies were usually at the Avco, which we would walk to from our apartment.

During each of these Friday movie nights, I would fall asleep -- no matter how action-packed they were. I would catch the first half-hour and the last half-hour and then fill in the rest. With some movies, I didn’t miss much.


The Poop Deck & Zeppy’s Pizza, Hermosa Beach 

During my first stay on Kinnard Avenue, there were the occasional Friday nights when a friend of mine from the job at 5700 Wilshire and myself would head down to the Poop Deck on the Hermosa Pier.

The Poop Deck was a dive bar right on the ocean. On Friday nights from 6 to 6:30 (maybe 7), they sold $2 pitchers of beer with a limit of two per person. Pete would corral several of his friends to join in for the Beer Bust.

Pete had a lot of loyal friends. On any given night, there would be about 20 or 30 pitchers of beer at our table. It’s a shame I didn’t drink in those days.

Afterwards, an intoxed but hungry Pete and I would go to Zeppy’s Pizza, which was also on the Pier, to close out the night. In his stupor, he’d crank call our manager but pretend it was me.

There were several Monday mornings she would call me into her office, concerned that I had developed a drinking problem.


Eleven Bar & Nightclub 

I have a three-to-one mix of disdain and affection for West Hollywood. When I first came out, I was a fixture at the Abbey because that is where my friends wanted to go. That quickly faded and I stayed as far away from West Hollywood as possible.

Two-and-a-half years ago, Jeff, a friend of mine from work, and I were entertaining his boss -- who was in town from the New York office. We took him to West Hollywood. At that time, Jeff and I were looking for a new place to go since the Abbey had momentarily gotten rid of their Happy Hour.

We stumbled upon Eleven and were greeted by a hulking but genial bartender. This was a Tuesday. That Friday, we returned and it immediately became our new spot.

Several months later, we added their musical-themed Monday nights to weekly schedule. While I initially refused to join the reverie that takes place at the front of the bar while Broadway-oriented videos play on the monitors, the ham in me eventually took over and I became an official Fan of MuMo.

It’s the greatest performing outlet I have had since high school and allows me to be as gay as I want to be.


After eleven years, there are certainly more than eleven places that spark such strong memories and hold such a special place in my heart. After two moves away and back, I’m hoping to remain here for as long as work opportunities dictate and am looking forward to making even more memories here. 

The Best of the Chick-Fil-A Controversy -- From Within My Sphere

posted Aug 8, 2012, 8:05 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Aug 8, 2012, 8:07 AM ]

The recent controversy surrounding Chick-Fil-A has been utterly fascinating to me for several different reasons. It amazed me that one comment brought so many key issues back to the forefront of national conversation. It amazed me that those key issues branched out into several smaller issues. And it amazed me that so many people representing so many different viewpoints seemingly came out of the woodwork in order to express them.

Last week, during the height of the controversy, I started putting together what I’m calling “The Best from Within My Sphere".


My friend SEAN posted this to his Facebook page, which I'm posting here with his permission.

Chick-Fil-A, on their website, asks customers to "Share Your Chick-Fil-A Story", and upload it with a photo. I attached my NoH8 photo and wrote this:

Growing up in a small town in rural Pennsylvania, there weren't as many culinary options as there are in a bigger city. I discovered Chick-Fil-A in 1990 and instantly fell in love with the spices and flavors of the chicken nuggets. They were simply in a different league than any fast food I'd eaten. 

I graduated from high school and moved to many different cities over the next few years and ended up pursuing a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. I’d find a Chick-Fil-A in every city I moved to that had one. It always reminded me of my hometown, my youth and of where I came from.

But Chick-Fil-A has a different connotation to me nowadays. As the multicultural specialist for the counseling center at UCSC, I work closely with students, many of them LGBT. They sit in my office and tell me their stories. I hear intimate details about their lives.

I hear how they were shunned by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes because they were gay. I believe that Chick-Fil-A donated almost $500,000 to them.

I hear how their parents believed what they read on the Family Research Council's website and decided not to "affirm" their "choice", so they kicked them out of the house. Another organization sponsored by Chick-Fil-A.

I hear how they were sent to a camp run by Exodus International and how they became suicidal and depressed from their experiences there. They were some of my toughest clients and I almost lost a few of them to their newfound self-hatred. You gave them money also.

So my Chick-Fil-A story is this….once upon a time, I loved the food and it was my top fast food choice. It brought back happy memories. But after having to undo damage done by groups your restaurant has financially supported over the years, I cannot bring myself to place a single dollar into the hands of those who defy everything I've learned about psychology, human nature, and human kindness.

 

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s Letter to Chick-Fil-A, which I posted to my Facebook page.

Whether or not Menino was within his legal right to do so, his letter to Chick-Fil-A banning them from Boston was, at the very least, a gutsy and glorious gesture.


A Facebook friend of mine posted this and it generated a very lengthy discussion (edited here where necessary): 

I STAND BY CHICK-FIL-A AND THEIR DECISION TO BE ABLE TO SAY IF THEY AGREE OR DISAGREE...........to hell with Boston, they are the ones missing out! 

SEAN: Agreeing and disagreeing is one thing. Actively funding an organization that's messing up vulnerable kids is quite another.

ME: There's one smack dab in the middle of Hollywood. I gladly walk right by it. And it's not about agreeing or disagreeing. I don't mind what they do with their personal dollars. I mind what they do with their corporate dollars. It's a slap in the face to those who patronize their business and to those who work for the company on any level.

EJ: I don’t agree with gay marriage and they will get my money.......SO WILL YOU GAYS BOYCOTT ME? (this is especially interesting considering EJ is a gay.)

CMB: Terrence you wanna marry a man?

ME: I don't want to marry anyone but if I wanted to, I don't like be told what I can and cannot do. I fully support anyone's right to marry WHO they want. I emphasize the "who" for those who want to sully this conversation with talk about goats and cows.

EJ: THERE IS A LOT MORE THINGS YOU GAY PEOPLE CAN WORRY ABOUT AND BE CONCERNED ABOUT compared to whether Chick-Fil-A agrees with the lifestyle or not. They are a Christian-based organization and if they are closed on Sunday and lose millions of dollars what makes you all think you will become relevant. Chick-Fil-A never said that you all could not marry. They said they do not agree with it.

ME: I don't care that they close on Sundays. I don't care that they don't "agree with my lifestyle". I care that they use their "Christ honoring business" to support organizations that go beyond "just not agreeing". They don't have to agree. I don't care. But don't call it Christian-based. Don't fund gay rights. But don't fund anti-gay sentiment either. If they really want to hold up their beliefs, don't accept gay dollars. I'd like to see THAT press release.

CC: I have no desire to have the money I spend at a business be turned around and donated to a hate-filled organization. I will not go to Chick-Fil-A. My husband and I were looking for a place to visit for our 5 year anniversary next year and Boston just gave itself a boost.

EJ: Well don’t spend money with the state and some governments either then....I am pretty sure a lot them don’t agree with it.

JTO: They donated millions of dollars to anti-gay causes. I refuse to give them any more to spend on bigotry and hate. They are welcome to their opinion and bigots are welcome to eat there.

EJ: Well I guess that makes me a greedy bigot. lol...CAUSE I AM GOING TO CONTINUE TO EAT THERE AS WELL AS DRINK THERE.

ME: And you are entitled to do so. I don't see why, but I don't need to. and the government doesn't need to agree, but they sure as hell can't go against it without getting overthrown

SEAN: I could give two shits about whether they agree with it or not, though for the record it's not a "lifestyle". Veganism is a lifestyle. Yacht clubs are a lifestyle. This is a fundamental piece of identity, an inexchangeable part of who and what we are, and it's not only coming under attack by so-called Christians who are focused more on anti-gay than pro-anything, but it's coming under attack from organizations that they fund. As a psychologist, I've spent countless hours with crying teenagers, often on the brink of suicide, because these groups that Cathy funds are offering camps and workshops aimed at misguided bigots who take whatever Bible verse out of context to support their cause. The Bible was used to keep women in their place for decades until it wasn't allowed by society anymore. The Bible was used to support blacks getting 3/5 of a vote until we realized that it was completely abhorrent. And in 2012, bigotry against gays and lesbians is being supported by old-school, rich white Bible-thumping sheep who were told by their prejudiced grandparents what to think. And they believe it's still okay. Any time your money goes toward making other human beings feel badly about themselves for something that every medical and psychological authority says is an irrevocable piece of who they are, you might as well just go back to being a misogynist, a racist, a xenophobe, or any other type of bigot you choose. But I wouldn't buy a chicken sandwich that funds women learning they belong in the kitchen, Mexicans being deported back to Mexico or blacks and whites using different water fountains. So I'm sure as shit not doing it so gay kids can hang themselves in the backyard, to be discovered by their parents when they get home from Sunday School.

BT: These are editorial comments from the LA Times and the Boston Globe, not exactly well known as bastions of conservatism: The Los Angeles Times condemned the decision, calling it far more troubling than Chick-fil-A’s support of traditional marriage.

“Public officials have a responsibility to carry out their ministerial tasks fairly and evenhandedly – and to uphold the principle of free speech – whether or not they like a business executive’s social or political stances,” the Times opined.

The Boston Globe wondered “which part of the First Amendment does Menino not understand? A business owner’s political or religious beliefs should not be a test for the worthiness of his or her application for a business license.

So while I may disagree with what he said, he still has a right to say it. Everyone has a right not to eat at his restaurants. But Mayors do not have a right to block his building of new restaurants in their city because of personal and/or political beliefs. As far as I am aware, we still do have the 1st Amendment, until that is taken away from us due to political correctness as well. 

ME: While that is a good point, this is not a free speech issue. CFA has every right to feel how they feel but not to use corporate funds to do whatever they want. The best thing they can do is be neutral from a business standpoint. Since they aren't, I don't see why Menino has to be either. Besides, public officials also have a responsibility to represent their constituency. While a lot of Boston residents won't give a shit either way about CFA or gay marriage, MA was first to the gate on the latter issue so it would be incongruous for them not to make this type of gesture. From a business standpoint, CFA would be wise to avoid Boston altogether if this is the response from the Mayor.

SEAN: And again, he's funding organizations offering "therapy" that's been disavowed by every major psychological, sociological, psychiatric, and medical association in the country. They're hurting people and calling it counseling, there's no disagreement in the field about that. It's not therapy when death rates go up. He's literally throwing money at an organization that's raising the fatality rate amongst a disenfranchised group of people. Say what you will, but when kids like me (20 years ago) are dying because of your philanthropy, please standby as I do everything in my power to drive that company into bankrupcy before another kid takes his own life.

BT: Chick-Fil-A is a private company, so they can do whatever they want with their money. They are not beholden to shareholders or anyone else. You know I love you and support anything you do, but I feel like this is more of a PC issue with a hot button topic. If it starts refusing service to gays, then yes that is discrimination and I would not eat there either (although I never have before). But people need to make their own decisions on whether to eat there or not, not whether he can have a business.

EJ: People! Chic-Fil-A has never said it wouldn't serve any group. It merely states that the owner/company believes in marriage between man and woman.

SEAN: ‎"Merely" supporting organizations financially that are responsible for teenage suicides is not something that deserves such a reductionistic tone, though. Gay kids, coming out of Chick-Fil-A sponsored organizations, are killing themselves more often than kids not sent to said camps. So buying their product says "that's fine, I like their waffle fries".

ME: I love you too and I love that we don't agree on everything. Yes, they're a private company. Yes, they have every right to do what they're doing. But having the right to do something doesn't make it right.

CC: Yes, they are a private company. Yes, they can do whatever they want with their money. But I don't want to give them MY money, so they can then use my money to donate to these horrible causes. Also, the mayor has not banned them from building. He doesn't have that power. He simply states his opinion to Cathy, that he "urges" him to consider another location. Just like Cathy has the right to donate his money to hideous causes, just like I have the right to say I will not give that business my money, Menino has the right to express his opinion to Chick-Fil-A that they don't belong there.

BT: Unfortunately CC, when he represents the entire city of Boston, he has a sworn duty to uphold the law. One could make an argument that this is a form of intimidation. I'm not saying it is (although I do feel it is). He never should have injected his own beliefs. If asked, he could answer honestly (if he truly feels that way) about his own personal beliefs, but not acting as the mayor of a major American city. If he can't separate the two, he can't be mayor. And since this is not the first time he has interjected his opinion on businesses he doesn't feel are adequate enough for his fair city, I feel this is more political than anything else.

EJ: You people really seem upset about this though. This too shall pass.

ME: This will not pass. This is not something that just passes.

 

This much shorter Facebook exchange between D and me ended rather unexpectedly:

D: I will not stop eating Chick-Fil-A! It is a good company and very religious. Is it surprising that a religious organization/company doesn't support gay marriage? Duh! Hello people! The company, CEO, or whomever is saying that it doesn't support same-sex marriage -- which is different from saying that it will not hire or serve gays. Seriously, people should be able to believe what they want to believe especially if it is part of their religious beliefs.

(buncha other comments)

Me: This is not about sensitivity. This is not about gay rights organizations being bullies. (comments made in parts of this thread I did not include here.) This is about a company, albeit private, openly supporting organizations that openly discriminate against an entire group of people. That's the issue. I don't care that the CEO doesn't support equal rights for gays. I care that the company will accept gay dollars but then turn around and use those dollars to support anti-gay organizations. While they as a private company have every right to do so, having the right doesn't necessarily mean it's right to do so. If Cathy wants to use his own money to do so, that's fine. But unless the company is also going to turn away gay business, then it's best to stay neutral.

D: Ok, Terrence. I feel you. Damn, Damn, Damn. I have to give up my Chick-Fil-A. I worked there for 5 years before I went to college. 

I was stunned and speechless, but pleased.

 

This posting by Scott J. generated a lot of attention.

I'm gay and I do not care what one fast food owner’s opinion of me is. They actually have good food, offer employment for gays and give a lot of money to terminally ill children. Let them be able to practice their First amendment rights peacefully without fear of this bullshit, because everyone deserves a voice in this country -- right or wrong.

So instead of doing this "Boycott" BS, how about you spend more time educating people about love and understanding and make us look like actual loving people instead of self-righteous assholes who can't treat people with a different opinion than theirs with decent tolerance and respect!

I didn’t comment on this because there were already over 1,000 of them. Like many others, he missed the core issue of the entire controversy. It was not about an opinion. It was not about free speech. It was not about love and understanding. It wasn’t about the boycott. It was not about a difference of opinion. It was not about the “good” that they do. It was about the “bad” that they do – which was completely overlooked by Scott.

 

And we’ve come full circle with a final word from Sean:

The First Amendment means you can say what you want to say. And Mr. Cathy did. And he expressed that he's proud to send money to groups that call their work therapy, inflict emotional turmoil on human beings, and increase their likelihood of anxiety, depression, and suicide. This isn't about anyone's opinions. This is about funding organizations that are really hurting teenagers. And I'm saying this as a licensed psychologist who often works with those kids who survive the Exodus International camps. They. Are. Hurting. Children.

 

And that has been the issue with all of this. It’s not about whether Dan Cathy will be throwing rice or casting judgment at my wedding to Ian because he’d rather I marry Mary Jane. It’s not about free speech. It’s not about chicken. It’s not about the Bible. It’s not about boycotts. It’s not about Appreciation Days. It’s not even about marriage.

It’s only about one thing – knowing where your money is REALLY going and what you may not know the causes that money is actually supporting. You have the right to know, just like you have the right to decide for yourself if those causes are worth your business.

And it’s not just Chick-Fil-A. There are others out there but they either do it on the sly or have the wisdom not to use corporate funds.

Like any great discussion, those who are tired of hearing about it are bound for disappointment because this is only the beginning. 


Those Kids on the Bus: What We Need to Learn -- a Bit of a Rant From the Perspective of a Single Early Thirtysomething...With No Children

posted Jul 18, 2012, 9:28 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Jul 18, 2012, 9:49 AM ]

Disclaimer: I am neither a parent nor a psychologist. I’m just a reasonably intelligent single early thirtysomething male entity with an opinion. If you feel my status as such invalidates this entire essay, then I invite you to read the latest blogisode of “I Am Erick Davidson”.


About a month ago, a video of four seventh grade students mercilessly taunting a 68-year-old bus monitor surfaced on the internet, went viral and became national news. 

It’s been a deservedly great time for Karen Klein, who stands to receive over $600K in donations for her ordeal.

But it’s been a significantly longer period for those four students and their parents – who have endured deserved national outrage and undeserved public death threats for their youthful indiscretion.

There has been much discussion as to how to properly punish these four kids. But so much is wrong with this situation that each part deserves its own punishment because one sweeping punishment can’t possibly make up for what could be considered criminal by some standards.

First off, Karen Klein is a grown adult. That should have stopped them right there but it didn’t.

Secondly, this is a woman – one very much like their own mothers, sisters, aunts and grandmothers. This clearly never crossed their minds so I can only imagine that neither is present in their lives or they were raised by a group of men who have taught them nothing about respect for a woman. How else could they possibly mistreat a woman in such a way without taking any of this into consideration? Hell, they don’t seem to have even realized that this was in fact someone’s mother, sister, aunt and grandmother.

Assuming any combination of the four entities is present in their own lives, would those kids really want any of them to have to go through the same thing they put Karen Klein through? Would they want to hear that their mother, sister, aunt or grandmother had gone through the same thing as Klein? Would they want to see it on video or watch it on the news? I certainly hope not, but clearly none of this entered their minds either.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, this is a human being with feelings and emotions that come to the surface when triggered by such taunts and ridicule.

Kids, in particular these kids, don’t generally think in those terms. Not only is it unfortunate, but it’s tragic. And it’s tragic because it says so much about how we as a society are churning out a generation of kids without such regard for adults, for women or for human beings in general.

I imagine much of the national outrage stems from the fact that we as a society finally have to come face-to-face with something we’ve long feared – that something is wrong, something is terribly wrong. And it’s our fault.

I was raised during the 1980s and 1990s – an era of time when kids had very few rights (at least not in the Moss household) – except to do what we were told. It was an era when parents (at least my parents) didn’t care much about their child’s opinion unless they asked for it, which they rarely did. It was an era when parents getting a call from the school meant trouble when you got home, before you got home or right at school (at least it was with my parents). It was an era when embarrassing your parents was going to turn out to be far more embarrassing for you (at least it was with my parents). It was an era when, if you couldn’t or didn’t exercise home training at home, you had better exhibit some semblance of it outside the home (at least that was the golden rule of the Moss household). It was an era when behavior was self-monitored because you didn’t want to have to face your parents (at least not my parents) should they find out what you done did because during this era, respect for adults superseded anything else.

When shit when down, the first thing my parents did was ask what I did. What did I do to cause this situation? What part did you have in how things went down?

That was their first question. It’s not that they didn’t want to believe me. It’s not that they assumed I had done something wrong. They just knew what kids in general were capable of – even if I had never done it before. And I was capable. It was all possible. And before they made a phone call or paid someone a visit, they wanted to know all the details so that they could get to the bottom of things and make sure that guilty parties were properly punished – especially if it turned out to be me. And if that turned out to be the case, I knew what was coming.

But even if I was blameless and even if I was found innocent of all charges, my parents talked to me about how to better handle that situation the next time or avoid it altogether.

Case in point: during the first quarter of my freshman year of high school, I was failing gym. GYM. I went to every class, I changed and I participated. But the teacher didn’t like my attitude (imagine that).

The activity that quarter was football. I didn’t like football. I didn’t want to play football. I didn’t know how to play football. I didn’t want to know how to play football. And I resented having to play football with highly-favored members of the football team who expressed no interest in having me play with them (probably because I expressed no interest in learning).

My gym teacher that quarter just happened to be one of the football coaches. And he didn’t like my attitude any more than I liked participating. So when an “F” turned up on my progress report, my father asked me what was going on in gym. I honestly didn’t know. So he gave the gym teacher coach a call to find out what was going on. But my father didn’t tear into him and threaten to sue for jeopardizing my chance at the Ivy Leagues. He simply asked the gym teacher coach what I was doing wrong.

The gym teacher coach told him.

My father thought it was ridiculous because it was gym. Even though he told me so, he also asked me how I could fix the situation because the onus was still on me to do so since failing grades were not allowed in the Moss Household.

So I faked it an attitude adjustment and wound up with a B.

While I didn’t necessarily do anything wrong and while my father understood where I was coming from, the true fact of the matter was that I was still getting an F and that needed to change – not the gym teacher coach.

Nowadays that gym teacher coach would probably be suspended for infringing on my laughable rights as a child and having a negative effect on my self-esteem.

This perhaps is where things went wrong. We started treating children as people with rights and opinions. But they’re not people. They’re children. That’s why they have parents in charge of them and most adult people don’t. That is the difference. One has to be taught how to function in a society and one should already know how to do so.

Another problem, and I’ll risk oversimplifying it here, is that discipline is now commonly mistaken as abuse. There is a very, very fine line between the two. I was spanked as a child -- often with a belt, but never without several warnings, just cause and an explanation as to why this was now occurring.

This is why I laugh at time outs as a rule. They may work on some kids but I have come across a lot of children with whom time outs do not and will not work. You can tell the difference between a child that responds to time outs and a child than does not. You can tell the difference between a child who only responds to a brick upside the head and a child that only responds to a pop upside the head.

Yet another problem, and this is far more problematic, is that parents underestimate what their child is capable of. I asked my mother what she would have done had that been me on the bus taunting the bus monitor. She didn’t even entertain the thought because that wouldn’t have been me. And she repeated that a few times.

I knew better because I was taught better. If people are capable of anything, good or bad, so are children – because they’re watching and listening. I imagine my parents knew this about my brother and me. It’s not that they expected us to do such things but they didn’t operate under the “not my kid” mentality. Good or bad, it was all possible.

My brother and I knew the standards. We knew what was allowed in the Moss Household and what was not. Plus, we had a pretty good idea how our parents would react. If it was serious enough, there would be jail time and they probably would have insisted on it. My parents weren’t going to allow such behavior back in their house. This I knew.

If it wasn’t serious enough for jail, it was serious enough for the belt and we lived under the constant threat and possibility of it. We didn’t get hit with the belt often, but when we did, we knew we had it coming. That threat and that possibility kept us in line.

A lot of parents and society as a whole doesn’t like to think about or talk about such discipline. Clearly it’s still needed. It was needed for these kids on the bus. It’s needed for kids who are walking around bullying other kids, fighting their teachers, disrespecting adults, stealing, stabbing, shooting and destroying property. These are not acts for which a time out in a corner is going to suffice.

Which brings us back to the problem of what is a suitable punishment for such behavior? One parent wants to put his kid in therapy. Maybe. I believe firmly in therapy but in this case, I have to question the parenting itself. This was the same parent who felt these kids had been punished enough from the public humiliation they had endured (the uncalled for death threats notwithstanding).

The school district has suspended the four students for a year (during which time they will be transferred to an alternative education program). They are prohibited from using regular bus transportation for a year. And they are required to complete 50 hours of community service with senior citizens.

Some say this is excessive, but their punishments have to be harsh. They are the examples. They are the ones that other kids need to look to when they make decisions (and these are decisions because they’re not animals) about how to behave and how to treat adults, women, seniors and human beings as a whole.

Is it enough? Does it go too far? Does it go too far in some areas and not far enough in other areas? That remains to be seen. This isn’t over. This is only the beginning for them and for society as a whole. We have to learn something from this. We have to take something away from this. We have to figure out how to teach our kids how to keep themselves in line.

I say “we” because I am a firm believer in the all but abandoned concept of “it takes a village to raise a child”. Clearly it does but we’ve lost that. And kids know this. So instead of multiple sets of eyes keeping watch over kids, it’s down to one or two. I know that parenting isn’t easy. I would never in a million years suggest that it is. Since it isn’t easy and it isn’t getting any easier, why not go back to the “village” concept?

But had Klein or the bus driver retaliated in ANY way, they would have been suspended or even arrested. Kids know this, which is another part of the reason why this occurred. We’ve got parents wanting teachers to do their job without any power or support to do so. There is a disconnect. We need to become a society where parents and teachers and neighbors and responsible adults band together to raise these children, keep them safe, get them educated and out on their own to become positive contributions on the world as opposed to a drain.

And kids need to know that they are always being watched. If the parent didn’t see it, maybe the teacher did. Maybe a trusted neighbor did. Maybe some random person did. Either way, the parent is going to find out about it and they’ll be disciplined accordingly – either by the parent, the teacher and/or the trusted neighbor. And the child will think twice about bullying other kids, fighting their teachers, disrespecting adults, stealing, stabbing, shooting and destroying property.

But it requires trust and it requires unity. Parents, do you have it? Society, are you up for it? Or do we need a bus monitor to actually be beaten up before we take back the control? 

The "How You Met" Stories of Abram & Racine and Doug & Mike

posted Jun 30, 2012, 9:52 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Jul 11, 2012, 12:35 AM ]


Last year, I contributed several “how you met” stories to So…How Did You MeetAnyway?, a blog operated by Susan Amestoy out of Vermont.

My first submission to her was a story about the time I spent with a special guy when I lived in Massachusetts. Susan was so enthused about the piece and the response to it that she asked if I had any more, so I started interviewing friends and submitting their stories to her.

I recently posted two previously unpublished stories, here are the remaining two.

 

So…How Did You Meet Anyway?
Abram & Racine

Abram and Racine met in August of 2005. They both worked for the same company, but on different coasts. He was living in Los Angeles and she was living in New York. Abram was being sent to New York to provide Pivot Table Excel training to the media buyers in that office. For Abram, this also constituted a free trip to get together with the girl he dated in college. For Racine, this simply meant finally meeting the guy she’d spoken to on the phone so many times.

Abram liked Racine right away and she knew it even though she found him annoying. Still, she invited him to a gathering she was having at her apartment that night.

The next day, Racine invited him to lunch with her and a friend of hers from work. While making small talk, Racine discovered that Abram had gone to Indiana University with another friend of hers who was also best friends with a girl he dated in college.

Abram had the following day off from work so Racine called in sick and they spent the day together. What Racine didn’t know was that Abram was dating a girl from the Los Angeles office.

A month later, Racine was sent to the Los Angeles office to train a new media buyer. She and Abram had continued their conversations and his crush on her was by now quite evident. The two kept it friendly while Racine was in town, as neither she nor his girlfriend Lisa were aware of the common ground they shared in the form of Abram.

Abram happened to be celebrating a birthday while Racine was in town and he had gotten tickets to a Dodger game. Since Lisa was going to be at a concert, he asked a co-worker to invite Racine to the game – thereby being able to provide a justification for Racine’s attendance at the game to Lisa. Racine joined him, his roommate and the new media buyer for the game.

Racine’s trip was eventually extended, so Abram invited her to his apartment for dinner with him, his roommate and his roommate’s girlfriend. By this time, Abram and Racine were getting very close and spending a lot of time talking to each other on the phone. All the while, Abram was still dating Lisa.

It wasn’t until December that Abram told the Los Angeles office of his relationship with Lisa. At the same time, he finally told Racine of his relationship with Lisa. Racine was initially pissed off and her friends, who are primarily male and got wind of this, started to call Abram repeatedly with death threats -- an occurrence Racine was unaware of until the retelling of their story for this piece. By this time, Racine had already developed feelings for Abram and decided she would ultimately win him. 

In January (of 2006), Racine returned to Los Angeles and Abram took the day off to spend with her. Meanwhile, his girlfriend Lisa was working. Abram picked Racine up at her hotel and he took her to breakfast. They then went to Malibu for sushi with two friends of Racine’s -- who teased Abram for still dating Lisa and not her.

The following month, Abram traveled to New York for work and wound up hanging out with Racine on Valentine’s Day. Lisa was justifiably pissed but Abram attempted to make up for it by sending her conciliatory flowers. When he showed up at Racine’s apartment, she was wearing very short shorts with a very tight tank top in an attempt to fully execute her plan to win him. However, in keeping a long-standing fidelity promise to himself, Abram didn’t give in to the temptation but while the two were lying next to each other on her couch watching The Birdcage, he “accidentally” grazed her breast.

A major snowstorm hit the area the following day. Racine had decided to stay over with her aunt in Tribeca, so she and Abram met up for lunch as he was also staying in the city. It was at this lunch that she professed her love for him. Abram told her that though he likes her, he is still with Lisa and therefore nothing could happen…right now.

That trip was the turning point of their relationship.

By the time Abram returned to Los Angeles, Lisa knew of his crush on Racine and that it was also the beginning of the end of their relationship. What she didn’t know was how serious the feelings were between Abram and Racine.

Before leaving for a trip to South America that March, Racine asked Abram to tell her exactly what was going on between him and Lisa. Abram admitted that both he and Lisa knew it wouldn’t last but they were still having fun. However, given his feelings for Racine, Abram knew that he had to break up with Lisa even though the two of them were planning a trip to Jamaica.

Toward the end of the month, Lisa called Abram to book the trip. He told her that they could go to help the relationship but they both knew that their relationship was over and broke up that night.

Abram and Racine emailed constantly while she was in South America. She returned thinking they could now be together. Abram was unexpectedly reluctant and wanted some time and space.

In April, Abram went to New York again for work. Racine told him they should get together and they decided to give it a shot. That night, she once again professed her love for him. He replied that one day he’ll feel the same.

The next night, Abram professed his love to Racine.

The two traveled back and forth seeing each other and meeting each other’s families. A few months later, Abram told Lisa about him and Racine. Lisa said that she was not surprised as she and he were just not meant to be.

Abram and Racine dated bicoastally for a year and a half before Racine moved to LA in September of 2007. They got engaged in August of 2008, married on Halloween 2009, moved back to New York in mid-2011 and had their first child in March of 2012.

 

So…How Did You Meet Anyway?
Doug & Mike

Doug and Mike met on gay dot com. It was an “almost didn’t happen” situation because if Mike had used his previous profile picture of him during Halloween in his pimp costume, then Doug wouldn’t have bothered to private message him in the first place – despite the fact that he had already passed the “cute” test.

From Mike’s vantage point, Doug’s picture wasn’t particularly cute as it made him look like he had a growth coming out of his neck. Nevertheless, Mike was a nice guy and responded.

It was a Sunday late in the summer of 2003 and their e-conversation lasted for quite some time that day and several subsequent e-conversations occurred. Doug lived in Saginaw (Michigan), an hour and a half away from Mike in Ann Arbor (also in Michigan).

“Next time you’re around, let’s meet up,” Mike suggested in one of those subsequent e-conversations.

As it happened, Doug was going to be in Ann Arbor for another date later in the week – though he told Mike he was just seeing a friend. Doug was casually dating the other guy, but wasn’t really sure if it was what he was looking for. He sent Mike an email a few days later confessing that the other friend was actually a second date. Mike didn’t mind since Doug at the time was “just the nice guy with a growth”.

Doug drove a shitty car, which he used as a litmus test for guys. Mike had a similar test in the form of the cheap and divey Fleetwood Diner in Ann Arbor. Mike did not have a car as he had given it to his younger brother for college, so Doug picked him up in his jalopy and Mike suggested they go to the Fleetwood.

Mike thought Doug’s car was very cool and the two chatted at the diner for a couple of hours about their lives, families, exes and the future.

After eating, Mike and Doug walked around for a bit. Mike suggested that they go see a movie, but Doug was not interested in paying for the art films that were showing in Ann Arbor since he had never heard of them and his home town of Saginaw never showed anything like that. Instead, they went back to Mike’s apartment and watched Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Notorious for falling asleep while watching movies, Doug asked Mike if he could use his leg as a pillow and…

…A couple hours later, Doug got dressed to go on his other date.

As Doug was getting dressed, Mike told him that he could come back and stay overnight if he got too tired to drive home.

“I guess the other date went well,” Doug’s other date commented when Doug met him with a hickey on his neck.

Doug’s other date was a bartender with a pending job opportunity in Detroit, which is where he took Doug to watch him tend bar. After a couple of hours, the managers decided they liked him and asked if he would work the full night. Doug was ready to leave so “the other date” took him back to his place. Doug ended the date, left and decided to head back to Mike’s apartment.

At a fork in the road, Doug stopped to call Mike and asked him if his offer still stood. Mike said yes.

The next morning, Mike made pancakes for Doug. Afterwards, Doug went back home to Saginaw. The two kept in touch and both fell hard and fast for each other very quickly. After three months of phone conversations and a few mutual weekend visits, they discussed taking their relationship to the next step.

Doug told Mike that he wasn’t seeing anyone else and didn’t want to see anyone else. Mike then invited Doug to come home with him to New Orleans for the holidays. Mike made plans to have Doug stay with a friend since his family wasn’t comfortable with the whole gay thing and he knew his parents wouldn’t let Doug stay in their house. With the exception of Mike’s brother, Doug didn’t meet Mike’s family.  

For their anniversaries, Doug typically made cards since he was a poor college student. But on their fourth in September of 2007, it was Mike who made the card -- as a means of determining their status as boyfriends, partners or fiancés?

Doug and Mike were engaged that day and legally married on their fifth anniversary in September of 2008 - in front of both sets of happy parents!  

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