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Sometime I look for a sign from the Universe, from God, or from my Angels. Yes, I believe in Angels. I’m surrounded by them every day. They’re the people in my life who make my world better on the daily. I saw this sign recently, “Everything Is Going To Be Alright,” and I had to take a picture of it. It came at the exact moment I needed it. Ever notice that? You get a sign, or a person shows up, or you read something on a bathroom wall – no, not that cell number for a good time – I’m talking about a sign that life is going along just fine. You’re okay. Life is not as difficult or bad as you thought it was, and the challenge or situation isn’t ever really as big or little as I think it is. Again, get your mind out of the gutter, I’m putting out existential chat here, not ass.
I find things do have a way of working themselves out, and sometimes in the most unexpected ways. And isn’t that a part of what makes this ride called life fun? I mean if I knew all the results, outcomes, and finales how boring would that be?!?! A little bit of mystery and intrigue keeps me going. Oh, yeah, I have my moments when I curse my process, wanting to know the answer now. Take my car lease for example. I was supposed to turn it in next month, but I couldn’t find the new car I wanted to replace it, and man did I look for months. Other pieces to the lease turn in weren’t working out either. I needed some body work done but didn’t have the cash on hand to do it right away, along with some other maintenance, and I just couldn’t see how everything was going to get done by my turn in date. Then, one day while car shopping on-line, Google’s algorithm popped me up a photo of a new car, and it was love at first sight. Do I have to pay Google a finder’s fee? I had discovered my new car, but with a catch – it’s not available in the U.S until later this summer. I then called my car company and asked if I could extend my lease, and low and behold I could, and I did for six months which holds me until the new model arrives on the car lot of my local dealer later this year.
But let’s be honest, I never could have worked all that out with my own mind. I had to surf the unknown waves of my universe until I reached the shoreline and a solution. And the result was way better than I’d ever have imagined. And that’s usually my experience. I believe the Universe, God, our Guides, work with us and have a far greater ability to vision for us than we do. Not to take anything away from our visions, they’re an essential part of our existence. We need vision to grow and to move forward, to work towards something and to be excited. And I’ve found it best to not lose sight of the fact that this whole process is a co-creative one. We’re doing this along with some very important partners, many of whom are unseen.
Some of you might think I’m crazy, or a little too spiritual for your taste. That’s okay. Just do yourself a favor, and the next time you’re in a situation that’s not going the way you’d like it to go, take a breath, ask for some assistance from the Universe, and see if there’s any response via a resolution, a next step, or a person or situation showing up “out of the blue” that leads you to what or where you’re working to get to. You’ve heard the popular phrase, “Things have a way of working themselves out,” because they do. As a matter of fact, things already are, just the way they are. And remember, nothing stays the same for long. Change is the one thing we can be sure of. It’s inevitable, so ride the wave, set a course for adventure, and trust. And if you can’t muster up any trust at this precise moment, fake it till you make it because everything is going to be alright, eventually. I swear.
It was a crisp fall evening in New York City. The year 1986. I had, in the proverbial sense, arrived, and was living my childhood dream. After years of holding a vision through junior high, high school, and two years of Dutchess Community College, I had finally made my way to New York City as a transfer student at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
I was a theater major, and soon to be actor, singer, dancer, waiter. It was a very exciting time for me as a young artist. What better city could there be than New York to study live theater. Of course, there were other great theater cities in the world – like London – but I was a young American artist, so New York was the perfect destination for me to begin my artistic training.
The thought of being part of the rich theater scene at that time was intoxicating. There was “A Chorus Line,” “La Cage Aux Folles,” and “42nd Street” on Broadway. Off Broadway there was the avante garde La Mama Theater Club doing “The Gospel at Colonus,” which would launch the career of Morgan Freeman when it made its way to Broadway two years later. Playwright David Mamet was “born,” soon to be one of America’s great playwrights, and a cute little show called “Little Shop of Horrors” was playing at the Orpheum. Uptown there was Peter Martins and Jerome Robbins, two of the greatest choreographers of our time who had taken over the New York City Ballet after George Balanchine’s passing in 1983. They were both Co-Ballet Masters in Chief at that time. In the art world Warhol was legend, with Keith Harring plastering the most insanely beautiful graffiti art all over the city. By 1986 he had opened The Pop Show on West Broadway in Soho, where the public could now buy his work that was otherwise installed on public buildings and other public properties all over the city. Madonna released her third album “True Blue” which included “Papa Don’t Preach,” and “Open Your Heart.” Madonna was the sound track of our gay lives, well really all our lives, in New York City at that time.
My arrival in New York brought so many firsts for me including my very first all-male cocktail party. On that crisp fall evening in 1986, with the smell of smoked chestnuts in the air, I entered a distinguished doorman building on East 57th Street. This was an older prewar building. When we stepped off the elevator my friend David and I walked down a quiet, well-manicured hallway done up with crown moldings, mahogany wall tables and gilded sconces. I was not in Poughkeepsie anymore. I would later learn the cleanliness and caliber of hallways in Manhattan were a telltale sign of either care or neglect, moneyed folk or starving artist. This hallway was all money.
The door to the apartment home we were about to enter was inlaid with woodwork that had been artfully designed and crafted for both security and aesthetic. It would both welcome a CEO and keep out a burglar. But the true height of the art would be revealed behind this gilded door.
My friend David and I rang the bell. We had one more moment to primp our hairs and say good-bye to our innocence. When the door opened we were greeted briefly and ushered into a new world of Fabulous neither of us could have ever prepared for.
The apartment was filled with gay men from every part of the New York City art and business scene. Broadway performers, Wall Street brokers, and interior designers. It was a who’s who of the most creative gay minds of Manhattan, and it was this same group of men in the years to come who would all but disappear due to the devastating effects of AIDS, which was taking center stage in New York and acting as a most tragic common denominator among all these beautiful souls.
For us younger gay men at the time, new to the city, we would watch with a horrific and stunned disbelief as a whole generation of gay men was wiped out. We lost friends our age, but the vast majority was the generation just ahead of us – the boomers. We were Gen X’ers. It was the boomers who were devastated. Well, we were all devastated.
I’ll never forget a visit I had to the city some ten years later after moving to Los Angeles. It was the first time in many years I had been back to the city. I was walking with one of my college roommates Michael, and we commented on a very handsome “older” man, a daddy type, who walked by us. I looked at Michael and said, “That’s a hot older guy.” He said, “They’re back.” I said, “That’s wild.” And Michael said, “They’re us.” We stared at one another, both recognizing on a very deep level what this meant. We had weathered the AIDS storm and lived to the next stage of our lives, and now we were the age of the generation of gay men that had been taken. It was a sobering awareness, one that left us both silent for several blocks as we walked through this west side Chelsea neighborhood, an awareness that got etched in our consciousness, and one that had forever changed us. For me, I was grateful and nostalgic in a most heartfelt way. These men who passed were our brother, or “sisters” as some might say, our lovers, and they were other people’s sons, brothers, uncles, cousins, and best friends. Some were fathers. While it’s easy to think this significant loss of men was something that happened only to the gay community, it was so much bigger than that.
That virgin night for me on East 57th street was the beginning of the end for many of those men. And for those of us who survived the AIDS crisis it was the beginning of a new world in which we learned love could equal death, friends can sometimes trump family, and never, ever can we take what we have, including our lives, for granted.
I truly believe this stunned many people of my generation, both gay and straight. And I was lucky. I could count on two hands the number of friends I lost during this time. This was minor compared with those individuals who saw large swathes of their world disappear. I remember hearing stories of 20 or 30 friends lost, and it became common to hear the phrase, “I just can’t go to another memorial service.”
As kids in college at the time, we did what we could. An AIDS benefit, participating in an Act-Up demonstration. For me it was such a dichotomy of trying to begin my young life while so many people were dying around me. We were so full of life, and yet colored with a rather gruesome reality of our city, our community of artists, and really all our lives at that time.
I know for myself, and this is a more recent discovery for me, I shut part of myself down and built a protective wall around my heart. Love was scary. Love could kill me. Today, this is a scare that has needed tending with loving compassion and awareness. Back then, it was a reality that we faced as young people with every step we took in the city. We lost acting teachers, choreographers, and men from every walk of life. People we worked with in restaurants died. Friends of friends. Fellow performers gone. All a devastating reality of life in New York City in the late eighties.
That beautifully decorated apartment on East 57th street is etched in my memory. It had fabric walls, something this boy from Poughkeepsie had never seen before. I was mesmerized. But what I remember most were the vibrant souls of the men at this gathering. They dressed with panache, all of them expressing their creativity in their beautifully tailored clothing. They were handsome men, well groomed, elegant even, the kind of man I would aspire to be. But what I remember most was how kind they were. These were men who talked to me, asked me my name, what I did. Maybe they knew I was new to the world of New York City’s gay life, or maybe they just recognized a young one of their kind and took mercy.
The one man I will never forget was a Broadway dancer, which was something I aspired to be at that time. He was Latino, very handsome, and he wore a burnt orange turtle neck for warmth. I remember his dark hair, skin, and eyes, and the fact that he seemed to have arrived in his life. He was where I wanted to be, to get to. Making a living doing his art. He encouraged me to pursue my dreams of performing. He shared a piece of his life experience with me. And then, he was gone.
Whenever I imagine this beautiful night, I see a slow motion time lapsed film where the room slowly empties out. One by one, the men at this party disappear from frame, each one flying up to the heavens.
His shoulders are the ones I stand on today. He, and this whole group of men, paved the way for my generation. They lived and loved courageously, and out loud. They were men throwing off the prejudice and repression of all that came before them in their early lives. They were unapologetic in this expression of loving. Many would be our greatest advocates during this time of crisis – Vito Russo, Paul Monette, and Larry Kramer to name just three, and from these men and their experiences would come our greatest healing.
So East 57th was, for me, the beginning of the end. But with each ending comes a new beginning. Even if it takes thirty years to start. Writing this book (this blog is an excerpt from a forthcoming book of mine) was my new start. Maybe I’m a late bloomer, but better late than never. Time takes time. And maybe, just maybe, the best is yet to come.
Barry Alden Clark has coached thousands of individuals in connecting more deeply with their hearts, their life purpose, and helped create a pathway for these folks to move forward in a direction more aligned with who they truly are. He & his creative partner Eliza Swords are currently delivering uplifting content on social media every Wednesday via “Best Day Ever with Barry and Eliza”, a Facebook and You-Tube phenomenon reaching thousands of people around the world. They are also inspiring love and joy through creating heartfelt and entertaining content via their production company Pure Honey Ink. Currently they have projects in development for social media, film, television and publishing. You can reach Barry at www.barryaldenclark.com.
These days we all pretty much use our cellphones for everything. I could probably use my cell phone to iron my dresses shirts, ice a cake, and zip line down a mountain side with the right app.
Texting has become the gold standard of our new, quick-short communication style. Like instant oatmeal, there’s less cooking time required. Tear open an envelope, pour in bowl, add water and microwave for 90 seconds. I use the Trader Joe’s Organic Oats with Brown Sugar. It’s not too heavy on the sweet, only 6 grams per serving. Perfect for this recovering sugar addict.
Like instant oatmeal, texting is instant talk. Why talk when you can text! Newly pregnant? Text your friends. About to walk out on your twenty year marriage? Text it. “Bu-bye. I took the kids. You can keep that pesky parakeet.”
Texting brings communication to new heights. I’d go so far as to say texting makes actual conversations passé. Now I can express myself and all my varied thoughts and feelings much more clearly via my collection of personalized emoticons. Some of us even use large look-alike cartoon caricatures to express ourselves. These cartoon characters usually have one clear message like, “Happy Birthday!” Or “Oh, Shit!” Who needs real people singing “Happy Birthday,” or an actual shoulder to cry on when your mother dies? It’s just too messy, and it requires dry cleaning bill.
Texting, text icons, and even sexting are how we roll today. Real, actual, live sex is, at this point, just weird.
Every new technology has its pluses and minuses, its light and dark. Texting allows a quick connection, where perhaps, there was none. And it creates a general tone and nature to our communications which over time can build a distance between people and lessen our level of intimacy.
In this new world of texting, I believe there’s a need for text-i-quette: etiquette for texting. I’m by no means a tech expert, nor Emily Post, but to the extent I understand human behavior, I’m aware there are some ground rules we need to set up in order to more clearly understand each other via our cellular devices. So here’s some text etiquette from me to you. Take it or leave it, but know texting has consequences.
To start, please don’t deliver important news, like telling me you’re pregnant, via text. You’re only going to get my initial reaction of pure, ecstatic, jump up and down joy once. Same with an engagement, or job promotion. And if we’re going to break up after a year of dating, let’s have the balls to do it in person. We’ll both need the closure, not to mention our toothbrushes, spare undies and socks. But actually, I just remembered, you don’t actually have balls. Still, no reason not to break up in person. You’ll need the story to text your best friend, which is a huge part of why we have to break up to begin with – you spend more time living in your virtual world than the real one.
But I digress.
Texting is not a reason for anyone to expect an instant response. I don’t take my phone into the bathroom. Trust me, no one needs to hear that. Texting does not trump a live and current conversation, though I know there are times when we mistakenly go there. Texting does not trump a date, sex, or a weekend get-a-way. Texting does not paint a clear picture so know there are more details we’ll need to talk about in a live conversation, and maybe even in person. Gasp. Texting does not work well in walkways, on a bicycle, mixed with driving, or while you and I are talking to one another.
Do text me your ETA if you’re running late. Text me contact info. Text me the name of that book you recommended. Text me a photo you took from our day at the beach. Text me an inspirational quote to uplift my spirit. And I even appreciate an “I love you” text. Very sweet. Though don’t get carried away.
I may or may not respond to your text. Don’t take it personally. I’ve also got a ringing cell phone, four email accounts, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Facebook IM, Google Plus, a blog, YouTube channel, and yes, an actual physical mailbox for my home. Also, I do need to sleep.
Hopefully you’ve found my #blog #useful. If not, that’s just one less text you’ll need to send. But if you did like it, please text all your friends, cause the best use of your texting abilities would be to spread the word on #textiquette. We might just be saving the world, one text at a time.
Barry Alden Clark has coached thousands of individuals in connecting more deeply with their hearts, their life purpose, and helped create a pathway for these folks to move forward in a direction more aligned with who the truly are. He & his creative partner Eliza Swords are currently delivering uplifting content on social media every Wednesday via “Best Day Ever with Barry and Eliza”, a Facebook and You-Tube phenomenon reaching thousands of people around the world. They are also inspiring love and joy through creating heartfelt and entertaining content via their production company Pure Honey Ink. Currently they have projects in development for social media, film, television and publishing. You can reach Barry at www.barryaldenclark.com.