Stop staring at me

Some nights, my main duty at the music venue isn’t working the door checking IDs or scanning concert tickets. On the more fun nights I’m actually in the venue during the show. I’m stationed at the curtain that leads back to the green room and the loading area for bands. My job is pretty simple when I’m working the venue. I essentially check for VIP wristbands given to the band members or their crew. Occasionally somebody’s parents or photographers are given these as well. If you don’t have a wristband, you don’t get past me. And believe me I’ve heard all the stories of why you deserve to go back there. But none of them work. I’m stubborn like that.

I also keep an eye on the green room itself since everybody’s backpacks and purses and laptops are in there. Since there is a loading door I’m also keeping an eye on everybody’s gear and supervising their load-in and load-out. I help the bands out and answer a ton of questions. Other duties would include removing people from the stage, and basic crowd control. I’m watching the crowd as they watch the show. If I see someone who is too intoxicated, or is making women feel uncomfortable by touching them, or the occasional fight, then I would physically escort them out of the venue. But basically, I get to watch a show for free, a mere 8 feet from the stage. I get to meet a lot of local and touring bands. Sometimes I get a free CD or act as a tour guide to recommend other Portland places for them to explore.  I like working in the venue.

One particular evening I was tuning out from the band’s performance a little bit because it just wasn’t my thing. We have all genres of music at this venue, and every now and then there is bound to be a group that I just don’t like. So I was scanning the crowd and people watching. The most exciting things that happened tonight were when I had to politely ask some people to not stand on the steps to the stage, and when I had to remind a patron that you couldn’t actually smoke pot in the venue.

But I noticed a young woman standing by herself pretty close to me, and she was watching me more than the band onstage. She was of the hippie variety based on her clothes and jewelry, with blonde curly hair. She would look directly at me and then look away. Then wait a bit, and look at me again. There was nobody else anywhere near me, so I knew that she was clocking me.

Maybe I looked like somebody she knew and she was trying to figure out if I was that person. Maybe she thought I was odd-looking. Maybe she thought I was smoking hot. But my experience is that women don’t particularly look at me dozens of times in public without at least coming over and saying something.

Here’s how my thoughts went:

Woman stares at me.

“Ok seriously? Come on, stop looking at me.”

Woman stares at me.

“Again, really?”

Woman stares at me.

“What, do I have food in my hair or something?”

Womans stares at me.

“For the love of gawd, stop staring at me, the show is up there on stage.”

Woman stares at me.

“If you look at me one more time….Oh great, you did.”

Woman stares at me.

“This is fucking ridiculous.”

Woman stares at me.

“If I was staring at you like this, you’d be creeped out. Should I be creeped out?”

After what felt like 25 minutes of this, she finally wanders over to me. No alarms were going off, she seemed like a nice person who wasn’t even drunk. She sheepishly starts a conversation with me. She said, “Hi there, I’m not from this area and I just wanted to ask if you could get me some cocaine?”

I paused. A long time. I wanted to say a lot of things to her. I wanted to ask her if she could read my shirt which clearly has SECURITY across the front. I wanted to ask her if she saw the walkie-talkie on my chest. I wanted to ask her if she noticed the earpiece I was wearing. I wanted to ask her if she really thought that asking a security guard for illegal drugs was a smart idea. I wanted to ask her if she could piece together that I’m the guy who kicks people out of this establishment, and interfaces with law enforcement on a regular basis.

But instead I touched my walkie-talkie to draw her attention to it and my security shirt, and said, “Well, I’m security staff here, so I’m not the person you want to ask about that. However, I am sure that SOMEBODY here in the crowd might possibly be able to help you.”

She got super embarrassed and apologized for offending me. I didn’t see her the rest of the night. Yet another first. While on shift as a security guard I’ve been offered free drugs a bunch, but never have I been asked to sell somebody drugs.

And now that I think about it, it was probably my dreads. I’m too approachable.

 

 

 

 

Night shift

I come home from my job pretty late at night. I work security at various music venues. Bars in Oregon close at 2:30am, so sometimes I’ll get home at 3:30am after closing. I call this the middle of the damned night. People who have been up are usually in bed by now, and people who have to wake up early for work usually are not yet awake. On my drive home I primarily see first responders doing their thing. Police vehicles, ambulances, and fire trucks are all out taking care of people.

When I get home I quietly press the code and 8 beeps notify the dogs that I’m home. My fiancé and my two step-kids are always asleep when I come home. I step quietly in the house and check on everybody. Everybody has their own rooms, but tonight I noticed 4 little feet poking out of the blankets on the couch in the living room. Sometimes one child will still be out there after watching shows with their Mom. I think she intentionally leaves them out there sometimes, knowing that I’ll gently pick them up and tuck them in their beds.

But tonight was the first night that both kids were still out in the living room asleep on the couch. Looking at the Netflix queue I can gather that they were alternating between Naruto anime that I got them hooked on, and another cartoon series called Trollhunters. Then my fiancé watched some West Wing once they were asleep.

I often come home smelling like the smoke from a fog machine, or beer, or sweat (mine or others). This is my surreal life, and it never fails to make me smile.

“Is that a new cologne you have on?”

“No, that’s just the fog machine.”

So tonight I gently wake up the 8 year old girl and say, “Hey, grab on to me and hug me, I’ll carry you to bed.” She wraps her arms around my neck and I stand up, lifting her up off the ground. Her legs dangle down with her feet still over a foot off the ground. Or sometimes she wraps herself around me like a koala bear. I can smell the shampoo in her hair as I walk carefully to her room. I carefully step over the toy figurines of horses, and piles of books, and gently lower her into her bed. “Goodnight, sweetie.” Her face looks a little like a sleepy turtle.

Then I go back and gently wake up the 10 year old boy. “My dude, give me a hug so I can carry you to your bed.” He is a substantially heavier than the girl. But he wraps his arms around me and hugs me the same way. Legs dangling a foot off the floor as I carry him down the hall to his room. I have to slowly walk over the minefield of matchbox cars on his floor. Those little hunks of metal can really dig into the soles of my feet. And since his head is nestled right next to mine, I can’t cuss in pain if I crush a die-cast Bat-mobile car. I cover him up with a blanket and tousle his hair. “Goodnight, young man.”

When I leave for work , they both ask me to wake them up when I get home. Or sometimes they claim that they will wait up for me to get there. I tell them I would never wake anybody up at 3:30am intentionally, and they are always zonked out when I get in, as they should be. But it’s cute to think they fell asleep on the couch, knowing that I’m going to pick them up and carry them to bed in the wee hours of the night.

I spend most of my shift at work keeping people safe. Or trying to. When I come home I am reminded why. I spend many hours at work dealing with drunk or rude people trying to do things that I am not allowing them to do. Then I get to come home and keep these two little ones safe. They don’t understand or care about bars where people go to drink alcohol and flirt and see a music concert. All of this is still many years off for them. Once I showed them how I use a UV flashlight to show the hidden hologram on Oregon state IDs to see if they are real. They thought that was really cool.

Whatever problems I had to deal with at work always melt away when I come into my house. I’ll often replay interactions or situations or incidents that happened at work while I’m driving home. I’ll often be shaking my head at the behavior of a patron that I had to intervene with. I’ll be thinking of ways I could have handled that situation differently. Mostly I just think about how some people simply shouldn’t drink alcohol. But I am always humbled by coming home after thinking my problems are oh so important. I happily take care of our two dogs and two kids and I am reminded what is important. Taking care of everybody you consider family. Making sure everybody is loved and safe. These little moments that may or may not even register consciously for the kids. But when they wake up in the morning, they’ll remember that they fell asleep on the couch and are now on their beds. Maybe they won’t have any nightmares because I pulled their blankets up around them and told them I loved them.

I’m also painfully aware that these moments have an expiration date on them. In a few short years they are going to enter into puberty and will be teenagers. They are also going to get bigger and heavier. All of this means I’m not going to get to pick them up and carry them to bed to be tucked in for too much longer.

These two aren’t my biological kids. But I feel like they are mine nonetheless. Like they belong to me, as I belong to them. Family should never be determined by blood alone. You can choose your family. And they are mine.

I’ve got the night shift. And I’ll watch over you while you’re asleep. Sleep well.

I am an ally

I am an ally. I have always been an ally to the queer community.

I am also a straight white man admittedly coming from a place of some privilege.

Since high school I’ve been a supporter of the LGBT community. Always seemed like a no-brainer. Love who you want. Reject any religious faith or family member who condemns your love.

As a young child I was part of a dance class, so I was around gay men all the time. Kudos to my parents for putting me in those dance classes and not demonizing the gay men, like other parents might. One of the first jobs I applied for in high school was as a DJ at the local gay club in Eugene. My parent’s rental house was rented to a gay man, and I used to go over there to help my Dad do yard work and minor home repairs. Their example of not behaving any differently around him taught me volumes. When that renter became a more vocal activist in Eugene politics fighting against some hateful propositions, they didn’t evict him. They didn’t raise the rent. When the house got vandalized by bigoted morons, they never expressed wishing they had a straight renter that didn’t have these problems. I believe that they rented to him for many years after, until he also moved to Portland.

I’ve attended the gay pride parade every year since I moved to Portland in 1996. So that’s twenty years of gay pride. Some years I just attended as a participant. Other years I staffed the outreach booth for the non-profit dog rescue I ran. Other years I walked in the parade for that non-profit with available dogs for adoption. One year I held the banner for a drumming group. And for the last three years I’ve performed on the main stage at Portland Pride with my rock band, The Shrike.

I worked for many years as a mentor for at-risk youth. I would always work with them to understand others and learn tolerance and acceptance. Some years I would even bring the teenagers to Pride with me. A few youth came out to me over the years, and one helped start his high school’s first GSA group. As we would study the civil rights movement, we would also study the gay rights movement. I loved telling them about the Stonewall riots that ignited the fires that still burn today.

In the 2000’s I took a part-time job delivering the area’s only gay newspaper. It was called Just Out. I would work a couple of days a month delivering bundles of papers to over a hundred stops on my route. I wanted to support the cause and learn about cool businesses and venues in Portland, so it was perfect. I’m certain that everybody assumed I was gay as I walked into the gay club during the summer mornings in my tank top shirt. Getting hit on by people at noon in a bar is surreal. I also met one of my best friends while working at Just Out, Marie. After a decade of friendship, Marie introduced me to my girlfriend, Marcela. She and her two kids have moved in with me, and we are very happy and in love. Thanks again, Marie.

When the Multnomah County commissioners legalized same-sex marriage in 2004 I got to be part of the celebration. Hundreds of couples were standing in line outside the Multnomah County building waiting to get their marriage license. I was on my route delivering the issue of Just Out that had the story of recent legalization of gay marriage on the cover. I thought it would be a good use of my time to stop and get out with a stack of papers, offering them to everybody in line. So many people were excited to get an issue of Just Out as a souvenir of this historic date, and to commemorate the acquisition of their marriage license. It was a sweet moment, many people had tears in their eyes from happiness. Obviously, later that decision was nullified when voters made gay marriage illegal again. Luckily, about ten years later, a Federal Judge made same sex marriage legal across the country.

I have dated several bisexual women in my life, attended numerous lesbian weddings, and have always been a supporter of Planned Parenthood and NARAL. I could go on and on.

But all that is not the point of this blog.

The point of this blog is to inform you that now my job is to keep people safe. And in particular to keep the queer community safe. I’ve recently switched careers and work in the security industry. I got DPSST certified in November. My first event was a lesbian dance party at Bossanova Ballroom. My second event was a gay dance party also at Bossanova. I love these events. I felt kind of like I was back in college again. I have regular shifts at Doug Fir Lounge. Other locations include Stag PDX, Analog Theater, The Raven, and Tryst. I’m the bouncer. I’m the nice friendly bouncer, but I’m still the bouncer. I’ll check your ID, scan your concert tickets, answer all questions, maintain crowd control, help the bands load in/out, and even help you get a cab.  But I’ll also kick your ass out if you’re too drunk, agitated, hateful or aggressive.

I feel really good about this new career switch. I’m around live music all the time, and happy crowds of people. My employers have stated that the security industry has changed for the better. Instead of wanting huge scary dudes to break heads, they want a kindler, gentler security presence. My rangering skills from Burning Man are coming in so handy.   I don’t even care so much about refusing fake IDs. I’ve already politely refused several IDs that were fishy or expired. One guy felt such empathy for me having to deny his entry that he gave me a hug before he left.

But fair warning to the uninformed:
If I see you harassing a woman or trying to take advantage of someone who is too drunk, you’re gone. If I hear any homophobic slurs or gay-bashing, you’re gone. If I hear any racist hate-speech, you’re gone. You will be dragged out of the establishment and the police will be called for trespassing, disturbing the peace, harassment, or hate-speech. Not on my watch. The line has been drawn. That bullshit stops here.

Any venue that I’m working at is going to stay safe for everybody. I’ve already called for ambulances and police in just a few weeks on the job. I can kick you out for any number of reasons. And I will. So to all my queer friends, come out and have fun. Celebrate. Be heard. Be strong. Don’t hide. Unity is all the more important now. Nothing makes me happier than seeing 600 people dancing, flirting, drinking, and kissing in a safe space where acceptance and happiness is paramount. In some cases these dance nights are likely the ONLY place where people can feel this safe and open to be themselves. In the upcoming political landscape where our president-elect is condoning and encouraging sexism, intolerance, racism, and homophobia, this is all the more important. It’s gonna get worse before it gets better. I’ve got at least four more years of fight in me.

I can sign up for particular events and venues that I am drawn to. So I’m purposely signing up for lots of events at queer clubs, or music venues that support and book queer events. Doug Fir has a drag queen brunch every week. Bossanova has huge dance parties several nights of the week. I’ve already worked a Blowpony event and a Bearaccuda event there. Apparently when Euphoria stopped booking queer events, Bossanova took over and is now welcoming the queer community. Tryst and Stag are strictly gay clubs. So I’ll be carding a lot of drag queens. I worked one event where I was the only white person there for hours. That is an experience that I highly recommend to any of my white friends. It’s humbling and eye-opening. I know that my working security at these events isn’t going to change the world, but it’s important to maintain a safe place for people in our community. The more islands of safety and sanity in Portland, the better.

And I’m not posting this for ‘likes’ or for kudos from anybody. If you like what I have said here, awesome. If you don’t, feel free to unfollow me and unfriend me. I don’t have time for bigotry.

I’ve always been drawn to helping people. And I’m still doing that, just more directly now. I’m here to help. And I’m watching out for all of you.

Hoping for peace, love and understanding.

Love always wins.

CANDLELIGHT

The two of us
Alone at this table
Split by candles
Divided by much more

Our words
Carry more weight than ever
We lean in
And listen very hard

By candlelight

Glittering light
Flickers on our faces
We send words
Across the smoke

Skin looks better
By candlelight
I speak more clearly
In darkness

By candlelight

I’m still listening
But I just can’t talk anymore

Flame in the wax
Hands on the wood
Water in the glass
Misunderstood

Wet your fingers
Pinch the flame
Relish the pain
Just walk away

 

 

I wrote this in 2016 and my band, THE SHRIKE, is using it for a song of the same name on our Chase The Sun EP.

THE GREAT SILENCE

Under snow, a small town
A crow’s call is the only sound
He rides down from the high caps
Straight into a coward’s trap
The thunder of gunfire
Leaves blood on the snow
Bounty unclaimed
No one will ever know

Since when are wolves afraid of wolves?

After his gun speaks
Comes the great silence
After his gun speaks
Comes the great silence

Drag a man behind a horse
Until the names are given
Kill him once you get them
Before you they are driven
Crazed leader laughs
In a fog of sickness
Never question him
Thinkin’s not your business

Since when are wolves afraid of wolves?

After his gun speaks
Comes the great silence
After his gun speaks
Comes the great silence

He walks to the final stand
With no room to miss
Everything according to the law
Only bullets will solve this
Metal casings fall
On wood planks
Bodies drop like dreams
Upon awakening

Since when are wolves afraid of wolves?

Wherever he goes
The silence of death follows

For all we know, he is the devil

the-great-silence-movie-poster-1968-1020420955

I wrote this song in 2015, it is based on the 1968 spaghetti western film Il Grande Silenzio.             

My band, THE SHRIKE, used it for a song in 2015. It appears on our 2016 EP, Chase The Sun.

THIS IS PEACE

Wrapping myself around you as we fall asleep

Spooning into dreams together

My arms draped over you

My thigh between your legs

Feeling my pulse on your skin at each place we touch

Let me enfold you

Sometimes our breathing aligns

I exhale into the base of your neck

Imagining breathing life into your tattoo

The candle launches light across our skin

Your hair gently tickles my forehead

Safe within our cave

We are a wolf-pack of two

Cuddled together for warmth and safety

Naked and tired

At our most vulnerable

At our most cherished

If the sun rises tomorrow

It will shine just for us

 

I wrote this poem in 2014. My band, THE SHRIKE, is using it for a song.

TURN IT OFF

What did you expect?

It’s supposed to be fun

Unlock a cage, electrify

But something’s not right

Too sharp, too fast, why am I trembling?

Don’t leave me alone

I don’t understand the thoughts I’m thinking

Sounds that used to soothe you

Now just confuse you

Turn it off

I want it

I’m your guiding star, but I’m hidden in the same fog

If both of us are lost, how can I save you?

Hang on to my voice, and I’ll keep talking

Only my words will break your fall

The blind now lead the blind

Through the wet grass

With cobwebbed feet and no smiles

Don’t drop the thread, you’re too far up ahead

You’ll hit the wall and we may sink

Sounds that used to soothe you

Now just confuse you

Turn it off

I want it

What time will this stop?

 

I wrote this poem around 1993. My band, THE SHRIKE, used it for a song in 2014.