Intermittently, I have flown up to the Seattle area for the weekend, where my sister, Donna, and my brother, Roger, live. Darlene will come over from Yakima and cousins come from Spokane. Gail usually comes by herself. Nola usually brings her husband, Bill. Don brings his wife, Anita. This is some video from my trip in July 2010.
When I was younger, I would sometimes have bouts of depression. As I got older, I realized that there was a pattern to my depression. I realized that I usually felt depressed in the dead of winter when the days were short and there was not as much light. I realized that I must suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is what caused us to start planning most of our vacations in the winter months. We love the San Francisco Bay Area in the summer because there is so much to do. There are still things to do in the winter but when the days are short and dark, I really don't feel like doing much at all. I found that if I go somewhere sunny for a few days around February, March or April, it really helps me get through the winter doldrums.
We had already planned to go to Europe at the end of the summer in 2005 but in February, that seemed like a long way off. I was craving some sunshine and knew I needed to get away. I looked on Priceline at packages and came across one that included airfare to Orlando, Floridan and hotel for a very reasonable price. Milton and I discussed it and decided we could keep the price down if we avoided Disney World, Universal Studios and other theme parks. We would just go for the sun essentially.
We had a great time. The flight to and from Florida takes all day and was pretty exhausting since we started out from home and from the hotel there about 3:30 am going and coming. We had a pretty nice little extended stay kind of rm that had a little kitchenette for $41/night from priceline. You know I always like a good deal when we travel. We got a Grand Am from Budget for $151 for the whole time.
On our first full day it did rain and I was pretty dissapointed since the whole point of going was to get away from the rain. I guess we brought it with us. We drove over to Tampa/Saint Petersberg which is about 70 miles from Orlando and is on the Gulf Coast. We went to the Salavador Dali museum there which was pretty interesting. Dali has become so commercialized in some ways but seeing his actual paintings really renewed my respect for his art. We took a tour there that told about his life and explained a lot of things about his art that I didn't realize.
On the second day the sun came out and we drove over to Daytona Beach on the Atlantic Coast which is about 50 miles from Orlando. Within just a couple hundred miles, you have four major cities and so if we lived there, I think there would be plenty of things to do. On the way to Daytona Beach we stopped and looked at a house in Deltona. We did not like the particular houses we looked at but it gave us an idea of prices.
As we approached Daytona Beach, we started noticing a LOT of people on motorcycles. There were people on motorcycles everywhere. As we got closer to the beach itself, it became wall to wall motorcycles.
I had never seen so many motorcycles. They were having a HUGE street party... or practically city-wide party although for several blocks there were bands and a street faire thing going on with bands and a lot of partying. We walked through for several blocks and enjoyed it. We also visited the beach itself and this is a pic of me... notice the BLUE, CLEAR sky! It was like SUMMMMER!!
The sand was as white as the sand in Cancun. It was a bit windy though and I am wearing a jacket in the pic. Daytona Beach was a much bigger city than I had expected. It looked pretty intact for having been hit by three hurricanes in the last year.
When we got back to Orlando, we rested a little bit and then headed out to explore downtown Orlando's Church Street which is kind of a hip little area downtown with a lot of club activity and 20 & 30 somethings. We wandered around downtown Orlando and looked at condo developments. It reminded me of L.A. or S.F. thirty years ago... it's urban downtown living is just starting to emerge. If we were to retire in Florida as little old men, urban, downtown living might be more appealing than living in the suburbs. We would also feel safer in a hurricane in a highrise probably that isn't going to blow away. I think we might have gone to Universal Studios City Walk that night too. It was free and we were only doing free things pretty much.
I think it might have been the next day that we decided to go back to Tampa to see Ybor City. On the way we stopped at Disney's Celebration and looked at a couple of condo's there. Celebration was very interesting. It is really a beautiful, pristine little town. It was only built about eight years ago but they have used classic architectural styles and apparently have very strict HOA rules. You would certainly feel safe there. Milton says that he thinks Stepford Wives was filmed there. It was actually very pleasant-- very Norman Rockwell. It was interesting that you see happy looking people everywhere but no rowdy teenagers. We wondered what they had done with them. I couldn't imagine any driving down these streets with their subwoofers thumping. It was such a perfect little town. Maybe these people were robots? I don't know but I wouldn't mind joining them and living in such a pleasant looking place.
On our way to Ybor city, we stopped and looked at several housing developments. Houses run about $150,000 or so less than they do in the Bay Area. We would have to live in Modesto or Fresno to get similar prices and maybe even then, it would be hard to find houses as nice probably. Apparently a lot of the homes are sold as "vacation homes." People buy them as investments and then rent them to tourists for $200.00/night that come to Orlando to visit Disneyland. The real estate market seemed very hot in the area- there was a lot of building but in some areas, you had to enter a lottery to actually get a house because they were going so fast.
We also looked at some manufactured homes. We saw some as low as $64,000 but they had walls that looked like plastic and we couldn't have lived in them. You had to spend about $150,000 before all the walls looked like sheetrock. We saw some pretty nice manufactured homes and even saw one that was two stories. That was weird. The ones we really liked though were in the $150-200,000 range and by the time you bought the land and moved it, I couldn't see any advantage over buying a regular house. You could get a great regularly build, brand new house with a yard and about 1600 square feet for $220,000 so am not sure why anyone would bother with the manufactured ones. I wouldn't want to live in one with the hurricanes anyway... regular houses all seemed to be made of cinder blocks and those wouldn't blow away.
When we finally got to Ybor city, we were pretty tired after looking at houses all day and we just stayed a few minutes and turned around and headed back to Orlando.
On our final day, we went out and looked at more houses early in the day and then just relaxed until we left for the airport. We had a great time. Ever since we got back we have been working on our Europe vacation for September. We bought our airline tickets to London and have booked hotels in London, Paris, Venice, Florence, Rome and Athens. We have also booked flights from Rome to Athens and Athens back to London. We have been immersing ourselves in books on Europe and art galleries and sites.
Gail, Nola and i had been emailing each other for a while and had thought about having a "Walling" family reunion of descendants of the Walling family. I got rooms for Darlene, her kids, grandkids and Milton and I. Gail made arrangements to rent a park area.
Darlene and Misty brought Misty's kids and stayed in the Ridpath with Milton and I the first couple of nights. I had got us rooms through Priceline bidding. The Ridpath had certainly seen better days but the rooms were quite adequate, especially when you consider that they brought all these kids with them. I don't remember where Darlene's son, Chris Tasker, and his family stayed. I don't remember them staying at the same hotel with us but do remember them coming to the reunion and meeting Chris' kids for the first time, who were now in their teens.
We stopped by Costco to pick up things to take to the reunion. For some reason, we bought some beer but apparently the Spokane park service had regulations about alcohol in their parks. I'm not even sure why we bought the beer since Milton and I don't drink it and Darlene and her kids don't drink it either. Roger doesn't drink. So now, reflecting back on this reunion, I can't remember at all why the beer was purchased in the first place. A while into the reunion, someone said something about beer and said they were going to go buy some. I pointed out that we already had some in the car, not thinking about the park rules. I think this might have caused some unnecessary stress for Gail as her name was on the park rental agreement. Thankfully, there were no problems about any of this.
The day was very nice. Kids played "shinny-stick." There was a good turnout of cousins and family. Kathi Tarbert Storer and Deanna Tarbert came up from the Bay Area. Their Mother, Danise, was there and she is always pleasant and kind. Alec Emerson was welcoming and pleasant to us. Kathi, Deanna and Danise were their sweet selves. April was friendly. Roger played music with the group of musicians.
There were representatives of the Moore family that are politically very conservative like Jim Tarbert. Milton insists that he felt welcome and enjoyed the reunion but, maybe overly sensitive, I felt that some of the attendees were a bit aloof from Milton and I. Milton was the only person of color present and we are a gay couple and liberal Democrats.
I had brought dvd's that I had made especially for this reunion that contained videos of family reunions in the 80's that can be found on this site as well. These were gifts from the heart which Clifford quickly trampled over, bristling with hostility. When I went to give him the dvd that I had made for him, he seethed through his teeth, the first, last and only political statement of the day, "I listen to Rush Limbaugh and I believe what he says." He took the dvd gift and mumbled a "thanks" and then avoided Milton and I for the rest of the day as did a few others.
Jim Tarbert showed up for a little while with his dogs. Apparently, he didn't want to leave his dogs for very long. It was either Kathi or Deanna that told us that Jim loved his dogs more than his own children or grandchildren. He had never visited his daughters or grandchildren since he had moved back to Washington.
At one point during the reunion, Darlene walked too close to Jim's car and the dogs visciously lunged toward her. They were confined by the car windows but they still startled Darlene.
I had an emotional moment, talking to Patricia Hammond. Of course we are genetically connected so it should not have been a surprise that I saw some of my Mother in her eyes. I had never really spent much time in my life with Patty but I felt like we had a moment or I had a moment of feeling "connected" through our d.n.a.. I saw my Mother in her face and in her eyes and my own eyes welled up with emotion.
In 2005, as almost always in my life, I was going out dancing. At this time, I was going to The White Horse in Berkeley pretty regularly. They had a pretty good dj at the time and decent dance floor. I went about once a week or so and danced by myself as I usually like to do. For me, it is the best way to burn calories. Eventually, I quit going to the White Horse because it seemed to be drawing more of a straight crowd. This is very typical of gay bars. Gay men bring their straight girlfriends. Straight women love to dance in gay bars if they are not looking to get hit on. Then they have such a good time, these straight women decide that they must bring their straight boyfriend to the gay bar so he can see how much fun it is. They think their straight boyfriend is so progressive that he will just fit right in. Maybe they bring a few of their straight girlfriends, too. They they end up behaving as if they are in a straight bar. They are rowdier than the gay people. They giggle about men in the women's bathroom. They pile their purses and coats in the center of the dance floor and then dance around the pile in a group. The straight girl has to prove her boyfriend is straight by making out with him on the dance floor. The straight people always want to take their drinks onto the dance floor to spill them all over the floor. Nobody that is actually into dancing brings their drink onto the dance floor!! Nobody that is actually into dancing, brings a purse to a gay dance club!! Anyone into dancing checks their coats with the coat check or leaves their coat in the car!!! Regardless, when you get too many straight people in a gay bar, the bar loses most of it's charm and becomes like every other straight bar.
Okay. That's my tirade. Anyone that knows me, has probably heard all this before! It is just the truth.
Regardless, I had been dancing at the White Horse on a re
gular basis. Back then, I was buying cheaper tennis shoes which didn't have much arch
support in them. Because of the lack of arch support, I bought some of those inserts you put into the shoe. While dancing, I came down on my left leg and could feel my foot slip with the insert inside the shoe and my knee tweaked. I continued to dance.
After this night, I started having knee problems in that knee. I got a knee brace and used ice and ibuprofen but the pain persisted. I kept putting off going to the doctor because I just assumed I had done something that would resolve on it's own. Milton and I had plans to visit Europe for three weeks that year. Finally, before the trip, I went to see a doctor and got an MRI and it turned out that I had a torn meniscus. I wouldn't be able to get the surgery until after our trip to Europe!!
I brought a knee brace with my on our trip and hobbled around Europe the best I could. Milton was very understanding of my need to go back to the room when my knee pain got to bad.
It must have been October 12th or maybe November 12th when I had my knee surgery at Kaiser in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, after returning from Europe, I had gone in to have my teeth cleaned and every time I get my teeth cleaned, my dentist comes in and checks my lymph nodes in my neck, my mandibular joint and the tissue inside my mouth. I was shocked and terrified when he pointed out a growth on my tongue!!!
Two days after my knee surgery, Milton drove me to a Sacramento Kaiser to be seen by an oral surgeon. I am not sure why we had to drive all the way to Sacramento except that Kaiser is all about managing health care resources and saving money for Kaiser so this must have been the cheapest option for them.
When i went in to see the oral surgeon, I overheard him talking to someone in the office about getting out of the office early. Apparently, I was going to be his last patient of the day before he headed out for vacation or something. He was obviously in a hurry.
He came in and swabbed my tongue with something that didn't affect sensation at all. If it was supposed to numb my tongue, he didn't give it enough time to do so. He got a pair of scissors from his assistant and started cutting on my tongue!! This was one of the most horrific experiences of my life!
Thankfully, it did turn out that the growth was benign. My knee recovered, too.
I am going to fly out of Sacramento. Although it is a little further to drive, they have a nonstop to Spokane. All I could find out of Oakland required changing planes in Seattle or Portland. I think parking is cheaper in Sac too. My plane leaves at 3pm and arrives in Spokane at 4:50pm. I have not booked a hotel yet. My return flight leaves Spokane on Monday at 12:30 p.m, getting back to Sac at 2:30. Hopefully I can get on the road before rush hour.
Darlene says that Misty is coming and so I guess all those kids will come too. She said that Misty will take the kids somewhere but will need the vehicle and so I will need to rent a car. She said she wanted to keep the room under a $100 if possible. That would be pretty easy with Priceline but then you don't know how many beds you get and really only two people are supposed to be in the room although in the past, Darlene just exceeds that anyway and it hasn't been a problem-- But a priceline room can be one double, queen or king and I think she said she wanted to be sure it has two beds in it and so I don't think we will be able to do the cheapest "name your own price" for her anyway. I looked at the the "three start" hotels on priceline for Spokane to see how much of a gamble the "name your own price" would be. There are only three, "three star," hotels in downtown Spokane so if we gambled, it would have to be one of those three I think: Doubetree Hotel Spokane- City Center, Red Lion River Inn, or Red Lion Hotel at the Park Spokane.
If we did NOT want to gamble at all, for under $100, there is a Howard Jonson's, Travelodge, Quality Inn, amd Ramada.
I liked that place we stayed during the reunion by the river. It was the Fairfield Inn by Marriott. I think we got that by gambling the last time and got a pretty good deal on it but it is actually $124/night without the "name your own price."
I am going to call her later today to try to discuss it a little more and I want to talk to you too before I book rooms. Roger said he doesn't have a "gig" for that weekend but if he got one he would have to play since he would need the money but if he didn't get a gig, that he might be able to come. I will call you this evening.
HELD RESERVATION DETAILS
Below is your reservation summary as of July 11, 2008.
Confirmation Code: GBKBDC
Friday, August 15, 2008
Alaska Airlines #2596
Operated by Horizon Air
Depart: Sacramento (SMF) at 3:00 p.m
Arrive: Spokane (GEG) at 4:50 p.m
Monday, August 18, 2008
Alaska Airlines #2597
Operated by Horizon Air
Depart: Spokane (GEG) at 12:30 p.m
Arrive: Sacramento (SMF) at 2:25 p.m
My Mother had met George when I was in the fourth grade, when we were living in Spokane. My aunt, Billie, introduced her to George at a square dance. I don't know that she ever felt the same way about him as she did about my Dad. I think my Father was a more youthful, passionate love, while George was more of a mature, pragmatic kind of love. My dad was an uneducated, volatile, binge drinking alcoholic, womanizer, while George had a college education, was very stable and didn't drink or smoke. George was a mountaineer and belonged to the Sierra Club.
George worked as an aeronautics engineer and was involved in building missiles or missile silos in Spokane. I believe he was working for either Convair or General Dynamics at that time. He moved to Abilene Texas to work on missile's or missile silo's there. Much of his work was considered "classified' or "secret" as it involved our missile defense system.
Roger was sent to Arkansas around this time. He has said that be believed Mom wanted to get him "out of the way" because he was so disruptive at that time and she didn't want him to jeopardize her relationship with George. i really don't know that this is necessarily true, but it is true that Roger was a very angry child and was difficult for Mom to control at times.
My Mom and I took a train from Spokane to Abilene. At that age, I just thought we were going to visit George in Abilene, but then they enrolled me in school there. After a few days, I came home from school one day and Mom showed me her wedding ring. I started crying and was pretty inconsolable. Of course, it was unlikely that my Mother and Father would ever get back together since he already had three kids by another wife, but somehow, my Mother marrying George just seemed more "final" or something.
Eventually, Roger, came to live with us in Abilene and Darlene came there, too. It was a pretty horrible place. It was the worst place that I have ever lived in my lifetime. The children we rode the school bus with were horrible. I had grown up in integrated schools with relatively civilized kids. It was shocking to see how stupid and hateful kids were in Abilene. Schools were still segregated there and the black kids that rode the school bus got off at one stop at an old country school house, while the white kids rode into town to the new, modern school. I speak of all this in more detail elsewhere on this site in an article titled, "Abilene."
George had five girls from a previous marriage, Sandy, Barbara, Carol, Connie, and Georgie. They all lived in San Diego. George's parents lived in a suburb of San Diego, too.
My Mom and George got along well throughout their marriage. They did have occasional disagreements but George treated my Mother with much respect. Mom always felt like she had to be the "buffer" between George and us kids.
When I was in my late teens or early twenties, at some point that i was probably staying with my Mom and George briefly at an apartment complex in Southern California, my African-American friend, Mary Jo, came to visit. My Mother did not want her to come into the house and she implied that George would not want her to because she was black.
After I was grown and was living with Milton, Mom would come and visit from time to time for several years. George never came with her. I always thought the reason he didn't stay with us was because Milton was African-American. I always assumed George was a bit racist. He had grown up in Chicago and i think Chicago is pretty infamous about the racism there.
George and I were with my Mother when she passed away. As she was taking her last breaths, I started freaking out. Even though, I knew intellectually, that there was no point in a crash cart, I started yelling for the nurses to come quickly. George was crying and reminded me that there was no point and I realized he was right.
George remarried within about six months to a woman named Darlene, that he had met at a mountaineering club. I don't know if he had met Darlene prior to Mom passing away or after she passed away. It did seem like his relationship and then marriage to her was very quick after my Mother's passing. It is my opinion that straight men that are used to women taking care of them all their lives, don't do very well on their own.
The shocking thing to me was that after George married Darlene, he contacted me and said that they wanted to visit Milton and I on their way to Southern California. He had bought a truck and a fifth-wheel and he and Darlene had now become "snowbirds." He and Darlene did come to visit and did stay overnight in our home and they seemed to get along with Milton just fine. We all went out to dinner, too. So, to this day, I don't know if George was really as racist as my Mom implied or if that was just her being a "buffer" or if it was all just due to her own racism?
I don't know how long it was that George and Darlene were married before George had his stroke. I know he was pretty sick at the end. Sadly, he had not prepared a will and so Darlene inherited everything and none of George's five girls received a dime from his estate.
When i flew up to Yakima for the service, (George was cremated), I had to fly a small aircraft into Yakima on the last leg of the flight. Barbie was on the same flight. I approached her in the airport. It was the first time I had seen her in many years. In the picture below, from left to right is Darlene's son, Larry (Rocky) Noonan; Darlene's daughter-in-law, married to Chris Tasker, Kristen; Then my cousin, Nola; Darlene is next to her. I think that is her son, Chris, behind her and Gail next to her. In front of them is Wynter. Next to Gail is George's daughter, Carol. I am standing behind her and George's girl, Connie or Georgie. That must be either Connie or Georgie behind. Then Sandy. Then Barbie.
I always encourage family and friends to visit the Bay Area at the end of June for Gay Pride. In 2005, Darlene came with several of her grandchildren, Christopher (C.J.), Wynter, Sean, and Wynter's friend, Christy.
On Day 1, we went and saw David and Leslie in Rodeo and then went to breakfast. After breakfast, we all took the ferry over to Fisherman's Wharf.
On day 2, we got to Market Street early in the morning. Here we are after the barricades went up. CJ and Sean are sitting on the curb to the left. Then Milton, Christy, Darlene and Winter.
On day 3, I took everybody on a tour of San Francisco. I had rented a van to carry everybody around in. We started out the day riding BART under the bay to West Oakland station. A nice man took our picture so I we could all be in it. hen we road a cable car up California Street to Powell Street and then walked back down to Chinatown. We had refreshments at Union Square before going to Macy's. After Macy's we went to Coit Tower. The we drove down Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world. We also went to the Palace of Fine Arts but my camera's battery ran out! We drove by the famous houses called "the painted ladies" which for years were featured in the opening of the "Full House" sitcom. By that time, the kids were already pretty tired so we didn't stop. Then we drove out to the ocean through Golden Gate Park. It was pretty cold and windy. We took a couple pictures with Darlene's camera. CJ touched the ocean for the first time.The we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge in the fog and went back to Vallejo exhausted.
On day 4, we all went to Marine World. CJ, Winter, and Sean wanted to get wet on a water ride. Sylvan even rode this one but Christy didn't want to get wet. Then they all rode Boomerang. It flips them upside down twice and then does it all again backwards.
My cousins, Gail, Nola, and Don in the Spokane area, are all in the same age group as Darlene, Roger and I. We spend much of our childhoods and teen years together. As adults, we have made efforts to get together periodically. Sometimes those get-togethers have been in Spokane. Sometimes they are in Seattle. Usually, my sister, Donna, also joins us. In 2006, we planned one of these get-togethers. I flew up to Seattle on Southwest Airlines Friday, March 3rd and arrived in Seattle at 4:30pm. We all met at Summerfield Suites at 1011 Pike Street, where Gail had made us reservations. I flew home on Monday, March 6th at 3:45pm. It was a fun weekend.
On Saturday, we all took a walk together. We went to see Roger play on Saturday night. Nola and Gail danced. On Sunday, we wandered around the Seattle waterfront. Don was dancing to a street musicians music. Alec Emerson came to the hotel with his daughter on Saturday. David Emerson came to the hotel with Spencer on Sunday. We all went to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. Alec brought his son to meet us all on Sunday.
"White" pertains to what people wear... like a black tie party would be black... Milton and I had not been to a "circuit party" before and wanted to get some sun anyway and thought it would be fun to check this out... a lot of very hot men that look like they stepped out of porn movies or something... most in their 20's and thirties... one would need to take drugs to take it all in though... it was about 72 hours of gay partying... we certainly couldn't keep up with all that and we just went to the pool party on Saturday for a couple of hours. We really couldn't afford to go to all the parties anyway. Saturday night was the big one at the Palm Springs convention center where they were expecting 22,000 gay people (primarily men), where everyone wears white... but it was $110.00 to get in... Toni Braxtan (sp?) and some others were going to perform... People had already been going all Friday night. They continued all Saturday night and through Sunday night. It was fun to be in Palm Springs with all the gay guys.
So... Milton was watching Entertainment Tonight and they showed some footage from The Janice Dickerson Modeling Agency show... and there she was at The White Party... she was the one I thought was a drag queen!! We thought it was very funny...
A couple of years later, we would return to Palm Springs for another White Party and that time attend the big event.
Still working on this story... please check back...
In April, 2003, we planned a trip to Washington D.C. and New York City. We stayed in a suburb of Washington, in Baltimore, and rode the subway into the city the following day. We did drive in the second day which was easier for getting around to see those things that were more difficult to get to on the subway. We also went to look at the gay neighborhood and got stuck in rush hour traffic. Washington D.C. has all these roundabouts that seem to bring traffic to a halt.
The weather was springlike in Washington. The cherry blossoms were in bloom We visited all the usual monuments and enjoyed the Smithsonian. We saw all these school age kids running through the Smithsonian taking notes on various exhibits. I thought to myself how wonderful it must be for these kids. Rather than just sitting in a classroom reading about history, they could actually experience artifacts of that history.
On the third day in the D.C. area, we drove down to Mount Vernon and took a tour through George Washington's home and saw his slave quarters.
On what must have been the fourth day, we drove to New York. I have no problem driving in downtown San Francisco and almost any other city, but Manhattan intimidates me a little. We had looked into parking in the Time Square area and it just seemed exorbitant. We decided to park our rental at the J.F.K. airport and then take a bus or cab into Manhattan since we were only going to be there a couple of days. That worked out very well for us.
Hotels in New York City tend to be very expensive so we decided to try Priceline's bidding process. As it turned out, we bid $100 and obtained a room at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, which is located right next door to Grand Central Station and a few blocks away from Time Square. It was an incredible deal. It does seem to me that we didn't like the first room they gave us and we had to request a different room. Milton says that they gave us a different room on a higher floor.
The weather changed in New York. A storm came in and it was blizzard conditions while we were on the hop-on, hop-off tour. There were many things we couldn't see through the falling snow! We did go up to the top of the Empire State Building and we went out to the Statue of Liberty and spent some time on Ellis Island looking at the exhibits about the immigrants that came through Ellis Island.
We went and stood in the freezing cold in line at the half off ticket booth in the center of Time Square and got tickets to the Disney production, Aida. We had pretty good seats in the front of the mezzanine balcony. We enjoyed the show.