I ran for a good portion of my life. I ran from bullies in grade school and in the neighborhood, bullies who made fun of me because I was a sissy. I jumped rope and played with dolls with my sister and her friends. I preferred reading in the local library to playing sports. In a macho round world, I was the girly square peg.
Sometimes I wish that I could track down some of those bullies and ask them if they ever think about how they made my life a living hell? Do they have any regrets?
Funny thing is, I don’t remember the names of most of those boys. And the ones I do know seem to have disappeared. I can’t find them on Facebook or in a google search. Are they even still alive? They say living well is the best revenge, but that’s a load of crap when you carry scars on your psyche for the rest of your life.
After I came out of the closet in the early 70s, my Italian Papa freaked big time. So I ran away from him. Instead of trying to make peace, instead of working like hell to get him to understand who I was, I gladly stayed away from home. I avoided even talking to him on the phone, calling at times I knew he was at work. If he answered, I hung up.
It was far easier than facing the raging bull that he became when he was faced with something or someone who didn’t jibe with his conservative Republican value system. A gay son who lived in drag for a few years and appeared on TV and in the newspapers as a spokesperson for this totally alien concept called gay liberation was by far his worst nightmare.
In the 80s when so many friends took sick and died, it was much harder to run. I started working for the Philadelphia Gay News in 1981. By the middle of the decade, almost every major assignment focused on the disease. Then there were the memorial services every weekend for years on end. There was just no escape.
The rage built up in me and began to spill out into my plays, my music, and my articles. A national arts magazine dubbed me an “angry performance artist.” I was that and more. I was seething. I had become a raging bull. Like father, like son.
In the late 80s, I finally made peace with Papa, only weeks before he died. And then Mama went nine months later. I suddenly felt uprooted. So I did what I did best. I ran.
To San Francisco in October, 1991.
I settled into a nice apartment in the Castro area and established a new life. Except that it's a lot like the old in that I’m still politically active and I still perform regularly, most often on my guitar, singing my original songs.
I’ve stopped running. I’ve actually settled down. At some point after moving here, I found the peace that eluded me in Philadelphia. Life is not perfect, when is it ever? But I don’t have bullies, an angry Papa or memorials every weekend to run from.
Funny thing is, I just realized that.