Posts Tagged ‘Charlotte’

Saturday 7th May

I had the pleasure to be invited to guest-facilitate the The Christian Support Group For Gay/Bi Men Ages 20-39. The blurb on it in Gay Charlotte reads as follows: Facilitated by Jim Green, M.Div, Psychotherapist. A Ministry of Wedgewood Baptist Church. This group offers an opportunity to discuss scripture, prayer, emotional well-being and relationships with other gay men, plus social events. Free of charge.

This is a multi faith group for Gay Christian men. It is run by my friend Jim Green who is a respected counselor in Charlotte.  We organized this by email while I was travelling Europe. On the way to the group he clarified with me what my spiritual beliefs are. I suspect he was pleased I had some and that I wasn’t a satanist.

America is a fascinating place when it comes to religion. I discussed with the group the difference in religion here and in Australia. In Australia churches are largely dying. My friend is an Anglican priest and if he had a congregation of 100 people he would be very pleased. I am sure most people in Australia would admit to having some faith. Very few actively practice however and the congregations are rapidly diminishing and tend to be aged to dying.  America, at least the experience I have had, appears to be an expanding church community. The congregation appears to cover all ages from birth to death, a thriving family (of all descriptions) community. Extracurricular activities appear to be the norm, including this amazing group I attended on Saturday night.

The group consists of roughly 20 plus people, all of whom are in different stages of their journey in coming out and negotiating the trickiness that is living life as a gay man.  The topic I was asked to cover was “what does every gay or bisexual man need to know?”  It’s a very vague topic and, in usual Nigel style, I rambled about myself mostly then touched base with the topic in the last five minutes. I had done the AIDS walk that morning and had talked with the people walking as to what they would offer as advice as to what every gay/ bisexual man should know.

This ranged from being given the phone number of one man to give to the group; to being told there is a such a thing as internet inches; to being told it is a straight, straight world; to being told to always use condoms.

My advice was more simple. Be true to yourself and love yourself. Physically, emotionally and spiritually. Jim and I then led the group in a discussion of monogamy in gay relationships; coming out stories; God’s and His influence on us; the imbalance of equality..

The group was dynamic and interesting. Each person had their own story; each person their own level of confidence in their identity at the moment. I was overwhelmed by the positives of the group. Their support and respect for each other.

All the while I kept thinking, “I wish this had existed for me when I was their age.” Truly I think my whole process of self-worth and self-esteem would have been so much the better for that support. I was pleased to have been asked to present at such a great group of people and would love the opportunity to return.

So I was thinking that and “I really have to move to Charlotte to run the 40 to death group.”


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Wesley and I attended the St Peters Episcopal Church yesterday for Worship. A quick aside, the church is delightful, the acoustics amazing and they have this world-renowned choir which travels far afield to sing.  It’s an amazing church of which I would love to be a member.

However, not the point of the post. I truly hope not to embarrass him however Wesley has many skills however singing in tune is not always his forte. I completely get this. My eldest nephew, also with many skills, cannot hold a tune.  The day got ahead of us so I didn’t actually get a chance to tell him this story and as the day progressed I really wish I had told him this earlier.

A pet peeve of mine. I can sing and possibly in tune. Some people cannot. It’s all good. There is nothing that annoys me more than when someone who may be loud or out of tune is told to shush. My youngest nephew told his brother this very thing before I came down on him like a tonne of bricks.  The point of singing, whether you belong to a choir or sing in the shower, is to express joy.  You are so full of happiness you burst into song. That should never be squashed, especially if you’re out of tune. Or loud. Or in perfect pitch.

It annoys me when people squash other people’s happiness. It occurs so rarely.

So my pet peeve over, I am in church with Wesley and we are singing our hearts out. And we get to one part off the service and we’re singing. And I have to stop singing. As Wesley sings this song completely perfectly. So I listen to my friend sing the entire song. I don’t sing another word. All I can hear is his voice. And buddy, it was beautiful.

But then everything you sang yesterday was beautiful.

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I attended the AIDS Walk Charlotte 2011 run by RAIN (Regional AIDS Interfaith Network) this morning. I’ve attended a few AIDS and HIV awareness walks and benefits over far too many years, including RAIN’s own Gay Bingo last year.

We started early meeting a the Gateway Village Atrium which is a lovely open space in (I’m guessing) downtown Charlotte. It was here that the first of a few concerns started to hit me. The first being that hardly anyone was there.  Dont get me  wrong, there were loads of very enthusiastic volunteers, including Wesley, who had been there since the crack of dawn to make sure the event went well.  However, in terms of walkers, there was maybe (and, again, I guess as I don’t have the complete numbers yet) 1500 people. In a town as big as Charlotte (pop roughly a million plus) with an extremely large gay population (way more than similarly sized Adelaide) this was a pitiful number. The weather was beautiful. No excuses there.

The next thing that I noticed was the speaker system was inadequate for the venue. Perhaps people closer to the front heard what people were saying but the speakers where I stood allowed only white noise. I had no idea, from what people were saying, about the event. A minor complaint but a fair one.

The walk started, described as a 2 mile walk “through historic Fourth Ward in memory of those who have finished their journey.” (Quote taken from the official website).  And the walk was when I got really, really, really mad.  I am not sure what historic Fourth Ward is however the walk I took encouragingly started off heading towards the city proper then took a sharp left turn away from the city centre and walked past some neighbourhood houses (no one there), some closed shops (no one there), a factory (no one there), a cemetery (no one alive there), a bridge and some trees.  Then we were back at Gateway. By which time I was furious.

In the entire two-mile walk, with the exception of the police who had blocked the roads and the very few cars (three cars I counted – that’s three drivers!) impeded by the walk, no one saw us.  NO-ONE!!!! We rose awareness to some trees and a bridge. I was embarrassed and angry at this route. When I suggested to my friends walking that this was infuriating I was told we  need to “take small steps to awareness.” “This is Charlotte.” “It takes time.” You know what though.


Charlotte, as far as I can tell (and Wesley who devotes his life to the treatment of HIV and AIDS clients, will confirm for me) is a beautiful city with a population of roughly a million, 8000 of whom are infected with HIV.  6600 know they are infected.  The infection rates continues to rise. Risk of infection and awareness of decreasing this does not occur by having a walk which literally screams we are embarrassed for our existence. Even assuming the walk was diverted to the back streets of Charlotte for the sake of traffic remains a pitiful excuse. I have not been in a city that needs more education and awareness of decreasing risk of HIV than Charlotte.  To then have the major network of support (presumably) acquiesce to whatever pressures are imposed on them to not allow them to walk proudly through the streets of Charlotte and actually RAISE AWARENESS of the disease and prevention is so, so, so sad.

I have never been in a walk that was so depressing. Not because of the illness we were supporting but the embarrassment with which it seemed to be held.

Another final thing, if anyone from RAIN actually reads this. AIDS and HIV awareness has moved forward all over the world in acknowledgement of the fact that the disease is no longer a death sentence, that people with HIV lead wonderful, fulfilling LONG lives with the benefit of adherence to treatment and todays improved medication regimes.  As such HIV and AIDS benefits I have attended over the world now focus on the positives of the disease rather than focussing on the (truly tragic) deaths that preceded the increased medical support.  To this end they have changed their names from AIDS to HIV, emphasising the hope of the disease and the positive lives people now lead with the illness. Some names other cities are now using are: Walk for Life – Finding the Cure, Hike for Hope, Hike for HIV, etc. I found this event still looking backwards, if I am honest.

If by chance you read this, please consider moving forward with your focus. There is still time to honour the dead however today should be about celebrating the lives and continued health of people living with HIV.  AIDS no longer equals death. It means life with illness, like diabetes, or epilepsy… I humbly suggest your message should emphasise that now.

And you should walk proudly. No more in the shadows. Next time I do the walk for you I want people to see me.

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What The….????

Wesley sent me this picture of a notice in Toys and Co, a store in Cotswald, North Carolina (and near my favourite pub in the US).

A few questions:

Who is Mr Nigel?

I bet his name isn’t even really Nigel which indicates some type of fraud, I would think, on the poor innocent children of Charlotte.

(Obviously I want you to refer to me as Mr Nigel from now on.)

What is he doing at 11 am every Friday with these children?

In much the same way as Love Coach, I want  to know why my teachers did not tell me that Playing in Toy Shops was a legitimate career path.

How the FRAG do I get that job?????????? I want to only work one hour a week playing with toys with kids. Seriously, that job would rock! (I mean, as long as you have Valium on standby for the more energetic terrors obviously.)

That job would be wicked sweet.

 And I am really called Nigel. It’s destiny.

America doesn’t have jobs for me, my ass.

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Let It Snow

Incredibly, people in the world are enduring some extreme weather conditions. As you will all be aware Queensland is underwater and, when a friend of mine who lives there sends me his pics, I’ll show you them.

What you probably don’t know is that Charlotte, home of the Nascar Hall of Fame (never been); Billy Graham Library (never been); the Duke Energy Centre (never been) and Trey and Wesley (yay! been there), is currently experiencing its coldest winter since the start of keeping records (or so Wesley tells me. I tried to find it online but couldn’t. I am sure he will correct me if I am wrong)

And Charlotte never gets snow. Not often anyway and certainly not at Christmas. Until this year. A rare event. And I am here missing it. You have no idea how aggrieved I am at that turn of events. Everyone in Charlotte was beside themselves at the thought of a white Christmas. And it came and it was beautiful and it went away after a few days. Everyone was happy. Then it came back again.

In droves.

Wesley and Trey got snowed in at the lake house due to an unprecedented ( and arriving earlier than expected) 372 inches of snow. (Yes I know it wasn’t that much but I have texted and texted asking for the right amount and no reply as yet so I will correct it when I am informed. It was a lot though. A lot in Australia means more than one snowflake so this would have seemed like a blizzard to us.)  Potentially  they were snowed in for  a week but ultimately, at least for Wesley, a patient with a four-wheel drive rescued him halfway through the week so he could return to work.

And the four-wheel drive was needed. This is the driveway. Yes, Australian readers, that is ice. I helpfully suggested that if he had ice skates he could have skated back to work but evidently this isn’t funny when you’re getting cabin fever.

Honestly, snow is wasted on the Americans.  As far as I know Wesley did not get a sheet of cardboard and toboggan down that excellent slope as I would have done.  That driveway is begging for sliding down. Crashing into the house is an optional extra.

Some further pictures:

The driveway before it was shovelled.

The lake

The lake house

I remain verklempt I have missed this. Seriously, seriously annoyed. I feel certain I am meant to be a snow bunny. I think I hide this desire well though. Thank GOD I am stoic and never complain about the heat to my friends……

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Concluding the positives of 2010 then, from yesterday.

Dead Eye Dick

I have been chatting to Ray online for a good ten years now. Excellent lad and we get on well unless you discuss two issues which we have agreed to disagree on. George W Bush and Gun control in America. So it amused me greatly that I thought I should put my money where my mouth is and see what all this gun fuss is about. So off we went to a shooting range and it amused me even more that I was a good shot. Really good. Especially good when you consider I’ve never shot anything more than a pop gun before. I smelt of gun powder for days. We still disagree about gun control though.

A Completely Magic Weekend in Cardiff.

Ok so going out on the gay scene was like playing spot the person not dressed like it’s still the 80’s however,  other than that, the weekend in Cardiff was epic. Firstly Cardiff is beautiful and one of the places in the world I could see myself living. Secondly it houses (sadly now defunct) an amazing Doctor Who Exhibition which was completely and utterly brilliant, he said, his geek flag flying.

And finally it was the site of the most surreal day of exploration, all to see the shrine for a dead character in an average television series. Most people visiting whom were Ianto’s Shrine were like me, bemused and intrigued. You could tell the true fan though as they were already crying as they approached. People were crying as they put up poems etc on the shrine. Kissing the poems.  Weeping more. It was most delightful and amusing to my blacker than soot  sense of humour. Evidently the shrine still continues, so if you want the most delightful day out, to witness what people with too much time on their hands get up to, this is the place for you.

The Best Morning Ever


Burned into my memory, those mornings.


There is this weird sensation when you go somewhere and you know you’re meant to be there. Never knew that until this year. And it’s like everything falls into place.  Nothing is easy though.  Welcome to my life.

Best Till Last

I was hesitant to put a person as the best thing of last year, largely as its rather personal and hopefully not too embarrassing. However there was no denying the reality. All in all, if you asked me to define one event that was continuously delightful in 2010; whether it was from daily tie pictures or 6 am videochat soul-searching or email tag or constantly nattering throughout each day or blubbing over the tele  or being taught so, so many things, it was the growing and amazing friendship with Wesley. When I did a list of the best things that happened to me last year, he was at the centre of most of them. In the spirit of the best of companions, I have learnt so much from him already and have so much more to learn. Hopefully this is a two-way street.

So GM, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your friendship and love this year. I look forward to years of our new, really old bond, wherever that may be. As ever, I got your back.

And it’s pronounced Mah Crah May.

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OK time to catch up. Sorry for the eclectic and chronologically challenged series of posts that you are about to endure. I wanted to finish off the holiday posts ( I have about fifteen) of events I did while I was away. Forgive the scattiness; it’s time to play catch up.

After a brief sojourn in  Disney I caught the Red Eye to Charlotte. The trip is 4 and half hours there (5 and a half going back) and I foolishly figured no one would be on the plane. Wrong. The flight was full, full, full.  I couldn’t work out why anyone would want to catch such a late flight until I returned. Sleeping through it is the only way to make it tolerable ( unless you’re not in cattle class).  Having said that I scored some major wins. Firstly, I was sat at the front of the plane on the bulkhead so more leg room and, secondly, I was sat next to the smallest lady in the world. She was so small it was as though there was no-one sitting next to me. Brilliant.

US airlines make you pay to carry luggage so, as a consequence, everyone brings on (very full) carry-on luggage (which does not incur a fee.). I have not been on a flight in the US yet that hasn’t had delays caused by there not being enough room for the overhead luggage. Seriously. It is insanely annoying. The idea being that, if there is not enough room for your carry-on luggage, they will store it underneath for you without charge. As such,  everyone does this. Consequently flights never leave on time as they are always sorting out the fricking luggage. It seems a false economy to me. And US flights are always full. Always. And cramped.

What is fascinating is that you are allowed to bring your pets on board (ie in the cabin) as long as they are small enough to fit under the seat. A person had brought their dog on board (and seriously, the dog was fine. I didn’t even realise he was there) and the lady who would sit next to it was having a major hissy fit that she was allergic and couldn’t sit there. (Now bear in mind I had no idea dogs were allowed on board and thought she was referring to the passenger. I was amazed at her brassiness.) She was dressed in a poncho and had bling galore and (bless her) was a Give me a P, Give me a D of epic proportions. It was her drama and she was going to star in it. People around her offered to swap seats with her however, no, she was having this seat and nothing else. It was brilliant. She was screaming her head off and the entire plane had stopped talking and were holding their breath so as not to miss the next moment of the drama. Bloody genius!

In the end, they kicked her off the plane. I was expecting complete drama but, sadly for the blog, she went as meek as a lamb. The plane took off  late and arrived on time, thanks to some lucky wind. When I got to Charlotte I nipped into the toilet prior to meeting Wesley and Trey and got dressed into my suit. Thus, after a 4 and half hour red-eye with everyone looking like they had been dragged through the bush backwards, I arrived to the boys looking like a million dollars.You should have seen their faces.  Criticise my dress sense, you bastards…. That’ll learn ya.

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The Tie Whisperer

I’m leaving tomorrow and was going to write a melancholy post on my mixed feelings at this. Wesley suggested I focus on something light, which was a good idea. Plus, I think, he wants to see his collection on the blog.

So, presenting the Tie Whisperer, Joel Wesley Thompson.

Everyone collects stuff. I collect comics. Wesley collects ties. He has 500 plus of them. He has a system for them as well, so if you remove one without his knowing, he will know if you don’t return it to the right place. I have a system for my ties as well. I have one tie. Red and triangular. If you remove it I know it’s missing as well. When I admitted that I only had one tie I couldn’t have wounded him more had I stabbed him repeatedly in the heart, ala Murder on the Orient Express. Interestingly, in all of my clothes shopping, I still remain singular of tie.

Wesley sends me a pic of himself with a different tie each day, except for no tie Fridays. I will make a coffee book on it one day. Only he and I will buy it (and he reluctantly) however it will be a fascinating book. Each tie has a story.

I am not sure when the tie obsession started, however he has ties for each occasion and enough that he can be an advent calendar each Christmas season.  I have seen pictures of Peanuts (which always makes me weak), a tie that looks like stethoscope, a tie that looks like a bottle, glow in the dark and blinking lights ties; ties for Chanukah; for Easter, for Halloween.

So, without further ado, the ties and an explanation (hopefully) of the system:

Holiday and theme ties:


I will probably get into trouble for printing this picture of him, however the tie in the picture is a Californian highway (route 66) and there is a tie pin that follows the route on the tie (I didn’t see it however I think that’s what he said)


I’m not sure of the system here; I can see toy Story, a nice autumnal scene and beach umbrellas. The eclectic system?

On surer footing here: the cartoon characters:

The business ties:


Locations ties?

An example of how the ties are stored:

There are three walls of two tie racks each and one with three, ignoring the ties in the other room and the resting ties in the drawer. I cannot criticize him as my comic collection is even larger. His ties are superbly organised though, much better than my collection

The tie whisperer is currently asleep next to me so I cannot ask him the reason for the rows of certain ties. I also cannot tell him how much I appreciated him and Trey looking after me for the last month nor how much I loved his cooking nor how much I have learnt this month (I learnt so much – a future blog post).

No, the tie whisperer  is fast asleep and will get told all of those things in the morning plus more. In the meantime, I have taken a tie. Let’s see how long it takes before he realises which one.


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Big night and day, I’m packing like a mad thing AND will take pics of my thing of beauty suitcase.  In the meantime here’s some random thoughts been jotting down:

Things I have learnt since being here (and that I haven’t blogged about yet. At least, as far as my Alzheimer’s memory allows).

Macaroni and Cheese is a vegetable here. Think that through.

If people raise their eyes or look disdainful (in what, in Australia would be deemed as annoyance), this is them being playful and not being hurtful (despite the clear contrast in the body language which only southerners get, I guess.) I spent the first fortnight here thinking I was pissing everyone off but now… evidently the opposite. (Seriously this was insane. I felt so awful and I still struggle with it. When I rule America this is changing.)

Crossing the road is a challenge here, almost in the same league as toilets. I merrily step onto the road thinking the path is clear, while looking the other way and almost get bowled over. Traffic lights give you how many seconds you have to cross the road which is a Godsend.  People therefore feel they have the right to zoom off over you if you still cross the street after the countdown has ended. After all, you have been warned.

The red hand at traffic lights intersections means stop. The white walking man means go. If you wear sunglasses this is tricky to see. Walking across the road at the incorrect time  as cars try to kill you and yelling at them “I have an accent” is not helpful.

People do not walk here unless they are homeless. I walked back from the shops today and I was alone on the street except for homeless people and mothers jogging while pushing their babies in prams. The babies were screaming their heads off as they were presumably having such fun however the mothers all had iPods so only I could hear their children’s wails.

Do not be surprised after asking a question to receive uh huh as a response. Uh -huh ( pronounced with ten uhs and twenty huhs and in a southern drawl) can mean anything from” I understand your question and I am seeking to answer it” to ” Have you considered leaving my face and taking your questions elsewhere?” to “If it weren’t for the fact I am southern i would be whipping your ass right now”. there is an emphasis on the uh that indicates  how close to death you are.

Everyone is uptight here, especially shop assistants. I think there is some type of big brother god standing over shop clerks that shocks them with electricity if they do not ask me how my day was. One woman looked visibly fearful after she mentioned I had bought a few items at the Hallmark Shop (where I had presented her with  8 Christmas ornaments that are kitsch with a capital K). She kept looking over her shoulder  in case anyone had heard her. I reassured her I had found her humour amusing and she visibly relaxed and stopped sweating. And the tic in her eye stopped twitching.

Fast food here is an art form. And there are seas and seas of it.  The food is high calorific crap as everywhere however the presentation is inspiring.You feel as though you are failing the world if you don’t eat their products. I will do a blog about that soon.

I do not understand American health insurance systems. Nor, I think,  do Americans. I’ve had it explained to me repeatedly and the sheer inequity of it is flabberghasting.

I write these blogs, publish them once, look at them online then make multiple, multiple corrections. I am not sure if people who get these posts emailed to them get the finished, refined versions of the first, flawed-till-it-hurts entries. I also don’t know if you get pictures.

It is going to snow on the day I leave here. This is typical. I love snow and would kill to see it.  It will start five seconds after I take off.  Welcome to my life.

Frieda has naturally curly hair.


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Night of the Parentheses

We (meaning Trey, Wesley and I) went to a dinner with a drug rep friend of Wesley’s called can’t remember cos I have had four martinis. Simon? Anyway, a really nice chap and he paid for this fantastic dinner at a  place called Upstream. This place is amazing and, it would appear (given the number of press clippings framed in the building) one of the top 20 restaurants in the US. The food was fabu.  Evidently on this particular evening  there was a  world-wide push to promote sea product from the gulf stream (which, as you know, had a smidge of an oil problem lately.) The day was very kindly dedicated to promoting and using the seafood of the gulf stream to financially support the fishermen there and allow people to know the seafood of the area is now edible and available. I am continuing this promotion by letting you, my dear 6 readers, know it’s ok to eat gulf stream fish. Should Simon?, Trey, Wesley and I all get cancer in the next six months you have my permission to not listen to that sage advice, ok?!

Anyways the restaurant is superb and, as Simon? is a drug rep, he was paying which made the night even better. I was kicking back the martinis (  I had four. I am snockered)  and suggested that anchovy stuffed olives were the perfect accompaniment to them (which they are.)  Upstream did not have these particular olives but were happy to make them for me which was amazing and very appreciated. I have to say I have been spoilt on pre-made already soaked anchovy stuffed olives so freshly made ones tasted odd (the irony does not escape me!) Trey preferred blue cheese stuffed olives which (love him dearly) would be gross in martinis. Jennifer, our server/ waitress was happy to bring me  a supply of blue cheese and ‘normal’ olives so I could see which was best in a martini. (I did not care after the second glass.)

The fish was superb (even the gulf sea fish, which we had for an appetizer – we are not completely mad) and the company delightful. I did suffer some (martini induced) melancholia as the night seemed to focus on people, situations and experiences known only to the three of them.  I ordered the fourth martini (and confided in Jennifer I had no idea what they were talking about) to combat this. I also experienced this horrible time when they all were extolling the virtues of the smell of a pear gin Trey was trying and I couldn’t smell a thing. And I was breathing in till my nose bled. This lack of smell upset me enormously however  they were all too engrossed (and libated) to care.  I could smell something burning in the kitchen though so my smell isn’t completely shot yet. Despite these minor setbacks, the night was very jolly (and presumably there’s nothing wrong with my taste yet as, God knows, I have no problem eating.)

We did participate in one meaningful conundrum; what was the name of the Peanuts character with naturally curly hair? We were all  wrong. Guesses left in the comment section  please (and NO googling.)

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