The Collar Story in Full

When I was a boy, merely 25 years old, I met Todd the first night I walked into his bar. i was looking for trouble and he knew that from the first time he set eyes on me.


We had a conversation, and if you looked into Todd’s eyes, you would have thought that you were looking into the eyes of God, Jesus. I knew from that moment I needed to know him. And so I set out a plan to work for him, which did come to pass, soon thereafter.

I don’t know if you are familiar with gay subculture, it might not be something you’ve ever encountered before. But before i got sick (at 26) a year and a few months prior, Todd opened a second bar, where I was employed.It was a rough and tumble leather bar. You know, leather clothing, rough and tumble clientele, all that jazz.

It was the world I sought out, after the education in Gay I got from my father, I knew exactly what it was I was looking for, and the night I first met Todd, he knew that as well, without ever having me to explain it to him. There was only one reason I walked into his bar, and it wasn’t for pleasant conversation.

When I got sick, and told Todd I was going to die, he told me Not on his watch.

Todd became my Master, My Protector, My Guide, My Friend, all the while he was my employer.

Every man in our world knew that Todd was on my side, and they knew, by His Words, never to touch me or engage me physically or sexually.

I was protected from the get go, without my knowledge at that time. He passed a decree in the bar, and everybody obeyed his rules while under his roof. Nobody ever touched me. And I did not have sex with anyone for a very long time. It was a bitter pill after I had found the holy grail of what I really desired, but Todd, like I said, knew that from the get go, and he knew that if I was allowed to explore my darkest fantasies, I would end up in real trouble or even dead.

Too many of my young brothers got mixed up with the wrong men and all of them died. I was the only one who lived in that grouping along with my friend mark, who now lives in Florida. He was the dj in the bar. And I worked with him too in the dj booth.

In the beginning when I was in my head about death, Todd has to curb me in and sort me out. And the relationship we formed did that for me, because he knew what he was doing, and I am still alive here with you, so he did something right from the beginning.


The chain and lock, is a significant item of clothing between two men. We call it a collar. The collar, in our world, signifies that we have been spoken for, because the man who provided it to us, is the man we are in relation to. it is a ritualistic piece of clothing, because it is not an item freely given to just anyone. But it shows that the man who gives it, thinks we are worthy to wear it, and respect the man who gave it to us. It marks us as untouchable to other men in the leather world, that we are “Spoken for.”
And other men see that outward token on us and they know to leave us alone. 

Wearing a collar is an outward sign of inward desire. Todd will always be the man who saved my life. He was the Master of my sinking ship, that he kept from sinking. Nobody else did that for me. He chose me to save, and he could have saved any random other boy in that bar, but before all the others he chose me. He loved me. And I knew that. And for the rest of my life I think of him daily when I get up in the morning and I am still alive.

You know, I am tired of some of our sober men in the rooms. All I get from them is critical judgment about my weight, my body, and my choice of clothing. And that irks me to no end. because I am not going to become a fifty plus year old frumpy miserable man, like they are.


I fucking work my ass off, I am in the book, I work with others, and I do service. I do a hell of a lot more than many of those men, but they would never criticize my sobriety openly, because I work my ass off and they come and sit in judgment and are miserable. And I see that and I know what I’ve done, and how I got here. And I know what they do not do on any given day in sobriety.

Yesterday morning I went to Home Depot and bought the chain and lock I am wearing right now, because it reminds me of the commitment I had with Todd and that he had with me, and how he loved me more than any other boy in the world then. And I thought to myself that I would no longer hide the most important part of who I am because of some assholes in the meeting, if they cannot deal they can go fuck themselves.

Nobody can take my story away from me, because I am the ONLY gay man who survived AIDS on the English side, Everyone else is dead, and all the gay men we know together, don’t want anything to do with me, because of their prejudices and judgments. You saw how they treated me when I was at my worst when we were at that Monday meeting for those 14 months.
So I am wearing an outward sign of inward desire.

Todd is in my heart and in my soul, and honoring that man for the rest of my life, as I do, just grew out in another dimension in my outward life.

It does not make me sick, or demented. Because most straight men, think I am demented to begin with, so that is a no brainer.

It just means I was loved, by a man who saved my life, when I was supposed to die. The last word I will utter on my death bed will be Todd’s name.

Is There A God ?

I don’t know whether you, my readers, believe in God. That’s not for me to know, or concern myself with. What you believe is entirely up to you.

For me, God has been a constant in my life, from my earliest memories. And I followed him religiously for a few years, even ending up in Seminary to follow Him. All for naught !

He has been constant in my life, even when I chose to ignore him. Taking paths, I knew were wrong, making decisions that were also wrong, and almost dying in the process, to feed my own ego and selfishness.

He was there. Just waiting for me to turn my will over.

Tonight, we talked about Step Eleven.

SOUGHT THROUGH PRAYER AND MEDITATION, TO IMPROVE OUR CONSCIOUS CONTACT WITH GOD AS WE UNDERSTOOD HIM, PRAYING ONLY FOR KNOWLEDGE OF HIS WILL FOR US AND THE POWER TO CARRY THAT OUT.

Over the last eighteen years, I’ve witnessed countless men and women battle the word God. People from religious backgrounds, Jews, Christians, Muslims, you name it. I’ve seen it, in the rooms.

The shares went around the room, and NOT ONE person, said the word Thank You or uttered the word Gratitude.

When it got to me, I said one sentence.

IF YOU WOKE UP THIS MORNING, THERE IS A GOD …

When I got deathly sick, AND, I was going to surely die, God was the last thought on my mind. I was too consumed with dying, to think about anything else.

Todd, had other plans for me.

He gave me latitude to work it out. He gave me a framework to survive. He taught me lessons, mere mortals on this earth, have ever learned, or will ever learn.

I have mad skills in the area of coping and sobriety, taught directly from the Mind of God. Voiced by Todd.

I will tell you, I met God. I know His voice. He saved my life.

For many weeks and months as I waited for the day to come, that I was supposed to be dead, arrive, then more days came after that, AND I was still alive, Todd – Read God’s words rang true to me.

I turned my will and my life over to Todd, as I understood him, improving my conscious contact and learning what God’s will for me really was.

I did not die.

I am still alive.

What was all this for ?

Mortals don’t know gratitude if it snuck up behind them and bit them in the ass.

We are all going to die one day. Mortals don’t worry about dying, until they know for sure the end is nigh… Then they pray … But not before.

People are too busy to think about Please and Thank you.

I learned long ago to say Thank you.

Old timers, really GOOD old timers tell you that before you roll out of bed, the first words out of your mouth, IF you woke up that morning, are:

THANK YOU.

The second thing you do, AS you roll out of bed, is to hit your knees and pray. The third thing you do, after you pray, is to Make Your Bed.

Right Away.

Not one person said the word thank you, even the old timers sitting in the circle, did not say those words.

I don’t know why I am still alive. And what I am supposed to be doing here. But I pray. I talk to God. The one way conversation people talk about.

The Vertical Conversation.

Then I sit and I wait. And I listen. Meditation.

If the answer does not come directly from God, via intuition, I know I have to go out and seek the answer among my friends.

The Horizontal Conversation.

But my ears must be tuned to hear what ever it is God is going to say to me, and let me tell you, that took a lotta practice and a lotta time too.

If you ask the right question in prayer, and you need to seek the answer out, then you know, you must actively listen to your friends.

ACTIVELY LISTENING is the key.

This is my nightly meditation, to come here and reflect on my day, and write it all down, when necessary. Because I will forget by morning.

If you woke up this morning, There Is A God …

Thankfully, I am not God,
and my navel is not the center of the universe.

Thank God for small mercies.

And Lots of Gratitude.

When Hope Fails …

This piece was written by my Spiritual Director. I wanted to share it, AND write on this subject, because I have experience with Hope.

When Hope Fails

I was talking with someone who has decided not to hope any more. “Why?” I asked. “Because when the hope is unfulfilled, it hurts too much, so it’s better not to hope.”

There’s something wrong with that. But I understand it.

Proverbs 13:12
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true, there is life and joy.”

Hope deferred makes the heart sick.
“but when dreams come true, there is life and joy”

I want to talk about hope a bit today. And I want to start in the Psalms.

Psalm 33:13-22
13 The LORD looks down from heaven
and sees the whole human race.
14 From his throne he observes
all who live on the earth.
15 He made their hearts,
so he understands everything they do.
16 The best-equipped army cannot save a king,
nor is great strength enough to save a warrior.
17 Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory– for all its strength, it cannot save you.

God has a wonderful perspective of us and our little things. Nothing is hidden from his eternal, creating eyes.

He is able to see the whole human race, every heart, every mind, every one of our thousand secrets.

He’s able to see your motivations, that indeed you meant well even if it didn’t come out as you had hoped.

He created the hearts of men and women, to beat and beat and beat and give them life and breath. And Hopes and Dreams.

So, it says, “He understands”. Like no one else in creation.

He understands our desires. He understands our wishes. He understands our hopes. He understands our dreams.

He understands, and wants to remind us that sometimes our perspective isn’t great. Sometimes we can only see from here to the other side of the room. He see’s into eternity.

See, we often place our hope in the wrong things.

He reminds us…
A powerful army isn’t strong enough for a king. A good horse won’t give you victory, it can’t save you.

Strength won’t save us, neither will might.

The health system, blessed as we are to have it, won’t save us.
The government can’t save us.

We place our hopes in these powerless things.

We hope in due process. In the legal system.
We hope in our money, to provide a way out.
We hope in others to help us out.
We hope a relationship will work out.
We hope for a great job.
We hope in our children to make the right choices.
We hope for great presents.
We hope in our parents, to be perfect.
We hope that the pastor will have some answers.
We hope to roll up the rim and win!

Yet John 16:33 says “In me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”

Take Heart!

What happens when our strength isn’t enough? When our armies fail and our warhorses are not enough? What happens when hope fails and is deferred?

Lets continue in Psalm 33

18 But the LORD watches over those who fear him,
those who rely on his unfailing love.
19 He rescues them from death
and keeps them alive in times of famine.

Remember the one who’s perspective is from eternity?
The one who see’s everyone, who knows your heart?

He says he will watch over those who respect Him.

Those of you who rely on his unfailing love.
He will rescue you from the anguish of death. He will keep you from eternal death, and provide you with eternal life.

And, he will keep you as you live through seasons of famine. Not just physical hunger, but emotional hunger, spiritual dryness.

He won’t always stop the famine from coming, but he is able to keep you alive through it!!!

He won’t always stop the illness, or the poverty, or the joblessness, or the dryness. But he can keep you alive through it.

He will walk with you through the hopelessness. Through the heartsickness of unanswered hope.

You see, often we place our hopes in the things that can’t save us. In the temporary things that we can’t change. In our power and might.

We may even place our hope in Christ to change the story, the situation, yet that may not be the very best for us.

When our hope is deferred…
When it feels like God has not heard us…

We have 2 choices.

1. Get bitter
-Get angry. At God and humanity. And yourself.
-Never hope again because it always fails you anyway.

Or

2. Trust in God. Refocus your hope.

Remember, the one who loves you, who knows you, who made you.
When hope fails, we need to raise it up a level.

PSALM 33
20 We depend on the LORD alone to save us.
Only he can help us, protecting us like a shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
for we are trusting in his holy name.
22 Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.

When our only hope is in man’s strength and ability, and that fails, it means we’ve been aiming to low. We need to lift our focus higher.

Only He can help us. Only He can protect us as life goes on all around us.

Because our hearts rejoice in him. They find life and meaning in knowing Him.

A few weeks ago I attended the funeral of a friend who had been ill for some time.
1970’s heart attack. Heart disease for years.
Put on a heart transplant list, became too ill for that.

As he was dying, and his human hope was deferred a final time, he was able to rejoice and be glad. Because he knew the one who knew him. He trusted in God and his heart rejoiced.

For his family too. The funeral was a real, true celebration of hope. And Gods faithfulness through life and in death.

This is how it is possible for those who have experienced tremendous brokenness and hopelessness, to actually rejoice and be glad. Because they knew the maker of their hearts.

Where is your true hope? In the things of this earth? Or in the things of Heaven?

Have you had hope deferred, even by God? He who knows and created your human heart understands.

Lift up your eyes, your broken hearts.
Trust the one with the higher perspective. Trust in God.

This is my story about HOPE.

When one is faced with a terrible situation, and the end of the line is your next stop, one really learns about hope. When we are faced with odds that are against us, we learn about hope. When doctors tell you that you are going to die, go home, kiss your ass goodbye, and wait to die …

You learn what hope is. Because before you get there, hopelessness really does set in, because there is no light at the end of the tunnel. And the light you do see, is the train coming at you, at 100 miles per hour.

Before hope sets in, if the odds are really dire, you think to yourself, that “no, I’m not gonna die that way, so I am going to take matters into my own hands, and do what I think is best for me.” ” No, I am gonna kill myself, my own way, so as to defer sickness and pain, in the short term.”

Then, GOD steps out of Heaven, and says … STOP !

Heaven is always respectful of our free will. Heaven never pushes itself on us, but holds its breath, to see which way we will choose ?

I had two choices. I could STOP, or I could go to the bitter end, and blot out the suffering, until Death did come for me, on my twisted terms.

I know God. I’ve met Him. I walked with Him, and I communed with Him.

God had other ideas. Hope was not one of them, because there was no hope. True, I was gonna die, sooner or later. I knew that. But words were spoken, out of love and compassion.

Those words told me that I did have a choice, about how I was going to attack death, and live to tell the story. That was he decision I made.

God was there. I was not alone. All I needed to do was follow directions.

Now, you might ask, how did you find the path to hope ? I didn’t.

I don’t know how you bounce back from being told, “You are going to die, there is no hope, so get on the ride, and ride it.”

Sometimes, when you are marked for death, there is no return. Sadly, the percentages of life after death diagnosis are slim. I’ve seen both sides of this coin in as many years. I know, that sometimes people die. That illness and sickness is capricious.

I can tell you what I did, every day.

Inside the four walls of the bar I worked in, was a safe space. The good thing about psychology is this, “sometimes it works.”

I had much going on in my mind at that time. Worries that were beyond my capacity to grasp them. I had serious issues. Death, was just one of them. My alcoholism was the other. I had to attack BOTH at the same time.

Needless to say, life had become Hopeless.

I was not moaning over the fact that I could not drink any longer. Once I got passed the point of acceptance, drinking became a non issue. I was working in the belly of the beast, in a BAR, for God’s sake.

Really, death was the only dance I had to dance.

I had to start stacking alive days. So we could say, in Jimmy Settle terms, was that July 8th 1994, was my first death day.

Every day forwards would become another “death day.”

I came to work. But the day this all began, it was a challenge. I was loved, and that’s what mattered. I was told that I could follow directions, and if I did, I would live. I was down for that from the get go, no matter how hard I battled against my worse nature, because I kicked and screamed and cried an awful lot, in those first few months.

But I listened to advice, and I did what I was told. And every day that I lived, I trusted in the advice given. Come to work. Leave the baggage of the outside world, OUTSIDE the door. When you cross the threshold, the only thing you need to think about, is the job you are given, on any given night, and ONLY that.

Getting to shut off my brain, for a few hours, on a nightly basis, worked.

I did not have to think about dying, inside. Because I watched it come for everybody else around me, in the patrons who were sick, who patronized the bar I worked in.

They all Died. I survived them all.

I stacked enough days, that when I got to my literal “death day,” and I was still alive, I went on with life. I don’t think you can call this hope, because, I was still very sick, and death, was still a “Clear and Present Danger.”

When you live with “Clear and Present Danger” one learns how to govern expectations, and life itself.

I have twenty five years of living with Clear and Present Danger.

I take nothing for granted.

I’m no longer hopeless. I don’t suffer from a three fold disease, Mental, Physical and Spiritual disease. Alcoholism is an every day job. Living is a bit higher on that list. As long as I live, and I don’t drink today, I have a fighting chance.

If I take my will back and decide that I am going to go it alone, I am literally FUCKED !!!

I know God. I’ve met Him. If I close my eyes, and sit still and be quiet, I can see Him in my minds eye, and I can even hear His voice.

I’m alive. And if you find hope in this story, then I did my job.

Hope comes, when you stack enough ALIVE DAYS together, and you live, longer than you thought you would, not only does hope come, but more importantly, GRATITUDE comes.

Gratitude does amazing things when you have no hope. Because if you can be grateful for one thing a day, there is hope.

You cannot have hope and NOT be grateful, because a by product of gratitude is hope.

That is my story and I am sticking to it.