Weddings …

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A funny thing happened in 2018 … We were invited to not one, not two, but THREE weddings this Summer.

Our niece Melissa and her hubby Stephan were married in May, down in Ontario. It was the first time we have ever traveled like that. The first time on a Via Rail Train. It was a hellish weekend for sure, as I wrote on that particular weekend (here on the blog)

Today, was wedding number TWO.

My friend Juan married his sweet heart, in a small and intimate wedding at St. Patrick’s Lady Chapel, at the Basilica.

I Instagrammed the entire day for you. Go —> over there and check it out.

You never know what kind of impact you are going to have on someone who needs The Solution, Finds that solution, and Listens to advice, when necessary. You never know the entire impact you will have on One Human being, let alone that human beings family.

I’ve said before, Sometimes I talk, and Juan listens. Sometimes Juan talks, and rages, and screams, and gets angry, and I listen. Then other times we are together and words are not necessary.

I was absolutely GOBSMACKED today.

From the wedding chapel, we walked to Old Montreal, which was not very far. We arrived at the hotel where the reception was being held, early, so we waited.

At 5 pm the terrace on the 4th floor opened. It was open bar, had an open Oyster Bar, and lots of nibble food. We were sitting off to the side, because I did not know anyone there, besides the bride and groom. We tried to blend into the furniture.

After a little while, Juan’s sister, who played the guitar and sang “Here Comes the Sun,” at the wedding, walked up to us and sat down with us, and began to talk. She wanted me to know how grateful she was and that her entire family was, for the work that I do with her brother.

She said that he speaks very highly of me and that everybody knows who I am because Juan talks about me incessantly. She wanted to tell me that she was grateful that she got her brother back, from a hopeless state of being, into the man he is today.

I did not know what to say after that.

It’s an anonymous program right.

Nobody mentioned it, but it was plainly visible on her face.

As the reception in the hall was starting up, we took our seats. We were on the entrance side of the hall, Juan and the family were sitting on the far side of the room, near the dance floor.

A little while later, the bridal party arrived, and were introduced. We all got up from our chairs, and proceeded to the dance floor, to see Juan and Nadia dance their first dance as husband and wife.

They said a few words of thanks.

Juan’s father, took out a script from his jacket pocket and grabbed the mic. Amid thanks to the guests for coming, he singled me out, in a room full of people, I did not know, and whom did not know who I was, And addressing me personally, in front of everyone, thanked me for giving their family back their son. That the man Juan is today, is a direct reflection of what I particularly do for Juan, on any given day. He said, so gratefully, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Juan’s family has seen its share of alcohol.

As Juan’s father finished his speech (IN SPANISH), his brother Rodrigo, took the very same script and read it in English. Once again, singling me out in English as well.

Needless to say I was GOBSMACKED !!!

That has never happened to me in public before. Having a family, get up, in front of their family and friends who traveled from far and wide, to be there, thank a complete stranger. Because at that point, only Juan’s sister had recognized me earlier in the evening. I had not met any of the other family, YET !

Towards the end of the dinner service, I asked Juan to send his father over to my table so I could introduce myself to him formally. Because up to that point, we’d never met.

Juan’s father Rodrigo senior came to our table and took my hand in his and in broken English proceeded to thank me again, profusely, saying that his family is so grateful for what I have done for their son. He was besides himself.

I don’t know about you, but it really isn’t about me.

It’s about helping others, to the best of our ability. Because you never know what kind of impact you will have on a single human being, let alone his entire family.

I’m totally grateful, gobsmacked, and humble.

Kinda chokes me up as I write this down.

Happy for Harry …

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The world will witness Prince Harry marry his sweetheart Meghan on Saturday, in St. Georges Chapel in Windsor Castle. So much has changed for the young prince, Brother to Prince William, and uncle to Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

I remember, long ago, the image of a much younger Harry, his brother William, Father Prince Charles, and Earl Spencer, on September 6, 1997, walking behind his mother’s funeral cortege, in front of the whole world.

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It might not have been the best choice to have the boys walk that walk, but, the wisdom of the day, dictated that action. Harry later said, that it was the hardest thing he ever had to do in his life, save, fight in a war …

I remember, the night Diana died. Where I was, what I did, and the days that followed. I remember the day of the funeral, watching with the rest of the world, that had fallen into a sadness never seen before, in my lifetime.

A few days later, a funeral mass was held in Miami, at one of the Anglican Cathedrals in downtown Miami. For that event, I sat down and penned letters to William and Harry. letters about my experience, watching their mother marry. I had a tv in the car, that day as I went to work with my father, and watching the wedding sitting in his office.

And for the rest of my life, being witness to a force of nature like the world had never seen before. I told them many things, many things that escape my memory today, seeing I wrote those letters in a fog of mourning.

I always wonder if William and Harry, received letters like mine after the funeral when all the books of remembrance were carried to London from all corners of the world.

That is one question I have always asked of the universe, whether they read those letters or are they just collecting dust in some storage location. I would have been honored had they done so, but seeing how difficult life had become for both boys, then, I imagine that any reminder of that sadness was quietly stored away for posterity.

My lifetime has been full of Royal Wonder. I loved Diana, and everything that she represented to me, primarily then, Living with AIDS, and knowing how much she cared for people like me, gave me a sense of hope that I did not find in many places then.

Diana loved her boys, William and Harry, very much.

I remember one poignant memories, The Royal Yacht was berthed behind the RCI Building on Port Miami, and Diana was to meet the boys for the first time in as many weeks aboard. We all know of that image of Diana greeting the boys.

I’ve witnessed William and Harry grow up and become men. Both William and Harry have grown into fine young men, with promising futures. I think we can all agree, Harry did not have such an easy time of it, during younger incarnations of himself.

I imagine how hard life must have been for both William and Harry.

Diana hated the press, and did her best to shield her sons from the glare of photographers and paparazzi. Sometimes she succeeded, other times she utterly failed. William and Harry learned a valuable lesson about the press throughout their lives, and both William and Harry, have kept the press at bay for the most part.

Now all the cameras of the world will be focused on Windsor Castle this weekend. The little town of Windsor has been inundated with spectators and press. I would think that rankles Harry to no end. But I am sure he will be well protected from prying eyes, while he marries his sweetheart Megan.

We should all be proud of Harry. The final young royal son to be married in our lifetime. We have witnessed Royalty at its best in watching Diana become a woman, AND a Royal, be married in St. Paul’s, seeing her have her children, and being blessed to see William and Harry grow up into fine young men.

I imagine Diana is looking down on them tonight, and she smiles.

Imagine what it would have meant to William and Harry to have their mother present for both their weddings and child births. Alas, I am sure Harry will honor his mother in some special way on Saturday. I’m sure she is not far from his mind and heart, during this very difficult time for Meghan.

Let us remember Diana, in the lives of her son Harry this weekend and be glad for him. Harry has walked a long road to redemption and honor. And we should honor his commitment to becoming the best man he knows how to be. He intimated as much during interviews during the Invictus games here in Toronto.

Well done Harry. Welcome to Married life. Now life REALLY gets REAL.

Once you utter those vows, the real responsibility begins to your wife.

People don’t necessarily use an engagement period as homework for the real thing, but I had that experience myself. I warned Stephan on the day he married my niece Melissa, that they might have had 11 young years together, before their nuptials, but now the rubber meets the road.

So will it be for Harry and Meghan.

Let us all wish them the best.

Hip Hip Hooray Harry and Meghan.

Tuesday: Books, Books and More

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During my trip to Ottawa last weekend, I finished reading James Comey, A Higher Loyalty, Truth, Lies and Leadership. The book is a fascinating look at Comey’s life, where he came from, how he got here, and his professional career in Justice.

I was reminded by my best friend that when someone writes a book about themselves, they usually write it, so that they look GOOD. James Comey, admits his faults, and his character defects from the get go. He is aware of his own shortcomings, and within the book, as he writes, keeps those issues front of mind, in his telling of stories.

James Comey is a man of truth, character, and dignity. He believes in the rule of law, and the need for specific distance from certain entities in the Government Cabal.

The President is NOT an honest man. He IS a Character … Right out of mafia speak. And President Trump has no dignity, and does not care about anyone else but his own bottom line.

I highly suggest that you READ JAMES COMEY …

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A few days ago, Ronan Farrow was on Rachel Maddow’s show and they were talking about his latest book out. War on Peace; The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence.

Ronan Farrow was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the Harvey Weinstein debacle. A Pulitzer Prize is a BIG AWARD. I plan my reading library around the esteemed Pulitzer Prize winners, every season.

I’ve just begun this read, this week. The writing, so far, is stellar.

This week will be very busy. Meetings are moving around the city, and others are closed for church Bazaars on the weekend, So this is a rare week off …

We have been shopping like mad women for suits, shoes, ties and pocket squares for our niece Melissa’s wedding this coming weekend. We are leaving on Via Rail on Friday Morning, from Montreal to Toronto, and the Go Train to Hamilton.

We will return on Sunday night.

New clothes have been arriving sporadically. My Odyn gear from New Zealand is on its way, and another piece I ordered from Sydney Australia will go out tomorrow. The good thing about buying in Australia is that the exchange between Canada and Australia is almost dollar for dollar. An even trade. So I am not paying exorbitant exchange rates.

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The third book I am working through is American Kingpin. The Epic Hunt for the Criminal mastermind Behind the Silk Road by Nick Bilton. Needless to say, I will have enough reading material for this epic train ride this weekend.

More to come.

Stay tuned…

Thursday: Life is Good

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It has been a few days since my last update. It has been a busy time for everybody all around. We have a family wedding in May, it will be the first time, in many years that the entire family will be in the same location at the same time, to celebrate my niece Melissa and her husband to be, Stephan’s wedding.

We have watched our nieces and nephews grow up into fine young adults. And we spoil them whenever we get the chance. Holidays are always a big deal for our family. We will be traveling to Southern Ontario (on the train) a first for us.

In July, one of my guys, Juan is going to marry his fiancée Nadia, in a very intimate setting here in Montreal. We’ve been working very hard at keeping them “on the beam” so to speak. Juggling school, work, wedding preparations and life, is a tall order. But, like they say, “we have a program for that!”

The weather has been UNUSUALLY warm, as of late. We’ve had a long stretch of temps ranging from the lower plus side to the high negative side. Much of the snow that had fallen over the season is melting nicely, and thankfully, the sidewalks are clean of snow and ice. Which is very good news to the city population, because many older folks have suffered greatly, falling and breaking bones this season, because of the foul weather. Many of them have sued the city for damages, that is not a good thing. But necessary.

The great weatherman in the sky tells us, not to count our chickens just yet, and we are told that Winter will continue until Summer. With a clear SKIP of Spring. We are told that more drastic snow will fall, between now and May 1st.

God help us if the weather goes really South …

We will gladly take the weather we have had for the past week over more winter, and if it stays this good for the duration, all the better.

It is good that we have good plans on the horizon. This will be a first, seeing a good friend and his soon to be bride getting married. The whole focus on getting and staying sober, is to finally reap the rewards of hard work, done well.

Our young people are all doing well. Everybody is still sober, from our holiday extravaganza weekends. It is a hard slog for some, but they keep showing up, and they are talking. Which is a good sign. Many of us, have committed to being present, as often as we are able.

I am soon to start a new pass through the Big Book, with a young lady friend of my acquaintance, from the Monday meeting. I listen very carefully to what our young people say in meetings. And over the past year, have been blessed to witness one of our young woman, stand up and be counted among us.

Our Monday meeting has been talking hard topics and the discussion has been very fruitful to the extent that I am learning a great deal about sobriety, that I had never heard before, coming from the mouths of babes. Monday night, I asked my friend if she would be able to share her teaching of The Book with me. From what I am hearing from many of my friends and fellows, men and women, I’ve found that i still have a lot to learn. It may be unconventional, but any chance to walk through the book with new, fresh and younger eyes, is useful.

I’ve stuck close to my core meetings, Monday, Thursday and Friday. And I’ve placed my trust in all of my best of friends. One f them reached his Year Mark a couple of weeks ago, after a tragic crash and burn. Drugs and Alcohol will do that to you. With family, friends, and fellows present, we shared in a very special Year Celebration.

I have kept the same routine going for a long time. That being service. I heard a young man say tonight, that the first thing that he felt good about, when he got sober, and finally got connected, was doing service.

When folks in a meeting,ask you to Come Back, and to Stick and Stay, and put trust in you to do a job for any particular meeting, that is pretty special, but lost on many. But our young man tonight said that he took particular joy in knowing that people were drinking HIS COFFEE, and sitting in HIS CHAIRS.

It begins very simply.

YOU KNOW YOU HAVE ARRIVED, WHEN A CERTAIN MEMBER WALKS IN THE DOOR AND COMMENTS ON EITHER THE GOODNESS OR BADNESS OF ONES URN OF COFFEE …

It is high praise when someone says, “Hey, you make a mean pot of coffee!”

I know, the first job I ever had when I came in was setting up chairs and tables, for months and months, until the good ladies of my initial home group, trusted me enough to make my first urn of coffee.

Sixteen years later, I can make a mean Urn of Coffee with my eyes closed.

The next spiritual experience he spoke about was the first time someone asked him to share at a meeting. Someone, in asking him that, had wisdom that HE actually had something good to share, with a room full of drunks and addicts.

We all sit in rooms together, with assorted days, weeks, months, and years of sobriety. But is oddly the case, not too many people will ask for help, until they are down and out suffering. Even then, it is like pulling teeth, to get people to want to work with us.

It is hard work, going to meetings, and learning how to stay sober, because someone stepped up and took us on, when we came in and trusted us, with what they had to teach us about The Book and Sobriety. And the greatest gift we can offer, is our time, talent and treasure, when it comes to sobriety.

One of our men spoke a couple of weeks ago and told me that I should ask for numbers of new folks coming in, INSTEAD of giving them My number first. Flip the equation, he told me. Go out and get numbers.

Caveat here … We actually have to commit to calling those numbers if they come to us.

I guess I am in a place where, I am seeking something new to learn. And in hanging around with young people in sobriety, I am finding that I can still learn something new, that I am not the center of the universe, not that I think that …

The holidays were a great reckoning for many. Through hard work and perseverance we all came through the other end, mostly unscathed. And far better for the challenge the holidays presented many.

Sit in a room for a few seasons. And commit to being present for the long haul. Read: Commit to a room for a Long Period of Time, and you too will see how your friends a fellows grow up and get and stay sober.

I’ve been at this a long time, and teach-ability is not lost on me.

Everybody is well. It is March. The snow is melting.

It might not be Spring yet, but it sure feels like it.

Save for the first appearance of our Red Breasted Robin at the Friday Meeting church yard. I always see her. She has not appeared just yet, because there is still snow on the ground and in the trees at St. Viateur Church.

Stay tuned …

Christmas Dinner – Traditions

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Growing up, over the holidays, in our home, those holidays were filled with lots of people, lots of food, good conversations, and always ended in heaps of physical abuse.

When we arrived at the final iteration of home, in my 6th grade year, my parents were introduced to social circles that they had never experienced before, as of yet.

Meeting new people always invited others to ones dinner table, over the holidays. Those dinners became the stuff of legends. My mother perfected her cooking while competing for the top spot ranking of who threw the best soiree…

Hands down, my Step mother had this competition IN THE BAG.

We grew up in the company of several local families who hobnobbed together at festive times of the year. My step mom, Nancy (not my real step mom/but close enough), she and Fred had The House, The Wealth, and the Alcohol, to win the grand prize of best party hosts.

My father, as hateful as he was, and as judgmental he was, and as HOMOPHOBIC as he was, relented when it came to dinner parties, even if those dinner parties had invited guests of the HOMOSEXUAL stripe. Elton, Garcia and Bob, were the three gay men I grew up with.

My step mom knew I was gay, before I openly admitted to anyone that I was gay. So did my parents. It was like, they all knew, and nobody told me. However I had, all along, been doing my gay homework, reading the assorted “Material” my father left out, in their bathroom, for public consumption.

I can’t, for the life of me, believe, that my father did not know, I was reading his smut. I mean, you can’t be that stupid to think that if you leave something in the bathroom to read, that someone isn’t going to pick it up and PERUSE …

Yet, after every dinner party, where gay men were on the field, that I could carry on conversations with, that I never carried on with my own father, made him IRATE. And when we arrived home each night, he would beat the shit out of me, hoping to BEAT THE GAY, out of me.

My step mom had the huge house, with the appropriate dinner table that sat an army of men and women, all at the same time. When we were kids, the kids would find themselves at the kids table in the breakfast nook, off the kitchen. Separated from the adults, until we grew up and had “Come of Age” and were invited to dine WITH the adults.

I was telling my friends at dinner tonight, parts of this story, minus the gore.

Nancy taught us social skills, she raised all of the kids/Nee teenagers, into quite well-behaved and respectable young adults. Alcohol was always available to us. When we crossed the room, into the main dining room, with the adults, we had arrived.

The other day, Nancy’s oldest daughter said that she missed mom. Nancy died a couple of years ago, so holidays are a bit bleak for her daughters. Me as well. Because if it was not for Nancy, we would have never had the life experiences we did, growing up.

I told Dawn that yes, mom is gone, and we miss her terribly. But, the silver lining to missing someone is that Mom sure knew how to throw an A-List dinner party with panache and style.

Juan and Nadia are two very important friends. Juan and I have been friends since the day he walked into Sunday Nighter’s more than three years ago. He is still sober.

When Juan and Nadia got engaged, Hubby and I began to include them in special events, or dinner “Double dates.” Bringing friends into your social circle is an important part of growing into well-rounded sober adults.

So it went. Juan and Nadia had gone to Toronto for Christmas with his parents, to visit his brothers and sisters, down south of us. The weather was NOT stellar, so the drive down and back was fraught with danger.

I had decided this year to change-up my guest list. We put off Christmas dinner until this evening, so that Juan and Nadia could have Christmas Dinner at our place tonight.

This dinner was special. Because my in-laws had gifted us a ton of money in HSBC gift cards for The Bay. We really did not have the proper tools to entertain, because we only have the one set of dishes from our wedding registry.

And in Mom’s honor, I wanted to do this the right way.

I shopped new earthen ware dishes, in yellow, hubby shopped cutlery and glasses. I cooked a turkey dinner to feed a small army. We spent all day yesterday cleaning and scrubbing the apartment to standards that aren’t usually seen.

With the stage set for success, today, we did the shopping that needed to be completed for dinner, and this afternoon we cooked.

Dinner was a grand affair. We learned a little bit more about each other. And as a married couple, our jobs, as friends, is to paint a picture of what married life is going to look like, in a general way. Socializing outside of a meeting can be fruitful and is also important. I don’t invite many people to my table.

Out of respect for my elders, my GAY elders, in the rooms, I always invited a particular friend over for holidays. But after my gay friends turned their backs on me over the last year, my jaded and bruised heart was resolute. No more charity for people who aren’t charitable towards me.

Our little spartan kitchen is not huge. And space comes at a premium. And making a grand holiday dinner work, takes a bit of work. I have a system that I have polished over the past sixteen years of holiday dinners. It all worked.

A good time was had by all.

I think I did Mom proud tonight and I know she was smiling down at me.