Sunday, July 31, 2016

[The Life of Shaun #532] Paper Towns

Sushil and I decided to go to Vegas for our one-year anniversary to see where I am from, and so he could continue the onslaught of introductions and backstories of my life.  But first, to ease him in, we weekended in America's gem, San Francisco.

San Francisco is always lovely, and it was a lot of fun to show Sushil around and play tourist.  Coming from India, he's not familiar with San Francisco's place in the (Western) gay psyche and our history, Harvey Milk, flower power or any of the images that come to the American mind in relation to the City by the Bay.  For him it was just a beautiful, fun city, so Russ and I engaged him in brief lessons over cocktails and Orphan Andy's.  We were only there Friday night to Monday, but we managed most of the Castro bars and main must-sees, including the required Summertime disappointment of trying to see the Golden Gate Bridge, and instead getting a wall of fog rolling in.

On the Fourth, it was off to my hometown to begin the whirlwind tour of new faces.  For the anniversary itself we had dinner at the Venetian, a prototypical Strip casino with a faux urbanity modelled on its namesake, followed by Russ taking us to Cirque du Soleil's Mystère, which was awesome.  From the next day we set into a pattern: lunch meeting someone, dinner meeting someone, cocktails.  I gave Sushil the Coley tour with Fern, showing him where I lived for my first memories, and where I mostly grew up, as well as my last schools.  It was great to introduce him to so many important people from my life, and it all culminated in a fantastic spread and drinks my friend PD laid out for us and some mutual high-school friends.  

It was really weird at times to be showing Sushil around where I grew up.  We'd be driving down streets and I'd have memories of how I felt as a teenager there, the angst, the weight of homophobia, how I wondered if I would ever get out, ever have sex, ever meet "the one" or even someone - and there'd be this man I'd met in Mumbai, and who lives with me in London, in the car next to me on those very same streets.  Those two parts of my life seem so far apart, in every way, that it was sometimes surreal to have them overlap.

It was crazy hot, as Vegas Julys are, so Sushil got the full Mojave experience.  He occasionally broke out in a light sweat, whereas my skin dried up, and my face turned red and flaked; there's definitely no Mediterranean mixed in with these genes.  Fortunately, Russ views home acclimation much as I do, so there was very little time where I wasn't under a direct stream of air conditioning.  But next time, I think I'll have to show Sushil what a desert Winter is like.

Viva Las Vegas,

Sushil at Twin Peaks

The painted ladies

Lombard Street

The Transamerica Pyramid, just outside the House of Nanking, a favourite from my San Francisco days

Sushil learned first hand about San Francisco's permissive nudity laws.

The homeland!

I think there's something Papa Smurf's been hiding from us, but suddenly those red chaps make more sense...

Brunch with Belle and Spesh!

A real anniversary dinner with real margaritas, on a faux canal, in a faux village, under a faux sky.

Sushil got a kick out of seeing me behind the wheel, rather than the other side of the Uber app.

Hoover Dam, with the white ring showing how far Lake Mead's water level has fallen in the past years.

Fern and I outside our high school: Eldog!  Woof!  Woof, woof, woof, woof!

My last, and longest-lived-in, family home in Vegas.  (My Senior year I lived with the wonderful and generous Berrys.)

The Las Vegas Valley, stretching out to Sunrise Mountain, on whose foothills I mostly grew up.

Sushil took me on the Big Shot, 329m (1,081 ft.) atop the Stratosphere Tower.  He was a little more excited than I was...

And then the crazy fool took a spinning swing ride, hanging off the side of the tower.

Overlooking the Strip.

Downtown Las Vegas and the Fremont Experience; I definitely prefer Downtown to the Strip.  Sushil donated $60 to the local economy, whereas I left $3 and four free cocktails up.

My friend from Cass, Argie, came up from LA to visit.

Oh Vegas, really?

Russ and I hidden behind the world's most overcrowded brunch table.

Sin City from the air

It's a personal choiceShaun H. Coley ~ Shadwell ~ Tower Hamlets ~ London E1 ~ UK ~

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

[The Life of Shaun #531] Finally facing my Waterloo

To continue his education in European heritage and culture, Sushil and I packed off to Stockholm for this year's Eurovision.  Eurovision, despite its name, is a song contest with contestants from as far afield as Azerjiban, Israel and Australia.  It was started after WWII as a way to help unite a fractured continent, and is the stage from which both ABBA* and Céline Dion were launched onto the world.  Over the years, its popularity outside the continent's borders has caused it to expand to non-European countries with (sometimes aspirational) Western ideals.  It is very popular within its constituent countries, and wildly so withing their gay communities.  It is our World Cup.

Stockholm is a beautiful city, but in a muted Scandinavian way, handsome and proud, not flashy or pandering.  The city is actually an archipelago, covering myriad islands spreading out towards the Baltic Sea, and whose most far-flung islets serve as weekend- and Summer-homes for Stockholm's chattering classes.  The city is currently under a lot of pressure.  Geography and heritage limit its urban footprint, but the population demands of a strong economy and welcoming culture are coming into direct conflict with Stockholm's height restrictions and regulated rents.  But that was no concern of ours, as we stayed at my friend Stefan's fabulous central (rent-regulated) 1800s period flat, which made a perfect base for exploring worthwhile Stockholm by foot and Uber.

On Friday night, we went to the judges night of the Eurovision final.  They actually do the final twice, on Friday (when the judges vote) and Saturday (when the audience votes), so they can tape Friday's performance as a back-up for Saturday's live broadcast.  This worked out perfectly, as we got to see the show, but didn't have to hang around for the two hours of audience voting and results.  That we did on Saturday night in the comfort of Stefan's flat, where he hosted a Eurovision party (the proper way to watch).  My favourite of the night was Australia, though my iTunes favourite is Sweden.  Sushil thought Hungary's entrant was very talented, but Ukraine came out on top with a typically political Eurovision win, which I was fine with, considering how much effort and dazzle homophobic, aggressive Russia put into its number.

It was a very successful educational trip!  Sushil is coming along just fine.


*When we mentioned this fact to Sushil, he asked "Who's ABBA?"  Stefan and I recoiled in horror and spent the end of the first night educating him over YouTube and wine.  He is now an expert.

Swedish church, near Stefan's

The Swedish royal palace, where Prince Carl Philip lives...and bathes.

Looking out towards town hall from the old city

And the old city from the town hall

The streets on the island that make up the oldest part of Stockholm are winding and narrow.

And its central square hosts a gay cafe/bar.

Like many European capitals, Stockholm is redeveloping disused docks into trendy housing for urban professionals.

The central island (old city) from the water

Stockholm was decked out to welcome Eurovision.

A timely window dressing in a posh department store

Even the post boxes were spruced up.

Our seats weren't bad at all!

Sushil's favourite showing off his, erm, singing talent.

Basking in the warm glow of Hungary.

And to wish everyone a fond farewell, ABBA, of course.

It's a personal choiceShaun H. Coley ~ Shadwell ~ Tower Hamlets ~ London E1 ~ UK ~

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

[The Life of Shaun #530] Dos mas, por favor

After eight months of marriage, we decided that Sushil's liver was trained up enough to meet Russ in person.  We jumped the gun a little bit on that, but still managed a fabulous time.  Russ had just come out from under a Cirquetastic hurricane and was ready for a gay old time, and on that we delivered.

First up was Barcelona, quite possibly the loveliest city in Europe.  It's on the Mediterranean coast, nestled between mountains and the sea, with generous sunshine and good genes.  The city was the home of Gaudí, Spain (mostly) stayed out of WWII, and then suffered the stasis of dictatorship until democratic elections in 1982, leaving a thoroughly unspoilt European city that has the bonus of being surprisingly affordable (well, pre-Brexit sterling crash, anyway).  Lara, Lisa and Gabby came for the weekend as well, joining us and our locals-in-common, Howard & Sergio, and, from my Paris days, Swedish Stefan.

We midweeked in London, and then it was off to Maspalomas, The Gayest Place on Earth.  I'd heard about it, but I never really quite understood just how gay it was until we were there.  Maspalomas is a city, albeit a holiday one, but gay Maspalomas is a multistory strip mall, catering to every need and taste in one drunk-walkable complex.  We had a bit of trouble adjusting to the schedule, as the only people who start evenings later than Spaniards are Spaniards on holiday.  But we got there, eventually seeing the opening, at least, of the main club by our final night.

Despite the silly fun, I didn't fare well in the sun and heat and was ready to get back to Blighty by the end of the long weekend.  It was a great time,  but would've been even better five years ago, and has safely nudged me into being comfortable with never going to Ibiza.  Best of all was seeing Russ after far too long and introducing him properly to Sushil.  Now we just need to work on that liver training...


Enjoying lunch

On the beach.  I'm sure there are supposed to be sights in Barcelona somewhere worth seeing...

Ah, there they are!

The incomparable Sagrada Família.  We didn't get a picture of it from the taxi between bars, so I lifted this one.

Breakfast in Maspalomas.


The family-friendly Yumbo centre.

Many, many levels of gay.  You start the evening at ground level and work up through the night.

Sushil enjoyed the pool, whilst I enjoyed a toe's worth of sunshine.

We did make it to the dunes, which separated the town from...

...Sushil's first (nude) gay beach!

Eventually we saw a (the?) sight.

Actually, this was the sight: the world's gayest cocktail!

It's a personal choiceShaun H. Coley ~ Shadwell ~ Tower Hamlets ~ London E1 ~ UK ~

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