Smoker’s Cough

Last night, for the first time in just about forever, my beloved and I accompanied my best out to a gay club. We’re fond enough of pubs or restaurants, but clubs not so much. As we age, we increasingly appreciate being able to hear the conversations we’re having with the people at our table, the lack of drug culture, the lack of drama, etc… the difference between going to a club and just about anywhere else.

We were originally supposed to get dinner out with a math professor, but that fell through. So instead we visited newly-opened gay-owned men’s underwear shop located in the Broad Ripple section of our city before grabbing dinner at a place called English Ivy’s – a pub we enjoy from time to time.

As we were leaving dinner, we found ourselves stuck. We couldn’t figure out what we wanted to do. It was only about 20:30 (24hr time). Too late really to start a game night but pretty much also too early to simply call it quits. Naturally, we decided to go to The Unicorn, a male strip club. However, we only really wanted to go for the drinks. The last time any of us has been was looooong ago, and the talent was, well, untalented – to say the least! In fact, my memory of the only time I’d been was that of a nasty large-bellied old man putting a $1 bill in his mouth and then not-so-gracefully letting himself fall, arms open, backwards onto the stage and some scrawny, under-muscled, under-fed stripper boy going after the cash. Needless to say, we weren’t thrilled for the idea of going there again, but we all agreed that we could be wallflowers in a place like that for cheap drinks. However, when we arrived there was, literally, one other car in the lot. We weren’t about to be the only ones there AND not support the staff. That idea went out the window when we decided to go to a gay club called Gregg’s/Our Place.

We got there before 21:00, and all club staff aside, there were only about ten other people. On all the flat screens around the place some sporting event was playing. Basketball? And in another room there was a euchre tournament taking place. The dart area was empty. So was the billiards area. We grabbed some drinks and a high top table and pretended to be really thirsty as more and more people arrived. After about an hour, the sports and card games stopped and instead loud dance music sucked up the air and the flat screens broadcasted scantily clad models on beaches. We kept drinking. The drinks really were SUPER cheap, and since we came so early we missed having to pay any kind of cover. Good times.

Since we never go out we didn’t know most people and most people didn’t know us. I like it that way, actually. Even in a city like Indianapolis, it doesn’t take much to get that small town feeling and for everyone to know your business. No thanks. Not to mention the eternally recirculating dramas. I’ll pass. It actually amazes me that anyone would go there expecting to meet anyone of substance or for anything other than superficial conversation or carnal pleasures. I can safely say that ANYWHERE is a better place to hunt for love than a club.

After a while we headed up to this loft area where we were able to “perch” and watch others down on the main floor. My best, having been a bar fly and still going to these places occasionally, was able to point out an amusing number of men, in one way or another. One would pass by and we’d hear, “He has a REAL nice penis.” Another would go by and it’d be, “That one is handsome and hung, but he’s into nasty stuff and doesn’t like wearing protection.” Once, about an obese old man sitting at the bar we were told, “I turned him down once and because I wasn’t interested he hunted me down on such-an’-such app and cussed me out.”

Soon enough we were ready to go and go we did. On our way home my beloved and I remarked to each other how nice it was to go to some place like that, that was smoke-free. In recent years, a city-wide smoke ban for public places was passed and it really has made a great difference.

That made me sad though. In a state where a very large number of people are smokers (a year or two ago I think I read it was something like a full third or a fourth of our population), we’re able to get a ban passed, preventing people from doing what they enjoy in places they specifically enjoy doing it in. Let me just re-iterate: a population with a huge smoking demographic passed a ban “negatively” affecting something many people actually want to do.

And yet, Indiana’s tiny -almost inconsequential- gay population remains denied the right to marry. A super small demographic, wanting to do something positive that would affect no one else, isn’t allowed to – if for no other reason than idiots think Jesus would hate it. How is it in a state of smokers a smoking ban can be passed, but the same place, where gays aren’t “bothering” anyone, remains discriminatory?

– SIGH –

Om Shanti



Pujasthana is a compound noun. Since high school when I studied and nearly mastered the German language, I have LOVED compound nouns. I find them to be artistic, efficient and keeps a language from having a ridiculously large vocabulary like English does. The nouns that make up the word pujasthana are puja and sthana. For anyone unfamilar with any Indian languages or any Hindu religious words, puja means a worship ritual and can be as elaborate or simple as a person is inclined. Sthana means place. We see sthana used as a suffix in many names of middle eastern counrties. A curious one I find to be a little funny and a little sad is Pakistan. When that name is broken down, it literally means “place of the fools.”

Probably around two years ago I went the local Patel Brothers Indian Grocery store and perused their selection of mandirs for my puja room. They had only less than ten, and the cheapest one was still more than $300. Usually when I’m shopping for something like this, I only even go shopping when I know I have more than enough money for anything I might encounter. In things like this, if I were to see something I wanted – but not be able to get it right then – it would lead to much frustration. So, typically I only go looking for things I want when I know I can afford them no matter the cost.

So I found myself in Patel Brothers, with the Best, and looking at mandirs. For such a small selection, they did well at providing an assortment. Of course things like that drag out my decision process: Do I want taller more than wide? Color or strictly metallic? How finished do I need the inside to me? Storage drawer or none? Ornate or simplistic?

So many things do consider when choosing your ishtadevata’s dwelling place!

I eventually settled on a design that unique among the selection. It’s colorful and full of detail and design. It has a shelf and drawer that open to the front just below where the doors are. The images on the outside are of Ganesha, Om, Lakshmi, Surya, Hanuman and Krishna. It has a free-standing “steeple” that rests easily on top. There are screened windows on both sides and on the doors. The inside comes with a riser and both the riser and inside walls are covered in red felt-like material. Roughly, it’s about a foot deep, about 1.5ft wide and maybe around 3ft tall.

Since that time, it’s served as a great residence for the murti of my ishtadevata, Ganesha. But I’m getting an itch. This is the last year I’ll be able to get so much back in taxes (thank you, student credit!), and I plan to get Ganesha a new home. This means the current one has to go.

Here’s the deal: I’m giving it away. Anyone who wants it, can have it. The only catch is that if you’re not local to me, you’ll need to reimburse me the cost of shipping. I ran through the USPS website and did a very rough estimate on shipping (~33lbs to an Alaska zip code) and it was around $100. (Note: This is very approximate. I weighed it with everything inside and entered general dimensions, plus I doubt anyone even as far as Alaska will show interest, so the actual cost of shipping would vary, but should be somewhat close to the $100.) I paid around $325 for it before tax, so even worst case scenario with shipping is still two-thirds off the original amount paid for it.

If you’ve read this far you already know its description. Photos are below. This post is going to Facebook for further advertising. Feel free to contact me here, on Facebook, or privately if you have that info. If there are no takers between now and the eighth of March, I’ll donate it to anyone who wants it at my local temple when I’m there on the tenth.

Om Shanti!







Nigh upon 1997

Today is National Coming Out Day, and I think it’s auspicious tha the date is a clean 10/11/12. I think it’s fitting to tell my coming out story. Ready?

I was born.

No joke. That seems a bit ridiculous but that’s about where the whole thing begins. Of course, from day one my family knew how spectacular I was/would become. My birth mother says that she always knew I am gay. Always. I think my dad has always, too. I know, through the years, a number of other family members from both my paternal and maternal sides have told me that they knew (or could have guessed) from the time I was a very young age. I think if there was any doubt while I was still young, my infamous My Little Pony birthday party would have cleared things up, as well as my exhaustive My Little Pony collection (which included Seaponies, Flutterponies, etc…) some of which I still retain. I’d liked to have been able to post a photo with this entry that proves the party was a success, but alas, that evidence is filed away (with thousands of other photos taken through the years) in the family’s many-multi-tome Family Photo Album collection.

Truth be told, after the point of my birth, my coming out is fully a three-part experience. Keep reading.

At one point, not super long after diving into Christianity head first, and after getting my driver’s license, I found myself at the family computer with my father suddenly sitting next to me. He asked me a few lead-in questions like if something is wrong or …I forget what else he asked. He used my behavior at a recent family birthday get-together as an example. You see, it was my habit to disappear. I’d always bring a book or cassette/CD player, and then wander off into another part of the house, preferring seclusion.

I attempted to answer as vaguely as my young mind knew how. I recall saying something like, “Well, maybe there’s a lot going on in my mind right now and I can’t talk about it.” The truth here is that there was a lot going on in my mind. I’d already figured out that I’d never marry a woman, and was beginning to tackle how I’d approach my newest love, the Baptist Church, regarding who I am. I’d also just read a number of alarming stats on youth homelessness, and learned that an overwhelming majority of homeless youth are homeless because their parents kick them out for being gay. It was after I gave that first response, my father replied with the question, “Well, are you gay?” Suddenly feeling my heart in my throat, I looked down and didn’t answer immediately. Since I had stalled, my father stepped back into the conversation and said, “‘Cause if you are, get over it. Sex is great, but it’s not something that should rule your life.” I later answered him in the affirmative, still not realizing how sagely his advice was, but was very glad he hadn’t threatened to un-home me.

That’s part one -the most important part in my story. There’s never been a moment in my father’s life where he didn’t put his children above his own self. From the time I and my brother, Justin, were born -all through a marriage that was crazy and doomed and into a second marriage and ceaselessly for the last thirty years – he’s never shown anything except love to my siblings and me. The very same is to be said of his second wife, my real mom, Connie.

Part two, naturally, comes after part one. Feeling somewhat more stable knowing I wasn’t verging on homelessness, the next person I needed to know was my then-best friend, Sara-with-an-H Kidd. I recall writing here this LOOOOONG letter and asking her to meet me at the church we both attended. She did. We found our way up to the balcony in the sanctuary, and suddenly terrified, I gave her the letter to read right in front of me. Umm… but then because I feared she’d read a different tone than the one I’d written in, I took the letter back, and insisted that I read it to her, instead. I recall her being a little perplexed (after all, why not just tell her my words instead of reading them to her?), but she obliged. And so I read. And she listened. And when I was done reading/coming out to her, and asking her not to tell anyone yet, she said, “Oh Joshua, I love you and your secret is safe with me,” while opening her arms and squeezing them around me. Thus concludes scene two.

I had no idea when I came out to my best friend in the church balcony that the next big thing I’d do would be to come out to my church. I think to a lot of people, the weight of this is lost. I grew up in a very small town. At the turn of the last century, it still hadn’t reached even 20,000 inhabitants. In that town, two groups of people were just about the most influential: the farmers and the churches. Obviously a lot of overlap between the groups exists. In my hometown there were three main bodies of believers. There were Catholics. And then there were two quasi-mega churches, which were kind of really the same congregation that had split over an argument about money. These were the Baptists. There was Calvary Baptist Church and Baptist Temple. I always liked the name “Baptist Temple” better than the other, but the other is where I attended due to some band camp karma my freshman year of high school.

After I knew it wasn’t likely I’d be homeless, and after my best friend hadn’t (yet) shunned me, I decided tackle the church. The long-and-short of this is that rumors began to spread -not that I was gay, but that I was spreading “false doctrine.” This false doctrine was, of course, that I not only don’t feel the Bible condemns gays, but also that there’s proof of the contrary within it. Before I knew it, I’d been called to the home of my youth pastor, Dudley. He’d just built a really great home for his family and everyone loved being there. I don’t recall whether I knew why I was being called there or not, but I remember having a McDonald’s vanilla milkshake with me (the only thing I could keep down at the time, because of being upset due to a recent break up). After I arrived, we went into his library. I sat on the couch and he sat at his desk chair. He started right off with the accusation of spreading false doctrine. I explained that I thought it was neither doctrine, nor false. He disagreed and for only a few minutes we back-and-forth’ed on it all. Finally, he stopped us and asked me, “Do you consider yourself a homosexual?” I confirmed this. His response was, and I am quoting, “Well, there’s no place in the youth group, or anywhere else in the church, for someone like you.” As with my father, I looked down, only this time I wept. Honestly, I don’t recall what he might have said after that. In my memory, I can still see my feet and the McDonald’s cup that was beside them as I looked down crying as quietly as I could. At some point I just nodded that I understood, arose, and left.

I remember driving away that day with this dual feeling of immense pain and simultaneous relief. I had no idea what ordeals the following year would bring, both with the church and just about everywhere else. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say it was a time of “therapy,” loss and loneliness, and of strengthening.

Were it not for this window of time in my life, I certainly wouldn’t be who I am today. I think I’ve always been a bit independent and came here with a pretty finely tuned compass, but experiences like this offer a great opportunity to learn and grow. Indeed, that is the intent of all forms of pain. And not to sound arrogant or conceited, but each day reminds me that I’m about as awesome as I’ve ever been, and helps me look forward to the new awesomeness I’ll reach someday soon.

My heart sings a little when I think of how things were and what I went through, and how things are now and where they’re going. I’m so happy at what the youth of today are able to do and how they’re more able to truly and honestly live. They’re benefitting from the brave people of our past, and generations yet to come will benefit from the brave people of our today. Regardless of what our battles might be, bravery and honesty can’t be cheapened or downplayed. We owe it first to our own survival to be brave and honest, and also to the survival of those walking here after us.

Om Shanti!