Monday, May 22, 2017


Eddie Jones

My love is strong, you see 
I know you’ll never get tired of me 

Oh, baby (Oh, baby)

And I’m gonna use every trick in the book 

I’ll try my best to get you hooked 

Hey, baby (Oh, baby)  

(From the song “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” from the album Diana Ross & The Supremes Join the Temptations, 1968, 
composed by Jerry J. Ross/ Jerry Williams/ Kenneth Gamble/ Leon Huff)

 It was during the Baltimore Gay Pride festival of 1996 that I first saw Eddie Jones from across a crowded room and fell in love. He was short, freckle-faced, , knock-kneed, and balding, with the most beautiful teeth I had ever seen. He also had that thickness around his waist that I found very sexy. I snapped a photo of him because deep down inside I felt that we would meet again; and we did. Two weeks later, I saw him crossing Liberty Heights Avenue, walking his dog. I gave him my number. When he called the following week, I invited him to see the movie Stonewall, because I was in a brief scene or two. He spent the night and we held each other all night long -- without having sex! When he saw my Diana Ross & The Supremes memorabilia collection, his mouth dropped open. He suddenly turned to me and kissed me, as if he had found his “Supreme” soul mate.

 When Eddie and I finally had sex, it was the best sex I had ever experienced in my life. We were always trying something new and fascinating...and I was getting freakier. It felt like I was catching up on seven years of a sexual void. Tuesdays were 2-for-1 rentals at the gay adult video store, and we took full advantage. The shop was located off Baltimore Street in Baltimore’s infamous XXX district, commonly called “The Block.” We would smoke a joint and try all the things we saw on film. We played with sex toys, handcuffs, and edible creams. We experimented in three-way sex with guys we met online together. Once, we pretended to be strangers and picked up a guy at Baltimore’s Club Bunns. The guy told us it was his birthday, and I am sure he won’t forget that birthday for a long time! We bought matching cock rings and videotaped ourselves having sex, under the condition that we would erase the video after one viewing. In hindsight, I should have kept the tape, since now the video won’t have a chance to surface on the internet and give me my moment of infamous immortality.

I had bought my first computer and the internet connected Eddie and I to other Supremes enthusiasts. We joined an online Supremes fan club and ordered old performance videos from other collectors. Our typical Saturdays included rummaging through thrift shops and used record stores, looking for old Supremes albums. In 1997, Eddie and I attended the Supremes Fan Club Convention at the Motown Café in New York City. Only two of the eight Motown Supremes showed up, Scherrie Payne and Lynda Laurence. I wore my Mary Wilson t-shirt and Eddie wore a Diana t-shirt. We took pictures with Scherrie and Lynda, who at that time were billing themselves as the FLOS (Former Ladies the Supremes).

Later that year, we caught Diana Ross performing at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Eddie and I were the ultimate fans, wearing identical Diana Ross t-shirts and talking to all the other “Rossaholics” seated near us.

Eddie and I spent quality time in bed early in the mornings talking about funny or odd dreams we had experienced the night before. I was a morning person and, to my delight, he always seemed to wake up with a smile on his face. I found it pleasurable to kiss him before he brushed his teeth -- I loved the way he tasted. In 1998, ABC aired the television documentary special Motown 40: The Music Is Forever. We threw a Motown party and Eddie designed a cake with the Motown logo. He was the perfect date. Everybody liked him because he was so sociable and non-threatening. I remember Eddie surprised me when a former QVC co-worker invited me to their wedding; when I showed him the invitation; he reached into his closet and pulled out a wrapped present! He would buy gifts and store them until the right occasion, always ready for a party! We took many trips together. Our trips away from Baltimore usually took us to Washington, D.C., Atlantic City, or New York.
Eddie Jones in front of a E.Jones store in Atlantic City

Dale Madison in front of Madison Hotel

We constantly took photographs and made a huge collection of photo books. Our favorite pastime was taking pictures of ourselves in front of places that had our names in them. It felt like a good luck omen whenever we took a trip and ran across a place like the “Madison Hotel” or the “Eddie Jones” store. I had suffered from migraines as an adult and, even though their occurrences had decreased over the years, I could still get a doozie from time to time. When one would hit, Eddie would hold my head in his lap and stroke my forehead until I fell asleep. We connected in so many ways, but familiar problems from my past relationships began to surface. Eddie loved alcohol. Of course, his drinking only became an issue if I was feeling angry or rejected. As long as I was getting what I wanted, I was completely happy to be in denial especially since when I looked back on it, Eddie treated me wonderful when he was drinking. It was to my advantage to keep him intoxicated. It was when he was stone cold sober that his words could be so cutting.

In 1997, Eddie and I attended the Supremes Fan Club Convention at the Motown Café in New York City. Only two of the eight Motown Supremes showed up -- Scherrie Payne and Lynda Laurence. I wore my Mary Wilson t-shirt and Ernie wore a Diana Ross t-shirt. We took pictures with Scherrie and Lynda, who at that time were billing themselves as the FLOS (Former Ladies of the Supremes.)

Later that year, we caught Diana Ross performing at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Ernie and I were the ultimate fans, wearing identical Diana Ross t-shirts and talking to all the other “Rossaholics” seated near us. The previous October in 1996, Ernie and I, along with my two friends Sam and Isaac, drove through a blinding rainstorm just to see Mary Wilson in concert at the University of Delaware. The show’s “oldies” lineup featured Mary with her smokin’ band and her fabulous back-up singers, Iris and Parnell. On our way back to Baltimore, we stopped at a liquor store and bought a pint of Bacardi 151. Then Ernie and I passed the bottle in the back seat of Sam’s little Toyota Tercel, smooching and giggling as the car skidded home in the pounding rain.

Although the sex was great, it bothered me that Ernie never said the words “I love you.” In fact, he told me that he was not in love with me, but I couldn’t accept it. He always behaved like the most devoted lover, so I figured his actions reflected his true feelings, despite what his words said. But on the off chance that his words were closer to the truth, I was determined to make him love me, whatever it took.

In 1998, ABC aired the television documentary special Motown 40: The Music Is Forever. We threw a Motown party and Ernie designed a cake with the Motown logo. He was the perfect date. Everybody liked him because he was so sociable and non-threatening. When a former co-worker invited me to their wedding, I remember Ernie surprised me; I showed him the invitation and he reached into his closet and pulled out a wrapped present! He would buy gifts and store them until the right occasion, always ready for a party!

We spent birthdays together and he slept over every week. He met my family and I met his. Ernie did not drive, but he would stay awake and keep me company whenever we made long road trips. I really appreciated that. Our trips away from Baltimore usually took us to Washington, D.C., Atlantic City, or New York. We constantly took photographs and made a huge collection of photo books.

I had suffered from migraines as an adult and, even though their occurrences had decreased over the years, I could still get a doozie from time to time. When one would hit, Eddie would hold my head in his lap and stroke my forehead until I fell asleep. We connected in so many ways, but familiar problems from my past relationships began to surface. Eddie loved alcohol. Of course, his drinking only became an issue if I was feeling angry or rejected. As long as I was getting what I wanted, I was completely happy to be in denial. I gladly threw out my pre-established drinking rules that might have driven him away. Eddie also loved to smoke weed. I had not smoked pot since 1977, when I ended up in the Sheppard Pratt psych ward after overdosing on some weird shit. Here I was smoking pot again, twenty years later, just to be with someone I was crazy about. Besides -- I felt safe and enjoyed getting high with Eddie. Was I rationalizing and idealizing a relationship that would set me up for another crash landing? I never got high without him. However, when it came to drinking, Eddie would lock me out so that he could drink alone. He loved to isolate himself, which left me cold.

I’ll sacrifice for you 
I’ll even do wrong for you 

Oh, baby (Oh, baby) 

Every minute, every hour 

I’m gonna shower you 

With love and affection 

Look out, it’s comin’ in your direction 

And I’m, I’m gonna make you love me…

            When I think back on our first Christmas together, I realize I should have seen the signs. That year, I felt the holidays should have been a special occasion. We had been having such a wonderful time since meeting in June. However, when I asked Eddie about his plans for the holidays, he dropped a bomb on me by saying that his holiday ritual consisted of soaking in his tub and getting drunk, alone.  His words stung like a sharp slap.  I was flabbergasted and crushed.  How could he not want to spend the holidays with me?  What had I done -- had I missed something?  How could I fix things?
            On Christmas Day, I called Eddie and got no answer. So, I drove to his apartment and rang the doorbell.  Still nothing.  So I plotted.  I went to his mom’s house and gave her one of my handmade African dolls, then waited for her only child to arrive.  I knew he’d show up because Ernie was a mama’s boy.  He was her only child and she doted on him.  When he saw me there, he was furious, but remained calm in his mother’s house.  However, as I was driving him home, we detoured through Druid Hill Park for the inevitable showdown.
            “Dale, why did you push your way into my life after I told you that I prefer to spend the holidays alone?”  He demanded to know.
“I just can not believe you actually want to be alone for CHRISTMAS!” I said.
            “I wasn’t lying when I said I wanted to get drunk and sit in my tub.  I heard you knocking at the door!”
            “Eddie, only an alcoholic would want to drink alone and shut himself off from the world,” I said.
            “I am not an alcoholic!  I am a drunk.  Alcoholics go to meetings!”
             “You are going to drink yourself to death before you turn forty!” I shouted.
            “It’s my life, I pay for my own liquor.  If you don’t like it, you don’t have to stick around!”
            His last words ended that conversation.  I didn’t like it, but I chose to stay.  I was in such a state of denial.  We never again mentioned that incident, but I immediately saw a pattern.  Like past lovers, he hated to talk about feelings.  Moreover, I had learned the hard way that alcoholism is a disease of feelings.  Since honest talk irritated him, I dared not risk pushing him away with it, so we kept our conversations “Miller Lite,” (great taste, less filing.)  We would endlessly talk about the Supremes, about music, food, art, movies, television shows, and gossip.  But if I tried to go deeper, our conversations were cut short.
            The next year, we compromised and agreed to spend either Christmas or New Year’s together -- I was not allowed to have him for both holidays.  I chose Christmas.  I surprised Eddie with a live Christmas tree, and we decorated it and slept under the twinkling lights. We attended holiday parties, took lots of pictures, and exchanged gifts.  The day before New Year’s Eve, I said my goodbyes and left my chubby lil’ drunk to get plastered all by himself.  I brought in the New Year by watching a Gladys Knight concert on the American Movie Classics channel (AMC), and tried to be content that I had experienced “half” a wonderful holiday.
            One evening, after a night of Ernie’s boozing, we lay spooning in each other’s arms in a total dreamlike trance.   I was startled out of my sleep when I felt warm urine saturate my sheets. This was not the golden shower of kinky sex. My drunken lover had peed on himself in his sleep. 

Ernie jumped up immediately and cleaned up the mess.  I was in a state of shock.  He apologized with hot sex, which took my mind away from the problem at hand.  He knew how to manipulate me that way.  Afterwards, I tried to start an argument with him over why he refused to open up to me. He pushed me down on the living room floor and we had rushed, hot sex again. I screamed in ecstasy as we both climaxed.
            After our back-to-back encounters, Eddie exited the apartment saying, “You don’t really want me to talk.  This [sex] is what you want.” 

I laid on the floor in silence. Was he right? Eddie could stay hard for hours and it totally amazed me. With him I had learned how to climax and keep on having sex repeatedly.  We would fuck all day on Sundays and never leave the bed, except to eat.  Sometimes, we would eat in bed while we had sex.
During the summer of 1998, I worked in Washington, D.C. as a dresser for the national touring company of Ragtime.  I commuted from Baltimore or stayed with my brother in D.C., known as “Chocolate City.”  Sometimes Eddie would roll over on Amtrak or on a MARC commuter train to come see about me in D.C.  About twenty-five dressers worked on Ragtime. I made friends with a lot of them, but became close with only a few. One such dresser was Janet, with whom I formed a close bond during the show’s three-month run.  She was in her mid-forties, plain, and a little on the chubby side. She was from Jamaica, and when she got angry the other dressers would say, “You’d better watch out or she’ll put a curse on you!”  The other dressers who had worked with her previously said that she practiced voodoo.  This fascinated me.  She liked me because I didn’t call her names or make fun of her.  She often brought me coco (coconut) bread and other Jamaican treats to sample.
I approached Janet with my most daring proposition to date -- I asked her if she could help me get my man, Eddie, to fall in love with me. I needed a love spell.  After giving her fifty dollars, she gave me a list of things to purchase for a ritual.  I easily found the required $3.99 Florida perfume water and the special red love candles sold at a mystic candle store on Baltimore Street.  I also needed a piece of Eddie, like a piece of hair or a fingernail.  I then shared with Janet my secret -- I kept his sperm filled condoms in a zip locked bag in the freezer.  Why?  I wanted to keep a part of him for myself.  I was obsessed and possessed!  She agreed that the sperm was more powerful than any fingernail or lock of hair.
            I arrived at her house late one night, after the last show of the day.  It was a full moon.  She introduced me to her husband and explained that a male should do the ritual, since I wanted to make a man fall in love with me.  Her husband was a tall, chocolate brother, with a breathtaking muscular physique.  He was noticeably younger than his wife was.  Had she worked a spell on him?  I was curious, nervous, and excited as the couple led me into the basement of their brownstone. As I heard the noise of children running around upstairs, I descended the stairs, not knowing what to expect in the darkness.
            Besides the typical kids’ toys and boxes of stuff stored away, the basement looked no different than most. It held a makeshift area that included a shelf and altar, complete with candles. A metal basin was placed in the center of the floor and I was instructed to remove my clothes.  Janet then told me to stand in the shallow metal tub, then left me alone with her handsome husband and returned upstairs to their children. Any other time, undressing for a handsome man would have been an erotic experience for me, but on that night, my mission was Eddie.
            Candles flickered and sage burned as he poured the Florida water over my body. He took the sperm I had so carefully guarded and placed it and a picture of Eddie and me together on the altar in front of me.  He mixed some kind of powder in a bowl, which I lit with a candle before pouring the sperm into the concoction.  Although it was a hot summer night, I was shivering in the nude as he drenched me with the cool liquid and chanted some strange words I could not pronounce. He told me not to wash for twenty-four hours.  When I got home, I was to light a special red candle for love.  “Burn the patchouli-scented candle before you go to sleep,” were his parting instructions.

Every breath I take 
And each and every step I make 

Brings me closer, baby 

Closer to you 

And with each beat of my heart 
For every day we’re apart 
I’ll hunger for every wasted hour… 
Look out, ‘cause I’m gonna get you 

            I later learned that I had only completed the first phase of the spell.  Next, I would have to sacrifice a calf or a lamb.  At that point, I knew I could not go through with the rest of the ritual.  Why kill an innocent creature?  I just couldn’t do it.  Besides, where was I going to find a live lamb or cow in midtown Baltimore?  Janet explained that I could take a train to a farm in Northern Virginia and get the animal the following month on a full moon.  But I was getting in way above my head.

When I look back and see how much effort I put into that night, I ask myself, ”Why? How could I make someone love me when he didn’t love himself?” I convinced myself that we were perfect for each other. We looked so good together. People told us so. We were laying in the sand at a beach in New York once and a perfect stranger walked up to us and said what a great couple we made. Eddie thought I had paid the guy to say it! We tasted good together. We smelled good together. We even communicated in our own special language, our own private code. Eddie used to say that my life was like a television movie, and we would spend countless hours laughing over the casting of famous singers and actors as our family and friends. We’d then reference people, (including ourselves), by using the celebrity names we had chosen. In the movie of my life, Blair Underwood would play me, and Freddie Jackson would co-star as Eddie.

One Sunday after our weekly sexual ritual, Eddie lay naked across the bed and calmly told me he thought, “Whatever we had” had run its course. He explained to me that I needed to prepare myself for the ending. “I have always told you I was not in love. I’ve always considered you a special friend. I have always enjoyed spending time with you, until you made it feel like an obligation.”

“Why can’t we try again?”

“Dale, you have always tried to make this deeper than what it is. I don’t want to be in a relationship and that is what you have tried to make this thing we have.”

“No matter how you look at this, Eddie, this THING we have shared has been a relationship for two and a half years!”

“And I tried it your way. Now you need to accept what I want and let me go.”
Every effort to hold on to him only pushed him further away. I was like a heroin addict going through withdrawal. Meanwhile, whenever we would talk or whenever I saw Eddie on the street, I would beg for another chance. I was losing my self-esteem and Eddie’s respect.

Before we separated, I had noticed that his ankles were swelling, and I worried about his drinking and his health. After our break up, he started on medication for a diagnosis of high blood pressure. I kept thinking that I could save him and protect him from himself. I told his mother that I was concerned about Eddie mixing his alcohol with his prescription drugs. When Eddie learned about my little talk with his mother, he was infuriated. Whatever level of friendship I had maintained with him, I destroyed.

Gay church and Iyanla Vanzant tapes got me through those rough first few months. I finally decided I needed to find a way to heal from the breakup. I decided to do something really different. I decided to have my nipples pierced. After all, how else does a gay man really get over the love-lust of his life? I thought that the pain / pleasure of sterling steel through nipples should do it. I promised myself that the pain of losing Eddie would leave once the pain in my nipples stopped. However, in that moment, I gave myself permission to cry and wallow in my own hurt and depression.

One night, I ran into Eddie in a crowded bar on Park Avenue and forced my tongue down his throat. I longed to taste him again. He immediately took me outside and told me once again that it was over. He then left me out there on the curb as I cried to myself. Now that I think about it, I would break down anywhere and cry for days. I was Amtraking back and forth between Baltimore and New York City while hosting a shopping show. One day, while I was in the middle of a sell on live television, tears started running down my face and dripping onto the jewelry I was handling. My producer cut to a commercial and did his best to console me. How the crew got me through that four-hour live broadcast is a miracle.

Around that time, my brother introduced me to Unity Church. The organization, founded by former Motown singer Carl Bean, embraces gays and lesbians. I attended a service, and it was the first time I felt I belonged in a church. When Pastor Rainey Cheeks led the ritual of pouring homage to the elders, I could feel the presence of former loved ones who had gone on, like my grandmother and Gregory Nicholson, surrounding me with protection. A friend going through a similar breakup gave me tapes of the fabulous inspirational and motivational speaker Iyanla Vanzant. Her tapes got me through the long train rides between Baltimore and New York.

I needed to find a way to heal from the breakup. As you can tell by now, I usually look to music or movies for my answers. I’ve also gone shopping for a new pair of shoes or a new wardrobe. I could have taken a long cruise or I could have written a poem, a song, or a play. But I decided to do something really different: I decided to have my nipples pierced. After all, how else does a gay man really get over the love / lust of his life? I thought that the pain / pleasure of sterling steel through nipples should do it. Funny enough, I felt no pain when the guy pierced too far into my right nipple and got the circular ring stuck. He rushed out to get an assistant to help me, and I lay there bleeding with no fears or concerns. But my numbness wore off several hours later, so I took a shot of E&J and smoked a joint. The piercer told me that healing would take a few months. I promised myself that the pain of losing Eddie would leave once the pain in my nipples stopped. However, in that moment, I gave myself permission to cry and wallow in my own hurt and depression.

My dear friend, writer and director Darryl LeMont Wharton-Rigby, approached me about traveling to California to stage a play we had co-produced in Baltimore. It was just the change I needed. I immediately packed my bags, because I was more than ready to close the Baltimore chapter of my life and see what the west coast had to offer. Darryl and I decided to produce a farewell performance in Baltimore at the 14 Karat Café, a performance arts space located on West Saratoga Street. Three months had passed since my breakup with Eddie, but I sent a special invitation to him anyway. He surprised me by actually showing up. However, after the show, he did not stay to congratulate me or wish me well in my travels. I dared to think that he would see me in all my fame and glory and somehow realize that he would miss me and ask me to stay. I figured I would be strong enough to see him at that point, since my nipple piercing was healing pretty well. My final act of liberation and separation was flushing all his frozen condoms down the toilet. I was leaving “Charm City” Baltimore, a city I loved, and I needed to grow up, love myself, heal, and accept a failed relationship not as a mistake, but as a learning process that would make me a better person. Isn’t it ironic? We ignore who adores us and adore who ignores us. We hurt who loves us and we love who hurts us.

“This is for the brothers that ain't here!” As witnessed in the movie Cooley High. Cochise pours a few drops of liquor out the bottle before he drinks from it.

How do you celebrate the life of someone who loved to drink? You get drunk. A week later I am trying to put my sober thoughts down to purge the feelings inside. It started with the call early Saturday morning on the way to a photo shoot.

“Dale, I know you guys had not spoken in over 10 years, but I knew you would want to know, Eddie Jones was shot shortly after leaving the Eagle bar at a bus stop. He died at the hospital.”

It’s true, the last time I spoke or saw Eddie Jones it was 1999. We had spent two intense years in a relationship. One of the major reasons I moved to Los Angeles was to break the unhealthy cycle of being an enabler in a relationship with an alcoholic. He actually broke it off with me, the final straw was attempting to intervene on behalf of his health to his mother. He said I had crossed the final line.

“I am not an alcoholic! 
I am a drunk. Alcoholics go to meetings!”

He made us laminated cards that identified us as members of “The Ross Gallery.” We were co-curators for the Ross Gallery, which probably housed one of the most extensive, (and unique), collections of material on the Supremes and Diana Ross to be found anywhere. (The Ross Gallery was really just my living room filled with my Supremes memorabilia.) Nobody could convince me that I did not have real love, except Eddie.

When the opportunity arrived to produce my play in California, it was just the change I needed. I immediately packed my bags, because I was more than ready to close the Baltimore chapter of my life and see what the west coast had to offer. I was leaving “Charm City” Baltimore, a city I loved, and I needed to grow up, love myself, heal, and accept a failed relationship not as a mistake, but as a learning process that would make me a better person. The nipples healed, the pain ended. I did find a man who loved me as much as I loved him. I was a better partner to him because of what i had learned from my mistakes with Eddie.

When the news finally hit me that Eddie was really gone, I opened a bottle of vodka and started drinking toasts to him. I took out all the picture books I had of him and listened to all the Diana Ross & Supremes songs we loved so much. That following Monday I was scheduled to do a performance at a gay theater showcase in Santa Monica. I dedicated it to him. The irony of the lyrics did not even hit me until that night. I was doing a monologue about the church, homophobia, “real” hetro men versus gay men. The lines were written for me 15 years ago:

I was born gay. But what is my real crime? I'm not robbing people on the streets or selling drugs. I'm not a father who misses support payments. I've never killed anyone. I pay my bills on time; rent, taxes, car note. Hell, I'm employed. And you say I am not a man. Because of who I choose to love.

Eddie was shot on the streets of Baltimore by a “real” man, a real robber and a real killer.

BALTIMORE -- Baltimore police have arrested a man in two separate killings from last week. Isaac Truss, 23, faces several charges, including first-degree murder. Truss is accused of shooting a man to death inside a senior assisted living facility on Conway Street on Thursday and for killing another man at a bus stop on Fayette Street on Friday afternoon. "Homicide detectives caught up with him within hours after he committed his second murder in 24 hours. He was arrested. He confessed to those murders. The ballistics matched," said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. Police are looking at robbery as a motive in both cases. They said they identified Truss using CitiWatch crime camera footage.

Hey Eddie, like the guys in Cooley High, I'm pouring a lil sumtin for the brothas who ain't here!

 “Unrequited love is the most painful kind of love. If you can get over that, you can get over anything.” 



At last
Ooh, at last

My forever came today
When you walked into my life
And made my lonely life
A paradise

(From the song “Forever Came Today,” from Diana Ross & The Supremes’ Reflections album, 1968, 
composed by Brian Holland/Lamont Dozier/Edward Holland Jr.)

My Forever Came Today would describe what I felt when I met Greg, a sexy flight attendant, in April of 2004. Greg captured my heart and I was flying high on cloud nine.  Who would have thought that our brief internet conversation would lead to a two-year relationship, filled with all the highs and lows of a twenty-year marriage?  Gregory Wayne Jackson, Jr. and I initially met online and, after a few days of chatting and against my better judgment, I gave him my phone number. This is not to say I am a prude; I have met guys online before and have made lots of hook ups off the internet.  But I generally don’t pursue men from out of town and Greg lived in Detroit.  My buddies often told me that trying to do a long distance relationship is way too much work. My other hesitation in establishing anything serious with Greg was his age.  He was seventeen years my junior.  My God – there was only a three-year age difference between his mother and me! 

Before meeting in person, Gregory and I spoke several times on the phone and had really great conversations. I found him warm, funny, and intelligent, way beyond his years. And his voice was so deep that it made me melt.  I learned that he was originally from Los Angeles and that his family still lived in California. He had an eight-year-old son named Justice who lived near Greg’s hometown of San Bernardino. Justice was the Love Child Greg had conceived with a former high school sweetheart. Around our fourth phone conversation, Greg told me he would soon be traveling to Los Angeles for his son’s birthday, so we could arrange to meet then. The meeting did not happen, however, due to “baby mama drama.”  Instead, we spoke on the phone again, and I tried to be a good listening ear as he explained the miscommunication that had occurred with his son’s mother.

I got a pleasant surprise the following week -- Gregory had a lay over in Los Angeles and could meet me before he had to fly out again.  He was staying at a nearby hotel, so I drove there with anticipation.  When I saw him, I was immediately impressed. He had previously sent me a photo of himself online, so I already had an idea of what he looked like.  He was definitely cute, and I was secretly relieved that he was not as thin as he had appeared in his picture.  Like I said before, I like a little thickness around the waist, and I found his thickness very sexy.  There was no awkwardness when we saw each other. We fell right into a natural groove as I relaxed across the bed in his hotel room and watched television. Like Eddie Murphy’s character in the film Boomerang, I glanced down at Greg’s wide, flat feet to make a final evaluation and thought, “Hmm.  Never found flat feet attractive, but this guy might be the exception.”
Greg had many traits of my previous lovers. He was freckle-faced, short, balding, and bowlegged, like Eddie. He was bossy, sang like a soul crooner, and enjoyed material things, like Andre. He was very discreet and not comfortable as an out gay man, like Larry.  Just like Frizell, he was going to school and making a better life for himself. Also, he had a child, like the children I’d wanted with Judy. 

I was not looking for a relationship when I met Greg. There were too many variables at play, namely the distance and the age difference.  I was very logical in my thought process, but love doesn’t work by logic.  Somewhere around his second or third visit, I stopped talking to any other interesting guys I’d found in the Los Angeles area. My days centered around phone calls to Greg, scheduled on east coast time.  I guess what made our romance so passionate was that every time we’d see each other, it was like he had just come back from a long trip. In reality, that is exactly what it was. Greg was always coming back from a long trip. Absence is what makes the heart grow fonder, and we grew fonder of each other.
Greg loved yoga and swimming. We had a pool at my apartment building but I never used it -- I didn’t know how to swim.  Greg taught me how to swim and how to stretch my body in the warm water, as we basked in the Los Angeles sun.  We loved the water and it became very erotic for us. We could shower together for hours. We would often laugh about how long we spent in the shower the first night we made love; I was expecting the hotel manager to knock on the door to find out if we had drowned!

Another love we shared revealed itself in an interesting way, one cozy evening at my apartment.  Gregory saw a poster in my bedroom for the movie Sparkle, and I told him it was my favorite film. 

 “Your big sister can't fly on one wing,” he said, deadpan, quoting actress Lonette McKee from the 1976 movie. 
I was ecstatic that he had gone right into character.  I responded with Irene Cara’s line. 
“It's funny -- one brain in this room, thinking for two people.”
He laughed, seeing he had met his match.
“Sister, baby,” he returned, with all the passion and drama of Mary Alice’s character, “He’s just gonna drag you to the gutter with him.”
I lay across the bed and unzipped my pants. “I want you to crawl for me,” I commanded, giving my best bad boy impersonation of the Satin character, played by Tony King.
Greg crawled on top of my chest and quoted, “I didn’t drop a dime on you, but I wish I had.” He started licking inside my ear and it was about to be on. I moaned, “Dayemm -- you sound just like Philip Michael Thomas.”

Greg just smiled and said, “I should -- he is my uncle.”
If I hadn’t been lying down, I would have fallen down.  Philip Michael Thomas played the character Stix in Sparkle, but was most famous for his character Tubbs on the television series Miami Vice.  I will never forget his love scene with Pam Grier on that series, or his love scene with Freda Payne in the 1973 movie Book of Numbers.  I had fantasized about that man when I was a teenager.
Fulfilling one of my long time romantic fantasies, Greg was the first man ever to sing to me.  For a short time, he had been a background singer for Teena Marie, and he had a gritty, soulful voice that always reminded me of John Legend or David Ruffin.  I used to beg my former lover, Andre, to sing to me, and he always refused.  Unlike Andre, Greg had confidence in his talents.  He had so much passion and a drive to succeed at all things in life.  Sometimes he had issues around his self-image, but I always reminded him how attractive he was, inside and out.
Gregory was sexy.  He was smart.  He had tattoos and piercings, like me.  He had a son who I adored.  He could kick back and have a drink or smoke a blunt like a homeboy, and not go overboard with it.  With him I felt chemistry and passion. I felt like I was with a man who wanted me just as much as I wanted him. Would I learn from all my past mistakes? Could I make it work where I had failed in all other relationships? With the exceptions of Judy and Eddie, all of my other lovers had been older than me. There I was, embarking on a relationship with a man almost two decades younger!  I knew it was a risk, but I had to take it.

Greg did have one piece of information that he waited to share with me, something he had held back.  We were sitting in the parking lot of a drug store when he looked at me and said, “I need to tell you something.”
I prepared myself for the worst. My heart was already involved, so I hoped that whatever he had to tell me would not be too devastating. I thought, “What could it be? AIDS?”  At that point, I did not care if it were AIDS.
He slowly continued.  “Dale, remember when I told you I was involved with the church?”
“Sure,” I responded. “You told me you went to New York last week to hear a friend preach.”
“Well, the part I left out was that I also preached in New York.”
“As in, you are a minister?” I asked.
 “I usually don’t tell guys up front ‘cause it can be kind of a turn off,” he explained.
My mind flashed to all the negative experiences I’d had in my past with men of the cloth.  (Most of them I purposely left out of these memoirs and saved for my next book on one-night erotic encounters.)  I turned back to Greg.
“I need to know one thing,” I said.
“Sure, Dale.”
“Does your love of God make you feel any less of a gay man?  Will it impact how you relate to us as a couple?”
“Absolutely not,” he responded with confidence.
“So, you aren’t one of those gay ministers who preaches against homosexuality, then tries to have the choir director after service?”
He laughed.  “Those are a lot of questions. You only get to ask one.” He leaned over and kissed me. “I am the same man you see in or out of the pulpit. But I would like to know -- when was the last time you went to church?”
I told Greg about my experiences with religion and how I had visited Unity Church.  Surprisingly, Greg gradually stopped going to church shortly after that conversation.  In fact, he started putting down the concept of church.  Ironically, around that time, I found a church home that made me very happy.  It was a non-denominational church in Los Angeles called Agape, and it welcomed and embraced all people of any religion, gay or straight.  I felt at home at Agape.  I took Greg to visit and he made an odd facial expression during service, saying it was a “bit much” of everything.  There were times when I felt his immaturity made him judgmental.
While visiting Greg in Detroit, I ran across a video of him preaching a sermon, and decided to take it back to Los Angeles with me to watch. When Greg found the tape in my bag, he refused to let me watch it.  I thought it was odd, but I honored his request.  I knew he had some religious demons he was fighting, but I also believed that in time he would work through them. He explained to me that his struggle wasn’t with his relationship with God; it was with a pastor who had driven a wedge between him and his mother, one that had taken years to repair. It was then that I learned that Greg’s anger could cause him to hold a grudge for a very long time.
Overall, I felt I had finally found a healthy relationship.  Greg inspired me in so many ways.  I embraced the church again, after having had so many disappointments with religion. Through Greg, I also grew closer to my family.  His commitment to staying close to his own made me realize that I did not keep in touch with mine as often as I should.  I had become very distant from them after I moved to Los Angeles, not because I did not love them, but simply because I had become lazy about making an effort to stay in communication with them.  In fact, it was during my relationship with Greg that I grew closer to my mother.  She ended up in the hospital with her health at risk due to a blood clot, and Greg flew me out to Delaware to visit her.  Greg himself kept in touch with my brother and sister, via emails and texts.

Visits to various members of his own family often filled Greg’s trips to Los Angeles. All of them treated me like I was one of their own. The fact that his mother and stepfather were also ministers never seemed to be a problem, and it never stopped them from embracing me. On one trip, we visited his grandmother and I saw family pictures of Philip Michael Thomas as a child. Everyone in his family teased his grandmother and me, because we both shared a love of all things leopard print.  Holidays became fun family times. I think I even brought Greg out of the closet some, too.  One Christmas at a crowded family gathering, he called for all of his brothers and sisters and their spouses to gather for a family portrait.  Although he didn’t have to, he included me and his sister’s lesbian lover in the picture. His stepfather’s mother was shocked, but it did not bother anyone else. I was proud. I loved him so much and my heart ached every time we had to part at an airport. 
I took Greg to his first Diana Ross concert and he fell in love with her when she sang “Reach Out I’ll Be There.” He got me into watching the Detroit Pistons and, although I knew nothing about basketball, I learned the players’ names and could soon give Greg a play-by-play over the phone.  It became my job to describe the outcomes of games he had to miss due to his work schedule. The creative things you learn to do when you have a lover who lives two thousand miles away -- thank God for web cams and Verizon person-to-person free minutes!
Whenever we could get away together, we did.  We took lots of trips, including overseas, and he showed me Amsterdam where we sailed on the canals and visited the Sexmuseum.  We had fun purchasing weed from the “little coffee houses,” and we walked the red light district and waved to the prostitutes in the windows.  Greg also loved taking cruises and our first cruise was to Nassau.  Later on we sailed to Mexico, and included our family and friends on that trip. 
The first time I visited Greg in Detroit, home of the “Motown Sound,” I had romantic expectations of a city filled with “doo-wop” tunes coming from guy groups hudled under street lamps.  One night, Greg drove me to “Hitsville,” the building where Motown originated.  It was late and with the building closed, I walked the yard where some of my favorite Motown artists had hung out decades before.  I peeked into the windows where Diana, Mary, and Florence had become stars. However, my dreams were of a Motown that no longer existed. What I actually saw was the city of the movie 8 Mile, an economically depressed war zone where thousands of people were losing their jobs due to a shrinking automobile industry.  What I found most amazing while driving through certain neighborhoods was that I would see a perfectly new home sitting right next to a house that appeared as if it had burned down during the 1967 riots.
There were times when I really felt like my relationship with Greg would last forever.  Those moments were strongest when Greg’s son, Justice, was with us. At those times, I felt paternal and maternal.  A huge highlight was when all three of us attended the At The Beach festival (ATB) in 2005.  ATB is the annual Los Angeles black gay pride event, and it takes place over the Fourth of July weekend.  I was working a booth for the LOGO network, getting the word out about the first all gay cable channel. Greg had brought Justice to L.A. to stay with us that week,  and because Greg would be gone for a few days on a flight, Justice and I would have some time to bond.  Justice had his moments that week, as most kids do, testing to see how far he could get away with things.  Despite that, we had a good week together.  Being that Justice was an Aries like myself, I understood him.  We had a wonderful time shopping for a beach tent, and I let him pick out swimming trunks for his dad. 
Going to gay pride with your lover is one thing, but going to gay pride with your lover and his son is the most amazing experience I’ve ever known.  I felt like I was at a gay family reunion.  Justice immediately made friends with the kids of a lesbian couple camped out next to our tent and Greg helped judge the sexy body contest.  Even though I was required to work at the LOGO booth all day, all three of us still found time to have fun moments together throughout the event.
            That night, Greg and I shook the last of the sand off of Justice’s clothes, exhausted and exhilarated from the day.  After he took his bath and we tucked him in, I grabbed Greg, held on to him, and cried. I wanted to remember that day forever, because life couldn’t get any more magical than that. I had the man I loved, his beautiful love child, and I knew that together we could make such sweet music.

Hello, happiness
Thanks to you, my search has ended
And I want the world to see
How gently love has shined on me
With everlasting love
That I’d been forever dreaming of

When we first met, Greg was in the middle of buying a new townhome in Taylor, Michigan, just outside the city of Detroit.  I was moving into a beautiful single family home in Inglewood, near Los Angeles. He was there for me when I moved into my place, and he even helped me paint the walls.  In turn, I flew to Detroit during a snowstorm and helped him move his belongings out of storage and into his new townhouse.  He was determined to move into his new place, come hell or high water.  It was a personal achievement for him and I shall always treasure that I was there to experience it with him.
We were very different in how we decorated our homes. I had photos of loved ones in every room.  Besides my Supremes collection, which covered the entire living room, I had other framed posters and paintings on the rest of my walls. There was a different color for each room, and my bedroom had leopard wallpaper trim around its edges. Greg, on the other hand, had his house painted grey.  He kept everything monochromatic and each room was the same color.  He kept a few framed portraits on his desk, but hung no pictures on his walls.  I was curious as to what decorative compromises we would have made had we lived together.  However, with Greg still living in Michigan and me still in California, it was fine that our tastes were like night and day.
On the date of our first anniversary, even though we still lived in different cities, we filed for domestic partnership.  I thought of it as a big deal.  I framed the certificate and proudly displayed it in my, which I started to think of as “our”, home.  That was a big step for me, since it was like making a total commitment to one person. Greg did not see it the same way. Although he supported the view that gay people should have the right to marry, he personally did not believe in marriage for himself. To him, our partnership certificate was simply a piece of paper that allowed me to share in his employee health benefits and also granted me flight privileges on Northwest Airlines.
We led very busy lives. He flew many domestic and international flights and was also going back to college.  I was working for Paramount Pictures in marketing and promotions, but was still auditioning for projects on the side.  In the beginning, Greg did not push the issue of me moving to Detroit because he knew how much I loved working for Paramount.  Moreover, he was able to take advantage of certain perks that came with me being in the Hollywood loop.  I remember how thrilled he was when I took him to the premiere of the movie Ray, starring Jamie Foxx.  We ran into Tracee Ellis Ross and Regina King, and Greg chatted with them as if they were old girlfriends.

At Paramount Pictures, I was the executive assistant to the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Promotions.  One day I got the news that she was being “retired” after twenty years.  As is typical in business environments, when one executive is let go and another is brought in, the new one usually brings their own staff.  Such was the case in this situation.  However, the new Senior Vice President was gracious and allowed me to stay for a month to look for other work before she let me go.
When he discovered my pending lay off, Greg naturally assumed that I would want to move to Detroit since I had no real ties to L.A.  To be honest, I had considered it.  The problem was that during the time I spent in Detroit looking into job possibilities there, I found that the opportunities for people with my kind of experience were little to none. 
As my final days at Paramount approached, I resumed looking for “extra” work to make sure I had some source of income.  On my very last day of work, I got a call from Christopher Gray Casting regarding background work for the television series Barbershop, which filmed on the Paramount lot.  They hired me to appear in a flashback scene with a child, to be photographed from the waist down.  “NO problem!” I said.  Well, I arrived early the next day, and instead of entering the gate reserved for the office workers, I entered the gate designated for production workers and headed to the sound stages. “Isn’t life ironic?” I thought.  “Of all places, I am here, back at the Paramount lot to work on a production, when just yesterday I was taking phone messages in an office on the third floor business building!” 
I arrived on set and met the director of the episode, a sweet little woman named Lee Shallat Chemel.  In my scene, my job was to stand in front of the television and block the little kid from seeing it.  Lee apologized for my having to stand there, still, while the camera framed the kid's face. I joked with her and explained my days of having to stand still as a nude model.  Lee found that funny, and asked me to read the lines of the kid’s father off camera, so that the child would have someone to bounce lines off of.
Before I knew it, Lee had contracted me to be a guest star in the episode.  She loved my voice!  She introduced me to one of the executive producers of the show, John Ridley, who added lines for me into the script. When they shot my close up that next hour, I recited my lines and received a standing ovation by the crew.  Lee gave me a big hug and thanked me for being so professional.
That job was such an amazing experience and it taught me a lesson about myself.  So many times, I don't give myself enough credit.  I always shrug off compliments about my voice from friends. I’ve always felt that they, like my mom, are biased, so naturally they are going to say that I have talent.  But this lady had never met me, and she saw the same thing in me that people had been telling me was there all along.  And she gave me a chance.

That following week, I was booked as Laurence Fishburne’s photo double for the movie Mission: Impossible III.  Then I was selected to appear on a reality show for the Travel Channel. I called Greg from the make-up trailer while on Mission: Impossible III and said, “Baby, can you believe it?  I got laid off on Friday, then I turn around and book three gigs in a row!”
“That’s wonderful,” he said, with a lack of enthusiasm.  He was trying to be happy for me, but his disappointment showed through.  In his mind, a steady stream of work in Los Angeles would push me further away from Detroit.
I felt his pain and asked him, “What kind of mate would I be if I moved to Detroit with no means of taking care of myself?” 
“We are a couple,” he insisted.  “If I had to take care of you until you found something, at least we would be in the same city.”
“I am not going to put that kind of strain on you,” I said.  “Especially since Justice will be moving in with you soon.  It is not fair to you.”
After that conversation, although we had made a commitment to speak with each other every day, the issue of where I was going to live made our talks cold and brief.  Things grew tense between us and our relationship quickly approached “crisis” mode.  We took a few days off from each other, to think about whether or not we would be moving forward in our journey together.  I began writing my thoughts about us in my journal, the journal that would later become the basis for this memoir:

March 26, 2006
He sends me an email. Then he calls. He is willing to give me more time to think, but when I ask him about flying to Detroit to talk in person, he questions why a phone call or email isn’t sufficient. My blood starts boiling and I take a breath to explain that we deserve the opportunity to speak in person.  There are times I feel like I am talking to a brick wall. Yesterday it was hard not picking up the phone to call him. He has become such an ingrained part of my everyday pattern.
I am feeling the entire gamut of emotions right now: failure, anger, depression, relief, fear, emptiness. I put everything into these last two years.  When we last spoke, I reminded him of all the things I loved in him.  I also reminded him of all the things I know are against the success of our relationship.  Greg is a physical gambler -- he likes the casinos.  But in life, he plays it safe. That’s where I gamble. I gamble with life. I gambled on this relationship working. I knew the odds were against us. I know there is a seventeen-year age difference. I know he is a Cancer and I am an Aries. Every astrology book, gay and straight, said that our relationship would be an uphill climb. I know we live two thousand miles apart, but I let my heart guide me. That’s the inner gambler in me.
I gambled that he would not wake up unhappy and want to end it all.  Greg tries to be mature, God bless him.  He wants to be grown up, like all his older friends. He sees all the things that grown ups have and wants them for himself.  He wants a house, a great job that makes lots of money, and he wants to settle down in a relationship.  Only problem is, he doesn’t want to make all the sacrifices that come with having what he wants.  He doesn’t want to have to work a job he hates, or live through hard times for long. He doesn’t want to deal with too much stress, or take criticism and learn to grow with a person. He doesn’t have patience.  In many ways, he’s like a kid.
If you knew all these things, Dale, why did you let your heart open up?  I guess it was because I really thought he was as mature as he appeared.

In an effort to strengthen our relationship, I decided to go back to school to make myself attractive to the general job market.  I felt that if I had some marketing and business credentials, I could improve my chances of getting work outside of Los Angeles and outside of the entertainment industry.  I set out a long-range plan and proposed that I work on my associate’s degree while Greg finished his master’s.  Meanwhile, we’d do research to find a mutual city in which to live, where both of us would have good work opportunities.  Greg’s response to my proposal was less than favorable.  “That would mean at least another two years of this long distance relationship!” he complained.
A few days later, the shit finally hit the fan. Greg sent me a text message, saying that he was finished with our relationship and that I needed to move on and find someone who could satisfy my needs.
The way Greg had handled things kind of left me in shock for the rest of the day.  I was in a state of denial at first, not believing that I would get dismissed through a TEXT message.  Nevertheless, I had to admit -- everything leading up to that moment had told me to let things end.
As we approached the eve of our second anniversary, instead of celebrating, we started the process of dissolving our domestic partnership.  It was more painful than my divorce from my ex-wife, Judy.  I would miss Greg and also his son, who I had come to love like my very own child.  Justice’s mother used to say that Justice had “two gay dads,” and she always welcomed me whenever I went to pick him up.  That little boy loved unconditionally.  He would wake up early on Saturday mornings and snuggle between Greg and me and watch cartoons. I loved having my little gay family.  Justice asked Greg if he was still allowed to keep in contact with me, and I felt like someone had ripped my soul open.
            The day I filed for dissolution of our domestic partnership, I went to the bank to remove Greg’s name from my account. While there, I ran across an interesting post tacked up at the teller’s workstation.  When I read it, I cried uncontrollably. The teller consoled me, and gave me a copy to keep on my wall at home.  I still refer to it whenever I feel hurt.  It read:

“Sometimes, God lets you go through pain so you can withstand the weather when the storm comes. Don’t be angry ‘cause that person cheated on you. It can be for the best.”

“Sometimes, one might be too busy for you.  Don’t be angry.  It’s just God’s plan preparing you to learn how to be alone and love yourself.  When one dies and she or he did not deserve to, don’t be angry. It’s just God’s plan to bring that person to heaven.”


I think Greg and I both saw that, no matter how we tried to tweak it, the distance was wearing on us. We wanted too many different things out of life to make our relationship work in the same year or in the same time zone.  We both knew, deep down, that we meant the other no harm. 
Our separation was difficult and it took Greg and me a minute to pull it together.  But he and his family made a conscious effort to keep me involved in their lives. I was slow coming around, but Greg’s mom kept calling and emailing me, until I finally spoke to her.  She told me, “Just because you and Greg broke up don’t mean you are not a part of this family. Do you understand me, Mop Bucket?”  Greg’s mom had created her own nickname just for me.
Justice moved to Detroit that year to live with Greg, but on Father’s Day, Greg flew to Los Angeles and left Justice with me for the weekend. It was the greatest gift I had ever been given. In most of my gay relationships, when it was over, all contact ended. It was as if the other person never existed. I was so proud to have had a healthy relationship where I survived the breakup without making the other person completely disappear. 

I meant you no harm
I never meant to make you cry
You are the only one I’ve ever loved in my life
And though it’s hard for me to show it
I’ve got to let you know it
That darling I love you more each day
My words got in the way

(From the song “I Meant You No Harm,” from the Dreamgirls Original Broadway Cast Album, 1982, composed by Tom Eyen/Henry Krieger)