1 day ‘till 30…and to ten years of fabulous wonderment, an ending.

May 19, 2010

Oscar Wilde wrote that life imitates art. At least, that’s what Wikipedia tells me. For the final blog post of my twenties, I’ve chosen to look not to the future, nor the present, but, instead to look to the past. No matter what words I would use to capture the last decade – the friends (old and new), the dates (both good and bad), the break-ups, the getting back-togethers, the moves (DC, Baltimore, and back to DC again), the successes, the failures, the weight gain, the weight loss, the faith community, the surprises, the job changes, the comic books, the lowest lows, the highest highs, the high ceilings, the deepest loves – it would never be enough. Thus, I’ve decided to reflect on this past decade, a decade of transformative growth, not through words but instead through images.

But before I get to that I’d like to share that this blogging experience has been both a challenge and a delight. I can say that the exercise of writing daily has not been consistently easy. There are days I was convinced I would have nothing to write about and, only at the 11th hour, an angel would whisper in my ear some random meandering to unleash upon the internet via WordPress. It’s not easy putting yourself out there, certainly not on a daily basis. In the end, on my last day of 29, I feel that I succeeded. Though it’s only been 30 days, I can honestly say this experiment has gotten me to switch gears, look closer at the daily world in which I traverse, and to appreciate people, experiences, and just life in general all the more.

My twenties are ending but the rest of my life is starting. My thirties will be, just, fabulous. The evidence for that are the countless people and experiences who shaped my twenties, and continue to shape me into the person I am today. I could show a never-ending slideshow to illustrate this but unfortunately, only so many pictures are saved on my laptop, and God knows how many files I can upload to WordPress.

Oh, and about that life imitating art piece? Well, what would a Joey DeSanto blog post be without a musical accompaniment? To close out my twenties, I’d like to pull from the wise and inspiring words of one Ms. Carrie Bradshaw…

Since Youtube is forcing one to go to their main page to watch the Sex and the City TV show final scene, here’s some background music intended for this post…

Later that day, I got to thinking about relationships…

There are those that open you up to something new and exotic…

Those that are old and familiar…

Those that bring up lots of questions…

Those that bring you somewhere unexpected…

Those that bring you far from where you started…

But the most exciting, challenging, and significant relationship of all…is the who you have with yourself.

And if you find someone to love the you, you love. Well? That’s just fabulous.

2 days ‘till 30…my coming out speech to University of Maryland graduates

May 18, 2010

On my 30th birthday, I will be delivering the University of Maryland, College Park commencement address to the graduating class of 2010. Ok, fine, that’s a massive stretch but in reality I will be speaking in front of a room of about 120 people during the university’s LGBT graduation ceremony. You see one of my current volunteer hats in life is to serve as the chair for the university’s LGBT alumni club, Lambda Pride. This is a role in which I currently throw an annual holiday party and that I’m looking to expand. For instance, I’m currently coordinating a GLBT alumni table for the Capitol Pride Festival in mid-June and addressing the 35 or so LGBTA Terrapin graduates. Go me! I rule!

The last time I had to give a speech during a graduation ceremony in the Stamp Student Union it was 2006, I was 25 pounds heavier, and possibly feeling the effects of a rum and diet coke my stepfather made to calm my nerves. While I’m tempted to include that comical reflection in my remarks, I’ll simply get it out of my system by including it within the confines of this blog. Check! The draft of what I’m planning to say is as follows. Constructive feedback welcome, as are phone calls alerting me to what I’m saying is akin to professional suicide.

“On behalf of Lambda Pride, the University of Maryland, College Park LGBT alumni club, it is my privilege to congratulate you on this milestone in your life. Interestingly enough today marks somewhat of a milestone of my own. You see, today I have officially entered what is to some a frightening era. To some it marks the beginning of the end. Yes, it’s true. As of today, I, Joey DeSanto, two time UMD graduate, am officially 30-years-old.

While that event is a special one for me, I fully recognize today, especially in this space, it’s not about me. It’s about you – the graduates. Yet, I cannot think of a better, more appropriate birthday present, than to come home to Maryland and recognize those of you attending Lavender Graduation. As I mentioned a few moments ago, I’m a proud two-time UMD graduate. One might then assume that this is my third Lavender Graduation. That couldn’t be farther than the truth. This is actually my first Lavender Graduation.

Back in my day, which really wasn’t that long ago as I’m talking about 2002 and 2006, I didn’t have the self-confidence, the bravery, or the pride in myself to sit here as a graduate. Your being here is a celebration of the hard work you’ve done these past years. It is a time of joyful, perhaps bittersweet transitions, as you enter into the next phase of your lives. It is also, very truly, an act of bravery. In being publicly recognized here you are fully celebrating your graduation not just a graduate but as a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, or Allied graduate. And, in doing so, you are leaving this fine institution as a more authentic, and complete, person. In doing so, you are leaving this institution, a better place.

You are going forward into the larger world to make impacts both large and small. As you do, I implore you not to forget the people you met at Maryland who shaped you – your favorite club advisor, the fantastic professor who made you want to go to class, the crush who floored you when they poked you on Facebook. All of those people matter. They all contributed to defining who you are today sitting in this ballroom, about to turn the page on a new chapter in your life.

These people, they all impacted you. As you move forward, I encourage you to think about the students not yet in these seats. The current GLBT students who’ve yet to graduate, or the closeted high school kid sitting in his bedroom in New York looking forward to the promise college may bring. You can honestly shape their experience and their future here. I can’t offer you the one definitive path to do this. I can encourage you to give back, in whatever way you can, to this wonderful institution through Lambda Pride. Giving back may be simply signing up for Lambda Pride via the alumni association, joining our Facebook group, volunteering your time at the Capitol Pride Festival Booth, coming up with your own event, and yes, donating of your financial resources to benefit a current student. Whatever way is best suited for you, I encourage you do it. It helps. It makes an impact, just as your experience here has been impacted by others.

So with that, I thank you, and congratulate you. Thank you for giving me the birthday present of attending my very first Lavender Graduation, and congratulations on this very worthy milestone of your own.”

3 days ‘till 30…we can be heroes, just for one day

May 17, 2010

I translate life through comic books. Surprised? Not so much. For instance, one time Jason was trying to describe the act of pureeing a particular food item. Over the course of listening to him describe this process, I did the predictable and completely blanked out. In a moment of sincere honestly, I then called myself on it.

Joey: “I just completely stopped paying attention to what you were saying.”

Jason: “OK. I if took a comic book and put in this blender, I would puree it.”

My response may have been an expression of horror in why one would take a blender to a comic book but the point had been made, and my attention was kept.

So, tonight, Jason and I were talking about us, our dynamics and how we interact, relate, and other fun facts. To make sense of this I, again, took the predictable route and made some comic book parallels. In this case, Batman and Robin portrayed the leads.

Ok, yes, one is the main character and one is the sidekick BUT aren’t we all the main characters of our own storylines? We have supporting characters and sidekicks who are integral to the story, and define us as characters. That doesn’t make them any less important. Who is Clark Kent without Lois Lane, or Peter Parker without Mary Jane? Where’s the fun in X-men without the head-butting of Cyclops and Wolverine? Thus, let me briefly examine Jason and Joey through the lens of the original dynamic duo, Batman and Robin.

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4 days ‘till 30…a reflection on running my first 10k (accompanied by my playlist from the race)

May 16, 2010

Today, I ran what would be the first 10k of my life, and the last of my twenties. I realize that I could start referring to every mundane act this week as the last “fill in the blank” of my twenties. Hey, Georgetown Valet, this is the last load of laundry I’m dropping off in my twenties. Hey, comic book store guy, this is the last time I’ll buy comics in my twenties. Hey, bubble tea lady, this is the last time I’ll order a mango slushie bubble tea in my twenties. The possibilities, they are endless!

I arose from my slumber around 6:40 a.m. this morning, threw on some acceptable jogging apparel, and metroed to Union Station to pick my racing bib for the Capitol Hill Classic. The race was a 10k (6.2 miles) through the Capitol Hill neighborhood, around RFK Stadium, down Independence Avenue past the Capitol and then back up that beast of a hill, with a finish where the race started. Approaching the school being used for check-in I ran into my friend, Bryan, and shortly afterwards met up with my racing buddy du jour, Tim.

As the starting time of 8:30 a.m. approached, several thoughts went through my mind. “Don’t go out too hard in the beginning”, ”Should I go to the bathroom one more time?”, and perhaps most importantly, “Why the hell am I doing this instead of sitting on my balcony reading the paper?” Yet, there I was, looking to spend the last days of my twenties doing something new and challenging. Not really sure of why though.

The race started a few minutes after 8:30. We were near the first third of the 3,000 plus people registered for the event. As I started out, I kept my first half mile somewhat slower than normal. My main concern was feeling the competitive streak and going out way too hard in the beginning. Lord knows my competitive side can take over to race people who don’t realize I’m racing them, only to land me with some serious fatigue by mile 3. This was a 10k though, and not a 5k, and I was damned if I wasn’t going to finish.

Still, I found that initial mile a little slow, and well, there were some guys passing the main group. Perhaps I would pick it up a little to a regular pace. “You’re going to regret this, Joey DeSanto”. As RFK Stadium neared, I was staying strong at a regular pace and falling into my groove. “This isn’t bad at all. I wonder how far we’ve gone.” Just as I think this I pass a sign reading 2 Mile Mark.

“Wait, a second. Does that mean I just ran two miles or I’m starting my second mile? Do I have four more miles left? Are my knees going to hurt? Oh look, Toy Story 3 is being advertised on the stadium. Did that guy just check me out? Focus!”

As I finish rounding the stadium, I’m still in my groove. The cheering strangers alongside the street are quite helpful. I also thought it would be terribly dull to sit alongside a road and cheer on racers. What’s the point in yelling for strangers? To my surprise, it was proved a boost to my stamina, especially the little kids cheering for people.

I’m now approaching the south end of the Capitol. I’m still thinking how cool is it complete strangers cheer me on. It would be great to have some familiar faces in the crowd but who am I going to subject to watching me run by at 9 in the morning on a Sunday? That’s just a form of cruelty to some. I’m thinking this when I realize that it doesn’t matter how familiar or unfamiliar the faces are. The answer to my question of, “why the hell am I doing this?” dawns on me somewhere in mile 3 in the shadow of the Capitol Building. I’m doing this for me. I’m doing this because I can do this on my own. I can do this on my own. This thought hops right out of my head and in front of my face as my playlist changes to the next song.

Yup, music from Rocky. I’m staying at a moderately fast pace, passing others, charged by my revelation and staying fueled by the music in my ears. The song choice makes me a running cliché (literally) but I don’t care. This feels good and I’m on track to finishing this thing strong. “Don’t overdo it” a voice inside me tells myself. “I’m not,” I reply, beginning the decent down Independence Avenue.

I take the downward slope of the hill lightly looking ahead to where the race bends left and eventually turns around. “This hill is going to be a beast to run up”, I think to myself. I keep pushing myself forward at a steady pace, not overdoing it for fear of breaking down my return lap up the hill. The song I’m listening to starts to end as I’m making the ascent back up Independence Avenue. “Shit. Is my playlist over already? I need all the energy I have left to get back up this thing and finish the race.” The next song starts…

Great. Now I’m a running, gay, cliché’ (literally x 2). To compliment this observation, my pushing myself forward has now brought me to being directly behind a woman running in a frilly, purple tutu. Surely, this is God’s way of keeping my humor in check so my knees don’t give out. I’m making it back up the hill painlessly and in quicker time that I had imagined. Nearing the top of the hill and rounding the corner, the houses bare the familiar look of the ones near the start of the race. I see a sign up ahead on the right reading Mile 6. I’m almost done.

The Spice Girls. Goofy? Sure. Yet, oddly comforting in that the music of my late teens is keeping me afloat towards the finish line of my late twenties. Knowing that I have yet to tap into my energy reserves, I start to really push myself. I begin to sprint as I see a sign for 2nd Street. The finish line is at 5th and I can really flash through these next three blocks. And, I do. I pass others in front of me and approach the finish line. The clock ahead still reads under 50 minutes. I notice someone out of my periphery to the left, sprinting as well. “Oh no, sorry, this is my dramatic finish.” I stay in front of him and pass the banner labeled Finish.

“That was easy”, I think to myself as I grab water and a banana. I’m officially experiencing a runner’s high and I’m proud of myself for completing my first 10k, and for doing it for me. Again, if I can push myself in this way, I wonder what other ways I can push myself. A thought to ponder during my next race perhaps?

5 days ’till 30…who woulda thunk it?

May 15, 2010

Friday afternoon I got to see my friend, Rick, graduate from undergrad from George Washington University with his BBA. Rick and I got off to a rocky start about a year ago and have had our share of bumps along the road. I can say now that regardless of the journey, seeing my friend smile, and with his family, made me genuinely happy. It also got me thinking about milestones and formal points of significance in my own life. (Sorry, Rick, that’s your only cameo in today’s blog post. Congratulations.)

Graduations are, no doubt, very special days and important markers in our life. I remember graduating Yorktown High School twelve (gulp) years  ago and thinking, “How could one ever forget people and memories from high school?” Surely, I didn’t know everyone in my graduating class but I knew everyone’s name. How could I forget “snarfing “milkshakes in the Yorktown Diner, making out/breaking up/making out with Joanna M., the thrill of finally beating those stuck-up, head-shaved-for-regular-meets, Tappan Zee boys in the pool, or showing up every weekend in Karen Tisel’s living room and partaking in some god-awful blue liquor? Speaking of the latter, I miss you, Gus. I didn’t really like dogs but you were always good to me.

This was my thinking in mid-1998 as I was leaving New York State to venture below the Mason Dixon line to some foreign place whose main recognizable quality to me was its red brick buildings featured in the movie, St. Elmo’s Fire, known as the University of Maryland. Flash forward to modern day and I’m getting Facebook friend requests from old high school acquaintances whose last names (even before marriage) escape me, and who my ability to recognize on the street is in question.

“How did we get here? How the hell, Pan left, close on the steeple of the church.” Read the rest of this entry »

6 days ’till 30…where one’s emotional intelligence is measured in trips to the hair salon

May 14, 2010

It’s appropriate that today is six days away from my thirtieth, as the mark of the beast, 666, appeared in seemingly two different ways. This manifestation first occurred in the form of the juvenile antics of an adult hipster woman in Bang salon, and lastly what sounded at best like the aboriginal death wail from the definitive bratty child in Target. While these two events had very little in common other to startle passer-bys out of their day, they both felt like scenes from the movie, Lord of the Rings, come to life. The former being personified by a vicious, adult, Gollum acting out over a failed haircut, and the second sounding like a den of those orc people.

The child was more of an annoyance that anything. The wail was startling enough that it formed an instant community from strangers all bearing similar facial expressions as if we had just witnessed the Hindenburg explosion.

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7 days ‘till 30…if Miss Piggy and Kermit can marry, then why not the gays?

May 13, 2010

Is cousin-in-law a term? Let’s go with the answer to that question as a ‘yes’. Today, my cell phone vibrated in the middle of the work day with a call from my cousin-in-law, Phi. I don’t recall the last time Phil and I spoke by phone so my mind immediately went into that worst case scenario mode of the someone is either dead, or dying, variety. Usually this concern is directed to a close relative, though occasionally I’m honestly fearful it may be about Betty White passing. Yes, I felt this way before the whole Saturday Night Live hosting gig but she’s old, and her time is limited. It’s going to be a sad, sad day when she goes. The Hallmark Channel may finally come out of the closet as the Golden Girls channel when that dark day arrives. Meanwhile every gay bar in the continental U.S. will have lines out the front door and a massive vodka shortage that’ll make Judy Garland’s wake look like a sham.

We’ve all had those moments where we get an unexpected phone call and our instinct is to replace a greeting of “hello” with something more like, “How far has the pancreatic cancer spread?” or “Did his liver finally give out?” Fortunately, the call from Phil carried no bad news. Instead, this call was seeking my advice as a professional gay. While I don’t carry a rainbow card, and I don’t think I’ve actually given any money to HRC, it’s sometimes good to be the token in your family. God forbid there was another gay individual who could offer adverse advice. Their lack of presence makes me the expert. Thank goodness I’m so often right.

Phil sounded inquisitive, and somewhat stressed. He shared that he had spent the last half hour debating with a co-worker. The co-worker’s name I don’t know, and I’m dreading continually retyping the word “co-worker” so let’s just call him Ted. Ted’s a social conservative but supports gay people having civil unions with all the benefits of marriage, just not to call it marriage. Sure, you can eat that hamburger but just don’t call it a hamburger! Read the rest of this entry »

8 days till’ 30…where sometimes not saying something, is saying a lot

May 12, 2010

Sometimes, like now perhaps, there are things I’d like to write about but can’t in such a public forum. My goal with this blog is to be open and honest, and thus far I’ve been pretty dang successful at doing that. What I’m realizing, and oddly quite comfortable with, is that being open and honest doesn’t equate to being emotionally naked for the 60 to 150 people who read this site every day. Yes, WordPress has a nifty tracking feature, and yes, while I shouldn’t care, I am rather interested in the number of people reading my thoughts each day. My word such emotional nudity would be tiring (for all of us) and I only have so much drama in me!

So, here I am, honest and open – your friendly neighborhood Joey – but not revealing what’s exactly on my mind but writing about the fact I have something on my mind. I recognize this is now tantamount to saying “I know something you don’t know” but…it’s my blog, I make the rules! Let’s consider it meta-blogging.

It makes me wonder about how much self-editing we all do on a daily basis. To truly live out loud and put oneself out there is akin to speaking your mind all of the time. There is a reason we edit what we share. Yes, I may think you’re too old to be wearing Abercrombie, but I’m not going to tell you that. Yes, you may think my decision was terrible, stupid, and bone-headed, but I have power over you. Yes, I may think that the European guy at the next table flirting with his eyes is incredibly attractive, but we’ve been together six years and I’m not going to put that on you. Read the rest of this entry »

9 days ’till 30…where the life lesson is “let’s flip the script”

May 11, 2010

Nine days? We’re really in single digits now. That sounds sort of crazy, realism in my face, “holy shit I’m 30 in nine days”, real. I was supposed to know so much at this point. Be in control of my life, settled down, 2.5 kids, a garage, lawn and perhaps even a kitty. While I’m in a rather successful and fortunate (to say the least) place, that script hasn’t quite been followed. If I’ve learned anything it’s that life can change in a short period of time, and in a brief span of time…oh, let’s say 21 days…I can put myself out there to the world via a blog exposing some of my head and heart – the funny, serious, and banal – to new and old friends, and end up growing a bit as a result. To put it short, the script you’ve been handed isn’t the step-by-step process for the rest of your life. There’s no recipe for how to make us. You kind of make it as you go along.

I was thinking about this today walking home from work. I can’t quite recall what song I was zoning out to while walking down U Street but it kept me in positive spirits. I was crossing U street at the 16th street intersection (the same place I ran into a former drag queen campaigning for Mayor Adrian Fenty a week ago…for those dedicated readers). As I crossed the street coincidentally the song I was listening to ended right as I heard someone wailing “Joey!”
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10 days ’till 30…where the sounds of the 90s provide a melodic background to happy memories to carry through the week

May 10, 2010

I’m in zen mode. Beware. I am in a cutting through the crap, eyes on the prize, living amidst the muck of life yet concurrently finding solace, zen mode. This is what happens when it’s a sunny weekend and I have no obligations apparently. It’s also what happens when I’m a third of the way through reading Eat, Pray, Love.

This post is a simple reflection of the moments that gave me joy on Saturday, May 8 and Sunday, May 9. This is not an exhaustive list. Certain things gave me stress, made me frown, or made me talk fast(er) out of anxiety, but I choose to focus on the positive. A few brief moments of joy…

  • Jogging 5 and a half miles on Saturday morning (See: Saturday’s post) with cameos from Nathan yelling at me as he drove down Massachusetts Avenue, Bryan in Meridian Hill, and Marilyn, Sal, and Patrick Guarniere moving into my building.
  • Bumping into Jennie Lindstrom on the corner of U and 13th street upon exiting the metro, to grab ice cream together, and enjoy the sunny afternoon in Meridian Hill Park. Reading comics and feeling blissful. Cameos from Shaun and Mark.

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