“This is not what I meant at all, not what I meant at all...” The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, By T. S. Eliot.
New Year’s Day, 2020. Ten years ago, this month, using this computer, sitting in this same office, I published SFGN’s first story and wrote my first editorial. It was topical and timely, and the kind of thing a gay newspaper that wanted to become a firebrand for advocacy should be writing about.
It had all the juice to become a Hollywood script, and its origin, of all places, was Hollywood, Florida. Here was the plot, true and still ready for screenwriting. After all, the Front Runner never made it to the big screen. The story of Mike the Cop should.
A handsome, gay, undercover cop, who had earned awards of distinction and recognition throughout the 1990s, Mike was winning national acclaim being true to his authentic self. It seems that Mike Verdugo was competing on a national home design reality show competition. Millions were watching, but one guy for too long.
It seems that this stunning and tattooed muscleman had done gay porn 20 years before, prior to joining the police academy. The viewer recognized the compelling markings in Verdugo’s physique. He made Mike’s past public. The chief brass at the Hollywood police department were mortified and petrified.
But they had lawyers, so they fired Mike, using a false ruse of having not been totally honest in his application, kind of a joke given the department’s own stained history.
Verdugo fought back. He hired one outspoken lawyer, George Castrataro, who became Mike’s primary voice, saving his state license and advocating his cause. Mike went on to open gyms, work for the Broward Sheriff and restore his reputation, which should have never been slandered. Good story, right?
Yes, and those are the things our gay paper should be writing about. Causes that matter. We have exposed homosexual crooks preying on our elderly and celebrated gay marriage. We have written about gay adoptions and applauded the end of the don’t ask, don’t tell era. Gay men and women not only serve in the military, the U.S. Navy just named an oil rigger after Harvey Milk.
Of course, with victory comes defeat. With love, sorrow. With life, loss. Too many friends lost to AIDS, a pandemic we must still end. And have you ever done your part, with everything from the Smart Ride to Florida AIDS walks. So much of you still do so much for so many. What would the Fiddler, say? Oh yes — “a blessing on your head, mazel tov, mazel tov.” Yes, these are the things we should be writing about — good people doing good things, making a difference in our lives.
To be gay is a privilege, not an excuse, but that does not mean we are perfect, you know, like Trump’s letter to the Ukraine. It means we make mistakes too. So, we have our share of DUI’s, alcoholism, and drug abuse that we still need to check and reign in.
There are probably better things to be known as then the community who launched “circuit parties.” Nevertheless, SFGN’s mission and duty have not changed. We report the wins, but sometimes the wounds. And that’s okay, that is what a newspaper does. That why I bought into this journey.
I tell you what I did not bargain for. I did not want to have to ever do an eight-page spread on the brutal Charlie Hebdo massacre, how French journalists were slain by terrorists who don’t celebrate diversity, but silence it.
Nobody should speak out more against discrimination than all of us in the gay community who have experienced it too often. It happened far away, I said to myself, but why could it not happen here? It did.
No, I did not want to have to use the pages of SFGN to become the LGBT paper reporting to our shock that 49 gay men and women were massacred in a gay nightclub in Orlando. But we did, and our reporting was as compelling and complete and as riveting as any newspaper in the country. Still, it was not over.
I did not expect to be writing about the largest mass shooting in a high school in America occurring in our own county, where friends and colleagues taught, and whose children graduated their school. My god, this was the neighborhood I moved to and lived in when I first moved to South Florida in 1976, the beautiful and emerging Coral Springs corridor. I was a swimming coach for the teen association in their parks. Parkland was barely built. Who could fathom then what would happen decades later?
As I have said many times, I am from New York. While I was born in Brooklyn, you grew up under the arms of the Statue of Liberty and the shadows of the World Trade Center. Things happen. Bad things. Good things. Anywhere, anytime. Such is the circle of life. Somehow, we have come this far. May the road this year take you further, to newer places, happier times.
My brothers and I were also raised in the Catskills, where our grandparents owned a summer bungalow colony. Rockland and Sullivan County are a second home, Harriman State Park a National Treasure, the Red Apple Rest a family memory. We had a family reunion at the Inn at St Joseph in Forestburgh there a few years ago, in what is now a largely religious, orthodox, Hassidic community.
It is a loving, tranquil, where students of the Bible spend their days reading passages of trust and truth. They ask for little, and study a lot. I remember thinking, being there right after Pulse, how such a beautiful little community could easily become a madman’s target. This week, it did. Temples in Pittsburgh. Churches in Texas. This is not what we had in mind at Woodstock on Max Yasgur’s farm 50 years ago.
Writing about loves shared, days past, times ahead, those were the things I want to write about in SFGN. Like my radio show, I want to illuminate lives of success, authenticity and achievement. I don’t want to have to keep writing about temple shootings or church slaughters. This is not why I started this paper with a gay Italian from Venice. We should be writing about the international gay gondola races, not running from bullets on the Champs-Élysées.
The reality is that the Torah teaches you “Man Plans, God Laughs.” I would rather have spent my 50th birthday 20 years ago playing in the Hurricane Softball Tournament at Mills Pond Park, and not getting chemotherapy treatments at Imperial Point. But you play the cards your dealt. And like Shakespeare wrote, “if you are honest with yourself, you don't have to be a liar to anyone else.”
Just give that unforgiving minute sixty seconds worth of distance run. That was Kipling, not me. My quotes are simpler. Just face the fact that somedays you are the pigeon, and others days the statue. It is what it is.
Today, we begin another day, another year. But don't be fooled by those sports announcers on ESPN. We are all day to day, not just the tight ends with the sprained ankles. Thanks for carrying us this far. Let's explore and see where the road goes.