Three weeks ago, A, Sherry Ann, and myself embarked on a hilarious, joy-filled excursion to Houston, where — twenty-five years after first making his acquaintance — we had primo tickets to the George Michael concert. George hadn’t toured America in almost two decades, and when the news broke early last spring that there was going to be a Texas stop on his ’08 jaunt, my ass instantly leapt into action; faster than you can say, “Charge it,” I had reserved us three spectacular seats inside Houston’s Toyota Center.


Excited by the mere idea of what we were about to experience, Sherry Ann proclaimed to anyone who would listen that we were going on, in her words, “a big gay adventure!” All we had to do was get there in one piece, and we’d be set.


The hijinks and hilarity that resulted from this trip were not only the most fun I’ve had in light years, they were also quite informative and educational. I don’t kid when I tell you I acquired so many various and sundry nuggets of knowledge on this weeklong vay-cay, and, in a multi-part series, I’d like to share them each with you, my loyal readers.



(Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not judging. I just had no idea!)


Our big gay adventure wasn’t due to begin until Monday morning, when Sherry Ann’s flight was slated to land, but Sunday evening, A — who came in the previous Friday night so that we could spend the weekend together — convinced me to accompany him downtown to the Alamo Drafthouse, which was holding an ABBA sing-along in anticipation of the forthcoming film adaptation of Mamma Mia! A is a Mia! freak and really wanted to go to this thing, so I finally relented. It couldn’t be that bad, right?


When we arrived at the Ritz, I took a quick survey of the demographics present, and was quite stunned at the results. Naturally, I had been expecting to see a house overflowing with gay men and their Daphnes, and while there were certainly more than a few of those in attendance, there was also an unexpected wrinkle: Austin’s homosexual female population had turned out for this event in droves, ready to sing and dance the night away.


It’s cliché, I know, but when you envision music with lesbian appeal, you immediately think of the Indigo Girls, or Sarah McLachlan, or Julia Fordham, or k.d. lang. You just don’t immediately hopscotch to ABBA! And yet here we were, A and me, innocent bystanders drowning in a sea of ecstatic estrogen. I’m telling you, these gals came prepared to par-tay; before the show even began, everybody was already buzzing about the band and quoting their favorite verses. Overhearing the various discourses unfolding around me, I began to slowly perceive an unsettling truth: this night was going to be my Waterloo.


LESSON NUMBER TWO: My familiarity with ABBA’s (evidently legendary) discography is even leaner than I first imagined.


When I agreed to go to this sing-along, I figured that, even though I wasn’t intimately familiar with many of ABBA’s songs, I’d be able to fake my through it fairly convincingly. Surely, by dint of having been a popular music fan for thirty-plus years, I had picked up a goodly portion of their music through osmosis, right? In much the same way I’m not a huge fan of Barbra Streisand even though I can hum along with the lion’s share of her material, I just assumed the dusty recesses of my memory would come through for me here as well.


It was around midway through the third song — when I had yet to recognize a note of anything I had heard theretofore — that I realized I couldn’t have been more wrong. How could it be possible that this band, with its eight studio albums and its 21 Hot 100 singles, flew right past my consciousness, to the extent that I didn’t even recognize the vast majority of their output?! Of the sixteen videos and performances played at this sing-along, I knew exactly three of them — “Chiquitita” (one of my all-time favorite songs, as has already been duly noted on the Buzz), “Dancing Queen” (which hardly counts, because everybody and their mother knows that one!), and “Take a Chance On Me” (which doesn’t really count either, because the only reason I know that one is because Erasure covered it to great success in the early ’90s). Three! Even more humiliating was, judging by the rapturous applause that greeted the opening bars of each and every new video which popped up on the big screen, I was pretty much the only person in the theater who didn’t have a clue. (I swear to Jesus, I was sitting there flabbergasted, thinking to myself, “What in the flying fuck are you people clappin’ at?!”) But the cherry on the cake? At some point during every song, I would look over at A — yes, the very same A who couldn’t pick Pat Benatar, Huey Lewis, Prince, or any of the Jackson siblings who aren’t Michael out of a lineup! — and he would be sitting there jamming along, his lips happily moving in perfect concert with the audio track. I didn’t know whether I was afoot or horseback, and A knew every song!


Walking back to the car following the sing-along, a weird, squishy mixture of emotions pulsed through my addled, devastated mind. It felt as though the universe had slipped off its axis for a few moments, and in the resulting confusion, a pivotal shift had occurred in mine and A’s dynamic. In our relationship, the roles had always been clearly defined: he’s the one who knows how to graph parabolas and bisect isosceles triangles, and I’m the one who knows why Pearl Jam survived the ’90s and Alice in Chains didn’t. All of a sudden, it was as though A had been granted access to a secret sect — one of which I seemingly should have been a charter member! — and I had been turned away at the door, left simply to press my face against the glass and watch the fun and frolic from the lonely, cold sidewalk, the eternal outsider.


On the drive back to the hotel, I was able to exact an insignificant bit of revenge. (It wasn’t nearly enough to reset my immeasurable embarrassment at having just failed a huge test of my music expertise, mind you, but it felt pretty damn good nonetheless.) I fished my compass iPod out of the middle console and dialed up one of my favorite playlists, the one that’s called, simply, “Top Roxette songs.” (As I’ve explained many a time to a cynically disbelieving A: when it comes to Sweden-bred pop music, there’s Roxette, and then there’s everybody else.) And as we merged onto the interstate and the jangly opening chords of “The Look” washed over the car (and over my brain) with their healing warmth, all began to feel right with the world once more.


Oh, and with the full capacity of my throat and lungs, I belted every last word.


LESSON NUMBER THREE: When I speak, Sherry Ann listens.


We picked up Sherry Ann at the Austin airport around 10:30am, and she immediately began to regale A and I with details of her flight. She hadn’t flown in at least ten years and had no idea of the ridiculous rigamarole that you now have to endure to travel across this post-9/11 world. And apparently, without (completely) intending to, my warnings and admonitions — wear easily removable shoes; don’t carry any change in your pockets; pack your keys in your luggage; if you accidentally keep any metal on your person whatsoever, you’ll get the strip search, and it’s not fun — put the fear of God in her. (Although, to be totally fair, my single worst encounter with airport security occurred in the Amarillo airport: the Christmas before last, I was flying out to Calla-forny to ring in the New Year with A, and I ran up against an old battle-ax who decided, for whatever reason, that I needed to be pulled to the side and inspected more thoroughly. She then proceeded to entirely empty the contents of my bulging backpack — which contained fifteen or so CDs, my iPod, my laptop computer, my cell phone, my wallet and keys, several notebooks, a plethora of magazines and other reading material, and a couple of shirts and a pair of shoes that wouldn’t fit in my suitcase — onto the table, while her unctuous partner patted me down and asked for my full itinerary. When both of these people became satisfied that they weren’t gonna find whatever they were looking for when they singled me out, the bitch began trying in vain to return everything to my backpack, into which I had literally spent a full hour the previous night trying to fit everything just so.

(Her: “Are you movin’ or somethin’?”

Me, visibly disgusted: “No, no, I always travel like this.”)


After an excruciating minute watching the cow fumbling with my prized possessions, I finally just said, “Ma’am, let me have it, I’ll do it.” She resisted for a second, and I said, “Seriously, let me have the bag. I’ll do it.” And as I pulled all the items toward my chest and heaved them over to the wall of chairs, she managed to mumble a weak, insincere, “I’m sorry, sir,” to which I responded under my breath, “Damn skippy.”)


Sherry relayed to us that I had her so terrified as she entered the airport, she literally could not believe how facile and painless the whole security process ended up being. (I believe her exact words were, “If I knew how easy that was gonna be, I would’ve packed soo differently!”)


As we waited for her luggage to spin around on the carousel, I apologized for possibly going overboard in my description of the pitfalls of modern air travel, then I gently reminded her of two things: first, going overboard in my descriptions is something I come by honestly; and second, it’s always better to urr on the side of caution, is it not?


We fetched the luggage after an interminable wait — each of us getting increasingly excited about the day which lay ahead of us — and loaded the bags into the trunk of the car, then paid the parking attendant and sped away in a flash. Just like that, our big gay adventure was underway.


COMING SOON: why having the bejesus scared out of you during lunch is bad for morale, and why George Michael is the only person on this planet for whom I’d risk a shower-induced heatstroke.


4 responses to “met my destiny in quite a similar way
(dispatches from a remarkable road trip, vol. 1)

  1. the buzz from Em:

    I can just see your face during the ABBA sing along; and fighting with that overweight (I imagine) airport security bitch…. of course, in my mind, your face is still 15 years old.

  2. the buzz from brandon:

    Yeah, several years back, my eternally boyish face at long last developed the ability to sprout facial hair, which, in a watershed decision, I decided to take full advantage following a particularly hideous nine rounds with my Mach3 razor. Other than that, it probably hasn’t changed that much since those WTHS glory days.

  3. the buzz from A.:

    Let me begin by saying that everything in this post that I had the opportunity to observe or participate in is completely true. The Abba Sing-Along was indeed a bizarre experience – for a change, I was an “expert” in music, and not only Russian music or classical music, but actually well-known (and even stereotypically gay) popular music! (Oh, and by the way, while it’s true that I still can’t pick out Huey Lewis and Pat Benatar (though at least I know the name), I have been acquainted with the names and music of Prince and one-third of the Jackson siblings since the early 1990s!)

    Brandon mentioned his tendency to pack (what seems like) contents of what could be one’s entire desk into his backpack into a single backpack. Well, the desk-in-a-backpack phenomenon extends to the bedroom-in-two-enormous-duffel-bags phenomenon as well (much to the dismay of the airline baggage handlers no doubt), and that is no joke! Of course, during the course of virtually every trip, Brandon acquires additional stuff (clothes, CDs, etc.), and at that point we have to enlist the assistance of the US Postal Service. This is what I expected from Sherry Ann as well, yet amazingly enough she had two quite reasonably sized pieces of luggage that magically supplied enough clothes for five days and easily fit into the Mustang, along with my usual rolling bag and Brandon’s bedroom-in-a-duffel!

    I cannot believe you did not mention the Mustang (yet)! It better be a part of the next post!

  4. the buzz from brandon:

    As I always say, when you’re going on a trip, how the hell are you supposed to know what you’re gonna be in the mood to wear? If you pack a lot, you give yourself a plethora of options, and that’s a good thing.

    As for Sherry Ann, I guarantee you that on our next trip, she’ll have at least three bags!