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The doG House of Cards





Darrel F. Loyd











The doG House of Cards
Copyright 2017 Darrel F. Loyd
All rights reserved.
ISBN 9781370569854



Synopsis


The doG House of Cards is a creative memoir of self-discovery with a spiritual edge—a story about overcoming adversity and having the grit to persevere in the midst of hopelessness. Once it became clear to me that I was not born to be just another person in the world, I began to take a closer look at my life…and I’ve come to believe that I was created with a purpose and a destiny.

This story is about the coincidental occurrences in my life that have enlightened me to my purpose—and ultimately brought me to a place where I didn’t even know I belonged. It unfolds over decades and through a twisted chain of events I’m led to discover my place of belonging.

When I reach a point in my life – and find myself isolated in a desert – I become terrified and begin to believe I may never survive the perils that I encounter in that desert valley. Due to a constant stream of wrong choices that I kept making throughout my life, I’m brought to my knees. In my darkest hour, I unexpectedly come face-to-face with what I believe to be my guarding angel. She delivers a message of hope, which gives me courage to overcome a hopeless situation. My faith is founded, and I begin to believe that there’s more to life than what I could see before I found myself in my hour of despair. Within the cracks and crevices of my life, I start to look for and find a spiritual presence. I begin to build a relationship with this spirit that would eventually change my life forever.

When I finally began to look closer at my circumstances in a way that I had not considered before encountering the presence of this spirit, the more I could see, the happier I became, the more I felt like I belonged—and the less afraid I was—until I finally ended up here…sharing my love story with all of you.













Dedication


This book is dedicated to those who have gone before me, but especially to three individuals that impacted my life in their own way: Tim Tingley, Ryan White, and Lance vanGils.

Tim was a former boyfriend. In loving memory of him, a portion of the proceeds from this book will be donated to an organization that helps improve the conditions of those who are living with AIDS.

I did not have the pleasure of knowing Ryan when he was alive, or have the opportunity to meet his parents. I remember hearing about Ryan’s story, as it was major headline news. Several decades later, I became familiar with the specifics of his legacy, the Ryan White Foundation, which allowed me to have medical coverage when I lost a job and was unable to find an employer that offered group health care insurance. As horrifying as it must have been for his parents to lose their son, I hope with all my being that it gives them some comfort to know that, if not for their son and his life’s path, many people would have lost their lives, many would have suffered greatly from lack of medical care prior to their death, and many more would have lost their loved ones before their time. I thank God that I have the opportunity to express my gratitude to Ryan’s family for the good they have done in his memory, and believe it is God’s wish that I do so. Ryan is a hero of mine and I’m sure he is one of God’s special Angels in heaven.

I met Lance when he was twenty-one. I introduced myself to him eleven days before his twenty-second birthday—at Gold’s Gym in downtown Los Angeles. Sadly, he wouldn’t live to celebrate his twenty-third birthday. I had the great pleasure to know him between November 13, 2012 and July 11, 2013. Although our time as friends only lasted eight months, Lance and I developed a close friendship. I believe God had a hand in bringing us together for a reason that neither of us could comprehend at the time. By building a friendship with him, I became a better human being. He had an enormous impact on my life while he was alive and he has equally influenced my life now that he is gone. Even though there was a thirty-year difference between us, I learned much from him. Christina Borraez and Gerard vanGils, his parents, raised an amazing young man. His passing gave purpose to a passion of mine that I believe God placed in my heart. It is my hope that I will be able to establish and fund a non-profit organization, through the efforts of this book, which will assist the less fortunate of the world with housing and education—in memory of my friend Lance.



Contents


Synopsis

Dedication

Introduction

The End | Dead Man’s Hand

1 | The Queen of Hearts

A Parable | Poker Face

2 | A Full House

3 | Dealer’s Choice

4 | Go Fish

5 | Tipping Your Hand

6 | Don’t Get Lost in the Shuffle

7 | Place Your Bets

8 | Pit Boss

9 | Playing the Wild Card

A Parable | Four-of-a-kind

10 | What’s the Deal?

11 | For the Love of the Game

12 | It’s not About Winning or Losing; It’s About How You Play the Game

13 | Yaniv

14 | The Seven of Swords

15 | Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes

16 | Joker’s Wild

17 | Eye of the Truth

A Parable | The Color of Money

18 | A Cheating Hand

19 | A Game Changer

20 | Security in the House

21 | The Ace of Spades

The Beginning | This Is It

About the Author






I believe heaven’s daily task is to look after us and help us achieve our destiny. I sincerely believe that God works in ways that sometimes we cannot understand – and for some of us, we may never really understand. I also believe, given the opportunity, that God will use all ‘things’ for good, for if God is for us, who can be against us?


Darrel F. Loyd





Introduction


This is a story of how my imaginary childhood friend, BoBo, became real and awakened me to his spiritual presence, resulting in Him becoming my best friend much later in my adult life. Through this relationship founded in the early years of my childhood, my imaginary friend manifested from make-believe into the essence of the word love. A magical sequence of events that take place over half a century, ultimately lead me to explore the greater meaning of my existence. This story is intended to engage you much like a Hollywood blockbuster film that you might enjoy—whether it’s based on fact or fiction. My story is based on fact and represent a series of incidents that enlightened me to a spiritual awakening. It’s not about religion; it’s about hope and understanding that manifested into a love story. I hope you find it interesting, insightful, entertaining, and – of course – a wonderful heartfelt testimony of a life-long affair.

Some of the common synonyms for the word imaginary are fictional, pretend, make-believe, mythical, mythological, fanciful, or fairytale. The existence of a deity is certainly not something that is normally referenced as imaginary, although to a small child the existence of a higher power may seem very much like the existence of a made-up character, as it did for me when I was a little boy. I call my friend BoBo in the hope that it will allow those who do not believe in a spiritual being, that any of us can confirm without debate, the opportunity to view this story much like a fairytale. Possibly you too may begin to believe.

As a young boy, I attended church services with my family, comprised of my mother, my father and two brothers. After church ended, my brothers and I would sometimes attend Sunday school. On several occasions, over various summers that I stayed with my grandparents in Joliet, Illinois, I would attend services with my grandmother Loretta. She enjoyed going to church very much and I specifically remember spending Easter Sunday and Christmas time with her in BoBo’s house. I have vague, but fond memories of attending services with her, as she seemed genuinely happy to be in church with her grandson. I was very young and do not remember anything about the sermons being preached. Although I can recall attending church and Sunday school, and being told by my parents that I was baptized when I was a baby, for some reason – when I was around eight years of age – my parents drifted away from our church. Shortly after my family ceased taking us boys to services, I stopped giving much thought or consideration to the church or to BoBo. However, my spiritual foundation had been laid in the early years of my childhood for a much greater awakening.

From the early days of attending church with my parents and grandmother and until my late forties, I emphatically believe BoBo had been pursuing me and I eventually came to realize he had left a trail of his presence throughout my life. Once I acknowledged that presence, the trail led me to a place where I did not know I belonged. I started to make the turn from living a self-absorbed existence to embracing a more compassionate life. I began to explore how the concept of a divine presence could be a reality in my daily life, rather than something that was sought one day of the week, on a Sunday morning, in a place called church.

Whether you believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Jesus of the Holy Bible, or Allah of the Holy Quran, all roads seem to lead to the same place. I believe a very similar path is true for those who simply may not believe in anything greater than mankind. Whatever your beliefs, I hope my story provokes you to become aware of all things around you, while at the same time, allowing you to embrace the similarities in each of us and, more importantly, the differences in one another. I believe the real power here on earth lies within us, in a world that’s so complex that it defies all logic, although it can be explained in one simple word…love.

Before I developed my adult relationship with BoBo, I initially greeted all the coincidences that took place in my life as isolated and unrelated events. They usually caused more confusion than clarity, and in some cases, they generated fear. I believe whenever we encounter something that we do not understand, or that we can’t comprehend, there is always a good chance we will ignore it or fear it. I now feel that most of the various circumstances I was faced with, over many years, were revelations from a spiritual place. Some of these so-called coincidences made sense to me at the time and others did not. I later came to recognize that some of the events that took place at a certain point were signs that were meant for a future purpose. As I developed my awareness, the coincidences began to have new meaning—until I was finally able to identify most of the events that had taken place over a lifetime as confirmation of a divine presence.

As a child, and for at least half of my adulthood, I experienced constant feelings of unrest. During that time, I felt alone in the world. I was unhappy and lonely and struggled with feelings of not being loved. Many years came and went where I didn’t care if I lived to see another day. I had most of the material things in life that people work their entire lives to achieve, although I felt as if my life did not matter. There was an emptiness to my existence. Living without BoBo in my life seemed like a very natural way of living, until one day when I had an epiphany. I came to realize that my life without Him to give me hope, understanding, and love, was a life that made very little sense. Once I entered into a relationship with Bobo, I came to view my life and my fellow man differently. Not until that time, did I appreciate how a relationship with Him could provide clarity and play an important role in my day-to-day existence.

When I began to add BoBo to the storyline of my journey, I finally embraced my life and became more content and humble. In the Bible, there is a reference that we must humble ourselves like children. “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Knowing BoBo as a little boy was how I was able to relate to a higher power in a way that I could comprehend when I was but a humble child.

I was born on the fourth of May in 1960, in the county of Los Angeles, California. When I was still a baby, my parents moved me and my older brother to Chicago, Illinois. The Midwest region of the U.S. is where I grew up to become a shy gay man and where I would spend the next four decades. I graduated from high school at the age of seventeen, six months earlier than most of my classmates. I worked as a part-time stock boy on a retailer’s loading dock for several years while attending high school. Four months before my eighteenth birthday, on the day of graduation, I was promoted to Shipping and Receiving Manager of the loading dock. The retailer, with whom I was employed, was a family-owned, full service department store that had been in business for over one hundred years and had thirteen department stores in the Chicago-land area. At the time of my promotion, I certainly thought I was mature enough for the position. Looking back, I can now clearly see that I was very fortunate to have been offered a position of such responsibility at a young age. In my new managerial role, my life soon became all about the working world and the things I could afford to buy. Every eighteen-year-old young man dreams of owning a brand new car and, shortly after I was promoted and received my corresponding salary increase, I bought a brand spanking new car with bucket seats. Over the next thirty years, I would devote my time and energies to advance my professional career, go to fine restaurants for dinner, shop for new clothes, travel whenever possible, go to clubs, party, get my own apartment and eventually purchase a home, and upgrade to more expensive new automobiles. During these years, I did not give BoBo or the church any real thought in my day-to-day life. It was all about me and the material things that life had to offer. I was a generous person and a good friend to those who were close to me, but unfortunately, my generosity and general concern for my fellow man never went any further than my immediate circle of family and friends. I was self-absorbed and totally focused on superficial desires.

At twenty-seven years of age and during the time in America when the AIDS epidemic ravaged the country and its gay community, I became a statistic of the epidemic and contracted the HIV virus. In the early years of the disease that we know today as AIDS, almost everyone who contracted the virus eventually died. After I was diagnosed as being positive, I would endure years of fear that any day I would get sick and die a horrible painful death. Due to the hysteria that surrounded those who were sick from the disease, I quickly developed a fearful existence and this fear rapidly manifested itself into denying that I had HIV. At the age of thirty-two, I started experimenting with illegal recreational drugs on the weekends when I frequented clubs to party. My mindset was that I had to cram as many decades of living into the next several years. Due to the information that was being presented at the time by the medical community, I naturally assumed I only had a few additional good years to enjoy—before the illness would consume my entire body and I would die.

During the initial years of facing my fatal diagnosis, I earned a salary in the six figures. I enjoyed most of the luxuries that life had to offer, without the reassurance that I had another healthy year ahead of me. In the early years of testing positive, I was enrolled in a group healthcare plan with my then employer. Assuming I might be changing employers at some point, I paid for all my HIV-related medical expenses out of my pocket. Once diagnosed with having AIDS or identified by the insurance companies as being positive – if you opted out of your current group healthcare plan for any reason – you would not be able to secure health care due to the pre-existing condition clause that all insurance companies had and exercised under the law at that time. It was a very scary environment and a medically complex time for a gay man in America to be positive or to be diagnosed with having AIDS.

In the late eighties and early nineties, the intolerance within the gay community for those who were affected by HIV or AIDS resulted in a high level of discrimination. In many circumstances, the straight community, as well as some of those in the gay community, treated people who had AIDS or who were positive, like lepers. I began to isolate myself from those who would have judged and rejected me for my status and, in doing so, my feelings of loneliness became an overwhelming issue for me. In my attempt to mask my feelings of being segregated from within my own community, my recreational drug use began moving toward harder drugs.

Many gay men were faced with the belief by the religious community that AIDS was the wrath of God placed on them for their sexual preference. I never felt this way, although the reality of the allegations is a very emotional set of circumstances to sort through when you’re staring the epidemic in the face. To this day, a majority of the so-called leaders of today’s organized religious establishments still do not openly accept those who are gay. The Holy Bible states, “God is no respecter of persons.” I’m so very thankful that God accepts all of creation in the same manner and does not divide the world by continent, country, culture, religion, race, gender, or sexual preference.

To this day, I’ve never been diagnosed with having AIDS, or any HIV or AIDS-related illnesses in the twenty-seven years of being positive. At the time of writing this portion of my testimony, my viral load is undetectable and my CD4 count is over fourteen hundred at forty-three percent. For a non-positive individual, these numbers would be considered extremely good and in very good health. In my specific case, considering the fact that I’ve been positive for nearly 30 years, these numbers are extraordinary. I believe my health status is a perfect representation of God’s grace in my life and the reality of miracles.

I’ve come to believe, as an adult, that God has a story he would like for each of us to proclaim to the world, and this story that we’re to declare, comes through our testimony. While I make references to “my story”, I believe this book represents one of the many stories of God. I will reveal myself to the world through my people. As I begin telling mine, I recall a revelation that I believe came to me from a heavenly place. When I was forty-seven, I moved from Chicago, Illinois and relocated to Palm Springs in the desert region of California. In hindsight, I believe, without a doubt, God had a hand in moving me to the desert and isolating me from my family and friends—in a place where he knew he would be able to get my attention. The time had come for me to change my life of partying, drinking alcohol in excess, having anonymous sex, and doing recreational drugs.

After relocating to the desert, I saw three moons one night in the desert sky over the house. It seemed as if one of the moons was fading or dying off. It certainly seemed like a vision. I’m not sure how else to label what I saw. After much contemplation, I came to see the vision of the three moons very much like a riddle, where the three moons represented three worlds. I found this potential revelation to be confusing and overwhelming. I had to ask myself whether I was really experiencing a revelation or was I simply losing a grip on reality and making it up in my mind. In either case, I felt compelled to give more thought to the theory of the three worlds, even though the notion of three worlds made no sense to me. Over the following weeks and months, I came to realize the revelation that I felt originated from a spiritual place, did in fact have some merit. Thus, it was in the desert region of Coachella Valley when my spiritual awakening came to fruition and where I believe God began to reveal himself to me.

The first world, Earth, was the only one of the three with which I was able to make a viable connection. As a child, I was introduced to the biblical creation of the Earth when I went to church and Sunday school. I also learned about the scientific approach to the creation of the Earth when I was enrolled in a public school. Earth was obviously a very easy concept for me to accept, whether I believed it was the creation of a higher power or a scientific phenomenon.

The second world that I came to know consisted of man-made islands in Dubai, which were formed to emulate the shape of the world that God created and are known as The World or World Islands in Dubai.

Three years earlier, I had secured a sales appointment in Seattle, Washington with a large architectural firm. During my sales presentation to the design group, one of the architects on the team began talking about an unrelated topic that he saw as an interesting creative project that he wanted to share with the group. The project was one of many that the Crown Prince of Dubai had under construction at the time. The Prince decided to construct a group of islands off the shore of Dubai that replicated the shape of United States and he was going to sell these various islands to private investors. As I heard the story, I quietly thought to myself that the design concept of this project, led by the Prince, was an amazing creative vision by all accounts. After that day in Seattle, and upon the completion of my sales appointment, I didn’t give the man-made islands in Dubai much more thought. After several months, I completely forgot about the fantastic design concept of these islands under construction in the Emirate of Dubai.

Several years passed and one day in Palm Springs, after receiving what I believe to be the revelation from God regarding the three worlds, I recalled the conversation about the project in Dubai. I immediately went to my computer and googled The United States of America islands built in Dubai. To my amazement, the World Islands showed up in my search. The project was not about replicating the United States as islands, as I originally thought. The design concept must have changed direction at some point or I had misunderstood what the architect was explaining when he was sharing the scope of the project. In either case, the actual design consisted of various small man-made islands that were to replicate the rough shape of the world map.

If you’ve seen the movie Slum Dog Millionaire, you probably know how I felt at that exact moment. The movie revolves around a young boy that has grown up in the slums of India. As a young adult, he gets the opportunity to become a contestant on a game show. Toward the end of the movie, he becomes one of the finalists because he knows all the answers to all the questions that are being posed to him. The organizers of the show concluded that he must be cheating somehow, as they could not understand how a poor uneducated man from the slums of India could possibly have the correct answers to all the questions. It turns out that his entire life’s experiences have led him up to this moment. The reason he knows all the answers is because his life experiences mirror the questions being asked and the situations that he experienced, first as a boy and later as a young man, allow him to possess the knowledge to know the answers to the questions. He eventually becomes the grand prize winner of the game show, hence the title of the movie. Did the coincidences in his life lead him to know the answers to all the questions? Or did the movie portray an example of how God used the young man’s experiences for a greater purpose?

The third world was a floating cruise ship where you could buy a residence and cruise the open waters of the world. Similar to the islands in Dubai, I had no idea that this third world – a floating cruise ship named The World – was being built. Coincidentally, several days after discovering the existence of the World Islands, a friend sent me an email introducing The World—a cruise ship that was under construction where you could buy a residence on board, if you had the funds. I never told anyone my story regarding the three worlds or my belief that I received this message from a spiritual place. The email was sent to me randomly and it was unsolicited. My friend simply thought I would find the project interesting from a design perspective. Was God intervening and motivating my friend to press the send button on his computer when I had the subject on my mind?

Before seeking a relationship with God, my life was full with what I believed to be random coincidences. After an encounter with God, I came to understand that He was utilizing my life experiences for a much greater cause and came to see that many of the coincidences had deeper meaning. These coincidental events seemed to represent pieces of a puzzle. Much like Slum Dog Millionaire, my life represents the importance of taking note of the little occurrences that take place in our daily lives. Prior to God placing the thought of the three worlds on my mind, I was clueless to the existence of the two additional man-made worlds in the world that He created. Once I was able to connect the dots and make a connection to the three worlds, I asked myself why He wanted me to know it.

I do not believe you’ll find God in a book, or in a church for that matter, for I believe God is a lifestyle. In my search for a relationship with Him, I believe I must begin to understand the powerful importance to the ramifications of who and to what I listen. In understanding how these two scenarios mirror my vision and my speech is to grasp the wisdom of how I see myself viewing the world. I emphatically believe my viewpoints and opinions will have a direct effect on the connection I have with my inner self. I believe it’s this connection that will dictate the type of relationship I develop with God. This link between my inner self and Him will ultimately determine my destiny.






The End | Dead Man’s Hand


At the age of forty-eight, when I received the revelation of the three moons, my lifestyle as I knew it, came to an end. Many months later, after much contemplation and heartache, I believe I received a promise from God. Due to this promise, I began the long journey to change my lifestyle and my life is no longer without purpose. I can’t begin to make the claim that I’m able to predict the future and say how this story will end. But on the other hand, I can say I’m optimistic that by the time I complete telling this story I will be able to paint you a picture that allows you to see a life filled with hope, understanding, and love from “the beginning.”

Several years earlier, an event took place that I found to have a considerable deeper meaning, many years after the episode occurred. I was in Atlanta, Georgia surrounded by my boyfriend and two of my best friends who almost always traveled with me when I attended one of the parties on the gay circuit. The circuit consisted of thematic dance parties in large venues that were held in various cities in the Unites States, orchestrated by different party promoters. On a particular evening, Rick and Tony, my best buddies, were standing next to me on the dance floor. We were inseparable, just like the Three Musketeers. We lived in Chicago and had been friends for many years. When traveling to the various gay circuit events, the three of us, who were single, usually traveled together. After I met a man named Alex, and we became boyfriends, I added him to the Three Musketeers clique as my plus one.

It was in Atlanta where my relationship with Alex would result in Dead Man’s Hand becoming a more apt description for the party boys than the Three Musketeers. The phrase Dead Man’s Hand came about in the Old West in the U.S., when Wild Bill Hickok was holding a two-pair poker hand consisting of black aces and black eights along with a kicker card when he was murdered at a poker table. A kicker card is defined in Wikipedia as a card in a poker hand that does not itself take part in determining the rank of the hand, but that may be used to break ties between hands of the same rank.” Rick, Tony, Alex and I theoretically represented the pair of eights and the pair of aces when the defining kicker card was dealt.

The four of us were at Hotlanta, one of the larger parties in the gay circuit. We saw and greeted the occasional individuals that we met over the years during our travels and who we would see at these events. We only hung out with our circuit friends a few times a year and we acted like we were all close friends, even though we only met and associated with one another during these parties. In Atlanta, the kicker card in our game was revealed, a play that set in motion a hopeless competition for the Latin Queen of Hearts.

It was the typical gay circuit crowd. There were the usual party muscle boys that always attended these events and the vast room was filled wall-to-wall with beautiful shirt-less gay Adonises dancing until all hours of the morning. On the dance floor, people we had just met that weekend danced around us. Like most events that attract a lot of handsome and pretty people dancing like a bunch of peacocks that are strutting their stuff, there’s bound to be at least one, if not several, of the prancing peacocks that have their eyes set on one that has already been courted. My boyfriend Alex was a Puerto Rican with a well-defined body and he was an incredible dancer. One might easily have gotten the impression that he was a peacock from the way he was always strutting his stuff on the dance floor. Through the crowd an invading boyfriend snatcher approached. He was someone that Alex and I met on one of our many gay party junkets that we attended that year. We traveled from Chicago to Atlanta for Hotlanta…to Columbus, Ohio for the Red Party…New York for the Black Party and Gay Pride…Palm Springs for the White Party at Easter…San Francisco for Magnitude during Folsom Street Fair…Los Angeles for Labor Day LA and to South Beach in Miami for the White Party at Thanksgiving. We also attended Chicago’s very own Hearts Party held around Valentine’s Day. Alex and I spent forty thousand dollars on traveling the gay circuit that year, which included our party favors.

I was minding my own business, trying to protect my small portion of real estate on the dance floor while enjoying my party favors. The invading boyfriend snatcher offered a bump of K, then the drug of choice. K, or Ketamine as it’s clinically called, is a dog and cat tranquilizer and it was very popular in the gay community in the nineties. The drug came in liquid form, but if you baked the liquid in the oven or microwave it was transformed into a powder-like substance. Once in powder form, you snorted it like you would snort cocaine, although in much smaller amounts— in bumps, not lines. It was fashionable to flavor your K and add vanilla or strawberry extract to make it smell and taste better. The snatcher’s offering, like so many people who come offering you something for nothing, came with a catch or in this case, a kicker. He had hoped to catch a few minutes alone with Alex, while placing or kicking me in some other dimension, better known as a k-hole—a catatonic state where you would end up if you ingested too much Ketamine in a single dosage.

When ingesting most drugs, there is an art to the recommended dosage that one can consume at a specific moment, and the dosage can also vary depending on what drug you’re consuming. Like so many drugs, the dosage that one person can tolerate may also vary from one person to another. There I was, on the dance floor at a mega gay event and for no logical reason that I can recall other than I was duped, I had what seemed to be an out of body experience. After accepting the boyfriend’s snatcher’s gift of a gratis bump of his K, I suddenly found myself standing in front of Jesus and his Disciples. Several years after this incident took place, I found myself standing before Jesus and his Disciples again, though the second time was in Milan, Italy during a trip to Europe when I viewed the actual fresco of Leonardo daVinci’s Last Supper.

In Atlanta, immediately after I ingested the bump of K, I was transformed to a place where it seemed as if I was actually at the Last Supper with Jesus and the Apostles. A very similar scenario was playing out in my mind as it did in the actual Last Supper. I too had been betrayed—in my case, by a party friend that we had met on the circuit. The bump of K that kicked me into another dimension had been laced with acid, the old fashioned 1960’s San Francisco peace, love, sex and rock-n-roll type of acid. The snatcher failed to mention, or he deliberately failed to disclose, that he had laced his K with acid to add a kicker to its overall effect. I would’ve proceeded with more caution or possibly passed altogether on the free bump had I been forewarned about the acid in his offering. My altered state of mind may not have been so dramatic if I had been made aware that he had laced his K prior to me snorting the bump. “This is it?” These were the only words I could utter immediately after ingesting the drug, and in my mind I was asking Rick, “this is where I die?” It made sense that it was truly the end. My hand had been played just like Wild Bill Hickok’s hand a century earlier. Why else would I be standing in front of Jesus at the Last Supper if I was not going to die at that exact moment? I recalled that Jesus was sold out for thirty pieces of silver and I had sold myself out for single bump of K laced with acid. My mind was reeling. I felt the vision that I was experiencing must have some relevance to how Jesus was also betrayed by someone he knew. The laced K offering resulted in me becoming a pawn in the game of love. This kicker did not take part in determining the rank of the game, but it could be used to break the tie between two fags that were attracted to the same man. I felt betrayed by the boyfriend snatcher for his attempt to woo Alex away from me while I was unable to speak or move except for uttering those three words, “this is it?”

Did this unforgettable situation have meaning for a greater message and was this why, at the precise time of my assumed demise, I experienced that vision? Was my drug-induced revelation, a premonition of what was yet to come? Or was I simply experiencing a tragic drug-induced moment that had no greater relevance? I believe that God will use all things for good. He will intervene on our behalf and use a bad experience in our life for the greater good, if we allow him to do so. Even during my messed-up behavior of partying and using illegal substances, I believe God was present and eventually he would utilize this experience to develop me spiritually.

Over a decade later the phrase “this is it” would have a larger significance to the world than what took place on the dance floor that night in Atlanta. In Los Angeles, California, the King of Pop would utter those exact three words, the name of his last concert tour, shortly before being administered a drug overdose, by someone he trusted, which would result in his tragic demise and The End to an era.






1 | The Queen of Hearts


I met Alex in a gay dance club one evening when I was living in Chicago. I happened to be out partying alone, which was somewhat unusual for me since I very seldom ever traveled the gay scene solo. As I entered the club, I headed to the coat check. It was another very cold night in Chicago, as most evenings are during the winter. Once in line to check my coat, I casually glanced around the front bar area as if looking for someone, although very careful not to make eye contact to not give anyone any pre-conceived notions. As I finally made it through the line, I checked my coat and immediately headed to one of the many bars inside the club. Since the winters are freezing cold in Chicago, you need to drink to keep warm, or so I told myself. I happened to glance toward the dance floor in the center of the club. I spotted a lovely Latin man dancing with another man. The Latin dancer had not only caught my eye, he had my undivided attention.

At this point in my life, I was fortunate to be financially successful in my professional career. I held the position of vice president of store development and visual merchandising for a high-end men and women’s retail clothing chain in Chicago. I was very seldom shy when it came to conducting business matters on a professional level, although approaching men and engaging them in conversation for a potential sexual encounter at a club or another type of social setting, came with a different set of circumstances altogether. I often felt like a shy mouse when it came to playing the cat and mouse game. Up until that night, I rarely approached guys with whom I had a physical attraction. Usually, I interacted with men that approached and engaged me in conversation.

I positioned myself at the main bar, in the front of the club. I strategically stood at the slightly-elevated edge of the bar area, closest to the dance floor. This location gave me the vantage point of being able to observe the lovely Latin man, who was prancing like a peacock, from close proximity. He truly was an amazing dancer and had a fantastic six-pack. After standing in the same spot and watching his every move for what seemed like hours, I couldn’t help but think that the man he was dancing with must be his boyfriend. If this was the case, and they were boyfriends, it certainly would have prevented me from making any advances. Earlier in my life I had learned the hard lesson of getting involved with someone who had a partner. That evening, destiny was on my side. The peacock’s dancing partner stopped dancing and walked off the dance floor and – as he pushed himself through the crowd – he walked right pass me, brushing his arm across mine. I did what any respectable gay man on the prowl would do in this type of situation. I followed the guy. He ended up at one of the four bars in the club and I managed to position myself next to him. As always, the club was packed. It was Saturday night and with this being the only real gay dance club in the city, it was standing room only. Then destiny smiled upon me twice in the same evening. The bartender at the station where the guy went to get drinks was Jeff, a good friend of mine. Jeff was seven years younger than me and was an extremely handsome man with an amazing body—very masculine and wonderfully buff. He traveled with his own fan club. Most people wanted to have a physique like Jeff’s and, if that was not the case, then they certainly were interested in getting into his pants. I was able to get Jeff’s attention when he came over to the area where I was now standing shoulder to shoulder with the guy. Jeff yelled out Mary in my direction. He called every gay male that he liked Mary, and I soon picked up this habit from him. Jeff nodded his head, as to give me the go ahead to tell him my drink order. This gave me the opportunity to turn to the guy and say, “you were here first, what are you having?” As he muttered his drink order to Jeff, all I could think of at that exact moment was how I was going to find out the story about the guy with whom he was dancing. Were they boyfriends? Or were they only friends out dancing together for the evening? Just as he was about to walk away with drinks in hand – and all hope of ever finding out the story regarding his dancing partner was fading – the mouse spoke. “Are you and the guy you’re dancing with boyfriends?” I asked. Having his back positioned to me, he turned his head slightly as not to give me his full attention and replied, “no, although we were boyfriends at one time, we’re just friends now.” My biggest mistake at that moment was not asking one additional very critical question: does the guy that you’re dancing with have a boyfriend? As the saying goes, I heard what I wanted to hear and I failed, possibly deliberately, to ask any additional questions. With this information in hand, I grabbed a pen from Jeff, wrote my home number on the back of my business card and headed back to the observation deck where I had been previously standing. After so many years of giving out my number to strange men in clubs, I should have had my home phone number printed on the back of my business cards, although, I’m not sure how that would have gone over with my boss.

As the evening went on and the drinks became many, I finally mustered up the balls to walk up to the guy and present him with my card. I said something to the effect of “if you’re interested in getting together sometime, feel free to call me.” I don’t think I had fully gotten the last two words out of my mouth when I turned and began to walk toward the coat check to retrieve my coat and get the hell out of the club.

The next morning, I was awakened early by the ringing of my home phone. I was hung-over and not sure to this day why I answered the phone, although I did. The voice on the other end of the line said, “Hey, this is Alex.” I could barely utter the words, “Alex, Alex who?” When he replied, “It’s Alex from the club”, I asked myself whether this man, who I admired from afar earlier that morning, could be as interested in meeting me as I was in meeting him. Although the larger question that was running through my mind was…what type of potential trick calls before nine o’clock on a Saturday morning, especially if they know you’ve been out drinking until three o’clock that morning? So much for my infatuation with the man with the incredible abs from the night before. My hangover had a mind of its own that morning and it did not include dick that went by the name of Alex. Once I understood it was the Alex from the club, I quickly excused myself from speaking any further with him and inquired if we could continue our conversation later that day once my hangover subsided.

At this point in my evolution as a gay man, I never found myself sexually attracted to Latin men, so this was an unusual circumstance. Alex was born in Puerto Rico and although he was so outside of my normal dating pool, there was something about him that was so sexy. He definitely had my interest. I never gave much thought to whom I was attracted until this point. Typically, all the men that I dated or hooked up with for sex were white guys much like me. While my best friend at the time also happened to be Puerto Rican and I had a good friend that I worked out with at the gym who was black, I personally never found myself encountering any of the Baskin Robbin’s flavors of gay men – other than vanilla – when having sex. I was thirty-six when I met Alex and was not very savvy to the ways of the world. I had unintentionally limited my exposure to the many varieties of men in gay culture. My first real gay relationship that involved the two of us living together was with a man named Tony who was twelve years my senior. He was Italian and was a hairdresser by trade. We lived together in the suburbs of Chicago for seven-and-a-half years until we split from one another when I was twenty-seven.

Shortly before the end of my relationship with Tony, I met a man named Tim where I worked, who was a few years my junior. I was employed as a visual merchandising manager at Madigan’s, a family-owned retail company that had six stores on the west side of Chicago. At the initial stage of Tim’s hire, he was assigned to my display crew, as one of the visual team members that made up my creative staff. I was instructed to be his mentor throughout his introduction to the department. He had expressed his attraction toward me several months prior to me finding myself accepting his advances. Tim was a lovely, young, light-skinned white man. He was five feet six inches tall, with dishwater blonde hair and was an amateur body builder. Up until now, I’m not sure why it took so long for me to accept Tim’s affection.

I was very slim with little muscular definition. Most people would have probably described me as a skinny little queen. At that point in my life, I did not give much thought to my body or working out; I had been concentrating on building my creative career. Going to the gym would not become one of my life’s passions until several years after meeting Tim. At the time, I remember wondering how this hot muscular man – who looked like a handsome rock-hard Adonis – be interested in a slender man like me. To this very day, my life encounter with Tim has left an everlasting and profound mark on my existence.

The corporate director of the creative team at Madigan’s was a middle aged gay man that I later came to realize, had a crush on Tim. In reality, I think it was Tim’s body that got him the job. Tim and I were the only gay men on a crew of four. The other creative members were Katie and Gina, two straight women in their early twenties. Each store in the chain had its own display crew, although all the field visual merchandising personnel that worked in the retail stores were considered to be corporate employees. My four-person visual crew, where I was the managing creative lead, worked very well together. We always finished our scheduled daily tasks and kept our creative commitments to the store and to corporate, although we always found time in the day to gossip and laugh hysterically. On occasion when Tim and I were alone in a window working on a new display and near one another, he would position himself in some manner as to casually brush that incredible tight and hard body of his against mine. I usually ended up having a major hard-on for hours during the day, due to Tim teasing me.

One day, after installing two display windows, I stopped to use the restroom in the store prior to going home for the evening, on the south side of Chicago, were I lived with Tony. Tim followed me to the bathroom and approached me with a sexual proposition. Needless to say, after many months of fighting off his sexual advances, I finally gave in to Tim and his rock-hard body. Very soon, something else was hard in the bathroom besides his muscles. We left work immediately, after his proposition was greeted with overwhelming acceptance.

One of the Madigan’s where we worked was in a shopping mall and, as fate would have it, there was a hotel conveniently across from the shopping center. Since the sexual energy had been building for months prior to our hookup that evening, we ended up having amazing hot indulgent sex for hours. This hotel, where we initially explored our interest in one another’s bodies, would soon become our home away from home for any months to come. Whenever possible, we continued to hook up after work at the same hotel and screwed for hours. Katie and Gina had no idea that their co-workers where fooling around right under their noses. Every Saturday, Tim and I would make a point of getting together and sexually exploring every inch of one another for an entire eight hours in a single day. I’ve always been a sucker for a man that will bring me flowers – I always have and always will – and Tim would sometimes surprise me and show up to the hotel with flowers. On occasion, we ordered room service and lay in bed naked enjoying every minute we had together. This was the first time I had sex with a man that went to the gym and who took such great physical care of his body. The entire experience on all levels was very hot. Tim was also an amazing lover; I could not get enough of him. He referred to me as his “little guy.” I think he gave me that nickname because I was so skinny. I found Tim to be so endearing. He made me laugh and he was so incredibly attractive and fucked like a rock star. There was great chemistry between us and I found myself falling in love with him.

One day, which I can still recall like it was yesterday, Tim decided he wanted to top me. Prior to that day, I was always the top when we had sex. It was in the eighties and I was in the midst of ending my relationship with Tony. It was also the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. During the years that Tony and I were together we had a monogamous agreement and, in that time, I was tested for the HIV virus to secure a life insurance policy. I had been approved by the insurance company and received the life insurance—so I knew without a doubt that I did not have the virus prior to meeting Tim. I was naïve enough to believe that all couples in a committed relationship were monogamous. I unfortunately had a lot of life lessons to learn in the coming years. Coincidentally, Tim had the same situation at home that I did. Like me, Tim was involved in a long-term relationship with Steve, an older man who had been his partner for seven years. The affair between Tim and me was a perfect example of the so-called “seven-year itch.”

I certainly was not a virgin to the concept of being a bottom, although I only bottomed on a rare occasion and it would become a new role for me in my sexual relationship with Tim. At that stage, I was somewhat shy and not very comfortable with my sexuality and was reluctant to have my legs up in the air. For some sexually-insecure reason, I felt feminine when giving my ass to a man. I eventually came to enjoy the bottom position when connecting with the right sexual partner—so perhaps Tim knew me better than I knew myself and this is one of the main reasons I was so attracted to him.

As Tim was aggressively seeking my ass, I quietly thought that we probably should be practicing safe sex. I know I was being a hypocrite by thinking I should ask Tim to wear a condom when I certainly had not bagged my pecker when I fucked him. I had also convinced myself that since I knew I was negative, then he too must be negative, as he was in a long-term relationship prior to the onset of the AIDS epidemic.

After Tim and I decided to leave our boyfriends and cohabitate as lovers, our relationship was inadvertently exposed to our associates at our workplace. Our outing was not a pleasant time for us in any way, shape, or form, and I was finally forced to take responsibility for my actions. I had become the talk of the corporate visual department. I was the Manager that slept with one of their employees. It seemed that Tim had become the forbidden fruit. It was not long before I was summoned to the corporate office by the executive assistant to the president of Madigan’s, who wanted to speak with me regarding my extracurricular activities with Tim. Mr. Joe Madigan was an older straight man who was part of the second generation of the Madigan family that founded the company many decades earlier. He was known for his outlandish and often unannounced conduct, which oftentimes resulted in angry rants for no apparent reason. My single and most important asset that I had going for me at that moment was that Mr. Madigan happened to be a big fan of my creative ability. As I arrived at the corporate office, I became sick to my stomach. Tim and I had just moved in together and our rent was fairly expensive. Both of us had been living with our older and somewhat successful boyfriends, so we were slightly spoiled in our lifestyles, hence the expensive apartment. When I arrived at Mr. Madigan’s office, I informed his secretary that his executive assistant called me to the office. She politely ushered me to the conference room, where I waited alone and with anticipation of what was to come. I sat by myself in the conference room with nothing but my thoughts, and I quietly asked God to let me get out of this room without getting fired. When I found myself facing a difficult circumstance, I certainly did not hesitate to pull out the God card and ask for help. I was like so many people who do not have a relationship with God, although when they get into a troubling situation they tend to seek immediate relief from the heavens. I thought that it certainly couldn’t hurt to ask for His divine assistance. Shortly after my repeated attempts to ask for His intervention, the door to the conference room opened and the owner of the company entered. I could immediately sense, as he closed the door behind him, that God may not have been available when I was asking for help. Or possibly He was available and listening, although He was keeping His presence quiet in the conference room while He was observing how I was going to handle the situation. Mr. Madigan inquired if I knew why I was called to his office and I nervously nodded my head several times in response to his request. He continued his questioning by asking me to explain myself in detail as to why I believed he called me to his office. As I struggled to form the words to recall the correct chain of events that led up to my involvement with Tim, I said something that triggered Mr. Madigan, known for his outbursts.


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