Let's say we're all bees. Each and every one of us is buzzing about-
buzz buzz buzz.
The honey that we make is our lives. Experience has taught me two things...


...and LIFE is only as yummy as you make it!

Are YOU a Killer Bee?

bee my guest?

bee my guest?
Howdy Beezers! I'm excited to share something new with you... Over the upcoming months, most of the content you'll be seeing here will be from special guest contibutors! This is sure to add a new texture to this thing we've been weaving over the years. I know that many of my readers (yes, you!) are writers, artists, musicians and filmmakers. PLEASE feel free to contact me if there's something you'd like to contribute! I'd be most honored to pollinate... send me a note: m.mckinley@rocketmail.com

please be seated

December 23, 2012

THE HAIR: A Christmas Story

Originally posted on December 21st, 2011

Some man had trifled with my heart and I was sure it was breaking. Or aching. Or something that it wasn't supposed to be doing. This wasn't my first romantic failure, and it wouldn't be my last. I was on the phone long distance with my Mother crying the blues in her ear, and I could tell she wasn't in the mood for it. Of course, that didn't keep me from going on. And on. Bored and exasperated she finally said "Honey, I don't what to tell you. At least you'll always have Stacey."

It was December 14th, 1985.
I was at my very first gay party, a Christmas party hosted by my new friend Bobby Herd. Now Bobby (the older brother of my friend Cindy) was about 24 or 25 at the time, and though I looked and acted rather mature for my age.. I was just 14 years old.

Bobby knew I wanted so badly to meet other people "like me", and he took a mondo risk in inviting 2 minors (my only other gay friend Joel, aged 15 was also in tow) to an adult party where lots of booze (and other party favors) were being served. What could possibly go wrong except a police raid, right? I mingled, I met. I smoked a pack of my Mother's cigarettes, in an attempt to look old enough to just be present. That fateful night I would meet a fistful of people who would shape my future and remain close to me for many years to come. But none of them, would leave a mark on the landscape of me, as indelible as Stacey Dean Abillie.

I was crouched on the floor browsing a stack of vinyl, when a voice boomed from over my shoulder "You got any Madonna? Play some Madonna!" I looked up from a pile of records to find the absolute raddest, most exotic looking person I'd ever seen with my own eyes. We were both permed and in-between bleachings, suffering from painfully yellow hair. Did I mention it was 1985? He explained that he was a cosmetology student, and that he was going "white for Christmas". I played some Madonna for him and he was on his way. A short while later he circled back to me with intent.

"Hey. My friends and I will buy you whatever you want if you go to the liquor store and buy us some beer." When I told him I was only 14, he looked at me with utter disbelief and said "WHATever" as he pivoted on his heels and disappeared back into the party. Moments later, he and his entourage of infinitely cooler people were on their way out the door. Presumably on their way to a cooler party where beer needn't be solicited from uncool 14 year olds. Stacey Abillie was 18.

His clique tried like hell to avoid our less polished motley crew, but over the following year our paths occasionally crossed. Most famously in Los Angeles, at my first attendance of a gay pride parade. By then my hair had moved onto a fiery shade of red, but his was still yellow- only now on purpose. "Chrome Yellow" by Sebastian, to be exact. On an asymmetrical Mohawk. With a permed, asymmetrical rat tail. He sauntered up to me in the blistering 90 degree heat, and asked me (in my pink cotton jersey mini-dress) "What's in the bag hon? He was in search of lip balm. I had none.

It was Christmastime once again, when it all finally clicked.
Through the impromptu suggestion of our only mutual friend Mark Farrell, Stacey ended up seated squarely at my Mother's kitchen table to help decorate Grandma Furman's Christmas cookies. I think we both wondered what in the hell he was doing there, but there he was.We had our first real conversation over frosting and jimmies, and suddenly for both of us, it was like discovering a long lost limb.

Our mothers were both blonde haired, fair skinned, green eyed Catholic girls from Wisconsin, who were half French and half Irish. We both had super diverse taste in music, 2 older siblings, and a serious obsession with vintage clothes. Later that night when he got home, he called to tell me something else he wanted (but couldn't wait) to share. We were on the phone until the sun came up, and from that night on we were thick as thieves.

I was completely fascinated by his every move. He walked so tall in his own shoes, and I followed him around in awe. I didn't want to be him necessarily, but I sure wanted to be like him. Confident and artistic. So unapologetically HIMSELF. I'd never met anyone who could dream as big as I, and now at last, I had a partner in crime! The cliques that once held us in separate camps were forced to commune, and the most amazing family of friends ever was co-created. Turns out we weren't so different after all.

When he first started coming around the house, my Mother accessed him with great apprehension. Just who was this outrageous looking young man with whom her young and impressionable son had suddenly become inseparable from? She referred to him as the The Hair. "Michael, The Hair called. He needs you to call him back." "Where are you going tonight? The Hair stopped by and said he'll be back to pick you up at 7." It wouldn't take but a few weeks and she was under his spell too. Since they are easily the two most influential people of my life, it seems so right that they shared a loving camaraderie of their own, completely independent of me. By March, The Hair was doing hers.

What to wear, what to wear...

In 1987's Santa Maria, there was little for a gay teenager to do but anticipate the next house party. Much thought was put into wardrobe for such occasions, and we were even known to drive (or hitchhike when necessary) to Los Angeles to buy color coordinating cigarettes from the Nat Sherman store. If Stacey wore one yellow sock and one pink sock, then the smokes were yellow and pink. Yes we were that gay. And we were totally fucking awesome. However, a personality like Stacey's was far too large for our small town, and it wouldn't be long before the siren call of the big city would take him from me. One Friday in August he announced that he was moving to LA. On Monday.

For weeks after he left I moped about. Mom said "He's only 4 hours away, you can visit him all the time if you want." "I know, I said. But its not the same."
I'd lost my limb.

9 months later, armed with a fierce determination to propel myself into adulthood, I moved to Los Angeles. I was barely 17. My Mother was beside herself with fear, but without involving law enforcement, there really was no stopping me. She entrusted The Hair with her last born, and proceeded to spend the next 2 years sending biweekly care packages with Eric Freitas. Or Lonnie Frye. Or whomever she could get to make a trip down to see the boys.

20 years later I would overhear him at a party, reflecting back on that time, when he had felt such a responsibility to look after me because I was so young. He continued on to say that truthfully, it had been Michael who had looked after him. I suppose we've always looked after each other.

We lived a tumultuous and sometimes thrilling life as roomies in LA, but it wasn't always easy. There was plenty of drinking, drugs, and rock n' roll going on at any given moment- which caused inevitable drama. And we didn't always get along either. As MJ once famously sang, "I'm a lover, not a fighter", but Stacey holds the distinction of being the only person I've ever fought with. We used to have  fights so ugly, we made other people cry! Then we'd forgive and repair. Because that's what family does. Through the course of it all we also let each other down. Hoisted each other up. I do believe that no one has ever made me laugh harder. Seriously, if you've ever experienced us in the same room, then you know this shit is funny. Laughter is important in any relationship, dontcha know.

When I was 20 I left LA and moved to Milwaukee. The madness of the lifestyle I was immersed in seemed like a potentially disastrous course for me to stay on. And I hated the smog. And the pretentiousness. Go back to Santa Maria? I don't think so. I had spent my entire childhood plotting my escape.

I longed for a place where the seasons were markedly different and there were white Christmases, like the ones I'd seen in the movies. It was scary, you know. To leave my family, my friends, Stacey. But I did it, and it may have been the smartest move I ever made, figuratively speaking. 11 years later Stacey would finally heed my begging call and follow me here. He loves to bitch about how I forced him to come to "this place". Truth be told he loves it here, except for Winter which is like half the year. I hear about that too.

In many ways we're like an old married couple now. It's an interesting observation that while we still finish each other's sentences, we are far less alike than we used to be. We grew up and into ourselves, but never apart. I love that.

It was March, 2006
I had flown to California at my siblings behest. The human form of the spirit I had known all my life as Mother was about to expire. She was only lucid the first 2 days, and then hospice started her on the morphine. She lingered in the hospital bed which had replaced her own, in what had been her room for 44 years. She was so incredibly frail. We only expected her to last another day or two, but she wasn't yet ready to go, and at the end of the week I needed to return home to Chicago and work. I went to go sit with her for awhile before my flight, and say goodbye.

I sat on a chair next to her bed and held her hand and talked to her. She was completely motionless and hadn't uttered a word in 3 days. I was just about to leave for the airport, when in a dramatic moment (Oh, but she was good for those) she suddenly turned her head towards me and her eyes flew wide open. She looked me directly in the eyes, and said with absolute clarity "You tell Stacey I say hello, and give him my love." Just as quickly as her momentary animation had seemingly sprung her back to life, she closed her eyes and drifted right back into the morphine. Those were the last words I ever heard my mother speak.

So many people, places, and Christmases in-between. How do you reduce 26 years of history into something as long as what you've just read? Well you can't, really. Someday when the book gets written, there will finally be a place to share these stories... the story of us. Its a good one, and I promise not to sanitize myself or the role I played. It wouldn't be nearly as interesting. Or funny.

This Christmas we are 40 and 44. We look great, by the way. Stacey's sporting a really short, smart haircut. Me? Well I just have allot less of it these days.

Last night we sat at my kitchen table and decorated this year's "Round 2" of Grandma Furman's cookies. We talked a lot about our Mothers. Stacey lost his, in June. About things. About the future. I  remarked about how I thought that moving here would fulfill childhood fantasies of powder-coated Winter wonderlands. The reality is that over the last 20 years, snow for Christmas has actually been an infrequent occasion.

Once again the forecast for Christmas is calling for sunshine, but no snow. It would seem that both white Christmases and friendships that last a lifetime, are rare and special. But you were right Mom. I'll always have Stacey. 

Moms know things, they do.


AVM Survivor said...

Thank you for sharing. I loved your story. From your French/Irish mom to your admiration for Stacey all the way to the Grandma Furman's cookies. I hope to read that book when you get around to writing it.
I hope you and Stacey have a wonderful Christmas.

sfsunflower123 said...

Ok so couldn't stop smiling the whole time reading this post.....I always knew you were special! God truly gave you a blessed soul. Stacey love the new hair cut I don't know how in this world you could get anymore handsome but OMG GQ work it. Michael all I can say is I don't know How it is possible but you are such a fine wine you just get better, sweeter, and handsome with age. You are a doll and I enjoy every post, blog, or buzzin metaphor you list. I wish you a Wonderful Christmas dear friend and Stacey Merry Christmas also dear....Love Joel and Eric great friend's are so hard to find especially one's you can call family...Oh also my dear Bill Tomasini also....Here is to many...many more wonderful years of love and friendship...for You and Stacey also all the Bee's Love ya honey!!! keep posting it sure brighten's my day!!!

Cassandra said...

Wow Michael, what an awesome story. Thank you for sharing it. Knowing you both I can truly appreciate it, but I'd not have to know you at all get the power of a true and lasting friendship.

Merry Christmas my friend

Happy Kid City said...

Your story made me cry. Powerful writing.

Buzz Out!

Buzz Out!