Thursday, September 06, 2007

Road Trip Destination: Grand Rapids, Michigan

After visiting Indy last week, we drove up to Grand Rapids, Michigan on August 29th and 30th to hang out with Matt, Becky, Jane and Greg. We had just seen Becky in Louisville for her Ironman and I hadn't seen Matt in several months (when he was in SoCal) so I was way super excited to see them again!

Hehe, you can bet we drove the speed limit until we left the state of Indiana!

We did quite a bit of site seeing and museum visiting throughout our road trip so far, so we loved the idea of going to Michigan without any major plans. We enjoyed Matt's beautiful house, we caught up on some zzz's, we saw Lake Michigan, took some goofy photos (see link below), sampled the best pizza in Michigan, and checked out a gay club . . . .

As we drove in to Michigan, it was so awesome to see the fresh green trees and clear blue skies. Gosh, it's a beautiful state!

Matt let us stay at his place and I've gotta say that it was absolutely amazing. His house is humongous! He gave us a tour and it seemed like every time we turned a corner we entered a whole new wing of the house. Okay not really but kinda. What took my breath away was seeing his backyard. He has a deck that leads to a huge back yard with tall trees and the yard extended all the way back to a small lake with a small pier or dock, ducks and everything! It was gorgeous! There are no dividing walls or hedges between the neighbors so it looks like everyone just has the hugest back yard area and they all share the lake.

Wow!

So after seeing the place, Michael and I decided that we really didn't need to see any sites or museums in Michigan. Instead we wanted to just relax and enjoy a peaceful couple of days in Michigan. It was, after all, our vacation!

On the first night when we arrived and met up with Matt, he drove us out to Grand Haven to see the pier off Lake Michigan and to see a show called the Musical Fountain. It's weird to see a lake where you can't see the other side. There were even waves that crashed into the pier. Michael almost got swept away! It was like being at the ocean except the water and air wasn't salty. Interesting.

The Musical Fountain was a nice water show with lights and music. It was a fun family atmosphere. After the show, we all got some ice cream and enjoyed the nice evening. Oh and there were tons of stars visible peppering the night sky with a full moon. I had a great time!

Matt's a terrific host and friend. These were week days so he had to go in to work during the day but he let us make ourselves at home. We got to sleep in until we woke up - without the aid of any stinkin' alarm clock. I got up before Michael so I spent some time sitting in front of the lake watching the ducks and then I had a bowl of Cheerios on the backyard deck to enjoy a still and crisp morning.

Sigh!

We took our time getting ready for the day and we eventually met up with Matt during his lunch break. We went to Yesterdog - that hot dog/chili dog hang out that was featured in American Pie. It had been a while since I saw the movie so I didn't realize that the movie was set in East Grand Rapids. So that was cool. I really liked the place though. It felt like being in the bronx (as if i've ever been) but in Michigan. When we arrived there were a ton of customers so the employees squeezed everyone inside hollering their instructions and they just started taking mass orders for food. When it was ready, they'd yell out, 'who had the ultradog?!' or 'who had the two yesterdogs?!' It was awesome! Eventually we got our food and enjoyed our thoroughly unhealthy heart clogging chili cheese dogs.

(And yes, i gained SO much weight on this road trip vacation!!! - ugh.)

After lunch, Matt went back to work. I spent the afternoon at the library catching up on Internet stuff while Michael stayed at the house doing laundry. It was rather nice because it was like living there (for a day). By the time evening came and Matt returned from work, the three of us went over to Becky and Jane's house (which is also gi-normous!) for dinner. Michigan isn't really known for its pizza so at first it seemed that Michigan wouldn't be in our road trip Pizza Wars but then we discovered that Jane makes a terrific spinach artichoke pizza. Yummers! So it'll make the review.

Jane is a super fun gal! She's Becky's room mate. What I love about her is her support for Becky. I first met Jane down in Louisville for Becky's Ironman and it impressed me to see how much of a rock she is for Becky. She not only cheers her on but she walks with Becky in the pursuit of her goals. She keeps her on schedule. She encourages her. She supports her. She reminds her of why she's doing the race. In fact, during the Ironman, Jane literally walked along side Becky during the race for, what?, 13 miles? So Jane got points with me - plus, i love her smile and not to mention the pizza!

It was so much fun hanging out at Becky's place. This was the first time that Matt, Becky and I were in the same place at the same time. Matt and I first met through this blog. He had been reading Two World Collision and it was in an email on September 27, 2005 that he first introduced himself to me as a fellow journeyer. We began a dialogue and stayed in touch and we've been friends ever since! Almost a year after that first email, Matt came out to SoCal from Michigan and we met for the first time. (Read about that awesome time here.)

It was through Matt that I got connected with Becky a couple months later. They were both friends over there in Michigan and Matt told Becky about Two World Collision. We made contact and I soon discovered Becky's awesome heart for the GLBT community as a straight ally. She loves us. Period. Because God loves us. So how can she not? That's what I love about her. "Love Wins" is a phrase she adopted from the church she is a part of out there (Mars Hill). I've written about her before so hopefully by now you know that she is an amazing triathlete. If you can only get to know her, you'll discover that she has a heart of gold. She makes me laugh! We finally got to meet each other just a few months ago. (Read about that awesome time here.)

It's crazy how I developed such good friendships with Matt and Becky separately before me even meeting either of them. It probably helped that the two of them are good friends. But as time went on, we just had a connection. It wasn't that we talked every single day - if you know me at all, my life is too crazy busy to be able to manage that. But it was more that we all had this common thread of relating to the colliding worlds of faith and sexuality and we were each willing to walk with each other (in a way) on that journey. So meeting Matt was awesome. Then meeting Becky was awesome. And it was on this trip that the three of us were finally together at the same time and we were able to take an actual photo with all of us present. If you're gonna know me a bit more through this blog, then you've gotta know that these two people hold a very special place in my heart.

(Cue the 'Awwwww' in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 - Go!)

Awwwwwwwwww!!!

Then there's Greg. Greg inspired me. He's a friend of Becky's and Matt's so of course he's gotta be a good guy. But really, I was inspired by his sincere heart for connecting with "his" gay community. He does so with such love! It was still a week night and Matt and Becky both had work the next day. Greg was planning on going to a club called Diversions for Karaoke night and he invited Michael and I to join him. Since we wanted to see what 'gay areas' were like in different cities along our road trip, this turned out to be a perfect opportunity to see what it was like in Grand Rapids.

It looked like a fun two story club. Upstairs there was a bar and a Karaoke system set up. Downstairs there were several rooms - one with billiards and another with a dance floor. In appearance, I was surprised that many of the guys reminded me of West Hollywood guys. But I was also interested to see that the club overall was pretty diverse. Perhaps it was that particular night or maybe it's like that all the time but there was a pretty good mix of guys, gals, older, younger, mostly white but some hispanic, black and asian.

The thing that really impressed me about Greg was seeing him in his element. He's the guy that is friends with or knows mostly everyone at the club. He had people coming up to greet him and talk with him or catch up with him or schedule a time to hang out. Greg would tell us snap shots into each person's story and knowing those stories added dimension to each person that I was looking at - and that increased in me a sense of compassion. That's what was inspiring to me - the fact that he knew them and they knew him. I saw a sincerity in his interaction with them though. He wasn't simply there "as a witness" (gag). He was there in community with them. He was them. He was there to love. Period.

After leaving the club, Michael and I talked for quite a while processing what we had seen that night and throughout the road trip and what we sensed God revealing to us. One of the things that I had been processing is the fact that I can't do everything that I'd like to do in the community on my own. Seeing Greg helped me to realize that I need someone like Greg here in Long Beach.

I've known for some time now that part of the (Catalyst) vision that God has for me in building bridges to enable community and connections is that relationships need to be developed in the mainstream church community, in the gay Christian community, and in the gay community. For the past several months, I've been investing in building gay Christian community. I think i'm planning on writing more about all that in a future post soon. Years ago before I came out, I started investing in the mainstream church community. After leaving that organization I helped start, my ministry co-partner at the time continued our efforts and still maintains those relationships. I've only touched the surface in building relationships in the gay community.

The thing is - I feel pretty comfortable in continuing to build relationships within the gay Christian community. But it's somewhat awkward for me to try and rekindle relationships I had within the mainstream church community. And I feel like I don't have time to delve into a whole other web of social networks within the gay community (although, i'd like to). So in talking and processing with Michael, I think that God was showing me that I don't necessarily have to try to work within all three communities. If I connect with my old ministry co-partner who has the relationships with the mainstream church community, and if I connect with someone who already has a web of natural relationships in the broader gay community, then the three of us can explore together how we might forge relational bridges among the three communities in the "Hot Zone".

So that's something that I'm still processing and chewing on right now. You may read more about it later.

Our time in Grand Rapids, Michigan was amazing. It was so good to reconnect with friends and to make new ones. If you'd like to see tons of other super fun and goofy pictures that we took here, be sure to check them out here at my facebook album!

Labor Day weekend was approaching and we were preparing for the next leg of our road trip.

Next stop - Chicago, Illinois!

3 comments:

Matt said...

Awwwwww!!! is right!! It still amazes me that this was the first time Becky and you and I were all in the same spot.


It was so fun to have you in my town seeing my sights and staying at my place. Come on back anytime, OK? If you come in the winter, we can even use the fireplace. WooHoo!!

Smiles and hugs,
Matt

Anonymous said...

I have to say it too AAAWWWWW is totally right. God works in crazy ways!!

I cannot believe it....I love you and come back again!!!

Becky O

AdamX said...

I was kinda shocked to be randomly blog-cruising, and then seeing a photo of Greg. He's such a sweet guy. I feel like people take advantage of him sometimes :-(