ALL IN! Men Alive, and Passersby… This past week has been smoothly monumental. Not only was a piece of mine published, making a public statement about personal beliefs around my practice of the oldest profession, but I also properly “came out” as a sex worker to family, friends, and miscellaneous folks online. I’ve found myself read more..
Men Alive, and Passersby…
This past week has been smoothly monumental. Not only was a piece of mine published, making a public statement about personal beliefs around my practice of the oldest profession, but I also properly “came out” as a sex worker to family, friends, and miscellaneous folks online.
I’ve found myself “all in,” and can only connect to that surfacing something that transcends “Simply Adam.”
For those of you who happened upon this blog through Psychology Tomorrow Magazine and wish to know more about the work I do, I recommend reading the blog entries ”The First Timer” and ”The Married Man” along with meandering SimplyAdam.com. ”An Amorous Adam” reflects my relationship to love and sex in light of my calling.
And for my returning “Man Alive!” readership, school has resumed in Nawalpur Village and aid continues to come through. Together, we have channeled our wealth to provide food, shelter, and other necessities to those in need for months to follow. I cannot thank you enough!
I’m in the midst of writing what I believe will be a multi-parted feature tentatively titled “The Skill Seeker and the Fantasy Finder,” which will be revealed soon.
While “coming out” on Facebook, nostalgia overcame me and I noticed nine “notes” I had drafted during my time abroad, which I’ve included below this note. One was jotted down after my return to Spain and another covered reunions in Namibia late summer of 2013 as part of an international homecoming. The other seven were scribbled down early summer of 2011 as I prepared to experience Amy Grant in concert and meet her backstage in London. I’ve included these simple, personal contemplations from lifetimes ago – and no time at all! – as they offer insight into what was more meticulously considered in ”Post-Travel Processing: Spain” and ”Post-Travel Processing: Namibia.” And I’m still so pleased with ”An Apocalyptic Adam,” which presents Ms. Grant as the “woman of my personal apocalypse” in parts two and three. Enjoy again, or appreciate anew…
…And allow anything you read on here to remind you that you are not alone. And if you feel in any way that you’re in want or need of something, consider being that very thing for someone else.
There’s an implicit protectiveness and woundedness that runs through ”Sex and Money.” How much more exposed and welcoming to myself I have become through doing what it is I do. How much more I have invited healing due to all you bring to our various exchanges!
I’m beyond grateful for your influence in this unraveling…
An awe-struck Adam
August 19, 2013
I moved to Madrid in July of 2010, after a tumultuous five-month “layover” in Chicago that found me working up to 80 hours per week (burning out on the social services, and falling head over heels for sensual bodywork) after having served as a volunteer teacher for a year in the remote Namibian North after 26 years of having lived solely in my home state of Michigan. I was distressed and unsettled, yet hungry and hopeful. I was also rather provincial and heedless.
I cannot say the expression “if you’re in Madrid, you’re from Madrid” ever rang true for me, but this city certainly does know how to live (perhaps moreso than any other) – and, after months of pushing, I found myself more at peace within myself, slowly coming out of the tempestuousness of all that had transpired prior, along with being incredibly inspired as I set up what I believe was the most successful one-man massage studio in the center of Spain, and in the heart of this vibrant city (imagine my delight in being randomly recognized many times over a year and a half later). I worked tirelessly, developing myself entrepreneurially and spiritually in a time of financial and emotional crisis. It was as exhilarating as it was exhausting.
I also cannot claim I was fully “present” during my twenty months here, which is why I always attached the label “madrileño” on myself with my tongue firmly set in a cheek. I dashed a lot, and quickly found routines to replace the faulty ones that had ousted those before that had served me even less. I sometimes savored exquisite tapas, took the time to wander the winding streets and gaze up at the glorious architecture, and even spent some nights up until sunrise in an effort to keep up with friends’ furor for the manifold fiestas… but I was very much inside of myself, focusing on creating that safe space to give the old aristocracy and its queer descendants an opportunity to open up in ways only a naïve American child of the proletariat could have assisted them in.
As my time in this unique city was coming to a close, and I was about to embark on my seven-month “Rose-tinted Glasses Tour” of sixteen countries, I looked up from my journaling in the claimed spot of my favorite café to make eye contact with a most marvelous creature of life. The chemistry was intense, and intensely mutual, and we fell terribly in love, terribly quickly. Then heartbreakingly apart, with months of second-guessing and longing. I was not about to let go of my vision, and he was not about to embrace it.
Upon my (perhaps now legendary) arrest and deportation from Switzerland in September of 2012, those rose-tinted glasses got smacked right off my face and the tour came to a screeching halt, along with my planned week of madrileño farewells. So I came back all this time later, bid it “adiós”, and am thrilled to have seen it in a more even-handed and open-minded – yet familiar – light.
There were a few friends I wanted to see, locations – old and new (i.e., splendid San Sebastián got checked off the bucket list) – I felt I needed to situate myself in, but – of course – I needed closure with my first adult love. And we both forged an understanding and a friendship in finding that closure.
God… I had no idea how necessary it would be for me to visit la Villa in order to move fiercely forward. I leave it now with a mind at ease and a grateful heart. I am in part who I am today because of this most lively and uncommonly challenging of European cities.
I am not sure when – or if – I will return. But the sweet and musky scents on its streets… the low register and assertiveness of the voices… the warmth of an enveloping torso against my back as I was woken up to bearded kisses throughout the night… will live on in my memory and inform the way I perceive the world as being so very, very full of wonder.
Now, onto Namibia…
September 4, 2013
I moved to the village of Onawa in the remote, rural north of Namibia in January of 2009, after having lived all 26 years of my life in my home state of Michigan. I’d had a mind-expanding group study exchange in the Philippines with Rotary International the last month of the winter prior that had shone a light on my stagnant state in Kalamazoo and inspired me to let go of lapsed goals and live my life as it made sense in the present – pursuing repeat dreams and acting on fresh impulses. (The first foreigners I’d ever met, a decade and a half before my departure, had been Namibians. Then a three-year-old country, I had done school reports on this distant land that provided my first awareness of how marvelously massive our world is. So, knowing I was about to take off, the whole of 2008 unraveled as the most self-realized and exuberant year of my adult life, as I determinedly set out for closure with various folks in Michigan with my future “cause” in mind… Oh, we Americans with our causes, and our incessant grasping for closure!) I pulled out for Namibia full of zealous intention as a future volunteer teacher and librarian, but with an underlying understanding that, one by one, my many unintentional expectations would be shot down and I’d have to figure out what to do with my overblown ego and, even more considerable, that world of possibilities within myself.
When I have spoken about Namibia since leaving in December of 2009 – hmm – it’s typically been in generalizations. The specifics of my year there are solid in my memory, but I’ve kept them somewhat sacredly to myself. The scent of sweat and human filth… the fear in most of my learners’ eyes and those introductory weeks of silence… wall after wall that I hit, and pushed against, and those ones that gloriously came down… I remember walking the 18 kilometers to, and the second round of 18 kilometers – groceries on my back and weighing me down in each hand – from Outapi through flood waters in insufferable heat while helicopters murmered overhead with mahangu and other grains in tow to provide aid during a national emergency that claimed over 100 lives. I recall witnessing children being beaten almost every day, with sticks and hands, as I railed against corporal punishment at my school. I recollect the moment I realized I’d spend the rest of the year ostracized by many villagers and colleagues (and some learners), as I was partly responsible for my village’s Peace Corps volunteer being removed for reckless behavior and mental instability. I mostly did what I knew to be honorable (minus some small tantrums and choice words) at the expense of my own immediate well-being. I was going to finish that year, come hell or high water (incidentally, the latter came first), as much as to salvage my pride as to do the right thing. And I followed through. And, as a result, I was able to make a monumentally positive impact, and an even more profoundly positive impact was made on me.
If you’re reading this note, you doubtlessly know some of the specifics of my time in “the North”, and the years proceeding when – with support from friends outside of Africa – money was raised, parcels were shipped, notes of encouragement were written… to seven gifted and motivated young people who we sent away to hostel schools to receive a much better education (and who are all doing fabulously, by the way). What I have been reluctant to share was the silent suffering… I had been traumatized, yet kept moving – to Chicago, then Madrid – constantly in a state of transition with little ground beneath my feet and only what resembled clarity of mind. So the details, for me, melded into an ever-present experience of the Home of the Brave, as the nuances remained there and the overall feeling stretched… and then that muddled mishmash of emotion followed me further, to some uncertain turning point in 2011, established in an altogether different era of life in Madrid, when everything came crashing to the forefront and I discovered a newfound passion for life with an entirely more open awareness of the world and my place in it. And I whispered a “thank you” to every struggle that led to each triumph and failure – and every hour and day and week filled with boredom and frustration and loneliness in Owamboland, then – just like that – soared in my own very privileged and dynamic and possibility-laden life in Europe… then stateside… then, seemingly, every side.
So, yes, I moved to Namibia to make a positive difference, and I also went for an experience in cultural immersion (I was way the hell out in the bush), but – in the end – the biggest positive difference was made in me, and I learned more about myself than about the culture I had been immersed in (which I am refraining from elaborating on, as it is arduous enough to be a part of this specific culture, as the Owambo themselves will state emphatically, but to be an outsider within it – OH!). So I needed to go back. I needed to go back to confront the obscurity of my time there, and I needed to go back and share all the love and gratitude I feel for what my time there did for me… and feel the love and gratitude being returned.
And the details felt so rich this time around… every detail I’d experienced four years back, and every new experience, was saturated in synchronicity. I could walk around Uutapi Town or Onawa Village and just the person I was made to cross paths with would transpire, and I’d recollect the uproarious laughter in Life Skills as we learned how to use condoms with bananas. I shook Mshasho’s (aka “The Dogg”, a musician most of my former learners idolized) hand one minute and recalled how we’d learned how to write “friendly letters” to him in English. I then ran into a young man in another moment I had once taught who told me he passed grade 8 because of English class, and is about to graduate grade 12 with outstanding marks the next. And I remembered the pride. I remembered all of our sense of accomplishment. I even learned that, indeed, I had been “witched” because I lived on “that side” of Onawa (how did I not know this before? Oh, that intense presence…)! It’s as though I was experiencing everything with the familiarity of being in a place you once knew, but with the objectivity of all that between then and the clearness of a new day grants you with.
When I first entered the village (this time around), unbeknownst to me, word had gotten out that I’d be in Ombalantu that day in particular, and a couple dozen current learners at Dr. Kleopas Dumeni Combined School were waiting for me in the soccer field. We all ran to and hugged one another. All had been in grades 5 and 6 when I was the librarian. I had dinner with the Shanghalelas (Johannes’ family), which was positively blissful, as we celebrated his expansive future as he prepares to head to South Africa to study mechanical engineering. I even created some magnificent memories in Windhoek, the capital city, with some all-too-important friends who have moved along.
I consider my adult life to be pre and post-Namibia. My time there highlighted my own potential. It also helped me realize that it’s okay to have expectations, and it’s actually ideal to have a tremendous sense of self. To have the conviction that you can do more for people when you think highly of and for yourself and expect them to feel the same in regards to their own selves and lives. Sure, I bent over backwards and attempted humility there and it made its own impact. I went thinking (quite ironically) that I’d encourage my learners to embrace their culture and keep the old ways alive. However, all in all and through-and-through, it was in having high and specific expectations and encouraging them to have the same – yet to honor the past while fully embracing this moment in human history, and the ever-accelerating changes that define it – that the biggest positive difference was made.
Namibia gave me friends for life. It helped me tap into a love for myself that I hadn’t accessed before. And it paved a path in which I could propel myself, fast tracking it into an enigmatic and purposeful future.
Most definitely, in going back I got some closure. But I also embraced the ambiguity of my time in Ombalantu (I’ll never really wrap my mind around it) and the uncertainty of the future that we all share. Just like that big night sky I’d lay in the soccer field to watch (and got to do again, though this time not alone) and the grandiosity of the never-ending desert I’d look out on during hours-long hikes… that’s my destiny. That’s yours. That’s all of ours. That’s the then, the now, and the future.
Ndapandula unene, Namibia. Thank you very, very big.
June 22, 2011
Christmas of 1991 I was presented with a cassette tape entitled Heart in Motion. I loved it. I have countless memories of skating on our lake with “Good for Me”, “Galileo”, and “How Can We See That Far?” sounding from the living room window as my dog, Tessie, struggled to keep up with a nine-year-old me pulling my best Kristi Yamaguchi on the ice. (I even subjected my fifth grade classmates to an “Ask Me” sing-along, proclaiming God’s mercy in the wake of childhood sexual abuse.) No song captured the feeling of that time better than “I Will Remember You” though… and as a 16-year-old I would refer back to it to find consolation after Tessie’s death. It’s powerful how music can carry you through trying times… and lead you to the other side of them. I can’t say the death of a dog would devastate me now – or even that I listen to Amy Grant’s music – but during those times when my world was smaller… when I hung on a thread of hope… she was there.
June 24, 2011
Fast forward, three years later – 1994 – and Heart in Motion had since been broken. However, my mother had remembered how much I’d loved Amy’s music when she came across a used copy of Age to Age at a Christian Women’s Retreat, and spent a dollar on what would be the best Christmas gift – an afterthought of a stocking stuffer – I would ever receive. From the afterlife-longing opener, “In a Little While”, to the forced optimism of “I Love a Lonely Day” and the absolute solace I took in “I’m Raining on the Inside”… a newly diagnosed obsessive-compulsive-disordered 12-year-old with a psychiatric pass to skip class in order to cry in the boy’s bathroom, I was approaching the age when suicide was conceptual – and I think I may have found a way to check out of life around that time had it not been for this album. Growing up in an Evangelical Christian home, believing at a young age that the feelings I could only suppress were abominable – apparently curable, but only if confessed– I clung to the cross out of an all-encompassing fear of hell, and desperately needed to believe in the mercy and personhood of Jesus. It was “Arms of Love” that I would rewind and play, rewind and play… until I’d worn the tape out that Christmas break of seventh grade (which only led me to scrape together my allowance money and purchase tapes of all 14 of Amy’s albums). I can recall, little stereo perched, rocking back and forth on my bed, craving connection: “Storms will come and storms will go / Wonder just how many storms it takes until I finally know / You’re here always / Even when my skies are far from gray / I can stay – teach me to stay there / In the place I found where I can hide / It’s safe inside, your arms of love / Like a child who’s held throughout a storm / You keep me warm, in your arms of love…” Through Amy’s music and ministry, I felt a level of connection that would carry me through the adolescent years.
June 30, 2011
I spent the rest of Christmas holiday with my father in the small town of Petoskey, in northern Michigan. Flat out addicted to Age to Age, I asked to be dropped off to feed my hunger for all things Amy at the hole-in-the-wall Christian bookstore… where they had one lone cassette tape: 1986’s The Collection. A 101 on Amy’s early relevance during the burgeoning Contemporary Christian Music scene of the late ‘70s to mid-‘80s, this compilation whetted my appetite for her entire catalogue. From the naive “Find a Way” to the fervent “Thy Word” to the endearing “Father’s Eyes”, I was hooked. As I gradually purchased each of her albums in Christian bookstores and Wal-Mart discount racks, I found a constant friend in Amy. Christmastime of ‘94/’95 was the beginning of what would be an ardent five-and-a-half year love affair. Actually, “Stay for Awhile” – which once appealed to my 12-year-old longing for the carefree days of childhood – has quickly become a nostalgic anthem as I count down the days until Amy’s humble European return: “Time takes its toll, and time alters our view / it would be nice to spend some time… with you.” (Oh my GOD! I’ll be spending time with Amy Grant! The love affair resumes…)
July 3, 2011
Spring break of ’95 my family drove down to Augusta, Georgia to visit my step-sister and her family at the military base. It was there that Nikki took me to the Christian bookstore and allowed me to pick out a couple tapes as a belated Christmas present. One of those was Amy’s 1985 smash, Unguarded. At the time, it had caused considerable controversy for its rock style and subtler religious referencing. For me, it was a more lighthearted way to connect to my faith and life (and, along with Heart in Motion, would be my choice album to clean my room to). Whether swaying to “Everywhere I Go”, knee-knocking to “Fight”, or sitting and pondering my brother’s life in prison as I related to him through “The Prodigal”… it became a quick companion piece to my week-to-week journey through the rest of junior high and high school. One thing that I soon learned about Amy’s career that I connected with was the consistent criticism she endured for singing “secular” songs and speaking to what she felt was a more well-rounded portrayal of the human experience. She went past dogma and, decidedly, appealed to the humanity of herself and her audience, and it gave me great comfort as an Evangelical and a homosexual pre-teen that I could find some sort of balance… some sort of acceptance as a person first, and a vessel for Christ second. I chose Amy as a role-model for my personal path through the rocky adolescent years, and my walk with Jesus. On how to be strong in my spirituality, but also a creature of flesh and blood – and become a more multi-faceted person socially. I’d always been taught to find the answers outside of myself – in the intangible and faith-based, and to push what I knew of that onto others. Amy helped me turn inward… and appreciate what I found there. Unguarded, and identifiable. And see that it was good.
July 7, 2011
I eventually came across Amy’s sophomore album, 1979’s My Father’s Eyes, in a little Christian bookstore in Tennessee, and immediately pursued her earliest albums. Recorded by a teenaged Amy, they were simple and sincere, lyrically and musically, and encouraged this 12-year-old songwriter to write such songs as “Proud to be Oppressed (for Jesus)”, “Pass on the Knowledge (the Knowledge of the Lamb)”, and “Is the Sunshine too Bright (for Thee)?” I used to listen to “Lay Down (the Burden of Your Heart)” and reflect on my relationship with my peers and with my God – and with myself (in seventh grade English class I scribbled, “When I look inside the mirror / I don’t see no ‘fag’ or ‘queer’ / I just see a little boy / who’s ever searching for his joy”). As I continued the quest for all things Amy throughout 1995, I came to memorize every word to every song on all 14 of her albums. Sometimes I would take hours-long walks in the woods I was reared in with my dog and start with the eponymous first album’s starting track, “Beautiful Music”, and just work my way through the years. 1978, 1979, 1980… Singing, praying, daydreaming… Growing up three dirt roads from pavement in state game area, I was lacking for a social life. No computer, no VCR, not even a CD player (until I bought my own in 1996, then financially focused on purchasing all 14 of those albums in CD format)… Amy’s music was not only a comfort – it was an escape into what I thought would one day be a more exciting and tolerant world to be entered into (which proved to be the case). The world I then resided in was riddled with contradictions and restrictions, and Amy represented fairness and transparency to me. My mother used to proclaim Amy was too liberal. As a 13-15-year-old I would find myself defending Amy’s career decisions to Christian bookstore employees, youth ministers, and other nutbags. Something about the hesitance – or just plain hostility – many felt towards someone who practically sat at the left hand to the Throne gave me the courage to live more in the light of my own truth (as I dared at the time).
July 11, 2011
The album that meant the most to me during a pivotal time – that most affected my life – is, hands down, Lead Me On. It’s sometimes disorienting how a tune can take you right back to the moment in your life when it most influenced you. No music does that to me like the melancholic, pensive, hope-tinged tunes on Lead Me On. I couldn’t listen to this album again until its 20th anniversary edition was released in 2008, because I would feel – all over again – the weight of being a conflicted 13-year-old longing for childhood faith in “1974”, an anguished 15-year-old yearning to resolve my sexuality with my spirituality in “Faithless Heart”, and a wistful 17-year-old making amends with the ending of an era as high school graduation approached in “If These Walls Could Speak”. When I make my song request this Sunday, I’ll undoubtedly ask Amy to play “Say Once More”… To feel the depth of my feelings for those in my life – immediate or in the periphery – when I was an adolescent… the relevance I placed on them… the way I found it important to be so accessible… This profoundness is often lost as I have gotten caught up in the distractions and the go, go, go of modern adult life the past 11 years. I now use Lead Me On to ground myself. It reminds me of where I came from… who I am… and how important it is for us to reflect on our emotions… so we can connect with ourselves and to those around us as both flesh and spirit.
July 16, 2011
After over two-and-a-half years of rabid Amy Grant fandom, a 14-year-old Adam prepared for “Takes a Little Time” and the release of her long-awaited 10th studio album, Behind the Eyes. I vividly recall her lead single being announced while in transit with fellow church-goers to Bible camp… begging my mother to turn the volume up as I pressed my ear to the car speaker. I would go on to create signs advertising the upcoming album and post them all over Delton Kellogg High School. I can’t say I significantly boosted Amy’s sales, but I certainly made a noble effort of doing so. It definitely helped that I ordered Amy’s albums for every possible occasion (teacher’s received A Christmas Album in December, and House of Love made a suitable wedding gift). Pushing Amy with Evangelical fervor was, I felt, my duty as someone so touched. After my status as fan waned upon coming out in the spring of 2000, I would use the legacy of Amy in my life to exorcise old demons, and make new assertions… be it stripping at Brother’s Beta Club as an 18-year-old on amateur night with a large purple thong and t-shirt that read “Virgin” to “Sing Your Praise to the Lord” or winning Western Michigan University’s drag title as a 19-year-old to “Grape, Grape Joy” or extensive research as a 20/21-year-old, which culminated in a scholarship and 40+ pages of deconstructive meanderings entitled something like “Amy Grant and Madonna, Breaking the Virgin/Whore Dichotomy: Postmodern Icons in Judeo-Christian America from 1988 to 1993”. It was through such demonstrations that I came to realize I had never been alone. In fact, countless gay men and women have come forward post-Calvinist childhoods to share how they found hope in Amy’s music and message. As I have been gearing up with fellow gay Amy Grant ticket holders the past few days, myriad emotions have bubbled to the surface… and it’s become clear to me that meeting Amy tomorrow will mostly serve as a personal testament to how far I’ve allowed myself to come, and an opportunity to be secure in the face of a faith I no longer require. I no longer have to wait… to push… to follow. And I am ready for yet another chapter. Thanks, Amy.
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