Alone with all the money in the world

michaelI am not sure why I am writing about experiences that I went through during my past, specially my relationships with long, gone dead friends. Like Autumn, I may have reached an age when melancholy sets in, as if I am rewinding the video tape recorder of my brain and checking synapses of memory long gone.

It was during one of my trips to Amsterdam that I met a guy  whom I shall call Michael Grinder. This was my first time in Amsterdam, and my first time flying East to the other side of the world. I kind of felt lonely, not knowing what to do next in the middle of the gayest city in Europe. On the other hand, Michael was already a seasoned traveller. He was the youngest child from a well-to-do family. Dad was a doctor who knew how to invest in real property. By the time Michael became a young man, he was appointed the manager of all that wealth. Michael knew how to have fun with it too; making friends all over the Southwest United States, including repressed queens from that strange place called Texas. If you were a friend of Michael, you knew you would have a great time. Private plane rides, dinners at expensive steak houses, partying in the darkest cruise bars of Amsterdam, whoring all over Western Europe. It was fun, fun, fun. Or so it seemed.

I still vividly remember one of my trips to Amsterdam with Michael. He got together a bunch of us queens (mostly from Texas) to spend a week whoring through that city. Some of them rented a boat house at a canal and flew this huge flag of the state of Texas. I am sure the natives were used to the explosions coming out of tourists long repressed in their homelands. Still, the sight of semi naked young guys drinking, smoking (yup) and showing affection under that symbolic flag of fundamentalism, may have been a sight out of this world.

Another incident that is stuck in my brain involved his friend Ruddy. Ruddy originally owned one of the tawdriest  piano bar in San Francisco. He was a self-made wealthy man and was in constant semi-competition with Michael as to who can top whom. Michael used to say that unlike his airplane, Ruddy’s was so tiny and underpowered that it would fly backwards in the air. Ruddy was also a snob when it came to European high culture, specially the Dutch. So, one day, when we were waiting at a train station, he saw some Dutch words written on the wall of an old building. It must be a wise Dutch phrase, he said. Since none of us knew any Dutch, we asked a nearby young girl to interpret the Dutch words. She saw them and started to giggle and laugh. “First class toilet,” she said. Enough to say, we teased Ruddy all the way back to the States.

Back in the Southwest United States, Michael had a nice upper-middle class life style.  A nice big four bedrooms house with the cursory swimming pool. He was also one of those who had a cellular phone in his SUV. Those were the days when portable cellular phones were like a brick and were priced like a brick of gold. Most sensible, spoiled upper-middle class kids had a cell phone installed in the car. Michael was the model of our current cellphone addicted youth. At home, he was a normal guy. Inside his car, he would be on the phone forever. He reminded me of my current addiction: Holding my Iphone wherever I go, even if I am not doing anything with it.

Given what I have written about Michael, one would think he was a great catch, right? There is a phrase from a song that says “money makes the world go round and round.” Like Walden in the TV show Two and Half Men, Michael’s wealth was a blessing and a curse. He was blessed with lots of guys seeking his attention because he was a nice looking blond. The fact that he had money was just extra gravy. Like eligible wealthy bachelors, Michael could never  know for sure if it was him or his money. While he was generous, he also used his money as a weapon to control others. So, in a society where we value equality between the partners, how much equality could he find with a potential partner?

There was actually one who almost reached that level. I’ll call him Evangelos. Evangelos was just a normal middle class kid. Not very good-looking but totally innocent. Michael found him charming, specially on an occasion when the service workers at the airport filled up his airplane. Evangelos flashed out his credit card to pay for the fuel; not realizing that a single filling of fuel would cost around $500 (early 1990’s Dollars). Of course, there was no way Evangelos would be paying that. During my phone calls with Michael, it looked he finally found someone with whom to settle down.

Well, this is not a cinderella story. What I failed to say till now was that Michael was also HIV positive. The word “bareback” was not yet in existence at that time, but that was what happened between Michael and Evangelos. If my memory is correct, Evangelos willingly played Russian roulette with the virus. He lost. After that, I am not sure what else happened, but the happy relationship became an unhappy one. Evangelos used the only weapon available with him and sued Michael for being infected. I don’t really know the details of the court action but I think it was settled mainly in favor of Michael. Evangelos continued to haunt Michael, destroying his property, assaulting him. Michael had to get a restraining order.

As time went on, my communications with Michael became less frequent. Phone calls were not returned, emails unanswered. The few times that I was able to reach him did not show anything amiss. He was happy that his period with Evangelos was over and was moving on. Then, a year later, a common friend told me Michael killed himself. He went to a hotel in a questionable area of town and overdosed himself.

I don’t really know what is the moral of the story that I just wrote. There may be no moral but just something that my brain wanted to put down in a corner of cyberspace.


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