Postcards From the Ledge (and Other Extraordinary Folk): GAGA: Gay Action Group Alliance

Ken Painter By Ken Painter, 8th Jan 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>General Fiction

Join me in a stroll through an eclectic collection of short stories filled with gay and straight characters in the mid-Michigan communities of Lansing and East Lansing and surrounding areas as they laugh, love, and find their lives intertwined in inexplicable ways. (Some of the stories - not all - contain softcore male/male sex scenes, and some of the material contained has been previously published on Wikinut by this author and have been modified from its original form.)

The Idea

Rollie had let Abbot in on his germ of an idea in the car on the way home from their last visit to Mick and Keith’s prior to Christmas, and Ab was immediately taken with the idea though both recognized there would be a lot of groundwork involved. This was the discussion stage, however, and they needed to do two things first, put some thoughts on paper and get through the holidays.

Basically they realized that what they were doing was flying by the seat of their pants, but Rollie’s idea was to form a service group of individuals who could identify needs from within the gay community which were not being met and somehow meet them regardless of the age or ethnicity, etc. of the person or persons involved. This feeling had developed from the simple thought that if he and Ab could use a little help in receiving visitors for Mick and Keith on occasion then just how many other gay shut-ins in the surrounding area must there also be who would be desirous of visits also. But then what of homeless teens? And perhaps lesbian mothers with kids who had been abused in some cases and forced out of their homes perhaps and into the streets? The list of alternate scenarios could go on from there. The point was for them to see if they could find enough interest in the area to form a group to try and tackle even some of these issues. Daunting? Certainly if one were to look at every effort as Herculean, but then Rollie was partnered with Abbot Goddard the most lovable lunatic in the area. Impossible? Nothing was impossible, and he realized the now old but sage quote from Audrey Hepburn something to the effect that the words were located within the word itself, I’m Possible.

One of the points the pair realized from the outset was the question of what other groups were doing like PFLAG, certain progressive church service groups, and any other local organizations that they weren’t yet aware of, and so they began their first information gathering with this. It was while doing this that Rollie found out he could get the local community center for free, the one where Mick used to go meet with his friends once a week, if he filled out the proper local paperwork which he promptly set about doing. Problem One: Solved.

By the end of January the guys had laid their basic plans for the group, had a name and place secured for it to meet, plus they’d already received the tentative okay for them to schedule a meeting for the first Tuesday in March if they so desired and told everything would be finalized by the end of February. Now all that remained was to get the word out. And wait. Seeing that Rollie was a businessman and was used to making up flyers all the time at his work, he made up some beautiful ones on his home computer for posting in establishments throughout the area. Additionally, he and Ab targeted certain online local Internet sites for ads plus even took out small newspaper ads among them the campus paper and the local shopping guides, and all listed both of their e-mail addresses as contacts for further information.

All of their flyers and ads gave pertinent details and listed the date and location of the first meeting, and so as the time kept drawing ever nearer Rollie and Abbot had voiced their concern to one another as they constantly shared notes. Both had received only one e-mail each asking for further information regarding the meeting. They’d begun to wonder if it was all going to be a big bust. But they wouldn’t know until they got there, and they resolved everything was at least worth the trying.

The Gathering - Introductions

Rollie and Abbot got to the community center a half-hour early on that first Tuesday for the 7 pm. gathering so that they could set up the tables in room #3, put ice in the cooler they’d toted with them and load it with the assortment of soft drinks and put out the cookies for any folks which may show up. While Rollie and Abbot could not be considered to be church-goers, they considered themselves spiritual, and though neither shared the specific information with the other both were praying almost constantly at that moment for folks to show up to this gathering their initial organizational trial balloon.

At a few minutes before 7:00 the guys were heartened to actually see a few people begin showing up, and they began introducing themselves individually to folks while passing out the sticky name tags for people to wear. They allowed a few extra minutes for people to reach the center, and Rollie called the meeting to order about 7:15 while Abbot took a quick headcount and noted 16 in attendance plus the two of them far exceeding their expectations for this first meeting. While they’d hoped for a turnout this size, they would have been perfectly happy if even half this number had shown up on the first night.

“Good evening friends,” Rollie began as he called the group to order seated around the rectangle at the standard community center folding tables. “I’ve met some of you already, and for those of you that I haven’t my name is Rollie Jenkins, and I’m the manager of Pickin’ and Grinnin’ the best small band combo music and equipment store in the area, shameless plug I know, but that’s not what we’re here for,” to which there was much laughter from the group, “and this is my partner in life Abbot Goddard an RN at Capital East Hospital, and he’s gonna start the clipboard around. Now this is both an informational as well as an organizational meeting so if you feel that you don’t want to put your name and info on the sheet that’s coming around until after you’ve heard what all this is about or maybe not at all if you decide that it’s just not for you then that’s great with us. Please, Ab and I are not here to hard sell anybody on anything. But first I’d like to make a few remarks, and then I’ll open it up to all of you.

“I got this idea a few weeks ago while we were visiting our two senior gay friends in the nursing facility where they reside. I’m not going to give you their names at the moment, but I’m going to describe their current situation, and then if any of you personally would like to go visit them either Ab or I will give you their specific details. However, it was their specific situation which got me to thinking about others in the area who may be under similar circumstances and probably much, much worse.

“These two older gentlemen, both in their early 70’s just became roommates in their nursing home within the past year and over time became friends first, and as friends do the eventually discovered they were both gay. One had never been in any relationship while the other had only been married to a woman for several decades having lost her to cancer although our understanding is there had been a teenage gay romance of some sort. At any rate these two gentlemen fell in love as roommates and are perfectly happy and content, and Ab and I look in on them regularly which is great though we could use a little help. However, the one gentleman has two grown sons who very seldom visit, at most once a month and never together. The visits seem pretty much perfunctory. However, because the oldest son is listed as the estate executor for the one gentleman, for all of the obvious reasons, both Ab and I, the two gentlemen and the entire staff at the home are protecting this pair from even mentioning their couplehood to the sons. Both Ab and I would like a little more outside positive involvement in their lives and without detection by the sons. One of the gentlemen used to be a regular here at the community center up until last summer when he ran into ill health and had to be placed into the facility, but he’s doing fine now. So it’s all working out.

“Whatever brought you here tonight, whether you saw one of the flyers or an ad in one of the papers or one of the online ads, you must have understood that we felt there to be a great community need for something like this and why, and so as I’ve been talking I’ve also been watching all of you pass the clipboard around and I’m so very pleased to see you signing it. Hopefully you all have a comment to make about the needs you see in the community where you can help or what you see as deficient and need to be dealt with in some way. And so I’d like to ask for questions or comments at this time and also direct your attention to the refreshments on that table behind you on the rear wall which you should feel free to partake of at any time. Yes sir,” Rollie called on one of the two senior gentlemen seated to his far left who had raised his hand.

“My name is Ed Phelps, and we have a gay senior group which meets here at the center once a week, and from your general description of the two gentlemen in your story I think my other friend here from the center and I may know him, so if we’re having a break later or something we’d like to get that information you were talking about. We’ve been kinda wondering where he disappeared to.”

“If he’s the same one, and he probably is since you’re from the center here, I’ll be sure to give it to you. And I apologize in advance if he is. A lot happened all at once, and we completely forgot to notify the center here of his whereabouts! Yes sir,” Rollie pointed at a strikingly handsome man at the back table.

“Yes, my name is Matt Dobson, and from your general description of the other gentleman in your story my partner here Jim Etheridge and I may know him also, so we’d like to talk to you or your partner later, too, okay?”

“Absolutely. Wow! Two for two? This would be great! I’ll tell you what, I see that the clipboard has made it all the way around, and it looks like everybody has signed it which simply blows me away!” Rollie conferred briefly with Ab talking in low tones who nodded in complete agreement. Looking back toward the group Rollie then said, “Let’s take a brief 10 maybe 15 minute break, and everybody can mingle a bit, get to know one another while I talk with these gentleman and my partner Abbot is going to quickly look at the clipboard and list the focus areas on the dry erase board here which you all identified for local attention, and then we’ll come back after break and discuss the findings. How’s that sound?” Everyone was in agreement by the acclamation of voices, and the blending began.

The Gathering - Part Two

After Rollie met with Jim Etheridge, Matt Dobson, Ed Phelps, and Rick Robertson who was Mick’s other friend from the community center and had given them all of Keith and Mick’s particulars at Blueberry Hill thus being reassured by all four that they’d would love to look in on the pair and left it up to them to work up a schedule which would be alleviate Rollie’s and Ab’s a bit, then Rollie perused the clipboard for a few moments just after Abbot had dispensed with his list on the board. Rollie noted the following dozen names in addition to the four he’d just talked to:

Jeff Abernathy, 5th grade teacher, Marquette Elementary, Lansing
Tim Doolittle, Family Practitioner, Axton Medical Clinic, Lansing
Mason Biggerstaff, MI Dept. of Corr., Supr. Div. of Farms and Parole Camps
Helen Biggerstaff, RN, Capital Main Hospital, Lansing
Annie MacGregor McGraw, Retired
Ramona McDermott, Waitress, Duffy’s Tavern, Lansing
Liz Lomax, Real Estate Agent, Lansing
Jan Bauman, 4th grade teacher, Hastings Elementary, Lansing
Max Keegan, English teacher, Cass High School, East Lansing
Jason Silverman, Tech. Supr., Phys. Ed. Dept., MSU, East Lansing
Verna Steffey, PFLAG mom, East Lansing
Lisa Lindstrom, PFLAG mom, East Lansing

Just as he was considering the last two names on the list and thinking the names sounded vaguely familiar the two upper-40ish women attached to them approached Rollie and introduced themselves as the mothers of two of the members from the band the Rainbow Chaps who had purchased all of their equipment at his store some years earlier.

“I knew I recognized those names! How are you doing?” Rollie laughed as he shook their hands.

“Oh we’re fine, and we really think this is a great idea,” Verna said in reply.

“Yeah,” Lisa echoed in agreement. “We told our boys about it the other night, and they thought it was great, too, but of course, they’re always out on the road all over the place from Detroit to Chicago playing every gig they can trying to hit it big. You know how that goes.” Both moms laughed and shrugged their shoulders.

Rollie smiled and agreed, “Yes, I do, but you know I’ve heard them, and they are really good. Who knows? Perhaps someday.”

“Yup.” Verna agreed. “That’s what we say too. Someday. And they’re doing what they love and paying the bills, and that’s all that matters.”

“That’s right.” Rollie nodded in agreement. “Well, I guess I’d better get this back on track. We’ll catch up later.”

Rollie called the meeting back to order and from their list which Abbot had written so neatly on the board they had identified some areas which could possibly be helped in the local area and which the group had already begun discussing. One lady raised her hand, and Rollie called on her.

“Yes, I’m Helen Biggerstaff and my husband Mason and I belong to one of the UCC churches in Lansing which are very progressive, and we’ve been thinking that if they were alerted to this there may be some individual members who’d like to assist us. And I happen to know that the one in East Lansing that my son and his fiance used to attend, Woodlawn over near the campus, if I were to call the associate pastor and her partner I would imagine they’d be all in for this.”

“Mrs. Biggerstaff that would be just great!” Rollie was astounded not only at her proclamation, but he had just put two and two together with her name and recent events. “Whatever you and Mr. Biggerstaff could do in this regard would be much appreciated. Thank you both so much. And if you don’t mind my asking also,” to which she’d already started laughing, “since you mentioned that your son and his fiance had moved away, would that be to New York?”

“Yes it would,” Helen replied almost blushing though she was getting somewhat used to the limelight by now, “however, Wil’s not there at the moment though Yale’s there teaching reading in an elementary school in Brooklyn. Wil’s in spring training at the moment with the Yankees.” And the entire room erupted in applause.

“Wow!” Rollie just shook his head. He was otherwise speechless.

After the applause died down he passed out a handout he’d made in advance which outlined a brief action plan they could follow which might assist as they went about trying to implement the topics they’d discussed that evening. On the page Rollie had listed the acronnym with a single word, idea.

Data gathering

He then went on to explain their mission at the moment as he saw it to 1) identify the need, 2) gather the pertinent data on the individual or group in need, 3) evaluate that data as being able to be implemented or not, 4) and then implement it into action if it was actionable.

Rollie then asked them all to feel free to communicate their thoughts and ideas with both himself and Abbot anytime, because anything they’d done there that evening was not cast in stone. It was all formative. All input was valued and welcome.

The next meeting was set for the first Tuesday of April, and as the meeting was closed the buzz in the room became absolutely infectious. Both Rollie and Abbot left with that good feeling one gets that you just opened a Christmas present and you can’t wait to play with it. And they also left with Dr. Matt Dobson’s business card.

What the Alliance Was Designed For

In room 37W at the nursing facility in East Lansing, Michigan known as Blueberry Hill the two elderly gentlemen of said room were very surprised to receive their two visitors that Thursday evening just over a week after the conclusion of that first meeting. Mick had been simply blown away when his old friends Ed Phelps and Rick Robertson had shown up the previous weekend. That visit too had been totally unexpected. But what? Was the world coming to an end? Who and why were all these wonderful people showing up? And these two, my God, Mick thought, absolutely gorgeous!

The nurse’s desk had been forewarned though. Matt and Jim had called ahead to check on the dinner hour and to make certain that it would be all right if they came to visit Keith and Mick that evening. Matt also wanted to explain the nature of what was going on, and the nurse on duty assured him that Rollie had already filled her in and he needn’t worry. They weren’t expecting either of the sons that evening, but should one of them show up unexpectedly they would just explain it away that their dad had received a visit from his old therapist and a friend. Just checking up for old time’s sake. Not any problem at all. She wasn’t worried, and they shouldn’t either. Matt smiled at Jim as he explained the whole ruse to him, but he knew exactly from his long experience as a PI and a gay one at that how these things worked.

When the younger couple approached the door of 37W they heard muted talking but noticed that the door was wide open and so Matt knocked briefly on the door before stepping inside followed closely by Jim. Keith immediately looked like he’d seen a ghost.

“Hello, Keith,” was all Matt said, and Jim echoed the same words, and they both nodded over at Mick to acknowledge his presence though neither really knew him yet.

When at last Keith finally found his voice he was able to reply, “My God, it really is you! I thought at first I was imagining things. Mick this is Matt Dobson and Jim Etheridge who I’ve told you about. Guys, this is my partner Mick.”

The younger men went over to shake hands with Mick who blushed and said not so bashfully, “Well, Keith said you both were gorgeous, but seeing you up close does an old man a world of good, I’ve got to tell you.” And they all laughed.

“You’ll have to forgive him, boys,” Keith apologized. “Part of his charm I suppose is that his eyesight is too damn healthy for his own good, and it sort of puts his mouth in gear. But God, I do love the man!”

“Well, it’s good to hear,” Jim offered, “and actually we don’t mind it. Verbal compliments are great, it’s just when we start receiving the unwanted physical ones that we tend to get a little hot under the collar.”

“Does that happen a lot,” Keith asked.

“Much more than we like,” Matt admitted looking at his lover who nodded back in agreement, and then he added. “We’ve taken to going out on double dates and other couple’s outings a lot with two guys who are also partnered and are really becoming our absolute best friends I think it’s safe to say. One’s an elementary teacher and the other is a family practitioner, but the plus side of it is that by going out in a group of four Jim and I never get hit on. Never happens. The whole group dynamic just changes. But we want to know what’s up with you two? Tell us about this guy, will ya Keith?” And Matt motioned over at Mick.

For the next hour and a half the four men lost themselves in love, laughter, and making up for lost time while Mick got to know these absolutely fascinating men. However, amid all the beautiful catching up the other three shared Mick was still Mick after all and intermingled with the joy the old rascal couldn’t help but wander off occasionally but to entertain just a few absolutely delightful lascivious thoughts.

Ambassadors for Change

By Rollie Jenkins

We have faced our own worst foe, and it is fear
We have cast off petty differences held dear
We have buried old agendas in the dust
We are building new alliances of trust
It’s a feeling both remarkable and strange
We are charged to be ambassadors for change

We have seen the beacon shine from distant shores
It illuminates our path to open doors
We’ve begun to break down barriers of doubt
And discover what each other’s all about
It’s a feeling only love itself explains
We are moved to be ambassadors for change

We must not forget emotion we’ve been sharing
We must not forget ideas that give birth
We must all believe the key to change is caring
If we’re going to move the mountains on this earth

It’s a rough and rocky road that this life gives
Even rougher still for one who never lives
But we can give sight to the blind, feet to the lame
And with this dynamic power light each flame
Such uncommon beauty giving depth and range
It’s a joy to be ambassadors for change
Spread the feeling only love itself explains
Be impassioned as ambassadors for change

(Written by Rollie during the week after the conclusion of the inaugural meeting of the Gay Action Group Alliance in East Lansing.)

(This concludes the final story from the book Postcards From the Ledge (and Other Extraordinary Folk.)

Link to the 1st story at the beginning of this book . . . Here


Action Plan, Gay Community, Gay Couples, Gay Experience, Gay Lesbian And Bisexual, Gay Love, Gay Marriage, Gay Marriage Rights, Gay Men, Gay Rights, Gays, Lgbt, Lgbt Community, Senior Care, Senior Center, Senior Citizens, Seniors, Short Fiction, Short Stories

Meet the author

author avatar Ken Painter
Retired Chicago public school teacher. Singer, songwriter, musician, author, & opinionated old curmudgeon. Married to my husband & living in Colorado, USA. Also a father & grandfather.

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
1st Feb 2015 (#)

Great article and thanks for sharing! Congrats on being author of the day!

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author avatar Ken Painter
25th Apr 2015 (#)

Thank you so very much!

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