Still Learning How to Fly ~ Chapter Sixteen: "The Second Time Around" (Pt.1)

Ken Painter By Ken Painter, 27th Oct 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Biography & Autobiography

A lot of pieces begin to fall into place for me after I begin my online bromance with the big tall fella from El Paso named Lane who introduces me to the United Church of Christ. My spiritual side starts getting fed again . . . and so naturally my heart follows . . .

It Started As An Online Bromance . . .

To say that I’d met Lane was a little stretch of the truth. When I say that we’d met, I mean that we’d met online. We didn’t actually meet in the flesh for another two months. But over the first few days of correspondence online we established that we had a lot of commonalities, eerily so. And the more we compared notes the longer our list got. Lane is two years younger than me, and it appeared that we’d both gotten married in 1975 just a week apart, Nancy and I on August 2nd and he and his wife on August 9th in his native Minnesota. We were both Mid-westerners, and though he and his wife had spawned four children, two girls and two boys (two more children than Nancy and me), we had each buried our firstborn sons. His was named Michael, and mine, Micah. Michael had passed at the age of 10 months due to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). We’d both been teachers. Our favorite vegetable was Brussels sprouts. We each took a girl to the high school prom named Karen. And the Twilight Zone kicker was that his favorite uncle and aunt were named Roy and Hallie which were the names of my maternal grandparents (Bess’s first name was really Hallie). The list went on from there, but these were the main highlights.

Our online bromance immediately turned into phone dating as we burned up the lines between El Paso and Tucson. Lane worked the first shift as a customer service representative at a call center, and I was still on unemployment, so I was surprised that after a long day of talking on the phone he’d still want to spend even more time talking to me, but he didn’t seem to mind, so we’d burn up more time in the evening getting to know each other better. It was Lane who introduced me to the UCC (the United Church of Christ). Lane had been raised in the UCC which had been formed in 1957with the union of two Protestant denominations: the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches. Each of these was, in turn, the result of a union of two earlier denominations.

As if turned out, Lane, who belonged to one of the local UCC churches in El Paso, was coming to some sort of meeting at one of the local UCC churches in the Tucson area in late February, and so we decided it would be the perfect time for us to meet. In fact I invited him to stay at my apartment since he didn’t have an abundance of money, and he had no car and was already having to spring for a train ticket over anyway.

What a first sight he was. Okay. We’d already seen pictures of each other, and we knew what each of us looked like. No problems. Lane is six feet, three inches and 220 pounds, with a full head of medium brown hair, but when I picked him up at the train depot in downtown Tucson that night . . . that poor man! The front of his shirt was spotted with dried vomit. He’d tried his best to dab at it and clean it up to make himself presentable, and he was apologizing profusely, but he looked like an unkempt sad sack! I immediately felt so sorry for him.

What had happened was that no sooner had he got on the train in El Paso and it had traveled out of town, he had discovered how bad the tracks were as it rocked back and forth, back and forth, he kept getting motion sickness, sicker and sicker. He headed downstairs from his seat to the restroom, but never made it there in time, and he lost it all, all over himself before he even got to Deming, not even halfway to Tucson. He had to endure over half a train trip in his sickness. I got him to my apartment where the very first thing he enjoyed was a hot shower and a change of clothes. And then I kissed him, or vice versa.

From there, because Lane had introduced me to the UCC, I started attending one of the local churches, Rincon Congregational, not regularly at first, but I was getting my feet wet. It had been 2 ½ years since I’d been inside a church of any kind, and though I’d missed it, deep inside my heart I was searching for the perfect fit for me. I was getting too old for any more disappointments theologically speaking. I was going nowhere I was not accepted as the gay man which I was, however, Lane had already assured me that I was welcomed there. As it turned out, he and the interim pastor there were old friends.

You see, Lane, in addition to being an old school teacher like me, also had a Master’s of Divinity degree from a seminary in Chicago, North Park. In addition to teaching high school in El Paso for many years, he’d served churches in various spots throughout Minnesota as well as El Paso. It had been only after his coming out of the closet after his kids were grown, after his bitter divorce and his wife had taken everything from him (he has his own story far different from mine) that he ended up in customer service at the point we met.

So Lane was very gentle to lead me to the UCC, but not force me. We were 300 miles apart, Tucson to El Paso. And so he’d encourage me to go, and the more I went the more I liked it, and the more I began to see people just like me. I only had to open my eyes. I was beginning my spiritual healing process.

Even though it seemed soon, Lane and I decided in late June to move in together (after me visiting him a lot in El Paso). The question for the month prior to this move had been who would go where, me to El Paso, or him to Tucson. I had no job yet, and I needed to get one soon so I was the more flexible one since I had the car, but I also had the better apartment and more furniture. Ultimately, the decision came down to Lane’s desire to leave El Paso after living there for so many years in the dust storms with his asthma and COPD. Tucson is a lush desert and proved much better for his health.

So Lane came west with a glowing letter of recommendation from his employer and began looking for a job immediately for pretty much anything nearby our apartment. It only took ten days, and we each started our new jobs two days apart. For some reason, I always began my jobs in Arizona on holidays, President’s Day, Memorial Day, and this new one would begin on Independence Day while Lane started his on July 2nd as the new night auditor at a nationally known budget motel chain about a mile or so down the street from our apartment. They were going to teach him the ropes from the ground up. I, on the other hand, went back to work for another reputable security company as an unarmed security officer. I would be working the 2nd shift and guarding the tallest building in downtown Tucson, the Unisource Tower, oddly enough the same building where my nephew Ben worked. Lane and I would have to get used to living together with such disparate schedules, but those first few months we made it work, some way, some how. And there was harmony. Life was good. And occasionally there was even karaoke at IBT’s. And we became members at Rincon Congregational UCC Church. I was growing into my new spiritual skin.

Proposition 8 and Us

2008 was a huge year politically. Barack Obama became our first African-American President, and more and more states began making legal same-sex civil unions or marriages among them California our next door neighbor to Arizona. As coincidence would also have it Lane’s son, Peter, and then girlfriend (now daughter-in-law, Carol) was a resident of the Los Angeles area, and at some point we began to make plans to be married. Our church, the UCC sanctions same-sex marriage, and has since 2005, the first mainline denomination to do so. We could have gotten married in the church if we’d wanted to, but lacking funds for everything, and also much time off from work, we arranged for a quickie. It was almost as if we were running off to Mexico.

LA was about an 8 hour drive, and with Proposition 8 hanging over our heads, we decided that the prudent course would be to get married before the election rather than try to do it after, just in case. We really had no idea how prescient that would prove to be. We had only three days off to do this and with two days for driving (one each way) our time schedule was really cramped.

We drove over to LA on Wednesday October 29th and checked into the same motel chain Lane works for with guest certificates in North Hollywood just off Hollywood Blvd. no less. Nice place. We hadn’t prearranged anything other than with Peter who was willing to act as our witness for whatever we could arrange on the fly. Thursday morning the 30th of October we drove all over until we finally located the Beverly Hills courthouse managing to survive one of our extremely few arguments (getting lost in the Beverly Hills traffic isn’t a pretty thing). But we survived to obtain our marriage license checking the boxes groom and groom. Problem number one: solved!

We drove back to the motel room to try and figure out where and who was going to marry us, because at the courthouse we’d discovered (much to our chagrin . . . and we should have known) that the judges were booked solid for weeks. So we grabbed the Yellow Pages and began to let our fingers do the walking. Wedding chapels were way too expensive, the cheapest being at least $700. And then I spied this: 1-800-Weddings-To-Go or something like that. Lane rang the number, and hooked up with a traveling ordained minister who for a fee of $125 would come to our motel room and had no problem officiating a same-sex ceremony (he was non-denominational and legal). As it turned out, ours was one of two he scheduled that afternoon.

Lane called Peter and it was all arranged for later that Thursday afternoon October 30th, and so we were married in our room of the same motel chain which Lane works for (he claims he was married at _____, but he is not married to them). We celebrated that evening having dinner with Carol & Peter and walking around Hollywood Blvd and the Walk of Fame. After spending the next morning (which was the morning of Halloween) at the Santa Monica Pier, we drove back to Tucson. So much for our honeymoon. We still have yet to enjoy a real one.

The following Tuesday, five days after Lane and I were married in our motel room in Hollywood, the good folks of California passed Proposition 8 by a vote of 52.24% yes to 47.76% no thus invalidating our marriage for a period of time though the vote was later ruled unconstitutional by California’s Supreme Court and upheld by the 9th Court of Appeals. Finally, after hearing oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in March of 2013, later in June of this same year SCOTUS sent the decision back to the state of California stating that the plaintiffs in the case had no legal standing. In other words. The decision by the 9th Court of Appeals has been allowed to stand and there will be no more challenges. We are married. Fun stuff. Straight folks don’t have to go through this!

(In the next installment and conclusion to Chapter 16, Lane gets promoted to manage his first motel which begins our tour of the southwest for the next few years.)

Link to next installment . . .

Link to last installment . . .

Link to beginning of book . . .


Autobiography, Civil Unions, Gay, Gay Community, Gay Experience, Gay Lesbian And Bisexual, Gay Marriage, Gay Marriage Rights, Gay Men, Gay Rights, Gays, Glbt, Lgbt, Memoir, Memoirs, Memories, Non Fiction, Non-Fiction, Nonfiction, Same Sex Love, Same Sex Marriage, Same Sex Marriage Debate, Same Sex Marriages, Same Sex Unions, Same-Sex Marriage, Serial, Series, True Experiences, True Stories, True Story

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 MarilynDavisatTIERS
27th Oct 2013 (#)

Good morning, Ken. The sage continues and I am still following. Writing is tighter, like your presentation. ~Marilyn

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
27th Oct 2013 (#)

Saga even....:) ~Marilyn

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author avatar Ken Painter
27th Oct 2013 (#)

Thanks Marilyn. I appreciate it. We're down to the highlights now of the last five years and it flows faster and tighter. It'll all be finished on Wednesday. Thanks for being so faithful!

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author avatar writestuff
4th Nov 2013 (#)

Write on!!! I'm hooked on your bio.

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author avatar Ken Painter
4th Nov 2013 (#)

Thank you so much! I've often said it reads like a Lifetime Channel Movie of the Week. LOL Truth can be stranger than fiction.

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