Still Learning How to Fly ~ Chapter Sixteen: The Second Time Around (Pt.2)

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

As my husband receives his first promotion to manage his first motel, we begin our "Southwest Tour." Thus begins his reputation of fixing up one motel and its staff after another . . . leading us to our ultimate destination.

The Fixer

In February of 2009 after 4 ½ years of living in and enjoying beautiful Tucson, all good things must come to and end it seems. After only seven months with the motel chain, evidently Lane had learned enough. He’d been a night auditor, and he’d become an MOD (manager on duty, somewhat akin to an assistant manager). During that time he’d been an MOD at two different properties in Tucson, and suddenly his boss called him up one morning in early February and said he was needed immediately down in Sierra Vista. By immediately, he meant that morning. Lane explained to him that we were a one car family and he managed to beg off until the next day due to the necessity of arranging for a rental car for him. I gave my two weeks notice at my security job, and they were sorry to lose me. Lane was getting his first managerial position 70 miles to the southeast in Cochise County.

The good news was that we would no longer have to rent an apartment. The bad news was that we would be living on the property 24/7. Essentially Lane has been on call 24 hours a day ever since, and that presents its own particular set of problems. However, I have to admit that it’s been nice not having to pay rent or utilities. Not that we’re rolling in the dough. Lane works for a budget chain, one with a particularly low overhead. No wiggle room for salaries. With the hours he ends up working, he really does work for peanuts. But it’s become our life, and like the dutiful husband I’ve followed him from one property to another as he’s become The Fixer, fixing up one property after another, gaining a widely respected reputation within the company for taking a low - functioning property and turning it around within two years.

When we arrived in Sierra Vista, Arizona with a population of about 43,000 people and an elevation of about 4,600 feet above sea level, we were gaining about 2,000 feet but losing about half a million people. These factors alone would take some adjusting for us. Plus, we would be changing churches. Thankfully there was a local UCC congregation. Or so we thought. We attended. As it turned out, Lane had spent some time in seminary with the pastor, and wouldn’t you think that would make for some harmony? Nope. She was as cold as ice to us. In fact the whole congregation was. Not very inviting to gay folks it seemed. We attended for six weeks. We really gave it a shot, but we got out the phone book and began to look in the local Yellow Pages. We figured maybe we’d try the local Methodists or something. Anything had to be better than what we were experiencing at the local UCC. I just happened to glance under the heading UCC and noticed that there were two entries listed. Two? The one where we’d been attending, and there was one also listed for Tombstone. Tombstone? Little old Tombstone? O.K. Corral Tombstone? Tombstone was only 16 or so miles away. This was doable. I told Lane about it. He told me to call the phone number. I did and heard a very simple pre-recorded message that gave the service time for the next day’s service.

We showed up.

The rest was wonderful.

The Tombstone Community Congregational UCC has been there since shortly after the infamous shootout, and only a couple of blocks away. Some of the re-enactors showed up occasionally in vintage 1880’s garb. Not only does the pastor and her family reside in Sierra Vista, but also about a half dozen others make the trip over, as did Lane and I thereafter soon becoming members. We were immediately scooped up into their collective bosom. And oddly enough for such a small community, we were not the only gay couple. We spent almost two years there, and we’ve left lifelong friends there. And Lane and I haven’t ruled out returning to the area to live one day. The weather is perfect. And the mountains are beautiful.

But the next stop was inevitable as Lane eventually got the nod to move back to El Paso and fix up another property. And another two years of doing the same thing. Rebuild a property and its staff. And in El Paso we were ready-made with the church connections at Desert View UCC where Lane had gone so long and friends he’d known forever, even friends I was already acquainted with.

However, it also meant moving back to the dust for Lane. And it was in El Paso where not only my Diabetes began taking it’s toll, but where my heart disease began showing up, and I had a heart episode which sent me to the ER with what I thought was a heart attack. Fortunately, it wasn’t and there was no damage. The treating cardiologist performed a heart catheter and discovered my right coronary artery was completely blocked, but during the procedure he was unable to unblock it and unable to put the stent in. He put me on blood thinners, and that was it. Just left me. For the next year and a half.

I got bad enough that I had to come out of the workforce giving up my job at a call center and pursuing my Social Security disability claim, and so Lane too was now beginning to have more difficulty with his breathing due to the worsening air quality around the area.

After over a year in El Paso and because he’d turned that property around, he asked if he could be transferred to a healthier breathing environment like Colorado. The higher powers took it under advisement, and due to his exceptional record in the spring they mentioned a couple of locations in Colorado, first possibly Fort Collins, and then later Colorado Springs, but before either of them could come to fruition another manager was fired at the Las Cruces location, and Lane was rewarded with running two locations, his old one in El Paso plus this extra one fifty miles away. For the next five months. I barely saw him. He spent most of his time in New Mexico while the MOD’s ran the property in El Paso where I lived (and I saw him once a week when he checked up on them). (It would be during this time of solitude and loneliness that I began to write this memoir.) Otherwise, he was in Las Cruces turning yet another property around. To say he was busy . . .

Finally. Halfway through the fall we got the word quite out of the blue that we could now move to Colorado Springs. We arrived on election day 2012 just in time for the results. We didn’t begin unpacking the truck until the next day after we’d been greeted by a ten-point white-tail buck running alongside our car up the boulevard through the neighborhood about a mile or so from the motel. Welcome to The Springs!

And so here we are again. Another motel. Another town. This one supremely beautiful. As I type this I can open my front door a few feet away and stare at Pike’s Peak. The air is crisp, clean. Can anything be better?

I’ve since seen a better cardiologist here in The Springs and undergone another heart cath (but not before I had another heart episode while driving down the mountain at 7,500 feet and visited the ER again). I now have three heart stents in my right coronary artery, and I’m in very good hands. Things appear to be under control, and I feel so much better. Relieved.

Lane’s breathing here in Colorado is so much better than in West Texas. There’s no comparison. There are no dust storms here. It’s very green!

On May 1, 2013, Colorado’s Civil Union Law went into effect for all couples (same-sex as well as straight). Currently, due to an earlier vote which put language into the state’s constitution defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman same-sex marriages are prohibited. As such, our California marriage is not recognizable here in Colorado, but rather it is recognized as a civil union. So we have some rights, but not full status. Second class. Half a loaf. We’re getting there, but I’ll repeat what I stated earlier in this chapter, straight folks don’t have to go through this. And I’ll add this significant point: just like white folks didn’t have to go through civil rights marches to sit in the front of the bus or change voter protection laws or gain equal access to schools, etc. You get my point.

Lane and I are members of First Congregational UCC, and we sing in the Chancel Choir. He’s a bass, and I’m a tenor. We also both sing with Out Loud: the Colorado Springs Men’s Chorus, again, he with the basses, and I with the 2nd tenors. We’re gay choir boys, but not clichés. It’s a healthy creative outlet for us. I’m happiest when I’m singing. I actually spent one season back in Tucson singing with Reveille Men’s Chorus before I met Lane, and it was good training for me, but I wasn’t having much fun doing it, because they had me singing with the basses (due to their severe need ). I have a three octave vocal range (on a good day) but I fall mainly in the baritone-tenor range, and throwing me in with the basses was a big stretch week after week. I had to keep jumping too many notes into the baritone range, and it kept challenging me. I’m so happy now, because I’m singing where I should be. I’m having fun.

But then I’m living the life of an honest and openly gay man.

(This concludes Chapter 16. In the next installment, find a summary visit to how my belief system has grown and changed over the years to arrive where it is today.)

Link to next installment . . .

Link to last installment . . .

Link to beginning of book . . .

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author avatar Shellie Smith
31st Dec 2013 (#)

And then your husband got fired for being a thief! Tell the whole story truthfully.

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