It’s not really a “Spooked” episode, so much as the text of my Big Gay Story Slam story from October of last year. It explains a lot of things about me. The Scranton Story Slams are great, you should check one out some time. Maybe at the next Scranton Fringe Festival? Possibly?
Anyway, this is the full-length draft that I kept cutting and honing to fill five minutes. It’s not necessarily better, just longer. If you’d rather watch it than read it, the video link is at the bottom, there. Clicky-clicky.
Hi, I’m John Pivovarnick. I am a gay, white male. I’m third generation Carpatho-Rusyn on my father’s side, and fourth generation Irish-American on my mother’s. So you know I’m really good at expressing my emotions, and never resort to alcohol when I am sad.
I was born in December of 1960 which makes me 55 years old—that’s almost 380 in gay years!
I am what’s known as a bear. A hairy, chubby gay dude. Once upon a time I was sort of a muscle bear. Now I’m more of a gummy bear.
I’m older than cell phones, the internet, and a color television in every home. I remember having to rush down my grandmother’s house to see Star Trek in color because we didn’t get a color TV of our own until the late 60s.
I remember sharing telephone lines with the neighbors, actual penny candy, and only having four TV Channels ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS. Aside from kindergarten, all my education was in Roman Catholic schools.
The power of Christ compels you! The Power of Christ compels you!
That being said, it should come as no surprise that when I was just a pre-teen, I tried to hang myself from the ceiling light in my bedroom—spoiler alert: it didn’t work.
I don’t remember why I tried to hang myself, exactly. Honestly, it could have been any combination of things that pushed me, literally, over the edge. There was trouble everywhere for me: bullies at school; an untreated manic-depressive dad; nuns with rulers and rosaries everywhere; a hated war in Viet Nam; race riots in the streets; and on top of all that, just the general uneasiness of looking at the world and knowing I was not like all these other people who seemed bent on making my life a living hell.
So one night I took the sash of my blue plaid flannel bathrobe—and you know I’m gay, because I remember it was blue plaid flannel—tied one end through the gap at the light socket, the other end around my neck, and jumped from the end of my bed…
…and promptly pulled the light fixture from the ceiling, crashed to the floor with a giant thud, and sent everyone in the house running to my room with a million questions.
What are you doing? What happened? What is wrong with you? (I get that one a LOT.)
I lied my way out of it (just a venal sin, not the mortal humdinger of being a homo or committing suicide—so phew!). I couldn’t tell my family what was going on in my head, how could I tell the rest of the world, right? So I sort of clamped down, plodded on. Dreamt of escape.
I dodged the minefield of high school by sticking with a close group of friends—who, oddly enough, all turned out to be gay. The men, anyway.
The quote under my year book picture was Joni Mitchell. “Life is just another show. You leave them laughing when you go. And if you care, don’t let them know. Don’t give yourself away…”
In 1979 after high school, I ran away to Los Angeles to write for television. And by “ran away,” I mean I made my parents buy me a one way ticket; and by “write for television,” I mean work two shitty jobs to pay bills that left me no time to write.
I was still closeted, but adjusting to the idea that gay might be okay far, far from home, but I couldn’t deal with the frustration of working two shitty jobs and letting my career aspirations languish.
So I came back to Scranton. Went to college at the U. Hung out with the artsy, anything goes theater crowd, and thought, “maybe I can be myself here.” Then AIDS happened.
Motherfucking AIDS. In what seemed to me to be the homophobia capitol of the world.
Johnny, boy. You’re going to need a bigger closet. Slam, click!
After college, I ran away to Philadelphia. Are you sensing a theme?
Anyway. 5 minutes. Tick tick. Came out as much as I dared. Met a man, fell in love. Settled down. Made plans. 6 years into it, “Hey, what’s that rash?” Dun dun DUN. Motherfucking AIDS.
In the movie version, this would be the photo montage with the weepy music playing.
He died, I cried, and I needed another place to run away to. I ran back here, because when shit gets real, you know you want your mommy.
It didn’t even register when I moved back that I had a rainbow flag sticker on my car. That I was out without realizing it in what I’d always thought of as the homophobia capitol—of my world, anyway.
One day I was driving down Wyoming Avenue, going to the movies with a lesbian friend, and some douche passes me, sees the sticker, and shouts, “I hate fucking faggots!”
So I yell back, “So stop fucking them!”
And that’s when I knew my world had changed.
That’s probably more than enough about me and my attitude problem for one day.
Peace out. [That face, though.]