Friday, December 9, 2016

Enrichment from Enemies

Years ago I managed a low-rent apartment building where two women feuded for a decade. Ms. Kelly, the first floor corner tenant, was old, wiry and irritable. Her arch nemesis, Miss Donna, reminded me a lot of Divine (of John Waters fame) and lived upstairs and one unit over. Donna not only had the upper floor, but also had the upper hand in the feud - a feud which mostly consisted of Ms. Kelly complaining to and about Donna, while the brash and bosomy Donna flippantly pretended to be unaware she was irritating Ms. Kelly - or that it was accidental. A perfect example was the time Ms. Kelly kept yelling up at Donna's unit from the back of the building, and was "accidentally" soaked by a bucket of Donna's mop water. 

One day Donna was found dead in her apartment, and Ms. Kelly was devastated. Her feud with Donna was familiar, comfortable, and part of her routine. She mourned her, and she missed her. 

I've thought about that dynamic over the years, how everyone in our lives has a role to play, and sometimes the right role for someone is that of an enemy or nemesis. 

One that comes to mind personally is someone I've known for twenty years, but who turned against me suddenly after taking offense to a joke I wrote for a roast.

It turns out that our current standing works out much better for us both than the friendship ever did. While the joke backlash (it wasn't about him, but a fellow roaster) was the first I knew he had anger towards me, I later learned he'd been complaining about me and the attention my stories garnered for a long time - despite posing for photos with the book, buying a $30 ticket to the book launch, and cornering me whenever he saw me out. 

I was his friend because of mutual friends, but thought he was insufferably dull. And when he saw me out, it wasn't enough to say hello. He had to pull up a bar stool and lock knees, making sure his face blocked out any distractions which might prohibit me from giving the undivided attention he found so hard to come by. 

After our falling out he got into a romantic relationship, and weeks after it ended he came out with a bizarre story about how I had used a series to fake profiles to manipulate them into breaking up. I found the story entertaining, although I was frustrated that a couple of seemingly-intelligent mutual friends claimed to believe him. He reconciled with the young man, and when they broke up again he posted twenty-five (or so) reasons why the relationship didn't work. I saw that as vindication - since I wasn't on the list - but those who defended his original story said I was a bully for pointing out the blatant inconsistency. 

Despite the back and forth, if I look at the dynamic from 30,000 ft it really is a win-win. His tall tales about me sabotaging him at every turn make him interesting to his friends, which is quite a feat, and I no longer have to feign interest when seeing him out. We never worked as friends, but we've settled into our new dynamic nicely. 

I'm almost always open and receptive to mending fences, but sometimes you look at a situation and think, "You know, I'm good." 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Whisper City

I'm enough of a St. Louis insider to see the inner workings, and enough of an outsider to see what makes it all interesting, but I don't think any non-native can truly understand the secret language of the locals. In particular, the whisper campaigns used to elevate and to shun. 

On the surface, St. Louis is defined by restraint. Unlike in-your-face New Yorkers or boastful, showboating Texans, St. Louisans hold their cards close to their chest. In many cities people are openly competing for their piece of the pie, and to the untrained eye, St. Louis, by contrast, is wide open and ripe for the taking. But there's so much beneath the surface, and non-natives are constantly falling into traps. 

Let's take the case of 15th Ward Alderman and New York native Megan Green, who along with practically all other elected officials, was opposed to funding a new NFL stadium. Her peers nearly all spoke out against the stadium deal, but when it came time to vote everyone but her got on board. Something was lost in translation, and she didn't understand the dance -- the speaking out against it and then pushing to pass it -- and the knives came out when she not only didn't get on board, but spoke out about the deal making.  

The whisper campaigns seem to be even more of a factor in the LGBT community. 

Many openly despise Vital Voice publisher and Tulsa native Darin Slyman simply because of the whisper campaigns by supporters of his rival, who seem to feel there should be no players in local LGBT media outside of their preferred blog. 

I, of course, am constantly dealing with these issues. Just in the past few weeks a couple who put every detail of their relationship and breakup on Facebook, including video, claimed, in retrospect, that I was somehow to blame for the breakup, or at least played a role. Others jumped on board with this claim, but when pushed to defend it, conceded it might not be true --but I was wrong for speaking publicly about the accusation. I should have, according to one longtime Facebook friend, "taken the high road" and ignored the baseless claims. There's also outrage in certain circles that my book claims a popular bar has a dark room - when there is no such claim in the book.

Then there's "Queen of Controversy" and Springfield native Janessa Highland, who has been blacklisted from most gay bars for making controversial comments. This, despite the fact local drag queens say worse about one another all the time.

Fact-based arguments aren't enough to change the narratives pushed by the whisper campaigns, because once the tide has turned against someone, embracing the shunned person would mean being disloyal to the group. People therefore tend to fall in line, facts be damned. 

For a moment in time Chicago and St. Louis were each vying to be the nation's fourth largest city, but as well all know Chicago shot past us. One theory is that while Chicago was relatively open, by comparison anyway, St. Louis business interests carved up the city amongst themselves and shut out newcomers. 

I'm under no delusions of changing a deeply rooted culture, but I hope in discussing it, we can help give non-natives a better understanding, or perhaps better incorporate them into this byzantine metropolis of ours. 

Just as you wouldn't wade into the murky waters of the Mississippi, you should always be aware there's much under the surface in this city, and it could pull you under. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016


I've felt like a deer in the headlights since the wedding as I try to begin the monumental task of thanking those who gave so much of their time, talents, and treasure to make this event so perfect. This post may be the hardest thing I've ever written because not only is it lacking the shocking revelations I'm famous for, it's simply hard to capture in words the feeling of that day and how much everyone's involvement meant to me. 

It all started with a day trip

As I stood across from Kage in the gazebo overlooking the park and the river below, seeing friends and family in the golden sunlight, I thought back to the series of random events which led me to that moment and place. A place I roamed on my own on a few occasions before discovering a steep staircase, partially obscured by trees, climbing a hillside. I had no idea where it led but climbed to the top, sensing something wondrous awaited, and now I was sharing that place with loved ones from around the nation. I thought about the random Saturday day trip with Meeshu Bono-Thompson, the first we'd taken together, to a town where we didn't know a soul, but where we now had strong friendships with people who've warmly welcomed us into their lives and homes, including the man I was marrying. 

In the moment

I knew the day would go by fast, so I worked to savor every second and to be present in the moment. Late in the morning we arrived to the historic Victorian home of George Scanlan Jr. & Ken Williams, where Meeshu, our wedding planning guru, had been staying for a few nights while preparing the decorations, cupcakes, and floral arrangements - fresh cut wildflowers from both his and George's gardens. We brought everything to the patio at Bubby & Sissy's and watched as the patio and lawn were quickly transformed for the reception.

We were surprised with a lunch spread brought in by Kristin Ecker, who I met during my teenage clubbing days in Tulsa, her handy husband Brandon, and the wedding party. It was great to visit and break bread with them, along with Bubby's Jason Brooks, Andrea Barker, & Michael "Bubby" Paynic, before the evening events.

Jason did some heavy lifting, moving tables downstairs, Brandon flipped chairs over and tightened screws, and Bubby and Andrea covered tables and prepared the bar. 

The Original Plan

When we began planning our wedding we figured only close friends in the area would attend, but before we knew it we had a guest list of 150, with friends and family traveling from Denver, Oklahoma, Atlanta and New York. As a showman I began to worry about the simplicity of our wedding, and that people traveling great distances would expect more. But then I was reminded this wasn't about a show, it was about people who loved us coming to share in the moment.

Logistical Problems 

The electricity to the gazebo was supposed to be on, but wasn't. For a moment I thought we'd have to do without, but my friend Donald Cole had an electric outlet in his SUV and Yogi Thomas had a very long extension cord, so we had power.

The Moment 

Photo by Rob Kiechlin-Thomas  
Shondra Adams passionately sang "Giving You the Best that I Got" during the processional. Ben Shambaugh, who I've known since he was born, and Donald, who stars in many stories in my book due to all the good times, stood behind me. Kage's Maid of Honor, Ashley Winchester, and Best Man, Zach Springman, both who threw us a bachelor party a week earlier, stood behind him, and Sarah Edington  eloquently officiated. The sun was glistening on Kage's smiling face, and I thought about how, in my eyes, the sun is always shining on him. With such an uncommon genuineness, such remarkable sincerity, and a simply awe inspiring capacity for joy, he's lit up my world in a way I never imagined possible.

The Reception 

Lauren Robb, who feels like a mother to Kage since first meeting him when he was 21, was the DJ and announced us as we descended the staircase, and restaurateur Ron Boles had a full buffet set out, with one guests hugging him in appreciation of how flavorful it all was. 

It's impossible to spend as much time as you'd like with each person, but we managed to share a moment with everyone as friends and families were introduced. 

We celebrated until the lights came on.

I held my emotions together on our wedding day, but they spilled over the following day while reflecting on all everyone did for us. We're both so deeply moved and appreciative.

Guests posted well wishes on the event page after and during the reception, including the following from Kage's longtime friend Ellen Vega:

At the wedding, and have seen a lot of dragonflies, so I share this:

'The dragonfly, in almost every part of the world symbolized change and change in the perspective of self realization; and the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life.'

Life has so much to offer. If you're willing to venture out, explore, and climb mysterious staircases you might find yourself surrounded by more love and beauty than you ever knew existed, and you might finally find where you belong. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Andoe - Black Wedding Info

Our wedding is this Saturday evening (7/9). We'll be married high atop a bluff overlooking the Mississippi, right where we first met, and we're excited that so many of you are joining us.

Below is the basic info, followed by sightseeing info for traveling quests.

Wedding Location:

Riverview Park. The address is 450 Belleview Ave, Alton, IL 62002, but that address takes you to a MASSIVE, four story staircase. Park Avenue runs along the other side of the park and is at grade. Either way you arrive, you can't miss the gazebo where the ceremony will take place. Please reserve the first few rows for family (either side of the aisle is fine). There's seating for about 40 and the rest will stand, but the ceremony will be short.


This is a residential neighborhood and parking is mainly on the street. The reception is at 602 Belle Street, about a mile away, so parking there (ample street parking) and carpooling to the park would be a good idea.


We're expecting the ceremony to begin at 6:15.

Dress: Casual.

This is an outdoor wedding and reception, so please dress comfortably.


Immediately following the ceremony (7:00pm) at the patio/lawn of Bubby & Sissy's, 602 Belle Street. When you walk in you'll go to the back door, behind the bar. We'll be serving BBQ.

Weather contingency:

If there are heavy rains the entire event will be moved to Bubby & Sissy's (Indoors).


The grill will be operational and the DJ will be working until about 10:00. At that point our reception merges with the regular Saturday night schedule, which includes a drag show. We expect the party to continue until closing time (3am).

RSVP: Please let us know if you're attending so we can get a final count for the caterer.


Simple, relaxed, and fun is the vibe we're going for. Come for all or part of the evening's celebration.

If you're spending the weekend in the area check out my guide to the Great River Road.

Saturday at 2:00: Ellen Vega is giving tours of Alton with stops at many historic and haunted sites. If you're interested please contact her via Facebook.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Notes on St. Louis man's tawdry 2005 encounter with Senator Larry Craig

On June 11, 2007, Republican Senator Larry Craig was arrested for lewd conduct for propositioning an undercover officer at the Minneapolis - St. Paul International Airport. Craig later entered a guilty plea to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct. The scandal ended his career. 

Yesterday a friend, who I'll call "Jack" since he asked to remain anonymous, shared a story of a restroom incident in St. Louis a full two years earlier.  

In the middle of the rendezvous Jack gasped from the sensation, which apparently spooked Craig, who got up and "zoomed away like the Road Runner,"  likely believing Jack recognized him.

Because he doesn't want to go on the record out of fear he'll be judged by the community, there's not a lot I can do with this story, but my fiance Kage sat down for breakfast this morning and saw my notes, which he found amusing. 

In light of that I decided to share them. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Volunteer stuffs cash into bra, sprays cops with mace, is tackled.

Several Pride St. Louis volunteers who asked to remain anonymous report that on Friday a liquor tent volunteer was spotted stuffing cash into her bra. When confronted by an employee of Great Southern Bank - who was collecting cash for Pride - and several police officers, the cash bosomed woman claimed the random assortment of crumpled bills were the proceeds of her paycheck from St. Patrick's Center.

When police went to arrest her she sprayed the officers and bank employee with mace and attempted to flee, but was tackled and cuffed while thirty or so witnesses, many from the VIP tent, looked on.

The volunteers report that the stolen cash was recovered at Police HQ.

This story will be updated if and when more details emerge.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Travel Advisory: STL Scammers Hitching to Florida - UPDATED WITH ARREST

Brian Toppins & partner Eric Straussberger have allegedly
Brian Toppins 
been having a field day stealing from the homes of local gays.                                  

I sensed something wasn't right from the start, when my friend Matthew Bono-Thompson told me about his house guests and the series of unfortunate (and unbelievable) mishaps that left them "between places" at the moment.

Days turned into weeks and it was clear the pair were in no hurry to move on, then Bono and his husband began to notice valuables were missing.

When Bono found many of his items hidden among the guests' belongings, the police were called and charges were filed.

Within days of being thrown out of Bono's apartment on the Hill,  the couple reportedly stole $500 and a Wii from a Granite City man who took them in - money which was to go for rent.

Today, the pair posted they were hitching to Florida with a gay trucker named Robert. If anyone comes across them do not let them in your home or vehicle.

They appear friendly until they realize you know about their history, and then they become threatening.

Stay tuned for updates.


Angie Sutton, a disabled woman, said she was robbed by the pair. Many others are telling their stories in the comments.


****UPDATE**** 6/26/16 ***

It was Florida or bust, and bust it was. Both are locked up near the Lake of the Ozarks. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

QUIZ: How should people conduct themselves in the immediate aftermath of Orlando?

This is a trying and confusing time. The largest mass shooting in the US just occurred at an LGBT nightclub, killing dozens and injuring dozens more. What's the best way to interact with mourners during this emotional period? Take the quiz!

Q: How should people conduct themselves in the immediate aftermath of Orlando? 

Please choose the best option:

  1. A specific weapon was used to carry out this massacre, and was also used to slaughter moviegoers in Colorado, coworkers in San Bernardino, and first graders at Sandy Hook. Now is the the perfect opportunity to share your zeal for, and your carte blanch take on, the 2nd Amendment. Remember, the NRA used to have rallies at the site of mass shootings! Those were a hoot! The mourners need to be educated that the ease in acquiring the weapon used is not at all the problem, and the real horror would be to place any pesky regulation on the weapon of war that so effortlessly killed fifty and injured fifty more. Get started educating NOW!
    Memorial for the Sandy Hook children
  2. When 9/11 happened, do you know what made us feel better? Going to war with Iraq! Sure, Iraq wasn't responsible for or even involved in 9/11, but what's important is we did something! George W. Bush took decisive action, causing us to wave our plastic flags in a frenzy of patriotism. Trump has a similar idea: BAN ALL MUSLIMS! Ok, an American carried out this attack, but at least Trump will do something! Unlike Obummer, who only cares about Trans-gendered ISIS Muslims using the women's restrooms to diddle our daughters. NOW is the time to tell the mourners to get on board with the scapegoating idea. It will soothe their pain and make the world safer and stuff. "USA!"
  3. In light of the historic tragedy, the best thing to do is show respect for the dead and basic human decency for the living. 

Mourning in our own ways

Mass shootings have become so commonplace we can become numb to them, even when they hit close to home. Sunday morning I was reading the coverage in an academic way, trying to learn the what, when, where, and why of the story.

Then I clicked on the video of Christine Leinonen, a mother looking for her son. She had been standing behind the police tape for probably twelve hours.

"They said there's a lot of dead bodies in the club," she said as she started to break down. "and it's a crime scene, they can't identify anybody, so it could be hours and hours..."

I began to cry and have been crying on and off ever since.

Why was nobody standing with her? I wanted so much to be there to hug and support her, but felt helpless.

I've not been a fan of candlelight vigils because I didn't believe they served a purpose, especially when not coupled with what I consider real efforts to make change. But when Jason Brooks invited me to speak at the vigil at Bubby & Sissy's last night I had a change of heart and decided there was indeed value in coming together as a community to mourn.

While at the vigil with my partner a woman standing at a table invited us to join her. "I'm here by myself. You're welcome to join me."

In her reaching out I sensed she needed companionship. I wasn't able to comfort Christine Leinonen, but I could keep this woman company. And so I did. After conversing for a while she told me she didn't come out much, but after watching the news she wanted to be with people. I thought about how sad it would've been had she not found anyone to talk to, and left alone.

But that's the thing about LGBT bars. They're often a place where you can go and find friendly people to talk to, and a place to belong.

Outwardly I'm mourning by expressing anger that politicians are using our tragedy to target other minorities. I'm railing against the NRA. I'm trying to think of ways to make things better. But I'm still weeping with everyone else.

I can't think of any bigger LGBT anthem than "We Are Family" and the line that keeps rininging in my ear is "Just let me speak for the record. We're giving love in a family dose."

We're all different, we all express ourselves differently, but we're all in this together. Let's be there for one another, give space to mourn and vent, and then let's press onward.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Introducing our wedding guests to the Great River Road

Great River Road near Alton, Illinois 

Despite having no prior connection to the St. Louis area before first moving here in 1997, and leaving twice for the coast, the region has fascinated me to the point I wrote a book largely about it.

Being a tour guide is in my nature, and when showing guests around I always set aside a day for the Great River Road, which skirts the confluence the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers. This confluence spurred Native Americans to construct the largest metropolis north of present day Mexico  -the Manhattan of its day- in the area, which was larger than London in 1250 AD. These rivers served as the highway system for Native Americans, captured the imagination of Mark Twain, have divided empires and warring states, and for millennia served as a corridor for migrating birds including Bald Eagles.

I could drive the twenty mile stretch between Alton and Pere Marquette State Park every weekend and not tire of it, and it was along that stretch of road I first got to know Kage one overcast January day, after first laying eyes on him in the gazebo at Riverview Park, where we will be married.

Many guests are visiting the area for the first time and while I'd love to give each of you a tour, I'm attempting to offer the next best thing by telling you a few of the stories and pointing out some of the sights so that you can go on your individual adventures.

From Downtown St. Louis the sites of the wedding and the reception are about 25 miles, but the best scenery doesn't begin until Alton, so my tour takes you another twenty-five miles. In addition to cruising one of the most scenic stretches of road in the nation you'll explore interesting towns, learn about legendary monsters, ghosts and even a giant, and then will cross the river by ferry to dine at a historic restaurant serving family-style meals in a hotel that was once part of the Underground Railroad.

Crossing the River 

McKinley Bridge, 1910

If you're coming from St. Louis, my preference is crossing on the McKinley Bridge, which connects St. Louis to Venice, Illinois, which long owned it. The river bottom town of Venice got its name because the streets always flooded, and the impoverished town owned and operated the Bridge, once part of Route 66, as a toll bridge for decades, collecting about fifty cents per vehicle to cross.

When I first moved to the area the St. Louis Post-Dispatch always referred to the structure as "the rickety McKinley Bridge" and with good reason. The bridge was the town's major source of revenue and little was spent on maintenance. "The East Side" - as St. Louisans call East St. Louis and the surrounding towns, long had a sinister vibe as it was - home to the mafia and all the vices not welcomed on the Missouri side like strip clubs and prostitution, and the rusty, hulking McKinley Bridge was the perfect portal to this world. Your car would vibrate on the layers of potholed concrete and asphalt as you approached the battered toll booth, with its yellowed, scratched up windows and little old man with thick glasses collecting fare. The road surface was so terrible you could actually see through to the river in spots.

It was officially deemed unsafe and closed in 2001, and then was foreclosed on by the City of St. Louis. The states of Missouri and Illinois took it over, and after an overhaul it reopened in 2007.

Comfort Cruise

The next twenty miles are behind the levy so there's not much in the way of natural scenery, but the six lane road is lightly traveled and is an enjoyable ride. Following are a couple of highlights.

Escape from New York 

In the 1981 film Escape From New York, the island of Manhattan has become a maximum security prison. Filmmakers were looking for a "grimy, futuristic metropolis" and found St. Louis to be the perfect location.  The bridge scene (video) was filmed on the Chain of Rocks Bridge, which is just before Interstate 270.

Chain of Rocks Bridge 

Chain of Rocks Bridge, built in 1929

I don't know of any kinkier bridge than the Chain of Rocks, with its 22-degree bend in the middle which caused countless accidents.  At 5,353 feet long it's one of the longest continuous steel truss bridges in the country. 

The 22-degree bend in the middle allowed southbound riverboats to align with the current, slip between the Bridge's piers and avoid crashing into two water intake towers midstream just south of the Bridge. The Chain of Rocks Bridge became a part of Route 66 in 1936 and was used until 1968 when the opening of the I-270 bridges caused a decline in traffic.

The bridge was slated for demolition in 1975 but the cost of demolition and the low demand for scrap metal rendered the project unprofitable. In 1998 the bridge was leased to Trailnet and millions were spent restoring the structure for pedestrian and cycling uses. From the bridge you can see the skyline, and interesting castle-like intake towers sitting in the river. You can also walk or bike thirteen miles to Downtown on designated trails.

Intake Towers 

Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower

You can view the confluence of the Mississippi & Missouri rivers, where Lewis & Clark began their westward journey, from 150 feet.

The muddy Missouri meets the Mississippi

Shortly past the tower you'll need to get in the left lane to follow 143/ Alton Riverfront. 

City of Alton 

Alton, Illinois

While Kage was born in Chicago, his family moved to the picturesque town of Alton when he was two. Growing up here he always heard about the Lincoln-Douglas debates, which took place in the city, the monstrous Piasa Bird, which we'll revisit shortly, but what captured his imagination the most were the tales of the Alton Giant, Robert Waldlow (1918-1940). Waldlow was the tallest person in recorded history, standing 8ft, 11.1 inches, and is a beloved historical figure. More information on Wadlow and local monuments in his honor can be found here.

I stumbled upon the town, which for a time was growing faster than St. Louis, while exploring the area years ago and have been taken with the its natural beauty, striking topography, architecture, and history ever since. For years I explored the area as an outsider, but since meeting Kage I've gotten to know and become fond of Alton's relaxed and hospitable people.

While St. Louis was a union-sympathizing city, Missouri was very much a slave state and being situated just across the river, Alton was an important town for abolitionists and was a major player in the Underground Railroad.

Alton's role in the Civil War included imprisoning thousands of confederates.  The Illinois State Prison, which operated from 1833-1857 was reopened during the war as The Alton Military Prison and some 12,000 were held there in deplorable conditions. During a smallpox epidemic about 2,000 died and were buried in a nearby mass grave.

Alton Military Prison

The prison closed in 1865 and after the building was demolished, much of the stone was used to build homes and businesses all over town, which is one theory as to why Alton is considered to be "the most haunted small town in America."

One corner of the prison remains.

The epicenter of the St. Louis region's paranormal community is the Mineral Springs Hotel , home of the Museum of Historic Torture Devices , and you may encounter the proprietor driving her hearse around town. A hearse that carried her best friend's husband, her best friend, and then her husband. You can read my interview with her here.

Alton's "Mistress of the Macabre" Photo by Mark Moore

Alton's most famous restaurant is Fast Eddies Bon Air, which is an always-busy bar and restaurant selling cheap and delicious burgers, brats and kabobs. They normally have live bands in the evening. Must be 21 to enter.

I suggest you save your appetite for the Wittmond, about an hour away (with stops), but Fast Eddies is a great alternative or a good place to make plans for another time.

Flood of 1993

As you head through Downtown Alton on West Broadway towards the Great River Road you'll notice the base of the silos to your left are painted black. The paint marks the height of the 1993 flood.

The Good Part

You're now on the best stretch of the Great River Road, and atop the bluffs to your right is Riverview Park, where the ceremony will take place. Along the bluffs you'll see a cliff painting of the Piasa Bird.

Piasa Bird

In 1673, while exploring the river, Father Jacques Marquette saw a painting on a limestone bluff which struck terror in his heart.  He recorded the following description:
While Skirting some rocks, which by Their height and length inspired awe, We saw upon one of them two painted monsters which at first made Us afraid, and upon Which the boldest savages dare not Long rest their eyes. They are as large As a calf; they have Horns on their heads Like those of a deer, a horrible look, red eyes, a beard Like a tiger's, a face somewhat like a man's, a body Covered with scales, and so Long A tail that it winds all around the Body, passing above the head and going back between the legs, ending in a Fish's tail. Green, red, and black are the three Colors composing the Picture. We have learned that the great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather of Miss Jessica Beetner smote this monster. Moreover, these 2 monsters are so well painted that we cannot believe that any savage is their author; for good painters in France would find it difficult to reach that place Conveniently to paint them. Here is approximately The shape of these monsters, As we have faithfully Copied It.

You can read the legend of the Piasa here.  


Fifteen miles ahead, nestled in a forested valley, is the town of Elsah, and visiting the historic district is like going back in time. Before the river road was built in the sixties, Elsah sat right on the water. For many years the small town prospered as the main shipping point for the agricultural goods produced by the farmers of Jersey County, and drew many tugboat crews looking to get drunk. The town's importance diminished with the coming of the railroad, later being revitalized when Principia College was established in the thirties. In 1973 the entire town was placed on the National Register of Historic Places

At the very least you should make a loop through on your journey. 

The proprietors of the Green Tree Inn, Gary & Connie Davis, are very friendly and will gladly give you a tour of the inn. Rooms range from $115 to about $165 a night, which includes breakfast.

Green Tree Inn 


In the 1830s St. Louis businessmen became concerned about Alton's rapid growth and founded Grafton to blunt its momentum. Grafton developed a major boat manufacturing industry and had a large limestone quarry.

Today Grafton is a thriving tourist town known for bikers, bars, restaurants, and wineries. Aeries Winery claims to have "the best view in the Midwest" and is worth the short ride up the hill. Aeries has a nice restaurant and bar with indoor or terrace seating. They also operate a zipline.

View from Aeries Winery

Brussel's Ferry

Take your car across the river to Calhoun County, Illinois via Brussel's Ferry. Calhoun County is a 37-mile long, 5-mile wide piece of land that is the tip of the peninsula formed by the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, and with the exception of its northern border, is surrounded by water.

The ferry is free. Turn off your vehicle and feel free to walk around. 

Calhoun County, Illinois

Wittmond Hotel 

Drive straight ahead until you reach Brussels, and you'll see the Wittmond on your right.
Walking into the Wittmond reminds me of visiting an elderly relative's house as a boy. Lace curtains, doilies, antiques, and family-style meals. You don't order at the Wittmond, you simply sit down and the courses start coming.

You can read about the history here.

Assuming it's Saturday and you're attending the wedding, It's now time head back to Alton.

Riverview Park 

The ceremony will take place in the gazebo at Riverview Park around six in the evening. This is July along the Mississippi so we suggest dressing for the weather.

Bubby & Sissy's (Reception)

Kage has been frequenting Bubby & Sissy's since his 21st birthday. He knows nearly everyone who walks in, and the owners and employees are personal friends. The reception will be on the back patio, and we'll be serving BBQ by Ron Boles, a well-known restaurateur and grill master in the area.

We're registered, but there's not much we want or need. Since we've extended an invite to the entire community, any contributions to the catering fund would be greatly appreciated, and can be sent via the registry link.

We're deeply honored that you're celebrating with us.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Knocking wigs back in Carbondale June 11

There's nothing more fun than taking the show on the road, and since I've yet to visit Carbondale -despite having many friends in the area - I've decided to head down to Social House, have a few drinks and tell some outrageous stories. 

Thanks to Shaun Kocel and Nick Timmons of Social House, my local ambassadors Caleb R. McKinley-Portee and Chris Dexter, and a huge shout out to "Maestro of Memes" Josh Jordan for creating the artwork, which will also be used for upcoming events in San Francisco and New York.

Please like the Facebook event page for updates.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sexy @ Sixty: Vendrick's Birthday Happy Hour at Bar: PM Benefiting PAWS

Sensational @ Sixty 

"I didn't want it to be about me" begins Paul Vendrick when talking about how he decided to make his sixtieth birthday extravaganza a fundraiser for PAWS, his favorite charity.

"This way I was able to shift the focus, from being a guest to a host."

PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support) provides resources to people living with HIV/AIDS so that they can keep pet companions as long as possible, and according to Vendrick the need is so great there's a long waiting list.

"Bar: PM wasn't a hard choice, and it was a logical one. As you know James, Chad, and their bartenders are very generous and agreed to donate all tips to PAWS, plus I was able to take over the whole bar for a few hours."

"You better work, bitch."                       

Sure, Vendrick is known for his affable personality, his disarming smile, and his charity work, but his name rarely comes up without someone mentioning that he's in better shape than men half his age.

"There are no shortcuts. It's a lifestyle."

And it's a lifestyle he's maintained since coming out at 18. That means hitting the gym six days a week, running, and watching his diet - a task made easier by not keeping unhealthy food in the house to begin with, and his near total ban on dining out.

"I'm very controlling about what goes in my body, so I just don't eat out" he says, before clarifying that he will go to a restaurant if, for instance,  it's the site of a birthday party or other special event.

Thoughts on Sixty 

"There's so much we didn't see coming. Things like Grindr, for instance, but I'm not going to talk about all that. Isn't that what old people do? Always talk about the way things were." Vendrick laughs.

But he did briefly touch on the AIDS crisis which wiped out a majority of his peers, including his brother and his partner, and then offered his thoughts on the way gay culture views older people.

"The gay culture isn't one that honors its predecessors very well, but, to our credit, we do work to make things better for those coming after us. It's always been that way." 

The Important Things

"As far as charity goes, the people I admire the most aren't celebrities. They're my friends. Mike Mullen, for instance. That guy works tirelessly. He just never stops."

"I didn't have a choice about being gay, just as I didn't have a choice about getting old" said Vendrick. And while that's true, he did have the choice in redefining what it means to get older - which he's clearly rocking.

There will be complimentary wells and domestics, food, and special shots. Raffle tickets are only a dollar and prizes include gift baskets and Pride VIP passes. 

UPDATE 4/29 

Tonight's the night! And stay for the dazzling 9:00 show starring Adria Andrews, Krystal Light & Mariah Candy!