This I wrote to be on a signboard with other stories about West Hollywood at an LGBT art show in 2014.
I remember West Hollywood both drunk at the Abbey and processing in a circle of chairs in my outpatient rehab. Walking past the bars where I used to drink on the way to get Starbucks with an ex-meth addict I saw West Hollywood as if for the first time. West Hollywood Recovery Center. The rooms. No longer was it just the exhausting search for a parking spot on a rainy night. Grappling with and losing friends who had had several too many. Suddenly the light rain in the spring air opened forth a pink cloud halo of sobriety.
I remember West Hollywood as the place my wife and I dressed up as the brides we later became and were photographed for the newspaper at a Prop. 8 rally. That day she and I realized we could really get married. When Katie proposed I cried and said yes. Before we were done planning our wedding the courts put a stay on gay marriages. We signed a domestic partnership. On May 11, 2011, Katie and I had a beautiful but not legal wedding at a Japanese garden in Little Toyko.
A year later my wife was dead by suicide. Two years later gay marriage became legal in California. By then it was too late for us. My wife did not live to see this day that brought so many others such joy. It was a bittersweet day for me. But I remember feeling that same joy with her in West Hollywood the day of that rally, as we cheered with our brothers and sisters for the right to love that had finally been granted.
I finished the wedding album years after my wife’s ashes were scattered in Echo Park Lake. When I look at the album I see in our idealistic faces and Louis Verdad gowns the dream that so many lovers have to make a life together. Our dream was dashed. But dreams live again in time. And that same dream of marriage may now be lived by so many other queers.
It wasn’t until my wife was but spirit that I had the courage to enter rehab and let go of the stranglehold that liquid spirits had on my life. I popped in to the Abbey this Christmas Eve to drink a tonic water with a friend. Rejoiced that I lived somewhere where I could see a muscular go-go dancer in Santa shorts dance on Christmas Eve. Rejoiced that I didn’t need to drink any more.
Queer mecca. Healing and hope in sobriety. Drag shows at Hamburger Mary’s. The Abbey. The Log Cabin. Plummer Park. Getting sober with a redheaded model over Matcha green tea lattés at Urth Café. The lingering ghosts of memories hang over these streets with the bright palm trees and nail salons. In West Hollywood I both lost and found myself again. Each rainbow crosswalk is an untapped treasure. I will never forget West Hollywood.