It was 1992 (I think) and my then-partner Bob and I headed east with best friends Chuck and Carl for the annual gathering of Southern gay boys at Pensacola Beach.
My purchase of a scanner this weekend prompted me to dig out some of my photos from that trip.
Being on that sugar sand beach was thrilling for a small town boy who had just moved to New Orleans and still needed reassurance that being gay was OK. You could walk for miles without seeing a straight person.
Considering Pensacola's location along the Redneck Riviera, the Memorial Day gathering continues to be a powerful, defiant statement even if the main goal is just having fun.The queens in the crowd couldn't resist the urge to outdo each other by dressing up their spots in the sand. There were water fountains, yard sculptures, group skits and enough gold lamé to drape the Superdome.Here's Bob (from left), Carl and Chuck. Bob and Chuck are still in New Orleans. Carl moved to Portland with his partner Robert after Katrina.
Here I am enjoying the exquisite waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
My favorite memory from that trip came before we arrived in Pensacola. We stayed one night with Carl's mom in Mobile and went to one of those "family," all-u-can-eat places considered to be fine dining at the time by most suburban Southerns.
Chuck, a native of Arkansas, had lived in New Orleans for years and hadn't eaten a restaurant meal outside of the French Quarter or a big cosmopolitan urban core since Reagan's first term.
The Mobile buffet was a little more than he could handle.
I was at the salad bar piling my plate with lettuce drenched in transfat and bacon grease when I noticed poor little Chuck. He was standing with an empty tray in a swarm of people twice his size doing his best impression of Sissy Spacek in "Carrie," sans the blood.
Our eyes met and he yelled: "What thu HEYLL is gowen own?"
Chuck survived the night, barely, and we went on to have a great weekend.