Together - Part 2: Minneapolis

I want to start this with entry with a sincere Thank You.  There were many people without whom this trip, and ultimately our marriage, would not have been possible: tia Silvia, our other-mommy, Traci, our new friends, Greg and Brent...our families and our friends, we thank you.

Now, the saga continues...

01/01/2014 - Lesson 5: Have patience...and lots of things with which to keep yourself occupied.

So!  We'd just woken up from our last night of sleep in the windy city of Chicago.  We lazily got our things together, ate some breakfast, and made our way to the train station.  We weren't in any rush, honestly, but we still arrived much earlier than necessary.  Neither Brandon nor I had ever taken a train before, so we wanted to make sure we didn't get left behind at the last second.  We found our designated waiting area and then learned that the train was late.  By law, the train workers must rest a certain amount of hours before they can operate the train again and we felt that was absolutely understandable, as neither of us wanted to die before getting married.  We just wish we wouldn't have shown up almost two hours early, bringing our total wait time before boarding to around five hours.  Yeah.  We spent five hours in a relatively small room with hundreds of annoying people who lacked patience and the basic ability to know that a roped-off section meant they weren't supposed to shove by the attendant in order to gain access.  On the plus side: we ran into Tyler Oakley (more like he ran into us...) while we waited.  I've never seen Brandon starstruck, before, so that was adorable.

Once we were in our seats and moving, we had video games, movies, snacks, and my special time-travel ability (explained and used here) to help speed through the next 8 hours.  The ride was relaxing, quiet, and it helped that the sun was down for the majority of the time.  My favorite part, though, was seeing Brandon constantly refresh his phone while slightly freaking out about his lack of connectivity with the outside world.

Around 2am, we finally arrived in the magical city of  Minneapolis and our awkward luck then led us the world's most bigoted taxi driver (he wasn't from Minneapolis).  He hated everyone: he told us how terrible the non-white population of Minneapolis is; he made a disgustingly crude and hateful joke about black people and the president; and he highly recommended the area of town where all the hot babes could be found.  Brandon later told me that he was terrified that I was going to lay into this guy, get us kicked out of the cab, and that our luggage would remain forever within the trunk... but I was in a complete state of disbelief that I couldn't speak.  I hate that I couldn't speak.  I hate that I was scared he'd turn around and see GAY MEXICAN written all over my face.  I'd never heard such vitriol and hatred face-to-face and outside of the Internet.  I never got his name, nor the cab company he worked for.  My sincere apologies to the world for this.

01/02/2014 The Big Day - Lesson 6: Enjoy yourself and your friends and don't forget to take pictures!

At dawn, we awoke to one of the giddiest days of our lives and walked over to the Hennepin County Government Center to get the ball rolling (out hotel was only a block away, but we'd yet to learn that venturing outside was basically unnecessary).  We started the paperwork with a very nice lady and then waited a few minutes to meet with a judge and ask for a waiver on the 5-day wait for a marriage license.

Now, here's where I got a bit nervous; we don't normally go up to people we don't know and announce that we're a couple.  Yes, things are changing, but we still live in a time and place where it's not always safe and the repercussions for our openness or honesty could be any number of things...

But this judge surprised me.  We made the typical small talk, we explained we were only here for the day, and then he asked us, in this solemn voice, "...is it hard?" and I felt my core stir.  We answered that it wasn't, really, and that we were lucky to live in a relatively progressive city, despite the level of ignorance generally attributed to the state of Texas.  But, here I was, miles from home and nervous, because I still expected a retort, a frown, or the almost undetectable pause in conversation that occurs when the person we're speaking to realizes we're gay and all future conversations or comments or interactions will be judged negatively because of this fact.  Instead, this man had humanized us and asked an empathetic question.  As we were leaving, he also asked me if I play the guitar, because I wear a guitar pic on a chain around my neck.  It's a common question I receive, but it was the first time that I could answer a stranger honestly.  "No, but he does."

We left the Government Center and grabbed some coffee while we waited for Greg, one of our new friends, to arrive.  We giggled happily, the nearly coffee-stained sheets of paper with the power to eventually marry us within our possession, and I showed Brandon a picture of Greg, so that he'd know whom to look for.  See, we'd never met Greg and his husband face-to-face, before.  I'd met Greg on Twitter and had asked him and his hubs, Brent, to be our witnesses.  Showing off that lovely Minnesotan niceness, though, he went above and beyond by offering to be our tour guide, as well!

Greg knows everything about Minneapolis.  Now, one may assume this is hardly surprising, as he lives there, but I sincerely doubt that if an out-of-towner came to stay with us, that I could instantly create a list of things to show them and simultaneously teach them about local politics, social movements, and infrastructural history - we got the tour.  We learned all about the mixture of cultures that live there; we learned that you can throw water onto a patio and it will instantly freeze, creating your very own place to ice skate, but that it can't be windy or the undulations will freeze and create wobbly-shaped ice; we learned that you can drive over the beautiful lakes, but never under a bridge, because bridges mean rivers and rivers mean moving water and moving water means thin ice and the ONLY people that drive under bridges die, because they're A) Drunk or B) Out-of-towners.

Greg took us to the mall (y'know, the big one), so that we could buy some nice attire for our ceremony that night, and because he said everyone needed to at least be able to say they'd been there.  There was a roller coaster in the center, they had a super-awesome Lego store, and a Peeps store (much to Brandon's utter delight)!  But...it was still a mall and after we got our stuff, we were ready to leave.


the music/sound room of the library
the most magical library, ever
inside of the teen area of the library

Before meeting up with Brent, we made a pit-stop at a magical comic book store and my eyes glazed over.  One wall was covered in comics, one in board games, and another in posters and action figures and toys... it was the kind of place I'd want to hang out, make friends, and get to know regulars by name.  After we met up with Greg's hubby, they took us to the Hennepin County Central Library.  It was absolutely glorious and everything that the Chicago library wasn't: the people there were friendly and greeted us with smiles and friendliness; the entire library was glass and metal and Greg said that the library was remodeled in such a way that people would notice it; and the teen section was fantastic and filled with people! (!!!)  This was the coolest space I've ever seen.  There was this music room filled with recording hardware and musical instruments and one kid was just hanging out, sitting in the corning of the space, strumming a bass.  Another kid was using a video camera to record his latest rap video in front of what I assumed was a green screen!  We got a chance to speak with the people there (interesting and motivated individuals wearing t-shirts with funny things written on them) and learned about how adults love the space so much that they volunteer their time to come and show the kids how to use all of the varied materials and software available.  So.  Frickin'.  Awesome.
Father Steve

But, the time drew near and we had to head back to the hotel.  We had about an hour to get ready and we frantically set about ironing clothes and making sure the place was presentable for Father Steve, who, honestly, stole the entire show.  He was absolutely perfect.  He was this little round old man with a slightly hoarse voice and seemingly naive hilarity.  Brandon had left the hotel to help him find his way in, and when they returned, Father Steve opened with, "Oh, you all have beards, too!" and had us all in laughter.  Perfect icebreaker.  He then had us all sign the aforementioned paperwork, while he told us this insane story:
"And don't worry, I'll make sure the paperwork is taken care of.  One time, I had this young couple I was marrying, when the grandparents walked up and asked me, 'Father, now you're sure you're going to get this paperwork turned in, right?' and I said 'Oh yes, I take my job very seriously! Why do you ask?'  'Well,' they replied, 'We recently went into the Social Security office [for whatever reason] and they told us that our marriage license was never filed!  Turns out that, legally, we were never married...for 40 years!'  So don't worry, I'll make sure your paperwork is taken care of.  Now let's get started, you all don't want to sit around and listen to an old man tell his boring stories."
We all laughed, again, because we'd hit the jackpot with this silly little old man with the perfect voice and perfect charm.  Now, I honestly had no part in setting any of the ceremony up.  I'd let Brandon choose whomever he wanted to preside over the marriage, I let him choose whatever our vows would be, and I let him choose the style.  I was just peacefully happy and blissful to be along for the ride.  So, you must imagine my reaction when the first words from Father Steve were, "We begin with a small quote [attributed to] the philosopher, Albert Camus" (cute lil' guy asked us how to pronounce his name).

Instantly, I wept.

Greg with Father Steve, signing as our witness
I honestly can't remember everything that was said during the ceremony after the quote, because I was completely focused on Brandon.  We were asked to stare deeply into each other's eyes, and I noticed 3 things: I was standing in front of the most handsome man in the world; his smile looked tired, because he'd been smiling nonstop the entire time; and I was simultaneously crying and giggling nonstop.

In fact, when it came time to repeat our vows after Father Steve, I jumbled my lines.  Yep, classic Gilbert.  Mom has already said, "In every picture, Brandon looks serious and you look silly" - a perfect representation of us.

I remember the emotions reaching a highpoint during the blessing of the rings, when Father Steve said they'd become "...[our] most precious possessions."

And then it was over.  "You may kiss," he said.  And we did.

Brent with Father Steve, signing as our witness


On the third time I started giggling and Father Steve said, "Boy, that's better than some of the kisses I've seen!" and we all burst into laughter.

The boys treated us to a magnificent dinner at Red Stag and I regret that I didn't think to take any photos together; I was emotionally drained and felt like I didn't say much at dinner or on the way back to the hotel, either.  But I was happy.  Happy to have finally tied the knot with Brandon, happy to have made these fantastic friends in Minneapolis, and happy that everything had worked out so magically.

01/03/2014 - Lesson 7: Forget all the lessons and simply enjoy each other.

This day was a mixture of waiting and wondering if we'd ever be able to make it home... but it really didn't matter anymore.  The bliss from the day before still carried over and I was content to wait forever in the airport, though Brandon would disagree with that last part.  We didn't know if we'd catch a flight, the weather progressively worsened throughout the day, and our tia Silvia was doing everything she could to get us home.  After having zero luck with any flights from Minneapolis to Dallas, we managed to catch a flight into Chicago... but it was terrifying.  The intense winds made it impossible to land the plane from the direction we were flying and, after an awkwardly terrifying message from the pilot, the plane circled the airport and very roughly landed onto a newly assigned runway.  People had locked arms as the silence thickly filled the plane and I just remember thinking, with my eyes closed, "Come what may."  We'd succeeded and whatever happened now, I felt we were invincible.
blessing of the rings

Naturally, I've been asked by a few friends and some coworkers, "How's married life?"  And my responses have done little to truly capture the fullness of what's happened and what this means for the future.  It simultaneously feels the same as before, and it doesn't.  The truth is that, aside from the legalities, something very big has changed.  I told Brandon that I would never again introduce him as anything other than my husband, and this is an incredibly huge deal for us, and something that the majority of people in this time and age will never experience.  I mentioned before that I answered a stranger, our judge, honestly for the first time, in regard to my necklace.  What I meant is that every time we met someone - every single time - we'd have to make an instant mental fight-or-flight decision based on a long set of scenarios:
  • Should we let this person we've just met into our circle of trust?
  • If they learn the truth about us, how will they react?
  • Could their reactions impact our lives in any physical or emotional way?
  • Could we lose our jobs?
Et cetera.  So, you could imagine how hurtful and embarrassing it must feel to speak of Brandon in any other form than the truth.  He's been my roommate, my best-friend, and we've done that thing where we dance around the truth by ignoring a question or skipping his title during introductions, until we've left the party and my mother has later told us that she had to explain to her new friends that Brandon is her son, too.

No more of that.  Now, we're not stupid and it's still unsafe to just walk around Texas and tell people we're queer, and it'll be a long time before we're able to break our conditioning and hold hands in public (can you imagine that? we're married and I still can't hold his hand in public), but when the question arises... when someone says to me, "Oh! A ring! What's her name?" or "Who's this?" I will never again hesitate to tell the truth.

This is Brandon, my husband.
"Don't walk behind me; I may not lead.  Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow.  Just walk beside me and be my friend." ~attributed to Albert Camus.
^_^ ^_^

constant giggles


Together - Part 1: Chicago

Our little excursion into the delightfully frigid winds of the North began with our trip to Chicago, but the beginning is honestly a blur for me.  See, our flight was at one of those ridiculously early hours of the morning, so, just to be safe, I didn't sleep at all.  I remember Brandon telling me how uneasy he felt when we got to security, 'cause he assumed my necklace or earrings would set the alarms off; and then I remember repeatedly sleeping-and-waking on the plane, until we finally saw the snow, lights, and water of Chicago.

But that's it.

I have absolutely no memory of what Chicago's airport looked like.  I have no memory of riding a taxi or walking to the hotel.  I simply remember that the bed was unbelievably squishy and that our room had very efficient light-blocking shades.

12/28/2013 - Lesson 1: Listen to recommended serving sizes in Chicago.

hubs in the lobby of the hotel
Our story officially kicks in here, where my memory does!  We walked to Giordano's to start our trip with the same pizza that Brandon had had delivered to our home, via dry ice, earlier in the year.  A good wait is expected for things like this and for the actual cooking of the pizza, so they told us that we could order it up front and that it'd cook while we waited.  Neat!  So, we looked at the menu and scoffed, naturally, when it recommended that we order a small for two people, and proceeded to order a medium.  The girl taking the order asked us if we were sure and to be ready to take leftover pizza home if we chose the medium.  I giggled at her innocence and said that there wouldn't be any left to take home.

Well, the pizza was enormous.  We'd eaten two slices each, when we began to feel like we wouldn't make it... and there were still four slices left.  I told Brandon, "that girl over there...she's going to laugh at us and say something catty like 'couldn't finish all your pizza, could you boys?!' in a terribly arrogant Southern accent and then she's gonna make some kind of really nasty face at us!!"  So we pushed on, through the wall, and angrily continued to eat.  Every.  Last.  Bite. We weren't about to let some brat tell us that she told us so!
hubs and the starry sky of the Italian Village

The walk back to our hotel room is a blur of pain and anguish.  We slept again, until our bodies didn't hate us, we looked for a place to have a late dinner, and then we fell in love all over again (with each other, as well as with food).  The nearby Italian Village was perfect; the magical atmosphere consisted of a dimly lit room with little lights strung across as if they were stars in the night sky.  After a delicious meal and the most perfect cappuccino I've ever had, we returned to the hotel for the evening.

12/29/2013 - Lesson 2: Relax; even when he says he doesn't have a plan, he probably does.

This was the first time we both stayed in bed and slept in past nine in years (probably 'cause of those efficient shades), but the magic of the first day was a bit more fleeting this day.  It was cold and windy out.  I don't mean it was bundle-up-'cause-it's-chilly-out cold, I mean it was holy-crap-it's-cold-and-there's-nothing-my-face-can-do-to-protect-itself cold.  This wouldn't have come as such as shock to me if, when I asked him where we were going, my lovely husband didn't reply something like "dunno" or "not sure."

I flipped.

And by flipped, I mean, I didn't.  I held it in, quietly, and the smile left my face and then froze that way, as we wandered the town on foot.  I got grumpy and no matter what the poor guy did to try and make me smile, I was frozen in said grumpy-mode and ruined about half the day.  It all came to an incredibly awkward climax when we stopped to eat at this lovely and quaint deli.  See, the place only had two very little wooden tables with two tiny little chairs at each one.  I got the strong feeling that they weren't there for us to eat on, but rather wait at, or something... We sat, I unwrapped my sandwich, and then Brandon asked, "Do you think these tables are for eating?" and I felt the color drain from my face.  It's one thing for me to feel self-conscious about something paranoid in my head, but the moment he felt the same thing, I knew we had to leave.

We immediately returned to the hotel room, where the junk I'd bottled up sort of...poured out.  It was messy.  We both apologized for getting worked up.  We relaxed a while, and then we went out again.  And it's embarrassing how unnecessary all of that weird and awkward negative stuff is and that we let that seep into our vacation/honeymoon stuff, but the fact is that it happened, we made up, and then all was fine again, but I feel it's important that I include that.

Also, in the midst of that awkwardness, we stopped by the Chicago library and I was a bit unimpressed.  We walked up to the main counter on the first (of ten) floors, and I excitedly said, "I'm from Texas and I work in a library, so what do you recommend, what's your favorite thing here, where should we go??" aaaaand he pushed a piece of paper forward and dryly answered with, "well, here's a map of the library."

the disappointing library
And that was it.  I was no longer excited, because he obviously wasn't.  We peeked into the children's section and saw nothing stood out, other than pieces of crafty things they had hanging from the ceiling.  Nothing innovative, nothing even super-colorful.  The teen spaces were more interesting, but they were renovating in there, so it was (understandably) messy and empty.  That was it.  After trying and failing to get an inactive library card, we left.

creepy slow-mo faces
That evening, we had another lovely meal for dinner and then had some fun walking around in the snow across the street from the hotel.  There were enormous columns of light that slow-motioned through random faces.  It was weird.  We liked the bean, of course, and we giggled and pointed out where people had left their dirty hand and foot prints.
the bean at millennium park

12/30/2013 - Lesson 3: Go eat where you'd actually want to eat, 'cause Yelp will take you to annoying hipster places and convince you to eat foods you don't care for.

While we absolutely hit the food-jackpot with places like the magnificent Lou Malnati's, a couple of other places just didn't hit the right buttons.  The Berghoff, for example, was great enough that we went twice, but though I loved my meals, hubs didn't quite fall in love with his; a texture issue, I think he said, which was fine for me, 'cause that just meant I had a little extra food those nights.

The absolute failure when it came to food was The Gage.  I wasn't too hungry, so I skipped straight to a rather dry and unimpressive chocolate dessert, but Brandon ordered the fish and chips, which was hailed by other Yelp users as the thing to get...but it wasn't.  Our disappointment with the place multiplied exponentially when we were sat next to the epitome of pretentiousness.  We already felt severely uncomfortable because our table was so close to the people next to us that I could reach out and touch her face.  Now, though, I had to sit quietly and listen to this lady brag about how her parents live downtown, how she's got a black AMEX card, so there was nothing to worry about, blah blah, money money, and tomorrow, she was gonna go to some sexy party where she'd order the nine-course meal!  WELL, how fabulous for her.  Brandon asked me why I wasn't talking much, and the truth was that I honestly felt we were so physically close to these people, we were basically a part of their conversation and speaking would feel like interrupting her.  It all came together in a neat little package topped of with our waitress pretty much ignoring us the whole time, but being sweet enough to make sure she let our neighbors know that their desserts were on the house.  Cute.

12/31/2013 - Lesson 4: Make sure your destination is open on New Year's Eve before braving a blizzard.

'Cause ours wasn't.  It was ok, though.  We genuinely had a good time laughing about this little oversight of ours and weren't in any hurry to make it anywhere.  In fact, I absolutely love that we didn't have New Year's plans.  We relaxed and snuggled into that squishy bed in the hotel a few hours before it started to get crazy (read: annoying) and had a great time laughing with Kathy and Anderson.  I got a bit sentimental around midnight and Facetimed with the family.  This meant that we waived hello at everyone while the cellphone got passed around and squished into tons of hugs.  It wasn't classy, but it was nice to see everyone during the happy moment.

I'd like to say that the night ended in those peaceful moments of the night, but we were staying in a hotel in downtown Chicago, where the largest party in the city was taking place downstairs.  The local TV station showed us images of said inane party 14 floors below us, and aaaaall of those hooligans had nowhere to go but up.  It was a Hilton, and yet we were awakened many times by the yelling of youngsters and glass breaking directly outside our door, but we eventually managed to get back to sleep and revel in the knowledge that they might one day die of alcohol poisoning.

And so concludes our last night in Chicago.  Next time: starstruck and hitched!