It was 1994 and I was 13, and a half, and I found myself searching for some understanding of what I was feeling. I had always been told that what I was feeling was wrong…no one knew I was feeling this way…but I had always been told it was wrong. Its one of those cases where you learn that your ability to hide your feelings is not always as strong as you believe it to be—it fully supports the idea that “mothers always know.”
I’m not sure how I found it…maybe it was an ad that came on while watching PBS. “The characters of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City brought to life in this original PBS miniseries. Please be advised of sensitive content matter. Not suitable for all ages.” However I found Tales of the City it was to be my introduction to what it “really” meant to be gay and nicely an introduction to my future home—San Francisco—ding ding goes the trolley.
At that time my family was not lucky enough to own multiple television sets and I don’t know that my mother would have allowed me to have one in my room—I had just stop sharing a common living space with my two older sisters. The show would air late at night—I am sure it was just 10pm or so, but at that time I was young and 10pm was way past my bedtime—so as to ensure those who were well underage were not watching the program with adult content. For the first few weeks I would sneak out of my room, turn on the television, turn the volume way down, and then darken the screen just enough to still make out the faces. Towards the end of the shows run I was lucky enough to inherit an old VHS/TV comb after a VHS tape was found to be stuck in the system. The TV sat in my room rigged with a wire hanger for an antenna and only came on when the house went to sleep.
From the very first episode, to the last, I fell in love with the characters, the storyline and the place…it all seemed so surreal. A loving land-lady who called her tenants “her children,” a gay guy named “Mouse,” and Mona—need I really say more. And then San Francisco painted as a city where everyone was ok with being themselves…if not almost begged to be an original. The winding steps of 28 Barbary Lane soon became my personal late night escape from the real world in which I existed. In my room, late at night I was someone else…part of the colorful cast of characters that exited the cameras’ gaze as the screen faded to black.
When the series ended I ended—in a way. At that time I had no understanding that this wasn’t just a miniseries, I didn’t know that “being brought to life” meant there was actually a book behind the miniseries. I languished for a year because I was no longer able to explore who I was or that I could be, or should be. And I longed for the return of Beauchamp Day to my personal existence.