Category Archives: The Early Years

Porn and my 88-year-old Grandmother

I’ve been going through a tough time since the break-up.  But, I’m getting better.  Frankly, I just haven’t felt like writing or being creative.  I’ve been drinking too much and watching too much TV, not to mention watching too much porn.  I’ve been very lazy.  Over the last several weeks, however, I feel like I finally have turned the corner and am on a new and much improved street.

But let’s get back to what I’m sure caught your attention in the first paragraph.  Porn.  Now, I realize that I have a rather diverse, yet small, group of readers.  And I’m sure that all of you have strong feelings about this topic.  Some of you may be “disgusted” by it.  Some of you may be “confused” by it.  Some of you may have numerous online subscriptions to various porn websites.  Whatever.  There is room in this world for all of you.  And I’m not here to discuss the benefits or detriments of porn.  So please don’t turn my blog’s comment section into a porn discussion board.  Different strokes for different folks.  eh hm.

Anyway, in the interest of full disclosure, here’s my perspective.  After all, it is my blog.  I like porn, I like nudity, I like sex.  I always have.  And I treat it like I try to treat anything else in my life:  Moderation in all things.

Here’s a little history of me and porn.  It all started in 1985 when I was in 5th grade.  A friend of mine named Bret invited me to his house to show off his stash.  Evidently he had been slowly stealing Hustler magazines from his dad’s collection.  As I entered his bedroom that special day, I had no idea what awaited me.  But, I was lucky, Bret was already a porn “pro” and was able to explain to me what all the parts were and what they did.  Honestly, 24 years later, I still haven’t thanked Bret for what would be my initial lesson in sex education.  My parents were not what I would call communicative. We did not discuss problems or even really have any kind of discussions at all. Especially when it came to sex.  So I was clearly on my own.  Until Bret stepped up to the plate.  Thanks, Bret, I owe you one.

Without getting too graphic, let’s just say I learned on that very special afternoon a lot about human anatomy.  Honestly, I don’t remember much about the woman in the picture.  But I can still describe to you in full detail the man (including his feathered, bleach blond hair and 80s porn ‘stache).  It was enough to fully pique my interest.  And from that moment on, I was incredibly curious about men’s anatomy.  My imagination went wild.  Which is why I loved my new best friend…the JC Penney Catalog.  You see, the JC Penny catalog had like a 5 or 6 page spread of men in their underwear.  It was like the holy grail of soft porn.  And when my Grandma would receive her quarterly catalog, I was in underwear heaven.  It was like being allowed to visit a guy’s locker room–without the teasing and shame and threats of swirlies.

I think this model (on left) is actually Ashton Kutcher's dad...

Well, my history with porn strangely came full circle this past summer when I was home visiting my grandma.  While sitting next to my grandmother showing her pictures that I had taken at the Iowa State Fair, I inadvertently entered into a very special and very private section of pictures in iPhoto.  Shit.  Yes, that’s right.  I accidentally showed my 88-year-old grandmother gay porn. Full on, hard penis, legs spread, gay porn.  And this was G-ma’s response to seeing some random dude in all his glory: “Ohhhhhhh.”  Immediately my fingers fumbled across the keyboard, in an effort to close iPhoto, only to forward through several more naked photos. Finally, flustered and unable to stop the peep show, I just slammed the laptop shut. I took a deep breath, feeling my face burning red, and slowly slid away from G-ma.  After several minutes of painful and complete silence I simply said, “I’m kind of tired, Grandma, I think I’ll go to bed.” And that was that.

My family has mastered the art of not talking about things, at least directly.  So I called my sister the next day and told her.  It’s just how we communicate.  I’m fairly confident Grandma and I will never talk about it.  Just like we never talked about why the men’s underwear section of her JC Penney’s Catalog was always missing or left tattered.

Odd Jobs

I’ve had my fair share of odd jobs. In fact, in some ways I don’t know that I’ve ever really had a normal job. Of course, for some reason when I think of normal jobs I think of being an accountant. I guess any job that involves cubicles and numbers is normal. I realize my thinking is a little warped. But accountants just seem so incessantly normal.

My first job, other than being the official “channel changer” for my family, was working in a strawberry field. That’s right, I was a field worker. The pay was awful and it involved crawling across a strawberry field searching for ripe strawberries. Needless to say, I didn’t last long. Manual labor and I never have mixed well.

It wasn’t long after that when I became an illegal worker at a fast food restaurant. I was 15 when the manager, who I’m sure has been on “To Catch a Predator” twice, hired me. He lied to the company about my age and allowed me to work in the back for about 8 months. Neither my parents nor I knew that you had to be at least 16 to legally work at a restaurant in the state of Iowa. So about a week before my 16th birthday the assistant manager called me and told me not to come back to work until I turned 16, which is when I was told what had gone down. On an interesting side note, my predator was sent to jail on an unrelated (to me anyway) offense involving alcohol, minors, and sex. In retrospect I’m a little offended that I was not offered either alcohol or sex. (oh please…don’t act so shocked…)

Since customer service is my gig, it’s understandable that I quickly rose to the top. Once I was of legal working age they took me off of the bun-toaster and shoved to the front line, where I was able to present my awkward smile to every mentally-ill veteran who happened to walk through the front door. There were several that would occasionally get confused and wander through the service door and it was their loss. The restaurant was located close to a VA hospital that I seem to remember had a special outpatient mental health ward. Nice. That didn’t stop my Hardee’s “Served with Pride” award-winning attitude. Oh yes, did I mention that the name of the “restaurant” was Hardee’s? Umm. Yeah. I don’t mean to brag, but I was employee of the month twice during my stint as a front-line worker. I know what you are thinking. And it’s true. I have “front-line worker” written all over me. Thank you.

I had some really interesting friends from Hardee’s. There was Gail, her daughter Tracy, and son-in-law Bill. Gail made cakes on the side and once brought a cake to work in the shape of a penis at full attention with all the graphic detail you can imagine. I don’t remember much about Tracy, except that she was married to Bill. Interestingly, Bill was the truly odd one of the family. He was responsible for cleaning the parking lot and performing other random duties, like chasing the confused patrons out of the service entrance. He liked to invite people to come see his house. I don’t think he had anything funny in mind. He just simply enjoyed showing people his and Tracy’s fully undecorated home. I only took the tour once.

In hindsight, I’m not really sure why I was invited over to so many of my co-workers’ places. No one ever tried to give me drugs or alcohol. No one ever tried to touch me. Nothing. It must have just been my sparkling personality and award-winning smile that people could not resist. Even several of the managers had me over to their places. I know that you are probably thinking how lucky I was–those situations were dangerous. And, you could be right. But, these people actually were my friends, even if they were adults. In some ways, they were educating me on the real world. Perhaps they were just trying to show me what life would be like if I stayed at Hardee’s, instead of going to college. I chose college.

I do love a good list, so here’s a serious list of 5 things I actually learned from working at Hardee’s:

1) Smile at everybody. Even those who seem a little crazy.

2) Show up on time. If you are late, someone else has to wait.

3) Smoking is a nasty habit. Being exposed to secondhand smoke and seeing the effects of a lifetime-long smoking habit on a mentally-ill person is a great deterrent.

4) If you masturbate you will grow hair on the palms of your hands. I fell for this joke countless times.

5) Go to college. If you stay and work at a fast food restaurant in rural Iowa, you will end up living in a van down by the river. (In further hindsight, I would say that if you don’t choose to go to college then you should at least travel and expand your worldview.)

Hardees 2 Pictures, Images and Photos

Top-Notch Journalism

I guess I’ve been taking a bit of a blogging break. When I start to feel a little too “ranty,” I like to step back and take stock. I also like to take time and review what I’ve written so far. So I use the time that I would normally write and I read my blog as well as other blogs. It’s a great process and a lot of fun for me, but I’m ready to get back to writing new posts.

After all, I’m a creative person. I sometimes forget that. Nothing kills my creative energy quite like spending 11 hours on an airplane. It’s kind of strange, but I don’t think most of my California friends really see me that way–that is, as a creative person. They see me as Tyler, the flight attendant, or Tyler, Jeff’s boyfriend. I guess that’s why this blog is so important to me. It’s my creative outlet.

This blog isn’t my first attempt at writing, though. When I was a senior in high school I was the editor of my high school paper. Well, at least I was editor until I was fired. That’s right, I was fired from my very first and only writing job. I still, 16 years later, take pride in getting fired as editor-in-chief of the Trojan Trib. The 17-year-old Tyler was a much more dramatic version of me. And, in a moment of pissy anger, I called the newspaper teacher an “ass.” Actually, I told her not to “assume” because she’d make an “ass out of u and me.” I was really quite impressed with myself at the time. I like to envision myself as a sort of Julia Sugarbaker (from Designing Women). I think I got my point across.

I don’t remember what it was that she was assuming, but I sure as hell was tired of it. So I walked to the principal’s office with great pride. It was the only time I ever was actually sent to the office. My mother worked at the high school and so I knew the people in the office very well. They were surprised by my non-social visit. Anyway, to get to the point, I was “let go” from my editor position, and demoted to “staff writer.”

As staff writer I channeled all of my untapped editorial energy into creating incredibly thought provoking exposés. I uncovered the secret evil and corruption of the student hall monitoring system. I exposed the inner-workings of the Pleasantville High School Drama Club, of which I was a member and the newspaper teacher was also the sponsor. What can I say? It was a small school. And, perhaps my journalism was not completely “unbiased.” I gave it my best shot.

I recently discovered that my predecessor as Trojan Trib editor-in-chief went on to work for the Wall Street Journal. Wow. I suppose he never spelled out “ass” to any of his superiors. And, I hope he regrets it.

Moving On.

Last month I went home to Iowa to visit my family. It was a great trip, especially since I hadn’t been home in 3 1/2 years. I spent most of the time simply catching up with everyone. Oh yeah, and scanning photos. My sister and I decided to start scanning old pictures so that we could have them in a digital format. We didn’t realize just how time consuming it would be. The nice side of this is that I now have a ton of pictures from my childhood on my computer. Pictures that I would have never had otherwise. I’ve decided to share one of my favorites with you. I believe you’ve heard me talk about my stint in sports. Now I have the photos to prove it. This picture is from 4th grade (1983).

Notice the nice glasses and the determined look on my face. I’m ready to go to the ball field, sit in the outfield, and pick dandelions. Anyway, we had a great time looking at the pictures, having a nice stroll down memory lane.

For some reason I’ve had a very serious case of writer’s block this past month. In fact, the first and second paragraphs of this post were typed about one month apart. I apologize for the gap in my posting. I’ve decided to push through and just post something without worrying if it’s just the way I want it.

Since I love to over-analyze things, you’ll be pleased to know that I have figured out my writer’s block. My trip home to Iowa was extremely cathartic for me. I hadn’t been home for so long because of my need to distance myself from my family. I needed them to see me as who I am now, not who I used to be. I needed some space and I took it–about 3 1/2 years worth. I think it was one of the best things I’ve ever done, taking space. However, going home was truly wonderful. My family and I have both changed immensely. At this point, I think we all agreed that it is simply time to move forward and allow each other to be who we are.

Moving on…so much of the reason I began to blog in the first place was purely psychological. I wanted to express in writing a lot of what I was feeling regarding my past, with a sprinkle of current “Tyler” events. After going home, I don’t feel the need to work through so much of the past anymore. I just want to move forward. So, I was stumped. No material.

Where do I go from here? Good question. I’m just going to write as it comes. I think occasionally you will see me write about my college days or childhood; but, for the most part I think this will become more current.

So, here’s to blogging again.

Oh yeah, and before I go, I wanted to share one more picture from my childhood.

I’d like to introduce you to the Wild Rose Cloggers of Marion County, Iowa, 1982. I’m the tow head in the front row. Nice bolo tie, huh?

Miss America…LIVE!

Yesterday, Jeff and I made ourselves sick with the amount of TV we watched. I hate when that happens. I just didn’t know when to quit. I think this is how Jeff put it: “I feel gross.” And frankly, I did too. I think what really pushed it over the edge was watching Miss America…Live!, the culmination of a 4-week Miss America reality show and 2-hour re-creation of the Miss America Pageant.

Let me start by saying that I love beauty pageants. I grew up watching the Miss America pageant. And, I loved every minute of it’s plastic glory. I dreamed of saying:

“I’m Tyler Lee, a 5th grader majoring in music, and proud to be from Pleasantville, IOWA, the town where the name says it all and the state where the corn is tall! And, I want to be your next Miss America!”

I would sit in overly-eager anticipation waiting for the real Miss Iowa to take her turn at the microphone. I would sit and think, “Now she has a chance!” And, every year the title would go to some bimbo from Oklahoma or Texas or California. Oh, Miss Iowa often made it to the final 10, but the crown would inevitably go to someone who could sing “opera” or play the “violin,” never to Miss Iowa, who could only juggle flaming ears of corn. Have you ever juggled flaming ears of corn?

I didn’t think so.

And, I wasn’t disappointed last night to see that Miss Iowa was just as plastic as always–even after the 4-week reality series that was aimed at teaching the contestants how to be more real. I knew it would never work. Miss Iowa wouldn’t crack. She was totally a Stepford Wife. Minus the husband, of course. And, she was a finalist. But, alas, she didn’t win. But, she could have, if they hadn’t made this ridiculous push to make the contestants “real.”

I guess “real” to whomever runs the pageant means that girls wear jeans and tank tops, and that they are allowed to do their best stripper walk during the swimsuit competition. I kept on waiting for someone to drop it like it’s hot. Oh yeah, we also got to hear why they chose their evening gowns. Which, just made them seem more annoying and less worthy of the title Miss America.

I think what I always loved about the pageant as a kid was the fact that they didn’t quite seem real. I think that they called it “poised.” I would sit and wait for someone to mess up or trip or stutter. Then, I would think…Amateur. But, those days are gone. They’re all amateur. Except for good ol’ Miss Iowa. Tough as nails, nothing could wipe that smile off her face.

Here’s a great clip from the 80s. Do you remember when they would actually sing the opening song? This has everything that was great about the pageant…

I’m a victim.

I’m a victim. Yeah, yeah…I know everyone thinks that they are a victim. But, seriously, I am a victim. Jesus. There, I said it. I feel soooo much better. Wait…actually, now that I said it, it doesn’t sound quite right–I am a survivor. There. I like that much better.

I am a youth choir survivor. This may not initially sound like a big deal, but, it is. You know, youth choirs…think cheesy music and choreography. Sort of like Up With People, just not as “polished.” My first (that’s right, there was more than one!) choir was called Harmony, Inc. It was a youth choir that got together for a month every summer to rehearse and tour and evangelize the vastly pagan area of our country called the Midwest. Of course, we had thousands of converts. 😉

It was during one of these tours that I met a brassy soprano named Laura. Laura was everything a young gay boy could hope for in a “girlfriend.” She was big, both in size and personality. She styled her overly-curled blonde hair so that the back of her hair was hanging over her forehead. She was sort of like an early 80s version of Madonna, only on steroids. Clearly from the moment we met, we were destined to be together. In many ways, she was one of the most bizarre looking people I had ever seen. Laura was a misfit–truly, one of my peeps. So, of course, we instantly hit it off. Most important to this story, however, Laura was a drama queen. Literally. She was the president of her Thespian troupe. So, it is no surprise that our whirlwind relationship had all the workings of a Shakespearean tragedy. Our love was not to be…

Following a particularly emotional choir rehearsal, she approached me and said, “We’ve lost our spark.”

“Huh?” (I was like totally articulate in high school)

“You know, when we first met, there was a spark between the two of us…well, it’s gone.”

“Are we breaking up?”

“Let’s just be friends.”

It was at this point that I first mastered the fine art of holding a grudge. I also learned how to so completely ignore someone that it caused them acute pain. At least, in my head, that was the case. I continue, to this day, to excel at both of these skills.

If Laura wanted to “just be friends,” I would kill her with my glares or lack thereof. I’d teach her a real life lesson: Don’t mess with a confused gay teenage boy. I have a feeling I wasn’t the only one to teach her that lesson. Somehow, I managed to survive the following weeks by pouring my angst into the music. I could force the tears out at the height of a song. Unfortunately, so could my ex-girlfriend. It became a weeping contest. All would see that I was truly a spiritual person who had been through a lot–more than Laura. It all was really great drama. At least, until the director approached us after one of our concerts and asked if we could “control our emotions” just a little bit. How embarrassing for him–trying to stifle our pain. I’d direct my venom at him.

That would free me from being mad at Laura. We bonded over our hatred of the choir director. Of course, we became best friends.

The Long Road to Where I Am–Part 3

I tell you what: I can hold a grudge. And, not just the kind of grudge where you dislike someone, but can still be “friends.” I’m talkin’ ’bout the kind of grudge where it is impossible to even look at the person, much less, talk to them. For example, when I was in high school, I didn’t talk to my “best friend” Danny for over a year because of a fight we had over a piece of gum and a girl. Not my most mature moment, but come on, I was a teenager.

Forgiveness has not really ever been something that came naturally for me. I can hold a grudge for so long that I forget the most important part of a grudge–the why. I just know that I am mad at you, and that’s that. So there it is, just put on your big girl panties and deal with it. I will forget this, but I sure as hell won’t forgive it.

But, as difficult as it is for me to do, I just have to do it. Because as long as you don’t forgive, you hold onto all of that shit. And, my mind is crowded enough as is, so, I can’t afford to be a pack rat. I believe that a good mental spring cleaning begins with forgiveness.

For me, this process starts by not allowing silly situations to escalate to the point where they need forgiveness. My mantra these days really has become: be kind, be generous, be honest…be kind, be generous, be honest… And, I have been using it often. I tend to need a lot of reminders. So, when someone is acting like a real jackass I start chanting the mantra (…to myself, of course. I don’t want to come across as the head case I really am…) And, it really works! Instead of my usual gut reaction of holding a grudge and not talking, I press through and communicate. Nine times out of ten I discover that they are not a real jackass at all. They were just giving their gut reaction to the situation. One out of ten people really are jackasses, which is fine. I just don’t have room for them in my life.

I also have been working on cleaning out the dusty corners of my mental attic. This requires forgiving people that didn’t even know I was holding a grudge–including myself. Doing all of this has freed me up to simply live in the now. It makes it easier to revisit the past when I don’t have all of these pent up negative emotions still attached to everything. I can start to enjoy the humor in it all.

So, this is the last in this series of serious posts. They may not have been the most exciting articles to read, but, I had to write them. If you’re gonna read my blog, you’re gonna get the good, the bad, and the ugly… 😉