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  • Carousels were always a fascination to me, kind of an expression of my more feminine side. I took some jibes about this from others around me as I grew up. It was OK for a girl to be a tomboy, but not for a boy to be so sensitive. Things worsened as I got older, and I kept certain of my attitudes, and my tolerance of others out of the public's reach. My sensitivity went into warehouse for a long portion of my life. I was expected to be more macho. I am a confirmed heterosexual, but some have tried to intimate otherwise because of my more sensitive nature. I still loved the carousels when others my age were interested in more mature male pursuits.

    The carousel in downtown Spokane Washington,(my home town) came from a park that my family frequented in the summers of my adolescence. The park was Natitorium Park, it was abandoned and dismantled years ago, and a trailer park resides on the site now. The carousel sat for years in a warehouse, like my sensitivity, and was finally rescued to take a prominent place in the Spokane downtown atmosphere. Soon after its reopening in the Riverfront Park, My wife and I, our children, Sally, a friend, and John, then a stranger, went down to enjoy a summer day riding the carousel, and lounging in the park.

    John, (I never knew his last name, I only knew him as that, or by his stage persona,'Joan Crawfish'). I met through an acquaintance that was a friend of mine first, and then later of my wife, Cheryl; Sally Neiman.

    John performed in cabaret-style drag shows at the 'Mainsail', an archaic old dive on east Boone Street In Spokane. Sally introduced Cheryl and myself, both to these performances, and to John. We enjoyed going to, and seeing them again and again for many years. All of the acts were engaging, and professional. There was no lacking of brilliance, or sheer talent in these shows. All of the participants put their hearts into their acts. John was no exception.

    Sally was a nurse at Sacred Heart Hospital that I met and befriended, as we were both coffee rats at the Sambo's restaurant that we all frequented in downtown Spokane.

    John also worked with Sally at the Sacred Heart Hospital there in Spokane as a male nurse, where he was well respected for his professional demeanor, and genuine love for people, regardless of their station in life. He just liked people, and didn't mind going well out of his way to show it. John's life style was quite obvious to everybody around him, but his affable character made few treat him badly for what he was. There were some hard cases though, and he received some ugly treatment from them, even some beatings. I never knew him to offer anything but kindness in return.

    John was the first person I knew personally that died from AIDS.

    The Mainsail is no longer there, there's a parking lot in it's place for the Spokane Arena that was built to replace the old Coliseum, or as we referred to it, the 'Boone Street Barn'. The old Barn went the way of the 'Nat Park, and then later so did the Mainsail, along with the cabaret performances that my wife and I had so enjoyed. John passed away long before these did, and my wife and I never went there for the shows after he was gone.

    Like the carousel, life has a way of coming around full circle, It's becoming more acceptable for a man to show the foo-foo side of himself, without being branded as gay, or effeminate. It's even somewhat OK now to appear tolerant of alternate life choices in others around you. Some best friends of mine live differently from the way I choose to live, and no one seems to think it strange anymore that they are my friends. I still get chided when I cry over sad movies though. I am more inclined to express my softer side today, than I was when I was growing up, and this shows in some of my photography. The only difference is that now, it's more understood. I'm back to who I was then, expressing my self better, and it seems more comfortably familiar to everybody I know, less threatening to their lives in general. The world is finally getting comfortable with Ideas not their own.

    The world isn't perfect yet, but there have been improvements, as it comes around full circle one more time. Maybe with a few more revolutions, it will get even better. I hope John, where ever he is, is happy with the show so far. I know I'm enjoying the ride this carousel has to offer.
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