A LGBT Pride Month Story: And A Couple of T-Shirts That Were Saved from the Dumpster

This T-shirt from 1979 came from one of the dances put on by Gay Services of Kansas, at the University of Kansas.

Another hot Sunday is already upon us, and later on, when the driveway gets a bit shaded, I’ll tend to one of the planned weekend chores–washing the car.

The last time I was ready to do the same task, I pulled out a basket of car-cleaning supplies, which I had dumped under the work shelves in the garage when I was moving into my house, a year and a half ago.  In the basket, I discovered three old T-shirts, which I had saved for many

T-shirt from The Hide & Seek Complex in Colorado Springs, Colorado--a souvenir from New Year's Eve 1979.

years for sentimental reasons in the bottom of a chest of drawers.  But like many items whose value changes when a person is making a move, these once nostalgia-filled keepsakes were turned into rags.

The funny thing is that afternoon, I did wash the car with them, even the grimy wheels.  But as I finished my task, and the car was looking all slick again, I decided that these shirts still meant something to me; I wasn’t ready to toss them all wet into the trash dumpster.

One of them–a bright red one–is a souvenir from a trip in 2000 to Chile.  It’s from the Capel Pisco Distillery in the Elquí Valley.  You haven’t lived if you’ve never had a Pisco Sour!

The other two–one black, the other, now a dingy white–are much older.  Unfortunately, the sleeves are cut off and long slits run down the sides, which was part of the look in the early 80s to go with the two pairs of parachute pants that I had.  With a red pair and a black pair teamed up with the slitted shirts, I had four different options to choose from to go out clubbing!

Actually, I had gotten the T-shirts when I still lived in Kansas, so it was probably about three years before I dismembered the sleeves here in Houston.

I got both of the shirts when I was a grad student at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.  (Read more about that here.)  One of them is from one of the dances that the KU gay group used to have in the Student Union.  A bunch of us from K-State would pack ourselves into cars and make the 90-minute drive (more if there were pit stops) from Manhattan to Lawrence.  Though there was a lot of KU-K-State rivalry on the football field and basketball court, the boys and girls didn’t have any time for that on the dance floor!  This shirt came from the 1st Annual Summer Fling, put on by the KU group, Gay Services of Kansas, in 1979.  The KU-Lawrence LGBT community has done a good job of chronicling its history, part of which can be found here, where I verified that my shirt was from 1979.

The other T-shirt is a memento from a road trip I took with a K-State friend to Colorado Springs over the holidays of that same year.  We spent New Year’s Eve at a place called The Hide & Seek Complex, which was the biggest club I had been to up to then.  I don’t remember so much about the physical features of the disco, but I do remember the fantastic pyrotechnic show that shimmered down from the top of Pikes Peak, which we viewed from the patio of the club.  (The Hide & Seek Complex lasted for many years.  From what I can see, it must have closed about eight years ago.)

I also remember meeting many military guys from Fort Carson and a couple from the Air Force Academy itself that New Year’s Eve at that club in Colorado Springs.  Even though it was just a few short years since I had been in the Air Force myself,  I remember thinking, “Oh, if I only knew then, what I know now.” 

Actually, I had a much better situation for coming out, surrounded by college friends, who were basically doing the same thing.  We could, for the most part, enjoy the process with a lot of support from each other, not a situation I could have had in the military.

I guess that’s why I can’t use these T-shirts for car washing; the significance that they have is just too much.  And rather than shove them back in a drawer, I have a room with a lot of my keepsakes on the walls.  Put in frames, they’d go perfect there.

Vicuña, Chile–One of Those “Magical” Places

Valle de Elqui (The Elqui Valley)--if you look closely you can see the tops of some of the buildings of Vicuña.

Valle de Elqui (The Elqui Valley)--if you look closely you can see the tops of some of the buildings of Vicuña. It may not look "magical" but it is.

I was sorting through the box of photos that I have, both tonight and last night, remembering old friendships and re-visiting past trips.

It makes me wonder, in these digital days, whether in the future people will be able to enjoy this kind of collection–either in the hodgepodge of envelopes still from the developer like I have or in nicely arranged albums that others have. I just can’t see much pleasure involved in pulling out DVDs and slipping them into the computer as a way of enjoying photos. And what about all those images that just got deleted? My photo box contains lots of “mistakes” that I can enjoy today and some, not necessarily mistakes, but ones I might like to cut someone out of. But this dilemma is not really my point here. Let me share some of the photos from my box.

Grape vines and the Andes Mountains near Vicuña, Chile.

Grape vines and the Andes Mountains near Vicuña, Chile.

Amongst all the others, I have a couple of full envelopes from trips to Chile. I’ve been there a couple of times, the last in 2000. Chile, that long thin country in South America, has as its border with Argentina the Andes Mountains and its other limit the cold Pacific Ocean. Because of its geography, it’s an absolutely beautiful country, which goes from almost arid desert in the north to cold and wet the further south you go.

Chile is a country with so much unspoiled nature that it’s almost hard to believe. I was fortunate enough to have friends whom I had met through internet chat to welcome me there and show me around.

There is a place there that has to be one of earth’s “magical” places, something like what I’ve heard about Sedona, Arizona.

Vicuña is a town that lies a good day’s bus ride north of Santiago up in one of the many valleys of the Chilean Andes, where the run-off from the snow flows from the mountains in a westerly direction, eventually into the Pacific. A lot of this water is used for irrigation. In the Valle de Elqui, where Vicuña sits, much of the water is used for the grape vineyards, but other fruits and vegetables are also grown in the area. Vicuña is a center for the production of pisco, a brandy-like liquor that is processed in several distilleries in the area. I had a chance to visit the Capel pisco plant there. I still can make a mean Pisco Sour, one of those drinks that tastes so good, but might have your socks knocked off after just a couple.

The church and the old German Bauer Tower sit in the center of Vicuña.

The church and the old German Bauer Tower sit in the center of Vicuña.

But let me get back to the “magic” of this place. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like it before. I guess I might attribute this feeling partly to the quaintness of the town itself. It has a unique old tower that was originally built in Germany but was brought in pieces by immigrants and re-constructed in the center of town. But I’ve been to many other quaint towns, so I really don’t think that’s it.

It could be because the sky there is absolutely clear, and the view goes on for miles. In fact, there are at least two observatories that have been located right in the area just because of this clear, clean air.

Maybe it’s the quiet, slow-paced atmosphere of the place, where even the dogs on the street couldn’t be bothered to lift their heads to bark at an intruder trudging down their narrow street.

One of the quiet streets of Vicuña.

One of the quiet streets of Vicuña.

I really can’t say what gives Vicuña this special feeling, but I do know that I felt it when I arrived and felt its absence later. I doubt, too, that I am able in any way to convey this magic through a few photos, but I remember it well and I have the urge to experience Vicuña’s special magic again.