Autobahn. Graphite on Paper
When I was 12, I went to live with my dad in Eugene, Oregon. I was 12 in 1982. I knew very well I was gay, but somehow I had the wherewithal to decide not to come out to anyone until I was 16. It was a very different time then, and I didn’t know who was friend or foe. I never thought of my sexuality as a phase or a choice. It simply was a fact. While I never wanted to change it, I recognized at a very early age that this fact meant trouble.
My parents had divorced when I was 3 and I spent my early childhood with my mom in Wisconsin. My mom would play Kraftwerk’s Autobahn for me and my sister often during “spring cleaning” when we would go through our closets and get rid of stuff. Or maybe she’d play it while we all hung out in the living room. I would read my feild guides on snakes and trees. My sister would be looking at magazines or something, and maybe my mom would be reading “Passages”... This music permeated my existence. This and certain other music - Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, lots of albums of Phoebe Snow, Patrice Rushen, Roy Ayers, Tower of Power, Stevie Wonder, Minnie Ripperton, Nina Simone, The Beatles “Let It Be’, Joni Mitchell’s “Miles of Aisles”... all this music to this day brings me back a sense of comfort- a place of belonging.
In 1982, I decided I wanted to try living with my Dad full time. I was not prepared for the big city of Eugene, Or. I came from Green Lake, WI a small town of 1000 people. I spent part of each year in Eugene, visiting my dad where he was a professor at the University of Oregon. I was thrown into a world of hippies, drugs, coolness, and my first gay people. Lots of hairy, beardy or mustachey guys became my focus for teenage crushes over the next several years.
Adapting to a new life was a challenge that I never fully met. My dad was and is a good, caring guy, but he was ill prepared to take on a young, troubled gay kid with very little information from me on how I was feeling (since I shut off my will to communicate for fear of getting rejected or living in a hostile environment). So I retreated. I would go to the record store and buy records instead of going to school. I would sneak back into the house and listen to music like Autobahn over and over, rocking back and forth, and imagining my future life with a beautiful bearded man who I was totally in love with and not even really coming up with full fledged stories about what that life would be. Just the sense of it. I so looked forward to that coming time in my life.
Now I am married to a beautiful beardy guy. I had to go through a lot of chaos to get here. My first years after coming out were at the height of AIDS destroying so many lives. Drugs and depression have killed many of my friends. It was a hard road then for a lot of gay kids because we didn’t have access to role models and images and stories of wholesome, healthy gay lives. We were told that our lives would be hard, that we were not equal. And our subcultures were dynamic and interesting and colorful, but also could be hedonistic and self-destructive - or at least tempting in that way. I walked into those worlds looking for that feeling I got rocking back and forth listening to Autobahn, and I never really found what I was looking for.
Now and then today, though, I will look over at my husband and think to myself, “oh, here it is. What I have been looking for all my life.”
Doing these drawings brings me back in touch with those feelings I had a young man. Those feelings of joy. That life is in front of you. That strength and desire that pulls you forward and keeps your eyes open.