Sunday, March 13, 2011

Owning the D List Status

Hey everyone,

It has been awhile, but I write you for a second time and hopefully this time it will save. Last night, I had this issue completed and ready to edit, and then it didn't save. Still bitter about this, I am making sure every single sentence saves tonight, or I may trade this blog in for another one that works better.

Getting a Watch Battery:

Last month, my watch battery died, and I went about the task of changing the battery. Now, one would think this would be an easy thing to do, even in Bulgaria. Simply go to a watch shop, and change the battery. In the States, you can go to Target or Walmart and get this done in 2 minutes, but not in Bulgaria. I naively assumed you could go to any watch store and change the battery. SO, so, wrong.

My first stops were at two fancy watch stores in The Mall on my way home from work, assuming that any watch store would be able to change my watch battery. I was met by surly young women in both stores, who in proud Bulgarian customer service relations gave me an answer that made me feel like an idiot. "We don't change watch batteries and why would you expect us to?", was the reply I got in both stores. When I asked where I could get a battery, the usual vague reply was: "Somewhere in the center."

With this beautiful piece of information, I went about one Sunday on Vitosha looking for a watch battery, and finding the Buddies Bears debuting here to build tolerance in a city that could use a lot of tolerance training. I went to four watch stores of different kinds of watches, and not one store could change the battery. But, the saleswomen were much nicer than at the mall, apologized, and told me to try the store next door assuming they would change batteries. After four stores, I gave up and decided today was not the day I was going to change the watch.

Returning from Paris and Balchik, I met a friend for lunch, and decided to renew my quest for the watch battery, but this time on Graf Ignatief street. This time, I felt confident I would find the place that would help me. At the first store, I was in luck and they changed watch batteries, but the woman couldn't open my watch to change the battery.

Finally, I walked by a watch shop with watch repairs near the corner of Rakovski and Graf Ignatief. Of course, this is the place I should have come to in the first place, but I walked by here a million times without realizing it was there, as I never needed my watch repaired. In ten minutes, I had a new watch battery, even though I got ripped off because my battery cost 15 leva, while the previous peron's battery only cost 8 leva. At this point, I didn't really care, as I was simply happy I got the battery changed, and paying a small fee to change it after looking relentlessly for a month was worth it.

Gay D List Sofia:

When writing this, I am in no way upset, but more stating what are facts and observations. With all my straight friends, I am a total A list, and my straight friends rock and so do my colleagues. Without them, my life would be very boring and I would not have the support I have. With my gay friends, I only have 4-5 after almost three years, and two of them are American, with only one gay best friend. I could include six with my ex-bf in London being Peter Pan, but he's in London being Peter Pan, so he doesn't count.

I am at full acceptance with my status in both the gay and straight communities here in Sofia, and it is almost as if I earning my stripes. Unlike Kathy Griffin who calls herself a D list celebrity, it took me a little while to own the D list status in the Sofia gay community. In DC, I was able to make lots of gay friends, and it's been bewildering to me why I don't have more gay friends after almost three years, but I have some theories and observations why. Like Kathy Griffin and celebrities, most gays are terrified to talk to me. I moved up to the D list because I was on the E list when I first got here. And E was not fun at all, so I will take being on the D list.

Here are the reasons why I am on the D list with the Sofia Gay Community(It could be one, multiple, and/or all of them depending on which gay guy you are talking to):

1. I am not the typical gay guy that is presented on TV for Bulgarians to see.

I like to go to concerts, action movies, and the theater, instead of chalga concerts and the gay bar exclusively. I would prefer to wear a $9 t-shirt from Kohls, then to spend $100 on a G-Star Raw tshirt. I like sports, which is the kiss of death. I can spend hours wandering around art museums looking at art. In the states and in DC, it is easy to find similar gay souls who share my interests. In Sofia, I am the lone wolf. They like fashion, chalga, and gossip, which aren't exactly my strong talking points, or what I am interested in.

2. I like other music besides chalga and pop music:

While I went to Madonna, I lost a lot of points when I went to the AC/DC, Elton John, and Bob Dylan concerts last year. Why was I going to see such music? I had one extra Elton John ticket and offered it for free to my two gay friends and anyone else, and they ALL rejected the ticket. Why? Because Elton John was old and didn't represent gay interests in Sofia. Yes, an icon who has improved the lives of the gay community for many years is seen as an old has been with the gays in Sofia.

Chalga is huge, and mostly played at every gay bar, and is sometimes the only music gays here will listen too along with pop music. While I like chalga, I cannot just simply listen to chalga all the time, and it is too much for me.

3. They are terrified of talking with an American:

This sounds strange, but it is true. I have heard many times from friends of my two Bulgarian gays friends say they don't know what they could talk to the American about. The best part is they think I don't understand this, and then I mentioned in Bulgarian how I just understood what they said.

This was the same way in Balchik, but it got better after the first year and were willing to talk to me. In Balchik and with my straight friends in Sofia, we have conversations about things that would be everyday consversation things, and we can laugh and talk about stuff. Not so with the gays in Sofia. They don't have the patience to speak with me, or it is like I am the anti-christ. So, I usually sit quietly with the gays as they talk, and Sasho and Rado will usually find a way to get me into the conversation eventually.

4. I have a quiet demeanor, and I am not the outgoing gay you see on Will and Grace, or other TV shows:

I have always been like this, but it really throws off the gays here. With some people, I will remain quiet during a conversation when I feel there is not much for me to contribute. In the states, I could get away with this, but the gays in Bulgaria don't get this part of me, and they think is something wrong with me when I am quiet.

5. Why would a gay American actually want to work and live here?

I get this question A LOT. Why would I choose to willingly live here? Many gays here would leave Bulgaria if given the chance, because they are extremely uncomfortable being gay in Bulgaria. My ex-bf firmly falls in this category, as do many others. He is living in London because he is too afriad of being gay in Sofia.

When they find out you actually want to stay and live in Bulgaria, then there is something wrong with you. If I worked at the embassy, it would be different, and they would understand this. But, I willingly signed a contract to work and stay here and I choose to stay long term, which bamboozles most gays here.

6: Sports:

I love sports, especially soccer, hockey, and swimming. Bulgarian men hate sports, and they never understand why I would want to watch hockey games, soccer games, or American football games. It is the kiss of death when I mention I like sports to some gays. While I found lots of gays who played sports and they became great friends in DC, here it has been impossible to play a sport with gays besides badmitton, which I can't stand.

7. Gay life is catching up, but still behind the times:

While things have improved a lot in gay life, the gays themselves are behind the times, not just the straight people. When I mentioned how my straight friends and my mom have gone to gay bars and restaurants in DC, they acted as if I committed a mortal sin for bringing my mom out. I had to mentor them on how silly of a comment that was, and how unaccepting it was. Unlike the States where there were many gays leading the push for gay rights, there are very few here willing to do such a thing. The pride parade is scarcely attended, and I become the rebel for being out, talking about dating issues with straight friends, colleagues, and being out to everyone I care about. This now includes my Bulgarian mom in Balchik, who we have a don't ask, don't tell policy, but she did ask two weeks ago whether I found a nice girl or guy in which I am dating, so she knows and just pretends not to know, lol. So now, there is no one who doesn't know about me, and I am extremely comfortable with that.

In the States, I was definitely not the one pushing for gay rights, or leading a cause. After three years here, I feel that I must now sometimes, for the sake of the gays here themselves, and show them there are other views to what gay life actually is, not just what they think it is from some video or movie.

Acceptance of D List Status:

Having said all of this, I am extremely thankful to Sasho and Rado, and a few new friends who have started to get to know me and get me. Note, I am not talking about the two Americans here who get me, nor am I talking about dating life in particular. Finding a guy to date is tricky because of all of this, but I have dated guys, and very nice, gorgeous, wonderful guys. Yeah, it is more difficult and a royal pain dealing with this stupidity, but not impossible and I have found my way in Sofia now. Plus, I have moved up from the E list to the D list, which is a big improvement. The E list is a nightmare when I was in my Oprah fat phase. One day, I hope to move up to B list, like I was in DC with the gays. If not, I am comfortable will accpet my D list status in Sofia, and will report on it more.

How to drive the Sofia/Varna road:

Driving this path could be so much easier if Bulgaria actually finished the highway from Sofia to Varna, like they promised about 35 years ago. Instead, you have two portions of with about 70 kilometers of highway, followed by over 300 kilometers of a two lane road. The highway is the easy part, but the two lane road makes the drive hellish. As I drive this way to Balchik and back a few times a year, I am constantly reminded of what Buglaria should have done, but instead invests in unnecessary hotel and villa building with politicians who care little about the country. I pray to baby Jesus that one day they will finish this highway, but building more hotels on the Black Sea coast is more important, especially when half of them are empty.

Normal people drive this road in about 5-6 hours, and I can do it in five, and usually make Balchik in 6-7, depending on whether there is a holiday season, or when I leave. To survive driving this road and not go insane, I offer the following tips:

1. Bring a good collection of CDs:

There is no radio reception after about 30 km outside Sofia, and I learned this the hard way my first two trips. Now, I have a collection of 30 CDs to pull my through the trip.

2. Learn the road, where it is safe to pass, where it is not, and where there are the speed traps.

Even though I am Speed Racer, I know there are two sections of this road for about 5-10 km where it is simply unwise to pass under any circumstances. So if I get stuck behind a truck going 30 kmh in a place impossible to pass, I will sing along to songs, try to be patient as possible, curse a the corrupt Bulgarian politicians, and then pass when it is safe to pass.

3. Be careful of mafia style drivers or idiot drivers thinking they are Formula One race car drivers in their Volkswagen Golf or Opel:

Every time I drive this road, I almost see one near accident because one of these drivers are impatient and choose they are so important that they must arrive in Varna 5-10 minutes before you. I have learned to let these drivers by, as they are much better ahead causing accidents, than near me causing accidents.

That's all for now, but next time I will include more recipes, including the Peanut Butter Pie, and Spaghetti with Spinach and Sirene. Thanks for reading, and next time there will not be a huge break between issues.