By John P. Wilkes
I want to see Barry live. I want to meet him, shake his hand, and thank him for everything.
You might think, from the amazing State of the Union address he delivered and his staunch refusal to quack like a Lame Duck, wielding the mighty weapons of Executive Order and Presidential Veto that I mean our president, “Barry” Obama. But no, he is not the man to whom I refer. I am talking about an equally famous, perhaps even more popular person.
I was on shaky ground one night, contemplating a return to a life of rejection, hiding in the shadows, and feeling isolated and ashamed. I needed a meeting. I located and entered the nearest church basement. A large room was full of people clutching coffee cups and downing doughnuts. Someone called for attention and asked everyone to take a seat.
First came The Karaoke Prayer
“Grant me the serenity to accept
The songs that make the whole world sing,
The courage to sing those songs which I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
Then we all recited The First Step
“We admit that we were powerless against Barry, and that our lives had become unmanageable.”
“Who would like to share?” came the invitation.
I was the first to stand. “My name is John, and I like Barry.”
“Welcome, John. Keep coming back!”
“Thank you. I have been Barry free for 20 years now, but he’s coming to my town and I don’t know if I can resist the temptation.”
“Work the program, so the program can work for you,” I heard the chants of support and encouragement. “Call me, or your sponsor,” a few in the group who really wanted to help chimed in. “You do have a sponsor, don’t you?”
“I did,” I replied, “but he succumbed to the Greatest Hits box set.”
“I relapsed for six months after watching that Family Guy episode where Joe, Peter, and Quagmire go to His concert,” a man in the crowd interrupted. “I lived in a storage unit filled with case lots of Ramen noodles, laid on an U.S. Army cot, and listened to a scratchy 45 rpm of Mandy over and over on a Kenner Close ‘N Play phonograph. It was a nightmare.”
The moans of pleasure and the sighs of disdain were numerous. One man fainted dead away, and someone had to splash water on his face to revive him. Once he was back in his seat, I continued sharing.
“It started in junior high school for me,” I confessed. “I was already a big Carpenters user and partook in a bit of non-Saturday Night Fever Bee Gees now and then, too.”
Audible but nonjudgmental gasps rippled across the room.
A woman stood up, and in a cigarette-and-whiskey-ravaged voice proclaimed, “’My name is Lola. I was a showgirl.’ This is the one that got me hooked.” Her raspy snarl broke into song, “♫ When will our eyes meet? When can I touch you? When will this long yearning end?♫”
Then the entire room joined in, “♫And when will I hold you…again?♫”
Suddenly, all the Friends of Barry in the room were singing Weekend In New England amid shouts of, “What’s the date?” “Where is the venue?” “When do tickets go on sale?”
This meeting of Barry Lovers Anonymous quickly descended into utter chaos.
I left the group that night singing, “♫ Last night I waved goodbye…♫”
The Twelve Steps had failed me. I was even more determined to be present at Barry’s upcoming performance. I had no choice. I had owned every album, knew every word to every song, and was intrigued by the questionable gender identity and sexual preference of the man, the legend. The Barry.
After all, doesn’t he write “the songs of love and special things,” “the songs that make
the young girls [and me] cry?” He even wrote some Rock ‘n’ Roll so we could groove.
Barry’s hold over me is insurmountable. Barry is my Higher Power.
Damn you to hell, Manilow! See you soon. Please do “Copacabana.”
Gay Writes is a DiverseCity Series writing group, a program of SLCC’s Community Writing Center. The group meets the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month, 6:30-8pm, 210 E. 400 South, Ste. 8, Salt Lake.