The Angel Gabriel, and Freddie


Some people, living and dead, known in this life or only known of, come into our lives in a flash and leave an indelible mark on who we are.

A couple years ago I went to a movie and beforehand there was a trailer for a new documentary. Within a few seconds, I got a lump in my throat. But something in me didn’t want to go there, so my mind quickly swept it out. “Oh my god, it’s Gabe”. The doc is called ‘Strike a Pose’, about the male back-up dancers who performed with Madonna during her 1990 world tour, and their lives now. They had also been part of a documentary about the tour that came out back then, called ‘Truth or Dare’. They were having a rollicking good time in that one, lots of backstage antics, six of them were gay, one of them straight. I saw it in the theater when it came out, 25 years ago.

Then a few months later I came across a co-worker’s post on Facebook, about a new documentary he’d just seen on Netflix, ‘Strike a Pose’. Within seconds, that lump came back. “Oh Gabe. Someone has finally told your story, thank God”. I decided it was time to watch it. The doc shows the lives of Madonna’s back-up dancers now. She had picked each of them, only seven, out of thousands who auditioned. And the guy I was secretly in love and lust with in my junior year of high school was one of them. His name was Gabriel Trupin. We were both in the dance department at School of the Arts in San Francisco. I had switched high schools three times already (moving, chaos and being a teenager, the perfect storm) and when I arrived it was the spring semester of my Junior year.

I was a ballet dancer for the most part before this, had done some jazz, but this school’s program was much more contemporary. Lyrical modern and jazz were the focus, with a little hip hop thrown in. I was a loner and fairly miserable in my own skin, but this way of expressing myself was much more freeing and a welcome relief. When I stepped foot in that studio for class and then rehearsal, I immediately zeroed in on this beaming light of manly beauty and talent. Gabe was a vision to behold. He was so beautiful to look at, tall, lean but muscular, and dark, could have been a GQ model. That type had never done much for me, mainly because I had yet to encounter (from my teen angst and insecurity perspective) a guy who looked like that who would ever notice me, much less be real and nice. It wasn’t that he was so gorgeous to look at, nor his joy and natural skill when he danced. It was his essence; he was a beautiful human being. I came to see that he was humble, sweet and paid attention to the unpopular, awkward ones. He was the star, the teachers loved him, and he was all MAN. The girls got giddy and nervous in his presence, I was no exception. The other guys in class of course just wanted to be him.

We didn’t talk much in the brief time I knew him, but in all our interactions I felt seen, and dancing alongside him was like dancing with a flame. And he was kind and gentle. And he knew something. He was calm. He didn’t have to try, he was greatness already.

I found out years later that he had died of AIDS. I didn’t even know he was gay. Apparently nobody did, and he had a girlfriend in high school who loved him so much. Madonna refused to edit out the footage of him kissing another man, after he begged her to. He was outed on the big screen, then found out soon after that he had contracted AIDS. Tragedy can be such a horrendously beautiful thorn in the heart.

Last month I had a job working in the AIDS Memorial Grove, an annual fundraiser in Golden Gate Park. Gabe’s name is engraved there. The spiral path illuminates, the trees grow taller. My Mom’s best friend from childhood, a girl, was also named Gabriel. I’d always associated that name with goodness, with helping buds to blossom.

Recently I went to see ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, the new film about Queen and Freddie Mercury. I cried tears of sadness and love and inspiration I hadn’t felt in a long time. When I think of Gabe I feel those same things. Both Gabe and Freddie gave me goosebumps and here I am writing about them. They are still being of service to me, telling me it’s ok to be more of who I really am. When they pop into my awareness, I remember them as doing the same thing, and there is a feeling of camaraderie in that. I’m not alone ever. I think of them and I remember.

Freddie Mercury’s wife loved him regardless. I recently made a new dear male friend. It’s not a romantic couple kind of love, but it’s not devoid of aliveness and excitement either. It’s that different kind of love that you can’t define. You meet someone, there’s an instant connection; more than just a friendship, it’s something else. They recognize you right away, they immediately love you for you, and very soon you realize you love them too.

Gabriel was that, is that. And so is Freddie. I feel them singing and dancing together in Heaven, and inside me. I love them for the gifts they were, but also as a presence I feel now, an inspiration that guides me and tells me secrets. My new special friend is that too. Angels never leave.

Lullabies and doggies

It’s been a strange and hard few days. I just got to the house yesterday, this incredible, beautiful house in the hills of San Rafael, California. It is not my house. It is a housesitting gig I happened upon a year ago, seven minutes from where I live. This is the fourth time where I get to bask in the relaxation and peace of what it must be like to be rich, or how rich is defined to me. If I was rich, I’d have a house like this. It has a lot of light and is surrounded by trees and hiking trails and the brilliant silence of the sound symphony that is nature.

A couple years ago, in the midst of the break up of a long term love relationship, struggling with inner turmoil while also being guided out and into a whole new world of myself, my first housesitting gig was presented to me. That was a different house; in the hills of Mill Valley, California, in an even more exquisite setting. I only live 15 minutes away from there, but I may as well have been in a different, albeit ideal, country. I had stepped into a parallel life. The view there, from the kitchen, and from the bedroom, was the very vision I’d had in my then recent dreams. I’d been imagining that exact view, it just kept coming to me, before I even knew a break up was underway. Then, in the depths of pain and fear of extricating myself out of a partnership with someone I loved, while also knowing it had to end, came the invitation from an acquaintance. A perfectly materialized replica of what I’d been seeing leading up to the pain. It was a gift out of nowhere, a haven of escape, and a glimpse of what was waiting for me on the other side of that necessary darkness. On the other side of doubt. And the best part, the house had two beings of Pure Love for me to have the privilege to care for; in the bodies of doggies.

And yet, these places are not mine. I am a borrower of someone else’s wonderful life. Of course, that is a fallacy. I know nothing of the inner worlds of the people who live in them and don’t presume that they are any happier than anyone else. But now that I am here in this latest house, that is the feeling I’m reminded of. I’m being forced to see, and ponder, what I don’t have. Depending on my mood, my occasional vulnerability to old ways of thinking, that ridiculously destructive mindset can lead down a path where, this time, I refuse to go. That is one perspective. That is the perspective of lack. Lack is what lives in all of us, if we allow it to wake itself, as the beast of illusion. “I don’t have that, I can’t be that, I’m not worthy of being or having or doing” this, that or the other.

And there is also the Light. It knows that being here now, in this house, with this lone beautiful dog Lulu as my guide, is the most glorious gift that my soul could have conjured up. And Light always and only knows gratitude. I am so thankful for my hard, panting, isolated, shot through with miracles life, I could cry. And do, fairly regularly. Lulu knows who she is, and she reminds me that I Am That too. This house and this dog, yet another signal that whatever shifts that are happening in me, however uncomfortable and discombobulating the cauldron is right now, they are exactly perfect, pushing me into something that I am being prepared for.

I had been struggling with feelings of not knowing what to do next and how to handle all the newness, and the people I’ve been “connecting” with, in an online group of creatives. I’m going to LA later this week for a “transformational” workshop. I’ve been called to do this and I will be meeting many of these new people. But more to the point, all the excitement of getting in touch with and drawing out who I am and what I want, has inevitably caused a thrashing side-to-side mind. From wall to wall it runs, from the enormity of what it could all mean. This has been happening almost every day now for a week, a back and forth, up and down, tidal crashing of both seeing the horizon from the top of the wave, to feeling the impact of the steep and violent hit to the bottom of the shore.

So last night, after another day of chaotic shape-shifting between the old me and the new me, in meditation, I felt the presence. I heard the voice. It was above me. Then it was behind me. Then it was in me. It simply began, and kept reciting, The Lullaby of God, “I Love You.” I let it penetrate me. It merged with Little Me. It became me. As I made my dinner, it was there. And then, as it does, it began to fade. The Little Me thoughts of doubt and fear, a familiar default setting, gradually began drowning the lullaby out. And yet, the schizophrenia of space was also there. I was aware of the space, split second glimpses into all the infinite aspects of me. The space was a nudging “see, we’re all listening, we can hear it too”. Though I was still falling back into the suffering of being inside my thoughts, there was also the awareness that I was outside them. Little Me was in pain. “I was feeling so much better just then, why am I feeling off again now? Why do I do this to myself? Why do I have to keep falling back?”

But the space that contained all of me was there too, noticing those thoughts and, simply continuing the lullaby. It was speaking myself to Rest, soothing the child to sleep. If we can cause our suffering, but we can also cause our awakening, how incredibly powerful must we all be?

As I look over at the innocence and beauty that is Lulu, I am reminded that every single thought and feeling with the slightest “offness”, any kind of negativity, is pain. Underneath pain, lies fear, disguised as doubt, disguised as Separate. And it’s incessant wail is crying out for love. There is a space between all of that. It is always there and, for the most part, we don’t know it. It gets wider, it gets narrower, but it is always there. It holds the antidote to the closed window of fear, and right now it is singing the lullaby of You into eternity. Don’t just listen for it, hear it. Take it in. Be it.