Today I posted on Facebook that I had a bit of an existential crisis this morning. Or at least in part. It’d been building up for a while now. Those who know me or who’ve followed me on social media for a couple of years know the issue of youth homelessness—especially LGBTQ youth—is near and dear to my heart. It’s why I asked my publisher, Less Than Three Press, to help me organize the Project Fierce anthology, which was a collection of stories about homeless LGBTQ youth meant to raise money for the charity, Project Fierce Chicago.
I regularly donate to Project Fierce and another Chicago-area homeless charity, The Night Ministry. They’re LGBTQ friendly and in addition to their other shelters, they even have a dedicated overnight shelter for LGBTQ youth called The Crib. I was looking at their website the other day, searching for volunteer opportunities or what their clients might need most. I wanted to do something that felt more immediate and tangible than donating cash. I printed out some of their paperwork to look it over.
Then today I started thinking about them again. I looked at the paperwork, and for a moment I felt so overwhelmed. Like, what can I do? I might be able to donate a few things, but these people need real help. In the shower I got sad. I felt useless and just…small. Inconsequential. But then I bucked up and told myself, “It doesn’t matter. Do something. You’ll feel better.”
So I went to the store and spent a couple of hundred dollars on their wish list items. I came home and put together a dozen hygiene kits containing shampoo, conditioner, soap, a wash cloth, and other toiletries. I bought some diapers, wipes, socks, and six big bags of trail mix so I could separate them into a couple dozen 1-cup bags as they requested.
I’ll be driving to The Night Ministry’s admin office to drop all this off tomorrow morning. I know some of you might be thinking, “If you wanted to donate to The Night Ministry, why didn’t you just do it quietly? Get over yourself.” And if you’re thinking it, there’s not much I can say to make you think differently, but for the record, I’m not sharing this to brag about how special and generous I am. No. I’m sharing this in the hope that someone else out there might see it be inspired to do the same. Because I realized something this morning: small things matter. Sure, I might wish I had a few million to spare so I could build some shelters and keep them stocked with essentials at all times. But just because you can’t do something huge doesn’t mean what you can contribute doesn’t have value. Sometimes the tiniest act of kindness can have a tremendous impact.
So if you have a local shelter you regularly contribute to, and you’re able, consider dropping off a box of the supplies they need most. I know how it feels to be bogged down by thoughts of “I can only afford to give so much. Will it even make a difference?” Yes, it will. To the person who has supplies to shower tomorrow because of your donation, it matters. To the person whose stomach is growling, that trail mix might not ease it much, but it helps. It’s something.
We can’t all do big things. We don’t all have the means. But small acts matter. It was a lesson I needed to learn.
“ Music chooses you. ”
~ Almost Famous.
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“Oh, what bands do you like?” Laura asked.
“Yeah,” Natalie chimed in. “What music you into?”
“Oh, I mostly listen to classical,” Alex said.
Laura and Natalie stared at him, their mouths slightly agape. “Classical?” Natalie said with disgust. “Ugh.”
Laura grinned, then fished around in her bag. “Here,” she said, handing him a cassette. “This is our favourite band. The first album. Do yourself a favour and listen to it.”
“Er, thanks.” Alex turned the cassette over in his hands, scrutinising the front. He liked the art work. It was a stylised skull with roses all around it; there were even roses in its eye sockets. A guitar was sticking out of the skull, almost like a sword in a stone. The words at the top said Death Rose.
~ Phoenix, Melanie Tushmore
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Welcome to the Phoenix blog tour.
I’m starting with a linear approach, as the story begins when our hero, Alex, is a young lad still at school. I based him very much on my own experience of being somewhat of an outsider, too obsessed with his chosen subject (art) to have taken much notice of himself., or the goings on around him… until that point where everything changes and you see a whole new world opening up in front of your eyes.
For me, it was discovering music. And it wasn’t just the music on its own, as I’d ‘liked’ music and certain groups before, and been to shows, but that special moment where you discover the band that will change your life, that it’s much more than just music.
The band that changes your life is as much about the musicians as it is about the music you hear. Their music speaks to you, and it’s like a switch being flicked on inside your being. Suddenly you need more, you need to read interviews, pin up posters, wear their t-shirts and go see their shows…
And thus the obsession begins!
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Young painter Alex Tatton has always loved music. When a tragic accident takes away his parents, he turns to a darker style of music and discovers the rock band, Death Rose. Feeling isolated from his own life, Alex develops a crush on guitarist Danny Death who, despite the name, is vivacious, full of life, and has a reputation for being ‘the nicest guy in rock n’ roll’.
After a gig, Alex finds Danny to give him a signed painting. Danny is everything a star should be: charming, sexy, a beacon of light in Alex’s otherwise dark life, and after meeting him Alex is determined to see him again—and this time he wants more than just an autograph.
Content: Contains explicit content.
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Even with the AAA pass hanging from his neck, like some sort of illicit medal, Alex still couldn’t believe he was being granted access to the Death Rose dressing room. Giddy with excitement, he followed Danny inside.
The room was plain, but full of open bags and suitcases spilling their contents, promising clothes of sexy black leather, spandex, studded garments and more. When he imagined who’d be wearing them, Alex felt hot. The warm air in the room didn’t help matters.
There was no one else here, though voices filtered in from the hallway. The entire structure was temporary. Sounds eked through: music, shouts, bangs. Alex was about to ask where the others were, just for something to say, when Danny stopped in front of him and turned. Alex almost stepped away, about to apologise for getting under his feet. Danny’s arm snaked around his waist, drawing Alex to him. Alex barely had the wherewithal to look up as Danny’s mouth pressed against his.
It felt like a dream, too surreal. Alex opened his mouth and kissed back while he was still living the fantasy. Danny’s kiss was fast, full of want, but altogether too brief. Suddenly he pulled back, half turning away. Alex was left reeling, his lips wet and his nose full of Danny’s smell.
Voices preceded the arrival of people into the dressing room. With a shy glance from Danny, Alex realised this was why he’d stopped, and silently cursed whoever it was for interrupting them. He pressed his lips together, preserving the feel of Danny’s lips on his.
The people who’d entered the dressing room were arguing. Nicky D. Muir, Death Rose’s drummer, was being apparently told off by a pudgy, older man with a tan, wearing glasses. “Don’t push me, Nicky,” he said, as Nicky grumbled and collapsed into a battered couch.
Danny glanced at the pair over his shoulder, but otherwise kept his back to them. He didn’t seem overly concerned with the row unfolding.
Alex took the opportunity to risk a look at Danny’s body, wondering if Danny was hard, like he was. He so wanted to reach out and feel, onlookers or not. God, what he wouldn’t give to touch Danny … But nerves held him frozen. He would follow Danny’s lead, wait for his cue.
Alex’s eyes wandered. There was a suitcase open, balanced on a chair. Alex hadn’t noticed its existence until Danny rummaged inside it. It had to be his. Clothes of black and some varied colour escaped at either side.
Danny said quietly, “What do you want me to wear, Alex?”
The continued argument in the room was mildly distracting, but Alex’s focus was on Danny. Even so, he was sure he’d misheard him. “Pardon?” he stuttered.
A smile teased Danny’s lips, like he was about to laugh. He picked out a pair of black, spangly leggings. “What do you want me to wear? To be honest, I don’t think I can get away with leggings right now, unless you get my guitar for me so I can hide this stiffy.”
Alex’s groin flooded with warmth, making him even harder. He laughed, feeling dizzy with nerves and want. His next words came out more breathy than he’d intended. “I wouldn’t mind seeing that.”
Danny looked at him, like he had to check if Alex meant it. His eyes seemed larger, searching. Again, Alex had a small stab of realisation that perhaps Danny wasn’t as sure of himself as he’d assumed.
Either that or he was a pretty good actor.
Who cared, Alex thought. This was better than his fantasies of Danny. This was real. The desire must have showed in his eyes, on his face. Alex did nothing to hide it. A dirty grin spread over Danny’s lovely mouth, then his hands went to his belt. “Help me with my shoes, gorgeous.”
His words were barely audible, but they were the only thing Alex heard. Heedless of where he was, Alex dropped to a crouch. It seemed only fitting to kneel before someone like Danny, like he’d been born to please this man.
As much as Alex wanted to lean in and bury his face in Danny’s crotch, he kept himself in check. Perhaps he was still in shock at the situation, it all seemed too good to be true. What if one hasty move prompted Danny into action? Would Alex be expected to suck him off in a backstage dressing room?
Alex’s blood heated, and his dick clenched. I’d do it, I would. But … what would happen after? Would he throw me out, never speak to me again?
He swallowed, and tried to concentrate on the simple task at hand. Get Danny’s shoes off. Danny’s jean-clad legs were stuffed into black cowboy boots, and now Alex was closer he noticed patterns of rhinestones up the sides of the boots as they caught the light. Danny raised one foot, and Alex gripped the boot, wriggling it free. His whole body thrilled at the task. It wasn’t how he’d envisioned undressing Danny, but for now, this would do.
One boot off, and Alex helped rid Danny of the other boot. He noticed Danny’s black socks, saw one was actually inside out. Just that tiny detail made Alex’s heart expand to painful proportions. He longed to be the one to dress Danny, and undress him, every day for the rest of his days. Make sure he wore his socks the right way round.
Alex tried to quash down his impulsive thoughts. A potential hook up was one thing, and seeming more and more likely by the minute, but anything more than that? Hollie was right. He was only setting himself up for a fall. A big one.
He must have paused, as Danny said softly, “Hey? You okay?”
Alex snapped out of it. He resolved to deal with the fall out when it happened. He could just paint his experiences for the rest of his days. Being with Danny now was like having a real life muse. Raising his head, Alex looked up at him, memorising every detail. Danny’s belt was undone, his hands poised at his fly, waiting.
Alex promised himself he would paint this picture one day. Smiling, he bit the bullet and said, “Sure am.”
~ ~ ~
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Tush’s 80s playlist
Mötley Crüe – Live Wire
Ratt – Round and round
The Cult – Rain
L.A. Guns – Never Enough
Aerosmith – Young Lust