“As awful as the pandemic is, I’m realizing that I have a lot of great memories, and all I have to do is spark my memories in some way and I’ll remember a lot of dear, wonderful people who I’ve known over the years.”

By James Adomian, as told to Ryan Grim
Updated August 05, 2020
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Sharan Alagna

This story is part of "Queer As Food," a series that explores the role of food in LGBTQ+ communities.

If people are wondering, How can food be queer? There is absolutely queer food. It’s brunch, and it’s mimosas. It’s goldfish that you have at your favorite gay bar while you’re having a beer. It’s pizza that shows up late, right before the bar closes, or right after, for the staff who’s been working so hard, so they can join in and have something. There might not be a proper gay cuisine, because human tastes overlap, I think, with sexuality, but what makes it queer is the sauce—and the tea.

I love doing brunch during Pride. I love it. I haven’t been able to go to brunch these days for obvious reasons. Brunch is on hiatus. Brunch is unavailable. And I have no income, so there hasn’t been a lot of brunch in my life.

I still drink, but not like I did when I was a young gay. I like to drink beer, but for me beer has to happen after dinner, or after a late lunch or something. I’m not in a place now where I can drink wine or beer or liquor at 1 p.m. Not even really at the beach. The one exception—and this is a big exception, a big loophole that I could drive a Pride float through—is brunch.

Brunch is a unique experience, I think, especially in Los Angeles. There’s a community. It’s a way to hang out with somebody who maybe doesn’t drink. Nobody feels out of place. Somebody has a drink, somebody doesn’t, but everybody’s having a good time.

I haven’t done brunch in a long time. My Pride this year is kind of lonely. I have been able to see some friends at a distance. I have been able to go on some long walks and some hikes. Hanging out with your friends now is more of a journey than it is going to a place. There’s no place to go to. When I see my friends I just kind of walk around with them. At most, we’re able to pick up food from a restaurant, or go to a protest. It’s like, “Hey, do you want to go with me to Rite Aid?”

So this is a very weird Pride. Whenever there’s some real bad news, or something you have to go through, like this pandemic, it’s a chance to be humble and appreciate how good things were. I have been thinking a lot about Pride and this year, and about being emotionally unable to be involved in Pride. You see rainbow flags in solidarity marching with Black Lives Matter, which is beautiful.

The whole world is paused. It won’t always be like this, and I remain proud. I remember the times when I was able to be around people. I remember the hugs and the smiles and the laughs and the witty comments and the stories, even when I don’t have those people directly around me.

As awful as the pandemic is, I’m realizing that I have a lot of great memories, and all I have to do is spark my memories in some way and I’ll remember a lot of dear, wonderful people who I’ve known over the years. Most of them are still with us, but not all of them. And I’m grateful. As awful as this is, I’m grateful that I’m allowed to be alive for it.

As for celebrating Pride this year, there’s my favorite local bar, Akbar, which is a wonderful little gay bar. They haven’t reopened. They had a small, parking lot Pride party the other day, and I briefly stopped by. Everybody was hanging out at a distance with masks on. It was very different—no hugging. Everyone was happy to see each other, and when they were talking they had to raise their voices to be heard across the parking lot.

I have not made it to West Hollywood yet except for a Black Lives Matter march. I can’t wait to catch up with people there and see how they’ve been doing through this. It might be another several months. It might be a lot longer than that. I can’t wait to start seeing people again.

I’m connecting with a lot of people with phone calls, which was almost an extinct form of communication before. I’m calling people and rekindling friendships. You know, having a drink together late at night on Facetime or on the phone. Sharing a meal with them, or weekend brunch. Just connecting with people. I’m lonely and everybody’s lonely. I’m lucky that I have people in my neighborhood who I can see outdoors safely. Everybody wants this to be over. Everybody wants to be able to lean over the bar and hug someone, I think.

I’m trying to become cautiously optimistic myself. None of us will ever forget this, and I think that those of us who come out the other side of it will be, hopefully, humble and grateful for when we are able to embrace those we love.

You get to choose your own family. Some of us are forced to choose our own family because we were thrown out by our biological family. And we’ve had to wrestle with issues and come to terms with them. It’s those long battles over the decades. I think most queer people go through the experience of adopting a family, and it is a beautiful thing. Families are not perfect, and families are ugly. Families can hurt each other, but family is all we have, and I think it’s a very beautiful thing that I’m appreciating in its absence. A wonderful, wonderful, wonderful family of queers, gays, lesbians, bi people, trans people. The whole circus. It’s a family that I’m lucky I fell into, and I’ve got a few of them in different cities around the world. I’ve got a lot of them here in L.A., and feeling that absence really makes me appreciate how much we mean to each other.

I’ve been thinking about when we can go out again. I’m old enough to realize that the impulse to go out and do a bunch of shots of tequila and make out with a bunch of guys and hug people and cry—as much fun as that sounds—is probably a little reckless. So I’m gonna take baby steps. I think when we start turning the corner on this, I want to see people one on one. I want to see one or two people at a time and do something nice. Have a little food, have a drink. See a movie or go to a bookstore afterward. Invite people over to my home, which I was never very good at. I just live in an apartment. I think I’m going to start small and then sort of let the crescendo of a big musical number happen at its right time.

I can’t wait to go back to Carousel, a restaurant not too far from me, in Little Armenia. I’ll go to Carousel and have a big platter of vegetarian Lebanese food and some wine, and then make my way to Akbar and catch up with people. I think that their dancefloor is not going to be back for a while, but there will be tables, and I’ll be able to connect with people. I’m 40 now, so I’m learning the magic of having just a few drinks.

I can’t wait until we’re on the other side of all this and I can get juuuust tipsy enough that, at the age of 40 and the height of 6’2, I can find myself a nice, strong top who’s a little bit shorter than me, like a bantamweight boxer. And I’ll go, “Alright! Hop on, General Bonapart!”

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.