In the spring of 1994, I was but a young buck. Fearsome was in hiding as I was going through the early 90’s clean shaven pretty boy stage that was popular at the time. Yuck. Oh, and he wasn’t happy with my choice.
The Better Half and I were headed into year four of or life together and year 3 of our life in San Diego. Being transplants we were still exploring and establishing relationships in our new home town. Having bought a home and gotten settled into our careers it was time for our first “Big” vacation. Living in paradise we wanted something on the next level, a Southern Caribbean cruise.
At the time there was a young start up company that had gotten a good reputation in a sub-specialty that had never been marketed to for pleasure cruises, gay cruises. RSVP was the first and without realizing what he was doing, Kevin Mosier had changed niche travel and the criuse industry forever. But that’s a whole other story.
We booked a seven day cruise out of Aruba with ports in Curaçao, San Blas Islands, Cartagena Columbia and The Panama Canal. That particular RSVP cruise was aboard the SS OceanBreeze, a ship in The Dolphin Line.
SS OceanBreeze of The Dolphin Line circa 1994. She was originally built in 1955 as a history making trans-world immigrant liner and lots more about her can be found HERE.
We were able to get a couple friends from here in SoCal to join us and met a couple other friends at a pre-sail mixer to join us so we had a posse of six. Now we could complete a group costume for the costume party aboard ship for which RSVP had become famous.
On board we quickly made new friends in another group of seven from San Diego. They too were pulling together a group costume. They were the cast of Giligan’s Island, we were The Village People. They won first place, we came in second. The completion was fierce but each group had somehow cast just the right people in the right characters to pull it off. Afterward we all hung together and it looked as if there was a lost episode where The Village People had landed on the island. I’m sure there are pictures, but that was the days of Kodak film and they are somewhere in a drawer unfortunately needing to be scanned.
Little did that posse of 13 know, but we had accidentally just met the core of our own chosen family.
Chosen families are throughout all populations. However chosen families were a necessary group in gay culture. Many a gay man or lesbian had been rejected by biological families. Many of those not rejected had moved away from biological families in order to live and work in larger cities where they were more accepted and in many cases it was just safer. Another factor in chosen family is we were at the absolute height of the AIDS crisis and we had to be our own family to care for our dying brothers. Chosen Families are friends who become family support networks by choice and many times necessity.
I cannot begin to thank the lesbians enough who opened their hearts, minds, homes and wallets to care for their brothers during that dark part of our history just some 22 years ago. I think I can go out on a limb here and Thank these brave women for all of us brothers who survived as well as for those who didn’t.
The headline entertainers on that particular RSVP cruise were scheduled to perform the last night of our journey before returning to Aruba to disembark. Who you ask? None other than the fabulous Sister Sledge. We were all simply twitterpated with excitement and ran up after a fabulous farewell dinner to grab front row seats. They gave a spectacular performance closing with, of corse, ‘We Are Family’. Before we knew it they had pulled all 13 of us sitting right in front of them onto the stage to dance with them as they closed the show. And dance? We did!
Our family was born, it has grown to more than 30 of the best friends one could ever wish for. This chosen family is the most treasured part of my life. And dance? We still do!