Defining Groundwork

Among the many defining moments in my life, turning 40 has become the icing on the cake. I remember that turning 25 had scared me. That number plagued me with notions of adulthood. At that time, I was living in Boston as a houseboy for a gay man named Mario who suffered from Lymphoma as a result of being HIV positive. My duties included cooking and cleaning, and although I wasn’t this man’s lover, I did become his friend and confidant.

Mario’s apartment was awesome. The place overlooked the Back Bay Fens Park a place where the locals planted their own flowers and vegetables. At night, The Fens was a hot spot for gay cruising, or ‘Outdoor Dicking’ as I called it. I could see the entire park from high above, looking through my bedroom window. Some nights I would watch the men go in and out, as I beat off to what I imagined them doing while under the cover of darkness. Around the corner from The Fens was Fenway Park, where the Boston Red Sox played. During night games, the roar of the crowd would wash over my neighborhood. Those same crowds brought with them a slew of outer borough boys who would find their way into The Fens, and into my open arms.

Joshua Kristal, "Smiling Contestant"

While I lived with Mario, I worked as an apprentice at a mid-century furniture store, restoring antiques. On the weekends, I partied hard with my friends and enjoyed as much sex as I could find. Upon turning 25, something inside me shifted. A nagging voice inside my gut began telling me that this lifestyle could not last forever.

At 28, I moved to Brooklyn, NY. My best friend and I found a big apartment in Crown Heights. The place was cool, but overrun with roaches. As a budding Buddhist, I would not kill them. I thought, ‘Who the fuck am I to move into a new city and start killing things?’ That sentiment lasted about a week. Watching roaches slinking around my bedroom turned me into an insect hunter. Turning on the lights in an empty room would send them scurrying away for cover.

It was in this apartment that my true life’s work revealed itself. Upon moving in, I came across a giant box sitting on the front stoop labeled ‘Free’ and full of science fiction books. I took it inside, unaware of how bugs traveled in NYC, though in that apartment, the bugs were already there. I began reading each book one by one. All the grand masters of Sci-Fi were present: Frank Herbert, Issac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Niven, Orson Scott Card, H.G. Wells, Kurt Vonnegut, C.S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury, and more. I was given a vast library of knowledge and information from the universe. What I was going to do with it was up to me.

After reading every book of every series cover-to-cover, I checked out of the roach motel and found a great apartment of my own. I began re-reading all of the Sci-Fi books that were gifted to me, finding even more depth and detail than the first time around. One night after starting the Dune series for the third time, I was taken over by a vision. In the vision, a man named John was giving a speech about cloning homosexuals. I saw the podium and a room full of scientists reacting with thunderous applause.

I snapped back to reality quickly and decided that that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to write. I wanted to create a homosexual planet.

Sure, a scientist could come up with a way to single out the homosexual genetic components and replicate them, but what then? Would a batch of men be bred on Earth and then shuttled away to a distant planet? No. My planet needed to be created within the realm of hardcore science fiction. I desired aliens, robotic entities, and intergalactic intrigue. Having read countless books written by truly amazing and inspiring authors, I had undergone the training. I was ready to write my book, and there was the subject matter, staring me in the face.

This was not the first time that the idea of a gay planet had occurred to me. I’d first wished for one when I was a young boy, no more than ten. It was then that I had had my first gay experiences with other boys, and cherished them. It was soon afterward that I learned of the oppression surrounding the life that I was destined to lead.

In tandem with completing my book, my father’s life was ending. He wanted to read it while in the hospital during his chemotherapy. I had downloaded a copy of it to his Kindle, but in order to keep his body alive he was put into a medical coma and soon after, passed away. Before his body was cremated, I printed out a copy of my book, Groundwork, and put it in his coffin. The members of my immediate family also gave him trinkets and treasures to take with him into the afterlife. We are all deeply spiritual, each in our own ways. I was grateful to see such primal and ritualistic practices showing themselves. That’s something I’m very proud of.

It has been confirmed that Dad is still with us. He has made himself known to my family and friends, and continues to work on our behalf. I’ve been told that the dead can sometimes help you more from their new realm of existence. I can adhere to that statement.

Some say that you truly become a man when your father passes. This is true for me. I was suddenly thrust into this new world where my hero, my rock, my Dad, no longer physically existed. I had to become my own go-to-guy. And with Dad’s guidance over the years, I have done so. And like my dad, I’m the go-to-guy for many different people and feel up to the task.

It has been almost two years since John R. Anderson’s passing. He is here with me right now as I’m typing. He’s in a baby’s smile on the subway, the dog that makes a B-line for me and wants some loving. He’s the raccoon who follows me around Prospect Park. I’ve since begun feeding him and named him John, though it could be a female.

My dad was gone and Groundwork was done. While discussing my next move with my editor, he told me that I was taking the story too seriously. In my mind, I was writing a pamphlet on how to construct homosexual planets. Without realizing it, I had written a satire. Behind the wild adventure lurked something deep and meaningful. I had unwittingly posed the question: Do gays need to have their own planet in order to achieve true social equality? In present times, homosexuals have made some big strides, but our roots remain the same. It is because of my gay forefathers and foremothers that I am able to lead a happy, productive, and relatively safe gay life. That’s something I never forget. But furthermore, what’s good about only being relatively safe?

I titled my first book Groundwork because it symbolizes the beginning of something. I hope it will spawn a new conversation about homosexuality, one that is radical and revolutionary. One that is long overdue. As it stands, homosexuals are living in a state if Stockholm Syndrome. We’ve learned how to make the best of an unjust situation. I intend to change that sentiment. Five books will follow.

My father’s death has overwhelmingly inspired my life. It taught me about the continuum of human existence. It proved to me that through our greatest sorrow, can come our greatest strength. My father taught me how to love myself, and as a result I celebrate my life daily. At 40, I feel like I’m starting anew. I spread love daily, think positively, and put my trust in the hands of my God. As a human living on Earth, that is not always easy work. But I try my best.

My three most recent defining moments are forever intertwined: Losing my father, completing my first book, and turning 40. From the afterlife, my father told me that he had always expected me to come up with something big, and that Groundwork was it. I believe that to be true. John Anderson will live on as John Strongham, the protagonist of Groundwork.