Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Summer reading: Bumpy Rides and Soft Landings

James Pauley, Jr. surely keeps you turning the pages in Bumpy Rides and Soft Landings — stories of coming out, flying high, and not learning how to play the piano. 

As someone whose innate filter doesn’t always work, Pauley says it exactly as he sees it. Written in his uniquely humorous, poignant, sarcastic, self-deprecating, honest, and mildly outrageous style, he recounts stories of growing up different, while learning important lessons from even the most unlikely of sources: a chili dog, a nasty queen, a cursing coworker, a Porta-Potty, a stranger’s judgment, a sore butt, a new piano, a tiny scar, a grieving widow, and a hateful bully.

With the millions of miles he’s logged in over the years, along with the thousands of diverse and colorful characters he’s met and observed along the way, he knows one thing for certain: On this journey called Life, with no GPS or autopilot to help us navigate, no one truly knows what their final destination will be. And, because the ride will undoubtedly be turbulent at times, it’s best to just fasten your seat belts, learn from the experience, and always hope for a soft landing.

Please enjoy an excerpt from “Mean Old Queen”:

Having worked on thousands of flights over the years, the vast majority of my passengers have been awesome. But every once in a while, there’s that pompous, nasty, and pretentious one . . . who is anything but awesome. When that happens, it makes for a long and miserable flight, as it was with a certain Mr. Minoquin onboard one night. He had obviously not gotten the memo that he should never honk a flight attendant. 

“After we landed and deplaned, I was making my way through customs when I spotted Mr. Minoquin arguing with a customs agent. “What do you mean I have to show my damn passport again?”

I smiled and moved toward the line leading to the customs inspectors, grateful to be done with Mr. Minoquin and his shenanigans. As I approached a tall, big-boned man in a green uniform, I said in German, “Excuse me, do you see that gentleman over there? The one who’s shouting?”

Ja,” the inspector replied curtly. His face remained expressionless as his eyes cut to Mr. Minoquin.

“Well, on the airplane, he was boasting about all the drugs he was carrying. And he insinuated that he was hiding them where no one could find them.”

The inspector’s eyes narrowed to slits as he reached for his latex gloves. “Really? Danke schoen,” he said as he walked away while slipping the gloves over his grotesquely large, sausage-like fingers.

As I exited the customs area, I heard a loud commotion behind me. I turned just in time to see Mr. Minoquin being led to a curtained area.

I couldn’t help but smile as I stepped outside into the cool morning air. The universe was about to balance itself out once again. True, I had finagled with it a bit, knowing that justice—in the form of an unexpected and complimentary rectal exam—would soon prevail.

It was going to be a great day.”

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Queer Forty Staff

Queer Forty writing staff work hard to bring you all the latest articles to help inspire and inform.

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