So have any of you even tried to make it to a live episode of Nashville Star? If you’re anything like me, then you’re taking it all for granted. Living out here in the bush, I tell people how common those TV show tapings are in Nashville and nobody seems to make any sense out of the part about taking it for granted. Out here, where we don’t tape nothing for TV, we wouldn’t mind that luxury.

My friend Sheila tried to get into the audience for the show two weeks ago. Apparently it was mad muggy and humid – no surprise – and she told me people are expected to pay to be in the audience. That’s insane. I suppose, though, because it’s live there’s no opportunity to start and re-start every ten minutes like usual, so you’d technically be present for a live show. Then the question becomes, “how much you wanna spend on a ticket to watch an all glammed up karaoke show?”

Speaking of glammed up, my little country bumpkin self made it into the big city a couple times these past few weeks. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Toronto, so if not you absolutely have to go there someday.

The company was paying for the visit so I got to rent one of those big massive Chrysler 300 cars. That machine was hot, but it drank the gasoline like it knew the company was paying for it too. I’d have preferred a much smaller car (they upgraded me, in fact, because they had nothing smaller) because after all these years in Nashville and this past year out in the sticks of Mohawk-land, I’m not used to pedestrians getting that much right-of-way. That is, until I got out on the street myself.

The first sign that you’re from the country or used to being in a city with limited pedestrian traffic is that you’re prone to looking everyone in the eye. There were hundreds, thousands of people walking down Yonge Street, North America’s longest street incidentally, and for some reason I’m thinking I’m gonna bump into a friend. Oh, and I was staring up at all the tall buildings, too. After a few minutes I had to shake myself out of it, realizing how redneck I was. Then, of course, I ran into a friend.

I was right downtown , where all the action is, with an hour to spare before my appointment so I figured I should walk around and see the sights a bit. Immediately beside (above?) my underground parking lot is Nathan Phillips Square, just before the fancy concave city hall buildings, where there were signs galore for a Jazz festival. I knew one of my old high school friends works at a jazz radio station in the city. Lo and behold, there she was.

And Indians are everywhere. As you know, it’s rather rare to find any American Indians in Nashville, so to find so many in Toronto just blew me away. Some refer to it as Canada’s largest rez, incidentally, which I suppose makes sense.

And gays. They is gays evewherrrs in that town. Let me give you a bit of background first, and this might be embarrassing, so try not to hold it against me.

I came out in Nashville. My only real sense of a gay community is my experience in Nashville. In fact, my only long term experience of city life is Nashville, which is perhaps why I’m always so surprised to find things, stuff, that don’t match my assumptions. We’ve talked a lot the past few years about Church Street becoming that new hub for the community and, I dare say, it may very well have been that a couple years ago. And yes, I’ve been to Chicago and Atlanta but for some reason the gay areas of those cities never seemed as unrelentingly gay as Toronto’s Church-Wellesley area seems to me.

Everyone – to my eyes anyway – appeared to stick to their tribe. The old menz were either in couples or groups with other old menz. The wisp-thin blue jeans and t-shirt wearing bois were either in couples or (more often) in groups with others just like them. The fat ones (also uniformly in shorts and t-shirts) only seemed to be rolling with their own, too.

Women? I saw two. And they looked like they might’ve been fun to hang with.

I saw the bar where they filmed Queer as Folk, a show that, ironically, I’ve never seen. I stopped at the gay bookstore, Glad Day, and after only a few minutes of listening to the owners bitch and complain about stuff the customer doesn’t need to hear, I suddenly missed OutLoud! (PS. You wanna talk about a bookstore that’s got some heavy hitting backlist titles, that’s the one). Oh, and there’s approximately one trillion bathhouses. And from what I read later online, each has a different clientele. (Still investigating that one.)

I was gonna take pictures, but the first time I was there, I didn’t have the camera with me and the second time, I couldn’t find a place to park and I needed gas. A reminder: never find yourself in the position of “needing gas” in downtown Toronto because there’s only maybe three gas stations there and, on the day I was so desperate, the first one I found was closed (at 6pm) and the other was about a mile south – and, needless to say, I drove north.

So in the end I’ve not much a travelogue to provide today, but don’t worry. I’ll get better in time. 

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

When I was 14 years old, I surreptitiously made my way through the stacks in the local library until I came to the Psychology section. One after one, I took down the books whose titles I thought would provide an answer, went to the table of contents and, if there were any, I flipped to the pictures.

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James Mai

Many of us have made resolutions and pledged ourselves to transforming some aspect, or aspects, of our lives. For some, these resolutions will involve career, budget, home ownership, etc., but for a LOT of us, they will involve various health, exercise and fitness goals.

Often, these resolutions are vague, like “lose weight” or “exercise more”, and way too often they begin with a gym contract and end with Netflix and a bag of takeout. Getting specific can help in holding yourself accountable for these commitments, though. So we thought it might be interesting to talk with a local gay trainer, James Mai, about his fitness journey, his work as a trainer and how he keeps himself motivated, and get some of his suggestions for carrying through on this year’s fitness resolutions!

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