Photo: Tristan Von Elrik
I moved to New York City from New Jersey in 1984. I was 17 years old, reckless, curious and quickly began exploring higher states of consciousness through the misuse of drugs and alcohol. I always liked "getting out of my head" and enjoyed using drugs to experience my consciousness in a way that I could not sober. I had an odd but wonderful job as a bartender in a private nightclub called Heaven. Heaven was an all-male gay sex club in the rectory of what was once an old church. I was the only female allowed in the club.
To some, there is already so much wrong with the above paragraph. I'm an underage female, using drugs, working illegally in a club, which was once a church, where men openly have sex. But it was there, in Heaven, that I received my very first instruction in yoga. It was there that I was provided information that would greatly impact the direction of my future and my commitment to service. I believe now that God shows up in many ways and in different forms. Through different teachings, he illuminates our hearts, provides guidance and reveals truths in ways that only we can realize or take in, depending on where we are at in our lives at various times. At that time, I couldn't have received any insight, awareness or even inspiration in a church or a temple. Those environments were foreign and uncomfortable to me. Instead, God showed up for me in a sex club. He arrived as an angel in the form of a middle-aged, homosexual, African-American man (in red leather pants), who helped guide me on my path and remind me of my divinity. I didn't realize it at the time—I couldn't have—but it was here, in Heaven, where I first came to believe in God.
My angel was named Billy, and he would come into the club most nights cruising for men and sometimes going into the back rooms to have sex. Often he would just sit at the bar and talk with me if I wasn't too busy. He would chide me about using drugs and encouraged me to use my considerable energy in other ways. I thought his concerns were sweet, but since I was 17 and still felt invincible, I considered them unnecessary. I could tell he was very fond of me and seemed protective, often staying until the club closed to walk me to a cab. Sometimes Billy would talk about his life growing up in Ohio, the wife and children he left behind there and how, when he came to terms with his homosexuality, he was ostracized and abandoned by his family, community and church. He was not bitter, just a bit sad and clearly lonely.