While it may sometimes seem like Queerty only cares about politicians, studs and celebrities (in that order), nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, we strive to include all members of the gay community, regardless of how ripped their abs are or elite their contacts. To that end, this is Average ‘Mo, where we introduce you to regular gays from around the world to discover what life is like in their neck of the woods.
Today, a Midwestern native makes his way in the big city.
QUEERTY: Where are you from originally?
Judson Morrow: I was born outside of Chicago but grew up in Toledo, Ohio. It’s one of the many “big” Midwestern cities that have a shell of a downtown marked by the decline of American industry. It used to be the glass production capital of the world and was hence known as The Glass City. I think our most recent claims to fame are the nation’s best Triple-A ballpark (its actually one of my favorite spots in town) and Ms. Katie Holmes—she is from there.
What prompted your move to New York?
Like all “Why I moved to NYC” stories, it requires some background. I was going to school for my Master’s in Spanish and the summer between the first and second year I taught at an academic summer camp in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I met an amazing group of people there, one of whom suggested a teaching program in NYC as a career choice after school. I applied, interviewed, got accepted and after graduating in May 2008, moved to NYC that June. Crazy thing is, I gave away all my belongings, packed what was left in two suitcases and headed for Brooklyn. Two weeks after I showed up, I decided that NYC was a good fit for the time being but that teaching here wasn’t. I had a hell of a time going back and forth about what to do and finally decided to withdraw from teaching and pursue something else. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to find a great job in an area I have lots of experience (restaurants). Bam! New life in The City.
What, if anything, do you miss about home?
After moving here in June, I went back to Toledo in October and within a couple hours of getting off the plane I was at this apple orchard that I adore. It’s only a 10-minute drive from my parent’s house and it is incredible. They have a little bake shop that fills with the scent of spiced donuts and you can go out to the orchard to pick your own apples. I miss that in particular, but I also miss what it represents—space and calm. It’s much easier back home to take a break from the world. Sure, Toledo isn’t nearly as busy as NYC, but people deal with the stress of love, life, work and family wherever they are. It’s less of an effort there to just escape to the park, country or Lake Erie for a little peace.
I sometimes miss blaring music and singing in my car, and I definitely miss Mozzarella sticks from Arby’s! You have to go all the way to Herald Square for those here!
What do you do when not working?
Relax! This is the first time since I was 18 that I haven’t been going to school and working three jobs to get by. I have one job, no academic load and a lot more free time than I’m used to. I’m catching up on all the backlogged sleep, and, when not in bed, exploring the city. It’s really fun for me to just grab a book or the paper and check out some cafe or restaurant in a part of town I don’t know very well. I also really enjoy the movies. It is great to live in a place where anything you want to see is somewhere close.
At what age did you come out?
I was 16. It was an accident, but it was the lesser of two evils. Here’s the story: Right after my 16th birthday I got busted by my folks for smokin’ pot. At the time I was making my own patchwork clothes and going to see bands like “Ekoostik Hookah,” so my parents had all the reason in the world to call me out when I came home one night with these sickeningly bloodshot eyes and stunted motor skills. I got grounded for a month and was only allowed to go to work and school. However, I was still allowed to have friends over to the house. One of my “friends” at the time was this boy I was seeing. I was already out among friends and had met [this guy] through local theater or something like that.
Anyway, one night he and I were outside in the driveway in this beautiful snowfall and, after pulling away from our goodnight kiss, I see my mom and our family dog standing on the porch, each with the same puzzled look on their face. She turned right back around and went into the house, and the boyfriend drove away. After three days of not speaking, I finally approached my mother after school and said, “Mom, I have to tell you what was happening in the driveway.” She responded, “What, that you and that boy were sharing a joint even though you are grounded for smoking pot?” I was blown away! She thought the cool winter air we were exhaling was smoke and that we were being close to hide the weed! I was forced to make a split-second decision. Which would be more disappointing to hear, I wondered, the gay thing or the drug thing? So, I just came out instead of face more jail time. In retrospect, maybe I should have stuck with her story.
Where do you like to hang out in the city?
My best friend and I work a block away from each other in Gramercy/Flatiron and we really like Xes at 24th and 7th for happy hour. We ended up there a couple Tuesday’s ago and had a blast playing Bingo hosted by the funniest drag queen ever. We also spend a decent amount of time in the East Village. He lives there and and there are more options – gay or straight — than my neighborhood in Jersey City.
Otherwise, I’m still in the exploratory phase. I have only been here eight months and find myself all over the place. Last week I visited Hartford, Connecticut, and Providence, Rhode Island, and the week before that I went skiing in the Catskills. Since I am single and a decent saver, I feel lucky to have the liberty to just pick up and do new things.
What’s the difference between the gay scene in the Midwest and the gay scene in New York?
I immediately think of the number of gay venues here versus back home. Toledo has four or five gay bars—a pretty decent number for a city of its size. In that regard, there are not really separate scenes in the way one would find a totally different group of people in Hell’s Kitchen versus on Christopher Street.
The other interesting thing is the general gayness of NYC. Being a homo isn’t delegated to a few small spaces in shady parts of town. You can meet another guy or gal about anywhere. Back home, even if you know the guy next to you at Best Buy is checking you out you are still kind of hesitant to approach…perhaps for fear of embarrassing him or offending the other people around you. I don’t think the same is true here.
I met a guy here at a children’s charity event in October. We were volunteering at different tents and just struck up a conversation. We are still friends. I met a guy at Brooklyn Brewery happy hour (that’s about as straight as you can get in all its frat party glory. I love that place!) and we are still friends too.