01.10.19 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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Everything I need know about drugs I learned from Nancy Reagan. Don’t smoke cigarettes as a kid or you’ll end up a homeless junkie scrounging for next dime bag of crack.

Don’t smoke pot or you’ll end up dead on the street with a needle in your arm. Don’t drink underage or you’ll find yourself pushing everything you own around in a shopping cart, dumpster diving for food and keeping warm with trash can fires.

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12.27.18 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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It’s hard to believe the end of the year is here. It’s cliche to say, but when you live your life in two week cycles across two metropolitan areas—time flies. 2018 zoomed by in the blink of an eye.

Watermark did well in 2018. We saw an increase in sales, so thank you to the businesses and organizations that support us and help us to continue bringing the latest in LGBTQ news to our readers—and congratulations to Senior Account Manager Sam Callahan who had a stellar year. We also saw an increase in distributions sites and are now available at over 600 locations in Central Florida, Tampa Bay and surrounding areas.

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11.29.2018 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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“Print is dead.” I’ve heard this for at least 10 years and it is just as false a statement today as it was back then. The internet has made strides that some newspapers couldn’t survive, but dead? We’re still breathing and we are in good company.

I was in college by the time the internet was taking off—thanks, Al Gore. Only a few students even had a personal computer. My roommate was one of them. He spent a lot of time in AOL chatrooms, dialing long distance to meet and talk to new people all over the world. I never really warmed up to that aspect of the internet. I never felt “internet cool.” Maybe it’s because I say things like “internet cool.” I always preferred meeting people face to face.

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11.1.18 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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I have a terrible sense of humor. I’ve written about this before and how I credit my father for just how bad it is. Dad jokes are the best, and the worse they are the harder I laugh.

Here’s an example: I have an insane love of ice cream, so much so that my trainer and my scale yell at me about it all the time. St. Pete has this wonderful little shop that sells mini-doughnuts basking in a tower of ice cream. Every time we drive by it, my partner says, “We can get mini-doughnuts.” To which I reply, “How many?” Then I laugh like I’ve never heard it before. I don’t mind laughing alone.

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10.04.18 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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I like beer. This month marks 3 years since I stopped drinking. I talk about it all the time because I think it’s not talked about enough in our community.  Not talking about it perpetuates a stigma about alcoholics that is false. Since truth is now my everything, I talk about it. I like beer.

It is weird to me, turning terrible behavior into something to celebrate. Congratulations, Rick, on three years of doing something you should have been doing all along. Although, it is a celebration of sorts: It’s like coming out. It’s about owning who you are and choosing an honest path.  It’s about taking bad life choices and turning them into good, or at least attempting to. This is why every year in the month of October, I share my story. I don’t do it so I get likes on Facebook or some pat on the back. I do it so people can see how addiction affected my life, as well as those around me. I do it so people who might see similarities in their lives can know there is a better way.

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09.06.18 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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I’ve been told I communicate too much. I really am an open book and there isn’t much I won’t talk about, no matter how personal it is. I also tend to divulge all the information I have when telling a story. It’s strange to me that everyone doesn’t do this, yet I assume they do anyway. This often gets me in trouble with my roommate.

“Why did she do that?” she asks when I’m done with my story. To which I reply, “I’ve given you all the information I have.” “Why didn’t you ask more questions?” she retorts. I explain that I just go by the information people give me. She calls me weird and I call her weird. After 18 years of living together, I assure you we are both weird.

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08.09.18 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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“Guys in Orlando suck!” “The gay community in Orlando is so transient.” I heard these phrases way too often in the early 2000s, but I never bought into that way of thinking.

I moved to Central Florida in 1986. This was back in the days when the 408 was just two lanes each way, The Winter Park Village was an enclosed Mall and Ronnie’s was serving the Mogambo Extravaganza (a sixth grade ice cream lover’s dream dessert). I didn’t know it at the time, but I was on track to meet some amazing people with incredible stories to tell, and who would disprove the notion that Orlando was not a strong LGBTQ community.

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07.12.18 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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I’m not a very religious person. Actually, I’m not religious in the traditional sense at all. Organized religion and I have not seen eye to eye for some time. That’s not a secret to those who know me well, but sometimes I find it harder to admit that to people than to say that I am a gay man.

In a previous article of mine, I described in detail a story of how I felt manipulated by “the church,” which was the beginning of the end for me. I then attended a very religious college, which to a young and outspoken liberal just seemed like a propaganda machine and torture device.

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5.31.18 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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I’m pretty sure I was 16 the first time I went to Gay Day at Disney. I was only out to my mom and a handful of friends back then, so it was a little awkward when my brothers and I rolled up on the second annual Gay Day at Disney. It became a tradition in my family that when one of the brothers graduated high school, we’d celebrate with a trip to the Magic Kingdom—just us boys. Turns out that celebration always happened on the first Saturday of June. We didn’t know what that day meant to so many people, but we picked up on it pretty quickly.

I remember being petrified my brothers would figure out somehow I was gay, as if just being in close proximity with so many LGBTQ people would cause me to grow a boa and hum the ABBA anthology. I also remember experiencing immense joy and comfort. It was scary being gay in the early ‘90s, not to diminish the struggle today’s 16-year-olds face with their own coming out. But that one day, every year, was a day of happiness in the happiest place on earth. It was a day to be normal, to be together and to be visible.

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5.17.18 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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It’s easy to forget. I forget things all the time. In fact, I forget things so easily that I am pretty sure our sales director Danny Garcia uses it against me. He’ll say I approved something in a conversation we never had knowing that I will assume we had the conversation and I don’t remember it. It works for us.

I also get so caught up in day to day “adulting” that I forget what it’s like to be alone in a new city, to start a new relationship, to be a kid or to plan for college. All of which I have been reminded of this past month, and I love it.

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4.19.18 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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I haven’t always loved my job. Who loves anything all of the time? Even a parent who loves their child might want to slap them “into the middle of next week” occasionally. So I hear. I don’t have children, but I have adorable dogs that drive me crazy as much as they warm my heart.

I remember I was at a low point in 2004 with my career at Watermark. The repetition of an administrative assistant position with a local niche newspaper was taking its toll on me. I was young, stupid and combative. Up to this point, I never held a job for more than a year and a half and I was currently over two years at Watermark. I was starting to get antsy, so I looked for another job. Walt Disney World accepted me to their entertainment team as a production assistant and I took a few days off at Watermark to enroll in the Disney training class known as Traditions. The only thing left to do was put in my notice and leave.

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3.22.18 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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The first person I ever came out to was a complete stranger. It was surprisingly easy. The journey to get to that moment was not easy, nor the mountains I would have to climb after; but coming out to a stranger wasn’t difficult. It was freeing and desperate.

It was the early 1990s and he was a mentor with the Delta Youth Alliance, now the Orlando Youth Alliance. At the time, it was the only resource for gay youth to meet and support each other and it remains a vital component of the community today. My involvement with the group gave me the courage to come out to my high school best friend. That was difficult because it was someone close to me. It was a bigger gamble as there was more riding on her reaction than that of the stranger.

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