Day 4: August 28, 2010 Alabama, Lousiana and Texas.

I spent the night at the Mobile Bay Adventure Inn in Mobile, AL.   The only visit I had scheduled for today was with Seaman Jonathan Marcantel ( who is a childhood friend of my friend Jeremy)  at 4pm in Lake Charles, LA. My plan, since I wasn’t far from the Gulf Shores, and the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill I thought I would take a ride down and see what it was like, now several months after the burst and then head to New Orleans to have lunch with Sarah and Steve and with it being the day before Katrina, I thought I would drive around the ninth ward as well. All sounded good. I got up early, ate some breakfast and headed to the Gulf Shores. I was about half way there when the rain started, I kept going thinking, it’s just a little rain. I kept driving and it kept coming down, down and down. It got to the point that I could barely see out the windshield. And then I couldn’t see out the windshield, everyone on the highway was driving with our flashers on. So, I wouldn’t be seeing the gulf shores today, I turned around and headed to New Orleans. The severe rain, put me way behind schedule, it had lightened up some, I still had hopes of lunch in New Orleans. As I got closer to city, the rain picked up again, I made the call to skip New Orleans and keep on driving, Lake Charles was still a 3 1/2 drive, I didn’t want to be late for my meeting with Jonathan.

At 4pm, I arrived at our gas station meeting spot. Jonathan didn’t want to be photographed in his home, so we were going to a park. He decided on this gazebo, I shot a few frames and told him it wasn’t working, I didn’t feel any connection, that is when he mentioned that he worked at Crystal’s, Lake Charles’ only gay bar. When I started this project, the main reason I wanted to photograph the veterans in their homes, I wanted a personal connection, to show the human side of the subject. Photographing Jonathan in that park, just felt like a portrait session. Off to Crystal’s we went. It was perfect, it was old, it was dark, it smelled of stale beer and cigarettes. We sat down and Jonathan told me his story. He joined the Navy, for all the reasons most people join, the adventure, the travel, the education. He wanted it all. During is deployment to the Persian Gulf, he was having some emotional and relationship issues with  his boyfriend and decided to confide in the ship’s doctor. Shortly after that he was called in and told of his discharge. Just like that, all his hopes and dreams gone. Now, he had to deal with his family, who were devote Assembly of God Pentecostal Christians. Not only was he discharged from the Navy, he was discharged for being a homosexual. They didn’t take it well and put him into a mental institution to “cure him.” Now over ten years later, Jonathan is finally telling his story.

After Crystal’s Jonathan, gave me a tour of downtown Lake Charles and then drove me back to the gas station where we met. We hugged and off I went. I was starving and decided to eat at the Cajun Cowboy. With some good gumbo and fried okra in my belly, I was now ready for the 6 1/2 hour drive to Ft.Worth, Texas. I would be spending the next two days with my good friend Ghazal, fellow dream beaver, Dr in training who I hadn’t seen since I left for Brooklyn in 2008. At just past midnight I met Ghazal at a bar in downtown Ft.Worth. What a day!

The next two days would be pure dream beaver reunion, biking and dobbies and boobies.

Seaman Jonathan Marcantel enlisted in the Navy in 1997. He was discharged in 1999 after he came out to his ship’s doctor while serving on the U.S.S. Gettysburg in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Fox.

All images ©Jo Ann Santangelo 2010- can not be copied, printed, posted or reproduced without permission.


About Jo Ann Santangelo

Austin based freelance multimedia documentary photographer and storyteller.
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