Sunday, December 27, 2015

Philadelphia: My Return to the Gay World

Philadelphia, Fall 2012

In 2005, when I moved into the straight world after twenty years in gay neighborhoods, I swore that I would soon be back home again.

But gay neighborhoods tend to be in the heart of fabulous big cities that everyone on Earth is desperate to live in, so academic jobs are extraordinarily competitive.  Every opening gets 300 or more applications, not only from the U.S. but worldwide, not only from new Ph.D.'s but from experienced, even tenured faculty.

Still, I kept trying, sending out applications to colleges near gay neighborhoods year after year, occasionally getting an interview but never being offered anything.

Finally, in 2012, my seventh year in the straight world, I got an offer: a small private college near Philadelphia had been stymied on its search for a tenure-track opening, so it needed someone to teach the Freshman Seminar, Research Methods, and "Law and Society"courses for a year while they were looking again.

A one year temporary position.  But in Philadelphia!

Philadelphia's version of West Hollywood is Washington Square West, an 8x12 block square bounded by Walnut, South, Lombard, and Sixth.  It is cluttered with gay bars (The Tavern on Camac, The Bike Stop), bath houses, restaurants, retail outlets, a Community Center,  and Giovanni's Room, one of the oldest gay bookstores in the world,

I was there!

I moved down in August 2012, leaving Troy and most of my stuff in my apartment Upstate. There seemed no point for him to move down for just a year.

I hated it at first, but figured that all new cities take a little getting used to.

Three months later, I was still hating it.

Six months later, I was desperately applying for every job I could, as long as it was nowhere near Philadelphia!

What went wrong?

1. The Expense. I got a frightfully expensive apartment that took up 50% of my take-home salary.

But my apartments in San Francisco and the East Village were frightfully expensive too. 

2. The Crime. It was in a high-crime neighborhood.  I always heard about robberies, assaults, shots fired.  I was afraid to go out at night.

But I used to walk down Santa Monica Boulevard at Highland without giving it a second thought.

3. The Commute.  My college was 11 miles away, about an hour by train, there and back every day.  Seemed like I spent my whole life on that train.

But when I was in grad school, I regularly took the train two hours from my apartment in Manhattan to Stony Brook, took classes, and returned with no problem.



4. The Size. It was one room, only big enough for a futon that doubled as a couch, a small table/desk, and a bookcase.

But my first apartment in West Hollywood was one room, with no bed, a built-in desk, and a microwave but no stove.  

5. The Boyfriend.  Troy was back Upstate, so every weekend I drove up to him, or he drove down to me.  So half the weekends I was out of town.  It's hard to maintain friendships or relationships that way.

In West Hollywood, I spent a semester in Turkey, and another in Nashville.  Then I returned and started right back, with no awkwardness or lost connections.

6. The Lateness.  The bars and bath houses catered to the after-midnight crowd.  Go at 9:00 pm, and you could hear the crickets chirp.  I had to get up at 6:00 am to get to work, and I was too tired to go out.

But I got up at 6:00 am my whole life, and I was never too tired to go out.

7. The Emptiness.  West Hollywood, New York, and Florida had organizations for black, Asian, and Hispanic gay men, gay doctors, lawyers, fathers, runners, Methodists, Episcopalians, Catholics, Jews, gardeners, movie buffs, football fans, Republicans, Democrats, atheists, pagans...you name it.  Philadelphia had a Community Center and some self-help groups.

In West Hollywood I belonged to some groups, but in New York and Florida I didn't.  You could meet men anywhere. 


8. The Heterosexuals.  I lived right down the street from a straight bar with pictures of 1940's pin-up girls on the ceiling  There were heterosexual couples in my building.  I saw boy-girl couples on the street all the time.

There were heterosexuals in West Hollywood and New York, too.  We always shared our community with a few daring yuppies and a few oldsters who had been living there since before the Flood.


9 The Twinks.  There were a dozen gay bars, restaurants, and retail outlets within a few blocks of my apartment, all entirely occupied by twinks.  I rarely saw a guy over 30, and almost never over 40.  No matter where I went, I was the oldest person in the room.

But I was a twink magnet.  All of those 20-year olds wanted to get with me.  I got a LOT of action, more penises than I knew what to do with.  

But only three dates the whole year.

Remember "Hey, Nineteen"?

No, we got nothing in common
No, we can't talk at all
[But] please take me along when you slide on down.

10.  The Tourists.  The streets were crowded with guys who drove in from small towns, to spend a few hours or a few days dancing, drinking, doing drugs, and hooking up.  We had tourists in West Hollywood, San Francisco, the East Village, and Wilton Manors, especially on the weekends, but then they went home, leaving small towns populated by guys who were survivors, who had escaped from the homophobia of the straight world.  We called it Oz and Heaven, walked around smiling, unable to believe, year after year, that we were finally home.

In 2012, the homophobia of even the most backwards of towns was nowhere near as fierce, and as universal, at the homophobia of 1982, 1992, or 2002.

You could come out to straight people without being lectured at, screamed at, or asked "What do they think causes it?"

You could come out at work without being instantly fired.

The sense of community, the belief that "we are all survivors" was gone.

It was just a neighborhood with a lot of gay people. It wasn't home.

Tijuana Bibles: Your Grandfather's Gay Porn

Back before internet  fan art boards allowed you to invoke Rule 34 and see Fred Flintstone topping Homer Simpson, or Finn the Human from Adventure Time in a three-way encounter with Spiderman and Huckleberry Hound, you could buy Tijuana Bibles.

They were not from Tijuana, and there was nothing Biblical about them.  They were 8-page, wallet-sized comic books about people having sex, often poorly drawn and badly printed, sold under the counter at newsstands and railroad stations from the 1920s through the 1960s.

A few original characters, a few film stars like Cary Grant, but mostly comic strip and cartoon characters: Popeye, Betty Boop, the Katzenjammar Kids, Barney Google, Jiggs and Maggie, Happy Hooligan.  Here we see a very well hung Wimpy thinking of hamburgers in the midst of a sexual act.



And Flash Gordon, the futuristic space adventurer, shows off his light saber.

Tijuana Bibles were, of course, illegal, under both obscenity and copyright laws, so we know next to nothing about the artists and publishers.

But many men who grew up in the era fondly recall reading and collecting them as their first glimpse of sexual freedom.

Some gay, lesbian, and transvestite themes appeared occasionally.  Some swishy stereotypes, some male-on-male rape, even some positive gay sex:





Donald Duck makes it with a "well-hung Lady Duck."

Joe the Janitor makes it with men and women both.

Happy the Dwarf steals the Prince from Snow White.





But the overwhelming majority were heterosexual, men with gigantic penises meeting and having sex with naked women.

So what was the attraction for gay men?

Gigantic penises.

Li'l Abner, Snuffy Smith, and Superboy naked.

Male nudity was heavily censored at the time.  You couldn't find it in movies or in magazines, not even in pornographic magazines, until the 1960s.

This was the only place to see artistic depictions of frontal nudity, outside of statues in a museum.

And the men were well-hung and fully aroused.




Gay men could easily ignore the women and concentrate on the men.

See also: Gay Comix; Gay Fan Art



Ricky with a Y

My birthday was a couple of weeks ago.  I've now been in the category of "older guys" for 15 years, and though I'm noticeably more bald and craggy than I was in 2000, the ardor of the Cute Young Things has not diminished.  If anything, it's increased.

When I go to a M4M Party, the twinks start sidling over before I even have a chance to get my pants off.

When I go on Grindr, I get these pickup lines or variants a dozen times an hour:
1. "Nice pic" (everybody gets that)
2. I love older guys"
3. "I've been a naughty boy, Daddy."

I hate being called Daddy.  Maybe I'm 20 or 30 years older than you, but I'm not your father.

Ricky with a Y (he specified the Y even though I could see it on the screen)  wasn't physically spectacular: in his 20s, a little shorter than me, with a handsome face, a hairy chest, not particularly muscular, a little small beneath the belt.

But he stood out from the crowd by his lack of obnoxious cruising.  We talked about The Walking Dead and the musical Titanic rather than the things he wanted me to do to him.

He found out that I was a college professor without making a stupid joke about requiring special after-class tutoring, wink wink nudge nudge.

He found out that my birthday was coming up without making a stupid joke about dinosaurs.

Nor did he call me Daddy.

So of course I accepted the date, for the Saturday after my birthday. "Leave everything to me.  This is my town, so I know my way around.  I'll give you an unforgettable night."


He picked me up at 6:00 pm in a very nice black convertible.

"This is my baby -- I've had her since college.  You should have seen me tooling around Harvard Yard."

Ok, everybody I've known who went to Harvard was crazy.  I waited to find out what Ricky's eccentricity was.  Other than being Ricky with a Y.

We went to dinner at a place called Grille 26, where the prices were high and the food boring: scallops, pasta, steak.

And the craziness began.  He psychoanalyzed everything.

"What do you do for a living?" I asked politely.

"Interesting that you would start off with the financial rather than my artistic or spiritual life.  Do you feel dissatisfied with your own economic success?

"Um...I was just trying to be polite."

By the way, he helped run the family soft drink company, which was quite successful, with root beer, birch beer, and cola that was #3 in the state, after Coke and Pepsi.  He also ran a mail-order company specializing in gay pride merchandise, and in his spare time he did financial consulting.  And he wanted to talk about his artistic side?

"My favorite food is Thai," I continued, making small talk.

"Interesting.  Is the food a stand in for the people?  Fetishization of Asians is quite common in gay communities, I understand.  They're stereotyped as soft and passive, easy to dominate, particularly if you're insecure about your sexual prowess."

"I'm not...i'm not insecure about my sexual prowess!  I just like pad thai."

And on and on.

Why did I stay friends with most of my ex-lovers?  Was I reluctant to let go, let the past stay the past, because I was afraid to face the future, the inevitability of death?

Why did I call my mother every week, but not my father?

Why didn't I allow my dinner companion to try one of my scallops?

Finally, after what felt like an intensive psychotherapy session, Ricky with a Y said "This has been fascinating, but we'd better be going, or we'll be late for the theater."

He had theater tickets?  Great. Angels in America was playing at the college.  But instead he took me to A Christmas Story: The Musical, about that kid and his quest to get a gun from Santa Claus, plus the lamp shaped like a lady's leg.

"Why does the lamp shaped like a lady's leg bother you?  Is it the disembodiment, the objectification of women?  Or does it make you doubt your own sexual identity?"

Then we went to an upscale dance club -- for heterosexuals.

"Come on, there's nothing to be afraid of.  This isn't the homophobic 1980s.  Why are you afraid to admit that things have gotten better for gay people?  Does it threaten your raison d'etre?

"Why are you Ricky with a Y?" I countered.  "Is it so people don't mistake you for Ricki with an I, a girl's name? Are you trying to draw attention to your Y chromosome? Do you think that being gay makes you a girl?"

"Good point!  But getting back to..."

By the time Ricky said "This has been great! Let's go back to my place!", I had been run through the emotional wringer a dozen times.  I wanted to go home and curl into a fetal position.

But maybe a nice peaceful wordless sexual encounter would be a good antidote.

He had a modern apartment, all steel-and-glass, with plants and abstract art and leather furniture.  We kissed for awhile on the couch, then went into the bedroom.  Where the psychoanalyzing began again.

"Why do you have an aversion to anal sex?  Is it because that's the iconic gay sexual act?  Do you think that, as long as you don't top me, you're not really gay?"

I avoided commenting on his extra-small penis and extra-big car.

See also: 8 Harvard Boys in My Bed; and My Platonic Friends and Their Boy Toy


Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Catholic Boy's Bulge at My Niece's Wedding

Kankakee, Illinois, Summer 2008

When I was a kid, the Nazarene church taught us to:

1. Pity "heathens," the Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims who hadn't heard the Gospel.

2. Be suspicious of "liberal so-called Christians," the Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists.

3. Run in terror from Roman Catholics.  They drank, went to movies, and worshipped idols. Their Pope was the anti-Christ. They were probably demon-possessed.  We weren't supposed to make friends with them, set foot in one of their churches, or even walk on the sidewalk outside one of their houses, lest we be corrupted.

I left the Nazarene church around my freshman year of college, but my parents, brother, and sister are still active.






Ken is actually more devout than when we were kids.  He's ok with gay people, but he doesn't go to movies or the theater, doesn't shop or work on Sunday, and doesn't go to restaurants or stores with alcohol on sale.

He married in 1981, and had four kids.  Then his wife died, and he married a woman who had three kids of her own, plus an elderly mother.  Ten people, four dogs, two cats, and a parrot all living together in a big, rambling house downtown.

Most of Ken's kids turned out less devoutly Nazarene than their parents.

The oldest spent time in prison for aggravated assault.

The second sang in a punk rock band.

The fourth got pregnant while still in high school.

But somehow the third, Katie, turned into a ultra-devout "Suzie Nazarene."

In high school, she was president of the NYPS and a delegate to the International Institute.

She enrolled at Olivet, the Nazarene college on the prairie, where girls generally majored in becoming a preacher's wife.

I wasn't out to her, or to any of my nieces and nephews. Fundamentalists insist on a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy.  When I brought Lane or Yuri over for Christmas or a summer holiday, we stayed closeted.

I wasn't really close to them, anyway.  I didn't visit Rock Island much after my parents moved to Indiana in 1995, just brief Christmas visits, and after 2000, I didn't visit at all.  I sent them birthday card with a check in it every year, and that's about it.

In the spring of 2008, when I was living in Dayton, I got Katie's wedding announcement in the mail.  I almost threw it out.  I usually boycott heterosexual weddings.


Then I saw that it was being held at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Kankakee, Illinois.

Katie was marrying a Roman Catholic boy named Steve!

I had to see this!  How would my Nazarene relatives react?  Would they grit their teeth and go into a Catholic church?  Would they wait outside?  Would they disown Katie and refuse to talk to her again?

I emailed Katie.

"That's one of the things that brought us together," she said.  "Arguing about religion.  We can get into some heated debates, let me tell you!  But we also have a lot in common.  Nazarenes and Catholics both have really strict rules."

"How did you meet?"

"He was the barista in the coffee shop I used to go to.  Af first I tried to save his soul, but then we started talking about the differences between Nazarene and Catholic beliefs.  Of course, he was cute in his uniform, too. "

A Nazarene and a Catholic -- two of the more homophobic denominations.  I wondered how welcome I would be at their wedding.


Time to out myself.

Two nights before the wedding, all of Katie's relatives had dinner at a restaurant in downtown Kankakee, so they could meet Steve.

Steve was in his 30s, tall, husky, bearded -- with a huge bulge in his jeans!

I made a point of hugging him "hello," and sitting next to him to tell stories of West Hollywood, Florida, and New York. Without using the g-word, of course.

"How is Yuri?" Katie asked.  "You haven't brought him around the house since I was a kid."

Now was my chance!  "Oh, he's fine.  He's been with Michael for several years now."

Don't ask, don't tell!  My sister-in-law glared at me.  "Boomer has always been liberal, with lots of different kinds of friends."

"Yes...um...it fits in very nicely with my research on gay communities."

Now my mother was glaring at me.  "Oh, Boomer is always doing some kind of research.  That's why he's never had time to get married and raise a family."

"That, and the fact that I can't get married in the State of Ohio.  It's illegal.  But I date a lot, and I've had my share of long-term..."

Don't ask, don't tell!  "Lots of pretty girls out there in Ohio," my brother said.  "Must be hard to stick to any one person."

Enraged, I excused myself and went to the bathroom.  Steve followed, and stood next to me at the urinal. I was too nervous to sneak a peek.

"Don't let it bother you," he said.  "My parents still insist on calling my brother's partner his 'roommate,' and they've been together for ten years.  But he's invited to all of the family functions.  That's something, right?"

I reddened.  No need to out myself -- Steve already knew.  Everyone already knew.  They may not use the g-word, but at least I was invited to all of the family functions.  And so were Lane and Yuri.

By the way, no one had a problem with Steve being Catholic.  I guess having a gay relative makes you tolerant.

And no, I never saw him like this.

See also;Yuri and I Teach My Nephew the Gay Facts of Life; Saving the Church Organist.; My Nephew Tries to Turn a Boy Gay

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My First Hookup


Rock Island, December 1978

I figured "it" out in 1978, during the summer after my high school graduation, and immediately started looking for gay people in Rock Island.

Not for sex or dating, necessarily, just to find someone to talk to.  I had made a major discovery, uncovered the Big Lie, and I couldn't tell anyone about it.

There was no one to discuss the hints and signals that helped us finally realize that "it is not raining upstairs."

No one to share complaints about the incessant "what girl do you like?" interrogations of our family and friends.

No one who I could nudge on the street and say "Isn't that guy hot!"

But how to find gay people in a world with no dating apps, no internet chatrooms, no gay organizations, and everyone pretending that they had no idea that same-sex desire existed.

There was a gay bar in town, but you had to be 21 to get in.  I was 17, and looked around 15.

Asking knowledgeable straight people was a problem.  They would answer with a suspicious "Why do you want to know?  Are you a fag?"

So I made my inquiries as homophobic as possible.  "No, of course not!  I just want to know if it's safe to walk down the street in this town!"

That research yielded mostly dead ends, hints and rumors, no last names, no details.

I tried to look for  clues: guys who were especially feminine, or who made eye contact a little too long, or who touched your hand by "accident."

That was fruitless, too: I spent weeks hanging out with Jack Kerouac, aka Jurgen, only to discover that he was straight, living with a girl!


As far as I could tell, there were no gay people at Augustana, in Rock Island, in the state of Illinois, in the world.

Then, around Christmastime in 1978,  I went to the post office in downtown Rock Island to buy some stamps, and behind the counter was a grinning Little Person.

Or maybe just a short guy.  The Little People Association of America defines dwarfism as anyone 4'10" and under.  He may have been an inch or two taller than that, maybe 5'0", the height of Aron Eisenberg, who played the Ferengi boy Nog on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

(Don't worry, he was over 25 years old when he bulged for this photo.)

My Little Person -- his name tag said Andy -- was in his 20s, very handsome, with a round face, cleanshaven, shaggy brown hair, and a slim, tightly muscled physique.

For a moment I couldn't think of what to say: I just stared.  Then, catching myself: "I'd like a book of stamps."

"Got a lot of Christmas cards to send?"

"Yep.  A lot of guys on my list."

The word guys hung in the air.  Andy smiled even more broadly.  "Well, how about our new Carl Sandburg stamps? He's the one that called Chicago 'the city of big shoulders,' you know."

What straight guy would think of big shoulders?  Andy was gay!  But how to make contact at the front of a long line of grumpy Christmas shoppers?  "I know.  I'm an English major at Augie [Augustana College]."

"I went there.  Majored in Postal Science."  He laughed at his own joke, and touched my hand as he passed over the book of stamps.  When I didn't flinch, he said "Maybe I should drop by my alma mater some time, see how things are going over there."

"I'm at the Student Union most afternoons."  I couldn't think of anything else to say, so I left.

The next day I hung out at the Student Union all afternoon, but no Little Person.

I scrambled to find a gift to send to my Aunt Nora in Indiana, box it up, and take it to the post office at the same time the next day.  Andy was there!

He noticed that I let a couple of other people go ahead of me so I could go to his window, and grinned broadly.

"I wanted to thank you for the Sandburg stamps," I said.  "They'll be a big hit with my friends.  Too bad they didn't show the stormy, husky, brawling Youth, half-naked and proud."  

"That's our Tom of Finland collection, out next month."  I had never heard of Tom of Finland, the gay erotic artist, so I didn't get the joke.  He paused.  "Busy day today.  I can't wait until I get off at 6:00 pm."

At 6:00 pm I was waiting outside the back entrance to the post office, watching the day shift leave.  Andy glanced at me, but didn't speak.

"Hi, Andy!  I thought we could..."

WTF?  He walked past quickly without looking at me, then slowed and looked back.  Mystified, I followed.

I followed him for three blocks, past the Circa 21 Dinner Theater, past the Public Library where I spent many afternoons in high school, past the United Methodist Church.  Every now and then he looked back to make sure I was still there.

Finally we came to an old Victorian house that had been chopped up into apartments.  He unlocked a side door and went in, leaving it ajar.

I stood outside, wondering what to do.  A few moments later, Andy stuck his head out the door, looked at me, and disappeared again.

I followed him inside and up the stairs to a small studio apartment.  A daybed, a small coffee table covered with books and papers, two stalk lamps, a bookcase.

Andy carefully closed and locked the door.

"So, where do you want to go for dinner?"

Then he was on me, kissing and fondling everything he could get his hands on.  We tore off our coats and shirts and collapsed onto the daybed.  His mouth was everywhere, biting, licking, sucking.  He tried to turn me over and push inside, but I whispered "No, the front."

He went down on me vigorously -- my first experience at receiving oral sex.

  Then he lay on his back, moaning as I moved from his firm, hairy chest to his belly. When I got to his penis -- average sized, uncut -- he trembled and moaned and jerked his hips, and finished with a shudder.

I had only been in 1 1/2 sexual situations before, and never anything this exuberant.  It was overwhelming.

When it was over, we lay on the daybed, kissing and fondling, and I was finally able to ask Andy some questions.

No, he didn't know any other gay people in town.  Some familiar faces at JR's, some guys he knew by first names or nicknames, but no one real.

It was too dangerous.  If anyone discovered that he was gay, he would be kicked out of his apartment, fired from his job, arrested, committed to a mental institution.

"Could we...you know, get together again?  Maybe have dinner?"

"Not until you're old enough to go to JR's," Andy said with a sad smile.  "It's the only safe place."  He stood and handed me my underwear.  "Make sure no one sees you on your way out."

I left feeling even more alone.

Actually, Illinois revoked its sodomy law in 1962, and the American Psychiatric Association removed being gay from its list of psychoses in 1973.

 But Andy didn't know that.  No one in small town Illinois in 1978 knew that.

I never saw Andy again.  Years later, I asked around at JRs, and found out that he moved to Iowa City to be close to a lover.

A month later, I would meet my second gay guy in Rock Island, Peter the Male Witch.

See also: My date with Jack Kerouac.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Bondage Boy with the Wife Upstairs


Dayton, April 2008

Most gay men in Dayton were closeted, but none was more closeted than Roland.

He was a regular at Rode's M4M Parties: in his 40s, tall, slim, with a full head of brown hair, a short beard, a smooth, hard chest, and a curved cut Bratwurst beneath the belt.

Roland wasn't his real name.  He never talked about his life outside the parties, except to say that he was a high school math teacher.  He didn't chat much at all.

Sexually he was mostly passive, giving oral more often than receiving it.  He didn't do anal.

One day in the spring of 2008, I casually mentioned the bondage club I used to go to in New York, and his jaw dropped in surprise.  "Bondage, really?  I'm into that, too!  Are you a top or a bottom?"

"I like to do the tying up."

"Whoa, that's great!  I meet so many guys in Dayton who are total bottoms.  What's your favorite position, spread eagle or behind the back?"

The conversation continued like that.  Ropes or chains?  Dildos?  Whipping or paddling?  Dirty talk? Fantasy scenes?  I never saw Roland so enthusiastic.  Finally he said "I have a fully stocked dungeon at home.  Care to come over and try it out, say tomorrow night at 7:00?"

A bondage date!  How exciting!  Guys in Dayton didn't date much -- they were too closeted, afraid of being spotted by someone they knew.   "I'd be happy to.  Shall we have dinner first?"

"Um...no, come after dinner.  But there's a mini-fridge in the dungeon with snacks, if you get hungry."

Ok.  But certainly after the bondage scene we would go to bed together, cuddle and kiss, spend the night, go out for breakfast in the morning, a date just like back home in the gay world.


I got a little nervous when I drove up to the house in Beavercreek, a suburb of Dayton full of heterosexual nuclear families.  Not really a gay-friendly place!

Roland answered the door, took my coat, and ushered me into a family room off the huge steel-and-marble kitchen, where The Simpsons was playing on a big-screen tv.

He didn't live alone!  There was a middle-aged woman sitting on the couch.  Next to her, a 10-year old boy.  And a girl, probably about 12, sprawled out on an easy chair.

 His sister?  A straight female housemate?  What was going on?

"Boomer, this is Sandra and Rick -- he's in fifth grade and already a ladykiller!"

The woman and boy held out their hands to be shaken. Who were these people?

"And the Queen of Angst in the easy chair is Rhianna, in junior high, already beating off the guys with a club!"  She didn't react.  "We're going downstairs to watch the game.  Be up in a couple of hours."

He led back me through the kitchen and a laundry room to a stairway that led to the basement.

"So, was that your sister?"  I asked.

"You really are gay, aren't you?" he whispered.  "That's my wife and kids.  I'm a happily married family man."

This wasn't a date!  It was a down-low hookup!  "But how..."

Behind a side door was his Man Cave, a low wood-paneled room with a couch, a pool table, a card table and chairs, a tv, and some metal cabinets.

"When me and my buddies are in here, watching the game or doing dude things, you don't disturb us unless a kid is bleeding or the house is on fire."  He locked the door and banged on the wall.  "Soundproof.  You can scream, bellow, shout, and no one outside can hear a thing."

The cabinets contained a good stock of bondage equipment: including dildos of various sizes, a vibrating anal massage device, a violet wand, and several types of lubricant.  I imagined Roland coming into the house with a brown paper back in hand and saying "I bought some stuff for the Man Cave, honey."

"You mean you have guys in here to tie you up, with your wife upstairs, and she never suspects anything?"

"Not a thing.  She thinks we're watching tv, or maybe, at the most, wrestling.  I don't think she knows that gay or bi people exist.  She certainly doesn't know what BDSM is."



I was really nervous, but Roland had a nice physique and a Bratwurst beneath the belt, so I managed to orchestrate a simple scene: he was tied to a chair naked, blindfolded, teased, and"forced" to give and receive oral sex.

Afterwards he said "That was nice, back to the basics.  It's so much more erotic when I'm helpless, in your power, don't you think?"

He insisted that I stay for two hours, the length of a real game on ESPN, so we cuddled on the couch and watched Family Guy and American Dad, kissed, and had a vanilla (non-bondage) encounter.

I went back to Roland's house again several times that spring, either on Saturday afternoon or Sunday night.

We stayed mostly in the man cave, except once when I helped Sandra frost cupcakes, and she gave me a a few in a tupperware bowl to take home, and once when she said "It's too nice a day to be cooped up in the basement.  Why don't you guys take Rick down to the park?"

I heard about Sandra's squabble with her sister and Rick's problems at school, and eventually, through conversation, Roland's real name (Mike) and real job (systems analyst).

But when I ran into Roland at the Mall, he pretended that he didn't know me.

In June I had to cut a session short because I wasn't feeling well.  "I think I'm coming down with a summertime cold," I told Sandra.  "They're the worst."

A couple days later, there was a knock on my door.  I answered in my bathrobe, with a box of kleenix in my hand.  It was Sandra!

"Hi, Boomer, I got your address from Mike's phone.  I just made a big pot of chicken-rice soup, and since you're not feeling well, I thought I'd bring you over some."

I was too shocked to say anything except "Um...thanks."

"Oh, it's the least I can do.  I've been wanting to thank you for being so great with Mike."  She handed me a green tupperware container.  "He couldn't ask for a better boyfriend!  Much nicer than some of these guys he brings home."

Boyfriend!  "Um...er..."

"But really, you should get him out of that dreary Man Cave sometimes.  Take him to a gay bar!  Or to one of those gay sex parties I've heard about.  He's a big guy -- I'll bet he would be very popular!  Well, I have to run.  I hope you feel better soon!"

I stood there agape.

Apparently Roland was less closeted than he thought.

See also: The Boy Who Wanted to be Rode

Monday, December 21, 2015

I Catch Cousin Joe in the Act

Rock Island, December 1976

When I was in junior high, I caught my friend Brian trying to erase graffiti from the wall of Washington Junior High, "Brian gives free LBJs."  He wouldn't say what it meant, and I had no idea.  It endured season after season, year after year, ghostly pale but still legible, stubbornly resistant to the generations of custodians who attempted to erase it.  It was the biggest riddle of my childhood.

During the summer after 9th grade, I learned that the term "BJ" referred to oral sex, but I didn't make the connection to gay people until a cold Friday at Christmastime in 1976, my junior year at Rocky High, shortly after I discovered what "gay" meant.

Aunt Nora was visiting for the holidays, with two whole carloads of relatives.  Cousin Joe, a 22-year old college senior, was staying in the attic room with Ken and me, and his girlfriend Sandy was staying downstairs with my sister.

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, everyone was out shopping or ice skating, but I didn't feel well and stayed in to read.  Joe and Sandy came in, said hello, then vanished somewhere into the house -- I assumed they went down to the basement rec room to play pingpong.

They weren't playing pingpong.

Soon I got a throbbing headache, so I took an aspirin and decided to go upstairs to bed.

The door at the bottom of the attic stairs didn’t lock, but the clatter of shoes on the bare wood was usually an adequate early-warning signal, giving you plenty of time to stop watching late-night tv, reading comics, or whatever else you didn’t care to have witnessed -- but today I was wearing only socks, and the throb in my head made me go slowly, one step at a time. So they didn’t hear me.

When I reached the top of the stairs, I saw Joe lying on the floor on his side of the room, and Sandy kneeling over him.  My first thought was that he had fainted. Then I saw a thick, heavy shaft the color of putty.  Joe's penis!

I had seen it several times before -- while changing clothes to go swimming, once while skinny-dipping.  I walked in on him in the bathroom when I was five.  It was always breathtaking.

Suddenly Joe saw me, pushed Sandy away, and quickly zipped up. “Um...we were....we were just..."   He was blushing red.

"I don't care, I'm sick."  I walked the five steps to the bed I was sharing with Ken, fell down face-first, and covered my head with a pillow.  "It's no big deal. You’re not the first person in this room to give a bj.”

They were both silent. I peered out from under the pillow to see them staring open-mouthed.

“What’s your problem?”

“You. . .give bjs?” Sandy asked.

“Of course I  give them!” I said angrily. “You think I’m a virgin? I’ve given them lots of times.”

Joe laughed. “Gee, you're dumb! Boys don’t give bjs, they get them.”

“No, I give them. . .boys give them.” My head was still throbbing, making it hard to concentrate.   "Why do you think it's called giving a bj?  Because you give your penis..."

"The girl gives it to the boy, Boomer."

“Well. . .to be fair, it doesn’t have to be a girl,” Sandy said. “Sometimes guys do give bjs.  At least they're sort of like guys."  She flashed a loose wrist.

My face burned as I realized what she was implying.


"Be nice!" Joe commanded.  He patting my shoulder.  "Boomer just got mixed up.  Don't tell Mom about seeing us...you know...ok?"

"Don't worry, your secret is safe with me."

"And your secret is safe with us!" Sandy managed to say before Joe grabbed her and dragged her down the stairs.

I lay in bed, mortified.  But now I understood -- LBJ, BJ with an "L" added.  Long ago some bullies had accused Brian of being gay. No wonder he worked so furiously to scrub the graffiti off!

It turns out that I was wrong.  Five years later, in the spring of 1981, I would discover that the phrase LBJ had nothing to do with sex.  But it did have quite a lot to do with being gay.

The headache was the precursor of a flu that would keep me incapacitated from the day after Christmas through New Year, and result in the discovery of a gay comic book.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

My Date with Jack the Vacuum Cleaner

Wilton Manors, December 2002

Grocery store employees aren't exactly fantasy hookups.  They don't come to your house, and when you see them at work, they're sliding your canned goods over scanners while a dozen people wait behind you.

Besides, the checkers are mostly women, and the baggers are mostly high school boys.  Not much to work with.

But take another look at the college-age boys and young adults, in their shortsleeved shirts, biceps straining over industrial-sized crates of lettuce.  They develop a lot of upper body strength.

Besides, you're there at the same time every week.  There's lots of time to cruise.

And you're out, as openly gay as you can get without a sign, two guys pushing a single shopping cart, or a single guy buying vegetables, fruit, and lean meats, with no Hamburger Helper or Hot Pockets in sight.

In West Hollywood, we had the gay Safeway, on Santa Monica a few blocks down from the Rage. 90% of the customers were gay.

In Florida we had the Publix, down the street from Rosie's Bar and Grill.  A lot of heterosexuals, but enough gay people that we could be open without fear of homophobic harassment.

My housemates and I ate most of our breakfasts and dinners together, and Barney did all of the shopping.  So I only went to the Publix when I wanted something not on his list, like soda or snack foods.

I was always impressed by the number of cute guys working there, but I didn't go often enough to get to know faces, let alone cruise anyone.

So it came as a surprise one day in early December 2002, when I went to the Publix to get Christmas candy, and a guy stocking cereal said "Hey, you're one of Wade's friends, aren't you?  I've seen you here with him."

Wade was a recent graduate of McGill University in Toronto who worked in a hotel.  We dated for a few weeks last summer.  He and Yuri had become friends, so he was around the house a lot, and sometimes we "shared."  I couldn't remember when I had been in Publix with him -- maybe one night when he came over for dinner.

But I smiled and said "Yep.  I'm Boomer."

"Jack."

We shook hands.  He was a beach boy, in his 20s, about my height, with dark-blond curly hair, a round face, a rather muscular physique, and big hands.

"How do you know Wade?"

"He dated my boss, the Giant.   I was sad that they broke up...they seemed really good together."  He paused.  "So...um...I have to get back to work, but maybe we could get together later?  I get off at 7:00."

"I'm busy tonight, but how about the weekend?"

We exchanged phone numbers, and I finished my shopping and went home.

And immediately called Wade for the dish on Jack.

"I met him through the Giant," Wade told me. "Super nice guy.  A little closeted -- he still lives with his conservative Mom."

"How long did you date?"

"Um...just the one time.  He was nice and all, but...."

"Not big enough beneath the belt?"

"Oh, it's not that.  He's got a nice body.  It's just...I'm really into older guys, for one thing, and for another, we weren't compatible in bed."

"What do you mean?"

"I don't want to say anything negative, and turn you off.  He's a really nice guy.  You'll see."

How mysterious!  I was definitely going out with Jack now!

On our date, we had dinner at Rosie's, and then went cruising at the Manor.  Jack told me with a grin that he grew up in Harlem -- it's a very small, very conservative town on Lake Okeechobee, in central Florida:  "Nothing there but a bar and a Pentecostal church.  My dad went to one, and my mom went to the other."


The two eventually divorced, and Mom and Jack  moved to Fort Lauderdale.

Jack continued going to a hardcore fundamentalist church,  planned to become a preacher, and enrolled at Pensacola Christian College.

He dropped out during his difficult coming-out process.  He had been working at Publix for two years, and intended to make it his career.

We spent a lot of time comparing notes about our fundamentalist childhoods, and talking about the passages in the Bible that are used to promote homophobia, even though they have nothing to do with gay people.

So far so good.  He was very cute, and we had a lot in common.

Then we went into the bedroom.

Nice physique, average beneath the belt gifts, kissed like a vacuum cleaner, using suction to pull my mouth into his.  Not terribly pleasant.

I pushed him away.  We fondled for a bit, and then he went down on me.

Like a vacuum cleaner.

The suction was so great that it hurt.

"Not so rough!" I exclaimed.

"Sorry." He fondled me for a bit and then tried again.

Again, like a vacuum cleaner.  I let him work for a few minutes, and then pulled his head away.  It was hard to dislodge him.

Do you have to be trained in oral sex?  I never received any instruction except "watch your teeth."

"Here, let me show you how."

I went down on him.  He finished almost instantly.

"Ok, now you try."

Like a vacuum cleaner.  I dislodged him, and we went to sleep.

The next day my penis was sore, and there was blood in my urine.  The doctor told me that small capillaries had burst due to the over-energetic oral sex.  Not serious, but rather frightening.

And no more dates with the Vacuum Cleaner.

See also: Wade the Beach Boy; Wade and the Giant; Picking Up the Checker in the Grocery Store

My Date or Trick with Mario in the White Room

West Hollywood, September 1987

In spite of my nostalgia-infused memories of West Hollywood as a paradise, it had some big problems.  For one thing, it was completely segregated.  Only 3% of its residents were black, 5% Asian, and 10% Hispanic (compared to Los Angeles in general, 10%, 11%, and 47%).

You rarely saw anyone black on the streets, and when you did, he was with a white guy, and being charged a hefty cover to get into the bar, or waiting extra-long for the server to notice him in the restaurant.

But this isn't a story about institutional racism and microaggressions.  It's about a guy named Mario.

Nearly every day, I stopped into the Different Light Bookstore on Larrabee.  I joked that I was moving the entire stock into my room.

And one day I saw Mario browsing in the theater section.

He was rather feminine, thin and willowy, wearing gold rings, bracelets, and necklaces -- an immediate turnoff.  But he was shorter than me, dark skinned, with glasses that gave him a studious look.  So when he approached, started a conversation about gay literature, and invited me to dinner at the Greenery, I agreed.


Wait -- he meant right now.  In West Hollywood, you always set up dates for the future. Was this one of those dreaded tricks, a pickup, sex for its own sake?

Tricking was frowned upon -- if this was a trick, I could never tell my friends about it.

While I ate a hamburger and Mario picked at a salad, we exchanged coming-out stories.  He grew up in Richmond, Virginia and fled to West Hollywood seven years ago.  He had a job as a secretary, but only until he got his big break as an actor.  He hadn't had much luck, but he did land a date with celebrity Rob Lowe.

I countered by telling him about my Celebrity Boyfriend.

"My boss wants me -- I can tell," Mario continued.  "But I saw him in the rest room -- a footlong, honey!  No way, nuh-huh, I can't handle that."

Ok, feminine and into anal.  Date or trick, this wasn't going to work.  I put $5 on the table to pay for my dinner, and politely excused myself.

"Come on, honey, don't leave me hanging!" Mario exclaimed.  "After I put myself out to cruise you!  I don't meet many nice guys, who are willing to take things slow and get to know you.  Everybody wants to just jump into bed right away."

This was awkward!  "Well...um...I don't think we're compatible."

"Is it because I'm black?  You're afraid what your friends will say?"

"What?  No!"  My face burned.  That was the farthest thing from my mind,  But now we were definitely going through with the date, or trick.



So we walked down the street to Mickey's, the twink hangout, and danced and flirted and groped and fondled.

No kissing!  Was he shy or what?

But, date or trick, I was ready to go home with him.

Mario lived in a very nice apartment building, white with pink trim, on Romaine Street just off Fairfax.  He made me take off my shoes and socks to avoid tracking lint on the carpet.

"Do you want to take your shower first?" he asked.  "There are fresh towels in the bathroom, and a douche under the sink."

Douche?  Was he an anal top?

All of the towels in the bathroom were white, like at the gym.

I showered and came out to find Mario in the kitchen.  "Now put your clothes in the washer, and I'll do a load tomorrow morning before you go home.  Don't worry, no one will touch your stuff."

"My clothes...but...."

"You can't get dressed into dirty clothes, can you?"

I did as he asked.  Mario went to take his shower.  I wandered around the apartment -- only a few books, all on acting -- and found the bedroom.

It was completely white: rug, curtain, dresser, nightstand, lamp, bedspread, everything.  It made my eyes hurt.

I stood there, afraid to touch anything.  A song by Cream ran through my head: "In a white room with black curtains...wait in the place where shadows run from themselves..."

Soon Mario appeared, wearing only a white towel.

"Oh, don't worry -- the sheets and bedspread are clean.  I change them every day."

"Every...day?  I have like three sets of sheets, tops.  Don't you run out?"

"Oh, honey, I wouldn't run out for a month.  I buy sheets the way other guys buy shoes.  But I do the laundry every day anyway.  Who wants dirty clothes in the hamper for a week?"  He groped me.  "Now give me that towel.  I'll hang it up so it won't get mildewed."

He took off his towel, too -- Kielbasa, beautifully shaped.  I sat on the bed, naked, until he returned.

I moved in for a kiss.  "Sorry, I'm not into that," he said, turning his face away.

We lay on the bed, not kissing.  Mario's body was cool to the touch.  He didn't turn the light off -- the bright lights against the white background were dazzling.

He turned over on his stomach.  No dice.

He tried to sit on me.

"I'm really not into that," I said.

"No problem, honey.  I know lots of ways to please my man."

Mario moved down below the belt.

The weirdness, the whiteness, the femininity, the lack of kissing -- nothing was happening.

A unpardonable sin, for either a date or a trick.

After awhile, he gave up and said "Well, I love cuddling with my man, too."

Wait -- didn't I get a chance at his Kielbasa?

He didn't turn off the light!  I was stuck spending the night with him -- it would have been gauche to leave -- in a room as glaringly white as a hospital bed.

After a few hours, I got up, gauche or no gauche, retrieved my clothes from the washer, and woke Mario with some excuse about why I had to leave.

"Sorry, honey," he murmured.  "I guess you're just not into black guys."

No, I was definitely into black guys, just not glaring white rooms.

I ran into Mario occasionally after that, at the Different Light, the gay Safeway, or on the street, and he always smiled sadly, as if to say "I know your secret shame."

That wasn't fair.  No one can be expected to perform in a white room, with someone who won't kiss and calls him "honey."

See also: Mario's Date or Trick with Rob Lowe and  The Truth about the Black Penis

Friday, December 18, 2015

My Home Town is a Queer Haven

I just got back from a visit to Rock Island, my first in about 10 years.

The gay scene was gone.

When I was living in West Hollywood in the 1980s and 1990s, I flew back twice a year, at Christmastime and during the summer, and spent a lot of time in the local gay scene.

1. Three gay bars, including JR's, a disco that covered half a city block.
2. A club that featured male strippers.
3. An adult bookstore that sold gay magazines.
4. Outdoor cruising at the levee.

In 1995, my parents retired and moved to Indianapolis, about a five hour drive from the Quad Cities, to be closer to my sister and her family.  So I spent most of my Christmas and summer visits there, and drove out to the Quad Cities for brief overnights, to see my brother and Dick, my friend from high school, and his partner Jack.

 Not a lot of time for gay bars, or nightlife of any sort.

Then Dick and Jack moved to Denver.

And problems with weather and cars and other traveling intervened, and I didn't visit Rock Island at all for ten years, until last weekend, in December 2015.

I didn't recognize much.

My old college had a new Student Union.

Downtown was an entertainment district with nightclubs, theaters, art galleries, restaurants, and casinos that I had never heard of.

I didn't even recognize my old house -- I had to check the address to make sure.

I reconnected with some of my old high school friends.  How had they managed to get so much older than me?

And the gay scene:
1. The gay bars were now two straight bars and an Italian restaurant.
2. The adult bookstore: an antique store.
3. The male strippers: a comedy club.
4. The levee: a landscaped jogging and biking path along the Mississippi.

What happened?  Was Rock Island back in a 1950s closet?  Had all the gay people packed up and moved to Chicago?

Time to get on Grindr, and get some local guys into my hotel room to find out.

I wanted someone gay, out, and in his late 20s, who would know about Rock Island's gay scene, or lack thereof.

No one bi, straight, on the downlow, married but looking.

Not Brad, a 60 year old who hadn't cruised since the 1980s.

Not Curtis, a newly-out 20-year old college boys.

Ok, maybe we could get together for a couple of hours tomorrow, before I left town.  

But for tonight, I chose Dylan, age 28, with black hair, dark eyes, and a  smooth, muscular physique.  But more important, he was a life long resident of the Quad Cities, gay, and out.

I met him at a coffee shop around the corner from my hotel.

A straight coffee shop, full of heterosexual couples!

"Last year The Advocate named us one of the 15 queerest cities in the United States," Dylan told me.  "We have had anti-discrimination protections for 17 years, we have a gay alderman, an annual Pridefest, and a lot of gay-run businesses."

"But...no gay bars, no adult bookstores, no cruising places."

"I get my porn and cruise online, and I go out to the bars to have fun and dance with my friends.  Some are gay, some are straight, some are queer.  Why should I exclude my straight bros?"

"Well, if 10% of the population is gay, and you're in a bar with 100 people, your chances of finding someone to dance with are limited."


He gave me one of those pitying glances twinks get when talking to someone hopelessly out of touch. "Why couldn't I dance with a straight guy? Or a girl?  It's just dancing."

"Ok, but what about dating?  How can you find a boyfriend in that crowd?"

"That's what hookup apps are for."  He put his hand on mine under the table, then pulled it onto the table top.

We were holding hands in plain sight of everyone in a straight coffee shop!

You can't go home again.

Oh, the hookup?  Very nice, very passionate, uncut average beneath the belt.

We exchanged phone numbers.  I could use more gay friends in Rock Island.  I may be coming back more often.

See also: Spending the Night with Todd