I used to go to Europe at least once a year, sometimes twice, usually at Christmastime or in the spring. I flew into Paris or Amsterdam, whichever was cheaper, and split my time between those two cities, with an overnight in Brussels in between.
I was always careful to be in Amsterdam on Sunday night, for the Horseman's Club meeting at the Argos Bar on Warmoesstraat.
A club for guys with 20 cm (about 8 inches) or more beneath the belt.
It was a social club -- no sex, but most guys sneaked into isolated corners for some groping or oral anyway. You had to get naked or strip to your underwear.
I usually found someone to go home with. In 2003, a 40-ish bodybuilder named Janik asked me to stay on in the Netherlands and become his lover. I almost agreed.
In 2006, I met a Dutch-Caribbean-African guy with a gigantic Kovbasa.
The Dutch were leaders in the North Atlantic slave trade, and you see evidence all over Amsterdam, like this frieze of a muscular Moor carrying a bow and arrow. But most of the slaves ended up in the Caribbean.
I never saw anyone black at the Horseman's Club until that night in 2006.
He was standing by himself near the pool table. In his 20s, very dark, very tall and thin, wearing a green jumpsuit, completely out of place amid the nude and underwear-clad men.
I figured he had just come in from the icy rain of an Amsterdam spring, and was cold. I walked up to him and put my hand on his shoulder. "Hi, can I warm you up?"
He stared at me -- not with Attitude, with a look of sheer terror, as if an underwear-clad man was a major threat.
"He must be in the wrong place," I thought. "Maybe not even gay. But surely he figured it out when he was fluffed for measurement."
I began to caress his thin shoulders and back, and he relaxed a bit and put his arm around my shoulders.
"Just so you know, there's a dress code. You'll have to strip down to your underwear, or they'll kick you out."
"Ik spreek geen Engels," he said, before launching into a torrent of Dutch.
Everyone always uses English in Amsterdam, even residents talking to each other, so I've never learned much Dutch. About all I can say is Goeiedag, Hoe gaat het?, and Ik kom uit Toronto (I always claim to be Canadian when I travel, to avoid being yelled at every five minutes.)
"Um...um...Ik heet Boomer, van Toronto. Hoe heet je?"
Huit Suriname. Azi."
About 2% of the Dutch population consists of recent immigrants from Suriname, and about half of them are black or mixed (they're called Maroons and Creoles). But they are mostly working- and -lower class, isolated from the consumer-oriented bars, bathhouses, and sex shops of gay Amsterdam.
"Um...wanner je kom heer?" When did you come to the Netherlands?
More very fast Dutch. Then Azi reached out and groped me. I felt for the front of his jumpsuit, where his Kovbasa had sprung to life.
"Sprichts du langsam, bitte," I said in German, hoping it was close enough to be comprehensible.
"Kom....naar....mijn huis, ok?"
Go home with him? But we just met, we hadn't said more than a dozen words, and he was a little too weird....
But...a Kovbasa...the biggest of the big....
I dressed. Azi wrapped his arm around my shoulders and led me out onto Warmoessstraat. We walked to the Centraal Station and got on the train to Ganzenhoef Station in southern Amsterdam, Azi talking nonstop in Dutch, me trying out my few words, supplemented with German and Spanish.
Azi had only been in the Netherlands for three years. He worked in a cigarenfabriek. Most of his family was back in Suriname. The only family he had here was his moeder and his jongere broer, who was studying computertechniek at the University.
We got off the train in a multi-ethnic neighborhood called the Bijlmeer, and walked a few blocks through the darkness to a huge apartment complex. Orange and white lattices. Balconies. 13 stories.
We took the elevator to the eighth floor, and got off in a small, cramped apartment. There were books and newspapers scattered all over the living room. Kierkegaard, I noticed in surprise. Azi read Danish philosophers?
Dirty dishes in the sink, overflowing clothes hamper. Obviously Azi hadn't been expecting a hookup when he went out tonight.
As soon as the door closed, I wrapped my arm around Azi and went in for a kiss. But he pushed my head away.
"Ben je hier?" he yelled.
Who else lived here?
"In die slaapkamer!"
Azi led me into a little hallway to an open door. Small twin bed, unmade. Underwear on the floor.
Sitting at the desk, apparently in an internet chatroom, was a young man. Black, very dark, thin, very cute. Naked. He quickly covered up and smiled at me.
"Dit is Boomer," Azi announced. "Van der Horseman Club. Mijn broer, Eli."
"Jij bent gek!" Eli exclaimed. You're crazy! They exchanged some angry words that I didn't understand, and Azi walked out. I heard a door slam.
He spoke fairly good English. "Mijn broer thinks I am too small to find boys. Not enough big! So tonight he says he will find a boy for me with a big lul -- down there, yes? I say I don't want his help, but he goes out anyway, and now....don't be mad, you are very sexy...but..."
I finally began to figure it out. "I thought my hookup was with Azi. Is he even gay?"
"No. He has a girlfriend, so he wants me to have a boyfriend. I want a boyfriend, but my study is more important, yes?"
"So a straight guy went to the Horseman's Club to get groped by a dozen guys, all to find a hookup for his little brother? That's above and beyond the call of duty. He was only trying to help. You should apologize."
He smiled. "Mogelicht. Sorry that Azi tricked you. I will walk with you back to the train station, yes?"
"That would be great," I said, drawing him to his feet and wrapping my arms around him. "In the morning."
In case you were wondering: not nearly as big as his brother, Bratwurst at best. But very good at cuddling.
See also: A find a Boyfriend at the Horseman's Club; Eli's Dispatches from Oman; and A Jogging Date with a Somali Teenager