Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Football Player Who Got Unstuck in Time

New York, November 2000.

You often hear stories about people who get unstuck in time.

Two British ladies touring Versailles slip into the era of Louis XIV.

A man makes a wrong turn in a department store and finds himself in an earlier version of the store from the 1930s.

A man in 19th century costume falls out of the sky.

Here's a photo of  a hipster dude, wearing a t-shirt and modern sunglasses, looking tremendously out of place amid the old people in fedoras witnessing the opening of a bridge in Canada in 1941.

He's probably not unstuck in time, just unstuck. .

There are a lot of unstuck people wandering around on Christopher Street in New York.

It's not exclusively or even predominantly gay: the few gay bars and restaurants are scattered amid weird boutiques, kids' clothing stores, pet supply stores, and the Finnish Lutheran Church.

But it's where Gay Liberation began, a sacred place, a site for pilgrimages for gay people from around the world.

Especially those who have been traumatized by homophobic hatred.

Lost, lonely, confused.  Ghosts. Revenants. Time travelers.

Like the guy who was wearing only white shorts and a black Amish hat, on a cold day in October.

And the Man in Black who just appeared, walking next to me, one day.

And Carey from Tuscaloosa.

I saw him in Christopher Park, staring at the Gay Liberation Monument as if he had seen anything so strange: in his 20s, medium height, solidly built, a little nerdy, with a square face, dirty blond hair, and thick eyebrows.  He was wearing brown slacks, a red sweatshirt with giant letter A on it, and a brown fedora, and carrying an old-fashioned knapsack rather than a backpack.

First rule of living in big cities: don't stop to talk to anyone you don't know.  They will con you, or rob you, or both.

But I am particularly attracted to "lost souls," so I stopped.  "Pretty great, isn't it?"

"Murder!"  he said with a smile.  " I knew the Big Apple was up-to-date, but so out in the open and all!  You sure couldn't get away with that jazz back home."  He turned to me and held out his hand.  "Hiya, kid.  I'm Carey, Tuscaloosa U. of A.  Go Crimson Tide!"

Later I figured out that he meant the University of Alabama football team. "Boomer.  You're a long way from home."

"Don't I know it!  We're on field trip to see the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State.  I sort of got side tracked on the Staten Island Ferry.  Say, you wouldn't know any eateries around here, would ya, Jackson?  I could eat a horse, hooves and all!"

I took him to a Thai place, where he was amazed by both the food and the prices.

Carey said he had always been attracted to guys, but he wasn't out to anybody, and he would probably get married, because "that's the way we do things in the South."  He had no idea that there were books on gay topics or gay characters on tv: "we don't look at a lot of television in the South."

I took him back to my apartment -- yes, my roommate was that way, too --  and showed him my tv set and bookcase full of books on gay history and culture.

"What's Stonewall?" he asked, pulling a book off the shelf. "Stonewall Jackson?  Was he that way?"

"It's the bar across from Christopher Park, where Gay Liberation began."

He stared at me, blank, confused.

"The Stonewall Riots?  Gay Pride Day?"

He put the book down and wrapped his arms around me. "I'm not much for history --  I like the present.  Two guys together, right here, right now, that's all that counts, dig?"

Nothing spectacular about the hookup.  Very nice physique, smelled of cologne.  Uncut, average sized, complained about having to use a condom.

Then he got dressed and said "Thanks, Boomer.  It's been swell, but I'd better be getting back."  And he vanished into the night, leaving me thinking.

His slang, his costume, his lack of familiarity with tv or the basics of gay history -- was Carey unstuck in time?  Or just a clueless Southern boy?

I looked up the roster of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team in the 1930s -- yes, those records are available -- and found a William Cary Cox from Bainbridge, Georgia, who played center from 1937 to 1939.   He looked kind of like my Carey.

After college, he served in World War II, and then ran an auto dealership in Alexandria City, Alabama.  He died in 1991, survived by his wife and two children.

A life lived fully, excessively in the Straight World.

Unless he took a  "jump to the left" one day in 1939 and ended up in the West Village.

See also: My Dad's Old Navy Buddy, or His Grandson?; Cruised by a Man in Black


  1. That story kind of have me the shivers.

  2. There were actually no television in 1939, but people knew about it, and someone "unstuck in time" might imagine that the up-to-date "Big Apple" had broadcasts.

  3. It had premiered at the World's Fair, but that's about it. It hasn't yet reached critical mass.



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