Saturday, March 28, 2015

Summer 2005: Searching for Beefcake in a Slovak Water Park

One day in Levoča, Doc and some of the other faculty got saddled with the job of chaperoning 20 students on a day trip to Tatralandia, a water park about an hour's drive west of Levoča.and he invited me along.

"Couldn't we take them to a museum instead?"  I asked.  I'm not big on sliding down waterslides."

"It's got more than that. There's a Jungle Cove, a Wild West Town, an Adventure Cave."

"Like Disneyland?  Gross!  I lived in Los Angeles for 13 years, and only visited Disneyland once, and I hated it. Does a Slovak Mickey Mouse come out to shake your hand?"


"Tatralandia has something that I think you won't see in Disneyland," Doc said with a sly grin.  "A thousand Eastern European men in Speedos."

I never thought of that!  I had already gotten a glimpse of Slovakian endowments in Kosice. "Ok, I'm in."

Eastern Europeans love water parks.  There are three in Slovakia, and AquaPark Tatralandia is the biggest, probably the biggest in the world.

You go in through a Wellness Center, like a well-equipped gym with hot and cold spas, 16 steam rooms, massage, exercise equipment.  The ads showed muscular guys getting massages, but inside were mostly middle-aged women.


Next came water slides called The Galaxy, The Fire Slide, the Sun Slide, and the Splash, occupied entirely by children, while their parents, fawning heterosexual couples, lay on deck chairs at the Tropical Paradise.

"Um...hot guys in Speedos?" I asked.

"They are around.  Keep looking."

The little kids were occupied in a castle with a dozen water slides protruding from it, a Safari Adventure, and an Old West Mining Town, where you could mine for "gold" (I did that as a kid, too, at Mother Goose Land in the Quad Cities).

So far I wasn't impressed.  Lots of swimsuits, but little kids and dismally unattractive adults.

We pressed on past water slides called Amazonia and Niagara, a place where you could practice Free Falls, a Monkey Slide, an exhibition of paleolithic artifacts from a nearby museum, and lots of restaurants.

"Um..have you been here before?  Did you know about the lack of beefcake?"

Doc shrugged.  "Last year there were some muscular guys."

Then we turned onto a Sports Pool, where you could play water polo, and an entire university team was splashing around!  Gems of Eastern European manhood everywhere!



The northern part of the park was devoted to non-water sports: archery, shooting, tomahawk throwing, soccer, oversized chess.  And it was crowded with single men in their 20s.

It made sense: people in their 30s and 40s were often parents who had to supervise their kids, and by their 50s and 60s, they were ready for the Wellness Center.  But the guys at the peak of muscularity just wanted to play Sports.

While wearing Speedos.



The Ugly Guy Makeover

Wilton Manors, April 2005

When I moved to Florida in 2001, I quickly discovered that the age restrictions of West Hollywood and New York were gone. I was in my early 40s, but regularly got asked out by everyone from 18-year old college water polo players to Bermuda-shorts-wearing retirees in their 70s.

The bars were age-segregated, but that didn't stop cross-cruising.

Bill's Filling Station was usually crowded with leathermen, cowboys, and miscellaneous bears, but the occasional Cute Young Thing who came in was an immediate hit.

The Manor, a multi-level bar, restaurant, and nightclub with flashing lights, throbbing music, and minor celebrities semi-naked, was too big and brash for me.  But when Yuri dragged me there, the Cute Young Things pushed and shoved to be the one who asked me to dance first.

So I was surprised to see the Ugly Guy standing by himself, propping up a wall by the bar.  Completely ignored by the Cute Young Things.

"See that guy in the corner?" I asked Yuri.  "I'm going home with him tonight."

"What?  There are a million hot guys here.  Why do you want the nerd?  He's not even your type."

True, he didn't have any of characteristics I find attractive -- he wasn't short, husky, muscular, or dark skinned.  But then, he didn't have any of my  Top 10 Turn-Off, either.  He wasn't too tall or too skinny; he wasn't wearing jewelry or sashaying around the room.

"He's lonely.  I like lost souls.  Like you, for instance.  When we met, you were going around saying 'I'm straight.'"

"Huh, huh!  I was not ever lost!  Just stupid!"

We inched forward to get a better look.  Then we discovered why he was getting Attitude.  He was ugly.

His head was slightly asymmetrical, his eyes were slightly askew, and he had acne scars.  Not attractive.

If he had a prominent bulge, a fabulous wardrobe, or a bubbly personality, the lack of handsomeness would not have been an issue.  I knew a perfectly hideous guy in West Hollywood who dated a different guy every week, simply because he was knew how to work a room.

But the Ugly Guy was wearing a plaid shirt with a white undershirt, he hadn't bothered to wear tight jeans or stuff a sock down there, and he didn't make eye contact with anyone.

Yuri and I approached and introduced ourselves to the Ugly Guy.  It was hard breaking through his shell -- he was rather bitter, and complained about everything -- but eventually we discovered that his name was Bob, he managed a supermarket, and he lived in Davie, Florida, about 15 miles away.

He was leery about going home with us -- "Oh, I'm nothing special.  You'll be disappointed."  But around last call he finally consented.

It was fun leaving with him, watching the jaws of the Cute Young Things drop in surprise as they scrambled to figure out what Bob had that they didn't.

In the morning, over breakfast, Bob confessed, "I've been coming to Wilton Manors every Saturday night for two years, and no one ever talks to me.  I think most gay guys are jerks."

"It's just a highly specialized environment, with its own rules.  You have to learn to play the game, accentuate your best features."

"It's like a job interview," Yuri told him.  "There are lots of guys applying, so you have to find some way to stand out."

"With what?  Nearly everybody there has more muscles than me, and better clothes.  And I'm Princess Tiny..."

"So work out, go shopping, and..."

"And pretend," Yuri said.  "You act like you're a horse, and they will be so horny, when they find out, they don't even care.  Did Boomer care, last night?"

"Yuri is an expert on male endowments," I said.  "If he doesn't know, it's not worth knowing."

We spent the next week giving the Ugly Guy a makeover -- everything from his name - it was now Robert -- to his haircut and outfits.  On Saturday we went back to the Manor.  Robert was wearing a black t-shirt emblazoned with a rainbow flag, tight jeans enhanced with a balled-up sock, and a gold chain.  Yuri led him by the hand onto the dance floor, and then sent him out to cruise, with the advice "Act like you're a horse!"

It worked.  Within ten minutes, Robert was chatting up a Cute Young Thing, and within an hour he was invited home.


It worked on Sunday at Bill's Filling Station, too.

And Tuesday at the Boardwalk.

And Thursday at the Depot.

Before I knew what was happening, Robert had a full social calendar.  Too full.  First he was too busy to have dinner.  Then he stopped responding to my emails.

A few weeks later, Yuri and I ran into him at the Manor.  He gave us Attitude.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Yuri and my Boyfriend at a Hurricane Party

Wilton Manors, September 2004

Readers have been asking me about the custom of "sharing" one's boyfriends with friends, especially roommates, which was common in Florida and West Hollywood.  Didn't it provoke hurt feelings, if the boyfriend was more into you?  Wasn't there a danger of breaking up the relationship?

Not very often.  There were unspoken protocols in place.

1. You never "shared" your roommate's casual dates, only committed, trusting partners.

2. You never met with the boyfriend without the roommate present.  Ever.

3. If it was obvious that the boyfriend liked you a little "too much," then you never asked or offered to share again.

4. After a breakup, you could only date the ex-boyfriend with explicit consent of the roommate.


It was mostly foolproof. I can only recall once, in 20 years in West Hollywood, New York, and Florida, when it backfired.

Bodybuilder who looks like Stan
September 4nd, 2004: Hurricane Frances was about to make landfall in Florida, so we planned a Hurricane Party: you buy a lot of food, bottled water, and gas for your generator, invite some friends, and hunker down.

Yuri had just broken up with Jim the Baseball Player, so he came alone.

Barney invited his current boyfriend, a fellow bodybuilding enthusiast named Stan.

 I invited Randy, a cute 30-ish guy with red hair and a nice physique, who worked in a drug store.  We had only been out on one date, but I figured this would give us plenty of time to get to know each other.






Day #1:
This was my first big hurricane since I got to Florida, and we lived just outside the evacuation zone.  It was as frightening and spectacular as I had anticipated.

The power went out after less than an hour, and we turned on the generator.

We played Trivial Pursuit, talked about our coming out experiences, and had pie.

When it was time for bed, Barney and Stan invited Yuri to join them, leaving me and Randy alone.  It was only our second time together.

Randy lookalike with a friend
Day #2:
The real Hurricane Party began: a week of power outages and cleanup, and three days of "stay inside your home orders."

We cleaned up the debris, played croquet, watched a DVD, exercised on Barney's bike in shifts, worked on our computers.   I noticed Randy giving Yuri weird, hungry looks, but didn't think anything of it -- everybody gave Yuri hungry looks. He was quite attractive.

Dinner was steak and corn grilled in the backyard, another salad, and cookies.  Then we played a few rounds of Gay Monopoly.

When it was time for bed, I invited Yuri to join us.
"Are you sure?" he asked.  "You have only been boyfriends for a little time."
"It will be fine," I said.

But it wasn't exactly fine: Randy completely ignored me to lavish attention upon Yuri, trying every act in The Joy of Gay Sex and a few others of his own design.  Then he fell asleep with his arms around Yuri, and nearly kicked me off the bed.

Day #3:
Another DVD, more exercise, reading, and nude sunbathing.  Randy positioned himself to set next to Yuri at every activity.

In the afternoon, I was getting cabin fever, so I walked around for awhile, looking at the downed trees, the damaged buildings, and the traffic lights that were flashing randomly.  When I returned, Yuri pulled me aside;

"Boomer, before I was in my room reading a book, and Randy comes in and wants to be with me.  I said he's your boyfriend, he should be with you, but he grabbed me anyway! I push him away, and he gets mad!"

When I confronted Randy, he apologized.  "I don't know the rules.  I figured, we were together last night, why couldn't we be together this afternoon?"

"Because I wasn't around!"

Dinner was cold fried chicken, warmed up on the grill, and the last of the milk.

In the evening, the generator had run out of gas, so we lit candles.  We played Naked Twister, and everyone got to grab everyone else.  But Randy was interested only in Yuri.

At bedtime, I expected Barney and Stan to invite Yuri into their room again, but they went off alone (later I discovered that Randy had been cruising Stan when Barney wasn't around).

The three of us were alone in the living room.  Randy looked at me hopefully.

"I'm really tired," Yuri said, trying to defuse the situation.  "I will sleep alone tonight."

"Don't be silly.  You can come to our room, it's no problem."

Yuri was very careful to pay a lot of attention to me, and all but ignore Randy, who became more and more agitated.  But what could he do?  When it came time to fall asleep, he said "It's too hot in here.  I'm sleeping on the couch!" and left.

Day #4:

The power was still out, but the "stay inside" order was lifted, so we all drove up to open Barney's gym and have a decent workout.  Except Randy: he made an excuse and went home.

And didn't return any of my phone calls or emails.

I'm pretty sure he dumped me because of Yuri.

My Grandmother's Gay Artist Friends


Santa Fe, New Mexico, July 2004

My Grandma Davis was an ultra-devout fundamentalist Christian who always carried her worn study Bible, corresponded with a dozen missionaries, and got angry at the "hippies and radicals" she saw on tv.  Yet she seemed remarkably nonchalant about my junior high boyfriend Dan, and when we broke up, she found a new boy for me to "go around with."

When she died, during my sophomore year in high school, we had to sort through her  possessions.  I found an old trunk in the attic with surprising evidence that she had encountered gay people before.  It contained:

1. Jazz records: Hoagy Carmichael, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Bix Beiderbecke.

2. Some paintings: a young woman with long red hair, wearing a blue evening gown and pearls; a still life; an old-fashioned cottage with a huge back yard covered with flowers, labeled "Devon."  When was Grandma Davis in Devon?



3. Some photographs of men, hugging, holding each other. One in a swimsuit, with a smooth, hard chest, standing on a beach, his arm around a taller, blond guy in a U.S. navy uniform (top photo).

Another of two very muscular, shirtless guys, one in white chinos, the other in overalls, apparently holding hands. (I asked for and got to keep them both.)

Dad could explain the music: "When your Grandma was younger, she was big into jazz.  Always going to concerts."

And the paintings:  "Right after high school, must have been in 1921, she went down to Indianapolis to art school.  Then, for some reason, she suddenly dropped out and went back home to Rome City.  That summer, 1923, she got saved at a Nazarene camp meeting, and married your Grandpa. "





I wondered what compelled a young woman to abandon her studies, her art, and her friends, shut them all away in a trunk in the attic for 52 years?

Did it have something to do with the hugging men?

Dad didn't know who they were.

A couple of years later, when I was in college, her younger brother Harry came to Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Nora's house.  He was only ten when Grandma went to Indianapolis, but he remembered that their parents disapproved:




"This was during Prohibition, and Gracie and her friends went wild, with hooch and jitterbugging -- two things Nazarenes hate most.  It makes sense that she would want to hide away memories of her old, sinful life after she converted."

"But...who were the hugging men?"  I showed him the pictures.

"This one looks like a fellow she knew from art school, Carl something or other.  She brought him up to Rome City a couple of times. The others are probably his friends.  Oscar, maybe. I remember one time they all went skinnydipping up at Indiana Dunes, and got arrested, and Pop told her not to associate with such 'vulgarians' again, but of course she didn't listen."

Vulgarians?  Code for "gay"?  I looked in a directory of Indiana artists, but didn't find any Carl or Oscar from Indianapolis who was the right age.




Wood Woolsey
Then in 2004, I was visiting Larry in New Mexico, and I stumbled upon the name of regional artist Wood Woolsey (1899-1970).  He lived in Indianapolis from 1921 to 1927, and he studied at the John Herron Art Institute at the same time as Gracie.

He had a younger brother, Carl, also an artist, who lived with him.  My grand-uncle must have mixed the names up.

Wood Woolsey never married.  Could he have been gay?

Grandma Davis at the start of her life, skinnydipping with some gay guys!

Did finding out cause her skittish retreat into fundamentalist Christianity?

Or did she have only warm memories of her gay friends?  There's also evidence that she may have married a gay man.  And that fifty years later, when her 13-year old grandson began talking about boys he liked, she understood, on some level, and advised "You should find a nice Christian boy."  And when he broke up, she found him another boy to "go around with."

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Surprise in Comic Book Guy's Bedroom

Wilton Manors, April 2004

I like lost souls: shy, uncertain, newly-out.  I like to draw them out of their shell, show them the sights and sounds of the gay community, find the jewel in the rough.

Of course, sometimes it backfires, like with the Ugly Guy Makeover.  And Comic Book Guy.

I met him through a mutual friend in April 2004, a couple of weeks after the Worst Date in Florida History.  He did not look like Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons -- he was in his 30s, a little taller than me, with an athletic build, a hairy chest, wavy red hair, and a beard that for some reason got shaved off between our first and second dates.

Definitely a lost soul -- cute, but with passions guaranteed to turn off the horniest Cute Young Thing at the Manor.

1. Family.  Comic Book Guy was an an actual Florida native -- he had parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews, nieces, and a 100-year old grandmother, all within a 20-mile drive.  In fact, 50% of his conversation involved an upcoming birthday party, graduation, recital, play, or something for some relative.

2. The other 50% of his conversation involved comic books: sizes, shapes, fine vs. near fine, the penciling styles of obscure artists, plot inconsistencies, anachronisms, crossovers.

 I read a few comic book titles -- some Ducks, an occasional Archie -- but I hadn't paid attention to the Marvel and DC multiverses for years.  It was...complex.  Infinite Earths, the Death of Batman, the rebirth of the Silver Surfer, The Avengers, the Justice League, crossovers, reboots...my head was spinning.

 Naturally, I accepted his invitation to the premiere of The Punisher, although I had never heard of the character.

Date #1:  The Punisher, then Chinese take out and back to his apartment in Oakland Park.

Comic Book Guy showed me his collection of comic books and memorabilia, including the letter he received from Stan Lee of Marvel as a teenager, when he complained about a storyline with the Hulk being nearly raped by two flamboyant gay stereotypes.  The notoriously homophobic Lee laughed it off.

We sat on the couch and listened to music -- yes, they were torch songs -- and kissed and groped.

Then abruptly, Comic Book Guy stood.  "Well, it's late.  Thanks for a nice evening.  G'night."  He practically pushed me out the door.

I gaped in surprise.  In Florida, you always engaged in physical intimacies on the first date. Occasionally a guy might want to "take it slow," but that required an apology, an explanation, and no kissing and groping. 

So I chalked Comic Book Guy down as "not interested."  But he called me the next day and asked me out again.

"Maybe his lover is out of town," my housemate Barney told me.  "He's waiting for him to get back, so you can 'share.'"

"No -- he wouldn't be kissing and groping me if he was waiting for a lover to come back."

"Maybe he didn't clean his bedroom," Yuri suggested.

"Well-- maybe.  But the rest of his house was spotless."

Date #2:  Indian food, followed by dancing at the Manor, then back to his apartment for more torch songs.  More kissing and groping.  I started undressing Comic Book Guy on the couch, but he moved my hand away. "Well, it's late.  Thanks for a nice evening.  G'night."

Wait -- you definitely always had physical intimacies on the second date.  I couldn't even think of an excuse not to.

"All I can think of," Barney said, "Is that he's a pre-op transsexual who doesn't want you to know that he's still got a vagina." (The term transgender was not yet common.)

"Hmm -- wouldn't you discuss that before the first date?"

"You should, of course.  But sometimes people don't."

Date #3:  Looking at cute guys at the beach, followed by a visit to a comic book store, an antique shop to find a gift for his brother's birthday, and dinner at the Greek Islands Taverna.

"I met a transsexual guy the other day," I told Comic Book Guy.  "Born female.  He was taking hormones to lower his voice, but he still had his female sex organs.  Very nice guy, very hot."

"I don't get transsexuals," he said.  "I mean, it's ok if that's your thing, but I'm a man who's into men."

Ok, not transgender.  Then why was he keeping me out of his bedroom?

Back to his apartment to watch The X-Men on DVD.  More kissing and groping!

It was time to push the issue.

"I'm too tired to drive all the way home," I said.  "I'd better spend the night."

Comic Book Guy looked doubtful.  "Well...I can set you up on the couch."

"Come on -- this is our third date.  You definitely, always, absolutely get into the bedroom by the third date.  Isn't it about time?"

"Well--ok.  Let's go."

He took me into his bedroom.  It was spotless.  But the air conditioner was booming at full force.  It must have been 50 degrees.

"I like it cold to sleep," he explained.  Then he turned on a cd player full of torch songs.

"Cold and noisy?" I asked.

"I can't sleep without music playing."

"Great -- always a good idea to get depressed before you drift off to sleep."

Then he turned off all of the lights.  With his room heavily curtained, it was black.  I could see nothing at all.

I hate utter darkness!  It makes me think that I'm blind!

"Um..couldn't we have a night light? What if I need to go to the bathroom?"

"Oh, no, I can't sleep unless the room is completely dark!"

"This is definitely not going to work!", I thought.

I could hear him taking off his clothes in the darkness.  Then he was taking off my clothes.  I hugged him -- more for warmth than for affection -- and we fell onto the bed.  He drew a thin sheet over us.

"Would you please turn down the air conditioner?  I'm freezing!"

"No -- I can't sleep with it hot."


"Then turn off the music!  It's depressing!"

"No -- I can't sleep without it."

"Well, can you at least turn on a light so I can see you?"

"No -- I like the dark."

I might as well make the best of it.  Sighing, I pulled down his shorts and reached for..

Something tiny.  Microscopic.  The smallest I have ever seen -- or rather, felt.

That was our last date.

I feel bad: Comic Book Guy probably thinks I dropped him because his size was inadequate.

No, it was because of his cold, dark, noisy room.

But wait a minute -- he never called me back.

Maybe my size was inadequate for him!

See also: The One Time a Guy Has Criticized My Size; The Darkroom Bait and Switch.

The Worst Date in Florida History

Boynton Beach, Florida, March 2004

My day with Ryan in the spring of 1992 has won awards as the Worst Date in West Hollywood History because everything that could go wrong, did.  But 12 years later, I had the worst date in Florida history.  Before the evening was over, I hated the guy.   And his house. And his crazy housemates.

I should have known Andre would be a problem, when we met at the Filling Station: he was wearing a leather vest and a shirt that said "Flowah Powah."   Dropping the r's?  Really?

But he was hot, with 3 of the 5 characteristics that I find attractive: dark-skinned, shorter than me, and muscular running to husky. Most likely he also had #4, gifted beneath the belt (when I visited South Africa, I met someone with all 5).

We exchanged email addresses, and a few days later he invited me to dinner at his house on Saturday night.

Things went downhill from there.



1. He lived a 45-minute drive away. In West Hollywood we wouldn't date anyone who lived more than 10 minutes away.

2. In a swamp.  To get to his house, you had to walk across a bridge over a muddy moat occupied by an alligator.  

3. His house was in the midst of a major renovation.  The living room and kitchen had a floor, but you had to walk on bare boards across mud to get to the bedrooms and bathrooms.  I saw mice, frogs, and a garter snake.  Probably food for the alligators.

4. No one understands the phrase "I don't drink," so when I'm invited to dinner, I always bring 2 cans of Diet Coke.  This time I forgot. Andre had only beer, wine, and whiskey.  I had to drink brackish, bad-tasting tap water.

5. He said "I'm quite a cook.  I love experimenting with new dishes."  And indeed, he had a whole bookcase full of cookbooks.  But he served some tasteless lentil-squash horror over brown rice.  And no dessert.

By this point, I was thinking "You'd better be spectacular beneath the belt!"

6. One of his housemates joined us for dinner: a tall, thin, swishy queen from Alabama named Beau.  Not a problem per se, except in Florida it was customary to invite your roommate to "share" your date, and impolite for the date to say "no."  

7. During dinner, they both drank quite a lot and got very tipsy.  Drinking is one of my Top 10 Turn-Offs.

8. While we listened to slow, lugubrious, depressing torch songs.  One after the other. Like Judy Garland:

The night is bitter, 
The stars have lost their glitter, 
The winds grow colder 
And suddenly you're older, 
And all because of the man that got away. 

"Do you have anything lively?"  I asked.  "Energetic, upbeat, non funereal, from this century?"

Andre frowned.  "I don't know -- I'll check."  He sifted through his voluminous collection of CDs, and finally came up with one lively track.  Barbra Streisand singing "Lucky."  Beau lip-synched and acted out the moves.

9. After dinner, we sat on the couch, with more torch songs playing in the background.  Beau put on a drag outfit and lip-synched to Avril Lavigne's "Happy Ending" (which isn't about a happy ending), before saying "Sorry, can't stick around to play, girls.  The night awaits!" and flouncing out.

10. "Want to do some crystal?"  Andre asked.

No!  

"Coke?"

I hate drugs even more than drinking!  You'd better be phenomenal beneath the belt!

11. Finally Andre led me back across the bare boards to his bedroom.  I hid my wallet so it wouldn't vanish, like I always do when visiting someone for the first time.  We started kissing and groping.

Then we heard a door slam.  "Oh, that's my other housemate, Ricky.  He's still in high school, but he stays here sometimes."

"High school?" I repeated in surprise.  "How old is he?"

"Eighteen -- he just had his birthday.  We gave him a spanking.  You should have seen him when he was sixteen, though.  The cutest little hustler you'd ever want to meet. "

Suddenly the teenager was at the door.  He was Hispanic, light skinned, with three earrings in one ear and none in the other.  Wearing a Flowah Powah t-shirt.

"Whew, Daddy got it going on!" Ricky exclaimed, looking at me. "Hey, how you like these guns?"  He ripped off his t-shirt and flexed.

"Very impressive," I admitted.

"You can touch them if you want.  Or touch something else, even better." He flounced onto the bed.

12. "You into sharing, Papi?"

"It's just our first date!"

"Whatever.  Got any crystal?"

"In the chest in the living room," Andre said.  "And turn on some Judy while you're out there."

That was the last straw.  I had to get out of this mad house!

I made an excuse, pieced my way past the mud, mice, alligators, torch songs, drag queens, underaged hustlers, and miscellaneous drugs, and zoomed as fast as I could back to the normalcy of Wilton Manors.

13. I left my wallet in Andre's house.

See also: Yuri's Revenge: The Cowboy with the Kovbasa+

Kissing A Boy Under the Mistletoe

Rock Island, December 1977

In junior high, Brian was on the outer edges of my social circle, really one of my brother's friends..  We never hung out.  And when I was in high school, he moved with his parents to Bettendorf, across the river, so I rarely saw him at all.  Yet he was there during some of the most memorable moments of my childhood (I haven't posted about all of them yet):

The first time I hear about gay people on tv.
The secret message at Washington Junior High
Philippine Tubes
The drawing in the basement
And "How Deep is Your Love"

On December 23, 1977, when I was in twelfth grade (a month or so after the Black Student Union Dance and some six months before I Figured It Out), my brother Ken hosted a party for his Rocky High crowd.  He draped our basement rec room with tinsel and offered guests pingpong, foosball, Happy Joes pizzas, Christmas presents, and disco music (but no dancing -- against Nazarene rules). 

I played pingpong for awhile with a stocky, dull-eyed girl named Anne.  Then Brian arrived with a friend from Bettendorf (across the river in Iowa).  He was thin and taut with a misty smile, his hair much darker than in grade school.  He was wearing a green sweater awash with little red bells, and tight faded jeans that bulged like a teen idol’s. 

 After they said "H'lo" to Ken, they started mingling, and when they got to the mistletoe, I said "Hey, everybody, my first victims!" and kissed them both on the cheek.  Everybody laughed.


Later I ran into Brian alone, and sat with him on the couch. "Cool joke!" he said.

We about talked his classes, AP English and German.  We talked about my college applications.  We talked about Pajama Game and Ragtime, Happy Days and The Great Gatsby, and a hundred other things I couldn’t recall later. We played pingpong and foosball.  We went outside to look at the stars. Then, because his friend didn’t want to leave yet, I drove him through the black, bitter cold night to his house in Bettendorf.

We parked against the hard-packed snow and sat for awhile in the darkness. In a stumbling goodbye, I said “Just because you live in Bettendorf doesn’t mean we can’t get together once in a while.” And then I reached over and hugged Brian. I felt his slim taut chest, looked down at his belt buckle glimmering in the darkness. His breath smelled of cough drops. I hugged him tighter. 

“Sure, I’ll call you,” Brian said. He disentangled himself and crunched across the ice to his back door.

When I got home and went back downstairs to the party, Ken immediately tromped over. “You’re a regular Fonzie!” he exclaimed. “When’s the big date?”

“Are you calling me a Swish?” I exclaimed. “I was just giving him a ride home.  No way am I a Swish!” (That was our high school word for "gay.")

Ken rolled his eyes. “Cool it, Captain Spazz! Everything isn’t always about Swishes. I saw you cozying up to Anne before.”

“Oh. . .Anne’s not my type. I don’t date 10th graders.”

Suddenly very tired, I went upstairs to our attic room and crawled into bed and turned on my clock radio.  The #1 song of the season was playing, "How Deep is Your Love," by the BeeGees:

Cause we're living in a world of fools, breaking us down
When they all should let us be.  We belong to you and me

I lay in bed, my thoughts blurred, varying between "I wonder if he'll call?" and "No way am I a Swish!"

Brian didn't call.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Janik, the Frisian Bodybuilder at the Horseman's Club

Amsterdam, June 2003

Just after getting my Ph.D., when I was living in Florida (2001-2005), I tried to go to Europe every year at Christmas or spring break: a weekend in Amsterdam, a night in Brussels,two or  three days in Paris, and then home. I always liked to be in Amsterdam on Sunday nights, when the Horsemen met at the Argos Bar on Warmoesstraat.   It was a social club -- no sex allowed -- but members all had to be nude. Their guests had the option of nudity or underwear.

The membership fee varied depending on your size (yes, they took measurements).  "A" got in free.

So the majority of men drinking beer, playing pool, and cruising had the endowments of porn stars.


It was quite a nice place for sightseeing, and sometimes guys would invite you back to their house.

In the spring of 2003, I met Janik, smooth, muscular, balding, in his early 40s, in the A category and then some, as big as my Cousin Joe, or bigger  (#9 on my Sausage List).

He was pleasant to talk to -- even after I admitted to being American (usually I claimed to be Canadian to avoid being asked why Americans were such idiots).  And at the end of the evening, he invited me back to his place -- in Heerenveen.



Heerenveen, Netherlands, Summer 2003

90 miles north of Amsterdam, 2 hours by train, in Friesland (where most people speak Frisian, not Dutch).  Janik had a tiny apartment on the same block as the "Dirty Duck Coffeeshop" and a heterosexual dance club called "Party Cafe Salsa," which made it quite noisy at night.

Still, we had a very nice evening, and in the morning Janik said, "Stay here with me.  We can be lovers. I can get you a work visa."

Living in Europe with a muscle god in the A+++ category vs. teaching sociology in Florida?  It sounded like a good deal.

So I cancelled my day in Brussels.

On Monday morning Janik went to work, leaving me to go sightseeing in Heerenveen.  Unfortunately, there was not much to do except walk around and look at the houses and canals.  I ended up buying a Frisian phrase book and a depressing French novel about Tintin's sexual problems.  Janik came home, and we went to the gym, then got Japanese take out and watched soccer on tv.

I hate sports and Japanese food.

But we had a very nice evening later, so I cancelled my train to Paris.

On Tuesday, while he was at work, I took the train into Groningen and saw the Martinitoren (St. Martin's Tower) and the Netherlands Stripmuseum (a museum of cartoon and comic strip art).  But the train was so crowded with rush hour traffic that I didn't get home until 7:30 pm.  We got Indonesian take out and watched The Simpsons dubbed in Dutch.

I would have to learn both Dutch and Frisian to live here.  I like languages, but I'd really rather learn something that would be useful outside of Friesland.

On Wednesday, I signed up for a Frisian class and then went out looking for jobs on my own.  The manager of the only gay bar in Heerenveen, Le Clochard, said he could use a waiter who spoke English and German.  That night Janik and I went to the gym, then got Japanese take out and watched soccer on tv.

I still hate sports and Japanese food.

Waiting tables and watching sports with a muscle god in the A+++ category, or teaching sociology in Florida?

On Thursday I took the train to Amsterdam and got on my 5:00 pm flight back home.

See also: The Surprise in the Dutch Afro-Caribbean Horseman's Bedroom

The Gay Psychic Angel

Wilton Manors, October 2002

I was teaching Sociology of Religion at Florida Atlantic University, and I invited representatives from various religious groups to speak to the class: Pentecostal, Eastern Orthodox, Buddhist, Muslim, Neo-Pagan.  For the New Age, I contacted the Center for Spiritual Living in Fort Lauderdale, and they sent me Raphael.

At least, I assumed that's why he and a friend appeared at my house one evening, and said "Hi, I'm Raphael, and this is Jordan. You called for us?"

I stood in the doorway, speechless, stunned.  Raphael  was a Cute Young Thing, in his twenties, a few inches shorter than me, with a nondescript physique but a face I can only describe as angelic: bright, shining, ever-smiling, mesmerizing.  I can't find any pictures of men that even approach his brilliance.  Jordan was a Cute Young Thing, too, but I can't remember what he looked like.

Finally I managed to stammer, "Hi...hi, nice to meet you."  I held out my hand.  Only Jordan shook it.

I invited them into the house and offered them sodas.  Raphael asked for his with a straw.

Then I noticed that his arms were hanging down limply from his shoulders.  They were paralyzed!

Jordan chose an easy chair and buried himself in a Tom Clancy novel.  Raphael began talking, I assumed about the tenets of his religion.  It was standard New Age stuff --  matter is an illusion; all of life is spirit; we have lived many times before.  But I was fascinated.

"Was I gay in all of my past lives?" I asked, surprised that I had come out so easily.

"Probably not. We're all gay, straight, male, female.  But we're surrounded by the same people in every life, Want me to check?"

"Sure."

"Press my hand against your Svadhishthana Chakra -- your abdomen."

I lifted up my shirt, took his hand -- surprisingly, it was warm, not cold -- and pressed it flat against my abs.  "This guy just wants to feel me up," I thought.

"No, that would be the Muladhara Chakra," Raphael said with a bright laugh.  "Your crotch."

Had he just read my mind?

"What does touching that tell you?" I asked.  "How much I like you?"

Raphael began to blush a little.  "Ok, I've got something.  I see you as an old man.  Very old, wearing overalls.  You are fascinated by a new invention."  He paused.  "Um...called a magic lantern.  I never heard of that -- do  you know what it is?"

"Early films in the 1890s were called Magic Lantern Shows," I said, shocked.  But then my inner skeptic kicked in.  There were posters from old movies on the wall -- obviously he surmised that I was a movie buff in this life.



I didn't care.  Raphael was the hottest guy I had ever seen!  I couldn't take my eyes off him.  I had to get him alone, away from the stern, Tom Clancy-reading Jordan.  "Can you read my future, too?"

"Yes, but for that, I need to touch an object of yours, something that you've handled often."

"Sure...um...let's go into the bedroom, and I'll find something."

I was still holding his hand.  I led him into the bedroom, and pressed his hand around the Kensington Runestone that I got in Alexandria, Minnesota when I was a kid.  "I see that you travel quite a bit," Raphael said.  "I've never been outside the country."

"Someday I'll take you to Paris," I said.  Then I felt my face burning.  I had said too much.

"You're going to Paris yourself in a few months, I see."

"Yeah, every year if I can."

"You'll get an opportunity there.  A job offer, maybe. But don't take it."

"Are you kidding?  I'd give anything to live in Europe!"

"No, you won't be happy there.  We need you here in America."

"We?"  It was time to make my move!  I carefully removed the Kensington Runestone from his hand, then wrapped my arm around him and kissed him.

It was a warm, innocent kiss, like they show on first dates on tv.  But it didn't stay innocent.  I became more aggressive, pressing our bodies together, pressing my hand against his crotch, unbuttoning his shirt...

His body stiffened, and he pulled his face away. "Wait, wait," he murmured.  "It's too soon."

"Oh...sorry," I said, heavily embarrassed.  "I thought..."

"It's ok."  I helped him button his shirt back up.   "We'll see each other again.  Let me give you my phone number.  Do you have a piece of paper?"

I put a scrap of paper on the desk, and watched while he took a pen in his mouth and deftly wrote down the number.

Then he kissed me again, briefly, and yelled out to Jordan that it was time to go.

Alone in my room, staring at the phone number, I started thinking.

1. I was interested in the paranormal, but did I really want to date a professional psychic?

2. Raphael's arms didn't work.  He must do things with his mouth and his feet, with Jordan as supplemental assistance.  I tried to imagine how he dressed, ate, brushed his teeth, went to the bathroom.  And as the boyfriend, the supplemental assistance would be my job.


I didn't call the next day.  Or the next.  Or the next.  The phone number stayed on my desk, staring up at me.

On Sunday, I planned to go to the services at the Center for Spiritual Living and surprise Raphael.  But I lost my nerve.

The phone number stayed on my desk for a long time.  Then one day it was gone.  Maybe it evaporated.

It's been 12 years, and I'm still kicking myself for letting the Psychic get away.

Well, maybe in my next life.

By the way:

1. Raphael was right: a few months later, in Europe, I met a guy at the Horseman's Club who invited me to stay.  Except it was a small town in the Netherlands, not Paris.

2. I didn't realize it until later, but Yuri was in his room the whole time, and he didn't hear a thing.

3. In the Catholic Church, the archangel Raphael is the patron of the handicapped.  His feast day is October 24th.  Just before Halloween.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Dad STILL Hasn't Figured It Out

Indianapolis, June 2002

People keep asking, and I keep asking myself, how could my parents and relatives and friends have had no clue?   How could I have had no clue, until the summer after my high school graduation?

I mean, it seems pretty obvious, after the Book of Cute boys, the bodybuilder on the beach, marrying the boy next door, crying because the President's not cute, my date with a boy, Bill and I becoming a Mama and a Papa, wanting to see muscles at A Little Bit O'Heaven, asking for a naked man for Christmas,  planning to escape to Arabia with Dan, having a crush on Giovanni, dancing with a Swedish leatherboy, deciding to go to college to be with Verne...and on and on.



How many clues do you need?

But the 1960s and 1970s were different. Gay people were never, ever mentioned.  Most heterosexuals were not aware that gay people existed, and those who did thought only of drag queens. If you didn't wear dresses and sashay and call people "Mary," then you were heterosexual, and the things you did were, by definition, things that heterosexuals did.

I didn't wear dresses, sashay, or call people "Mary."  Therefore:

My interest in guys was merely buddy-bonding, or so trivial as to go unnoticed.

My lack of interest in girls was merely shyness.

Or I was just being a smart aleck, trying to stir things up by pretending to not be interested.

And by the way, those drag queens were only about dresses and makeup.  They had no erotic or romantic interest in men.  Same-sex desire absolutely did not exist.

So even though I was quite aware of my interest in men, even though I was intimate with two guys during high school, I never connected that interest to "gay."

Even when they figured it out, my parents and relatives still thought of me as heterosexual most of the time.  They had to make a mental shift, add some information, to conclude "Right, Boomer will be bringing a guy to the party," or "No, Boomer won't want to be fixed up with the boss's daughter."  Sometimes it didn't work.

Get this:

Summer 1989: Back from my semester in Turkey, I go home to Rock Island to visit my parents and brother and sister. At JR's, Rock Island's gay bar, I run into a woman I knew in high school.  Of course, I didn't know then that she was a lesbian!  We make plans to have dinner tomorrow night.

I go home, and tell my mother about my dinner plans.  Later, I overhear her telling my father: "Boomer is wild about a girl he met today."

Wild about a girl? Really?  

I've just started dating Lee, so they've heard me praising him in about 6 of our weekly phone conversations.  Before that, they heard about Alan, Raoul, my celebrity boyfriend, Jimmy the Bodybuilder on Crutches, my date with Richard Dreyfuss, the Bulgarian bodybuilder who was jealous of Michael J. Fox.  They've met Fred, Brian, the Priest with the Pushy Mom, and Viju.

Did she just forget?

It gets worse:

Summer 2002: Mom and Dad have retired and moved to Franklin, Indiana.  I fly up from Florida to visit them.  It's a nice, bright, sunny day, and my father suggests that I go jogging in the park, where I can "look at all the pretty girls."

WTF?

I should say something like: Dad, I'm 41 years old.  I haven't been on a date with a girl, or even mentioned a girl, for over twenty years.  But I've said a lot about Jaan, Yuri, Blake the Opera Buff, my date with Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Hottest Guy in the World, Matt the Security Guard.  I'm living in Florida with 2 guys.  Doesn't that give you a clue?

But instead I just repeat, weakly, "Look at all the pretty girls..."

"Well, sure!"

I begin to understand.   He made an instant, instinctive connection:  Boomer is a guy, and all guys like to look at pretty girls.

He could have thought for a moment, and reasoned: no, wait, Boomer would rather look at guys.  But he didn't think, heteronormativity was just too strong, and 41 years of evidence vanished in the face of an "obvious" truth.

The Most Homophobic Statement I Have Ever Heard




Not Ralph in underwear
Rock Island, December 2001

I've heard lots of homophobic statements over the years, ranging from the ignorant (mostly from "friends"):

"Are you the boy or girl in your relationship?"
"What do they think causes it now?"
"If you've never been with a woman, how do you know you like men better?"

To the raving (mostly from preachers).

"The homa-sekshul would just as soon kill you as look at you."
"No nation that has tolerated homa-sekshuls has ever survived!"
"Homa-sekshuls are possessed by the Spirit of Evil!"

But the most homophobic statement I ever heard consisted of five little words:

"Oh, you mean that place."



Mr. Manary was a young, hip teacher at Rocky High, who insisted that students call him by his first name, Ralph.  I never actually saw him in his underwear, but close scrutiny during lectures suggested that he looked like this: tall, thin, clean-cut, tight-muscled, and bulging.

During my sophomore year, I had Ralph for American History.  He wrote a book on the Quad Cities, so he had us investigate Rock Island during the 1920s, and learn about gangster John Looney and jazz musician Bix Beiderbecke.

When we got to the 1950s, we read some writers of the Beat Generation, including Allen Ginsberg's "Supermarket in California", and we watched the classic anti-Communist allegory I Married a Monster from Outer Space.  

Have you ever heard of anyone so cool?

During my junior year, I had him for political science.  We took a field trip to the courthouse to see a real criminal trial,  about a shooting that took place in the Hawaiian Lounge, Rock Island's gay bar.  One of the witnesses, the "swish  on the double date", helped me figure out what gay meant.



Eugene McCarthy
When we held a mock 1976 presidential election.  Jimmy Carter won by a landslide, but Ralph came out in favor of the liberal independent, Minnesota senator Eugene McCarthy.

Ralph was the first person to encourage me to think about college.  He even got the head of the history department at his alma mater, St. Olaf College, to invite me to apply.

During my senior year, I had him for AP American History.  Sometimes he held study sessions at his house, and his wife made cookies.

We had to parse Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, about the oppression of the Native Americans.

Fast forward 20 years, to January 2002: I was living in Florida but back in Rock Island for the holidays.  I contacted Ralph, the local history expert.



Ralph's house
Now in his mid-50s, he was still teaching at Rocky High, still living in that small two-story house on 7th Avenue, with a white picket fence and an old-fashioned gas streetlamp.

We talked about Rock Island history:  scandals and floods and riots.  Local celebrities.  Iconic businesses.

Then: "What can you tell me about the Hawaiian Lounge? It was a Rock Island institution, and then suddenly it was gone, and JR's took its place.  Do you know how and when it closed?"

His eyes flashed.  "What lounge, now?"

 "You know, the Hawaiian Lounge.  Our poly sci class sat in on a trial about a shooting that took place there."

"Can't say I remember it."

I didn't notice his attempts to not know. He was a liberal, sensitive to minority struggles, and just plain cool, so why wouldn't he be gay-friendly?


That Place


"It was just a few blocks from here, on 4th Avenue.  You had to drive past it to get downtown...." I stopped short and stared.  His face was contorted into a mask of disgust.

"Oh, you mean that place."

He emphasized the word that: alien, other, stranger, savage.  Something wicked.  Something awful.  That place.

I quickly made an excuse and left, and drove aimlessly around in my sister-in-law's car for a long time.  I have rarely felt so depressed.

One of my childhood heroes hated me.

The Security Guard on My Sausage List

Wilton Manors, September 2001

In West Hollywood, there were strict age limits on dating.  More than 5 years older or younger, and you were gossiped about and not invited to parties.

In New York, the lower age limit was gone.  It was perfectly acceptable, even expected, for someone in his late 30s to be seen with a 20-year old Cute Young Thing.

When I moved to Florida in 2001, the upper age limit was gone, too.  It was perfectly acceptable, even expected, for someone in his early 40s to be seen with a 60-year old Daddy.

Of course, the older still had to wait for the younger to approach, lest he be labeled a Creepy Old Guy.  So I never approached 60-something Troy at the Sunshine Cathedral, a gay church in Fort Lauderdale: we were "just friends."

We continued to be "just friends" when we started working out together at the Club Fort Lauderdale, and going out to dinner, usually to a Japanese fusion place called Kenji.



Troy was a retired physician who had just come out upon his wife's death.

He was well-versed in Eastern mysticism, the paranormal, and the occult.  He had a gay Tarot cart deck.  We talked about Zen Buddhism and mysterious disappearances and my summer in Japan.    

But I adamantly rebuffed his attempts to get physical.  I was dating another guy from the Sunshine Cathedral, 24-year old Matt, who wasn't very bright, but had 3 of the 5 qualities that I find attractive: muscular, religious, and gifted beneath the belt (#1 on the list of the 15 biggest "sausages" I've ever encountered).

Matt was trying to write a novel about a hard-boiled noir detective who happened to be gay, and in the meantime worked as a night-time security guard.  We usually went out in the early evening, before his shift started.

The only time Matt and Troy saw each other was during Sunday morning services at the Sunshine Cathedral, and once or twice when I invited them both over for dinner.

Or so I thought.

That fall Troy went on a vacation to China and Tibet.  He brought me back a stamp shaped like monkey with Davis in Chinese characters:

丹尼斯 Dān ní sī, "Nice Redhead", which I suppose is is better than Boomer:  杰夫 Jié fū, "Outstanding Husband."

He brought Matt a silk shirt that beautifully highlighted his pecs.  But I didn't think anything of it at the time; he also brought back a souvenir for Yuri, who he barely knew.

I didn't think anything of it when Matt occasionally said that he was too tired to go out, and Troy was also busy.  In your 40s, you can stay home on Friday and Saturday night without feeling guilty.

So I went home for Christmas, to hear my old high school teacher make the most homophobic comment in the world.

After two weeks, I flew back from Rock Island, and Matt and I spent New Year's Eve together.

But on January 4th, Matt said he was too tired to go out before his shift, so I went to the Club by myself.

You know where this is going: Matt and Troy in a dark corner, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.

"We've been dating since Christmas," Matt explained. "I didn't know how to tell you."

Troy just grinned.  Age trumps beauty.

See also: The Georgia Boy and the Cute Young Thing; and The Coffee Drinker