Tuesday, July 7, 2015

15 Reasons You Should Go to a Bathhouse

There are only about 30 gay bath houses left in the United States, down from the hundreds in the 1970s -- they have fallen prey to homophobic health regulations, a puritanical culture, and hook-up apps like Grindr.  But chances are you're within 300 miles of one, and it's well worth a destination visit.

Here are 15  reasons why you should include a bathhouse on your recreational agenda:

1. Going to bathhouses is a part of gay history.  Before the 1970s, bathhouses were the only place where men could socialize without fear of being assaulted by homophobes or arrested.  Many early Gay Rights pioneers did their organizing at bathhouses.

2. You can go during the daytime, instead of waiting around until 10:00 or 11:00 pm to hang out in a bar.

3. And there's no cigarette smoke clogging your lungs, no obnoxious drunks, and no blaring music, like in a bar.

4. You will see more naked men than you ever thought possible.  The only other place to see naked men in real life is in a locker room, where you can, at best, steal a glance at the guy stripping down next to you.  At the bath house, there are dozens of naked men, of every size and shape, and none of them mind gawkers.

5. You will discover the infinite variety of same-sex relationships.  You will meet men who have sex with men but fall in love with women, men who have sex with women but fall in love with men, men whose boyfriends are ok with "playing," men whose boyfriends aren't, and everything in between.

6. You will discover the infinite variety of same-sex behavior, from newbies who have never had sex before to regulars who have sex twenty times per week.

7. You will discover that life doesn't end at age 40.  You will see 60, 70, and even 80-year old men, vibrant, active, knowledgeable.  Where else in age-stratified gay culture can you talk to men who lived through the dark ages before Stonewall and the first heady days of Gay Liberation?

8. You don't have to spend any money except for your membership and entry fee.  You can wander around all day for free.

9. There's no hurry.  Club meetings end in a few hours, bars end at 2:00 am, but most clubs are open 24 hours a day, and your membership is good for 12 hours.  You can also go out, have dinner, and come back again.

10. There's no day or night.  Most parts of the Club are bathed in warm semi-darkness, with no windows.  Time stands still.  It's an eternal "now."

11. Finding a partner is much easier than exchanging endless "stats? pic?" emails and then arranging a meeting.  You see someone you like, make eye contact, and walk toward him, or just grab.  If he's not interested, he says "No, thanks," or if it's noisy, raises his hand in a "stop" gesture.  But to be honest, refusals aren't very common.  Most guys are interested.

12. If you just like to watch, most guys don't mind spectators.

13. If you just want to meet people, striking up a conversation is much easier in a bath house than in other gay venues.  Something about being naked or in a towel makes most men lose the Attitude.

14. They have fully-equipped gyms, so you can get your workout in before, during, and after cruising.

15. Plus steam rooms, saunas, swimming pools, and often discos and restaurants. You can get all of your recreational needs met under one roof.

When you leave, blinking, into the bright light of the city, you've exercised, had a sauna, had as many partners as you want, watched, chatted with people, and seen a hundred naked men. That's a lot to accomplish in just a few hours.

See also: 10 Bathhouse Boys

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Cousin Buster and I Get God Mad

Observant Jews often face conundrums about everyday activities.  You can't work on the Sabbath; does that include pushing elevator buttons?  You need separate sets of dishes for dairy products and meat: what about eating in a restaurant, where the dishes are all mixed up?

When I was growing up Nazarene, we faced similar conundrums.  Preachers and Sunday school teachers had to apply the law with the sagacity of a Talmudic scholar.

You can't work on Sunday.

1. Does that include yardwork?  Yes.  What about mowing the lawn on a riding mower?  Yes.

2. Does it include performing CPR on someone who has had a heart attack?  No.

3. What if you work in a restaurant where your schedule occasionally requires you to work on Sunday?  Politely refuse, and if you are forced, quit.

You can't go anywhere near alcohol.

1. What if your college roommate wants to drink in the room?  Change roommates. He's evil.

2. What about if alcohol is being served in one room of the building, but not in the others?  Don't go within ten feet.

3. Can you take a job in a drug store that sells beer, among other things?  No.

You can't dance, not even in the "guise of folk dancing or physical education class."

1. Can you watch folk dancing? No.

2. What about jazzercise, a very popular exercise of the 1970s?  No.

3. Can you just sway?  No

You can't go to a movie theater.

1. Can you go into a theater if your car broke down and you need a telephone?  No.

2. What about if it's a school field trip?  No.

3. What about a movie on tv?  No.

As a result, I was in a movie theater only a few times before college, and then always with guilt and fear as I waited for the heavens to open and God to strike me dead.

But my Cousin Buster found an loophole.

Buster lived in the trailer in the deep woods, next to my grandfather's house just outside Garrett, Indiana.  His parents were lapsed Baptists, but he went to a Nazarene church and learned the same restrictions that I did.

The summer after sixth grade, when we were visiting, he said "There's a monster movie marathon playing at the Drive-In.  Let's go."

"A drive in theater?"  I didn't remember any rule about that, but I still dubious.  There was no building, just a field, but there was still a big screen.  "You're still watching a movie."

He grinned.  "Uh-uh.  Movies have pictures and sounds.  We're just going to see the picture.  With a monster movie, it doesn't matter what they're saying, anyway."

It wasn't the building or the big screen, because we couldn't watch movies at home on tv, either.  It must be the combination of pictures and sound!

"No sound, no movie," I said.  "It might work.  But how are we going to do that?  Leave the little speaker thing off the car?"

"Just wait and see."

Buster told our parents that we were going to go star-gazing, and we rode our bikes down the dusty country roads to Route 6, to the theater.  But instead of going inside, we walked our bikes across a field of summer corn to a little knoll beyond last row of cars.  The screen was far away, but still visible, especially with binoculars.

We lay on blankets on the rough ground, shivering in the breeze, eating potato chips and watching something about Frankenstein fighting Godzilla.

And we managed to see a movie without getting God mad, unless He was miffed by the lying to our parents, trespassing, and theft.

Best night ever.

What?  You were expecting a hookup?  I did think about things other than cute guys once in a while when I was a kid.

But here's a group of cute guys to tide you over.

See also: Looking for Uncle Edd's Gun.

My Top 10 Reader Suggestions

I always write about my real memories, but in order to change incidents into stories, I leave things out, switch things around, make up conversations, change details.  So what you read isn't exactly what happened.  And the guys in the stories like to tell me about it.  I often get emails with corrections, complaints, and suggestions.

  Here are my 10 biggest suggestions;

1. Cousin Joe,  my older cousin, whose Kielbasa+ I glimpsed in the bathroom when I was seven years old. "I didn't think you were gay when you said 'The President's not cute!'  I had no idea until you moved to West Hollywood!  But thanks for the free publicity -- tell your female readers that I'm single and available!"

2. Viju, my best friend from Indiana University, who took me to my first gay bar and competed with me over pecs: "You make it sound like all we ever did was have sex!  Why don't you tell them about the time we climbed onto the roof of Ballantine Hall and almost got arrested?  And why don't you put me on your Sausage List?  I'm definitely a Mortadella!"

3. Dick, my old bully, who I hooked up with at Christmastime during my terrible year in Hell-fer-Sartain, Texas:  "I didn't live anywhere near Dewey's Candy Store, and I was never into guns!  Why don't you tell them about my relationship with Jack?  We've been together for thirteen years."

4. My celebrity boyfriend: "You make me sound too superficial -- it was a mutual breakup!  But thanks for not outing me!  By the way, why didn't you put me on your Sausage List?  I'm bigger than most of those guys!"

5. Ryan, with whom I had the Worst Date in West Hollywood History:  "We only did about half of those things!  And who says it was the worst date in West Hollywood history?  I had a great time!"

7. Blake, the Manhattan opera buff who was the subject of my "roommate switch": "Was that real?  I had no idea that you were so devious!  And you are wrong about Yuri and I -- we dated for about three months!  By the way, I should go much farther down on your Sausage List.  I'm definitely a Kovbasa+!"

8. Barney. "There were eight guys at that hurricane party, not just five!  Yuri never had to spend the night with you and your date. And why didn't you put me on your Sausage List?  I'm bigger than most of the guys on it!"

9. Chad, the waiter at the Neptune who was living with the Satyr in Upstate New York:  "You got the relationship all wrong.  We joked around a lot, but we were just roommates, not some weird houseboy thing."

10. The Rapper, the ex-lover of the crying Truck Driver in Upstate New York: "I never wanted to become a rapper -- that was just for fun. I'm mostly into jazz, with a little classical. And why didn't you put me on your Sausage List?  I'm bigger than most of those guys!  Tell you readers I'm a Mortadella+++!"


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