Monday, August 3, 2015

Picked Up by the Museum Guard

Indianapolis, July 2015

Instead of going to Europe every year, I now drive from the Plains to the East Coast.  Two weeks, 15 friends and relatives, 9 hotels, 8 museums, 5 guest passes at the YMCA, 4  horrible hotel gyms, 2 state parks, 2 bath houses, 1 baseball game.

And a hookup with a museum guard.

After pizza and Chinese food delivery guys, my biggest fantasy hookup is probably a museum guard.  Maybe because they follow you around with an eagle-eye, suspicious stare that  looks a lot like cruising.

And, though they come in all sizes and shapes, a surprising number are stunningly handsome.

If you live in town and can be a regular, it's possible.  My friend Alan picked up a guard at the L.A. County Museum of Art just by showing up every day until he got a phone number.

But I usually visit museums when I'm leaving town forever in a few hours, so there's no time to make contact. The sheer inaccessibility makes the museum guard the stuff of erotic fantasy.

But one Saturday in the summer of 2015, out of nowhere, it happened!

Troy and I arrived in Indianapolis around noon, planned to have lunch and do some sightseeing, then dinner with my parents and sister, overnight at a hotel, and on to Rock Island on Sunday.

Troy is doing research on the Iroquois, so he wanted to spend a lot of time at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian Art.  As we walked through the gallery devoted to Edward S. Curtis, who photographed many Native Americans at the turn of the twentieth century, we got a cruisy smile from a guard: in his 20s, tall, broad-shouldered, stunningly handsome, with a square face, bronze skin, and straight black hair, probably Native American himself.

Later, I returned to the gallery on my own.  The guard approached.

"Is your boyfriend writing a book?"  he asked with the same cruisy smile.

Obviously gay, to catch on so fast!  "He's working on a term paper," I said.  "These pieces are marvelous.  I'm Boomer."

"Ryan." We shook hands.

"Curtis was an expert at drawing complex emotions from his subjects.  I'm studying art at IUPUI, and I often come here for inspiration."

"He picked very handsome models, too.  I think he had a thing for Native Americans."

"You think these are hot, you should see some of the stuff that's not on display.  Come with me..."

Ryan led me downstairs.  "I got a special access," he announced to an older guard before unlocking a door that read "Archive."  It was a vast, empty room with statues under tarps and shelves of old books, and on one wall six more Edward S. Curtis photographs, including some very muscular Native American men.

"They don't put these out.  Too risque for the kiddies."

Suddenly I realized that we were alone.  It was very warm in the room, and a stunningly handsome guy was standing very, very close to me.  "Sitting Eagle, Crow Indian, 1905," I read.

"His lover.  Well, one of his lovers.  He slept with most of his male models."  Ryan wrapped his arm around my shoulders.  "Do you and your boyfriend have an open relationship?"

"We're sort of broken up..."  I said.  And then we were kissing and groping.

Then, suddenly he pulled away.  "Wait -- wait.  This isn't exactly private.  Can we get together later?  I work until 6:00."

"Well...we're having dinner with my parents tonight.  We're free afterwards, maybe at 9:00. but our hotel is in Franklin, about 30 miles south of here."


"You don't mind driving 30 miles?"

"Babe, I'd drive a thousand miles to get my hands on those pecs."  He brushed his hand against my chest.  "What's the hotel?"

At exactly 9:00 pm, Ryan knocked on the door of our hotel room, carrying a bottle of wine (I neglected to mention that I don't drink).

He didn't look Native American at all -- it must have been the power of suggestion.

And, in a t-shirt and short pants instead of a museum guard uniform, he wasn't stunningly handsome anymore -- cute, with a smooth, solid chest, and nice beneath the belt gifts.  But rather ordinary, not much different from the twinks who cruise me every day at home.

I shouldn't complain.  I fulfilled a fantasy and met a nice guy, who offered to get together again when we go back to Indianapolis at Christmastime.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Satyr and His Boy Toy

Upstate, October 2008

When I moved to Upstate New York, my social calendar was soon crowded with invitations from members of the Gang of Twelve, guys who had known each other for years, and who shared everything, from gossip to boyfriends.
1-2. The Rich Kid and the Crying Truck Driver.
3-4. The Rapper, and the Grabby Nurse.

All of them told me, "You have to meet the Satyr!"  But they all had different stories.

The Rich Kid: he's a muscle bear who used to work in porn movies.

The Truck Driver: he's cultured, artistic, and very romantic.

The Rapper: he's a Sugar Daddy with a fetish for black men.

The Grabby Male Nurse: he's a sexual dynamo, able to keep going all night (thus his nickname).

Date #5. The Satyr

He didn't send any photos or give any stats, so I didn't know what to expect when I drove to old Victorian on the west side of Cooperstown.  But I certainly didn't expect Chad, the waiter from the Neptune, to answer the door.

"Hey, Chad! I didn't know the Satyr had a roommate."

"I'm not his roommate," he said with a cryptic smile.  "He's still getting dressed -- come on in and wait in the parlor."

He ushered me into a room cluttered with heavy leather furniture, old black-and-white photographs, bookshelves, a coffee table made out of an old crate.

I was left alone for about ten minutes to leaf through coffee table books on Asian art and try to make friends with a skittish cat, until the Satyr finally came down the stairs.

A tall, husky, bearded bear, around 60 years old.  Broad shoulders, round belly.  And, when he gave me a hug, I felt that he had a baseball bat down there, all revved up and ready to go. 

"Don't take it personally," the Satyr said with a chuckle.  "I'm always like that when I meet a new guy."

"You're always like that when you're breathing!"  Chad re-appeared with a tray of cheese and crackers.

"I see you've met my boy toy."

"Housekeeper!"  Chad insisted.

"How many housekeepers get paid to keep the boss's bed warm?"

"How many boy toys hook up with studs of their own?"

I thought I'd seen every kind of relationship, but this was a new one.  I spent the evening looking for clues on how it worked.  Chad cooked dinner, and ate with us-- sesame chicken, fried rice, and seaweed salad.  But when we took our ice cream and coffee into the parlor, he vanished.

I was disappointed -- I liked Chad.  He was not a stereotypical hustler.  He was studying art history at the university, he spoke four languages, and he had some interesting stories about growing up gay in a conservative Korean-American family.

The Satyr, however, was annoying, rather boastful, and a name-dropper.  When he was a teenager, hustling in Times Square, one of his clients was Christopher Isherwood.

"Um...well, I met Andrew Lloyd Webber..."

When he was a camera man in Hollywood, he dated Tom Selleck, Rob Lowe, and John Travolta.

Um, well...I dated a former teen idol..."

While he was working at the American consulate in Japan, he had an affair with the son of Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu that caused a major scandal.

I was not at all interested in a relationship with the Satyr, but who can turn down a baseball bat? So when he suggested we go upstairs, I consented.

"Chad!  We're ready for bed!" he yelled.

Wait...what?  You don't "share" roommates on the first date!  Or housemates, or boy toys, or whatever he is!

When we got upstairs, Chad was waiting, naked, in the Satyr's bedroom.  But he just gave us massages and left.

Very weird date, so far.

By the way, he had the second biggest "sausage" I've ever encountered.   Chad must have felt like a muppet.

Later, on my way to the bathroom, I passed Chad's bedroom. His door was open.  He was lying in his bed, watching Saturday Night Live.

"Hey, I haven't seen that in years!" I exclaimed.

"Well, come on in and watch it with me."  He grinned and pulled up the covers.

"Won't the Satyr mind?"

"Not at all.  Lots of his dates end up in my bed, or my dates end up in his bed, or our dates find each other and head to the guest room. You need a score card to keep track!"

We watched tv, talked, and cuddled, but no erotic activity happened-- "I want to take things slow with you, not just grab and go," Chad explained, rather paradoxically for a professional bed warmer.

I never shared the Satyr's bed again.  Chad and I dated through the fall and winter of 2008, but I always insisted that he come back to my apartment.  I was never really comfortable with the housekeeper-boy toy thing.

The Satyr turned out to be fiercely protective of Chad.

See also: The Satyr's Sinister Scheme.

My Second Sexual Experience, in the Parking Lot of the Harvest Dance

Rock Island, November 1977

I love weight training.  I would love it even if weight rooms weren't crowded with guys with spectacular physiques.

No hurling projectiles, no complicated scoring, no spectators stomping "We Will Rock You," just the clack of barbells in the early morning light.  Zen-like in its simplicity.

I discovered the weight room at Washington Junior High, when I went out for wrestling    and the Jump Quiz. At Rocky High, when I was working as an athletic trainer, I hung out in the weight room during practices.

But it was hard to find a regular workout buddy.  I wouldn't work out with someone I was dating, so Verne the preacher's son was out.

Darry would go nowhere near a gym; he insisted that "Girls don't care about muscles; it's what's beneath the belt that counts."

Aaron, the rabbi's son who didn't know he was gay, joined me a few times, but working out with him was embarrassing: he kept staring at guys' muscles -- and my crotch.  I had to keep telling him "Look up here!"

In my senior year, I finally found a regular workout buddy: a sophomore, my brother's age, but taller than me, with broader shoulders and bigger biceps.  To the surprise and perhaps the dismay of my lunchtime crowd, he was Black.

About 20% of the students at Rocky High were African-American, but, like the town itself, they were segregated, steered away from the Academic Track into classes in Business Math and Auto Repair, omnipresent on sports teams but absent from Student Government.  They sat by themselves in the cafeteria, and dated only other African-Americans.

In September, just after classes started, I saw Tyrone working out by himself, and wondered why he wasn't on a team.  He had the physique for it?  So I approached, said I was an athletic trainer, and asked if he had considered playing football.

"Why?" he snapped.  "Just because I'm Black, you think I'm a natural athlete?"

Turns out that Tyrone was a Black activist.  Big time.  His real name was Michael, but he thought Tyrone sounded more ethnic.  He decried racism everywhere he found it -- of course, at Rocky High in 1977, it was everywhere, but sometimes Tyrone was a little over-zealous.  The cafeteria runs out of pizza?  Racist lunch lady.  The book he wants is checked out of the library?  Racist librarian.

We started working out together, but he was always leery, scrutinizing every word and every gesture for tell-tale signs that: a) I didn't like him because he was Black; or b) I liked him because he was Black.

And we saw each other only in the weight room.  We had no classes together, we ate lunch with other people in the cafeteria, and when we met in the hallways, he just grunted.

I thought he was embarrassed by being friends with a white guy, but turns out he was still leery.

The card-playing incident didn't help.

In October, I went over to talk to him while he was playing cards with his friends.  Nazarenes didn't play cards, so I had no idea of the rules or vocabulary.

Someone cried "You reneged!"

"I did not!" Tyrone protested.

"You reneged! You reneged!"  His friend repeated.

I had never heard the term before, but, trying to be funny, I said, "Just admit it, Tyrone! You're a...."

What do you get when you turn "renege" into a noun, "someone who reneges"?

I found out after the word escaped from my mouth.

To his credit, Tyrone kept me from being killed that day.  But he was even more leery of my overtures of friendship.  I was a workout buddy, nothing more.

Until November when out of nowhere he said "The Black Student Union is having a Harvest Dance on Friday.  Want to go?"

Nazarenes weren't allowed to dance.  Besides, dancing involved girls, and I didn't date girls, if I could help it. "With you?"  I asked, hopefully.

"Double date.  Me, you, and the girls."

Shades of Verne last year!  But Tyrone was glaring at me, daring me to refuse, and I realized that this was a test.  "Sounds like fun," I said.  "I'd be happy to go."

“ It’s not one of Their dances! Why would They even hold a dance? They hate women, so who would They be dancing with?”

“With black girls, of course!”

My face began to burn as I realized who she meant.  Not Swishes at all.  “What do you have against black people?” I asked.

“What do you mean? I don’t have anything against them."  Then she started in on every stereotype I had ever heard of, and some I hadn't: flashy clothes,gigantic Afros, gigantic penises, talking funny, sexually voracious, violent, killing white boys who wandered into the West End (the run-down edge of Rock Island where most African-Americans lived).

 I was shocked.  And unconfortably reminded of my conversation with Aaron a couple of weeks ago, when he challenged me to find the gays at Rocky High.   But Rhonda was just bigoted.  My hatred of Swishes was based on solid fact. . .wasn't it?

When I told Tyrone that I couldn't find a date, he nodded solemnly, as if he understood,a and offered to forego his own date: "We'll just be lonely."  But I insisted on picking him up at his house on the West End.

The All-Purpose Room on the east side of the school was tightly-packed with bodies, hard sweaty shirtless torsos swaying in semi-darkness, massively muscled arms raised, gold watches and bracelets glittering, hips and thighs bumping. There must have been women there, but later I didn’t recall any.

We danced together, or side by side, and Tyrone grinned and mouthed the words of “Lady Marmalade”: “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?”

Did he know what he was asking?  ("Do you want to sleep with me tonight?").

Sweating, dizzy from the music and the press of bodies, I couldn't remember: were people upset because Tyrone was gay or black or both?

Or were they the same thing, demonizing difference?

Later, in the dark, deserted parking lot, I found out: like Todd back in 10th grade, he was more than happy to let guys go down on him, in the dark, in the silence, in the night.  As long as the dawn brought raucous calls of "Girls! girls! girls!'

My Last Wrestling Match

Rock Island, May 1975

When I was in junior high in the early 1970s, I hated sports, but my parents wouldn't believe me.  They demanded, "Boys like sports.  You must sign up for a sport."  Anything involving projectiles being hurled at me was out of the question, of course.  I liked to watch the swimming team, but not splashing around in water.

What about wrestling, my brother's favorite sport?  Hardbodied boys in revealing singlets grabbing, pawing, and laying atop each other?  And then stripping down in the locker room afterwards?  It sounded perfect!

Besides, I had been taking judo lessons for two years, so I knew all about throwing, falling, and pinning.

I did ok.  I actually won a few matches, and I grew confident enough to challenge the Estonian Wrestling Brothers, George and Kristjan.

Then came a tournament in the spring of ninth grade, at Centennial Hall, a big fieldhouse across the street from Augustana College.  My opponent, a beautifully muscled African-American boy named Walter, came from a tough school in Peoria, but I still managed to pin him with one arm behind his head and the other between his legs. As Walter flailed about, trying to break, his crotch became noticeably thicker and harder, until my arm seemed to be pressing against a coke bottle.

Shocked, I jerked away, giving Walter an opening to break. He threw me over and lay atop my spread legs, wrapping his arms around my shoulders as if in embrace.  He was blatantly grinding our crotches together, his face oddly stoic, as if he didn't care that he would soon be displaying a baseball bat to two hundred people.

Walter wanted a boy, not a girl! He had escaped the "discovery of girls" that the adults were always going on about.  He had escaped the mind-numbing chant of "what girl do you like?  what girl?  what girl?  what girl?" Maybe later we would go out on a date, and hug and kiss!   I was flushed with exhilaration.

When the referee shouted the win, we rose shakily and shook hands, and Walter disappeared  -- into the congratulating arms of  a girl! She kissed him, her thin pale arms wrapped around his waist. His body, pressing against me just a few minutes ago, was now pressing against her!

I felt my stomach drop.

I shrugged off the coach's hand-on-shoulder condolence and walked through the arena, out into the foyer, and then to the sidewalk outside. I stopped at the box office and looked at the posters of upcoming events – a jazz festival, a comedian, a Quad Cities Symphony concert. I was vaguely aware that Dad had jumped up from his seat in the bleachers and followed me out.

“It’s not over yet,” he said. “You’ve got another match coming up.”

Traffic was moving briskly on 7th Avenue, which followed the course of the Mississippi west-ward into Downtown. Across the street, three college boys with books were climbing the steep granite steps toward Augustana’s Old Main. I reflected that none of them had the slightest idea what had just happened.
“I don’t feel very good,” I said. “My stomach feels funny.”

Dad retrieved Kenny, and we went home. I got into my pajamas, and lay on the couch and watched tv. Flipping the channels, I happened upon The Magic Sword, which for some reason was always broadcast on Saturday afternoons: Sir George (Gary Lockwood), a young, wide-eyed knight in chain mail and a Prince Valiant haircut was questing to rescue a plump princess from a gay-vague sorcerer, who planned to feed her to his pet dragon.

Suddenly Darry’s head appeared at the picture window. “Aw, I wanted to surprise you,” he said as Mom let him in. He shoved my legs aside so he could sit down, and handed me a Schneider's Drug Store bag containing three comic books. “Your brother told me you got your head broken in at your wrestling tournament.”

“I’m just sick to my stomach. But thanks for the comics."

“You do look kinda green! But I would get sick, too, if I had to jump around in those silly leotards. What ya watchin’?”

The Magic Sword. I  just turned it on.”

Darry laughed. “I can see you’re turned on. That’s a foxy fairy princess, huh?”
Puzzled, I looked up at the screen. Sir George  was strung up in a courtyard, his shirt ripped off, his muscles taut and hard and gleaming. There was also a “foxy fairy princess” strung up on the other side of the courtyard,  awaiting the dragon. But who could possibly give her a second glance?

I wanted to nudge Darry and point out the knight. I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and shake him and yell “Wake up! Open your eyes!” But boys nudged each other about girls, only and always, and there was a girl waiting at the end of every tournament. I had to ignore – or pretend to ignore – the most beautiful man in the world.

“Yeah, she’s far out,” I said, hating myself, and hating Darry for making me say it.

See also: Turkish Oil Wrestling ; and Arabic and Class Rings.

My First Visit to a Gay Bar

Bloomington, Indiana, February 1983

When I was in junior high and high school, I spent many Saturday afternoons at the Public Library on 4th Avenue in downtown Rock Island, or walking around outside, past dry cleaners and hole-in-the-wall restaurants and pay-by-the-hour hotels, enjoying the little thrills of danger and disgust.

And four blocks from the library, the most dangerous, the most disgusting: a small green building with boarded-up windows and the entrance in back, advertised by a neon sign of a woman in a grass skirt hula-dancing: The Hawaiian Lounge.

My friend insisted that we cross the street and look at a safe distance.  "That's a swish bar," he said solemnly.

I didn't really know what gay people were yet,  but I knew about swishes: thin, willowy beings, masculine in form but wearing rings and handbangs and perfume.  They flitted about like birds and never spoke above a whisper, except to shriek "Girlfriend!" to each other.

I had never been inside a heterosexual bar -- anything involving alcohol was forbidden to Nazarenes -- so I couldn't even imagine what a swish bar was like. Utter darkness except for the glow of an occasional cigarette?  Utter silence except for an occasional whispered discussion of...what?  What could swishes possibly have to talk about?

The summer after my high school graduation, I figured "it" out, but I was still afraid to go near JR's (the replacement for the Hawaiian Lounge).  What if someone saw me parking nearby, or walking down the street, and concluded that I know?  Besides, I still couldn't imagine what went on in those dark, whispery, sinister realms.

In college, I read a coming out story called The Best Little Boy in the World, in which the author talks about making a call from a pay telephone in a gay bar.

Wait -- wait!  A pay phones in a gay bar?  Someone from the Straight World would have to go in to install it.  How was that possible!

So even after I turned 21, I never set foot in JR's.  It was terrifying.  Once I drove around the block ten times before losing my nerve and going home.

When I went to Indiana University for grad school, I was still afraid to go anywhere near a gay bar.  My friend Viju kept kept inviting me, but I made one excuse after another.

"Indianapolis?  That's pretty far, isn't it?"

"Well, what about Bullwinkle's?  It's here in Bloomington.  Only four blocks from campus."

" know, I don't drink."

"I don't drink either! They have soda and Perrier."

"Well....I don't know how to dance."

"You don't have to dance!  You can just sit there if you want."

"But what if...."

"What do you think?  A lot of drag queens are going to tie you to the pool table and spank you with the pool cues?"

"No, but...well, what if I see someone I know?"

"He'll see you, too, so you can both keep the secrets, right?"

Finally, one Saturday night in March 1983, I gave in.

It was a five-minute walk from the campus, next to a theater and an office building and across the street from a sleazy straight bar. Brown wood walls, windows too far up for passersby to see.  No name outside (they put up a sign later). You went in through the back door.

I hesitated.  Viju took my arm. "It's fine, Boomer.  Nothing to worry about."

Inside there was a narrow bar with stools all around, a cigarette machine, a pay phone, and a small dance floor. Posters of semi-nude men on the walls.  No pool table.

It was not dark or quiet -- music was blaring.  Billie Jean, Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?, Self Control, It's Raining Men -- all of my favorite subtext songs.

It was packed, mostly men, occasionally a pair of women.  Mostly college-aged guys standing in clumps, plus some older guys -- in their 30s -- sitting at the bar.

While Viju went to the bar to get our drinks from the shirtless, buffed bartender, I stood by the cigarette machine, reading gay newspapers -- The Works from Indianapolis, Windy City Times from Chicago.  I read about Querelle, a new gay-themed movie based on a novel by Jean Genet.  I saw gay comix for the first time.

Our Cokes came very watery, with cherries.  We stood for a few moments -- Viju called it "pose and model" (he meant "stand and model").  Then we walked slowly around the bar.  Viju showed me how to "cruise" -- make eye contact-- and "give attitude" -- pretend not to see guys you didn't like.

We talked to a dozen guys -- a member of the swim team, an older guy from Brown County, an undergrad political science major and his boyfriend, and Joseph, who lived in my dorm.  Before the night was over, I danced with three of them, kissed two, and got four telephone numbers.

Now I understood what gay bars were for.  Not to drink, or dance, or cruise, although those things happened.  Gay bars were havens in a homophobic world, the only places where you could comment on cute guys and gay-subtext songs, discuss boyfriends and job problems and crazy relatives, complain, strategize, commiserate, advise.  The only places where you could meet with friends and ex-friends, lovers and ex-lovers, a whole extended family, while outside heterosexuals rumbled past, oblivious.

Today gay people often colonize the sites of the straight world.  What do you need a gay bar for, when you can drink and dance and discuss boyfriends anywhere, and cruise by posting selfies on Grindr?  But sometimes I miss sneaking down a side street to the back door of a bar with no windows, and bursting into a secret, safe world.

See also: The Adonis at the Gay-Friendly Coffee House


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