Thursday, September 3, 2015

My Date with the Most Conservative Professor on Campus

West Hollywood, May 1986

The University of Southern California in the 1980s was extremely elitist, stuffy, and conservative, and Charles Bertan was the most elitist, stuffy, and conservative of the faculty.  A little shorter than me, slim, with an oval, slightly irregular face and a crooked smile.

He had stuffy degrees from Harvard and Princeton, always wore a suit, carried a briefcase, and spoke with super-correct grammar.

This isn't him -- I couldn't find a picture that did the conservatism justice, and also showed some muscle.

He was only a few years older than me, but he had already published a dozen books and articles on Restoration and Augustan literature: John Donne, Henry Fielding, Alexander Pope, 18th century pastoral...

His classroom skills weren't great: he called students "Mr." and "Miss", never joked, rarely smiled, and called out mistakes tactlessly.  When asked a pleasant question like "How was your weekend?" he fumbled and stammered.

Other students disliked him; I was fascinated.

What kind of life did this guy have?  What did he do at night? Who did he go home to?  Did he watch tv, collect antiques, volunteer at a homeless shelter, go camping at Yosemite?  Or were Tom Jones and An Essay on Man life enough? 

I could not imagine Dr. Bertan taking off his shirt, getting naked, lying in bed, kissing someone, having sex.  Not that he wasn't attractive. He just wasn't a sexual being.

Or was he?  Maybe I could find out.

If I cruised him, he would probably rush off in horror, like a squirrel when you get too close.  I had to be subtle, make him think that he was cruising me.

1. Setting the ground work.

I began working out just before class, so I would still be pumped, and came in with the tightest t-shirt I could find  to show off my chest -- 50", my best feature.  Dr. Bertan kept trying not to look.

We met in a conference room, around a rectangular table, with Dr. Bertan at the head.  I started sitting adjacent to him, so occasionally our legs would brush together "by accident."  Once he got flustered and scooted his chair to the far end, but the next class session, he was in the middle of the table again.

When he passed me a batch of papers to hand out, I made sure that our hands touched "by accident."  He quickly moved away -- I just smiled.  


2. Piquing his interest.

His reactions suggested that he was gay, but just to make sure, one day I said, "I know we skipped over John Wilmont, Earl of Rochester in our anthology, but I read him anyway.  One line has me puzzled.  What does he mean by There's a sweet soft page of mine, does the trick worth forty wenches."

"Oh, well...." Dr. Bertan blushed a little.  "No doubt Rochester is suggesting his preference for...um...homosexuality."

"Right, right!"  I pretended it had just now dawned on me.  "I know all about that trick."

The class laughed. "Pages or wenches?" someone asked.

I just smiled.  Dr. Bertan stared at me for a moment, as if expecting a response, and then moved on.

Definitely gay.

3. The seduction.

I waited until final grades were posted, in case he had scruples against hooking up with a student, and then went to his office.  It was small but elegant: walnut desk, two chairs, small couch, Persian rug, floor-to-ceiling bookcases.

"I just wanted to thank you for a very interesting semester," I  began," "accidentally" slamming the door behind me.  "Wow, I wish I had a library like this.  A copy of The Rape of the Lock, illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley!"  I pointed to an old book on the top shelf.  "I love Beardsley!  Can I take a look at it?"

He beamed at my interest.  "Why, of course.  That's a beautiful edition.  I picked it up at a bookstall in Paris."  

It was too far up to reach, so I had to stand on a chair.

"Wait -- it's rickety -- let me support you.  There's a stepladder in the main office, if...."  Dr. Bertan's hands were pressing on my sides.  I tried to steady myself with a hand on his shoulder.  I grabbed the book -- and the chair slid out from under me.  I collapsed onto the floor,

Dr. Bertan knelt beside me.  "Are you...are you all right?" he stammered.

I just planned to leaf through a book, but this was much better!  "Fine.  A little shaken. Maybe I better sit down."

"Of course, of course."  He helped me onto the couch, and sat beside me. "Do you want to go to the Student Health Center?"

"Oh, no,  I'm fine.  Except I think I hit the chair on the way down.  Could you check for bruises?"

"Um...ok."  I raised my t-shirt.  He reached out and gingerly ran his hand over my chest.  "Anything tender?"

"No."  I put my hand over his and squeezed.  "You have a soft touch."

"Um...thanks."  He was staring in deer-in-headlight terror.  I had to make my next move carefully.

I retrieved the book, sat down beside him again, and put my arm around his shoulders, squeezing hard so he could feel my bicep rise. His hand moved to my lap.

"So, ready to look at those Beardsley illustrations?  Or did you have something else in mind?"

Dr. Bertan blushed red, and drew his hand away.  "I don't...I don't...I mean, I've never...."

"Well, isn't it about time you did?  We're the same age, and I'm not your student anymore, so what's stopping you?"

"Um...well...um...I suppose we could have dinner."

 So I didn't get a hookup, but I did get a date: very nice dinner at the Cafe Etoille  -- he was a little nervous, but warmed up quickly -- followed by a walk through West Hollywood, a stop at the Different Light Bookstore, then back to my apartment to spend the night.

We dated once or twice more, but then I flew off to Australia and Japan for the summer, and he went to London to research Alexander Pope, and by the time we returned, the moment had passed.

Besides, I kept calling him Dr. Bertan instead of Charlie.

See also: Cruised by a Young Republican; 8 Harvard Yard Hookups


Sunday, August 30, 2015

12 Hookups and Dates that Sound Like the Plot of a Porn Movie


Every day we see, hear, and talk to friends, neighbors, coworkers, students, strangers -- and dozens of service people, the pharmacist, the plumber, the carpenter, the bus driver, the pizza delivery guy, the bookstore clerk.

99 out of 100 are female, ugly, straight, or taken, but even if you encounter that 1 in 100 that's male, cute, gay, and available, the interaction is so momentary that there's no time to determine if they're attracted to you, or just being friendly as a part of their job.

Even if you can establish a mutual interest, how do you arrange a date or a hookup with other customers waiting behind you and the boss keeping an eagle eye from a post nearby?  99 times out of 100, it's impossible, and you each go on to more accessible guys at the Rage or a M4M Party.

This is the stuff of porn movies, where the service guy is always muscular, gifted beneath the belt, and ready for action, in an empty store or on a service call with an empty schedule all afternoon.

I've only managed a few of these "porn movie" hookups or dates, where you approach the guy and make the connection while he is at work.

Here are the most interesting.


1. The Waiter.  In West Hollywood, you got cruised by waiters all the time.  They weren't serious.  When the waiter flirted with me at the French Quarter, I just laughed it off.  But the next day I saw him at the gym.

2. The Doctor.  In the 1980s, doctors were usually homophobic, so you always had to be careful that your doctor was gay or gay-friendly (you still do).  So when I got sick and needed a doctor right away, I stayed strictly closeted.  But he said "I can do a house call tomorrow, to see if you're feeling better..."







3. The Politician.  I'm not interested in politics, and I especially wasn't while living in San Francisco, with homophobic rhetoric spewing from every press conference.  But when I met a young city councilman., who also happened to be gay, I became interested.

4. The Fireman.  When I was living in graduate student housing in New York, my roommate left a pan of water on the stove all day.  I returned to find the kitchen on fire.  It was easily put out, but the fire department came anyway, and one of the fireman gave me his number.








5. The Chef.  During my summer in Paris, I went to Suam Thai almost every night.  One slow night the chef  -- who was not Thai -- invited me back into the kitchen to talk about something or another, and one thing led to another.....

6. The Pizza Delivery Guy.  Just after I got my Ph.D., I was visiting Rock Island, and cruised the pizza delivery guy.  I was leaving town the next day, but my friend Dick sealed the deal.  They've been together ever since.












7. The Hitchhiker.  When my friend David came to visit me in Florida, we drove out to Key West, and picked up a hitchhiker, a college student who was happy to share a bed with us.


8. The Actor.  You go to a play, your eyes meet, you go to their dressing room afterwards, and sparks fly.  Easier said than done: they can't see you in the darkened theater, they're busy concentrating on their performance, and it's hard to get backstage afterwards unless you already know them.  It's only happened to me once.

9. The Chinese Food Delivery Guy.  In Dayton.  Ok, I didn't hook up with him, but I got a date with his best friend

10. The Flight Attendant.  The flight was half full, I was sitting in the back row near the galley, and the attendant was bored.  We struck up a conversation, and when we were delayed too long for me to catch my connection, he offered to show me the sights of Boston.





11. The Water Delivery Guy.  Pete, who delivered bottled water to my apartment in Upstate New York.  One day I asked him to show me how to install the water bottles, one thing led to another, and we dated for about 3 weeks.

12. The Museum Guard.  While we were passing through Indianapolis on our way home from New York in 2015, we stopped to visit a museum where Ryan was a guard.  He came by our hotel later.


I Fall Asleep in a Sailor's Arms

On a train near Norfolk, Virginia, June 1971

When I was 10 years old, my Grandma Davis took me on a train trip from the station at Garrett to Washington, DC, and then to Walterboro, South Carolina, to visit my uncle and aunt and cousins.  We didn't get a sleeping car; we just reclined our seats with blankets and pillows.

I was too excited to sleep.  We went through so many interesting cities -- Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Norfolk, all lit up at night.  And people kept walking through the car -- the conductor, porters, passengers bustling about with suitcases.

About midnight, a cute boy in a sailor suit stumbled into the car and plopped into the seat across the aisle from me.  He was still a teenager, with brown hair and thick hands.  I still remember that he wore a class ring.

He looked over and noticed me staring at him.  "You should be asleep, little man," he said, smiling, in a distinctive Southern accent.  "You know what?  I just saw Santy Claus in the next car, and he told me you should go to sleep or he won't bring you any Christmas presents."

Did he think I was a baby? "I'm ten years old," I said stiffly, offended.  "Too old for Santa Claus."

"Sorry.  Hey, you want to see a magic trick?"

Sure, if it involves you taking your shirt off.  "My Dad was a sailor," I said.  "He went to Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and Hawaii."

"That's great!  I just enlisted, so I haven't been anywhere yet.  I never even been on a train before.  My name is Beau.  That's B-E-A-U.  It's spelled funny because it's French."  He reached out his big hand with the class ring.  It enveloped my small hand.  I didn't want to let go.

"My name is Boomer.  I'm visiting South Carolina with my Grandma Davis."

Grandma Davis had roused and was watching us with her weird knowing smile.

"Howdy, Boomer's Grandma.  I'm Beau Reynolds, from Morgantown, West Virginia, home of the Fighting Mountaineers."

"Pleased to meet you," she said politely.

I was briefly distracted by a skyline through the window.

"Hey, why don't you sit over here by me? It's a window seat, so you can look out."

"Can I, Grandma?"

"Sure, if you want to. But you should try to get some sleep.  It's late."

"Don't worry, ma'am.  Putting boys to bed is my specialty.  I'll get out my guitar if I have to."

I leapt across the aisle, squeezed past Beau's legs, and climbed into the seat next to him.   I pulled up the armrest so I could cuddle against him.  Our arms touched.

"I...um...I...have a little brother about your age.  He plays football on his junior high team, and he likes hunting and fishing. I bet you'd like him."

"Is he cute?" I said without thinking -- I was too tired to guard myself.

Beau gave me a quizzical stare.  "Well, he's big and tough.  You like hunting?"

"No."

"Fishing?"

"No."

"Playing football?"

"No."

"Um..watching football?"

"No.  I like to watch The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family.  Do you like Peter or Greg best?  Everybody says they like Greg, but I think Peter is way cuter."

"Yeah, The Brady Bunch, real cool show," he said in a weird hesitant voice.  "Hey, want to hear a dirty joke?"

"Ok," I said with a grin, feeling very grown-up.

Beau said something like this:
Dick Butkiss walks into a bar.  He's like a big, muscular football player, so all the girls think he's cute.  And there's a sissy at the other end of the bar.  So Dick Butkiss sits down, and he's like, got his shirt off and everything, and the sissy can't take his eyes off him.  So Dick Butkiss says, he says, "I'm so lonely I could kiss a cow."  And the sissy, the sissy chirps right up.  "Moo!  I say, Moo!"

He laughed and slapped my knee.

I didn't know that Dick Butkus was a real person -- later I discovered that he was a football player, for the Chicago Bears.  

But I liked the part about the "sissy" wanting to kiss him.  I didn't know that there were grownup men who wanted to kiss men.

I was getting sleepy.  I nestled against Beau.  His chest was pleasantly firm.  He smelled of some kind of sweet cologne.

He reclined the seat, and put his arm around me, then wrapped his blanket around us both.  "You got to be careful of them sissies.  Don't make friends with them, or sooner or later they'll try to kiss you."

"Did a sissy ever try to kiss you, Beau?"

He pressed me close.  "Don't worry about me -- I'm all man.  If any sissy tried anything with me, I'd knock his block off!"

Soon after, I fell asleep in Beau's arms.  He got off the train at Norfolk, never knowing that he had spent the night with a "sissy."

I've been trying to understand this memory from my vantage point of 44 years.  A lonely sailor, away from home for the first time, tries to bond with a boy who reminds him of his little brother.  But the boy doesn't like any "manly" activities, just girly stuff like The Brady Bunch.  So he tells him a cautionary tale about sissies trying to kiss you.

But the cautionary tale is about a lonely guy -- like Beau -- meeting a "sissy" -- like me.  Was the Beau trying to remind himself to avoid letting guys get too close, because they might stir uncomfortable desires?

The tale doesn't have an unhappy ending.  We aren't told Dick Butkus's response to the "moo" request.   Maybe he was, indeed, perfectly willing to kiss a man.

I like to think that, when Beau got to his naval base in Norfolk, he was perfectly willing to kiss men, too.

See also: Cousin George: Only Fools Wear Pajamas

Lane and I Hookup with Waiter in a Mexican Restaurant

West Hollywood, April 1993.

When I lived in West Hollywood, our go-to restaurant was the French Quarter.  Saturday morning breakfast, brunch after church, first dates, last dates, browsing the gift shops, watching out for the stray celebrity or gay royalty.  But we did go to other places: the Greenery, the Cafe d"Etoille, Hamburger Hamlet, Pink's Hot Dogs, Mrs. Field's Cookies, Thai Thai, the Hunan Kitchen, the Abbey, and sometimes places outside of West Hollywood altogether.

But when you left West Hollywood, you had to be careful.  Restaurant patrons and staff could be bitingly homophobic.  Stares and laughter at the least, maybe derisive comments.  You could be kicked out, or assaulted in the parking lot.  If it didn't have a reputation for being gay-friendly, you stayed away.

But one night in 1993, Lane and I went to a movie at the Cinerama Dome, the giant "shower cap" on Sunset, and  on the way home, about 8 blocks from the border of West Hollywood, we saw a Mexican restaurant called La Azteca  (Now it seems to be called La Numero Uno).

There were no Mexican restaurants in West Hollywood at that time, so we decided to stop.  A change of pace from the French Quarter.  What's the worst that could happen?

1. A dining area packed exclusively with pairs of men and women.  No same-sex couples anywhere.  It seemed outlandish and bizarre after years in West Hollywood.

2. The hostess asked "How many in your party?" and her neck to look for the women we were meeting.

3. She took us to a table for four, and didn't remove the other two place settings, apparently not believing that there were no women on the way.

4. Heads turned to stare, gossip began to be whispered.  What was up with these two guys dining together on a Saturday night?  Could they be brothers?  College roommates?  A celebrity and his bodyguard?

5. A woman sitting at the bar smiled at me with unmistakable intent.  Did heterosexuals cruise each other?

We buried our noses in the menus.

The waiter approached -- he was young, in his 20s, short, solid, light-skinned, with a black buzz cut. His name tag said "Mauricio. Mexico City."

 "Have you guys been here before?" he asked.

Finally, a nonchalant heterosexual!  Attentive, too, bringing us water and chip refills several times.  He even flirted, putting his hand on Lane's shoulder to point out the desserts.

Did waiters in heterosexual restaurants flirt for tips?

He asked "one check or two?", so he didn't realize that we were a couple.  We concluded that he was just being friendly as part of his jobs.

The next day I got up early so I could work out before church, and there, amid the power-lifting semi-celebrities was our waiter, Mauricio!

We spotted each other and chatted, exchanging the four main pieces of information you got from a new acquaintance:
1. Where are you from? 

Macon, Georgia, but "Mexico City" looked better on his name tag.  Anyway, his parents were from Mexico.

2. How long have you been in L.A.?

3 months.  He lived with his cousin on Poinsettia Boulevard in Hollywood.

3. Are you out at work and to your family?
Not at work.  Yes to his family, but "we don't talk about it."

4. What is your career goal?
To become an actor.

The preliminaries over, Mauricio asked "That guy you were with last night -- was that your lover?"

I nodded.  "Lane. We've been together for three years."

"Wow, congratulations! You got a good thing going on -- he's so hot!  I love big bears!  Is he a top or a bottom -- please say bottom."

Yes, we did have conversations like that with near-strangers in West Hollywood in 1993.

I was so used to being cruised all the time that I was a little put-off.  But I figured, fixing him up with my lover would be almost as good as dating him myself.  "We have an open relationship," I continued.  "If you want, I can give you our phone number."


"Wow, that'd be great!  Thanks!"

Dating when you were in a relationship was almost identical to dating while single.  You called, made the date for four or five days in the future, then went out for dinner, a movie, a concert, or cruising.  The only difference was, when you got home, your lover was waiting, to either watch the bedroom activities, or preferably join in.

So the next Friday night, I waited while Lane and Mauricio went out to dinner at the French Quarter, followed by cruising at the Faultline.  They came in at a little after 11:00, groping and kissing each other, and stumbled into the bedroom.  I followed.

And watched.

Mauricio had a smooth,solid body and an impressive Bratwurst+ beneath the belt, but whenever I tried to pay attention to him, he became embarrassingly unaroused.  A brief kiss, a desultory grope, and I was relegated to watching while he and Lane kissed, groped, fondled, and tried various positions for oral and anal.

Two hours later, they were still at it, and I was resisting the urge to turn on the tv.

I did get a little hugging when we all fell asleep in each other's arms, but the next morning it was Lane and Mauricio again, followed by breakfast.

After he left, I exclaimed, "What was that about?  You ignored me all night, and then again this morning!"

He smiled.  "Sorry -- it's just first date syndrome, you know, when you can't get enough of the guy.  We'll pay more attention to you on our second date, I promise."

The second date was two nights later.  Mauricio came over to dinner with a couple of our friends, and we rented a movie.

This time Lane and Mauricio went into the bedroom alone, while the rest of us stayed in the living room.  Eventually the others left, and I joined them.

I got a little action, mostly from Lane, but I still felt like turning on the tv, and letting them go at it.

When you're in a relationship, the third date is just as critical as when you are single.  Afterwards, you are officially together, a three-way romance.

Three-way romances were quite common in West Hollywood.  Who invented the heterosexist myth that you could only love one guy at a time?

Often the third liked one or the other more, so it was really more like a guy with two lovers. But never was the third simply left out of the equation.

I made sure there was no third date with Mauricio.

See also: A Hookup with the Waiter at a Christian Pizza Restaurant; The Silverlake Stud