Saturday, October 24, 2015

I Come Out to the Gay Cult Member

Rock Island, April 1981

My goal during my junior year at Augustana College was to find one gay student.  Lots of guys were willing to do things in the dark, in secret, like Haldor who challenged me to a "dating contest," or the fratboys who cruised the levee, but in the daylit world they chanted "girls! girls! girls!"

I wanted just one guy out of the 1,036 male undergraduates who dreamed only of men.  (It didn't occur to me to look for lesbians.)  But with no organizations, no meeting places, and everyone pretending to be straight, finding gay men required research.  You look for a rote recitation of the desirable traits in girls, as if they had memorized a list; a glint in the eye when a cute guy passed; a reticence about evening and weekend activities, or else too glib an answer.





Through assiduous research, I found three "probably gay" undergrads: the first was a freshman Asian Studies major named Corey: tall, slim, very handsome but not very muscular.  I sat next to him in Eastern Religions class in the spring quarter of 1981, and noticed that he never gazed at or flirted with any of the girls in the class -- my first clue!

One day I saw him and a friend having lunch in the Student Union Snack Bar -- a male friend, my second clue!  I grabbed a sandwich and coke and joined them.

Corey glanced at his friend, who suddenly remembered an appointment and split, leaving us alone.  My third clue!

We chatted about classes and clubs -- never once mentioning girls.  Corey was from a small farm town in Illinois, forced to come to Augustana because his parents were Lutheran, but he was into spiritual exploration -- Krishna Consciousness, Zen Buddhism, Nichiren.  Next year he was transferring to Maharishi International University!

Maharashi Mahesh Yogi, Hindu mystic and founder of Transcendental Meditation, ran a university in Fairfield, Iowa, about a hundred miles from Rock Island. His followers had been widely accused of brainwashing, mind control, and miscellaneous deviltries, so locals were up in arms about the "cult" establishing a base nearby.

 A cultist! But I kept my cool.  "I've always been interested in meditation," I said.  "Maybe you could teach me sometime."




"That's just the first step,"  I want to learn how to fly."

Apparently the most adept of the Maharishi's followers could "fly," or actually levitate a foot or two off the ground.

This was a skill I wanted to learn!


So that night after dinner I went to Corey's room in the freshman dorm -- no pictures of girls on the wall, another clue -- and he showed me how to sit cross-legged on the floor, facing each other, and clear our minds of distracting thoughts.

"Surrender your worries, your concerns, your desires.  Especially your sexual desires.  Don't think about girls."

Girls?  Uh-oh.  "Is it ok to think about guys?"

He didn't know what I meant.  "Sure, think about all the guys you want."

"What if they're a distraction?"  I maneuvered so that our knees were touching, and stared into his eyes.

"How can a guy be a distraction?  It's a guy!"

Not only was Corey heterosexual, he didn't even know what gay people were! Time to enlighten him. "Some guys find guys a distraction.  You know...if they're like...into guys."

He blushed bright red.  "Um...oh...well, they didn't have sexual perversions in Vedic times, but I'm sure Transcendental Meditation has a cure."

Great -- as if I don't get enough homophobic nonsense from the Nazarenes.  Now I have to hear it from a cult!

We had a few more conversations about religion, and at the end of the year he transferred to the University of Iowa to study Chinese.

But the story has a happy ending.  If you hang out in front of the French Quarter in West Hollywood long enough, every gay person in the world will walk by, and one day in the 1990s I saw Corey.  He and his partner were living in San Francisco, where they were members of the Gay Buddhist Sangha.

Most Western Buddhists are, in fact, gay-positive.  And so is Transcendental Meditation.

36 Hours of Cruising at Lambert International Airport

St. Louis, January 1982

I don't hook up in public, period.  No parks, no nature preserves, no secluded hotel restrooms, no booths at the Pleasure Palace.  No way, no how.

But back in college in the Midwest in the 1980s, I didn't know much about gay culture and history, and I thought that the only possible way for gay people to meet was in bars and public places.  So I wasn't so picky.

January 30th, 1982, my senior year at Augustana College.  I applied to the Ph.D. program in Spanish at Tulane University in New Orleans.  They flew me in for an interview, and now I was on my way back to Rock Island.

The three hour flight to St. Louis was uneventful; we flew above the clouds in brilliant sunlight.  Our descent was a little bumpy, but we landed at Lambert Airport right on schedule, at 5;15 pm.

I went to the monitor to check on my connection, a 6:30 flight to Moline, Illinois, and home.

Cancelled.

The board was lit with dozens of flickering "cancelled" lights.

I had never flown alone before -- my flights to Switzerland, Colombia, and Germany were in supervised groups.  What was I supposed to do?

Finally I found the American Airlines help desk.  The line was endless.  Forget it!

I called the American Airlines telephone number.  On hold for half an hour.  Forget it!


I walked through the terminal.  Stores and restaurants were closing.  I grabbed dinner -- a burger and fries -- at the Brewmaster's Tap Room just before it closed.  No one explained what was happening.

Later I discovered that St. Louis got 14 inches of snow overnight, the biggest blizzard in history.  They closed the airport and sent most of the staff home, stranding thousands of travelers.

All of Saturday night, no flights came in or out, and none of the stores were open except a nacho place and Hudson Books.  I had nachos and overpriced candy bars for breakfast and lunch.

Food services began Sunday morning, and flights started going out around noon.  But there was such a backlog that I couldn't get out until 6:30 pm.

Get a hotel room?  No credit cards, not enough money.

Stuck all night and all day at Lambert International Airport

In the era before smart phones, laptops, wifi, and DVDs.

How I passed the time:

1. Reading three best sellers from the meager selection at Hudson Books: The Hotel New Hampshire, Gorky Park, and Red Dragon.  They were all terrible.
2. Calling my parents and asking them to come pick me up, but they were snowed in, too.
3. Vowing never to go to St. Louis again.
4. Vowing not to go to grad school in Spanish.
4. Walking up and down the concourses, looking at the cute guys trying to sleep.











5. Having sex with strangers.

About 11:00 pm Saturday night, I was sitting in a stall in an out-of-the-way restroom at the end of an abandoned concourse, when someone went into the stall next to me.

Great! I'm too shy to perform now!  I'll just have to wait it out!

So I waited and waited, and he waited and waited, and before I knew it, things were happening under the partition between the stalls.

Wait -- do people actually do these things in public restrooms?

I had lots of time to research the matter, and it turns out that they do.  If you wait in a secluded stall long enough, things just happen.  Or else you make eye contact with someone you like, head into the restroom together, and go into the same stall.





That night and the next day, I hooked up with several other stranded passengers and airport employees.  The ones I remember are:
1. A middle-aged businessman in a suit and tie
2. A young dad whose wife and kids were waiting outside
3. A guy who worked in the nacho shop, and took me to the store room to finish the hookup.
4. A flight attendant who said he cruised there often
5. A cute college boy from Minneapolis who liked to kiss, and gave me his phone number.
6. An African guy from Zambia.

About as much action as you'd get at a bath house.

But don't try this at home.  Undercover police officers are on patrol, hoping to make an arrest for "lewd behavior."  It's gross, it's uncomfortable, and it plays into the stereotype of gay men as sexual predators.  Besides, in the era of Grinder and internet chat rooms, who wants to be with someone so closeted that he resorts to pick-ups in public restrooms?

But in 1982, it made for a memorable layover at Lambert International Airport.

See also: Cruising at the Levee; and The Darkroom at the American Gay Bar.

Dancing with a Swedish Leatherboy

Fiesch, Switzerland, June 1977

During the summer after my junior year at Rocky High, when I still belonged to the ultra-fundamentalist Nazarene Church and thought gay people were monsters, I was one of the delegates to the Nazarene Youth Society International Institute, 500 cream-of-the-crop teenage Johnny and Suzie Nazarenes from around the world meeting in an old army training camp (now the Sport und Ferienzentrum) in Fiesch, Switzerland.














What did we do for a week?

Boys-only swimming
1. Evangelization services, with altar calls every night.
2. Bible studies, prayer meetings, and workshops on personal evangelization.
3. The International Jump Quiz Tournament.
4. Swimming in the camp pool (boys only before noon, girls only after noon).
 5. Field trips to Rhone Glacier, Brig (for skiing), and Mount Eggishorn (for mountain climbing).

I tried to call Giovanni, the foreign-exchange student who I had a crush on, but the number didn't work.


We had some free time for sightseeing, as long as we followed the rules:

1. Don't make friends with the locals.
2. Don't go near any Catholic churches.
3. No dancing, movies, live theater, card games, or festivals. No restaurants that serve alcohol (in Switzerland they all do).
4. Be back at the base by 7:00 pm, and in your bunk 1/2 hour after altar call ends. 


Sport und Ferienzentrum, Fiesch

I started hanging out with Alex, whose dad was a missionary in France, and who had no qualms about breaking the rules.  We visited Sion Cathedral, chatted up some high school boys on the train, abandoned our lunch boxes for a restaurant.

And one night we snuck out after curfew, walked into town, and ended up in a disco (breaking three rules at once).

My eyes were drawn to an older guy, maybe 25, sitting with his friends: blond, glasses, wearing a leather jacket with no shirt underneath.  I glimpsed a stunning, sculpted physique like a marble statue, and a gigantic bulge.  So I dragged Alex over to talk to him.





Our barracks
In English, he said that his name was Christoffer, and he was an engineering student from Goteborg University in Sweden.

"I had lunch with King Karl Gustaf last year," I yelled, trying to make myself heard over the music.. "He told me to apply to Goteborg University."

"He doesn't know what he's talking about," Christoffer yelled.  I didn't realize it at the time, but in retrospect, he was very drunk. "You should be a model.  You have the right. . .um. . face for it. . .and you, too," he added, turning to Alex. "You should be models together."

Suddenly we heard the throbbing beat of Donna Summers' "I Feel Love."  "Come on, we dance," Christoffer said, throwing off his leather jacket and dragging us onto the dance floor.

I had never danced before, so I'm sure I was bad at it, but Christoffer wasn't paying attention.  He jumped and gyrated and lip-synched until his body started to glow with sweat.

I wasn't going back to camp without a touch, so I reached out and ran my palm lightly over that white-marble chest.  Christoffer grinned at me.  He reached over and undid a button of my shirt, and then another, and ran his hand underneath.

The Swedish leather boy
Then Alex pulled me away.  "We have to get back!" he yelled.

"No, stay!" Christoffer yelled.  "Come to my hotel.  We have Schnapps!"

An offer of alcohol quashed any erotic interest I might have had.  I said goodbye and quickly followed Alex out of the club and through the dark, cool night to our camp.

"I think I saved you from a fate worse than death back there," Alex said. "That Christoffer guy was gay."

"No way!" I exclaimed.  "Didn't you see his body?"  In Rock Island, we thought that muscles were a sure sign of heterosexual identity.

I never saw Christoffer again, of course, but I have often wondered what would have happened if we accepted his offer of "Schnapps."

See also: My date with the King of Sweden



Friday, October 23, 2015

My Most Embarrassing Hookup, in Hell-fer-Sartain, Texas

Houston Texas, January 1985

I spent nine horrible months in 1984-85 in Hell-fer-Sartain, Texas, in the northern suburbs of Houston, the worst place in the world.

The gay neighborhood of the Montrose was only 25 miles away, but still, it was nearly impossible to meet people.  First, it was nearly an hour's drive away, in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

All of the gay organizations met on weeknights, when I didn't have time.  That left bars, which were dangerous, with good old boys driving by to issue homophobic threats, and undercover cops waiting to arrest you for "homosexual conduct."

And when you got past the danger, you found a barful of very closeted guys with weird quirks.

But at Christmastime in 1984, I went back to Rock Island and hooked up with my old bully at JR's.  After he turned out to be both apologetic and massive (#7 on my Sausage List), I thought it might be possible to meet someone nice in a bar after all.

So one Saturday night in January 1985, I drove down to the Montrose, to a cruise bar called the Ripcord, a very dark, rather dingy expanse, with peanut shells on the floor and the bottles of the last customers still on every table.

But for some reason I didn't get any attention.  Guys my own age, even older guys gave me nothing but Attitude.

I was 24 years old, but I looked a bit younger.  I was wearing a leather jacket, a short-sleeved shirt that displayed my physique, and very tight jeans, and I knew how to "stand and model" with a phallic beer bottle thrust up from my crotch.  I was the hottest guy there!

Can you figure out why I was getting Attitude?

After an hour, I was desperate.  In order to maintain my self-esteem, I would have to find a "sure thing," someone so inept or unattractive that he would be open to practically anyone.



I found someone standing in the shadows by the pool table: mid-40s, bushy-haired, glasses, a nerd's unstylish shirt and slacks.  But he was shorter than me and a bit chubby, both characteristics that I find attractive.

When I walked over and said "hello," he gave me as much Attitude as everyone else.  But I didn't care: I started talking to him anyway, and gently stroking his thigh.  He didn't move away.

Eventually he began to look at me -- with a cold glare -- and to respond to my questions -- with curt monosyllables.  Better than nothing. 

His name was Warren.  He wouldn't say what his job was, so I didn't volunteer mine, either.

I might have mentioned that it was hard making ends meet; I was always short on cash.  

No, he wasn't from Houston.  He had just been living here a few years.  He grew up in Utah.

"Mormon?" I asked, thinking of the Mormon missionary I met on my way back from California in 1980.

"It's the Reformed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," he said, looking around suspiciously.  "But let's not talk about that here."

Did he think he could be identified by his church membership?  "Ok, well, why don't we go somewhere else?"

He continued to glare, but reached out to fondle my chest. "Where should we go?"

I didn't want to admit that I lived in a far suburb -- an instant turn-off in gay neighborhoods -- so I lied: "We can't go back to my place.  I live with my parents."

"Well...how about a hotel room?"


I followed Warren to one of those sleazy discount hotels on the edge of downtown, and he got us a room.  He turned out to be respectable beneath the belt, and very passionate, into kissing and cuddling as much as the more advanced activities.

I awoke in the morning to the bouncing of the bed as Warren, already dressed, was putting his shoes on.

"Want to go out for breakfast?" I asked.

"Oh, no, I can't afford any more.  Besides, I have to be going.  I'm late already."

Can't afford any more?  What did that mean?

His shoes on, Warren checked his wallet to make sure his credit cards were still there, and headed out the door.

"Wait...you forgot..."  I began,  You always exchanged phone numbers with a hookup, just in case...

"It's on the nightstand.  Thanks, this was fun."  And the door slammed behind him.

I lay in bed, naked, shocked.  Why was he so anxious to be out of there?

I leaned over to the nightstand to retrieve his phone number.  Instead, there was:



An unmarked envelope containing five $20 bills.

The cruisy outfit, the "short on cash," the "living with my parents": Warren thought I was a hustler!

My face burned as I realized that everyone in the bar must have thought so, too. That's why they gave me so much Attitude!

I was too mortified to ever go near that bar again.

See also: Topping and Bottoming in Texas

Tomor the Mongolian Shaman of Paris

Paris, July 1999

I spent the summer of 1999 in Paris, ostensibly researching French social thought, but really just...well, being in Paris. Every day I took the metro to the National Library to do research for a few hours.  In the afternoon I visited the parks, churches, and museusm, and in the evening, just after work, I dropped by a gay bar or bath house.  The Parisians were very friendly, very willing to talk. More often than not, they invited me out to dinner.

The tourists were not so friendly -- they came to Paris to meet Parisians, not Canadians with bad accents (I always claimed to be Canadian to avoid the hostility).  So one night at the Duplex Bar, , when I saw an Asian guy holding the wall up, I kept my distance.

He was cute though, slim, hard-torsoed, golden -skinned, with dark eyes and a beard and moustache.  And there weren't a lot of Asians in Paris.  So eventually I thought "What's the worst that can happen?" and approached.

"Bonjour.  Je suis Boomer, dans Toronto," I began.  

"Tomor.  Dans Mongolia."

"Mongolia!"  I repeated, thinking of all that I had heard about Silk Road, the empire of Genghis Khan, the stately pleasure dome of Kublai Khan, the semi-nude wrestling competitions; the penis statues. the men.

"I'm not Khalka, I'm Baad," he said in fluent French.. "From the Uvs Province, near the Russian border."

"Ok, ok.  My friend Yuri is Russian.  He loves Mongolian guys.  Especially if they have a lied grand."  Yuri had never expressed a particular interest in Asian men, but he was into super-sized lieds.

"Et moi aussi."  

Tomor told me that he had come to Paris to study history at the Sorbonne, and to get away from the homophobia at home.  It was the Khalkha, the ruling tribe of Mongolia, that instituted homophobia, he said.  And the Buddhists and the Communists.  In the early days, before the Buddhists came, same-sex relations were honored.  They made warriors brave.

"Wait -- the Buddhists?" I asked.  "Aren't most Mongolians Buddhists?"

"Most, maybe.  Not me.  I worship the old gods.  Tengri the Sky Father.  We journey in spirit to the other worlds."

With a start I realized that it was 8:00 pm, early for dinner for most Parisians, but late for me.  We walked down the street to a Vietnamese restaurant near the Rambuteau Station, and then took the Metro to Tomor's apartment, which he shared with another Mongolian

"Is he Tengrin, also?" I asked.

"Oh, no, Buddhist.  I'm not out to him.  Well, I'm out as gay, but not as Tegrin."

In his bedroom, instead of a statue of the Buddha, he had a photograph of a mountain he called Burkhan Khaldun.

I thought of Ibn Khaldun, the famous Medieval explorer, but Tomor said there was no relation.

Tomor said that the shamans of his religion were all bisexual, because they could look beyond the physical gender to the beauty of the soul.  During their spirit journeys, they usually changed gender, men becoming women, women becoming men.

Then he showed me a mask called a Tsam, a demon who could scare off the forces of darkness, including the force of homophobia.

I could use one of those back in my apartment in New York.

Suddenly I looked at the time.  It was 11:00!  I had been so busy talking that I forgot about our hookup!

"My apologies!" I exclaimed.  "I'm sure that you did not invite me here to talk about your religion!"

"But I did," Tomor said.  "Every guy wants sex, but nobody wants to hear about what is really important, the world of the spirits.  But what good is a physical act without the spiritual?"

"Sorry, I don't understand."

He touched my shoulder.  "Sex is one of the gate to the other world.  Your lover takes on the spirit and becomes your guide.  Otherwise it's just recreation, like going to a movie."

This sounded a lot like Tantric Buddhism, in which sexual acts of various sorts lead to enlightenment.  But I wasn't going to tell Tomor that, and offend him with more Buddhist contamination of the old religion.  I wanted some enlightenment.

He had a nice physique, and a surprising Bratwurst+ beneath the belt.  But the activity itself was unconfortable, a lot of jabbing and twisting, and weird pretzel positions.

Still, how many guys can say that they've been with a Mongolian shaman?

See also: The Ten-Foot Penis of Mongolia; 20 Preachers, Priests, and Religious Guys on My Dating List.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Cooking and Cruising: Restaurant Hookups and Pickups

My memories of places often center on restaurants.  The food, the people I went with, and the waiters.  

A cute waiter can make the most miserable meal appealing, and haute cuisine loses something when served by a waitress.

And sometimes the waiters do more than flirt.














Rock Island

Harris Pizza.  Harris Pizza, no question, the best in the universe.  We ordered several times a year when I was growing up, and I always insisted on getting it when I returned for a visit.  Once I tried to pick up the college boy who worked at the counter, but my friend Dick did instead.  They've been together ever since.

The Hasty Tasty Shop, a pancake house where I had my wild night of debauchery in fifth grade.  Before the night was over, I got to give a massage to a high school boy and feel a wiener.


Sandy's, a fast-food chain where the waiters all wore cute Scotch tartan kilts, I assume with nothing on underneath.


Bloomington.

Bob's Burgers (no relation to the tv show).  Viju and I used to go there after an unsuccessful night of cruising at Bullwinkle's, and sometimes with out hookups after a successful night.  You could get a hamburger with a fried egg on top.  The waiters were paid extra to get enthusiastic over the food.  And they never gave us weird looks for being two (or four) men together.

Texas
 I didn't go to Houston very often, but when I did, it was to Baba Yaga, for wall to wall gay men and couples.  I took my clueless friend Bruce there when he was visiting, and he still didn't figure it out.





West Hollywood.  

The French Quarter, our go-to place for brunch, lunch, and an occasional dinner.  Remarkable for their 8" long fried zucchini sticks.  And for their cute waiters who flirted for tips.  If you sat at the little tables outside, sooner or later everyone you knew would pass by.

I never hooked up with one of the waiters, but my on-off boyfriend Raul did -- a buffed but rather feminine Afro-Cuban guy.  Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to share.

La Azteca, a Mexican restaurant beyond the boundaries of West Hollywood.  Lane and I only went there once, but we managed to start a three-way romance with Mauricio, our waiter.

Hamburger Hamlet.  Burgers and fries rivaling anyplace in the world.  Marshall the Virgin and I used to go there after working out.


San Francisco.

Orphan Andy's, with a diner atmosphere, cute waiters, and even cuter clientele at the beginning of Castro Street.  It was also cruisy -- my friend David hooked up with a lot of guys there.  I didn't.












New York

Thai Palace. There were about 10 Thai restaurants in a 10 block radius of my apartment, but I always went to a little Thai restaurant near the Flatiron Building that's not there anymore.  Stuffed, deep-fried chicken wings with a sweeet sauce!  Never found them anywhere else. I brought Yuri there every time he visited me in Manhattan.

Paris.  

Suam Thai.  Speaking of Thai restaurants, during my summer in Paris I went to Suam Thai almost every night, and I tried to go back whenever I visited later.  No Angel wings, but good pad thai to go. I managed to hook up with Prasert, the chef -- while he was still working.



Florida.  

The Courtyard Cafe, Wilton Manors' answer to the French Quarter, with a huge patio where dozens of gay men gathered for brunch every Saturday.  Lunch was ok, too.  My friend hooked up with a waiter here, and dated him for six months.

Thai Sushi.  I'm not a fan of sushi, but I am a fan of cute waiters, and it was near The Club, the bath house of Wilton Manors.  Sometimes the guy at the next table ended up at The Club a moment later.







Amsterdam.  

Indrapura, an Indonesian restaurant notable for its chicken and beef satay, was on Rembrandtplein, just across the street from the guest house I always stayed in, and less than a mile from the Horseman's Club.  I never hooked up with any waiters, but I did get a date with a regular.




 Dayton.  

Lone Star Barbecue.  We always went to the Lone Star Barbecue for breakfast.  Pancakes, "cowboy potatoes," and brisket-omelettes.  Plus Josh a long-haired hipster waiter with a ripped chest and huge biceps.  I saw him naked at the gym, too. (See my Sausage Sighting List).

The Dragon Palace, my go-to place for Chinese food.  Usually I got it delivered.  I tried to hookup with the delivery guy, Bobby Chan, but ended up with his Anglo friend instead.












Upstate New York


The Neptune Diner, one of those old-fashioned glass and steel diners that advertises "steaks and chops," whatever those are, but has a menu 30 pages long. I liked the gyros, the moussaka, the pancakes, and the chicken.  Chad, the housemate of the Satyr , who I dated in the fall of 2008, was a waiter there.








Applebee's.  Yes, the chain.  Troy always wanted to go to the one in the mall for lunch Saturday, because the bartender/waiter was his type: older, muscular, hairy. Unfortunately, he wore an apron that kept his bulge hidden.

The Plains

The Pizza Ranch. A horrible fundamentalist Christian pizza chain that offers gut-busting deep-fried chicken and Bible verses, but the hottest waiters imaginable.  I managed to hook up with a gay guy going undercover.

Rainbow Coffee.  There are no gay bars or restaurants in town, but there's a gay-friendly, lesbian-run vegan coffee house where you can meet lots of bohemian artistic gay-friendly types, like the cute English major Warren from the fundamentalist college on the hill.  I haven't actually seen him like this yet, but he's just a sophomore, so there's plenty of time.

Indianapolis

Charlie's Bar and Grille, a crazy retro restaurant where I got picked up by a waiter named Mike.

See also: My Top Sausage Sightings.



Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sausage Sighting of the Preacher's Son

Rock Island, May 1977

When I was in high school, Verne the Preacher's Son was my kind-of boyfriend (at least when there were no girls around).

Nothing erotic happened, but we hugged, and I got a number of sausage sightings.

This guy is over 18, older than Verne at the time, but he has the grin, the same chest and shoulders, and the same beneath-the-belt gifts, a sizeable Bratwurst.

During my junior year, I applied for early admission to Olivet, our Bible College on the prairie, because Verne was going.   It offered 30 majors, but everyone assumed that I would be studying to become a preacher, evangelist, minister of music, or missionary.



As the days and weeks of my junior year at Rocky High passed, Verne began to conjure an idyllic future for us.  We would be roommates at Olivet, of course, and take lots of the same classes. He would play football, and I would be an athletic trainer.

Then, when we graduated, we would get called by the same church, maybe as preacher and minister of music.  They often worked as a team.  We would plan church services together.  We would go on retreats, prayer breakfasts, and sabbaticals. Our wives would exchange recipes in parsonage kitchens.  Our children would grow up together, and eventually marry each other.

Sometimes these conversations involved hugging.  Sometimes they involved playfully grabbing at each other while changing clothes.  I had already seen Verne nude in the locker room, and on our camping trip, but there was something especially erotic about nude horseplay, in his bedroom at the parsonage on a Saturday afternoon.



A random guy
One day in May 1977, shortly after Scott the Cornetist disappeared (later we discovered that he died), we were changing clothes after jogging, and I got tired of the "wives and kids" litany.  "Why will we need wives?" I asked.  "Why can't it just be the two of us?"

He looked at me like I was crazy.  Then, after a long pause: "Have you ever seen a Nazarene preacher that didn't have a wife?"

"Um. ...no."

"Every preacher -- every man --  has to get married.  It's  a fact of life.  But friends are just as important.  Maybe more."  He put his hands on my shoulders and drew me into a warm, sweaty, hug "The Bible says that David loved Jonathan 'more than the love of women.'"

I wasn't satisfied.  "Why can't David and Jonathan live together without women?"

Verne laughed and broke away.  "Man, you get the craziest ideas!  Without women, they would be Swishes!"

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Boy on the Prospect List

Rock Island, August 1974

When I was growing up in Rock Island,  anyone who set foot inside the Nazarene Church for any reason, but didn't "get saved" and become a member, was placed on the Prospect List.

Even if they just came for Vacation Bible School, or to cheer for a friend at a Jump Quiz Tournament.

They stayed on that list forever, unless they asked to be removed or the Church Board decided to purge the list of names from many years ago.

Every August, about a month before the fall revival, our Sunday school teacher gave each of us the contact information for 10 age- and -gender appropriate Prospects.  We were supposed to make it our business to "win them for the Lord," or at least invite them to church.

During the next month, we received 1 point for each Prospect that we prayed for, 2 points for each letter or post card, 5 points for each telephone call, and 10 points for each in-person visit, plus an extra 10 point if they actually came to church.

You might think that the Prospects would be buried in letters or harassed by constantly-ringing telephones, but in fact most people settled for prayer. It's a daunting prospect to cold-call someone you don't know, who has been to your church just once.

During the fall revival, the kid, teenager, and adult with the most points received awards, usually Bibles, while the whole congregation clapped and yelled "Amen!"


During the summer after 5th grade, the first year I was eligible, I wimped out with "prayer only."

In 6th grade,  I sent a few post cards.

In 7th grade, I tried phone calls, only to get two "wrong numbers" (which didn't count) and one "You made a mistake -- I never went to that church."

During the summer after 8th grade, I decided to go all the way with a personal visit.

I was fascinated by a name that appeared on the Prospect List every year: Francis DePew, who came to Vacation Bible School one summer, but never appeared again. He was in the same grade as me, and he lived on the Hill, but he didn't go to Washington Junior High.

That meant he went to Jordan Catholic School!

The Preacher told us all about Catholics!  When they weren't worshipping idols and being brainwashed by evil priests, they were laughing in the face of God, drinking, smoking, dancing, playing cards, going to movies.  But their favorite form of sin was the sex orgy, men cavorting with other men's wives, teenagers having sex without being married, all manner of abominations, as in the days before the Flood!

All manner of abominations?  I had to meet this Francis DePew!  Maybe I could get him to the altar, where he would cry and apologize to God, and I could wrap my arm around his waist and hug him.

Besides, Catholics were as difficult to win for Christ as Muslims!  He would be good practice for when Dan and I became missionaries to Saudi Arabia.

During the August before 9th grade, shortly after we saw Brian writing secret messages on the wall of the junior high, Dan and I rode our bikes past Francis DePew's house nearly every day.

He lived a few blocks from the church, nearly across the street from the Saukie Golf Course that the Preacher was always complaining about.

A nice house, big but nothing special.  I got  a little frisson of dread imagining the Satanic orgies going on inside every night.

Then one Saturday afternoon, we hit the jackpot: a cute, muscular teenage boy, washing a car, with his shirt off!

We stopped. "Hey, cool car," I said.

"Thanks.  It's my brother's. He pays me a dollar to wash it, and when I get my driver's license, I can have it."


"Are you Francis DePew?"

"Frank."  He eyed me suspiciously.  "Do you go to Jordan?"

"No way!"  I exclaimed, offended.  "We go to Washington. I..um...I'm on the wrestling team, and I thought I recognized you from a tournament."

"No, we we don't have wrestling.  I was on the football team last year, though."

"Oh, that's it! From a football game...I thought you had the build for wrestling."  Dan nudged me, signifiying that I had said too much.  Or maybe he wanted to be included in the conversation.  Why should I hog the cute guy?  "Um...I'm Boomer, and this is Dan."

"Hi."  Frank shook hands with us both.  "Do you play football?"


How was I going to get the conversation away from sports and onto church?  "Um...no, I'm too busy with Jump Quiz."

"What's that?"

"It's a great sport," Dan offered.  "You have to use your brain and your muscles.  Especially your legs.  We could teach you..."

And then invite him to come to a tournament, and get him saved!  I thought excitedly.  But the Jump Quiz was about the Bible.  The Preacher said that Catholics couldn't touch the Word of God -- the holiness zapped them like an electric shock.

"Do you...do you know anything about the Bible?" I asked tentatively.

"Oh, I know a little bit."

A few days later, Frank invited us to his house -- my first time ever in a Catholic house. It wasn't scary at all, except for the "evil" crucifix in the living room.

We set up folding chairs on the patio, and took turns reading the questions and competing one-on-one, with breaks to throw a frisbee to his dog. Frank knew about as much about the Bible as I did, and his muscular legs made him a jump quiz natural.

After an hour, we declared the game a tie, and Frank's mother invited us into the kitchen for sodas and ice cream sandwiches.

"That was fun," Frank said.  "And it really gives your legs a workout.  We should use it for football training."


"It's a big deal at my church.  We have the local eliminations in October, and then the district, and you can go all the way to the Internationals, and get a college scholarship. You should...."  But Frank was being so nice that I felt guilty about the mercenary goal of winning him for Christ.  "You should start a team at your church."

So I didn't win the Prospect. Instead, he won me.

I met a nice guy, and I realized that Catholics weren't as scary and evil as the Preacher kept saying.   In fact, the first person I spent the night with, two years later, was a Maronite Catholic boy from Lebanon.

See also: Spending the Night with an Arab Boy