Grocery store employees aren't exactly fantasy hookups. They don't come to your house, and when you see them at work, they're sliding your canned goods over scanners while a dozen people wait behind you.
Besides, the checkers are mostly women, and the baggers are mostly high school boys. Not much to work with.
But take another look at the college-age boys and young adults, in their shortsleeved shirts, biceps straining over industrial-sized crates of lettuce. They develop a lot of upper body strength.
Besides, you're there at the same time every week. There's lots of time to cruise.
And you're out, as openly gay as you can get without a sign, two guys pushing a single shopping cart, or a single guy buying vegetables, fruit, and lean meats, with no Hamburger Helper or Hot Pockets in sight.
In West Hollywood, we had the gay Safeway, on Santa Monica a few blocks down from the Rage. 90% of the customers were gay.
In Florida we had the Publix, down the street from Rosie's Bar and Grill. A lot of heterosexuals, but enough gay people that we could be open without fear of homophobic harassment.
My housemates and I ate most of our breakfasts and dinners together, and Barney did all of the shopping. So I only went to the Publix when I wanted something not on his list, like soda or snack foods.
I was always impressed by the number of cute guys working there, but I didn't go often enough to get to know faces, let alone cruise anyone.
So it came as a surprise one day in early December 2002, when I went to the Publix to get Christmas candy, and a guy stocking cereal said "Hey, you're one of Wade's friends, aren't you? I've seen you here with him."
Wade was a recent graduate of McGill University in Toronto who worked in a hotel. We dated for a few weeks last summer. He and Yuri had become friends, so he was around the house a lot, and sometimes we "shared." I couldn't remember when I had been in Publix with him -- maybe one night when he came over for dinner.
We shook hands. He was a beach boy, in his 20s, about my height, with dark-blond curly hair, a round face, a rather muscular physique, and big hands.
"How do you know Wade?"
"He dated my boss, the Giant. I was sad that they broke up...they seemed really good together." He paused. "So...um...I have to get back to work, but maybe we could get together later? I get off at 7:00."
"I'm busy tonight, but how about the weekend?"
We exchanged phone numbers, and I finished my shopping and went home.
And immediately called Wade for the dish on Jack.
"I met him through the Giant," Wade told me. "Super nice guy. A little closeted -- he still lives with his conservative Mom."
"How long did you date?"
"Um...just the one time. He was nice and all, but...."
"Not big enough beneath the belt?"
"Oh, it's not that. He's got a nice body. It's just...I'm really into older guys, for one thing, and for another, we weren't compatible in bed."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't want to say anything negative, and turn you off. He's a really nice guy. You'll see."
How mysterious! I was definitely going out with Jack now!
On our date, we had dinner at Rosie's, and then went cruising at the Manor. Jack told me with a grin that he grew up in Harlem -- it's a very small, very conservative town on Lake Okeechobee, in central Florida: "Nothing there but a bar and a Pentecostal church. My dad went to one, and my mom went to the other."
Jack continued going to a hardcore fundamentalist church, planned to become a preacher, and enrolled at Pensacola Christian College.
He dropped out during his difficult coming-out process. He had been working at Publix for two years, and intended to make it his career.
We spent a lot of time comparing notes about our fundamentalist childhoods, and talking about the passages in the Bible that are used to promote homophobia, even though they have nothing to do with gay people.
So far so good. He was very cute, and we had a lot in common.
Then we went into the bedroom.
Nice physique, average beneath the belt gifts, kissed like a vacuum cleaner, using suction to pull my mouth into his. Not terribly pleasant.
I pushed him away. We fondled for a bit, and then he went down on me.
Like a vacuum cleaner.
The suction was so great that it hurt.
"Not so rough!" I exclaimed.
"Sorry." He fondled me for a bit and then tried again.
Again, like a vacuum cleaner. I let him work for a few minutes, and then pulled his head away. It was hard to dislodge him.
Do you have to be trained in oral sex? I never received any instruction except "watch your teeth."
"Here, let me show you how."
I went down on him. He finished almost instantly.
"Ok, now you try."
Like a vacuum cleaner. I dislodged him, and we went to sleep.
The next day my penis was sore, and there was blood in my urine. The doctor told me that small capillaries had burst due to the over-energetic oral sex. Not serious, but rather frightening.
And no more dates with the Vacuum Cleaner.
See also: Wade the Beach Boy; Wade and the Giant; Picking Up the Checker in the Grocery Store