Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My First Hookup


Rock Island, December 1978

I figured "it" out in 1978, during the summer after my high school graduation, and immediately started looking for gay people in Rock Island.

Not for sex or dating, necessarily, just to find someone to talk to.  I had made a major discovery, uncovered the Big Lie, and I couldn't tell anyone about it.

There was no one to discuss the hints and signals that helped us finally realize that "it is not raining upstairs."

No one to share complaints about the incessant "what girl do you like?" interrogations of our family and friends.

No one who I could nudge on the street and say "Isn't that guy hot!"

But how to find gay people in a world with no dating apps, no internet chatrooms, no gay organizations, and everyone pretending that they had no idea that same-sex desire existed.

There was a gay bar in town, but you had to be 21 to get in.  I was 17, and looked around 15.

Asking knowledgeable straight people was a problem.  They would answer with a suspicious "Why do you want to know?  Are you a fag?"

So I made my inquiries as homophobic as possible.  "No, of course not!  I just want to know if it's safe to walk down the street in this town!"

That research yielded mostly dead ends, hints and rumors, no last names, no details.

I tried to look for  clues: guys who were especially feminine, or who made eye contact a little too long, or who touched your hand by "accident."

That was fruitless, too: I spent weeks hanging out with Jack Kerouac, aka Jurgen, only to discover that he was straight, living with a girl!


As far as I could tell, there were no gay people at Augustana, in Rock Island, in the state of Illinois, in the world.

Then, around Christmastime in 1978,  I went to the post office in downtown Rock Island to buy some stamps, and behind the counter was a grinning Little Person.

Or maybe just a short guy.  The Little People Association of America defines dwarfism as anyone 4'10" and under.  He may have been an inch or two taller than that, maybe 5'0", the height of Aron Eisenberg, who played the Ferengi boy Nog on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

(Don't worry, he was over 25 years old when he bulged for this photo.)

My Little Person -- his name tag said Andy -- was in his 20s, very handsome, with a round face, cleanshaven, shaggy brown hair, and a slim, tightly muscled physique.

For a moment I couldn't think of what to say: I just stared.  Then, catching myself: "I'd like a book of stamps."

"Got a lot of Christmas cards to send?"

"Yep.  A lot of guys on my list."

The word guys hung in the air.  Andy smiled even more broadly.  "Well, how about our new Carl Sandburg stamps? He's the one that called Chicago 'the city of big shoulders,' you know."

What straight guy would think of big shoulders?  Andy was gay!  But how to make contact at the front of a long line of grumpy Christmas shoppers?  "I know.  I'm an English major at Augie [Augustana College]."

"I went there.  Majored in Postal Science."  He laughed at his own joke, and touched my hand as he passed over the book of stamps.  When I didn't flinch, he said "Maybe I should drop by my alma mater some time, see how things are going over there."

"I'm at the Student Union most afternoons."  I couldn't think of anything else to say, so I left.

The next day I hung out at the Student Union all afternoon, but no Little Person.

I scrambled to find a gift to send to my Aunt Nora in Indiana, box it up, and take it to the post office at the same time the next day.  Andy was there!

He noticed that I let a couple of other people go ahead of me so I could go to his window, and grinned broadly.

"I wanted to thank you for the Sandburg stamps," I said.  "They'll be a big hit with my friends.  Too bad they didn't show the stormy, husky, brawling Youth, half-naked and proud."  

"That's our Tom of Finland collection, out next month."  I had never heard of Tom of Finland, the gay erotic artist, so I didn't get the joke.  He paused.  "Busy day today.  I can't wait until I get off at 6:00 pm."

At 6:00 pm I was waiting outside the back entrance to the post office, watching the day shift leave.  Andy glanced at me, but didn't speak.

"Hi, Andy!  I thought we could..."

WTF?  He walked past quickly without looking at me, then slowed and looked back.  Mystified, I followed.

I followed him for three blocks, past the Circa 21 Dinner Theater, past the Public Library where I spent many afternoons in high school, past the United Methodist Church.  Every now and then he looked back to make sure I was still there.

Finally we came to an old Victorian house that had been chopped up into apartments.  He unlocked a side door and went in, leaving it ajar.

I stood outside, wondering what to do.  A few moments later, Andy stuck his head out the door, looked at me, and disappeared again.

I followed him inside and up the stairs to a small studio apartment.  A daybed, a small coffee table covered with books and papers, two stalk lamps, a bookcase.

Andy carefully closed and locked the door.

"So, where do you want to go for dinner?"

Then he was on me, kissing and fondling everything he could get his hands on.  We tore off our coats and shirts and collapsed onto the daybed.  His mouth was everywhere, biting, licking, sucking.  He tried to turn me over and push inside, but I whispered "No, the front."

He went down on me vigorously -- my first experience at receiving oral sex.

  Then he lay on his back, moaning as I moved from his firm, hairy chest to his belly. When I got to his penis -- average sized, uncut -- he trembled and moaned and jerked his hips, and finished with a shudder.

I had only been in 1 1/2 sexual situations before, and never anything this exuberant.  It was overwhelming.

When it was over, we lay on the daybed, kissing and fondling, and I was finally able to ask Andy some questions.

No, he didn't know any other gay people in town.  Some familiar faces at JR's, some guys he knew by first names or nicknames, but no one real.

It was too dangerous.  If anyone discovered that he was gay, he would be kicked out of his apartment, fired from his job, arrested, committed to a mental institution.

"Could we...you know, get together again?  Maybe have dinner?"

"Not until you're old enough to go to JR's," Andy said with a sad smile.  "It's the only safe place."  He stood and handed me my underwear.  "Make sure no one sees you on your way out."

I left feeling even more alone.

Actually, Illinois revoked its sodomy law in 1962, and the American Psychiatric Association removed being gay from its list of psychoses in 1973.

 But Andy didn't know that.  No one in small town Illinois in 1978 knew that.

I never saw Andy again.  Years later, I asked around at JRs, and found out that he moved to Iowa City to be close to a lover.

A month later, I would meet my second gay guy in Rock Island, Peter the Male Witch.

See also: My date with Jack Kerouac.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Bondage Boy with the Wife Upstairs


Dayton, April 2008

Most gay men in Dayton were closeted, but none was more closeted than Roland.

He was a regular at Rode's M4M Parties: in his 40s, tall, slim, with a full head of brown hair, a short beard, a smooth, hard chest, and a curved cut Bratwurst beneath the belt.

Roland wasn't his real name.  He never talked about his life outside the parties, except to say that he was a high school math teacher.  He didn't chat much at all.

Sexually he was mostly passive, giving oral more often than receiving it.  He didn't do anal.

One day in the spring of 2008, I casually mentioned the bondage club I used to go to in New York, and his jaw dropped in surprise.  "Bondage, really?  I'm into that, too!  Are you a top or a bottom?"

"I like to do the tying up."

"Whoa, that's great!  I meet so many guys in Dayton who are total bottoms.  What's your favorite position, spread eagle or behind the back?"

The conversation continued like that.  Ropes or chains?  Dildos?  Whipping or paddling?  Dirty talk? Fantasy scenes?  I never saw Roland so enthusiastic.  Finally he said "I have a fully stocked dungeon at home.  Care to come over and try it out, say tomorrow night at 7:00?"

A bondage date!  How exciting!  Guys in Dayton didn't date much -- they were too closeted, afraid of being spotted by someone they knew.   "I'd be happy to.  Shall we have dinner first?"

"Um...no, come after dinner.  But there's a mini-fridge in the dungeon with snacks, if you get hungry."

Ok.  But certainly after the bondage scene we would go to bed together, cuddle and kiss, spend the night, go out for breakfast in the morning, a date just like back home in the gay world.


I got a little nervous when I drove up to the house in Beavercreek, a suburb of Dayton full of heterosexual nuclear families.  Not really a gay-friendly place!

Roland answered the door, took my coat, and ushered me into a family room off the huge steel-and-marble kitchen, where The Simpsons was playing on a big-screen tv.

He didn't live alone!  There was a middle-aged woman sitting on the couch.  Next to her, a 10-year old boy.  And a girl, probably about 12, sprawled out on an easy chair.

 His sister?  A straight female housemate?  What was going on?

"Boomer, this is Sandra and Rick -- he's in fifth grade and already a ladykiller!"

The woman and boy held out their hands to be shaken. Who were these people?

"And the Queen of Angst in the easy chair is Rhianna, in junior high, already beating off the guys with a club!"  She didn't react.  "We're going downstairs to watch the game.  Be up in a couple of hours."

He led back me through the kitchen and a laundry room to a stairway that led to the basement.

"So, was that your sister?"  I asked.

"You really are gay, aren't you?" he whispered.  "That's my wife and kids.  I'm a happily married family man."

This wasn't a date!  It was a down-low hookup!  "But how..."

Behind a side door was his Man Cave, a low wood-paneled room with a couch, a pool table, a card table and chairs, a tv, and some metal cabinets.

"When me and my buddies are in here, watching the game or doing dude things, you don't disturb us unless a kid is bleeding or the house is on fire."  He locked the door and banged on the wall.  "Soundproof.  You can scream, bellow, shout, and no one outside can hear a thing."

The cabinets contained a good stock of bondage equipment: including dildos of various sizes, a vibrating anal massage device, a violet wand, and several types of lubricant.  I imagined Roland coming into the house with a brown paper back in hand and saying "I bought some stuff for the Man Cave, honey."

"You mean you have guys in here to tie you up, with your wife upstairs, and she never suspects anything?"

"Not a thing.  She thinks we're watching tv, or maybe, at the most, wrestling.  I don't think she knows that gay or bi people exist.  She certainly doesn't know what BDSM is."



I was really nervous, but Roland had a nice physique and a Bratwurst beneath the belt, so I managed to orchestrate a simple scene: he was tied to a chair naked, blindfolded, teased, and"forced" to give and receive oral sex.

Afterwards he said "That was nice, back to the basics.  It's so much more erotic when I'm helpless, in your power, don't you think?"

He insisted that I stay for two hours, the length of a real game on ESPN, so we cuddled on the couch and watched Family Guy and American Dad, kissed, and had a vanilla (non-bondage) encounter.

I went back to Roland's house again several times that spring, either on Saturday afternoon or Sunday night.

We stayed mostly in the man cave, except once when I helped Sandra frost cupcakes, and she gave me a a few in a tupperware bowl to take home, and once when she said "It's too nice a day to be cooped up in the basement.  Why don't you guys take Rick down to the park?"

I heard about Sandra's squabble with her sister and Rick's problems at school, and eventually, through conversation, Roland's real name (Mike) and real job (systems analyst).

But when I ran into Roland at the Mall, he pretended that he didn't know me.

In June I had to cut a session short because I wasn't feeling well.  "I think I'm coming down with a summertime cold," I told Sandra.  "They're the worst."

A couple days later, there was a knock on my door.  I answered in my bathrobe, with a box of kleenix in my hand.  It was Sandra!

"Hi, Boomer, I got your address from Mike's phone.  I just made a big pot of chicken-rice soup, and since you're not feeling well, I thought I'd bring you over some."

I was too shocked to say anything except "Um...thanks."

"Oh, it's the least I can do.  I've been wanting to thank you for being so great with Mike."  She handed me a green tupperware container.  "He couldn't ask for a better boyfriend!  Much nicer than some of these guys he brings home."

Boyfriend!  "Um...er..."

"But really, you should get him out of that dreary Man Cave sometimes.  Take him to a gay bar!  Or to one of those gay sex parties I've heard about.  He's a big guy -- I'll bet he would be very popular!  Well, I have to run.  I hope you feel better soon!"

I stood there agape.

Apparently Roland was less closeted than he thought.

See also: The Boy Who Wanted to be Rode

Monday, December 21, 2015

I Catch Cousin Joe in the Act

Rock Island, December 1976

When I was in junior high, I caught my friend Brian trying to erase graffiti from the wall of Washington Junior High, "Brian gives free LBJs."  He wouldn't say what it meant, and I had no idea.  It endured season after season, year after year, ghostly pale but still legible, stubbornly resistant to the generations of custodians who attempted to erase it.  It was the biggest riddle of my childhood.

During the summer after 9th grade, I learned that the term "BJ" referred to oral sex, but I didn't make the connection to gay people until a cold Friday at Christmastime in 1976, my junior year at Rocky High, shortly after I discovered what "gay" meant.

Aunt Nora was visiting for the holidays, with two whole carloads of relatives.  Cousin Joe, a 22-year old college senior, was staying in the attic room with Ken and me, and his girlfriend Sandy was staying downstairs with my sister.

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, everyone was out shopping or ice skating, but I didn't feel well and stayed in to read.  Joe and Sandy came in, said hello, then vanished somewhere into the house -- I assumed they went down to the basement rec room to play pingpong.

They weren't playing pingpong.

Soon I got a throbbing headache, so I took an aspirin and decided to go upstairs to bed.

The door at the bottom of the attic stairs didn’t lock, but the clatter of shoes on the bare wood was usually an adequate early-warning signal, giving you plenty of time to stop watching late-night tv, reading comics, or whatever else you didn’t care to have witnessed -- but today I was wearing only socks, and the throb in my head made me go slowly, one step at a time. So they didn’t hear me.

When I reached the top of the stairs, I saw Joe lying on the floor on his side of the room, and Sandy kneeling over him.  My first thought was that he had fainted. Then I saw a thick, heavy shaft the color of putty.  Joe's penis!

I had seen it several times before -- while changing clothes to go swimming, once while skinny-dipping.  I walked in on him in the bathroom when I was five.  It was always breathtaking.

Suddenly Joe saw me, pushed Sandy away, and quickly zipped up. “Um...we were....we were just..."   He was blushing red.

"I don't care, I'm sick."  I walked the five steps to the bed I was sharing with Ken, fell down face-first, and covered my head with a pillow.  "It's no big deal. You’re not the first person in this room to give a bj.”

They were both silent. I peered out from under the pillow to see them staring open-mouthed.

“What’s your problem?”

“You. . .give bjs?” Sandy asked.

“Of course I  give them!” I said angrily. “You think I’m a virgin? I’ve given them lots of times.”

Joe laughed. “Gee, you're dumb! Boys don’t give bjs, they get them.”

“No, I give them. . .boys give them.” My head was still throbbing, making it hard to concentrate.   "Why do you think it's called giving a bj?  Because you give your penis..."

"The girl gives it to the boy, Boomer."

“Well. . .to be fair, it doesn’t have to be a girl,” Sandy said. “Sometimes guys do give bjs.  At least they're sort of like guys."  She flashed a loose wrist.

My face burned as I realized what she was implying.


"Be nice!" Joe commanded.  He patting my shoulder.  "Boomer just got mixed up.  Don't tell Mom about seeing us...you know...ok?"

"Don't worry, your secret is safe with me."

"And your secret is safe with us!" Sandy managed to say before Joe grabbed her and dragged her down the stairs.

I lay in bed, mortified.  But now I understood -- LBJ, BJ with an "L" added.  Long ago some bullies had accused Brian of being gay. No wonder he worked so furiously to scrub the graffiti off!

It turns out that I was wrong.  Five years later, in the spring of 1981, I would discover that the phrase LBJ had nothing to do with sex.  But it did have quite a lot to do with being gay.

The headache was the precursor of a flu that would keep me incapacitated from the day after Christmas through New Year, and result in the discovery of a gay comic book.