Saturday, January 2, 2016
3 million people in the U.S. identify as Native Americans. That's about 1% of the population.
But I've had rather poor luck trying to meet some.
1. The Teenage Indian God at Smoky Mountains National Park was actually white.
2. So was the only guy I met while cruising the Navajo Nation.
3. And the museum guard I picked up at the Eiteljorg Museum of Native American Arts.
That leaves the Eskimo who I shared with my partner Lane in West Hollywood and the Dakota guy I met in Fort Lauderdale. And maybe a few other guys that didn't volunteer their race, and I thought were Hispanic, like this guy in L.A.
In 2013, I moved to the Plains, home to some of the biggest Native American tribes in the U.S., like the Sioux (185,000), the Chippewa (115,000), the Cheyenne (23,000), and the Dakota (20,000). They held pow-wows (wacipi) and other celebrations almost every weekend from June through September.
So I started going to pow wows. I wandered the stalls where they sold embroidery, jewelry, capes, books, and artwork, as well as scary conservative political slogans. Many Native Americans are hard-core Republicans.
I listened to long speeches and watched processions, dances, and ceremonies.
There were a lot of cute guys around, but none of them cruised me. They barely made eye contact.
I figured that Wacipis were mainly for connectiong with your cultural heritage and socializing with Indians from other parts of the country. Outsiders were welcome, but meeting them was not a big priority.
Well, I'm Indian, sort of. My father was adopted into the Potawatomi tribe, so I had Indian cousins and a grandmother, and my mother traces her ancestry back to Charles Renatus Hicks (1767-1827), an important Cherokee chief.
So I bought a t-shirt reading "Ask me about my tribe" and went undercover.
I got more eye contact and smiles when I wore my tribal t-shirt, and even a cruisy gaze from a hot teenage dancer, but I managed only a few very brief conversations.
Maybe everyone was too busy to meet new people.
Or else too attached to mothers and fathers, wives, cousins, and friends to respond to a same-sex cruise.
Wacipis are very family friendly (read: gay people erased and ignored).
One day in August 2014, at a pow wow in Sioux City, South Dakota, I stopped by a booth that advertised "Five Cousins Roshineers."
Roshineers is Midwestern for "roasting ears," roasted corn on the cob eaten as a snack.
There were only three cousins at the booth, two young teenagers and a very muscular twink with black hair and a smooth brown chest. His t-shirt said Tyler.
"Where are the other cousins?" I asked after ordering my corn.
"There's actually only four of us now," Tyler told me, pausing to wipe his brow. His t-shirt was damp with sweat. "The fifth, that's my brother Deacon, he started the business, but he got a job in Minneapolis, you know, and can't do it anymore. I'll probably drop out when I get out of college, too."
"Oh, you're in college!" I exclaimed. "Where do you go?"
He must have grown up on the reservation!
"What are you majoring in?" I asked, trying to keep up the conversation going.
"Geology. But I'm minoring in American Indian Studies, and I'm on the wrestling team. Want to see a picture?"
He pulled out his smartphone and showed me a picture of his hands on his opponent's crotch.
"Nice." I saw my opening. "You have quite a physique. I used to work for Muscle and Fitness magazine in L.A, and I met all the bodybuilding greats -- Schwarzenegger, Ferrigno, Hanley."
His eyes lit up. "Really? Hey, do you think you could check out my form sometime?"
"Sure -- is today good?"
"Well, I'm a little busy today. Tell you what -- come on out to the college -- it's right near the rez, you know -- and I'll give you the grand tour. Let me call you, so you have my cell phone number, right?"
He sent me a nude selfie!
Aberdeen, South Dakota, September 2014
I drove out to Aberdeen, rented a hotel room, and met Tyler for the "grand tour." A small but very scenic campus, a small, seedy looking downtown. We had lunch at a place called Daddy's Bar and Grill -- way to remind me of our age difference! I talked about growing up in the small-town Midwest, figuring "it" out, my years at Muscle and Fitness, working at Barney's Gym in Florida.
"You know so many bodybuilders!" he said. "Are all of them gay?"
"Not all, but quite a few. What about here at Northern State? A lot of gay guys?"
Tyler spent the night in my room: very nice physique, Kielbasa beneath the belt, very much into oral. In the morning we had breakfast, and I said goodbye.
"Thanks for spending time with me," he said. "So many Indians are into older guys, I didn't think you'd want a kid."
"Kids have their advantages." Suddenly it dawned on me. "Wait -- do you mean that you're not Indian?"
"Me?" Tyler laughed. "Thanks for the compliment, but I'm German. But I'm way into Indians. That's one of the perks of working the pow wows, right? I get to meet a lot of rez boys."
See also: Cruising in the Navajo Nation.
Friday, January 1, 2016
The class I hated the most in high school was Public Speaking. I didn't mind the speaking -- it was rather fun having an audience. But the teacher, Mr. Blowfish!
Actually Mr. Lundquist, he was a prissy, snippy, ultra-swishy little gordito, balding, with a villain goatee, who lived to impress upon students that they were worthless. He swept over the classroom, making condescending, sarcastic, and insulting remarks in his overmodulated, oversophisticated voice.
"Try speaking English. Eng-Lish!"
"I have an idea. Let's try to get it right."
"You can't be that stupid. You must be putting me on."
"God, your parents must have been morons, to have you."
More than one student was reduced to tears, whereupon Mr. Blowfish would sneer "It's called real life. Get used to it."
The whole class hated him.
I remember one piece of advice he gave us: When you're invited to a party, find out who's coming, and research their interests, so you'll have something to talk about.
Wait -- this miserable, mean-spirited little troll was invited to parties?
I eked by his class with a C-, which was pretty good. No one got higher than a C, except for the two A's given to girls who, we assumed, were his relatives.
The years passed. I graduated from high school, moved to West Hollywood, then New York, then Florida. When I came back to Rock Island to visit, I asked around the gay community. No one had ever heard of Mr. Blowfish...um, I mean Lundquist.
Still, the little Truman Capote wannabe must be gay. He probably never met anyone because he was too disagreeable to be with for more than ten seconds.
Back in Rock Island in the summer of 2003, I finally got around to looking up Mr. Blowfish: he was now living in Washington, Iowa, about 70 miles from Rock Island.
Now, finally, I could find out if he was gay!
I called and gushed, "You were my favorite teacher in high school!" Naturally I got an invitation to visit.
On the hottest day of the year, I drove my sister-in-law's car to Washington, to a very nice grey-brick house with dormer windows.
27 years had passed since I took Mr. Blowfish's class, but still, I recognized the man who answered the door: a fat, bearded bear in his sixties, a mass of thick white hair on his ample chest. He was wearing only a swimsuit and flip-flops. I couldn't see a basket.
"Mr. Davis, how nice to see you again!" he said, offering a limp handshake.
"Dr. Davis, now."
"I know, I know! Isn't that marvelous, even if you did go to a third-rate school! You must be using the skills I taught you every day, or do you hide behind those -- what-do-you-call-it -- Powerpoint presentations?"
"Sometimes," I admitted.
"Cover-up for academic incompetence, I always say. Well, why don't we go out to the back? It's such a nice day."
Mr. Blowfish led me to the back yard, where there were lawn chairs, a little white table stocked with a pitcher of lemonade, and a children's wading pool amid miscellaneous toys.
My heart sank. "Do you have kids?" I asked.
"Oh, those belong to the grandkids. The boys are visiting just now. No matter where they go, they always visit at the same time -- safety in numbers, they say. Joking, of course. Stick around for a bit, and you'll meet them."
He sat his lawn chair next to the kiddie pool, took off his flip-flops, and plopped his feet in. "Oh, feel free to take off your shoes. And your shirt, too. You obviously spend a lot of time in the gym trying to forestall the ravages of age, so you might as well show off the results."
I took my shirt off, to see if his eyes widened. They didn't. "So, how old are the boys?" I asked, still trying to salvage my lifelong belief that Mr. Blowfish was gay.
"Oh, Thanh is 32 now. He was born just a couple of years after my late wife and I left Viet Nam. He lives in Des Moines, doing something dull with computers. Louie is 28. He lives in Michigan. He could have been a doctor, but he wanted to conduct low-paying research."
So Mr. Blowfish fought in Viet Nam? I couldn't imagine it. And when I was in high school, he spent his days berating, demeaning, and otherwise terrorizing his students, then going home to hold his five-year old and one-year old sons on his lap. Named Thanh and Louie Lundquist. The image was bizarre.
"...and Sam is 26. He just got a tenure-track position in art history at Cornell College. Not the good school -- the dinky one up by Iowa City. I told him to set his sights a little higher, but he wanted the liberal arts. "
"Grandpa, Uncle Sammy bought me an alligator!"
"We got ice cream, but we're still hungry for hot dogs!"
"Gross, your feet are in our swimming pool!"
While Thanh and Louie set up for grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, their wives busied themselves with salads and pie, their four kids and three dogs roughhoused, and Mr. Lundquist yelled for everyone to keep out of his flower bed, the youngest son, Sam, invited me for a walk down the silent, sizzling hot streets of Washington.
His eye-widening was unmistakable. Gay, not out to his family, but he was sure that they knew. No one had inquired about a "girlfriend" for years.
"Was Dad really your favorite teacher?" he asked. "A lot of people are turned off by his perfectionism."
"Well, maybe not my favorite. But I thought he was gay, so we had kind of a kindred spirit."
"You thought Dad was gay?" Laughing, he squeezed my shoulder. "That's so bizarre! After Mom died he was out with a different lady every night! He always said that his three favorite things in life were books, wine, and women."
"You called him Mr. Blowfish! I love it! Because you thought he liked...um...going down on guys?"
"No, no, because of his looks. I never thought of that other connotation -- until now."
Sam smiled, and briefly touched my hand. "That will be my nickname from now on -- Sammy Blowfish. Apropos of nothing in particular, are you busy later?"
I ended up asking my sister-in-law if I could keep her car out overnight, and then driving home with Sammy. He was short, slim, dark-skinned, with a beautiful physique and nice beneath-the-belt gifts. And he lived up to the Blowfish nickname.
This story continues in Son of Mr. Blowfish
See also: I hook up with my "Uncle"; Getting the Chinese Delivery Guy into my Bed.
Sunday, December 27, 2015
In 2005, when I moved into the straight world after twenty years in gay neighborhoods, I swore that I would soon be back home again.
But gay neighborhoods tend to be in the heart of fabulous big cities that everyone on Earth is desperate to live in, so academic jobs are extraordinarily competitive. Every opening gets 300 or more applications, not only from the U.S. but worldwide, not only from new Ph.D.'s but from experienced, even tenured faculty.
Still, I kept trying, sending out applications to colleges near gay neighborhoods year after year, occasionally getting an interview but never being offered anything.
Finally, in 2012, my seventh year in the straight world, I got an offer: a small private college near Philadelphia had been stymied on its search for a tenure-track opening, so it needed someone to teach the Freshman Seminar, Research Methods, and "Law and Society"courses for a year while they were looking again.
A one year temporary position. But in Philadelphia!
Philadelphia's version of West Hollywood is Washington Square West, an 8x12 block square bounded by Walnut, South, Lombard, and Sixth. It is cluttered with gay bars (The Tavern on Camac, The Bike Stop), bath houses, restaurants, retail outlets, a Community Center, and Giovanni's Room, one of the oldest gay bookstores in the world,
I was there!
I moved down in August 2012, leaving Troy and most of my stuff in my apartment Upstate. There seemed no point for him to move down for just a year.
I hated it at first, but figured that all new cities take a little getting used to.
Three months later, I was still hating it.
Six months later, I was desperately applying for every job I could, as long as it was nowhere near Philadelphia!
What went wrong?
But my apartments in San Francisco and the East Village were frightfully expensive too.
2. The Crime. It was in a high-crime neighborhood. I always heard about robberies, assaults, shots fired. I was afraid to go out at night.
But I used to walk down Santa Monica Boulevard at Highland without giving it a second thought.
3. The Commute. My college was 11 miles away, about an hour by train, there and back every day. Seemed like I spent my whole life on that train.
But when I was in grad school, I regularly took the train two hours from my apartment in Manhattan to Stony Brook, took classes, and returned with no problem.
But my first apartment in West Hollywood was one room, with no bed, a built-in desk, and a microwave but no stove.
5. The Boyfriend. Troy was back Upstate, so every weekend I drove up to him, or he drove down to me. So half the weekends I was out of town. It's hard to maintain friendships or relationships that way.
In West Hollywood, I spent a semester in Turkey, and another in Nashville. Then I returned and started right back, with no awkwardness or lost connections.
6. The Lateness. The bars and bath houses catered to the after-midnight crowd. Go at 9:00 pm, and you could hear the crickets chirp. I had to get up at 6:00 am to get to work, and I was too tired to go out.
But I got up at 6:00 am my whole life, and I was never too tired to go out.
7. The Emptiness. West Hollywood, New York, and Florida had organizations for black, Asian, and Hispanic gay men, gay doctors, lawyers, fathers, runners, Methodists, Episcopalians, Catholics, Jews, gardeners, movie buffs, football fans, Republicans, Democrats, atheists, pagans...you name it. Philadelphia had a Community Center and some self-help groups.
In West Hollywood I belonged to some groups, but in New York and Florida I didn't. You could meet men anywhere.
There were heterosexuals in West Hollywood and New York, too. We always shared our community with a few daring yuppies and a few oldsters who had been living there since before the Flood.
But I was a twink magnet. All of those 20-year olds wanted to get with me. I got a LOT of action, more penises than I knew what to do with.
But only three dates the whole year.
Remember "Hey, Nineteen"?
No, we got nothing in common
No, we can't talk at all
[But] please take me along when you slide on down.
10. The Tourists. The streets were crowded with guys who drove in from small towns, to spend a few hours or a few days dancing, drinking, doing drugs, and hooking up. We had tourists in West Hollywood, San Francisco, the East Village, and Wilton Manors, especially on the weekends, but then they went home, leaving small towns populated by guys who were survivors, who had escaped from the homophobia of the straight world. We called it Oz and Heaven, walked around smiling, unable to believe, year after year, that we were finally home.
You could come out to straight people without being lectured at, screamed at, or asked "What do they think causes it?"
You could come out at work without being instantly fired.
The sense of community, the belief that "we are all survivors" was gone.
It was just a neighborhood with a lot of gay people. It wasn't home.
They were not from Tijuana, and there was nothing Biblical about them. They were 8-page, wallet-sized comic books about people having sex, often poorly drawn and badly printed, sold under the counter at newsstands and railroad stations from the 1920s through the 1960s.
A few original characters, a few film stars like Cary Grant, but mostly comic strip and cartoon characters: Popeye, Betty Boop, the Katzenjammar Kids, Barney Google, Jiggs and Maggie, Happy Hooligan. Here we see a very well hung Wimpy thinking of hamburgers in the midst of a sexual act.
Tijuana Bibles were, of course, illegal, under both obscenity and copyright laws, so we know next to nothing about the artists and publishers.
But many men who grew up in the era fondly recall reading and collecting them as their first glimpse of sexual freedom.
Some gay, lesbian, and transvestite themes appeared occasionally. Some swishy stereotypes, some male-on-male rape, even some positive gay sex:
Joe the Janitor makes it with men and women both.
Happy the Dwarf steals the Prince from Snow White.
So what was the attraction for gay men?
Li'l Abner, Snuffy Smith, and Superboy naked.
Male nudity was heavily censored at the time. You couldn't find it in movies or in magazines, not even in pornographic magazines, until the 1960s.
This was the only place to see artistic depictions of frontal nudity, outside of statues in a museum.
And the men were well-hung and fully aroused.
Gay men could easily ignore the women and concentrate on the men.
See also: Gay Comix; Gay Fan Art
When I go to a M4M Party, the twinks start sidling over before I even have a chance to get my pants off.
When I go on Grindr, I get these pickup lines or variants a dozen times an hour:
1. "Nice pic" (everybody gets that)
2. I love older guys"
3. "I've been a naughty boy, Daddy."
I hate being called Daddy. Maybe I'm 20 or 30 years older than you, but I'm not your father.
Ricky with a Y (he specified the Y even though I could see it on the screen) wasn't physically spectacular: in his 20s, a little shorter than me, with a handsome face, a hairy chest, not particularly muscular, a little small beneath the belt.
But he stood out from the crowd by his lack of obnoxious cruising. We talked about The Walking Dead and the musical Titanic rather than the things he wanted me to do to him.
He found out that I was a college professor without making a stupid joke about requiring special after-class tutoring, wink wink nudge nudge.
He found out that my birthday was coming up without making a stupid joke about dinosaurs.
Nor did he call me Daddy.
So of course I accepted the date, for the Saturday after my birthday. "Leave everything to me. This is my town, so I know my way around. I'll give you an unforgettable night."
"This is my baby -- I've had her since college. You should have seen me tooling around Harvard Yard."
Ok, everybody I've known who went to Harvard was crazy. I waited to find out what Ricky's eccentricity was. Other than being Ricky with a Y.
We went to dinner at a place called Grille 26, where the prices were high and the food boring: scallops, pasta, steak.
And the craziness began. He psychoanalyzed everything.
"What do you do for a living?" I asked politely.
"Interesting that you would start off with the financial rather than my artistic or spiritual life. Do you feel dissatisfied with your own economic success?
"Um...I was just trying to be polite."
"My favorite food is Thai," I continued, making small talk.
"Interesting. Is the food a stand in for the people? Fetishization of Asians is quite common in gay communities, I understand. They're stereotyped as soft and passive, easy to dominate, particularly if you're insecure about your sexual prowess."
"I'm not...i'm not insecure about my sexual prowess! I just like pad thai."
And on and on.
Why did I stay friends with most of my ex-lovers? Was I reluctant to let go, let the past stay the past, because I was afraid to face the future, the inevitability of death?
Why did I call my mother every week, but not my father?
Why didn't I allow my dinner companion to try one of my scallops?
Finally, after what felt like an intensive psychotherapy session, Ricky with a Y said "This has been fascinating, but we'd better be going, or we'll be late for the theater."
"Why does the lamp shaped like a lady's leg bother you? Is it the disembodiment, the objectification of women? Or does it make you doubt your own sexual identity?"
Then we went to an upscale dance club -- for heterosexuals.
"Come on, there's nothing to be afraid of. This isn't the homophobic 1980s. Why are you afraid to admit that things have gotten better for gay people? Does it threaten your raison d'etre?
"Why are you Ricky with a Y?" I countered. "Is it so people don't mistake you for Ricki with an I, a girl's name? Are you trying to draw attention to your Y chromosome? Do you think that being gay makes you a girl?"
"Good point! But getting back to..."
By the time Ricky said "This has been great! Let's go back to my place!", I had been run through the emotional wringer a dozen times. I wanted to go home and curl into a fetal position.
But maybe a nice peaceful wordless sexual encounter would be a good antidote.
He had a modern apartment, all steel-and-glass, with plants and abstract art and leather furniture. We kissed for awhile on the couch, then went into the bedroom. Where the psychoanalyzing began again.
I avoided commenting on his extra-small penis and extra-big car.
See also: 8 Harvard Boys in My Bed; and My Platonic Friends and Their Boy Toy