Monday, June 12, 2017
Remembrance and Penises in Poland
I'm working at the Getty Consternation Institute, my first actual 9-5 office job, and I hate it. The same four walls, day in and day out, five days a week. My summer vacation is coming up -- a paltry two weeks (they get four in Europe).
And I want to make the best of it.
"How about the first week in Rock Island, and the second in Paris?" I ask Lane.
"How about staying in West Hollywood and going to the Rage?" Lane counters.
Lane is only guy I have ever met who actually grew up in West Hollywood. He's a third generation Weho boy (his grandparents opened a hardware store on Santa Monica and Doheny in 1938). He grew up in a house on Crescent Heights and Romaine. The French Quarter was his after-school hangout! He graduated from Hollywood High School, then Cal State Los Angeles, and moved into an apartment near the corner of La Cienega and Sunset. .
11 years later, he is still there.
"How about a week in Paris, and a week in London?" I ask.
"Why should I go anywhere else? I'm already here."
"You mean you've never been out of Los Angeles?"
He has a point. You have to be careful, watch your behavior, drop pronouns, adopt a heterosexual facade even in Beverly Hills -- even on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. Things in the dark dismal Straight World are much worse.
But I like traveling. I've been to Europe four times, plus Australia, Colombia, India, Japan, Turkey, and Thailand. This summer I want to go somewhere!
"Ok, how about this -- I visit my relatives in the Midwest by myself, and then you join me on a trip somewhere. Anywhere you want."
Lane hesitate. "Well, now that you mention it, there's someplace I've always wanted to go."
"Great. We'll talk to your friend Gershom, the travel agent, this afternoon."
"No -- I'll go to Gershom myself, and get the tickets, and make all the hotel arrangements. I want it to be a surprise."
I spend the next month pumping Lane for answers. What is the dream destination for a gay Jewish boy who has never been out of Los Angeles?
I find out when we get to the airport:
Ok, the Cold War has just ended, and Poland is now transitioning to democracy, with all the economic upheaval and organized crime you would expect. But...Warsaw reputedly has a nice museum and the Ostrogski Palace, and Krakow is a beautiful old university city. We can make this work.
15 hour flight, from 7:00 pm to 7:00 pm, with a 3 hour layover in Copenhagen (enough time to visit the Tivoli Gardens).
We check into the Regent Warsaw.
Jogging in Lazienki Park, then a tour of the Jewish Cemetery, the Nozyk Synagogue, the house on Świętojańska where Lane's mother grew up. It's demolished; there's a restaurant in his place.
"This is a tour of your roots, isn't it?" I asked. "Could we do some gay things, too?"
So we go to the Club Galla, a sauna with a dark room. I go down on a muscular guy in his 30s, with a short beard and a smooth, beautifully sculpted physique (top photo). He doesn't speak English, French, or German.
Tour of the Warsaw Uprising Museum, then a 2-hour train trip to Lodz to see the Radegast train station, where 200,000 Jews were loaded into cattle cars bound for the concentration camps. Then we visit the Jewish Cemetery and the Film Museum, and the Gainimedes Club, which has a dark room and gym facilities.
We meet a businessman named Gregor, who invites us back to his apartment: in his 40s, hairy, very muscular, with a round face, short black hair, and a black beard. Mostly into anal, but he goes down on Lane while I'm going down on him, and then he gets into the 69 position with me.
I insist on going to Mass at the Church of the Assumption of Our Blessed Mary while Lane and Gregor go for a tour of the city.
Then another 2-hour train trip to Krakow, in the south. We check into the the Hotel Stary in the Old City, a block from Rynek Główny, the old town square.
Into kissing and oral. He goes down on me once and Lane twice during the night.
Tour of the Jewish Museum and the Old Synagogue, then dinner with Marik, who invites us to "share" his friend Jurgen from East Germany, a slim redhead with a gigantic Kielbasa.
Breakfast, then a workout at Marik's gym.
"We have to be back in Warsaw tomorrow," I say. "Where shall we go today? I hear that Lublin...."
We rent a car and drive to the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and museum in Oswiecim, about an hour west of Krakow.
During World War II, 1.1 million people were killed here. Jews, gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals. Lane's mother was imprisoned here from 1942 until Liberation on January 27th, 1945.
We drive back to Krakow. I don't feel like going out.
A three hour train trip back to Warsaw.
"You're right," I tell Lane as we take our seats on the plane that will take us to Copenhagen, then home. "The world outside of West Hollywood is horrible. Nothing but brutality and death and despair. We should never leave again."
"Are you kidding?" Lane exclaims. "Sure, we paid our respects to the tragedies of the past -- never forgive, never forget. But I met so many hot guys! It was amazing! And you got quite a bit of action, too, right?" He nudges me. "Where shall we go next year? I'm thinking England...."
See also: Gershom and the Gentile; The Getty Consternation Institute; Lane and the Cute Young Thing