Friday, August 5, 2016

The Boy Selling Pickles at the Farmer's Market

Plains, August 2016

I'm depressed.  I've lived in the Plains exactly three years today.  I miss the gay neighborhoods of California, New York, and Florida:
1. Heterosexuals are aware that gay people exist.
2. You can be open without getting stares, idiotic questions, and quotes from Leviticus.
3. You can be assured of meeting gay people everywhere you go: the bank, the post office, the gym.

"I know what will cheer you up," my friend Gabe says.  "Antiquing!  There's an Antique Fair and Farmer's Market on Saturday in a small town about an hour's drive from here."

"Are you kidding?  You want to cure my depression over living in a small redneck town by taking me to an even smaller, more redneck town?"

"Antiques," he repeats.  "Every gay couple within a hundred miles will be there."

"So, like three gay couples?"

"If you're going to live on the Plains, you're going to have to get over your fear of small towns.  There are some open-minded people there, not just bigots.."

"Ok, we'll go," I said, "But incognito.  No androgynous costumes, no camping it up, no holding hands.  Everyone will think we're a heterosexual father and son."

Gabe smirks.  "Sure, Daddy.  Whatever you say, Daddy."

The main street of the tiny town is blocked off so dealers can put up about 30 tents, mostly with homemade crafts and Americana, not the sort of antiques I would be interested in.

 A lot of heterosexual couples of the Plains variety: thin husband, fat wife, unruly kids.  A few teenagers in clusters.

I don't see any gay couples, but they are probably going incognito.  This is the heart of the heart of the Straight World, enemy territory.  I'm surrounded by bigots who want to build a wall to keep Mexicans out and send Muslims to concentration camps.  Fundamentalists who want gay "abominations" stoned to death.

Somebody's eyes are watching
Somebody's eyes are following every move
Somebody's waiting to show they don't approve

The Farmer's Market, in the parking lot of the local Hy-Vee Supermarket, has a lot of late-summer produce, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans.  We buy some strawberries and blueberries, and stop at a stand that sells homemade pickles in various degrees of hotness.  The proprietor is a creepy guy with long braided hair, a villainous beard, and a lot of tattoos.  He looks like ZZ Top, or one of the Duck Dynasty homophobes.

"Jalapeno"  I read from the jars.  "Tabasco.  Habanero!"

"We measure hotness in Scoville Heat Units," the proprietor says.  Its a measurement of the concentration of capsaicin in the pepper."

This creepy Duck Dynasty guy knows about capsaicin?

"Your standard jalapeno has 3 to 10,000 units," he continues.  "Tabasco runs about 30,000, habaneros about 100,000, and the hottest pepper known to man, the Carolina Reaper, 1,5 million!"  He grins.

"That would burn your tongue off!" Gabe exclaims.

"My nephew loves experimenting with new kinds of pickles.  Cucumbers, cauliflower.  Kimchi, which is Korean pickled cabbage. Last year he pickled mangos.  They're a delicacy in Mexico."

 I'm surprised that Duck Dynasty knows so much about the pickling process of world cultures.  Doesn't he want to build a wall to keep the Mexicans out?

"Your nephew really knows his pickles," Gabe says, nudging me so I'll get the double entendre.  "How about a jar of the jalapeno?  We'll start off easy."

I'm not a pickle fan, but I say "Sure, if you want."  My eyes are drawn to the banana and zucchini bread.  "We could get some zucchini bread, too.  Use it as an excuse to invite your friend Bastian over.  I haven't seen him in months."

"If you guys do a lot of entertaining, you can't go wrong with zucchini bread," Duck Dynasty says with a grin.

We make eye contact.  He knows!  How did I blow my cover?

"Did your nephew bake those, too?"

"Yep.  He's always experimenting with bread.  Garlic, banana, artichoke, pumpkin.  Jewish challah.  Sudanese kissra, which is a fermented bread."

Sudanese?  Doesn't he want to put Muslims in concentration camps?

"Whiz in the kitchen," Gabe says.

"You know it!  I always say, he's going to make some boy very happy some day.  The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, after all."

My head explodes.

A creepy long-haired guy who looks like one of the Duck Dynasty homophobes is standing at a farmer's market in a tiny town in the Straight World, talking about his nephew getting a boyfriend.

Duck Dynasty grins.  He must out his nephew a lot, to ├ępater la bourgeoisie.  

"Well, I love a good baguette," Gabe says.  "How's he in the entree department?"

"He's a vegeterian, so no barbecue, but he makes a mean cheese lasagna. Oh, here's Hakim.  He can tell you about his bread experiments."


I'm expecting a cornfed Anglo-white South Dakota teen.

Duck Dynasty's nephew is black.

Dominican, I discover later, 19 years old, a little shorter than Dustin, with bright eyes and a swimmer's build.

Hakim and Gabe bond over vegetarianism, and he gets an invitation to hear a local band at the gay-friendly coffee house next week.

Ok, this is Gabe's pickup, not mine, but no doubt I'll be invited to share.

Meanwhile, I have to revise everything I thought I knew about small towns.

See also: A Straight Boy in My Bed at the Gilroy Garlic Festival; 20 Plains Pickups; I Pick Up a Track Star in Small Town Illinois.


  1. Why did you leave the gay neighborhoods?

    1. There were very few academic jobs in or near gay neighborhoods, and the ones that existed were very competitive. I always tried to get something as close as possible, even if it was a temporary position. So Dayton was an hour away, Upstate New York was an hour and a half away, and Plains -- 2 1/2 hours

  2. Their date is this coming Saturday night. I've brought up the subject of sharing -- after all, we did meet Hakim at the same time. But Gabe is being coy about it.

  3. It's actually funny, South Dakota is supposedly a state with little racism, as measured in terms of racist tweets. (They didn't ask many Indians our opinion of race relations, I guess.)

    That said, I personally find talk of how deplorable our country is outside of a few major cities hilarious. Like, when you lived in West Hollywood, was the rest of LA also a gay paradise? Didn't think so. Same thing. But Angelenos can feel better about themselves.



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