Saturday, February 20, 2016

Why Is a Comic Book Store Like a Gay Bar?

Rock Island, July 1976

Remember the Summer of 1976?

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!

Bicentennial celebrations in every city.

Silent Movie, Murder by Death, The Omen

Welcome Back Kotter, Barney Miller, Bob Newhart, 

"Afternoon Delight," "You Should Be Dancing," "Shake Your Booty"

The Heritage of Hastur, A Midsummer Tempest, Interview with the Vampire

Camping in Minnesota, where I got on my knees in a cute boy's room.

My first sexual experience, with Todd the Violinist at music camp.

And this issue of Uncle Scrooge, with Scrooge and company traveling to Unsteadystan in search of "The Treasure of Marco Polo."

But it was impossible to get in Rock Island.  The price of new comics had gone up from 15 to 30 cents in just two years, and would double again by 1979.  Schneider's Drug Store and Readmore Book World no longer stocked them.

If you managed to get a ride to the Mall, you could find a few scattered titles at the Waldenbooks, but  nothing reliable - and you had to listen to a clerk's snarky "Going to do a little heavy reading tonight?"

Then I heard through the grapevine that a store specializing in comic books, the Comics Cave, had opened on 19th Avenue in Moline, about a mile from my house.

An easy summer walk.

I didn't have any friends who were still into comic books, so one Thursday afternoon in August, I walked down by myself: 20th Avenue to 46th Street, up to 19th Avenue, across the border into Moline, past the A&W, the Eagle Supermarket, the Belgian Village where we often stopped for Vander Reubens, and finally to the Comics Cave.

A storefront with rows of old and new comics in boxes, and new issues in a display rack.  Mostly Marvel and DC, but a whole section of "Kid's Comics," with Archie, Harvey, and all the Gold Key titles.

Plus a box of discards, including a lot of Four-Color Dell titles from the 1950s.

I was in heaven!

I brought a pile of comics, enough to clean out my allowance, up to the counter.

Moment of truth: would the clerk let me buy Archie, Harvey, and Gold Key comics without ridicule?

Yep -- no jabs, no digs, no "got some heavy reading to do tonight?"

I became a regular, stopping in at least once a week, usually on Thursdays when the new issues came out, through high school and college, until I moved away to go to grad school in Bloomington.

Rock Island, July 1976

During my last two years in high school, I went to the Comics Cave in Moline at least once a week.  For the comics, and for the beefcake.

Chad, the owner, wasn't really attractive, a little chunky, with a sharp face, an intolerably big nose, and a red beard.

But the customers were exclusively male.  A scattering of little kids and adults, but mostly high school and college-age boys.

A science major in tight jeans leafing through back issues of The X-Men.

A skittish football player picking up the latest issue of Superman.

Two tall, thin, androgynous guys, obviously boyfriends, making plans to go to the Chicago Comic-Con and meet Stan Lee.

Chad and a cute redhead discussing whether the new Captain America tv series lived up to the comic book.

No discussions of girlfriends, no interrogations about which actress you would like in your bed, no "isn't that woman hot?"

A roomful of guys looking at, thinking about, and talking about muscular men.

It was like a gay bar, without the hookups.

No wonder I went back week after week.

See also: My Boss Lets Out His Trouser Snake

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Joy of Public Sex: 12 Hookups in Public Places

Which would you prefer, the very attractive, gigantic guy reclining on a nice soft bed, or the equally attractive, equally gigantic guy sitting on the dirt against a hard brick wall?

Hookup websites list lots of places to have anonymous sex in public: restrooms in shopping malls and on college campuses, heavily-wooded parks, secluded beaches.  But I've never understood the attraction.  It's dangerous, illegal, and uncomfortable.  Why not just invite him back to your apartment?

I haven't had a lot of experience with the practice of public sex, but there have been times when I gave in to temptation and took care of things right there on the spot.

Tyrone. My second sexual experience, in high school, with Tyrone my workout buddy, took place in his car in the high school parking lot.

The Levee  In Rock Island a lot of men went cruising at the levee, and had sex right there in their parked cars.  I was too skittish to do it there, but I did go home with Professor Burton, who held the annual handcuff parties.

The Photojournalist.  During my senior year in college, I hooked up with a student in my Photojournalism class.  We didn't have anyplace to go -- I lived at home, and he lived in the dorm -- so we went to the stacks in the library -- deserted on a Saturday night -- and went down on each other in the PK section (Sanskrit, Pali, and Hindi).

The Airport Restroom. Trapped at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis later that year, I learned about cruising in public restrooms.  Six guys, including a buffed businessman in a suit and tie.

New Delhi. When I was visiting India, just after getting my M.A. from Indiana University, Viju took me to Jahanpanah City Forest in Delhi.  You see someone you like and follow him into the bushes.  I met Arshad the Zoroastrian, who took me out to dinner and then on a tour of the spiritual pilgrimage sites in Delhi.

Oxford, Mississippi. Later that summer, on the way to my first teaching job in Hell-fer-Sartain, Texas, I spent the night in Oxford. Mississippi, and went down on three country boys in the woods outside of the Faulkner mansion, including Elmer, a University of Minnesota undergrad who came back to my hotel to spend the night.

The Rest Stop. On the way back, I stopped at a rest stop in Arkansas, and saw a guy masturbating through a glory hole.

The Cathoic Boy. At a conference at Notre Dame, I met a Catholic undergrad, who took me to a path that went around St. Joseph lake on the Notre Dame campus.

Ankara.  In the spring of 1989, during my semester teaching in Ankara, I found that Turkish men were cruising each other constantly, in the park, on the metro, in the hamams.  A lot of the college boys cruised in the wooded hills beyond Bilkent University, but I met an older guy there: Turkish moustache, furry chest, thick Bratwurst.

The Truck Driver.  During the Great Redneck Roundup of 1995, we stopped at a rest stop near Laramie, and I climbed into a truck cab with the driver.

Macy's. One day my effervescent, outrageous friend David tried to get me to pick up a clerk at Macy's and go down on him in the restroom.  But I wimped out and made a date with him instead.

The Restaurant Kitche. During my summer in Paris, I went to Suam Thai for dinner almost every night, and got extensively cruised by the chef.  One night he invited me into the kitchen to discuss something, and one thing led to another.  We ended up having sex in the supply room.

My Office.  When I was living in Manhattan and commuting to Long Island to work on my Ph.D., I I had three choices: take hookups home on a two-hour train ride; borrow Yuri's apartment; or entertain them in my office -- in a secluded corridor in the Social Science Building.

I shared with three other graduate students.  But I knew their schedules, so it was safe.

Still, every time I brought a hookup in, I listened carefully for the sound of a key in that lock.

Nothing in public since 2001 -- I have an apartment with a nice soft bed, only about ten minutes from here, so....

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Boy a Man, and a Caribbean Island: Two Stories of Hookups Gone Wrong

Norfolk, Virginia, Summer 1993

"Ok, I'm going to tell you about the white boy who turned me into the fine, upstanding gay man you see today," Sandy says.

Alan, his partner Sandy, their friend Tarik, and I are swapping stories of funny or memorable dates and hookups.  I tell about my date with Michael J. Fox.  Tarik tells about the blue-eyed demon.  Now it's Sandy's turn.

Sandy grew up in Washington, DC., graduated from Howard University with a degree in international relations, and went to work in the foreign service.  He was stationed in Senegal, the Comoros Islands, and finally Barbados, where he became the Public Affairs Director at the American Embassy.

Barbados was black-friendly, but not at all gay-friendly.  There were no gay bars or gay organizations.  Gay men were criminals, and homophobic violence was commonplace.  The few guys he met were on the downlow.

So, five to ten times a year, Sandy flew home to Washington, to take a sex holiday in the bars, dark rooms, bathhouses, and sex clubs.  He did everything with everyone.

"But I wasn't into that blue-eyed devil nonsense,"  Sandy says.  "I loved white boys.  Especially the blonds  Fresh-scrubbed all-American jocks, like Ricky Schroder."

"I had a crush on him, too," Alan says.  "When you were dating the Celebrity, I kept hoping he would fix us up."

"Um...I think Rick Schroeder is straight."

But last summer Sandy met his own Rick, a Howard University pre-law major, white, with dark blond hair, a round androgynous face, a tight smooth chest, thick biceps, and a super-huge cut Kielbasa.

"But his best feature was his mouth," Sandy says.  "I could kiss him for hours.  And when he went down on me, man, I thought I died and went to heaven!"

They saw each other for three days, and then, on a whim, Sandy bought him a plane ticket back to Barbados.  They settled into Sandy's house on Back Ivy Road, and Sandy looked into getting him a job at the Embassy.

But Rick was not used to the closeted, downlow lifestyle of Barbados.  He started cruising in straight bars, picking up tourists on the beach.

"What a jerk!" I exclaim.  "Sharing is one thing, but public sex!  No matter how big he was beneath the belt, I'd show him the door."

After only 10 days, he was arrested for going down on a guy in the woods behind the Yellow Bird Hotel and deported.

And he named names, outing Sandy as his boyfriend.  The State Department didn't cotton to "homosexuals": Sandy was promptly fired  He returned to the States, and found a job in public relations in Norfolk.

"But it was worth it!" Sandy says.  "I hated being closeted, doing things on the downlow with married men.  Thanks to Rick, I got the courage to be true to myself.  And...I met my soulmate, Alan."

I sigh. This Rick guy still sounds like a jerk.

New York, November 1999

"Ok, I'm going to tell you about my weirdest hookup," Barry says.

Yuri is in the City, spending the weekend with me.  Barry and I have taken him to  dinner, and now we are in my apartment, swapping stories about good, bad, and ugly dates, boyfriends, and hookups.  Yuri tells about how he tricked Ravi the Bear into sharing his boy toy.  Now it's Barry's turn.

Barry grew up in a very conservative Catholic household in Williamsburg, Virginia, so when he went to college, he went wild, cruising guys right and left, sneaking into gay bars and bathhouses, tricking every night, but always hoping to meet The One, the Man of His Dreams.

And one night he did: Guy, a tourist from St. Lucia, in his 40s, black, muscular, huge beneath the belt.  Plus a wealthy, sophisticated world traveler.  He worked for the Ministry of External Affairs, so he was traveling all the time, throughout the Caribbean, to Europe, to Asia.  He had just been to China to negotiate a trade agreement.  Barry had never been outside the U.S.

After a courtship of just three days, Barry packed a suitcase, grabbed his passport, and flew back to St. Lucia with Guy.  They moved into his house on Pansy Drive.

At first it was great.  Castries was beautiful, colorful red and yellow houses  set against the white beaches and mountains.  The population was mostly black.  Gorgeous guys everywhere.

Many states in the U.S. criminalized gay people, but Barry wasn't prepared for the ferocity of the homophobia, the constant diatribes, the deep closets.  There were no gay bars or bathhouses. Guys met on the downlow, in back alleys and public restrooms.

One day when Barry got home, the police were waiting for him.  They told him that Guy had been arrested for "public indecency" for going down on a guy in the woods behind the Captain's Cellar Restaurant.  They arrested Barry, too, as an "accomplice," but dropped the charges and sent him home on the condition that he never return to St. Lucia, and never try to contact Guy again.

He didn't listen.  The moment he got home, he wrote to Guy.  No answer.  Three letters and a long-distance phone call.  No answer.

"What an idiot!" Yuri exclaims.  "He just leaves you when things get bad."

"Serves me right."  Barry takes a sip of his Coke.  "Serves me right for flying halfway across the world to be with a guy I just met."

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, December 1999

I notice the parallels right away: college student and older man fly from Washington DC to a Caribbean island, where one of them is arrested.  The college student is white, and the older man is black. The two stories take place about the same year.

But: different islands, different names, different person getting arrested.  Barry is only average beneath the belt.  Sandy is slim and rather feminine, not muscular.

I show Barry a picture of Sandy.  "Nope, definitely not him!" he exclaims.  "My Guy was hot!"

I send a picture of Barry to Sandy.  "No, definitely not him!" he writes back.  "My guy was hot!"

Still not satisfied, I arrange for the two to meet.  Sandy and Alan have moved a few times since the last time I visited them: now they're in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, about two hours west of Manhattan.  We drive out for the weekend.

Barry and Sandy greet each other as strangers, but as they get to talking, sharing their memories, they realize that they were describing the same incident, perceived differently at the time, changed in the haze of years, and then changed again through the art of storytelling.

It was Barbados, although they did go to St. Lucia for a day.  Sandy was the one arrested.

Psychics tell us that we're surrounded by the same people in every lifetime.  They play different roles: our father in one life may be our sister in the next, our lover in a third, and a memorable hookup in the fourth.  But it's the same souls, over and over.

Maybe, in their next life, Barry and Sandy will be lovers.

See also: Barry and the Creepy Old Guy

Monday, February 15, 2016

My Celebrity Boyfriend and I Hook Up With....

West Hollywood, February 1987

Valentine's Day

I've been dating the Celebrity, a former teen idol (I promised not to reveal his name), for a little over a month, and he's met almost all of my West Hollywood friends: Alan, Raul, Marcus, Michael, Mitch, Thanh. But I've never met any of his.

Dating a celebrity, I naturally expected to do some "sharing" with his celebrity friends.  John Travolta, or Rob Lowe, or Ralph Macchio.... 

But he doesn't even introduce me to anyone.

Maybe tonight will be different.  "I'm going to go all out," the Celebrity promises.  "This will be the most memorable Valentine's Day of your life."

Wow!  What's memorable to someone who starred in his own tv show?

200 doves flying out of a cake?

A charter jet taking us down to Tijuana for dinner?

Scott Baio naked in his bed?

Breathless with anticipation, I arrive at his house at 6:00 pm

There's a note on the door: "Door's open.  Follow the trail."

I go in.  There's a trail of paper hearts across the living room and dining room and down the hall.

The dogs, Rory and Max, are whining at the back door.  I assume they've just finished a potty break.  So I let them in.

"No, they have to stay outside!" the Celebrity yells in the distance.

Too late.  They scamper across the house, me following, to the spare bedroom, where the Celebrity is lying naked on a heart-shaped rug.   His penis and testicles are pushing through a hole in a Valentine's Candy Box.  He's desperately yelling "Sit!  Sit!" and grabbing up the candy before Rory and Max eat it.

 "Um...hi...this didn't turn out to be as sexy as I thought."

The candy put away, he removes the box.  The dogs sit.  I kneel and pet them.

"No, it's great.  Really creative."  I lie beside him, and we kiss.

He springs to life.  I go down on him.

No offense -- it's very nice, average sized, beautifully shaped, cut, ruddy.

 But in the last month I've gone down on him about 30 times.  Ok, now 31 times.  I was hoping for something...or someone...a little different.

We move into 69 position.  Rory and Max whine.  "Out!" he commands.

When we've finished, we order Chinese food and watch tv.

"Sorry the Valentine's surprise was a bust," the Celebrity says.  "Let's do something else tomorrow night, to make up for it.  Anything you want."

"Well, to be honest...have you heard about the West Hollywood 'sharing' thing?  Where couples bring in a third, one of their friends?"

He grins.  "Sure.  I didn't think you were into that."

"I haven't really done it before, but I'd love to give it a try.  If know, are into it."

"Sounds hot!  I'm turned on already."  He kisses me.  "You just sit back and let me make all the arrangements.  I'll take care of everything!"

I move my hand to his crotch.  He springs to life again.

32 times.

I spend the next day bubbling with excitement.  What famous face and physique will I be "sharing" tonight?  Tony Danza? Mr. T from The A-Team?  Scott Baio?

I knock on the door at 6:00 pm.  The Celebrity answers, and draws me into a kiss.

"Did you...."

"Get you a Valentine's present? Absolutely.  Up-to-date model, with lots of new features."

"You got me a new tv?" I joke.

"No, it's way bigger than a tv set."

"Um... jet skis?"

"No, but I'll give you a hint -- it has a retractable hose."

"Curioser and curioser."

"Shall we go check it out?"

He takes me by the arm and leads me to the bedroom.

My mind is racing.  Paul Michael Glaser?  Leif Garrett?  Ted Danson?

He opens the bedroom door.

Can you guess who we "shared"?

Answer after the break.


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