My Mentally Disabled Neighbor and the Underwear Stuff
Plains, August 2016
I went into my date with Timmy, my mentally disabled neighbor, with some trepidation. For nine months I had been thinking of him as someone a little off, who needed to be humored and tolerated, who needed protection and caretaking, who was in effect a child. On a date I would have to think of him -- and treat him -- as an equal, someone with his own tastes, attitudes, interests, and opinions.
Why did I want a date with him? He was extremely cute, about 30, with black hair slicked back, nice biceps, and a bulge in his underwear, but there were dozens of guys like that in town. I could go on Grindr for a few minutes and get offers from five or six.
Was he a project? Did I want to "save" him? As far as I could tell, he was doing fine, with an apartment, a job, friends, and ample "hot boys" interested in "the underwear stuff." What had I done in my life that was better?
Was he an accomplishment? Someone to check off my list of erotic experiences? "Ok, I've been with blind and deaf guys. I had a guy with cerebral palsy tear off my clothes. And now I've been with a mentally disabled guy! Aren't I special?"
I conducted research. I sought advice from my friends. I stalked Timmy on Facebook. Then, Friday night at 6:00 pm sharp, he knocked on my door.
He was wearing his usual blue t-shirt and jeans, extra bulgy -- had he stuffed a sock down there?
"Hi, Boomer. I came to take you to Kansas. I got you a flower." He handed me one of those plastic roses they sell at convenience stores.
I figured I'd be driving, but we were picked up by Timmy's friend Mamou. We held hands in the back seat while he grinned at us in the rear view mirror all the way to the convention center.
"Text me when you're done," he said. "Be good."
I felt very much like a fifteen-year old on his first date.
I knew only two song by Kansas. My favorite was "Dust in the Wind."
Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see
Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind
Very appealing to a world-weary 17 year old, not so much to a 55-year old being regularly reminded of his mortality.
Most of their contemporary songs had the same nihilistic spirit:
Look at the time, slipping by as if we never knew it at all
Glancing around, seeing faces so familiar,
I should recall
Seems we should know; where do they go?
My first date with Fred
The night Alan and I picked up the kept boy
Sharing the Cowboy of Sunset Boulevard with Derek
Yuri and the Unhung Hippie
The Boy Who Cried "Fabulous"
When David and I picked up a teenage hitchhiker
Farshad the French Moroccan
The Gay Psychic Angel
Eli's Brother at the Horseman's Club
How did I get to be 55 years old? What was I doing with a 30 year old?
I had a Ph.D. I spoke five languages. What was I doing with a mentally disabled kid?
Timmy turned to me. "They're good!"
I was terribly depressed and in no mood to continue this date -- project -- accomplishment -- but we continued, walking down the street to a hamburger place -- no pizza. I began my usual first date "interview" questions:
Where did you grow up? Here. Mom works at the Mall
Your coming out story? I liked a boy in school. He was older than me. He liked to kiss.
Coming out movie? ??
Where did you go to school? Here
Your job? I unload boxes.
Career goal? I want to sell cars, but I can't drive.
Favorite movie? Good Burger.
Favorite musician? Billy Gilman
Celebrity dating story: ??
What country would you like to visit? Cardiff, Wales. My grampa's grampa came from there.
Workout routine? I don't have time to join the gym, but I get muscles from moving boxes. Feel.
Timmy only had one question for me: Do you like to kiss?
Which, to be honest, is the only question on everyone's mind during a first date.
But I still felt more like a caretaker than a date, entertaining a little boy, not having a social evening with an equal.
The Underwear Stuff
Mamou picked us up at the hamburger place and dropped us off at the apartment. "Don't stay up too late," he said with a smirk.
We had to walk past my apartment on the way to Timmy's. I felt like bolting, but I allowed Timmy to take me into his living room, sit me down on the couch, pull up a country-western album on his Ipad, and hand me a glass of lemonade (Country Time).
"Excuse me, please." He went into the bathroom -- I heard the sound of urination and the sink running -- then returned. He sat next to me on the couch, put his arm around me.
"Now it's time for the underwear stuff."
"I suppose it is."
"Don't be nervous! It's nice."
Me, nervous? Buddy, I had a three way with Michael J. Fox and Rob Lowe the day you were born! I spent 36 hours on my knees when you were still a gleam in your Daddy's eye! I've gone down on guys thirty years younger than me, and been topped by guys thirty years older! I can say "let's go back to my room" in twenty languages! Want to hear it in Zulu?
But I was nervous! Hands shaking, throat dry nervous. I gulped my Country Time.
Then we were kissing.
It was like we had kissed a thousand times before -- warm, passionate, familiar. He knew exactly when to be assertive, when to fall back, when to move away altogether and start again.
Although I was aroused, I would have been happy to keep on kissing on the couch all night. But Jimmy took me by the hand and led me to the bedroom. He carefully unbuttoned my shirt and moved his hand, mouth, and tongue down my chest and abs. Then he unzipped my aroused Bratwurst+.
He took off his own clothes. He had a tight, smooth physique, hairless, with shaved pubes. He asked me not to tell anyone his size.
"Don't be scared," Timmy said. "I know what to do."
I was no longer thinking of Timmy as a child who needed protection. He was fully capable, competent, an adult.
Who I wanted to date again.
See also: Three Bereavement Hookups
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Friday, August 12, 2016
Sunday morning, 8:00 sharp. There's a knock on the door. I peer through the peephole: it's my ex-boyfriend Jimmy the Boy Toy, and Kyle, the twink he dumped me for, plus at least three guys I don't know.
"We're surprising you with a West Hollywood party!" Jimmy announces. "This is Chester, Ravi, and Jeff." They pile into the apartment and start setting out bagels, cream cheese, fruit, and yogurt. "Got any plates?" someone yells.
"Party -- what?"
"Kyle and I know you're feeling depressed on the Plains, after going back to California last month, missing all those wild West Hollywood parties, so we thought we'd bring one to you."
"Um,,,those usually took place at night, and we had a little advance warning." I haven't showered or shaved yet, the bedroom is a mess, and you never have strangers in your house without locking up your valuables!
"Then it wouldn't be a surprise, would it?"
"Well...where did you meet these guys?"
Chester is Kyle's ex-boyfriend; Ravi, a friend of Jimmy's visiting from California; and Jeff is a guy they hooked up with on Grindr last night.
"Ok, ok, let me just get dressed."
"That won't be necessary!" Jimmy said, reaching into my bathrobe to grope me. "First game -- Celebrity Dating!"
The Celebrity Dating Contest
"Wait -- West Hollywood parties usually begin with dinner."
He hands me a plate with a bagel smeared with way too much cream cheese and a small bunch of grapes. "Ok, everybody tells about a date or hookup with a celebrity. Then we have to decide if he is telling the truth or lying. The one who guesses right the most wins a prize, ten minutes in the bedroom with whoever he wants!"
Me; Nate Richert, star of Sabrina the Teenage Witch (true)
Jimmy: Dylan O'Neil, star of Teenage Werewolf (true)
Kyle: Nathan Kress of ICarly (made up)
Chester: Tom Cruise (made up)
Ravi: Matt Dallas, star of Kyle XY (true)
Jeff: Justin Bieber (made up)
I get Ravi's story wrong. Chester, the ex-boyfriend of Jimmy's new boyfriend, gets them all right, and chooses me as his prize. He's a brown-haired nerd with glasses, a weak chin, prominent ears, and a long, thin Mortadella. We kiss and fondle, and then he goes down on me for a few minutes. I push him down on the bed and start going down on him. Then the timer buzzes.
"You're just in time for the next game," Jimmy announces. "The Guess the Contest."
The Guess the Sausage Contest
"Ok, everybody go in the bathroom and snap a pic of your penis, flaccid. We have to guess which belongs to who. The one who guesses all five correctly gets to spend ten minutes alone in the bedroom with the guy of his choice."
It's harder than you might think to identify a penis not attached to a body, even if you've been with the guy before. Size, shape, color, cut-uncut status....
Kyle, Jimmy's new boyfriend, guesses them all accurately, and picks me. I'm beginning to think that these games are rigged -- but he's very sexy, short, brown-haired, slim and smooth, with soulful puppy-dog eyes and a rather small uncut penis. We go into the bedroom and kiss and fondle, and then I go down on him -- it takes him only a few minutes to finish with an enormous squirt. Then the timer goes off.
Kyle rushes into Jimmy's arms. "Looks like someone enjoyed his prize," he says. "Next -- the Date from Hell contest."
"Everybody has to tell about the worst possible date, where the guy was a complete and utter jerk -- nobody in this room, please -- and everything goes wrong. Then we vote on a scale of one to ten. The one with the most points gets to -- you know it -- go into the bedroom for ten minutes with the guy of his choice.
I won't go into detail about the Dates from Hell -- maybe I'll tell about them in other stories -- but Chester gets the most points. He selects Jeff: in his mid-30s, balding, with close-cropped rusty hair and a beard, a very hairy chest, and, I discover later, a thick beercan-sized Bratwurst.
While we're chatting and waiting for the timer to go off, Ravi pulls me into the kitchen. He's in his mid-20s, South Asian, dark skin, thick black hair, unshaven beard, hairy chest.
"I've been trying to win the prize, so I could pick you, but I'm no good at these games. Do you think we could hook up later, after the other guys leave?"
"Absolutely." We begin kissing and fondling. Then the timer goes off, and we all return to our seats.
"Next contest," Jimmy says, "No-Hands Arousal."
"Wait, I never heard of that one..."
"Everybody get naked and sit still. You can't touch yourself or anyone else. The first person who becomes fully aroused wins. He gets to ask anyone he wants to go down on him, either here or in the bedroom."
The other guys are barely tumescent before Ravi rises to full arousal, his penis pressing hard against his belly. "I choose Boomer," he says. "But in the bedroom."
"Ok," Jimmy says. "You have ten minutes."
I kneel in front of Ravi and go down on him. He is average sized, but very hard, an iron rod. I continue working on him until he finishes, then raise up and kiss him.
We're still kissing when the timer goes off. Back in the living room, the other guys are sitting naked. I take off my bathrobe.
"Ok, time for sharing," Jimmy says. "Three of us in the bedroom, and three in the study."
"No, the study's off limits," I say.
"Three of us right here in the living room. The only rule is, Kyle and I have to go together. Boomer, who do you want?"
Definitely Ravi, which means I can't go with Jimmy and Kyle. I've already been with Chester today, so "Jeff."
The three of us go into the bedroom. I go down on Jeff while he and Ravi kiss. Then he tops Ravi while Ravi goes down on me. When we finish, Ravi and I leave Jeff sleeping and return to the living room, where I go down on Jimmy -- that makes five! Chester goes in the bedroom to rouse Jeff.
"Thanks for the party," I tell Jimmy. "It was fun, even though it was nothing like a West Hollywood party. It was really more like a Sunday Morning Orgy."
When I open my wallet to pay, I discover that my credit cards and id are still there, but around $50 in cash is missing. Jeff must have nicked it when he was left in the room alone.
That's why you always hide your valuables with strangers in the house!
Oh, well. It's worth $50 to go down on five guys. Plus get bagels.
See also: How to Host a Real West Hollywood Party; My Platonic Friends and Their Boy Toy
Thursday, August 11, 2016
1. His face
2. His physique
3. His penis
4. His missing right arm.
Most people find #4 neutral or even a turn-off, but for a surprising number, it's a big plus, making him infinitely more attractive than guys with four limbs.
The absence makes the whole body stand out in vivid detail, drawing our attention to every muscle.
The lack of symmetry brings a pleasant dissonance, like a minor chord in music.
We're not supposed to look, not supposed to notice; when looking is forbidden, it becomes erotic.
Most amputee fetishists prefer guys with a single missing limb, a leg or an arm.
Some prefer double missing limbs, two arms, two legs, or one of each.
A smaller but still significant number prefer four missing limbs.
They can be quite specific about how much of
the limb should be missing for optional erotic potential.
Whatever type of missing limb they find preferable, partners are hard to come by.
Although there are nearly 2 million amputees in the U.S., over half are elderly diabetics with a host of medical issues, probably not interested in erotic exploration. Less than half have lost limbs due to accidents.
Another 100,000 people are born with limb loss or limb difference, due to a variety of genetic and prenatal factors.
It works out to about 50,000 gay adult men with missing limbs and no significant medical problems that would preclude dating.
With a combination of prosthetic limbs and innovative mobility techniques, amputees can do everything anyone else can do, including drive a car, swim, and lift weights. There's a guy who goes to my gym who is missing most of an arm, yet has fully defined, symmetrical pecs and shoulders.
Didi (Tracey Ashton), one of the people Earl had wronged ("stole the car of a one-legged girl).
Plus her boyfriend, played by Cameron Clapp, a triple-amputee athlete and motivational speaker (seen here surfing).
The Amputee Coalition offers support groups and assistance to help amputees and their families and friends live to the fullest. One of its activities is the Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp, a traditional summer camp founded in 2000 that has served 790 children with limb loss and limb difference from the U.S., Britain, Australia, Mexico, and Tunisia.
How do amputees feel about fetishists, people who are intensely attracted to them because of missing or reduced limb?
Some like the attention. Anything that sets you apart from the crowd is a good thing, right?
Most dislike being objectified, reduced to only an amputee, just as guys dislike being sought after simply because they are Asian or black, or have large penises. They want to be desired for their face and physique, their eccentricities and quirks, their accomplishments, their intelligence, their sense of humor, and everything else that makes them unique.
A G-rated version of this article is on Boomer Beefcake and Bonding.
Timmy just moved into an apartment down the hall. I see him often in the laundry room, in the foyer waiting for a ride, and walking down the hill toward downtown. He is around 30, short, slim, with very short black hair, greased back, a long face, prominent ears, and big veiny hands always clasped together as if in prayer, unless he's carrying something. He's always smiling.
"Hi, Timmy," I always say. "What are you doing today?"
"Hi, Boomer," he answers in a monotone. "I'm going to work" or "I'm doing laundry" or "I'm waiting for my friend."
When he's going to work, he always wears a pale blue long-sleeved shirt and a clip-on black tie. Otherwise he always wears a very tight t-shirt, yellow or blue. Nice chest.
Something is definitely off about Timmy, but I can't figure out what. His reactions are slow, his movements are a little jerky, and he doesn't understand unless you use short sentences and simple words. Autism?
I look him up on Facebook. He's a high school graduate, he likes country-western music, he has 27 friends, and he works for Rehabilitation Services, which provides jobs throughout the city for people with intellectual disabilities.
I call my friend Ross in the Psychology Department: intellectual disabilities, what we used to call "mental retardation," affect 2-3% of the population. 90% have "mild" or "moderately impaired cognition." They aren't good at abstract thought and higher-level reasoning, they need predictability and structure, but they can do almost everything the rest of us can: work, live alone, handle everyday problems, and have social relationships.
Timmy is very cute....
Today I saw Timmy in the foyer downstairs. "I'm waiting for my friend," he said. "We're going to play arcade."
"You're going to the arcade?" I repeated.
"We're going to play arcade," Timmy corrected me. "He gets a better score than me, but I like to play anyway."
A moment later the friend arrived, in a car. He was in his 30s, tall, rather buffed, bearded, black or Hispanic, wearing a taqiyah, a Muslim skullcap.
"This is Boomer," Timmy said. "He lives down the hall from me. Sometimes we do laundry at the same time."
"Hi, I'm Mamou," the friend says.
We shake hands. Then Timmy wants to shake my hand, too.
"This guy isn't being a nuisance, is he?" Mamou asks jokingly.
"Oh, no, I enjoy having him around."
"We have to go to play arcade now," Timmy said.
I wouldn't mind playing "arcade" with Timmy and his "friend."
Is it legal for the intellectually disabled to have sex? I check: the question is one of consent. Most states criminalize sexual activity with someone with a "physical or mental impairment," a sweeping statement includes the blind, deaf, and wheelchair-bound.
Other states, including this one, specify that the impairment must render them "incapable of giving full, free, and informed consent," that is, incapable of understanding the sexual act, and of consenting as an equal, not being manipulated or bullied.
Does Timmy understand the sexual act?
Today I was siting in the laundry room, waiting for the drier to finish, when Timmy came in, stood very close to me, and started talking about how cold it was outside. I assumed he meant "hot." I said "I was in New York last month" He said "I've been to New York. I was there for 3/4ths of day. Then I was in Boston for 3/4ths of a day. That's how long I was outside of the state."
He was standing very close. Very close. I felt a heat coming from him. I looked at his crotch. Did I see a bulge?
"I want to go to California," he continued, touching my shoulder. "To the beach." Then suddenly he said "I'm going to work now" and walked away.
I read some articles on line: Their behavior is a little off, so they may seem to be erotically interested when they're just being friendly. And they might not understand your erotic intentions. They have a hard time with figures of speech, double-entendres, body language, all of the subtle behavior that we take for granted in cruising.
A week ago
Today when I walked past Timmy's apartment, the door was wide open. "Hello?" I said. No answer. Maybe Timmy was hurt? I walked in. It was barely furnished -- no books, no pictures on the wall -- but very clean.
He was sitting at the kitchen table, looking at a sports magazine, shirtless. Tight chest, flat stomach with an outtie belly button.
"Hi! Your door was open. I thought you were in trouble."
"I'm getting it cold in here."
"Don't you have an air conditioner?"
"My air conditioner is broke. They're going to fix it today. It's cold in here with the door open, though. Feel."
He took my hand and held it up in the air.
"You're right, it is cold."
"Want some lemonade? I got it at work."
He stood -- he was in his underwear. Nice bulge! He poured some lemonade into to a glass and handed it to me. Country Time -- yuck!
"You can take your shirt off if you want to. It will make it cool in here."
What will his case worker think, seeing Timmy in his underwear and me with my shirt off? "That's ok, I'm cool enough, thanks."
I noticed some dirty dishes in the sink and asked "Are you a good cook?".
"I can cook macaroni and cheese and spaghetti pretty good. My Mom brings me dinners in Tupperware sometimes. Chicken, pork chops, celery. Brussel sprouts! She said they're healthy."
He brushed my leg under the table. I felt myself becoming aroused, said "Thanks for the lemonade," and left.
Is it ok to have sex with the intellectually disabled? As a vulnerable population, they are often sexually abused by parents, classmates, and case workers, so they may need special support in a sexual relationship, like any other survivor of trauma. Would you want to go down on Gilbert Grape? Or top the Rain Man?
Maybe you should be in a loving long-term relationship with them before even thinking of sexual intimacy. Maybe recreational hookups are beyond their emotional capacity.
Timmy knocked on my door.
"Hi, Boomer. I came to ask you a question. Do you want to go to Kansas?"
Why was he asking me about a state? "I've only been there once. It's ok. A little flat."
He laughed "No, not Kansas the state, Kansas the rock group."
"Oh, sure. 'Dust in the Wind' was my favorite nihilistic song -- I mean my favorite sad song -- when I was in high school."
"They're coming here on Friday, and they're giving a concert. At work I got two tickets as a prize, so I came here to ask you a question: Do you want to go to Kansas?"
"What about your friend?"
He laughed again. "You can't bring friends to a concert! That would be weird. It's for dates."
Timmy was asking me for a date? Did he even know what that meant? Stalling for time, I asked, "Do you go on dates a lot?"
"Not a lot!" he said, grinning. "I'm not a slut! Just when a hot boy asks me. But this time I got the tickets, so I get to ask."
"Do you go on dates with girls, too, or just with boys?"
Embarrassed, he looked down at his feet and pushed his hands together. "Girls, too. But I like boys best for kissing. And the underwear stuff."
"I like boys for the underwear stuff, too," I admitted.
Now his grin became just a bit lascivious. "Do you want to go to Kansas? We can get pizza after it's over, and then we can go to my apartment. I cleaned it today."
"Sure. It's a date."
This Friday I have a date with a mentally disabled guy to go to a concert, get pizza, and kiss.
And the underwear stuff.
Next: My Date with My Mentally Disabled Neighbor
See also: A Boy with Daddy Issues Rips My Clothes Off
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
One afternoon shortly after I returned from my summer in France, I walked into my apartment on 13th Street in the East Village of New York to find a very attractive young man in a business suit on the couch. His thick Kielbasa was out and fully aroused. My housemate Edward was on his knees, his tongue working feverishly on the shaft.
I was shocked. Edward was a fey art appraiser in his 60s, who rarely dated and never hooked up. And his cardinal rule was: no nudity in the living room.
"Hi!" the very attractive young man said.
"Hi. I'm Boomer, Edward's housemate."
Edward hastily stood, his pants tenting. "Terribly sorry to break a house rule. I lost control of myself. Boomer, this is my new assistant, Andrew Marvell (accented on the second syllable, Mar - VELL). I hired him while you were in France."
"How are ya?" Andrew said, holding out his hand to be shaken. It was very big, almost drawing attention away from his still-aroused Kielbasa.
"Nice to meet you. Not very coy, are you?"
"You know, Andrew Marvell, the Metaphysical poet? 'To His Coy Mistress'?"
Metaphysical poetry was that obscure, metaphor-filled Restoration-era stuff from the English Restoration that you had to read in your Survey of English Literature class in college. You were probably assigned "To His Coy Mistress," in which Andrew Marvell tries to convince a woman to have sex with him:
Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
Andrew stared blankly.
"Where are my manners?" Edward said. "Would you like to go down on him? Please be my guest."
My guest? It was Andrew's penis! "Is it ok, Andrew?"
"Sure, go for it."
This was weird,but I never turn down a Kielbasa. I got on my knees. Andrew responded perfectly, with just the right amount of groaning and shaking, erotic but not ostentatious.
He finished quickly with a gallon-sized spurt -- Edward must have been working on him for awhile. Then Edward said "Won't we be more comfortable in the bedroom?"
We had never shared before, but ok. We took Andrew into the bedroom, stripped him out of his clothes ("Be careful -- that's an Armani suit!"), and found a hundred more things to do with him.
Andrew had a firm, tight physique, with a smooth chest, thick biceps, and toned abs, pleasant but not spectacular. But he had a face that would make you melt, and a magnificent Kielbasa that was always aroused.
Of course, I had to share him with Edward, who was thin, hairy, wore rings and a rather feminine cologne, and never took off his socks and garters. But I could work around that, going down on Edward for thirty seconds and then returning my attention to Andrew.
He finished a second time while Edward was going down on him and he was going down on me. Then he sprang to life again, lay on top of me, and finished a third time while kissing me and thrusting between my legs. Edward finished by topping Andrew.
He sprang up again, ready for #4, but Edward said "I think we'd better call it a day. We wouldn't want to get totally spent."
We all showered and dressed and returned to the living room. Edward went out to the kitchen to make tea.
"So you're Edward's assistant," I said, to make conversation.
"Yep." He grinned.
"That must be interesting, cataloging all those rare works of art."
"Yep. Hard, though. I get stuck on the titles sometimes, and Edward has to type them in for me."
"Did you major in Art History in college?"
"I just took General Humanities at Laguardia (Community College), but I had a job as a model for an art class once."
Um...ok. So...what's your favorite period? From your name, I'm going to guess the Baroque."
"Andrew Marvell was a poet who lived during the Baroque era."
"Oh, Edward named me -- I thought it was about Marvel comics. My real name is Andrew Balboa."
"Italian Stallion, huh?" (Rocky Balboa was the name of Sylvester Stallone's character in the Rocky series).
"No, I'm American."
Ok, this guy was as dumb as a post. I bet he couldn't even find Europe on the map. Why would Edward hire him to catalog objects d'art and correspond with dealers in French, German, and Italian?
"Edward gave me this suit, too. Do you like it?" He took my hand and ran it over the material, then down to his crotch, where he was aroused again.
"Still ready for action, I see."
"I'm always ready. I won a contest once, five times in an hour. But then I didn't get aroused again for almost two hours!"
Ok, I figured it out. Andrew was a Boyfriend for Pay, hired for his handsome face and ever-aroused Kielbasa, not for his administrative skills or knowledge of art history.
Sometimes I went down on him right on the couch in the living room, while Edward was working on his computer nearby.
I didn't mind. I even invited my friend Yuri to help out.
Familiarity usually decreases the frequency and intensity of your arousal, but not with Andrew. He was just as eager the 20th time as the first.
Then one day in December, Andrew came into my room. He was shirtless, wearing a Santa Claus cap.
"What's up, Andrew? Did you bring a package for me to open?"
"No. I just came in to say goodbye. Right after Christmas, Edward is going to Europe for two months, and he said he won't need an assistant anymore."
"I'm sorry to hear that. But you can still come over and hang out, right?" Translation: We can still make out on the couch while watching Rocko's Modern Life.
Cheaper than a hustler. "Well, I don't really need an assistant. I was thinking more of friends hanging out."
He frowned. "Then how would I pay my rent?"
See also: Edward Tries to "Make" My Boyfriend
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."
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 épater 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.
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.
Sunday, August 7, 2016
During the summer of 1980, just after my sophomore year in college, I was 19, stupid, and completely infatuated with my first boyfriend Fred. So when he finished his ministerial internship and got a job as a youth minister at a Methodist church in Omaha (actually Gretna, Nebraska, about 20 miles away), I dropped out of college and moved with him.
It was awful. We lived in a horrible apartment, I had a horrible job. The people were rude. I had to pretend to be Fred's "cousin." He had never had a live-in boyfriend before, so he became controlling and weird. After six weeks, I packed up my stuff and left.
My only positive memory from those six weeks is Michael Stevenson (not his real name), a boy from the youth group at church. A high school jock, about my height, very short brown hair, square face, nice chest. The other members of the congregation were standoffish and rude, but he always said "hello" to me and asked how I liked Gretna -- and one night Fred brought him over for dinner and "sharing."
I didn't know anything about sharing -- I had only been with a few guys, and never more than one at a time. And Fred didn't explain anything in advance. After dinner, when I finished putting the dishes in the dishwasher, I went out into the living room to find Michael on his knees, going down on Fred!
"It's ok," Fred said, noticing my shocked expression. "Michael is 17. Yesterday was his birthday, in fact."
He thought I was worried about that? No -- I thought that being gay was illegal for everyone. I was worried about my boyfriend cheating on me right in front of my eyes, with a member of his youth group!
"I'm his birthday present," Fred continued.
Michael giggled. "You're my present, too." He stood, walked over and kissed me.
Suddenly I was up for sharing.
I'll always remember that kiss -- warm, passionate but assertive, demanding.
And Michael's penis, small but thick, uncut, an iron shaft yet easy to go down on without gagging. Not like Fred's super-hung monster.
I went down on Michael while he was standing there in the entry-way, thrusting energetically up and down until he finished. Then we went into the bedroom. He had already sprang to life again, so I went down on him a second time while he was going down on Fred. Then Fred tried to top him, but he was too big. He made do with interfemoral.
My first sharing experience, and the best ever, with one of the nicest guys I've ever met!
We spent the night cuddling, and in the morning Michael showered and went to school. He continued to chat with me in church, but he never came over for "sharing again." After I left Omaha, Fred and I stayed friends, but he never mentioned Michael.
Maybe he was just a hookup, a one-night stand. But I still remember him fondly, 36 years, 8 boyfriends, and 130 hookups later.
I was successful in finding the Mormon missionary who I chatted with briefly in Beaver, Utah. Why not try to find Michael?
I had even more clues than with the Mormon missionary: a first and last name, a United Methodist church, a high school and a birthday.
His last name is not as common as "Stevenson": there were only five in the Omaha area. No Michael. He wasn't listed in the alumni roster of his high school, which means he never checked in -- a bad experience with bullying and homophobia, no doubt.
No doubt he moved to the nearest gay neighborhood as soon as he could. That would be Chicago.
But maybe I could dig up a relative.
A search of Omaha newspapers revealed a Mike Stevenson who won a fishing contest in 2006, and took a school tour of Washington DC in 2010. Maybe Michael's nephew or...gulp...son?
When he won a civic scholarship as a high school senior in 2013, Mike said that he was planning to attend Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, South Dakota.
I found his campus address and sent him an email, saying that I was looking for an old friend with his name, who belonged to the Gretna United Methodist Church and graduated from Gretna High School in 1982.
He emailed back. "Sure, that's my Uncle Michael!"
Success! "Do you have his email address? I'd love to get back in touch with him."
"I'm sorry to tell you this, but Uncle Michael died a few years ago. Cancer. I have mementos I can show you. Can you come out to Mitchell?"
Mitchell, South Dakota is known for its Corn Palace, a castle-like building with Moorish-style domes and minarets, the walls covered with murals made of corn. I took some photos, then met Mike at a brew pub a few blocks away.
Mike Stevenson was 21 years old, the image of his uncle: same short hair, same square face, same muscular torso. I almost reached out and kissed him, but caught myself and shook his hand instead.
"How did you know my Uncle Michael?" he asked.
I don't usually come out to strangers, especially those attending Wesleyan colleges, so I talked about spending the summer of 1980 in Omaha. Michael befriended me, showed me around, really made me feel welcome.
"Was he your boyfriend?"
"Um..." Ok, I guess I could come out. "We sort of dated. It was complicated."
"He never talked about high school. I don't think he liked it very much -- it was probably hard, in those days when you had to be in the closet. So I was hoping you were like the one bright spot."
No, I was a one-night stand, I think, embarrassed. "Sounds like you were pretty close to him."
"He was like a second father to me. I used to spend summers out in Sayville with him and Uncle Max. After he died, Uncle Max gave me some old photos and stuff."
Photos, playbills, his passport, a certificate for winning a fishing contest, the contours of a life.
A photo of Michael and his partner in Sayville -- they were there when I was living on Long Island, but our paths never crossed.
Michael and his former partner in New Jersey.
Fishing trips and ski trips (with Mike in tow), the Tower of London, Gettysburg, Colonial Williamsburg.
The New York Gay Pride Festival.
An autographed picture of Barry Williams, Greg on The Brady Bunch.
"Uncle Michael said he knew he was gay when he saw The Brady Bunch as a kid. He had a crush on Greg."
"I was more into Peter, myself."
The program of his college graduation.
A photo of Michael in college, his arm around his roommate (I assume).
A photo of Michael in high school.
I didn't even remember that Fred took a picture that night: a 17 year old and a 19 year old, hugging, smiling at the camera.
It never occurred to me that this was Michael's first "sharing" experience, too. An experience that bolstered him through the horrors of a homophobic adolescence.
A memory of a warm summer night that never faded.
For either of us.
See also: Fred and the Teenager Downstairs.
I love books. Who cares about Kindles and Scribds and .pdfs? I love browsing through used bookstores, driving home from the mall with a Barnes and Noble bag beside me, checking my recommendations on Amazon.
And reading every night before turning out the light.
Whenever I'm depressed, I rearrange my books.
Where did this bibliomania start? Maybe with my parents, who disapproved of books. They were at best a waste of time, and more likely sinful. The only way I could get away with reading was to claim that it was a school assignment (evidently my teachers assigned a lot of science fiction and fantasy novels).
I had a Little Golden Book I couldn't read most of the words yet, but the front cover showed two boys hugging and waving. So I called it my Book of Cute Boys.
I think it was this adaptation of the Disney movie The Swiss Family Robinson, about a family shipwrecked on a desert island. The publication date is right.
One day in the spring of 1965, around the time that I chased the Boy with the Guitar, we were driving somewhere on a scary country road, and I was reading in the back seat (this was before car seats, or even seatbelts). Dad yelled back, "Don't read in the car!"
I said something like "I wanna see the cute boys."
"Dammit, Skeezix, do you want to get sick?"
I kept reading...
Dad always got mad easily while driving. He may have warned me a few more times. Then, sucking his lower lip in his look of pure fury, he reached back, grabbed The Book of Cute Boys from my hands, and threw it out the car window.
It was lost forever!
There's a lot of gay symbolism in that distant memory:
Was Dad worried that I would get motion sickness from reading in the car, or that I would get sick from looking at cute boys?
(He only called me Skeezix when I was subverting gender expectations.)
From that day on, my same-sex desire would be denied, suppressed, challenged, explained as something else, criticized, excoriated, qualified, discussed, or tolerated.
It would never again be allowed to just exist.
I've spent my life buying that book over and over again, but nothing will bring that innocence back.
See also: The Boy with the Guitar/