I've dated or hooked up with men in 38 states and 20 countries, I've met them in art galleries, restaurants, museums, movie theaters, monasteries, doctor's offices, bookstores, comic book stores, department stores, bath houses, sex parties, bear parties, and on the street.
But tonight I'm going to try to meet men in a completely new and different place:
A straight bar.
For the first 55 years of my life, I never set foot in a straight bar, not even when I lived in Ohio and Upstate New York. You couldn't meet guys there -- you couldn't even check out the beefcake without angry rednecks yelling "What are you looking at?" And what if a woman tried to pick me up?
But on the Plains, there are no gay organizations except for a student club, no meeting places except the gay-friendly coffee house, which is not great for cruising. And Grinder is getting old, with the constant "Top me, Daddy!" and "Send me pictures of your cock!"
Besides, most of the gay men in town are "post-gay" -- fully assimilated into the straight world, with mostly straight friends, hanging out at straight venues. So, logically, where do they go to meet men?
Twice in a row, when I stopped into the Red Rock, the student bar-restaurant downtown, to grab a sandwich, I hooked up almost immediately -- without even trying! I can only imagine my success if I give it my best shot!
9:00 am Saturday
I haven't gone to a bar to cruise -- look for guys for dates or hookups -- for years. I remember many Saturday nights in West Hollywood, at Mugi, Basgo's, the Gold Coast, or the Faultline: blaring disco music, semi-darkness, the smell of cigarette smoke and poppers, of guys with beer bottles popping up from their crotches. The interview -- the grope -- the joy of getting that phone number. The agony of having the guy you like snatched away.
Giddy with anticipation, I spend most of the day preparing, checking every detail.
No sore throat, sinus problems, cold sores, or flatulence. No sex for at least 24 hours. Get a hair cut.
Clean apartment. Change the sheets -- use the good ones. Hide the valuables. Jar of condoms and "trick towel" ready.
Research current events and the local sports team for conversation topics.
The gym. No cardio. Blast the chest and biceps.
Light dinner, mostly easy-to digest carbs. Shower, shave, mouthwash.
Cruising outfit: very tight black t-shirt, tight jeans, black shoes, leather jacket. Carry keys, breath mints, handkerchief, money, driver's license, pen for writing down phone number.
Drive to Red Rock. Leave wallet and cell phone locked up in the car.
It's a big, airy bar-restaurant, exposed brick, very high ceilings, paintings of a 1920s flapper party.
There are two bars in two rooms with wooden tables and booths, plus an outdoor patio, a little fireplace-lounge, a counter that sells t-shirts and mugs, and a long hallway to the bathrooms.
Pool tables, dart boards, wide-screen tvs, video games. No dance floor.
Nothing like the gay bars I used to go to in West Hollywood. No smoking. Brightly lit. The music is loud but not overbearing, and not disco, more like ballads of the 1960s and 1970s. I recognize "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Hey, Jude," and "Bad Romance."
It is crowded with male-female couples and groups. Not just college kids: some in their 30s, a table of 40-somethings, one couple in their 60s eating dinner. Men outnumber women two to one.
But no one is cruising!
No one is facing outward, looking out to see who's here, approaching someone new. They stay tightly wrapped in the groups they came in with.
How am I supposed to cruise, when no one will make eye contact? The only option is to wait until someone breaks out of a group.
I sit at the bar, order an orange juice, and wait, as the bar fills up even more.
Finally a guy leaves the table where he's sitting with five friends, and goes to the bathroom. I wait a few minutes and follow, meeting him on the way back.
He's in his 30s, tall, black-haired, short beard, round face.
"Hi, I think I've seen you at the gym. I'm Boomer, from California." My best opener. Gym for flattery, California to pique his interest.
He introduces himself. We chat briefly, but then he returns to his table without inviting me to join him.
I return to the bar and order a beer, so I'll have something cool to hold. The bartender says "Here you go, Sir."
The 40-year olds and the elderly couple are gone, leaving only the college twinks. I wouldn't want to be one of the creepy old guys, unwelcome intrusions in twink bars, like when you were a teenager, and your parents wanted to hang out with you and your friends.
In my experience, when you are older than everyone else in the room, you shouldn't downplay it -- it's your strength. Sexual experience, sophistication, money, power...and of course, having a chest doesn't hurt.
I take the bull by the horns and pick the youngest guy in the room, sitting by himself at one of the booths. He looks like he's about sixteen (since the bar is also a restaurant, it's open to all ages).
I approach without making eye contact and give him my best non-creepy smile: open, friendly, but displaying no erotic interest whatever. "Hi, I'm tired of sitting at the bar -- could I join you?"
"Sure, no problem, My friends will be here in a few minutes, though. We're going to play darts. Do you know how to play?"
I play darts with Bill and his friends, but can't find a way to get him alone.
The longer you spend in a bar, the lower your chances. First hour -- excellent. Second hour -- poor. Third hour -- nil.
I have nothing to lose, so I try the craziest long-shot in the book: the bartender.
He's a college boy in his early twenties, medium height, not particularly buffed, but I like his deep-set eyes, scruffy beard, and square workman's hands.
I order a Diet Coke and say "Busy night," rather a lame conversation-starter.
"Yeah, but I like it busy. More ladies to look at, you know."
I pay for my Diet Coke and walk out into the cold February night.
Suddenly a guy approaches me -- in his 20s, very tall and thin, dressed too nicely to be a panhandler. A gay basher? I turn quickly and head back toward the bar.
"Hey -- I wanted to talk to you in Red Rock, but you were always with someone...." He smiles shyly and holds out his hand. "My name is Liam...do you, like, want to go get some coffee?"
I don't usually care for tall, thin guys, but Liam is into kissing and cuddling, and he's got an enormous 9-incher! My jaw will be aching tomorrow!
Besides, I picked him up in a straight bar.
See also: In Search of Beefcake on the Plains ; A Time Traveler from the Past Brings Me Guys.