Saturday, April 1, 2017
West Hollywood, January 1982
This is Lane's weirdest paranormal experience:
When he was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, he and his parents often went to the Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. It was one of those old-fashioned multi-story department stores with everything under the sun: sportswear, furniture, candy, bedspreads. He especially liked the toy section, where cute sales clerks would always ask "Can I help you, sir?" and make him feel special.
As an adult, Lane preferred gay-themed shops, so he went to the Broadway only occasionally, when he needed something that you couldn't get in West Hollywood.
That day in January 1982, he was shopping for a new comforter for his bed -- housewares, on the sixth floor.
As he walked down the aisles of sheets, towels, bedspreads, and pillows, he suddenly felt light-headed, and the room seemed to get darker. He thought he might faint.
Looking for a place to sit down, he walked toward the north side of the store, and saw a sign reading "Barber Shop."
He didn't remember a barber shop on that floor, but he pushed through a frosted-glass doorway.
It was very old fashioned, nothing like the modern hair salons that Lane usually went to. Wood paneling, fluorescent lamps, frayed red chairs, jars of weird green liquid with combs floating in them. Hair on the floor. An old black-and-white tv set was playing the 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy, with the sound off.
Several men in suits were waiting their turn, leafing through Field and Stream magazine or newspapers. One was staring a the tv screen.
You'd think barbers would have nice haircuts, Lane thought.
The other barber was middle aged, wearing horn-rimmed glasses. They must be father and son.
Lane wasn't feeling sick anymore, and his cruising instincts started up. Maybe he could flirt a little with the young barber (he thinks he was named Steve), find out if he was gay. He sat down in a chair that gave him a good view.
Soon Steve said "You're next."
"No, these other guys were here first," Lane protested.
Lane didn't really need a haircut, but he sat down in the frayed red chair. Steve pumped him up and tied a mesh cape around his neck.
"Wow, you're as shaggy as a beatnik. How long has it been since you got a good scalping?"
"About two weeks," Lane admitted.
"Well, your old guy did a bum job. Don't worry, I'll fix you right up. The latest style." He ran his fingers through Lane's hair. "You'll be ready to wow the ladies in no time."
Heterosexist! Lane didn't usually come out to strangers, especially strangers with scissors in their hands, but it was insulting for the guy he was trying to cruise to mistake him for a breeder. So he said "You mean wow the guys. I'm a fag."
Lane laughed. "And his pants, too?"
"Maybe if you ask him nicely."
They chatted about other things -- Lane didn't remember what, maybe I Love Lucy.
Suddenly he felt sick again. He jumped from the chair and ran through a back door to what he hoped was a bathroom. It was a supply closet: bottles of green stuff, extra aprons, brooms, mops.
Any port in a storm. Lane knelt and threw up into a mop bucket.
Suddenly Steve was there, kneeling beside him, his arm around him.
"Hey, buddy, you're sick," he said softly.
"Yeah. Must have been that sushi I had for lunch."
"I don't know what sushi is, but I'll bet you never have it again." Steve pulled him to his feet and helped him to the real bathroom to wash up.
"Come on -- don't worry about the haircut. I'll take you home."
"That's ok, I can manage," Lane said. He was in no mood to cruise, if that's what Steve intended. He could always come back tomorrow.
"Well, at least let me call you a cab."
"No, really, I'm feeling better."
"Definitely. It's a date."
Lane stumbled out into the bright light of Housewares, took the elevator to the parking garage, and went home.
Only then did he notice the crazy old-fashioned haircut Steve gave him. It would take a month to grow out!
The next day Lane went back to the Broadway.
The barber shop looked completely different. Modern steel and glass furniture. Pictures of supermodels on the wall. Three hair sylists, one female.
No one with Steve's name or description worked there!
Did he imagine the whole thing?
A few days later, he told his father about his weird paranormal experience.
"There was a men's barber shop on that floor years ago, run by a father and son," Aaron said. "That was back when your mother and I first married. The son may have been named Steve, I don't remember."
"Was he gay?" Lane asked.
Aaron shrugged. "Who knows? We didn't air our dirty laundry in public back then. He may have been a little fruity, but I didn't think anything of it."
Did Lane take a "step to the left" that day in 1982 and end up cruising a gay barber thirty years in the past?
See also: A Time Traveler from the 1980s Brings Me Guys
Thursday, March 30, 2017
I never thought of sex as fun, like riding on a roller coaster or watching a stand-up comedian.
It's pleasurable, of course, but you can't use the term "fun" to mean any pleasurable act. Fun is lighthearted, frivolous, provoking laughter. When you are having fun, you are laughing, or at least smiling.
No one ever smiles when they're anticipating sex, or laughs while doing it. Arousal and response is serious business.
I find all of these activities pleasurable: doing historical research, doing the laundry, studying languages, having dinner, jogging, watching tv, looking at bulges, reading, going to museums, buying books, listening to a lecture, sleeping, writing blog posts, holding conversations, kissing, oral sex, lecturing in front of a large crowd, lifting weights, playing "fetch" with dogs, hanging out in coffee shops.
But most of them aren't "fun."
If the theater and a movie are equally pleasurable, but theater tickets cost $40 and movie tickets cost $10, we will probably decide on the movie.
If a good restaurant is ten miles away, and a terrible restaurant is right next door, we will probably decide on the good restaurant.
Sex is relatively low cost: little risk of disease or victimization if you follow the right procedures, not very time consuming, and free.
(You can't count the time, money, and energy expended in trying to find the sex partner).
And it provides a great deal of pleasure of five types.
1. sensual (expressing erotic desire)
2. aesthetic (appreciating his physique)
3. emotional (making an emotional connection).
4. psychological (boosts our self-esteem).
5. social (gives us something to discuss with our friends).
Therefore the pleasure far outweighs the cost, making it one of our most preferred activities.
But I still can't say it's fun.
See also: My Favorite Sexual Activity
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
From one of his earliest photo shoots, late teens, 1969 or 1970.
Pretending to be a sailor.
The complete post is on Boomer Beefcake and Bonding.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
But Zack, the assistant manager of the Hy-Vee who I've been dating for a couple of weeks, is an introvert. Shy, quiet, doesn't like meeting new people, never wants to leave the house.
Not that I mind.
Dating an introvert has some intense pleasures, but it's very different from dating an extrovert. You have to be careful -- it's easy to misunderstand his intentions.
Here are 10 things you should know:
1. Cruising. Meeting new people is always intimidating for him, so even if you're a twink magnet, he won't make the first contact. He'll wait for you to approach him.
2. The Initial Interview. Those small-talk exchanges of "How are you? Fine -- how are you? Fine" make no sense to him. He prefers to ask and answer real questions.
4. The Date. Bright lights, noise, and crowds are not fun, they're exhausting. They can deal with them for short periods, but they will need occasional breaks to go somewhere quiet and recharge. Take him somewhere nice and quiet, like a play, or a museum.
5. Saturday Night. Don't be surprised if he doesn't want to leave your apartment at all, even on Saturday night. He thinks of staying in for an evening as a blessing, not a curse. He looks forward to it.
6. The Kiss. Touching someone is always intimate, so he does it only if he has a strong emotional or erotic connection. He dislikes casual touching by strangers, like shaking hands. Lay off the groping until the end of the date.
But once he's ok with touching, he won't stop. You might never make it out of the bedroom. Or the shower.
7. The Phone Call. He won't initiate the after-date phone call or text. It's not that he didn't have a good time, it's just that initiating contact with someone is very stressful, so he will constantly put it off. You'll have to contact him.
8. The Duck Around. If he sees you on the street or in the hallway, he might duck around the corner to avoid contact. He's not trying to be rude; it's just that seeing someone outside of a familiar context is very stressful. What should I do? What should I say?
10. The Intensity. Be prepared for nights of quiet intensity, where every statement is meaningful and every touch is passionate. In the morning you will be physically and emotionally exhausted, but anxious to see him again.
The G-rated version of this list is on Boomer Beefcake and Bonding.
See also: 15 Simple Rules of Gay Dating.
Sunday, March 26, 2017
When I was a kid, we visited my Mom's dad and brothers and sisters in Garrett twice a year. We also visited her brother in Kentucky, and we drove all the way down to Florida to visit her high school friend.
Why did we never visit her Cousin Crit and his kids in North Manchester?
It was only about an hour's drive from Grandpa's farmhouse, and about half an hour out of the way on our usual route home.
And -- Mom grew up with them.
In 1942, when she was five years old, she moved to northern Indiana with her family, so her dad could take advantage of factory jobs during World War II. Cousin Crit and his family moved into the Old House on the hill, about a quarter mile away.
Mom must have seen Cousin Crit's kids -- Carl, Wilkie, Alice, and some others -- every day. They must have gone to school together, played together, visited each other constantly, year after year, from 1942 to 1959, when she married my father. Why did she never want to visit them as an adult?
There was something fishy here, some scandal. And there was probably a gay connection.
In the fall of 2006, I made a few phone calls.
"There's no mystery. We only had a week to spend in Indiana, and just count up all the people we had to visit: my Dad, two brothers, three sisters, their families, your Dad's relatives. There was no time for any side-trips."
That answer didn't hold up. Most of Mom's family came by Grandpa Prater's house to visit us. There was plenty of time for a side trip.
"Besides, most of Cousin Crit's kids weren't living in North Manchester. Only Wilkie and Alice."
I checked the list I copied from the family Bible. Wilkie, born in 1939, probably named after the presidential candidate.
"Wilkie was only two years younger than you. Were you close growing up?"
There was a long pause. "Not really. He had his own friends and his own activities. All that long-hair stuff, theater and music. Nothing to do with me."
My gaydar went off. "I see that he never married. Was he gay?"
"Of course not," Mom said definitively. "There were lots of reasons not to get married in those days."
2. Aunt Mary, Mom's older sister.
"There's no big mystery. None of Cousin Crit's kids were your mother's age. They were separated by something like five years, which doesn't seem like a lot when you're a grownup, but it's a big deal when you're young. Who wants to hang out with a baby?"
"Wilkie was only two years younger than Mom, though."
There was a long pause. "Oh, right, I forgot about Wilkie. He and your Mom used to be friends when they were little -- they played dolls together, that sort of thing. But around high school, they drifted apart. Your Mom was all about dating and boys, and Wilkie didn't want anything to do with that. He never had any girlfriends."
My gaydar went off.
3. Uncle Edd, Mom's older brother.
"Your mother didn't like Cousin Crit's kids. None of us did. They got television almost as soon as it came out. They had cars to drive and money to spend on movies and the Blue Moon [Drive In]. They always acted like they were too good for us."
"What about Wilkie? Was he stuck-up, too?"
Uncle Edd laughed. "Oh, he was the snobbiest of the lot, always sashaying around like he was the Lord of the Manor. He wore an ascot -- do you know what that is?"
"He called us hillbillies -- but he was born in Kentucky, too! He was always talking about how he would leave this 'hick town' behind and move to California and become a movie star."
"Did he ever move to California?"
"I didn't really see him much after he grew up. But as far as I know, he lived in North Manchester his whole life."
"What did he do for a living?"
"I think he was a schoolteacher. English, maybe. Or drama."
My gaydar went off again.
4. Cousin Carl, Mom's second cousin.
Cousin Crit's youngest son, Carl, had lived all over the world, but was now retired, back in North Manchester to take care of his invalid sister. He sent me some photos of his brother Wilkie as a kid -- rather cute, a little chunky -- but none as an adult.
"I didn't see Wilkie much after we grew up. Just at Christmas dinner, mostly."
"Well, you lived far away...."
"Even Alice, who lived right in town, didn't see him much. He kept to himself. Spent a lot of time in Indianapolis."
"Was he gay?"
Cousin Carl laughed. "Well, aren't you young kids today forward! I never thought about it before, but...well, now that you mention it, he was a bit girly. And he never mentioned any lady friends. You know, that would make a lot of sense...but when he died, there weren't any gay fellas came to his funeral, so I'd have to say no."
"How did he die?"
"It was a robbery, we think. They found him on the street in Indianapolis. On the South Side [the 'bad' part of town]. He was shot. The thing is, no one knows what he was doing in that neighborhood. He didn't have any friends nearby. There weren't any good stores or restaurants. It's a mystery."
A hookup that went wrong? A homophobic hate crime? Either way, a tragic ending to a sad life in the closet.
Wilkie taught at Tippecanoe Valley High School, near North Manchester, from 1978 until his death in 2003. I looked up an alumnus named Jack, who starred in the senior play in 2003, presuming that he would have been one of Wilkie's students.
We met at an Au Bon Pain near the campus: tall and slim, with brown hair and striking blue eyes. It only took me a moment to find out that he was gay.
"Mr. Prater was the best teacher I ever had. He loved books, the way they looked, the way they felt. I think that put me on the road to museum studies. But not just texts --- he really knew how to make literature come to life -- Shakespeare, Dickens, Tony Kushner."
"He assigned you Angels in America, the gay Mormon drama?"
Jack nodded. "He got into a little trouble with the school board, but he didn't care. He always said that the purpose of art and being gay is to wake you up, get you out of your 'boring little life.' I never would have come out if it wasn't for Mr. Prater."
Finally, someone who could tell me for sure! "Was he gay?"
"No, he definitely liked the ladies. He was a big, flashy, flamboyant, screaming-queen heterosexual who wasn't afraid of anybody or anything."
This is Tales of West Hollywood, so of course Jack and I hooked up. He had a smooth, slim body and an uncut Bratwurst. Into kissing. He mostly wanted to go down on me, but I convinced him to try interfemoral. We stayed in contact, and got together whenever I visited Indianapolis, for a few years (the museum guard I met in 2015 didn't know him).
But that's less memorable than learning about my Cousin Wilkie, a big, flashy, flamboyant screaming-queen heterosexual who wasn't afraid of anybody or anything.
See also: A Sausage Sighting of the Mysterious Boy at the Old House; Picked Up by a Museum Guard.