Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Cruising the Miracle Mile

West Hollywood, July 1980

The summer of 1980.  I am 19 years old.   I have just finished my sophomore year in college and moved to Omaha with  my boyfriend Fred.    After five weeks, I have met only three gay people.  As far as I know, there are no others in Omaha.

As far as I know, there are no gay magazines, newspapers, bookstores, political organizations, or social clubs anywhere in the world, nothing out there at all but a few furtive closet bars and some porn magazines.

The relationship is stormy.  Fred is controlling, demanding, and even what I would call abusive today.  He doesn't want me to continue college, doesn't want me to have a career.  I can't go out to the bars without him. He gets upset when I talk to another guy, but he's been seccretly hooking up.  I have to get out.

My friend Tom, who moved to California after high school and is now going to UCLA, invites me to visit.  This is a perfect opportunity to escape!  One day while Fred is out, I pack some of my things and drive west on Interstate 80, intending to never come back.

While visiting, I stay in Tom's room in his cousin's house in Westwood.  They are both attractive, but nothing happens except for what I call the "heterosexual huddle," what straight guys do while thinking about girls.

We see all of the touristy landmarks: Mann's Chinese Theater, the Cinerama Dome, Griffith Park, and the Hollywood Sign.  We cruise down Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset, Melrose, the streets that have been familiar throughout my life, ever since The Lucy Show suggested that Los Angeles might be a "good place."

It feels like home.

We drive through the gay mecca of West Hollywood, but I am not aware that it exists, so I don't notice anything different.

We stop at Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard, three blocks from my future house.

I see a section marked Gay and Lesbian.

I assumed that there were only Geight ay and Lesbian books in existence: Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture, which Peter gave me, and the seven on Fred's  secret bookshelf.  It is amazing that they have a whole section at Book Soup .

Isn't it illegal to openly sell books about gay people? Fred said it was all done by mail order, without using anyone's real name.

I'm afraid to stand in front of the section, lest anyone think that I'm. . .you know.  I pretend to be immersed in a section nearby, Psychology, and steal surreptitious glances.

I see: Loving Someone Gay, The Best Little Boy in the World, The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse, Gay American History, Christopher and His Kind....far more than eight!  (There were actually about 30 nonfiction books about gay people in print at that time, plus fiction.)

Finally I gather my courage, snatch a small paperback called The City and the Pillar from the shelf as I rush past, hide it under some science fiction novels, and go to the cash register.  I don't realize until I get there that there are two naked guys on the cover, but it's too late to back out now.

I expect the cashier to scream "The sting worked!  Call the police!", or at least yell "Price check on the gay book! This weirdo wants to buy a gay book -- he must be gay!  How much does the gay book cost?"  But she just looks at me funny.

Tom meets me, and we go out to the car. "What did you buy?" he asks.

"The Ringworld Engineers and Lord Valentine's Castle," I tell him, naming two science fiction novels.  "And some other stuff."

Later we're driving down Wilshire Boulevard when the Billy Joel song "It's Still Rock and Roll" comes on the car radio, with the line "are you going to cruise the Miracle Mile?"

"This is the Miracle Mile!" Tom exclaims.  "How's that for a coincidence?"

It feels even more like home.

I stay for a week, then drive home to Rock Island to enroll in my junior year at Augustana.  But I'll be back.

1 comment:

  1. Heterosexual huddle? Well, I've never jerked off in a huddle position...



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