Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Stonewall Veteran and the Bodybuilder in the Park

Upstate, May 2009

When I moved to Upstate New York my social calendar was soon crowded with invitations from members of the Gang of Twelve, guys who had known each other for years, and who shared everything, from gossip to boyfriends.
1-2. The Rich Kid and the Crying Truck Driver.
3-4. The Rapper, and the Grabby Nurse.
5. The Satyr and his roommate Chad, who I dated through the fall and winter.
6-7. The Klingon and the Sword Swallower.
8. The Pitcher with a Secret Move.

Date #9: The Stonewall Veteran

One day in the spring of 2009, the Rich Kid told me "There's a guy you have to meet."  I thought he was setting me up on another date, but instead, we drove to an assisted living facility in Cooperstown.  There was an elderly man in a wheelchair sitting by a window in the dayroom, reading a large-print version of Tales of the City.  The Rich Kid hugged him affectionately.

"Is this your lover?" the Stonewall Veteran asked.

"No, no.  We went out a couple of times, but it didn't work out."

"Your loss.  Can I have him?"

The Rich Kid grinned.  "Sure -- he's yours.  If you can handle him."

"Oh, I've handled some big ones in my time."  The Stonewall Veteran patted me on the knee.  "Let me tell you about my night with James Dean."

The Stonewall Veteran told me that he grew up in Cooperstown, served in the Korean War, worked as a longshoreman, slept with James Dean, belonged to the Mattachine Society (the first gay rights organization in the U.S.), and participated in the Stonewall Riots, the dawn of the modern gay world.

In 1982, he moved back Upstate to take care of his elderly parents, and got a job at the Otesaga Resort.  There he met the 18-year old Rich Kid, and became his first lover.

"He was quite a hunk!" the Rich Kid exclaimed.

Over the years, he was also in relationships with the Satyr, the Grabby Male Nurse, and the Truck Driver.  He was a fixture in the Gang of Twelve.

He retired in 1998, and lived on a fixed income in a tiny apartment in Cooperstown.

In 2005, the Rich Kid paid for him to move into an assisted living facility, and visited him every Saturday afternoon.

Not really a date, but nice.

Date #10: The Bodybuilder in the Park

I saw the Bodybuilder long before I knew he belonged to the Gang of Twelve.  Whenever I went jogging in the park near my apartment, he was there.  He had a weight bench on the grass, and he was doing some bench presses and bicep curls with weights that he brought over in a battered red pickup truck.

He was in his 50s, a little shorter than me, with a rather scraggy, unattractive face, but ripped!  Massive chest and shoulders -- six pack abs -- not an ounce of body fat anywhere.

Then I saw him at the Utica Gay Men's Social.

Asking around, I learned that he preferred younger guys -- both the Klingon and the Rapper had dated him -- so I figured I was out of the running.  But no, the Sword Swallower called him and arranged for us to meet in the park.

Right after his daily workout -- so he was positively shredded!

As we walked the three mile jogging path, the Bodybuilder told me the harrowing story of his life.  Growing up fundamentalist, marrying a preacher's daughter.  Guilt over same-sex desire pushing him into alcohol and drugs. Losing his job and his house, living on the streets for awhile. Having his first same sex experience at the age of 42, unprotected, and getting infected with HIV.

Now he was clean and sober, living in a residential hotel near the park, and in good health, thanks to the United Methodist Church, the Rural AIDS Project, and his AIDS Buddy, the Sword Swallower.

He recognized that this was a lot to spring on a guy on  the first date. But there was more.

He was on a strict macrobiotic diet, meditated for an hour every morning, went to bed at 9:00 pm without fail, and practiced only the safest of safe sex -- no deep kissing, condoms for everything else.  "Are you sure you want to go forward with this?" know, he was shredded.  Besides, I was running out of gay men in Upstate. Why not give it a try?

So we went back to my apartment and did things that didn't require the exchange of body fluids.  Then the Bodybuilder said "I've been waiting all my life for this moment."

That was a little weird! But it was nothing compared to our second date.

We went to lunch at the Undercover Eggplant. a hippie-vegetarian place in Cooperstown, followed by the Catskills Art Fair.

Which was fun.  But the Bodybuilder's conversation wasn't:

"Can you come to church tomorrow?  I want to introduce you to some of the guys." Ok.

"We're having dinner with my brother and his family on Thursday. I said we'd bring a macrobiotic dessert."  Meeting the relatives on the third date?

"When's your birthday?  I want to start planning your party now."  Um...not for six months. What makes you think we'll be together then?

"I don't need to give notice at the hotel.  It goes week by week.  So I can move in whenever you want." Ok, too fast.  Way too fast!  What's next?  Cemetery plots?

Since we only went out twice, I didn't think there was any need for a formal break-up.  I just didn't call anymore.  Our only contact was at the Truck Driver's birthday party and in the park: I waved as I was jogging past.

Still, for months, the Bodybuilder told all of his friends and colleagues that we were a couple.  Two months later, I got an invitation in the mail to a support group for the partners of HIV Positive men.

The Klingon and the Rapper told me the same thing -- one or two dates, then no contact, and the Bodybuilder continuing to cling for months.

This turned out to be quite a problem with dating new guys.  They often hesitated, thinking that I was proposing an illicit affair.

1 comment:

  1. I only had dates with 10 members of the Gang of Twelve because the other two were involved in monogamous relationships and not interested.



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