Tuesday, January 31, 2023

A Sausage Sighting of Jack Kerouac's Bratwurst

Rock Island, September 1978

Ok, I didn't really have a date with Jack Kerouac -- he died when I was eight years old.  But Jurgen came close.

During my freshman year at Augustana,  I often saw him sitting by himself in the Student Union lounge -- in his twenties, tall, husky, bearded, with wavy brown hair and brown chest hair sneaking up over his lumberjack shirt.  He would smoke a pipe, of all things, drink coffee, and read a book or scribble into a little spiral notebook.  Too old to be a student -- we didn't have any "nontraditional" students at Augie -- but certainly not a professor.  Was he a townie who for some reason liked the ambience of the Student Union at a small Lutheran college?

Athat point I hadn't met any gay people yet, and I didn't know how to go about finding any, so I figured: he's not with a woman, he dresses oddly, must be gay.  

So one Tuesday afternoon I got a cup of coffee myself -- even though I hated the stuff -- and sat down in the chair across from him.

"What are you writing?"

He looked up and smiled.  "Just a poem I'm working on.  'Tucumcari Two-Step: Heat in the Year of the Drought.'"

"Cool.  I want to be a writer.  I'm going to take the Creative Writing class next spring."

"Who are your favorite authors?"

"Oh...um...Isaac Asimov, of course. Robert Heinlein, Andre Norton,..."

"Sci fi -- that's for Adam's Bookstore Babies!"  He gestured at the bookstore where Adam sold science fiction and comic books.  "You need a real man's literature.  Hemingway, Kerouac, Miller.  Here -- try Wallace Stevens."

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds

I had no idea what the poem was about, but a muscular guy with a big...um...cigar was far superior to anything in English class.

Jurgen (not his real name) was a student after all, an English major, 28 years old -- he was drafted right out of high school, then "bummed around" Southeast Asia for a couple of years, then hitchhiked from Los Angeles to Rock Island (where his parents lived) to go to college.

In all his life history, he didn't mention women. He must be gay!

The next day I had to work, but on Thursday I hung out with Jurgen again  Neither of us came out, or said anything about gay people; it was the Student Union, after all, crowded with students who might overhear us.

But we didn't mention liking girls, either.

That was enough to endure his conversations about horribly depressing novelists and poets.  His favorite was:

While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening, to empire and protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the mass hardens, I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots to make earth.

That wasn't even a poem! But at least it had a gay reference:

Boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man

I even started writing poetry the way Jurgen did:

As we drove down from the Eggishorn into the Wilerwald, I saw lights like stars floating in the darkness and thought heaven was below, not above, where men are strong and know about love.  

We "dated" like that for a few weeks, talking over coffee in the Student Union for an hour or so after my Tuesday and Thursday Spanish class.  We didn't hug or kiss, but sometimes when I sat next to Jurgen on the couch, our knees brushed together, and sometimes when he handed me a book, our hands touched.

That counts as dating, right?

Our knees touched as we sat astride on the green couch, yet only the fabric of our denim drawers knew the strength of our longing.

Not bad.  Better than Robinson Jeffers anyway.

I kept waiting for Jurgen to invite me to dinner and a movie, or to his house, where we could talk about gay topics openly -- and get intimate!

Finally I made the first move.  "Do you know about the Quad Cities Writers' Club?  They meet once a month at the Hauberg House."

"Yeah, I've heard of them," Jurgen said.  "Never been.  Don't they like talk about children's books?"

"Oh, no, it's all kinds of writing.  In fact, I'm going to read some of my poetry at their meeting on Thursday night.  Do you want to come and listen?  We can go together, and go out to eat afterwards."

"Ok, sure."

"Can you pick me up?" I hinted.  "My car isn't working."

"I don't actually have a car at the moment."

No car?  I imagined that Jurgen drove a cool 1965 Jaguar, or a motorcycle.  "Oh...um..ok, I guess I can borrow my mother's car."

I told Jurgen that I would pick him up at 6:30.  But I arrived at 6:15, figuring we could get some intimate time in before leaving.

He lived only a few blocks from the Hauberg, in a big white Victorian that had been chopped up into apartments.

Nervous but eager, I knocked on the door.

A woman answered!

In her 30s or 40s, rather plump.  His mother?

"I'm Sally, but you can call me Sally," she said incongruously.  "Jurgen's still in the shower, but he'll be ready in a moment."

Not his mother, or she'd give a last name.  His sister?

Jurgen came out of the bathroom wearing a towel, his chest gleaming.  "Hi, Boomer.  Come on in the bedroom -- we can talk while I get dressed."

I watched as Jurgen took off the towel and put on underwear, jeans, a lumberjack shirt, socks, and shoes.

Very big, definitely a Bratwurst!

But all the while I was thinking "Sister?  Cousin?  Friend?"

"So, Sally...."

"Isn't she great!  She's funny and sexy both at the same time!"


We went back out into the living room.  "Don't keep Jurgen out too late, now," Sally said, putting her arms around him.  "My baby needs his beauty sleep."

They kissed.  I looked away.

Sally was his live-in girlfriend!

Cohabitation, unmarried heterosexual couples living together, was still scandalous in Rock Island in the 1970s.  In fact, you would be expelled from Augustana for cohabitating just as quickly as for being gay.

So Jurgen and I were both keeping secrets.

At least I got a Sausage Sighting out of it.

See also: The Dwarf at the Post Office


  1. Who is the guy in the top photo?

  2. I actually got more of a bi vibe off him. "Man's books" including Kerouac doesn't sound straight, but calling a woman "sexy" excludes gay.

    Stripping naked in front of someone else is an interesting point. I mean, this was your first visit to his place. Other than the locker room, I usually will strip in front of close friends, people I'm currently dating, or guys I have an interest in, but not people I've just met and have no interest in sexually. For people I've just met, I do wear my towel into the bedroom to change

    1. Now that you mention it, asking me to come into his bedroom does sound suspect. Usually guys make you wait in the living room. I might have been able to make it with him if I pursued it,but I wasn't yet aware of the existence of bisexuals. That was our only "date."

    2. Most people in the 70s weren't. Hell, even in the aughts, the major media message was "Male bisexuality is a myth, which is good because all that shit we said about gay men is really true about bi men."



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...