Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Fangorn's First Hookup, with Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky

San Francisco, November 2010

I'm living in Upstate New York, but back in San Francisco for a conference, staying with my friend David.  We meet some guys at the Red Jade Restaurant on Church Street:  Matt my ex-boyfriend's ex-boyfriend, a South Asian Daddy named Tutor, Seth the Chemist, and his new boyfriend Fangorn.

(I'm not kidding -- he was named after the forest in The Lord of the Rings.)

They live in Santa Rosa, about an hour's drive north of San Francisco.  Seth teaches at Sonoma State, and Fangorn grows onions.

They make quite a pair.  Seth is slim, blond, sharp-jawed, clean-cut, and Fangorn a big, hairy, husky nature boy with long hair and a beard.

We discuss the usual gigantic penises, dates from hell, and celebrity hookups.  Matt tells about his date with Bronson Pinchot, star of Perfect Strangers.  David tells about hooking up with Skyler Stone, who we know from Raising Hope.  I stick to Michael J. Fox.

"Do poets count?" Fangorn asks, "Or do they have to be on the boob tube?"

I hate anti-tv elitists!  I start to roil.

"Sure, poets are fine," I say through gritted teeth.  "As long as they're famous."

"How many famous poets are there, that were alive in the last fifty years?" David asks.

"William Carlos Williams?" Matt suggests.

"Allen Ginsberg.  Back when I was a college kid, still named Dennis.  In fact, my first gay experience was with Ginsberg and his lover, Peter Orlovsky."

We all know Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997), the Beat poet whose Howl was required reading for anyone coming out in a homophobic society:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked....
who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,
who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love,
who balled in the morning in the evenings in rosegardens and the grass of public parks and cemeteries scattering their semen freely to whomever come who may,
who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up with a sob behind a partition in a Turkish Bath when the blond & naked angel came to pierce them with a sword

He became a guru to the youth counterculture of the 1960s.  

He was gay, in a life-long and presumably monogamous relationship with fellow writer Peter Orlovsky (1933-2010.  I've seen them both naked in many films and photographs, and read their homoerotic poetry, but I've never met anyone who hooked up with them.

Boulder, Colorado, July 1975

Dennis was 20 years old, tall and slim, a Creative Writing major at the University of Iowa, a would-be poet desperate to see his stuff published in chapbooks and in little magazines.  

"What a coincidence!" I exclaim.  "I'm from the Quad Cities, just down the road from Iowa City. Did you ever go to the gay bars in Rock Island?"

"No, I wasn't out yet."

He was a lapsed Lutheran, not a pagan yet, and, as far as he knew, straight, although his sexual experience was limited to fumbling around in the car with his date on the night of the senior prom.

He loved the Beat poets, especially Allen Ginsberg, so in the summer of 1975 he enrolled in the Jack Kerouc School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

It was a primitive school with no classrooms, no dorms, no buildings at all, meeting in various rented spaces in Boulder, including an old bus depot and an apartment over a Chinese restaurant.  But the intellectual and spiritual energy was amazing: not only Allan Ginsberg but Chongyam Trungpa Rimpoche, Anne Waldman, Ram Das, Gregory Bateson, John Cage, and Gary Snyder were lecturing, performing, and holding classes on such topics as Buddhism, Earth religions, social movements, and poetry. 

There were 1,500 students from all over the world, all ages, staying 8 to a room in hotels and apartments, and sleeping in tents in North Boulder Park.  

Dennis enrolled in Allen Ginsberg's class in the History of Mahayana Buddhism, and Peter Orlovsky's class in Poetry Writing.

Ginsberg was 49 years old, balding, bearded, chubby.  Orlovsky was 42, slim, with long hair and intense eyes.

"They never said anything about being gay.  I didn't even know that they were lovers until someone told me." 

The classes were something of a disappointment.  Ginsberg lectured on historical sources like any professor, except that he was cross-legged on the floor, and occasionally chanted a Sanskrit text.  Orlovsky had students sit in a circle and discuss each other's submissions, the standard creative writing class you could get in any university.

And Naropa wasn't all about spiritual enlightenment and the unspeakable visions of the individual.  There were fist-fights and drunken brawls.  Two naked hippies rushed into a classroom and began tearing off a girl's clothes, screaming about "breaking free from the shackles of capitalism."  The Rimpoche invited a dozen girls and a handful of boys to his house every night for Tantric orgies that lasted until dawn.

In contrast, Ginsberg and Orlovsky seemed positively sedate. They didn't participate in the drinking or the orgies.  Every night they returned to their quiet, nondescript home near downtown Boulder, exactly like a middle-aged heterosexual couple.

Dennis had never met anyone gay before.  He expected flamboyance, camp, and nonstop sexual come-ons. But neither Ginsberg nor Orlovsky ever propositioned him.    

Not that Dennis would accept, of course -- he was straight.  But...from everything he had heard, gay men weren't picky -- they would try to get into the pants of anyone with a penis!  Didn't they find him attractive? 

What was wrong with him?

He started coming to class with his shirt off, hoping his bare chest would draw their attention.


He stuffed a sock into his crotch.


He positioned himself next to Orlovsky in the writing circle, and casually rubbed his foot against Orlovksy's calf.  

Still nothing.

Finally Dennis decided to take a more aggressive approach. He caught up with Orlovsky and Ginsberg as they walked home for the evening, pushed between them, and put his arm around Ginsberg's waist.  Ginsberg didn't push away.  Instead, he wrapped his arm around Dennis.  Orlovsky looked over, smiled, and wrapped his arm around Dennis, too.

But were they propositioning him, or just being affectionate?  Dennis had to know for sure!

"I have a question.  I hope it's cool.  How did you guys know that you"  He had never said the word aloud before.

"I think you already know the answer to that question," Ginsberg said.

"What -- no!  I'm just asking.  I'm straight.  I never been with a guy before, and I don't want to."

"Then why are you here?"

"Please master can I touch your cheek," Orlovksy recited.  "Please master can I kneel at your feet.  Please master can I loosen your blue pants.  Please master can I gaze at your golden haired belly..."

Dennis had never heard that Ginsberg poem before.  The image it evoked was tantalizing.  But he said "No!"  and broke away.

"We're going to go home and get naked," Ginsberg said.  "You can join us, if you like.  Or you can wait.  We live thousands of lives -- you have plenty of time."

A few moments later, he was going down on Ginsberg's average sized penis -- still, it made him gag -- and then trying Orlovsky's thin Bratwurst.  Then he bottomed for Ginsberg while Orlovsky went down on him.  They giggled and pawed, and cracked jokes -- to them it was just play.  

But to Dennis it was a transformation.  

San Francisco, November 2010

"Many gay men still think of sex as play, a form of recreation," Fangorn says.  "They don't understand how much spiritual power it has.  It can transform you."

"So...," David says... "I guess you and Seth won't be sharing our out-of-town guest tonight?"

"Let's not be hasty!"  His hand falls into my lap.  "Sex can transform you, certainly, but it can also be a pleasant ending to an evening of dinner and conversation."

Seth laughs.  "Fangorn likes three-ways better than one-on-one sex.  I guess you're always trying to replicate your first experience."  

"Great!" I exclaim.  "My first experience was with an incredibly well-hung high school violinist.  Fangorn, can you live up to his lofty standards?"

He did.


  1. Allen Ginsberg is the famous Beat poet who wrote "Howl" and became a hippie spokesperson. Peter Orlovsky was his lover for 40 years.

  2. I actually knew a gay kid in high school who carried around a Ginsburg book. We sat next to each other in drafting.

    Nothing happened. He was out and proud, I only thought of my male sex partners as friends. We just shared a class.

    Many years later, he was surprised to learn that many of us dumb jocks, first, weren't dumb, and second, were having lots of sex with each other, with a "no penetration" caveat, when the girls wouldn't put out.

    The irony: He could've had the entire sports clique, had he asked, but it was the 90s, the era of Matt Shepard, so I can see why he didn't ask.

    So, Allen Ginsburg always makes me think of one of the ironies of my high school life.



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