Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Oh, Jeez

Yuh know,
the only elements of "stereotypically gay culture" I actually enjoy
are sex with men and Sunday brunch.

My position on the intramural gay culture war is complicated and often contradictory, attempting to balance social Libertarianism with Small Town Yankee values. Two core elements of that value system are empathy and civility, with a third being owning up to ones actions, and ones words.

I share many opinions with those right of center, but can't get past their self congratulatory smugness, and the subtext of anger, hatred and fear.

It's just so exhausting.

How I got into THIS I just don't know.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Drinking, Men

I've been having sex with men in one form or another, though not with any regularity, since I was thirteen years old. I didn't start drinking in any focused way 'till my early twenties. I would be into my thirties before I attempted to combine the two in a concerted effort.

Avid interest in music and early adaptation of beer snobbery dictated my initial and primary drinking mode. I was drawn to divey bars where the DJ serenaded me; spinning obscure vinyl or playing good copies of the music I steal off the internet or strain to hear over the static of low powered college radio station broadcasts, and backed up by similarly oriented juke boxes. The bartenders placed sweaty pint glasses heady with hoppy bitter craft brews on the counter before me, while I scribbled on the backs of band and gallery flyers plucked from stacks by the door. These were the sorts of places where I wasted a great deal of free time and most of my art drone salary before and during the period in which I declared to myself and my circle of friends that I was Officially Gay Now.

With my clear new amorous/libidinous focus firmly in my mind, I was prepared to augment my drinking with the pursuit of like minded gay homosexual men who must surely frequent these same establishments. There was a problem though; that I had absolutely no gaydar what-so-ever. True, there were some obvious candidates at my regular haunts and the sceny after hours clubs in Polish or Ukrainian benevolent society halls(where they had Yards ESA in bottles along side the Miller High Life and Budweiser cans)where we ended our evenings; lithe and effervescent fellows in snug subtlely coordinated ensembles who led small clusters of giggling girls with plastic barrettes in their two-tone hair from opening after party to post concert gatherings, and also slightly older guys; textile collection curators, assistant gallery directors and purveyors of mid-century modern furniture wearing wind tunnel formed Prada slip ons and German made titanium eyeglasses. I was flattered by the attentions of these men and was gratified to discover that I would do for them (and did in fact do some of them) but quickly realized that they really weren't what I was looking for. More interesting but more difficult to distinguish from the rest of the half-a-fag-anyway alterna herd, were a scruffier set. They shuffled along in tight faded Girl Scouts, Saving and Loan or Little League t-shirts, low flared leg jeans dragging over ratty Chuck Taylors and Japanese issue Pumas (not sold at Bloomingdales or Foot Locker), with Molskine sketch books or the new Broken Social Scene EP (vinyl, of course) stuffed into their patch, sticker and paint pen enlivened messenger bags. With generally bad posture, they slouched along the bar rails and room perimiters, wallet chains catching and reflecting the neon beer sign lights, with the fingers of one hand squeezed into a tight front pocket, the other clutching a can of Pabsts Blue Ribbon set on the edges of their white vinyl, studded black leather, or wide, worn, tooled vintage belt straps, ironically clasped with tarnished Coors or chipped enameled Iron Maiden buckles. The gay members of this demographic were most clearly distinguished from the heteros by the presence of boyfriends. In spite of the monogamous halos these couples typically wore, one or the other (and sometimes both, but always separately) might roll around with me. Though these liaisons generated some really good stories set in stairwells, backstage corners and apartment building vestibules, later, when accompanied by their partners, these wayward significant others would find me to be invisible. Of course, they already HAD boyfriends. So I was still basically in the same situation as before I "came out".

One evening, my best girl buddy, seven years my junior and already a seasoned veteran of fag haggery, took me aside (with no intended irony) to set me straight. "Look" she said lovingly, but with an older sister's firmness "You're never gonna meet anybody hanging out with a bunch of straight boys at Khyber and 700. You are going to have to go to a queer bar."

A few weeks later, on my birthday, I started my second mode of drinking activity.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Beard II

My mother, who was raised in poverty and deprivation, didn't see a doctor until she was fifteen years old. She was determined that her children would suffer no such hardship. This steely resolve to maintain the health care standards of her hard won middle class status was supported by Dad's exceptionally good health insurance, and a station wagon gassed up and ready to roll. Any cough or sniffle, any warm forehead or vague abdominal discomfort would be immediately addressed by a trip down Franklin street to see Dr. Fuscaro. Each time we arrived at the pea green painted office, we were made to wait and wait, the minutes often turning into an hour or more. I made use of the time in a still favorite diversion; leafing through magazines.

Once when I was six or seven years old, sitting on one of the orange vinyl sofas with my Buster Browns dangling above the green and blue carpeting, I leafed through"Boy's Life" or "Highlights" or dog eared issues of "McCalls", "Good Housekeeping" or "Golf Digest" while waiting for our turn. In one of those long ago issues I came upon an illustration reprinted in an advertisement. I know now that it was a seventeenth century engraving of Hercules, drawn from an ancient classical source. I own several such engravings, I like the collision of lusty baroque effusiveness and cool classical reserve and the resulting tension. That though is not what drew me to the image. It was the figure of the man himself: broad back and shoulders, powerful arms and legs, all displaying an anatomical landscape of thick rolling muscles; and the beard.

Beards were seldom seen in small Southern New England towns in the seventies. The same well scrubbed clean cut-ness of the cast of "American Graffiti" was the norm throughout the decade. In fact, excepting slight variations in hem length and the width of collars ties and lapels, the town moved stylistically from Camelot directly into the Reagan Era, skipping the intervening decades almost entirely. The beard in the advertisement was rendered in tight short waves of parallel lines, sweeping down and forward from a point high on the cheeks. It rolled over the mouth in twin nolls on either side of a prominent nose, and banked over the jaws, extending and amplifying the square profile before meeting again in a slight flourish at the chin. A similar graphic device spread across the slabs of chest around prominent nipples, and cascaded down the cobblestone texture of a protruding belly before disappearing behind a curliecued fig leaf, straining to maintain it's concealment.

I looked away from my fascination and scanned the room. The other moms and kids dully sat through their purgatories, focused on their own magazines or staring off into infinity. Proceeding furtively and deliberately, masking the sound of crisp glossy paper ripping with carefully interjected sniffles and stage coughs, I carefully tore the page from the magazine, surreptitiously folded it, and secreted it in my back pocket. Even at that tender age I knew on some instinctual level that my greater crime was not the vandalism, but rather my interest in the image, in the man himself now folded tightly and concealed in the pocket of my Toughskins. I kept That page 'till it disintegrated from unfolding and refolding. Sometimes when I looked at it, briefly alone in the room I shared with one brother, I imagined my hairless face superimposed on the burly figure.


One of the chief disadvantages of being my friend, is that one must listen to a series of lengthy whining litanies of the injustices of this world, which though varied in subject and intensity all essentially boil down to either "why aren't things the way I want them to be." or "how can you possibly understand my absolutely unique and singular place in this world and the suffering I endure." These performances are staged most particularly for a small cadre of older, seasoned gay men who've taken on an advisory role in my life. They reveal the Mysteries of Homosexuality to me, in increments.

Though I suffer from no lack of amorous attention, I do have difficulty securing the affections of the sorts of thick hairy men I favor, and my pained soliloquies have lately reflected my dissatisfaction. After one such long winded exposition, accompanied by lots of hand waving for emphasis and shuffling pacing, I sought some sort of guidance or approbation:


My audience, a particular advisor known for his wit and brevity as much as for constantly making fun of how short I am and other serial cruelties, has absolute faith in his infallibility regarding The Way of The Gay. Even as much as I depend on his opinions in these matters, it's still annoying that he has never been wrong. Even once. Yet. His previous counsel on the matter has been to suggest that I might have better luck if I tried casting my net in places other than bear bars, since the large furry patrons there are likely seeking OTHER large furry patrons. As an after thought, he suggested I get him a Budweiser.

This time he didn't look up from his laptop;

"I can always tell when you've been in here, the rugs are all bunched up."

"Have you listened to one SINGLE word I've said?" I demanded.

He sighed, and peered pityingly over his reading glasses, astonished even still by my unremitting cluelessness, and delivered his sage assessment:

"Grow a beard."

"Join a gym."

As an after thought he suggested:

"Bring me the remote."

Which in a round about way brings us to my current facial hair experiment.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


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