Apr 19, 2014

Spring 1998: A Swedish Bodybuilder in Estonia

In 1998, Yuri and I were competing over Jaan the Estonian mountain climber, and accompanied him home for a visit, only to discover that he already had a boyfriend.

We were scheduled to spend seven days in Johvi, Estonia, ending with the Jaanipaev, the Midsummer Festival, but there wasn't a lot to do except visit old churches and go to Russian movies, especially with Jaan off with The Boyfriend and his parents interrogating us about when we were planning to find girls and get married.  So we decided to spend three days exploring Tallinn, the capital, about two hours away by train.

It turned out to be my second-favorite city in Europe (after Paris), with an Old Town full of quiet cobblestone streets and Hanseatic red-roofed houses.  Interesting museums, naked statues of national hero Kalevipoeg, and monuments like "Kiek in de Kok Tower" (which means "Peek in the Kitchen").  No gay saunas, but several bars with "dark rooms," an area separated from the main bar by a thick curtained doorway.

On our second night in town, we were in the Angel Bar on the aptly-named Sauna Street, a few blocks from the Kiek in de Kok Tower, when an older guy came in, probably around 50, very tall (a big turn-off), but muscular, nearly a bodybuilder, with a hairy chest visible beneath his thin white t-shirt and  a blatant bulge in his worn jeans.

He looked exactly like a serial killer who was in the news back in the U.S. (I forget his name), so I said "Best keep away from that guy!" But when he went into the dark room, Yuri foIlowed.

Other guys went in and out, so I figured they were ok until, after about ten minutes, the tall guy left abruptly and practically raced out the door. Was there a problem?  Was Yuri lying on the floor, stabbed to death?

I went back into the dark room, felt around until I found Yuri -- not stabbed to death -- and dragged him out.  "Well, what happened?"

"I'm in love!"  Yuri exclaimed with a beatific smile, spreading out his hands as if he was measuring a fish.  "But I don't forget you.  We are having dinner with him tomorrow night."

"Who is he? What's his name?"

Yuri shrugged.  "How do I know?  We don't do a lot of talking back there, right?"  But he held out an address scribbled on a scrap of paper in the dark: Texas Honky Tonk, Pikk 43, 20:00 (8:00 pm).

"Wait for tomorrow -- tomorrow, we will share, ok?"

You didn't really "share" a first date -- too many things could go wrong.  Besides, a tall, stern guy who looked like a serial killer -- maybe he just wanted to get us alone to strike!

 But it beat spending the night alone.

The next night, we showed up at the Texas Honky Tonk, a restaurant with American and Texan flags outside and a live band singing Estonian versions of Mexican mariachi songs.  Maybe Yuri's date wasn't a serial killer, just gauche.

He was waiting in the foyer, wearing a ruffled white shirt and blue slacks, much less gaunt and scary than before.  I could see myself hanging out with this guy.  "Oh -- I didn't know you had someone," he said with a frown.

"Oh, yeah, Boomer came to Europe with me.  We visit our friend Jaan in Johvi.  He wants to join us, ok?"

He said "How do you do? My name is Kalle." Politely, but obviously displeased with my interference.

As we ate our quesadillas, sopa de buca, and fajitas (with pickles and marinated onions), Kalle ignored my questions.  He said only that he was in Estonia "on business," and he often traveled through the Baltic states and Russia.  He didn't say what business.  But he asked Yuri detailed, complicated questions in a mixture of English and Russian, about weather inversions, hurricanes, cyclones, and climatic patterns.

Wait...wasn't Kalle a Swedish name?  "I had a date with King Carl Gustaf," I said tentatively.  "That was before he got married, so everyone thought he was gay."

Kalle stared at me, then turned to Yuri.  "On siniy?," he asked in Russian, assuming that I wouldn't know siniy = blue = gay.

"Natural'no!"  Yuri exclaimed.  Yes, of course!

With a chuckle, he reached over and put his arm around Yuri and pulled him close. "I didn't know!," he told Yuri -- not me.  "I thought we had to be cautious -- Americans are crazy about that kind of thing, you know!"

From then on, Kalle was all smiles, but he continued to give me Attitude (pretend that I wasn't there).  I tried to pique his interest by talking about growing up in a Swedish community, attending a Swedish Lutheran college, reading Nils Holgersson, Miss Julie, and Dag Hammarsjold's Markings.

Nothing worked.

One thing I have learned:  if intellectual conversation doesn't work, penises do.  So I talked about my nude modeling career and porn movie.  But Kalle merely nodded politely and asked "How do you measure the Coriolis Effect?" while fondling Yuri's leg.

By the time we got to the flan (Mexican custard, oddly flavored with ligonberries), I gave up.  "Why don't we all meet for breakfast tomorrow?" I suggested.

"What?" Kalle exclaimed, startled. "You're not coming back to the hotel with Yuri and I?"

"Well, I thought...I mean..."

"Come now, don't be a crazy American...join us."

In the morning we had a huge Estonian breakfast of black bread, herring, fried eggs, and some kind of porridge.  "There are lots of jobs in Stockholm for men who speak English and know statistical software," Kalle announced.  "Maybe you will send me your resume."

"I'm an expert in SPSS..." I began expectantly.  But he was back to ignoring me to gaze lovestruck at Yuri.  He pressed a card with his telephone number and email address into his hand.

Back in America, Yuri and I both emailed Kalle our resumes, but he never responded.

The same thing happened in Spain a year later, when I played Third Wheel to a Muscle God.