Apr 6, 2014

Spring 1998: Yuri and I Cruise in Estonia

At my birthday party in 1997, my friend Yuri, the Russian meteorology major who claimed to be heterosexual, introduced me to Jaan, the Estonian mountain climber.  Jaan didn't even know what gay people were until he found out the hard way during our "date" on November 29nd.

 He learned fast.

Two weeks later, on December 13th, I took Yuri to a Christmas party, and gave him the choice of dancing with me or sharing my bed later.

He chose my bed.

Then it was Christmas break, and we scattered, me to Rock Island, Yuri to visit friends in Montreal, and Jaan to a skiing vacation in Vermont.

When I returned, Yuri was out. And interested in Jaan.

 I couldn't figure out why; they were nothing alike.

Jaan was quiet, shy, conservative, and monogamous: he wanted romance, "one special guy."

Yuri was loud, flamboyant, liberal, and not monogamous; he wanted to do everything and everyone. He went through my copy of The Joy of Gay Sex and circled fifty acts that he wanted to try.

It must have been their shared heritage: Estonia was part of the Soviet Union until 1991, and Jaan spoke fluent Russian.

But most likely it was Jaan's obvious gifts beneath the belt; Yuri liked them big, the bigger the better (in 1999 he would drag me to the Basque country of Spain in search of the World's Biggest Penis).

So we spent the spring 1998 semester competing over Jaan.  Every week we orchestrated bigger and better dates.  If I took Jaan to the Mr. New York Leather contest at the Manhattan Eagle, Yuri would come up with a weekend at Fire Island.  If Yuri invited Jaan to a campus production of Angels in America, the next weekend I would score tickets to Chicago on Broadway.

Dinner at The Curry Club?  Dinner at Mirabelle.
A free concert in Central Park?  The New York Philharmonic.
Hiking on Shelter Island?  Rock climbing in the Adirondacks

In New York's gay culture of the 1990s, there was no such thing as having multiple boyfriends.  You dated one guy at a time. Yet Jaan kept accepting dates with both of us.

It was excruciating.  Something had to give.

Then Jaan announced that he was flying back to Estonia for a visit.

Yuri and I braced ourselves; whoever he invited to go with him was obviously the One.

He invited us both.

"Great!" I said.  "I'd love to meet your family.  But could we spend a few days in Helsinki first?  I've been dying to see Finland ever since I was a little kid."

"Great!" Yuri said.  "I'd love to meet your family. But could we spend a few days in St. Petersburg first? I'm homesick for my friends at the university."

We waited anxiously for his answer; whoever he agreed to a side trip with was obviously the One.

He agreed to both.

We flew out of New York, changed planes in London, and arrived in Helsinki about 4:00 pm on June 14th, 1998.  After dinner and a brief city tour, we checked into our hotel.  Our room had a double bed and a single rollaway.

Yuri and I looked at each other with surprise and elation. Whoever Jaan invited to share his bed was obviously the One.  

We stalled while Jaan undressed to his underwear.  Then, without a word, he climbed into the rollaway and fell asleep.

We kept the same bedroom arrangements for three days of sightseeing in Helsinki.  In St. Petersburg, we all shared the same double bed, with Jaan in the middle (yes, things happened).  Then we took the two-hour train trip to Johvi, Estonia, a small town near the Baltic Sea known chiefly for St. Michael's Church and an annual Ballet Festival (which we missed.)

We were met at the train station by a middle-aged man and woman and a tall black-haired muscle god.  After hugging them effusively, Jaan introduced us in Estonian.

"Minu sober Boomer, minu sober Yuri."

Then he switched to Russian.  "Moya mat, Katria; Moy otets, Peeter.  Moy druzhok, Arvi.

They hugged us so effusively that he forgot to translate into English.  Then they bundled us off to a loud, raucous lunch at a little cafe on the second floor of the Concert Hall. They chattered mostly in Estonian, with occasional phrases translated into Russian or English for our benefit.

I'd been learning Russian with Yuri all year, so I knew mat, "mother" and otets, "father."  But what was druzhok?  When I had a moment alone, I checked my Russian dictionary.

Good friend, bosom buddy, boyfriend!

Jaan had made his choice.

Next: Yuri and I cruise a Swedish businessman/serial killer in Tallinn.