Mar 7, 2015

Summer 1986: The Cowboy of Kangaroo Island

In West Hollywood, relationships happened fast.  After three dates, or hookup plus two dates, you were officially a couple, listed in address books together, invited to parties together, off-limits for cruising but available for "sharing."

But it was weird to be considered a couple after one hookup.

And even weirder to be invited to Australia.

I met the Carl the Australian Cowboy around Easter 1986: in his 30s, tall, slim, with a long face and a scruffy beard, wearing an incongruous plaid shirt and cowboy hatt. Not my type -- until he said "G'day!"

Australia was my childhood ideal of a "good place!"

He was a tour guide of some sort, just finishing up a two-week holiday that mostly involved camping at Yosemite National Park.

An outdoorsman -- definitely not my type!  But I wasn't bringing Carl home, I was bringing home Ken James from Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Dominic Guard from Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Troy, the Australian soccer player who took off his clothes in class....

We spent the night together, and the next day went to church and brunch at the French Quarter, and then he had to go to LAX to return his rental car and catch the flight back to Sydney.

As we were saying goodbye, Carl brought his face to my ear and whispered: "What about if I get another ticket, and bring you along?"

Thinking he was joking, I said, "Sure!  Oh, wait -- I have a paper due next week!"

"When classes are out, then?  I work in the industry -- you can fly for free."

He was serious!  "Well -- I'm sort of committed to spending the summer in Japan with Alan."

 "All the better.  It's a short flight from Sydney to Tokyo. Why not pop down for a week or two on the way?"  He wrapped his arms around me.  "Or longer, eh?"

Sure enough, a week later a plane ticket arrived in the mail for me: Los Angeles to Adelaide, Australia, on May 27th.  Open return.

Fly across the world to visit a guy I just met?  What could possibly go wrong?

In case you ever get a similar offer, here are a few guidelines.

1.  Find his town on a map.  I didn't bother, figuring that Kingscote was a suburb of Adelaide.

It wasn't.  An hour and a half drive to Port Jervis, a half hour wait for a ferry, and then another half hour to Kangaroo Island.

2. Ask about the sightseeing itinerary.

Before I arrived, Carl told me about all of the sightseeing we would be doing.  Ayres Rock!  The National Museum of Melbourne!  The gay neighborhood of Sydney!

I got Kangaroo Island.

"I moved to Sydney when I was a youngster, did all the wild life," Carl said.  "To be honest, mate, it gets old fast.  I moved to Kangaroo Island to get away from all that. "

The kangaroos come right up to your door.  You can shake hands with them.  Who could ask for anything better?"

"Um...well, is there much of a gay community in Adelaide?"

"I only get out there once or twice a year.  Too much to do here on the island."

3.  Find out about the amenities in his town.  Kingscote, the only city on Kangaroo Island, was small, flat, and dusty, with a population that barely reached 2,000.  It had half a dozen restaurants, all seafood, no gyms, one art gallery, no museums, no bookstores, no movie theater.  For that you had to take the ferry to Adelaide.

"What do you do here?" I asked, dubiously.

"Why, it's the greatest place in the world!  We have penguins, seagulls, and kangaroos you can walk right up to and pet.  We have hiking, camping, swimming, diving...well, the water's a bit cold at the moment."

4. Ask about the living situation.  

Carl lived in a small square house right on the ocean -- you could hear it from the living room, and see it from the front porch.  Inside there were no books except some wilderness guides.  

And no tv!

"What do you do at night?" I asked.

"Oh, listen to music and read, I suppose.  But mostly I go visiting.  Aussies are big on entertaining."

5. Ask about the local gay community.

He was right about that. Every night we had dinner with a different grinning heterosexual couple who asked if I had a girlfriend back in the states.

"I'm not exactly out to them," Carl explained.  "Or to anyone, really."

"Are there any gay people on Kangaroo Island?"

"Lots!  I have one gay friend here, a bloke I grew up with, and there's a lesbian couple who run a gift shop for the tourists.  They have me over for dinner every week."

"That's not exactly lots."

6. Ask about his intentions.

I asked about the open-ended ticket, but Carl said "No worries.  I know you have to get to Japan sometime this summer.  But what if you like it so much, you want to stay?"

Since Carl arranged for my ticket, I felt obligated to put in at least a week.  Admittedly, it was fun to see the kangaroos, pet the seagulls, feed the penguins, have dinner with the lesbian couple, and "share" Carl's childhood friend.

Once I took the ferry by myself into Adelaide, for the South Australian Museum, some bookstores, a bath house, and an Indonesian restaurant.

But overall, it was a dreary holiday.  Made more dreary by the work visa application that Carl presented me over breakfast one morning.

"Now that you've fallen in love with the place, why not stay?  You can come work with me.  We can have a life together here, far away from the noise and crowds of the gay ghetto."

I wanted the noise and crowds of the gay ghetto!

After 10 days, I said goodbye and flew home.

I'm still waiting to go to Ayres Rock, the National Museum in Melbourne, and the gay neighborhood of Sydney.

See also: Finding a Boyfriend at the Horseman's Club.

Mar 5, 2015

Ryan Kwanten, Vampire Buddy

Ryan Kwanten began acting at age 15, and first became known outside Australia as a boy trapped in an East Asian fantasy world in Spellbinder (1997).  Since then, he has become famous for his physique.  Whenever he comes on screen, his shirt comes off.

He's appeared in his underwear, in a towel, in a diaper, in a swimsuit, naked in bed, naked in the shower, stripped for torture, and wearing only a sock.

He's never played a gay character, or a character who spends much time with guys -- directors are too busy pushing him into ladies' arms.

He played  horndogs on the soap Home and Away (1994-2002) and Summerland (2004-2005).

In Griff the Invisible, Griff (Ryan) falls in love with a female superhero. In Red Hill, young sheriff Shane (Ryan) has a wife and a baby.  In Not Suitable for Children (2012), Jonah (Ryan) has to impregnate as many women as possible in a month.

But sometimes beefcake is enough.

Ryan has a gay brother, and would be perfectly happy playing a gay character.  He praises his sheriff Jason Stackhouse in True Blood (2008-2013), the angst-y series about vampires struggling for their civil rights (with Joe Manganiello and Martin Spanjers).

Jason Stackhouse began as rather homophobic and vampire-phobic, but over the course of five seasons, learned to tolerate and finally accept both gay people and vampires.  In 2012, when he discovered that a gay vampire had a crush on him, he responded: "Look, I accept who you are, whether it's a vampire, whether it's a gay man, or both. But that's not the way this dog barks."

Jason has a love-hate relationship with head vampire Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard) which has resulted in a lot of slash fiction.

Ryan would be happy to have the two men take their relationship to the next level and embark on a human-vampire romance.

Mar 4, 2015

British Boxing Beefcake

During the early years of the 20th century, finding beefcake was a problem.  Silent movies rarely featured male nudity.  Neither did pulp magazines.  Bodybuilding was in its infancy.

But in Britain, you could always go to a boxing match, and see biceps and bulges as muscular guys punched, pounded, grabbed, hugged.  It was a quasi-homoerotic ritual that millions of men watched every week.

Boxers became superstars, both for their prowess and their physique.

I like guys who are short, and British featherweight Dick Corbett (1908-1943) was only 5'4".

Nipper Pat Daily (1913-1988), the world's youngest professional boxer, was a flyweight contender ate age 15.  He won 99 of his 119 fights before retiring at age 17 to become a trainer and run a gym. He never married.

Actually, many of the early 20th century boxers never married.  They were most comfortable in a masculine world of boxing rings and gyms.

Scottish light heavyweight Bert Gilroy (1918-1998) won 88 of 121 fights in a long career that lasted for 13 years, then retired to be a manager and trainer, spending the rest of his life near the ring.

Welsh boxer Johnny Basham (1890-1947), known as the Happy Wanderer, became the European welterweight champion.

Welterweight Brian Curvis (1937-2012) fought in the 1950s and 1960s, when awareness of gay identity made immersion in a male-only world suspect.  He got married.

See also: Jerry Quarry, Boxer with Something Extra.

Mar 2, 2015

Fall 1973: The House Full of Men with Guns

One Saturday in the fall of eighth grade, my friend Craig and I rode our bikes through Lincoln Park in Rock Island, and then past Alleman, the Catholic High School.

Nazarenes said that Catholics were dangerous, demon-possessed, anxious to brainwash you with their weird Latin chants.  I didn't really believe it -- but still, the sense of danger was exciting, like approaching a cage of roaring tigers.

Across the street from the Catholic school was a big white house with a fence of spiked logs, like they used in the Old West.

"See that house?" Craig asked. "Do you know why it has such a big, spiked fence?"

"Because it's full of Catholics?"

"No, because it's full of men with guns.  If you go in there, they'll shoot you."

Men with guns?

I wasn't afraid of guns.  My Dad and uncles had been taking me hunting ever since I learned to walk.  I liked the all-masculine preserve, and the phallic symbolism of a gigantic gun pushing up from a guy's crotch.

 "So...what do the Men with Guns look like?"

"Oh, they're big.  With big muscles.  They can tear a steel girder in half with their bare hands."

Being a naive twelve-year old, I didn't realize that Craig was putting me on.

"Let's take a look!" I exclaimed.  I was anxious to see these muscular men polishing their guns and tearing steel girders in half.

" can't do that.  We'll get shot."

Ignoring him, I parked my bike, walked around to the back, and peered through the gaps in the wooden spikes.  I could vaguely see a grassy yard, two trees, and some lawn chairs -- wait -- was that a guy in a swimsuit?

I needed a better look.

No way was I going to try to climb that fence!  In fifth grade, I nearly killed myself falling into an outhouse while looking for Uncle Edd's gun,  and last summer, I banged my head into the side of the pool trying to see if my boyfriend Dan was kissing another guy.

How about just going to the door and knocking?

I had an excuse: the preacher was always talking about the importance of soul-winning, going door to door to win strangers for Christ, or at least inviting them to church.  Two or three times a year, the high school kids divided into groups of three and went soul winning in different neighborhoods in Rock Island and Moline.

I was too young to go with them, but maybe I could convince my Sunday school teacher, Brother Dino, to bring me.

The next day in church I told him, "There's a house by the Catholic school, and it's full of Catholic sinners.  I rode past on my bike yesterday, and God laid a burden on my heart to win the souls inside."

"Are you sure?"  Brother Dino asked.  "You're a little young for soul-winning."

"I'm mature for my age,"

"But...Catholics are advanced.  Satan has a strong grip on them.  They'll try to brainwash you."

"You're big and strong," I said, taking his arm.  "You can protect me from anything, I bet."

So the next Saturday, I went soul-winning with Brother Dino and a high school girl named Cecilia (two women weren't safe going out together, and two men were intimidating, so you always went soul-winning in a mixed-sex group of three)

We walked up to the door, and Brother Dino knocked.  I felt my heart racing.  Any moment now, I would see the inside of the house, with muscular men cleaning their guns.

A cute guy in a black shirt with no buttons answered the door. He eyed our Bibles suspiciously.  "May I help you?"

"I'm Brother Dino, and this is Boomer and Cecilia.  We're here to share some Good News with you."

"Good news?  What...."

"The Good News that God has a place in heaven waiting for you.  All you have to do is accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior."

"Um...ok, won't you come in?"

He ushered us into the most Catholic room I had ever seen.  A framed portrait of the Pope! Statues of saints and the Virgin Mary! Crucifixes, rosaries, candles!  A scary, evil Catholic Bible on the coffee table! Catholic magazines!

"This is the rectory of Saint Mary's Church," he said.  "I'm Father Benedict.  Father Andrew is puttering around in the garden somewhere."

Seeing our faces drained of blood, he grinned.  "Maybe you'd like some tea before you tell me about Our Lord?"

Brother Dino turned and ran from the house as if he was being chased by monsters.  Cecilia and I followed.  We jumped into the car and zoomed away, and didn't stop until we got back to the Nazarene church.

Then he started yelling.  "Catholic priests!  You brought me to a houseful of Catholic priests!  Do you have any idea how dangerous they are?  We were lucky to get out of there alive!"

But I couldn't help thinking: There were two men living in the house without wives.  They had found a way to escape the "what girl do you like?" brainwashing, not with guns, but with Catholic cassocks.  .

See also: A Hookup in the Most Catholic Place on Earth

Mar 1, 2015

Spring 2012: The Night I Became a Creepy Old Guy

When I was living in the gay neighborhoods of California, New York, and Florida, cruising occurred in three distinct life stages, each with its own bars, cruising sites, protocols, and expectations.

1. Twink/Cute Young Thing

 From coming out to age 30, though some guys who came out later became honorary twinks.

After growing up in a constant hum of heterosexist brainwashing, being told over and over that same-sex desire does not exist, the twink went crazy, trying to cram as many masculine experiences as possible into his schedule.  He cruised constantly, in bars, on the street, on Grindr.

His mantra was: So many men, so little time!

2. Regular Guy

30s to mid-40s, though some guys graduated from Twinkdom early, and some stayed late.

Most Regular Guys had permanent partners, with shared apartments and dinners with their parents.  They might still cruise, but only to find someone to share.

3. Daddy/Bear

Mid-40s up, though guys with the right physique might come directly from Twink the moment they reached age 30 (or admitted to it.)

The Daddy or Bear was usually partnered, but cruised extensively anyway, with or without his partner (usually without).   Increasingly aware of his mortality, he wanted to cram as many masculine experiences as possible into his life, repeating the mantra of his youth: so many men, so little time!

While cruising, you were allowed to approach guys in your age group or higher. If you liked someone of a lower age group, you had to wait for him to approach you.

If you approached a younger guy, or even tried to make eye contact first, you were placed in Category 4:

4. Creepy Old Guy

The Creepy Old Guy was unaware of the protocols, or didn't care.  He approached anyone, from Twinks to Daddies, but concentrated on Twinks, as if he was living a second childhood.  He groped without checking for the appropriate body language, made obnoxiously sexual come-ons, and refused to be dissuaded by either Attitude or a firm "no."

I became a Creepy Old Guy quite suddenly, one night in 2012, at the River Street Club in Albany, New York. It was occupied primarily by guys in the Daddy/Bear category, with a sprinkling of Regular Guys but no Twinks.

Until Peter came in (I never got his real name): a twink, short, muscular, with a slightly hairy chest and a Bratwurst+ beneath the belt.  Later I discovered that he was 23 years old, a student at Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute, a few blocks away.

He came into the gym as I was working out.  You were supposed to pretend not to look, but I couldn't help sneaking a peak as I waited for him to finish with the bench press.

Maybe too long a peak.  He finished his set and rushed away.

I ran into him a bit later in the sauna.  There were protocols in place about who wanted to be touched; Peter wanted to be touched. But when I tried, he roughly pushed me away and left.

Everyone stared; I had forgotten that I was two age categories older than Peter!  I had committed a major faux pas.

My friend chuckled.  "Congratulations -- you just became a Creepy Old Guy!"

Later, I saw Peter in the maze, in a clench with another guy.  Surely he wouldn't mind if I just stood there and watched!  But when he looked up and saw me, he said something -- too low for me to hear -- then grabbed his partner's hand and rushed away.

Burning with embarrassment over being a Creepy Old Guy, I hung out in the shadows for awhile, and then decided to go to the hot tub, where people chatted without any sexual expectation.  Peter was there!

I had had enough. I jumped into the hot tub and sat next to him.  "I'm a member of this club, and I'm going to use the hot tub," I announced.

He pretended not to see me.

"You don't need to rush rudely away. I promise I won't commit the horrible sin of looking at you."

He stared. "What's your problem, man?"

"Well, I was a little offended when you cut your workout short just because I happened to be in the room."

"I was done, man!  I just wanted to pump up a little, to show off my pecs!"

Hot with rage, I continued. "And what about in the sauna.  You gave every sign of being open, but not when I got there!  No, don't let the Creepy Old Guy near you!"

"I was trying to relax!" Peter exclaimed.  "Any law that says you have to do things whenever some guy wants you to?"

"Well -- what about when you were in the maze, and I wasn't even good enough to watch you and the love of your life?"

"I don't like guys watching me!  Neither of us had a room, and I thought we could get some privacy in the maze.  Anything wrong with that?"

"Um..well...sorry.  My mistake."  I was mortified.  I pulled myself up out of the hot tub to slink away.  Then Peter stood, too.

"Look -- I've never been to this sort of place before.  Sorry if I didn't play by the rules."  He reached out and touched my chest.  "You seem like a nice guy.  Do you have a room?"

The Biggest Guy on my Sausage List

#15 on my Sausage List, the biggest guy I've ever met, was a 21-year old political science major from Harvard.

We met in the spring of 2001, when my doctorate in sociology was nearing completion, and I landed a dream interview: Assistant Professor of Gender Studies at Boston University!

I was so certain that this job was my "destiny" that I started looking for apartments and hanging out in Boston gay chatrooms.  One of the guys I chatted with was Jermaine.

Instead of the usual "stats? size? top or bottom?", we talked about gender discrimination laws, hate crimes, and heteronormativity in the classroom.  Quite heady stuff for a chatroom!  And we made plans to meet for coffee and dessert at the end of my first day of interviews (the committee was taking me to dinner).

The interviews were atrocious -- snobbish faculty, snobbish grad students, questions that were heterosexist, combative, dissmisive, or just plain rude.  No way I was getting this job!  No way did I want it!

It was a relief to extricate myself from the badgering and walk from my hotel to the House of Blues, an upscale soul food restaurant with live music, where Jermaine was waiting.  Very attractive: shorter than me, dark-skinned, solidly built, with glasses and a bright smile.  Now I was even more depressed.  Were all Boston boys so hunky?

We ordered appetizers --  Voodoo Shrimp and Fried Pickles -- and then dessert -- Bread Pudding -- while I complained (you never complain on a first date, but I figured we would never see each other again, anyway).

"Don't worry about the job," Jermaine said. "You'll find something great."

He talked about his law school applications -- Stanford, Columbia, Berkeley, Yale -- and then a career fighting gay oppression: "We've made some strides, but there's still so much to do. Sodomy laws, health care, partner benefits, gay youth. The fight is only beginning."

Then he started talking about his volunteer work with homeless gay youth at the MCC, but he stopped himself after a sentence or two.  "I'm hogging the conversation, aren't I?  Time for you to talk: what's your favorite thing about living in New York?"

After all that, it felt sort of sleazy to be cruising him, but after awhile I reached down to stroke his thigh. He smiled, but moved my hand away.  Then, oddly, he asked, "Who's your Daddy?"

Um...well, I'm twice as old as you, about six inches taller, and I'm pretty sure I could beat you in arm wrestling.  So you ain't my Daddy, son!

I didn't say that.  I just smiled and kept silent.

After awhile Jermaine wanted to go to the Machine, a 18+ dance club, but I was too tired for the blaring techno-rock of the Cute Young Thing crowd.

"Why don't we go back to my hotel?" I suggested.

He stared at me.  "Who's your Daddy?" he asked again.

"Um...that would a 65-year old retired factory worker in Franklin, Indiana."

"Ok, let's go," he said with a smile.

On the way, Jermaine got into an actual conversation with a panhandler.  Never in my life had I seen such a thing -- you ignore them, or at best drop some coins into their plastic cup while looking away.  And he talked about so many charities that I felt like a piker.

Was it ok to bring Jermaine into my bed?  It would be like seducing a saint.

We got to my room and began kissing and fondling and undressing each other, but when I moved my hand to his crotch, Jermaine pushed it away and asked "Who's your Daddy?" again.

This time I said "Why don't you wait and see?"

Finally I was completely naked, but Jermaine was still wearing pants.

"Isn't it about time for the Full Monte?"

"Ok, sure," he said, strangely reluctant.  He stood, unbuckled his belt, and started to lower his pants.

And lower them.

And lower them.

I stared.  It was a baseball bat.  It was a Kovbasa+++++.

"Yeah," Jermaine said, embarrassed.  "At this point most guys drool and make sleazy jokes."

I caught myself, and returned my gaze to his face.  "About what?  You have a very nice physique.  Your pecs are really hot."

He laughed and knelt in front of me.  "That's the right answer."

Later Jermaine told me that he was sick of being fetishized, desired for nothing but his beneath-the-belt gifts.  The question "Who's your Daddy" was designed to see if I would try to pressure him into being a super-top pile-driving sex machine.  He wanted to kiss and cuddle, and fall asleep in the guy's arms.

I was happy to oblige.

We saw each other again about two months later, when Jermaine came down for his Uncle's 50th birthday party, and invited me along as his date.

Otherwise our schedules never synched, and in the summer of 2001 he moved to Berkeley.  But we continued to chat online, and as the months passed and I didn't get a job, he kept saying "Don't give up -- you'll find something great!"

Jermaine is the biggest guy I've ever known.  But not because of his Kovbasa+++++.

See also: The 15 Biggest Sausages I've Ever "Cooked."; and Skinny Dipping with the Biggest Guy on My Sausage List.