My Memoir: Do You Live Around Here?

They call it Oz, a city of hills. Like every great city it surrounds itself with water, has sun during the day and the comfort of fog in the evening.  A city where an entire generation of men came out in 1973 and a life began no one predicted and some wished were otherwise.

I am twenty-eight, 5’10”, married with a son named Seth.  Before separating from my wife Christine I attended Dartmouth and Penn and spent two years in Chile as a Peace Corps volunteer.  I’m in Oz because friends from graduate school got me a job at the City Planning Department. I just came out.

Our playground had been a quiet neighborhood street of shops and people attending mass.  The scuffing of our boots and the fraying of our denim had pounded it senseless and a dream emerged.  The locals were suspicious; they did not want men holding hands or couples crying in public.  The smoke of our fires was private; it was our colors that said things had changed as if a fog had settled and when it lifted Paperback Traffic was its beacon.  Housewives buying things for the family were being replaced by men buying things and putting handkerchiefs in the back pockets of their 501s.

Oz is home to a story I want to share with you.

THE MAN WITH A CURLY BEARD

If you remember the Seventies you missed them

-Michael A. Schoch

Gay men are wounded by a world that despises our very nature, a separation reinforced by schools and religions.  For some the wounds are deep and warp their lives, but Michael loved me unconditionally, and what was wounded was my gift as a gay man.

Michael’s mother died when he was twelve, and his father told him to leave the house when he found out the friend living in their house was Michael’s lover.  Michael remained himself and moved to San Francisco.  He has no affectation; his is a clumsy masculinity and unexpected grace who came out in a time of Empress contests, bar life and Julia Child recipes.  His love of beauty is the essence of his gardens and the atrociously good food he lays out beautifully on the plate; his sole passion is making his world comfortable and taking care of another man.  I am that man.

For some unknown reason I was on Castro Street during the noon hour in 1975 and went into Toad Hall where I saw him behind the bar wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt in front of a large mirror framed by thick oak columns.   Handsome and sexy, my attraction was immediate, but we did not meet that day.  I didn’t stalk.

A week later I took a long lunch and came back to the bar with hopes of talking with Michael.  I ordered a water.  He smiled, got a bottle of Calistoga from the cooler at the end of the bar and put it in front of me. He turned and walked back to the other end of the bar to talk with what he called the Breakfast Club.

The Breakfast Club is five older men who gather each morning to drink.  Among them is Cupcake, who was seen in a news story about gay rights rally at UCLA in the 1950’s at UCLA.  Embarrassed to have him seen as a member of their prominent, well-to-do family in the Los Angeles suburbs, his parents allocated him a monthly allowance with the understanding he never enter their home again.    He lives around the block from the bar on Collingwood Street and often rents his spare room to artists and dancers who’ve just moved to the city.  He is so regular at Toad Hall that if he doesn’t show up by eleven-thirty Michael sends someone around to check on him.  To me Cupcake (Jim) is Quentin Crisp on downers.    He wears caftans with tens of bangles on each wrist; his beard is scraggy with large turquoise jewelry on his wrinkled hands.  His nose is pierced and his face badly pocked by drink.   In the evening Cupcake can be seen at the Opera and Symphony, and he is up to date on local theater.  At eleven in the morning he begins drinking vodka with grapefruit juice, and he leaves for home by one-thirty in the afternoon.  Michael has him cut up lemons and limes each morning.  Cupcake calls everyone Helen epitomizing everything about gay men that makes me seriously uncomfortable.

When Cupcake dies of alcohol poisoning, Michael notifies his parents who will not claim the body and offer to reimburse Michael for the costs of a funeral.   Michael reminds them gay men are no longer embarrassed about being queer, and Cupcake has friends who will take care of all arrangements; their money is not needed. We plant Cupcake’s ashes beneath a dogwood sapling at Michael’s cabin in Sonoma County.

In the fall of 1975 a friend of mine is dating a guy named Lou who is Michael’s friend.  When Gregg tells me Lou and Michael will have a booth at the Castro Street Fair, I say I’ll show up and he can introduce me to Michael.   Eager to invite him home I stand at the corner of 19th and Castro on a hot summer day looking down on walls of men surrounding booths on both sides of the street.  Smelling of polish sausage, spilt beer and sweat I see more gay men here than I thought could exist.   I see two lovers buying macramé who would be perfect subjects for an Andrew Wyeth painting on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post.  This slap happy mob in cut-offs and bare chests glories in 90 degree heat and the beat of Me and Bobby McGee from a window speaker above the liquor store.

Men pour in from Market Street that runs to the Castro from the Bay with sailboats dancing like musical signatures.  They climb our big rock candy mountain to walk sidewalks littered with fairy dust and shop in stores glistening with surfaces. Everyone is showing off his favorite persona like the scruffy redhead wearing only a string of thick beads and sandals walking slowly enough to be seen and fast enough to avoid arrest and the man on the corner opposite with his pipe and smoking jacket. Coming toward me is a tall unshaven man in opera stockings, high boots with stiletto heels and a small fluffy dog under his hairy arm and there’s me in pants made from a thick cotton American flag cut low enough for my pubes to be seen.

Lou and Michael have clock cases they made on Oriental carpets with some natural pine and others stained oak.  With Gregg busy with Lou, I introduce myself to Michael by sticking out my hand, “Hi, I’m Gregg’s friend.  Michael smiles, his eyes in some other space, and since I’m not buying anything he turns and walks away.

A month later Gregg asks me to drive him to Annapolis near Sea Ranch to help Lou build a cabin.   “Why should I drive three hours out of the city to do heavy labor on someone else’s house?”

“Because Michael is Lou’s partner in the house, and he’ll be there.”  I reconsider.  My son is spending the weekend, and this will give me a chance to get him out of the city.  Gregg says there are usually only three or four friends working on weekends so my chances of meeting Michael are good and I can make a date with the guy.

Friday night Gregg and Seth and I pack into my van and head north.  Halfway through Sonoma County on a twenty-mile stretch of dark county road with  a mail box the only sign of civilization Gregg confesses he isn’t sure if Michael is going to be there, and if he comes he might bring Brian.

“His boyfriend?”

“A guy he’s been seeing, and Michael won’t get there ‘til Sunday because he works at the bar on Saturday.”   I consider turning around and driving back to the City but l hearing Gregg piss and moan for an hour and a half on a desolate road feels like a horror film and dissuades me, but my chances of making a date with Michael are in jeopardy.

The week before we get to the cabin Michael and Lou are lounging after dinner in a trailer they used while building the cabin.  Lying on the pull-down bed they smoke a joint, drink some wine and split a Quaalude.  In the blue light of the propane lantern Lou asks Michael what he wants if he has three wishes. Though groggy he answers quickly, “First, I want a man.  Then I’d love to have a son, and we need a helicopter to get us up here so we don’t have to drive three hours.” They drift off to sleep and spend the following Sunday completing the framing on a cabin perched above a stream that overflows in the winter and is only inches deep this time of year.

I worked on self-help houses in Chile as a Peace Corps volunteer and know what can go wrong, so I beg off working on the plumbing or electrical and say I’ll nail siding when we start work on Saturday morning.   I make boats from scraps of lumber with Seth, and he plays with them in the creek while I work a hammer.  He spends time on the desk sketching space men in the afternoon and at dinner wants to help me in the kitchen by throwing food scraps as high as he can on the hill behind the house that I’ll smell the next day doing siding on that side of the house.

Sunday is one of those perfect September days of blinding sun with a gentle breeze from the coast shimmering leaves on a Bay tree fallen across the creek.  The other men are working on the front of the house naked, and Gregg is making one of his thick-crust apple pies.   The men wear only their boots.

Shortly before noon I hear a truck across the creek.  Gregg and Lou, and JR shout from the deck as Seth plays with his plastic helicopter on the deck, and I stay wedged between the hillside and the back of the cabin to keep myself from looking to see if it’s Michael and if he’s arrived alone.    I put on worn green gym shorts and the battered tan boots I wear when riding my motorcycle this morning and a buckskin nail belt I found on the floor.  It’s not just useful, but I’ll look as manly as I get if Michael shows up.

Michael is greeted with hugs and kisses.  I venture out, staying at the periphery and see no one except Michael.  The men love the company they share, and I hold back and watch waiting for Gregg to introduce me.  I don’t think Michael knew I would be there, and I’m sure he doesn’t know I want to meet him, but without Gregg’s introduction he turns to me.  Our eyes meet and it seems that he is as intent on me as I am on him.

I return to the back of the house to nail another course of siding, and Michael appears asking if I like the house and have I ever worked on one before.  We’re face to face and about to kiss when Seth shows up and wants to play.  I walk him down to the creek and set one of his boats afloat upstream and tell him to follow it very slowly as it floats down to the Bay tree.  I go to the back of the house quickly where Michael is nailing a new board with my hammer.   After few words we approach each other, and again Seth shows up as if someone bribed him with chocolate to interrupt us.  A good father I walk him back to the creek to make another wooden battleship, but I’m afraid I’ve lost my chance with Michael by denying him a kiss.

Over dinner Michael and I agree to a date the following Friday. I never make dates that far in advance because dates are so plentiful that I don’t get together with someone within hours of meeting him there is no date.  I’ll wait for this one.

Crashing thunder and bolts of white lightening are insufficient descriptions of our Friday nigh.  The connection is gut trusting and unlike anything I could have imagined.  I know I’m in my apartment but I’m not, and Michael is flawless and relentless as if he knew we were predestined to fall in love.  Michael has drugs, although between us we have enough passion to power the Normandie.

We indulge in sloppy kissing on all body parts, fucking in every room including the bathtub, fucking one then the other and grinning at each other again and again.  It’s great the first time, fabulous the second, magnificent the third, and crazy the fourth with kisses lasting long minutes living inside each other’s mouth. We stop around midnight for brownies and Southern Comfort smiling at each other smiling ear to ear and go back to our love-making with renewed recklessness.   We do lines of coke and countless joints in moments when we stop to catch our breath but we are so drunk on each other the drugs to do little more than soften the edges.

To cool off we open the large windows in my apartment and gaze at stars sleeping in a black sky lit by a fragile new moon and without getting dressed climb out to pick flowers from a neighbor’s planter box.   As I climb back into the bathtub with Michael he shakes his bottle of beer and squirts it up my ass.  “You need more lube. “

We wake around 1:15 on Sunday afternoon, and I want to go out for breakfast, but Michael surveys my refrigerator and say he’ll make us breakfast and runs to buy strawberries.    He calls on Monday to invite me to dinner on Tuesday and answers the four calls I make just to hear his voice.   His home is a former garage in the Haight with a small living room and bedroom on the first floor, its kitchen floor is bricks set in sand with a table with two chairs, and a swing.  Michael has cooked the meal on a three-burner antique green stove that probably came from the Sears catalog in the Twenties with an oven is too small for a turkey.  His bedroom is a water bed upstairs and a tiny bathroom with a glass enclosed shower that looks into the center of the block. The meal is beef bougonoine, roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts with Pinot Noir served in stemware from a huge flea market collection of crystal he keeps on glass shelves in the window of the living room.

Until I leave for Europe on a trip planned months before we sleep together every night at either his place or mine, and I am as lovesick as a Browning in a dark, cold Amsterdam.  I write blue aerograms every day in a window overlooking the Prinzcanal from my raw heart pouring out too many words, including the complete lyrics of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Rippling Waters” which is our song.

I return from Europe to dinner in Michael’s kitchen.  Another perfect meal, and Michael can not do enough to show how pleased he is to see me, and our first embrace lasts forever as I grip his arms, his back, and press my legs against his inhaling his freshly showered skin.  We move in slow motion recreating in those minutes every moment of our short life together and look even better than our memories of each other.

It takes me three months to agree to live together even though we never spend a night apart, never eat dinner separately and never have a day that keeps us apart for more than eight hours.  Michael wants rings as he had with a previous boyfriend, but I want what we have and don’t want to change anything.   I have been married and can live the rest of my life with Michael but don’t need any traditional symbols to confirm it.   We’ve had to make our lives ourselves this far; there’s no reason we can’t keep making rules as we go.

FACING THE MUSIC

Binding a captive on the battlefield and claiming him as one’s property … was common enough in most early civilizations.

– Larry Townsend

I’ve lived with Jack four days, and feel like a free man.  My clothes are in the closet of the second bedroom to satisfy Jack’s brother who was told I’m a roommate, and sleeping with Jack in his bedroom downstairs.  I made dinner last night, and the night blooming jasmine outside the kitchen window has become the scent of love.

Saturday morning sun is warming the Oakland hills up and San Francisco   glimmers across the Bay and having had our coffee and a bowl of cereal I’m helping Jack put away his laundry and excited about spending our first whole day together.  I’ll see Jack’s favorite places like a chocolate shop he talks about and maybe a gay beach I’ll never find on my own.  Gay men must know secret worlds, and if we take the right turn on the right street we’ll find them.  Jack will know the way.

As he starts upstairs, “I’ve been invited to a party tonight,” quite nonchalantly.   “What should I wear?”

“You’re not invited.”  Jack’s tone is flat and his eyes averted.

I catch my breath and repeat his words a few times in my head.  I want to make sense of this because what he’s saying doesn’t.  I want to correct this strangeness, but I’ve only been gay four days.

“The invitation was just to me.”

“But can’t you call and ask to bring me, too?”

“Calling won’t work.”

The day ahead is now a wasteland.  Our trip to the supermarket will be aisles will have shampoo that won’t promise to glorify my hair and the corn hiding in its husk.  Even people in the check-out line will see my face and know I was just admitted to the secret Order of the Homosexual and failed initiation.

Where do I go?  I’m too embarrassed to call Christine, and I voided every straight friendship by coming out, and I’m not ready to explain it all to them.  I have no inner sanctum to hide for the next couple of days and for Jack my issues are as serious as raking leaves.   I get more desperate as the day goes on, and as we sit down to dinner, I press  him for answers with my mouth full.  “I need an explanation.” Chew.  “I have to know something. “  Gulp. “I’m new at this, so I need help knowing what’s going on.”  Isn’t that obvious?

I want Jack would show me a new world, but he’s leaving the house and leaving me.  Doesn’t he trust me?   I wish he would just tell me what I need to do to get invited to parties.   What makes a man drive into the night and not care about the guy he’s living with?.  The morality of being gay is not what I expected; I thought everyone would like me.

Having just extinguished one personality, I have none to rely on and no gay friends to advise me.  I don’t even know a bookstore where I can sit in a corner and read sad poetry.  Shit!  I don’t  know that many poems.

Raised a Unitarian I was taught to find the goodness in others, but I don’t care how you cut it, I can’t find one goddamn piece of goodness in Jack at this moment and my entire world has shrunk to a small house in the Oakland hills with no escape and a hurricane pounding at the door.

After persistent questioning and wiping my mouth Jack finally relents.  “It’s an S and M party, and I don’t think you know about that.”  The facts are on the table and S and M reverberates like random electrons in a fission chamber, and my mind explodes with images of blindfolds, cuffed wrists, ropes and men with bad teeth.

Jack turns and smiles,  “I know what you can do.  There are some new bars on Castro Street which are only a couple blocks from the party, so you can drive in with me and go the bars.”  And “You can ride back with me if you want,” as though I’d want to stay in the City.   I don’t want to stay in the City; I want to be with Jack.

“I will come home with you.”

Jack’s solution makes perfect sense to him, but to me it’s like being back-handed after being slapped on the face.   “Everyone goes to the bars on Saturday night, and you’ll meet someone. There are lots of guys to chose from.” But I’ve never had to meet a gay man.  In high school to get boys to come home with me I had to be devious and squirrelly.  The only gay bar I’ve been in was one in North Beach taken there by a friend from the office.  The bar was dark with long lines at the bar and the back room a mob of men dancing together, the whole thing so dense and  unsettling that I only got as far as the first crush before asking to leave.  Men dancing together upset my stomach, and whatever else was going on I didn’t want to think about.  I thought the memory of that bar had been stored  in the mental equivalent of the pile of books I wish I’d never bought, but it’s taunting me with fears of being in a crowd of gay men, a fear, I admit, limned with intrigue.  Even more terrifying is being left alone in a strange house that might be a haunted house; I’ve seen Jack’s cage in the basement, and I could no more curl up in Jack’s bed and sleep than I could cross the Golden Gate Bridge on skis.

Because I never think things through I guess I expected to come out and live smoothly if strangely; I’d meet men like the ones I played with in junior high but they would be older and gay.  And they would open a steamer truck of gay secrets that would make me feel even better.   I wanted San Francisco in 1974 to be as good to me as Berlin in 1932 was to Isherwood and Auden, but Jack’s world is unsafe.  When my older brother humiliated me, I had a room to hide in.  Maybe when he says “I know you will have a good time,” is some code, how would I know?

“Couldn’t you skip the party this weekend, and we could do something together?”

“No, I’ve got to go to the party.  Brian’s hosting it and he wants me there.”

Jack’s simple words are as frightening as a Russian guard ordering me into a windowless cell.  “I guess I’ll go in with you if you can promise to take me home.”

I am coming to my life as a gay man with the wrong ideas.  There is a lot of sex; that much I understand, and I’ll have to figure out why gay couples don’t spend time together; maybe there’s some rule against it.  Summon up S&M and my mind turns off faster than the bathroom fixture in a horror film.

I can’t crawl back to the world I’ve just abandoned, and it looks like I’m on my own, and if I don’t master the ways of being gay as Jack has I’ll be reduced to sex at urinals in the Greyhound station.  I can’t deny everything by saying I’m really straight like I used to.  I’m gay and doomed and may never make it to the rest of my life.

Trying to calm down, which I don’t do well, I put on a clean pair of chinos and a plaid shirt neatly buttoned on the collar, something clean and pressed.  I’ll look presentable, and if the bar is a bust I’ll buy a Chronicle, a cup of coffee and eat donuts for four hours.  When Jack asks what happened  I’ll tell him I went to the bar even if I just ate doughnuts.   Oh Boy, how do I come home and get into bed with a man who traded me in for someone he tied up and beat with a stick?   I can’t think about that; I have to think about a place on Castro Street that sells donuts and maybe some courage.

Jack drops me off at Market and Castro and points out Toad Hall down the street. “I’ll be up Castro Street about three blocks,” as he points north. “Have fun. You’ll do fine, and I’ll meet you back here at midnight.”   He closes the window and his VW bug speeds up the hill.

I walk slowly to the end of the block and watch Toad Hall across the street.  Men go in and some walk past. I can’t predict who goes in; they all look the same.    Is there a special knock?  Is there a window in the door like a Speakeasy?  My feet do not want to cross the street but I pay close attention to a man in a green jacket who walks up turns and pulls the door open just far enough to slide around it.  Simple enough but I’m going to have to force myself to do it; no sudden whim will get me there, at least none has.  I’m not sure I can safely cross the street this obsessed with the door to the bar.  Yes, I know this street is just like any street with a bar like any other part of town.  But it’s not.

I finally get myself across the street and close enough to grab the handle of the heavy oak door; when it’s hard to pry open I step back.  A man leaving has to push hard to get out, so it’s not just me looking for excuses.  A man walks around me and pulls it open, I dart in, look to see where things are then look then follow shoes until I find an empty space on the back wall.

I hope no one notices me, and the only man I see the one time I look up is a boy-faced man who stands out because he’s wearing a red sweater and looks like a TV actor.  He’s blond, neatly-dressed and his hair is perfectly trimmed, just long enough.  Suddenly he’s in front of me asking if he can buy me a drink.  I agree; no one’s ever asked me that.

‘Did you just move to San Francisco? I’ve never seen you here.  You’re cute”   He’s right about never having been in the bar but wrong about me being cute.   I’ve never been cute.

He’s a teacher who spent the last weekend in Hollywood and lives eight blocks away with a roommate.  After ten minutes of conversation about something I don’t remember he asks if I want to come home with him; “We’ll go in my brand new red Ford convertible.”

“I can’t.  I’m meeting Jack at 11:30 and going home.” I hope this will end it, but he says, “Then let’s make a date for next week.”  I don’t know how to be rude and I’m still angry at Jack so I agree.  This will be my revenge and prove to Jack that men want me, and I can play by rules I still don’t understand, and I’d better earn me some kind of merit badge for doing this.

In the car going home over the Bay Bridge I tell Jack about the date.  He says, “Good.”  Nothing I say evokes the response I expect. I just get into bed too tired to worry about it.

The next week I go to the teacher’s apartment on Douglass Street having no idea what gay men do on dates.  Within a minute of my coming through his door he takes the phone into his bedroom and for the next hour I hear him raising his voice talking to what sounds like an angry parent while I sit at the kitchen table fending off his roommate, a man with a thick lipped smile and nervous fingers that keep creeping across the table.

After what seems an hour of moving my hands on the table and my legs under it the roommate gets us and says he’ll be back in a minute.  What’s he going to do, come back wearing a dress? but it’s just a city map.  He pulls his chair closer to mind to show me where on Polk Street his friend took him to a bar on his first visit.   “He’d come down here for a weekend and saw Charles Pierce,” he points to another spot on the map, “and met this hot guy at the baths and the whole thing turned him on so much he moved here six months later and told me I had to move here.”  He folds the map leaning against my arm on the table.  I move my arm.

Those baths doesn’t sound like a steamy Roman spa with marble tiles and fat men in towels.  Is there really a baths where men just go there to have sex?  That’s too good to be true; it can’t be like that.

The other room is suddenly quiet and the teacher opens the door and tells me to come in and it sit on the bed.   “It takes every ounce of diplomacy to tell parents that kids with problems in class have problems at home, but of course I can’t say that.”  He’s about to say more, so I take his hand, and that prompts him to turn and stick his tongue in my mouth and push me back on the bed as if I knew what to do next.  I lie down but not next to him.  He twists, gets up and goes to the end of the bed where he takes off my shoes, loosens my belt and starts pulling down my pants.  “I really want you to fuck me,” and his pants drop and he jumps back on the bed in red bikini underwear.

My dick is not hard; his request shrivels it further.  Once again I’m stuck in a situation I can’t change and this time at the mercy of a school teacher.   I don’t belong here.  Some god must be looking after me because it starts to snow, and it never snows in San Francisco.  The white stuff I hated every morning I had to clear the driveway is now my friend.  I get up, pull up my pants and I stand at the window watching the whiteness stick to power lines and halo street lights with the teacher whispering entreaties to get me back in bed.  Leaving a continent of breath on the window I kiss him, politely beg off and drive back to Oakland.  I don’t want to have to tell Jack what happened.

The next two weekends I go to leather bars with Jack, his only venues and quickly realize on the first night that Jack is there to meet a stranger and take him home, and he’s not expecting me to be there.  I have to find someplace to spend the night.  I guess that’s supposed to be easy, but in a bar jammed with men in black leather it’s threatening,.  The line of motionless face shadowed by shiny bills on leather caps looks like a platoon of mercenaries, and when I tell Jack they’re scaring me he says, “Don’t worry.  They all just want to get fucked,” and heads for a spot in the back.

I don’t know how to tell a man I need to go home with him but a German in full leather saves me asking if I’d like to go home with him.  I need to stay somewhere and say yet and go to his place that’s very civilized with a clean apartment and a tumbler of expensive Scotch.  We go through a ritual of me turning around taking off my clothes as he dramatically takes off his leather piece by piece.  We get into bed and he wants he wants me to bite him.  That’s it; that’s what he wants; he wants to be bitten.  I don’t remember how it ends, but I did fall asleep after he came, and the next Saturday night I go out with Jack and come home with anther man in full leather who lives in an elegant apartment on Nob Hill with enough pillows on his headboard to think it’s the Sierras.  He plays with my nipples which hurts and wants me to choke him.  I’m not liking any of this, but I’m learning how to be gay.  After various contortions he instructs me to clench his neck between my legs and I press as hard as I can.  I have to cross my ankles to get any leverage and that gets him off, and he offers me a shower in his bathroom of Royal blue tiles and monogrammed towels as he makes the bed.  Then there are tarts he said he bought specially for the evening at his favorite bakery.  We eat; they’re sweet, and the bed is large enough for me to curl up on one side with a good eight inches between us.

Going back to Oakland I have to admit I’m not very good at sex, and isn’t San Francisco supposed all about good sex?   If I am not even getting hard on dates, is there something else I should be doing, and what does Jack do that works so well for him?  I’m not going to become the faggot whose life is Broadway shows and Renaissance art; my dates have to be more than dinner and theater, but I don’t know what,   Shit!

On Sunday Jack asks me to come to the Ramrod with him.  “No, I don’t think so.”

“But Sundays are movies and cartoons, it’s not cruising, and I won’t  bring anyone home. You should come.”  I relent but if it’s like what I’ve gone through in other leather bars, I’m leaving.   As we drive down Folsom Street a man in full leather gets out of a cab in front of a bar.   In full leather in a cab?  Where’s your motorcycle?  I thought I knew what to expect but his world is getting stranger each day, but the bar as Jack described it with a movie being projected on a sheet stretched against one wall.  The men in leather are smiling this time, and when “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds” bursts into song they burst into song almost yelling, and know all the words.  The gay world gets stranger by the minute.  Next on the screen is a commercial for a tire company.  Halfway through the spokesman’s pitch, his clear diction shifts to  a lisp and he tells us to get into the back seat.   It’s a totally professional ad, and I can’t believe I’m seeing it.  Laughing and laughing again just thinking about it.  I’ve never seen anything so blatant, and I’m loving it.

The loving stops when I see Jack exiting the front door with a man in a leather jacket.  I don’t hesitate and storm out.  I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m leaving, and Folsom Street is supposed to have lots of gay bars and I will find another kind.  I am too angry to cry.

After walking two blocks I stop a bar with the name The Stud over the door that sounds like a gay bar. The room is large and nearly empty with a lone bartender lighting candles and three men sitting separately along the bar.   The music is Mendelssohn which is exactly what I need and I order a glass of red wine and am quickly mesmerized by the flickering candle in front of me on the bar.  When I look up a bearded man is smiling at me.  He’s about my age with long blonde hair in a green plaid flannel shirt.  I smile back pretending to be happy.   He gets up and sits next to me and asks a few questions that have nothing to do with sex as if he wants to get to know me, and tell him I’m new at this but not why I’m in this bar at this moment.   We talk for maybe half an hour; and when I order a second glass of wine he offers to pay for it and asks if I would like to go home with him.  I’m caught off guard because I like this guy but thought I’d spend the night in some motel although I didn’t know where.

I want to believe his smile and his green flannel shirt..  He lives in the East Bay and can drive me to Oakland later which is a nice offer, and I feel inclined.  Telling me his dog is waiting in the car is the clincher; I’ll go home with him.

In an El Cerrito bungalow full of large plants he offers wine which I refuse and settle for a Tab.  He kisses me softly as we sit on an old couch covered with an elaborate Persian shawl and kisses me without wanting anything in return.  I sink into worn cushions.  When he offers mescaline I back off.  We kiss and he puts his arm under my t-shirt and rubs my shoulders.  He offers it again in a whisper and assures me he’ll give me only a tiny bit to see if I like it.   With his breath in my ear I can be adventurous.  He puts a small dot of something on my tongue and we smoke a joint and start lying down kissing, opening belts kissing, tongue in ear kissing, and I am hard. I am hard.  If there are more men like him being gay will be good.

Opening the buttons on his 501s I feel a very large bulge and have to touch its length to make sure it’s his dick. It’s long and thick and hard as the Rib Mountain granite in the surround of my fireplace.   I know this is the moment a gay is supposed roll his eyes and devour the dick, but I’m such a novice can’t get something that large out of his underwear, much less put it in my mouth.  I work his dick through the slit in his briefs and lick it like a lollipop.  We fondle and snuggle and jerk and cum.  He helps me get myself together and drives me home.  This has been the best time I’ve had since coming out, and I didn’t have to wear leather or do anything weird.  Better than hoped for.

I tell Jack what had happened, and he says, “Oh, no, that was just a friend who wanted to show me his new motorcycle.  We went down the street to look at it, but my over-reaction is the best thing I’ve done since coming out.

I go back to the Stud hoping lightening strikes twice which is doesn’t, but in the next weeks I meet a Jewish chef, an architect, two drug-dealing gardeners , a man from San Diego and an incredibly sexy man who introduces me to the Age of Aquarius on his waterbed.