Nov. 3rd, 2011 02:05 pm
About 7 or 8 years ago, I occasionally visited an adult book store on the edge of town. The place is no longer around for various reasons. For one, the internet has rendered most of these places extinct. Also, because of its proximity to town, it was sometimes the focus of a small but dedicated band of rabid fundamentalists who would stand in front with signs and bibles and sometimes, sadly, their children. I mainly rented videos there, and only rarely checked out the activity in the back arcade. Usually there wasn't anything interesting going on, or anyone very attractive.

On one such visit - a Monday evening I recall quite vividly - I was returning a video. Out of boredom on a sleepy night, I stepped into the arcade for a minute. As I was standing in front of the 'menu' of videos playing in the rooms, I was aware of someone suddenly standing beside me. Within a couple of seconds I duly checked the man out with a furtive glance. I was shocked to recognize him as the husband of a woman I worked with. I had always assumed him to be straight. He was the epitome of a conservative family man. This small arcade was of course the domain of people looking for an anonymous encounter. If the clientele didn't think of themselves as gay, their activity certainly was.

My seeing him was all the more odd because I knew his wife at that very moment was lying in recovery from surgery in a hospital bed. After a pause, I quickly left without exchanging another glance. Driving away I quickly put the small incident behind me. For one, the ethos of such a place dictates utmost discretion. And two, anyone's life, friend or foe, can be hopelessly complicated. The woman was more than my workmate, she was also a friend. She was a beautiful woman, the mother of five grown children, some of whom were at that time in Iraq. I was extremely fond of her, as I still am.

So much for preamble.

About three months ago, I was in my neighborhood market picking up dinner. As I looked up, a fellow passed by that I recognized but couldn't place. It took five seconds or so to recognize him. This was the man! I hadn't seem him in over a year. There was a reason I didn't instantly know him - he had lost weight. Lots of weight. I smiled at him, and he smiled back. I saw from a distance his wife and waved at her.

I had only known him to be a big husky fellow. Not obese at all, in fact no belly to speak of. Just big. Big chest, arms, legs. Maybe an ex-footballer, probably around 260 - 270 lb. Now before me was a completely different silhouette. Most gay men my age saw at least a few of their friends in the 80s and 90s morph from husky gym boys to emaciated waifs in a matter of months. Such was the form my friend's husband now held.

No straight family man in Texas reduces his mass by two thirds in a weight-loss program. If he had had cancer, or any other such thing, we would have all known about it. But in a family like this, any suggestion of HIV/AIDS would be a shameful announcement to the world.

Closeted. Hypocrite. Scoundrel. The words are so easy to toss out. However I can't imagine many of my gay friends being able to resist the charms of this guy, if they found themselves cruising the same back room. Friendly, handsome, and beefy, with tufts of sandy hair poking out of his neck-collar.

Last night I was able study my friend for a few seconds. Deep circles have overtaken her beautiful face. Her common sense and optimism still shine through. But there is also something grave and worrisome. I am making a few assumptions I guess - but not many. They were planning to move to Dallas in September. That never materialized, and has not been mentioned in weeks.

I am concerned for her.
When Freud said Love and work... work and love, that's all there is, he clearly was not imagining the lives of the guys of the 619 Bearcast.

I would have to say I'm a fan of this podcast - partially because I've listened to it since the beginning. The boys are funny, sometimes witty, & for the most part intelligent. I learn lots about the gay/bear culture of San Diego and beyond - and not much else. Sometimes when it's over, I feel like it was almost a guilty pleasure.

I'm curious if this is just me.

I definitely have things in common with the boys, but after listening to a couple of hours of the chatter, I often wonder if that is a good thing?

Most of the podcasts are not so much about their lives as about their lifestyle. (I know that is a loaded word for most gay people, but it seems like the best one.) The boys rarely talk about their jobs - other than Brian's bartending job. I'm aware that one of them works as a web developer at San Diego State or something, but the others are more vague. And their relationships (when they exist), are usually kept more or less private.

What is talked about is the rest of their lives: the parties, the bar events, the drinking, the eating, the fairly heady consumption. Each podcast used to start off with a short summary of the past weekend. Sex and sexual mores are frequent topics. But the boys are hardly sexual libertines, more like aging fraternity boys. Topics like monogamy are duly discussed, but there are always giggles accompanying the mention of anything kinky.

There are obscene extremes in the world, like 21st century shanty towns & The Real Housewives of Orange County. And this simple & cheerful podcast is not one of them. The show is usually quite entertaining in a low-key way. And it's quite a little snapshot of a gay subculture. And as I said, I have lots of things in common with these guys.

But I sometimes wonder what the world's developing population would think of us. Some young person, stranded without resources and hope in Nicaragua or Uganda - who would give anything for the chance to prosper in a free & affluent society.

Is this what life is about, or should be about? This is a quandary for me.

Sad end of an era. My favorite was Sisters' & Brothers' in Albuquerque.

So many memories.
Returning my rental car, I noticed him at once, standing at the door of the shuttle bus. In white cargos, a sleeveless T, a baseball cap worn backwards, he had the urban uniform that signals. But it was his muscular build that announced itself a block away. Rugged enough to have had some rough contact sport in his past, he would be admired in any company. There was nothing 'gym-built' or forced about his figure, none of the odd proportions, the self-conscious display, the labored masculinity. He was the real thing. A hunk.

Then I got on the shuttle and discovered his little flock. Two young girls, blond and athletic, that could only belong to him. And his pretty Oriental girlfriend - Thai would be my guess. She had the same understated charm and attractiveness that he did.

On the shuttle I had a few more chances to study him. His muscular arms had a farmer's tan up to the shoulder. From the sides and collar of his T, there were soft coils of light brown hair peaking out. His handsome strong-jawed face sported a nice scratchy 5 o'clock shadow. If I say a blonde matinée idol - Dennis Quaid or Brian Keith - that would be the general type. But he was far better looking and beefier than either of them. He really didn't seem all that 'Texas' - there was a hint of worldliness about him. I imagined him in the midst of some required family travel. The whole group seemed to be spent, at the end of a long holiday.

When the shuttle arrived at Love Field, they let me exit ahead of them. At my gate, I was surprised to see them again. (This has oddly happened before. The last time was in San Francisco. I spent 4 or 5 days there roaming around by myself the week after this past Christmas, trying to do absolutely nothing. At SFO, the best looking man I had seen the entire week was getting on the same plane. I was all the more surprised that he continued with me the whole way to Amarillo. Once there, waiting for checked luggage, I was surprised again that there was no sign of wife and kids to greet him.)

The blond hunk boarded after me, but sat rather close. Thinking about my attraction to him, the word heteronormative suddenly planted itself among my thoughts. Someone used it in a response to a comment I wrote a week ago or so. I was curious if my attraction to men like this was heteronormative. Thinking about it a bit, I decided not. If he had given signals of being gay, I would have been no less attracted, and my eye contact, etc. would have been duly modulated. Who knows, I might have spoken to him.

It didn't help having been at the Eagle the night before (for all of 25 minutes), observing some of the local bear guys. In particular was a couple - I'll call them M. & M. They were in the midst a small entourage, animatedly chatting away. There is something distinctly not benign about their chatter. They are cliquish, gossipy, exclusive - and for lack of a better word - rather bitchy. They are probably just on the border of most people's idea of attractiveness. Israel tells me they are always positioning themselves with whatever stranger or group currently piques their interest as 'hot'. Maybe A-bear wannabes. (Is it still kosher to use either term?)

It's nothing new, but why oh why oh why, is it always there? I never see straight guys acting like twelve year-old girls. Maybe twelve year-old boys - but somehow that seems more interesting. Does that make me heteronormative?
The past few weeks have been so busy I can barely stand it. Hopefully I'll manage to find a little relief in the next few weeks. I'm going to NYC next weekend to see Lulu and spend a few days with an old friend. Then to Chicago for Memorial Day weekend.

This past weekend I had to accompany a hefty vocal recital in addition to the usual tasks. And of course long, long days at work. I did manage to party with one of the guys from work on Friday evening - thankfully it was the hot young cubbish one. He was pretty much smashed. He caught me off-guard in his kitchen, gave me a prolonged sloppy hug, and unbelievably said "I love you". (Of course he's married with kids.)

Late Sunday afternoon after the recital, I thought I needed something more than the glass of wine at home. So I stopped by Rumors - one of the local watering holes. It's of course not gay. It's been off and on a biker bar, a neighborhood bar, and sometimes an aspiring honky tonk. Years ago I occasionally dropped by on weekends to checkout the incredible men standing around playing pool.

After a few minutes with my beer, I noticed someone staring at me. Yuck! It was a little old man all of five feet tall with a huge 10-gallon straw hat. After an interval, I studied him again, and it began to dawn on me it was the 'Widow Pope'. Just as I was coming to that realization, an old acquaintance sat down next to me. He confirmed the identity of said Widow, and brought me up to date. I hadn't seen Rickie Pope in probably fifteen years. Armando said Rickie had survived a stabbing about five years ago - which didn't surprise me at all - he's as tough as nails. He was a one-time bartender at one of the old gay bars, the Ritz. To describe this place and it's bartender would take a much better writer than I. Rickie occasionally would reward those present with a Loretta Lynn song. On those rare nights, donning elaborate Loretta drag, he would alternate between the bar serving drinks and the occasional spotlight performance on the dance floor. He revered Loretta. Patsy et. al. were of course goddesses worthy of adoration, but he exclusively performed Loretta. It was like Landowska and Bach. Each song was approached with the solemnity one brings to Parsifal.

The character that Leslie Jordan plays in that awful movie Sordid Lives is a Texas stereotype. That character is a little unreal to me, having known someone like Rickie. But for the sake of comparison it might be useful. As I watched him gently walk up to the bar to get another round in his cowboy boots and high waisted jeans, I found myself admiring him. The courage and fortitude that he must have in abundance to not only survive in such hostile waters, but to thrive. If only those urban bears could see a gay man like this! But I'm afraid they would only see a Leslie Jordan stereotype and be all primed for the next joke. I wanted to hug him and say "I love you".



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