Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fire Island Legends -- July 2007

We were invited to a private house party on Fire Island in July. This is the only way to experience the gay reality of Fire Island. Sure you can board the ferry and enjoy the beach, the bars, the atmosphere. But can you walk the byways and paths and enter into the private gay world that is what Fire Island is all about?

This party just happened to be a nudist event and was held in a typical Fire Island summer home. Attended by some familiar… uh… faces, yeah, that’s it, faces… this party also had some new, to us, faces.

The long ride up to Long Island was pleasant enough. Parking was easy and not very expensive and the ferry ride was exhilarating – the sea breeze, hot men all around, a few friends on the same ride. And an adventure beginning.

I’d never been to Fire Island. Legendary though it was and is, I’d never had the opportunity. Desire, yes, but no one I knew before this had ever gone or had a place there. So, it was kind of a hazy gaydream. Yes, I’d heard about the wonders of the place. Yes, I’d heard about sex in the dunes (and anywhere else you could get away with it) and yes, I’d wanted to take part (even though sand up my ass is not something I look forward to).

But I never took the initiative and organized a trip, either with people or solo. It’s no one’s fault but my own. So, this time, I thought, why not? Let’s do it and see what all the hoopla is about.

We were greeted on the Fire Island dock by Tom, who’d extended the invitation. He was sweating (it was a hot day) and his runny while sunscreen gave him a ghostly appearance. So I wasn’t sure if this was a kind of Scrooge tale or some bizarre intro to Fire Island. But I went along since I heard no clanking chains.

Tom was excited to have us there and to show us to the party site and even offered to give us a tour of the island. He was and is a frequent visitor, himself living in the Bronx (I won’t share the name he give his chosen home).

The trek to the party was short and gave us a nice walk over wooden planked paths, down leafy avenues, and through quiet byways. Occasionally I’d see a cute twink (and I do not use that derogatorily since I like twinks) ambling by, his small bathing suit barely covering his flesh. Or they’d come in twos, either couples of friends, walking and laughing. So happy. It seemed as if they were permanent residents of this pleasure planet that I’d just landed on. And I felt envious of their carefree life, their obvious sense of belonging in and maybe even to this place. They discovered it while they were young and it would have a lifetime of visits yet to come.

That made me think of a man I met while in Ft. Lauderdale. We got into a conversation round one of the pools at my hotel. He was a New Yorker, I’d have known from his accent even if he hadn’t told me. A very nice man, educated, well traveled. He’d had a place on Fire Island in its heyday. When the ground was littered with men and sex was free and easy. When the whole island was one big party for as long as you could take it. But then, he remembered, AIDS happened, and he found himself more and more alone on the island as friend after friend died. One day, he told me, he remembers sitting outside of his Fire Island home, alone by the pool and crying his eyes out. He couldn’t figure out why he chose to stay there any longer. He couldn’t stand all the ghosts. He couldn’t take the pain. And so he, like many others, chose to leave.

Now, perhaps some of the old guard have returned (and others may never have left), but there is a new generation of islanders. And the parties, though more subdued, are beginning again.

The party was quite nice – a number of delicious men and some interesting food. Guys came and went – mostly to visit the beach and then return to the party. The owner was an extremely convivial gentleman who was gracious enough to let us all trample his yard and play in his pool. Of course, have a group of naked men cavort in your home isn’t exactly a bad thing.

After a while, Tom offered to take us on a tour of the island before we boarded the ferry for home. And what a tour it was – historical and informative. And we walked around a huge part of the island taking in not only the Pines but also Cherry Grove. Moving through the dunes and little forest that separates the two parts was an education in itself. Everything was in full swing – lots of parties and laughter and fun. I felt a little like an outsider now – after having felt like a real insider at the party. But it was fun anyway. Tom pointed out lots of places where all sorts of things go on and gave an historical accounting of each place we passed. The Blue Whale, The Meat Rack, the Harbor – oh so many places and names. Tom knows names and the faces that go with them. Sailor’s Haven/Sunken Forest was among my favorites because of the name. He’s knowledgeable and unflappable.

After a long while it was time to make our way back to the dock and the ferry. When we arrived people were already crowding on. It was like a scene from a movie. There were people having dramatic good-byes, others just pushing past as if it were the last ferry for the year.

We got a great seat up top. Jason floated off into his own thoughts and I into mine. The guys in front of us were talking food and cooking and it was kind of comforting to hear them talk about their approach to recipes and kitchen work.

Before long we docked, got back in the car and headed home. But not before we stopped somewhere in Jersey for a great Chinese meal.

Birthday in New York and Philadelphia -- June 2007

Went to New York for my birthday in June this year. Indulged myself in good food, some nice shopping, and relaxing. And best of all the company of wonderful friends such as Jason who is one of the best people on the planet.

Jason wanted to explore the Eagle – a reborn leather legend. Just so happens that we arrived the night before my birthday and that was the Folsom Street East festival – except we got there after the street festival was over. Didn’t know it was FSE. But The Eagle was still crowded when we got there. And when I say crowded I don’t mean your average, gay bar crowded. I mean men wall to wall – with nary so much as a millimeter of space to squeeze through. Still Jason wanted to explore and it was a pleasant, if stifling, journey through the various floors. Jamming myself between hot and hairy men, hot and smooth men, and just hot and hotter men was, most of the time, a delight. Men in all states of undress and inebriation were there. Jason melted into the crowd and I did my best to follow; it was like being in a very sexy crowd in Times Square on NYE. At some point I left it up to him to find me and I tried to stay as visible as one could under the circumstances. I was enjoying the sights that I encountered and I could see that he was also. Occasionally we’d meet up and try our best to show each other what we’d discovered: Particularly good-looking men, men with great leather, men with other hot men. There were men making out in corners and some who had gone way beyond making out. It was a sensual delight treating the eyes, ear, and olfactory glands.
It was also blazing hot and stuffy. Even breaking out onto the roof area – where there were more men out under the night sky, wasn’t enough to catch one’s breath.
We left after a little while and walked (an extremely long walk) to Rawhide, a cozy leather bar in Chelsea. Small and friendly, they have a stripper – this one was hot and hung – and the place makes you feel at home. Jason liked the looks of the place and at some point disappeared into the men’s room to change into his leather harness. I’d forgotten that he’d brought it with him. Eventually he emerged and there was an audible gasp from some of the bar’s clientele. Jason’s harness leaves little to the imagination. He made his way around the bar once or twice then announced that he wanted to go back to the Eagle. I was OK with it except that my foot hurt and it was a long walk. But what the hell? I agreed and we were off. Out into the Spring night which was just the right temperature.

Eventually we reached the Eagle and this time, the first few floors were deserted. In less than an hour, 95% of the hunks had disappeared. It was as if some bell had tolled and they all ran home before they turned into little leather pumpkins or worse. But, not to worry, the uppermost floor and the roof deck were still filled with that last 5% and considering the size of the earlier crowd that 5% meant plenty of men. There was no lack of flesh to be bared and loads of hot, steamy men. We had drinks, we each went our own way to roam the place and scope out the men; then, exhausted, we went back to our hotel.

The rest of the weekend we went to museums – the Met is always a place that boggles the mind. I like to revisit some favorites and see whatever’s new. We walked the streets and imagined what it might be like to be rich enough to own one of the mansions on the upper East side. We had a wonderful time. There was even enough time to fit in a visit to the Sex Museum. The place was both interesting and disappointing. There was a great exhibit on sex in film – and they covered just about every variation, every sexual proclivity, and many of the films that featured these things. The rest of the museum had exhibits which seemed, if not amateurish, then just plain boring and not enough. The whole place had a temporary feeling about it. As if they are waiting to move into better quarters. Or, maybe it’s meant to feel kind of like an orgasm: Heady, pleasurable, dizzying, and fleeting. And leaving you wanting more and another and another and another and...

Later that night we traipsed around the Village –a visit to The LeatherMan – a great and very accommodating leather store. I do most of my leather shopping there. And both of us have bought some great pieces. It’s an expensive kind of interest to have but it all feels so good once you’re decked out and harnessed up. Then we found a very nice restaurant where birthday dinner was a blast. I can’t remember the name but I know where it is. And I’ll be back.

Then it was back to Philly and a gathering of friends.

We all congregated at Mixto – a fine restaurant in the gayborhood. And, I don’t know if it was birthday luck or something else, but we had the most delicious waiter. The food at this place is great, the drinks (especially one of my favorites, the mojito/mohito) are pretty good if done right. A couple of people had giant martini-like drinks in colorful glasses. When my stomach caught a look at those drinks it turned over and threatened me with trouble. So I stuck to tamer things. But the waiter was a dream. If only someone had thought to buy him as a birthday present for me.

Naked in Darlington -- Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend 2007 brought the East Coast Gathering an all male nudist weekend sponsored by PANG.

After having attended GNI last year and then going to a PANG meeting/tea dance here, it was only natural to go to the PANG-sponsored gathering. Held at a spacious camp, Ramblewoods, in a place called Darlington in MD – this gathering has a lot of charm and plenty of great guys.

Once again, Carol Channing entertained the troops and wowed them. (Now, you know it isn’t the real Carol I’m talking about, right? Not that she’d be shy about entertaining an auditorium filled with naked men.) There were contests – best buns, best this, best that, etc. An underwear fashion show, and a naked version of Family Feud.

And there was the Mr. Leather East Coast Gathering. This was a much anticipated event for me and Jason because we’d decided beforehand that he should try his hand…? His… well, that he should try. And his competition was stiff (sometimes literally). Like other beauty pageants, there was the requisite parade of contestants, the questions and answer round, and more. Each contestant was good. But Jason was better. And not just in my mind. When it came time to judge, Jason was the choice hands down. He was draped with the sash, and cheered and applauded – wildly. And, like any other celebrity, he was photographed and photographed and photographed.

During the ensuing celebration and cocktail party, an older gentleman, clad in his leather gear approached me and asked if I’d take him for a walk. He handed me his leash and I dutifully took him on his rounds. I have to say that I cam close to disciplining the little bugger as he tried to lift hi leg on several people. Can you even imagine what piss will do to leather? I don’t even want to think about it. But, wearing his jaunty leather cap, he was happy with the walk and satisfied enough to retrieve his leash and walk himself to I-don’t-know-where.

The food was great. But the kitchen staff was better – all Eastern European young men who came to the US for summer work. I’m sure these boys had no idea what they’d be in for when they signed on to be kitchen staff at a summer camp. They probably had visions of families cavorting on green fields. And I’m sure they got some of that. But at least two of their weeks were taken up by nude men frolicking over hill and dale. Buns to the wind, cocks swinging like pendulums. But did these guys show any discomfort? Not one whit. They are cool as cucumbers and let me tell you there were a few whose cucumbers I would love to have seen. Well, more than seen actually but that wasn’t going to be happening in any case.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dwarf Hamster Madness

I don’t know what possessed me. For some reason I thought I should have a pet. Something that I could relate to, something cute, something that I could derive some pleasure from. Something cuddly and cute. A cute guy would be best, or maybe a pack of cute guys. Even better. They’re cuddly. But that would take some doing as there isn’t a Cute Guy Pet Shop in this region.

So I had to figure out exactly what kind of pet I could handle. The furry and the scaly and the feathered ran through my mind, like profiles on a rapid flash menu. Dogs were out – the building doesn’t allow them (though it seems we’ve elected more than a few dogs to the Board managing the building). I don’t like cats (I actually toyed with the idea of one of those hairless cats, but, oh man, when you really look at them, they are the face of ugly.) Birds, well I had a bird once and for fourteen years I was tied down by the lovely and wonderful creature. She was a joy but I worried about her and always needed someone to house sit whenever I was away. Fish were what I wanted – I had a beautiful tank prior to moving. But I wasn’t ready to do that again just yet. The next time I get fish I want to consider it all more carefully, have something that I’d enjoy watching, and that would not take up half the room (as did my other nearly 100 gallon tank).That didn’t leave too much else in the way of pet choices.

So I thought I might get a lizard. I’m not sure what my reasons were. I just like the look and the idea. In Florida I met a guy who brought his lizard (and no, I don’t mean his trouser lizard) with him to the resort we were staying in. It was a bearded dragon and while not the most responsive of pets, it did sit there and seem comfortable being held.

Jason suggested hamsters or at least something more cuddly than a lizard. There is a host of other furry creatures: ferrets, chinchillas, rodents of every sort, and other things. And then there are hamsters. We’d been to the pet store a few times before and had seen the cutest, tiny hamsters. Dwarf hamsters. And, truthfully, I did like the look of the little creatures. So, when I finally decided to get some, we went down to Monster Pets (ah, how apt that name can seem at times). There we saw the cutest little tribe of Rubinowski hamsters – a brownish gray, black-eyed set of little guys. The normal, large hamsters are ugly by comparison and don’t bring out any warm feelings in me. Besides they are known to bite.

I didn’t want to get just one hamster. I thought he should have company. And the tank I bought wouldn’t fit the six that were in the store’s cage. So I settled for four. We took them home and Jason helped me to set up their living quarters. Nice pine shavings as bedding, gourmet hamster food, a silent wheel, water dish, plenty of places to run and hide. Toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls for them to frolic in. And for a time it was kind of fun watching them. However, you don’t get to see them all that often as they do a lot of sleeping. They’re nocturnal – sort of. They appear to violate the rules of nature whenever they please.
That was the end of April or early May 2007

Then things started going horribly wrong. Horribly wrong.

First, they became fiercely competitive about the wheel. Knocking each other out, crowding three and four at a time, running over one another. Flying out of the wheel as it reached high speeds.

Then one of the bigger hamsters continually fought with another of the hamsters. She, I called her she but I had no idea of the sex/gender of the things. But she was tough and mean and attacked the poor fellow (again my assumption) without cessation. As the books predicted, the attacker went for the balls of the victim – which is how I realized the attacker was female. She did this over and over, pinning the other down so she could get a better avenue of attack. She eventually drew blood, serious blood; and I had to isolate the poor thing. I had him in a large, very large, tin with all the goodies he needed including the wheel (I figured that since he had to be isolated he should have the pleasure of the wheel all to himself).

The smallest hamster, of the three that were left, liked to dominate the food dish – plopping herself into it and scattering all the food out of the dish. She also was quite aggressive about grabbing her favorite treats right out of the mouths of the other hamsters – like a large peanut or some other tasty morsel.

Jason agreed to take the bloodied but now good-as-new hamster. We bought him all the necessities and brought the hamster, which he named Scar (after the scar the female had made on his nose) to his apartment.

With Scar gone, I thought we’d reached a period of détente. Nope. The other two began ganging up on the tiniest one (the food snatcher). They chased her around and dominated her. I thought she was about to be killed, so I asked Jason if he’d take one more. He said yes and it seemed that Scar was happy with his old cage mate back.

We had already paid for our trip to the East Coast Gathering (see the Darlington post next) so we had to find someone who’d take care of the creatures while we were away. My friend Jesse, a gentle soul and an animal lover, agreed to feed and water them. But the ugly head of a former friend thrust itself into the picture. And that is too long a story to tell right here. But it resulted in Jesse agreeing to take the hamsters to his own home and care for them there (actually making it easier on him since he would not have to drive into the middle of the city from his location in one of the outer (but still in the city ) zones.

Fine. All set. I thought.

One morning while at camp I get a call from Jesse. “You won’t believe what happened.” I'm wary of conversations that start that way.

What happened was that the totally aggressive hamster which had scarred Scar, had given birth to a littler of hamster pups. Great. Now I’d have more. I was not looking forward to that but it’d be interesting to see the whole phenomenon as it unfolded.

I asked Jesse if he’d hold onto the hamsters a little longer after we returned since the books say that any undue stress could cause the mother to eat her young. Apparently the males don’t do this – it’s only the savage mothers, who have already de-balled the males in fights, who are bloodthirsty enough to eat their own young. Jesse agreed to hold onto them. But said the squealing of the young ones was kind of pitiful.

When we got back I was anxious to see the new situation but waited patiently. However, Jesse called in a panic soon after I returned. The mother hamster seemed to be acting insane. She would put the mewling babies, whose eyes were not yet opened and who had no fur, into the wheel and try to run with them in it! They’d go flying out around the cage. Then, in a murderous act, the mother dropped one squealing baby into the water dish where it promptly drowned.

In the other cage, Scar had apparently murdered his tiny companion. Jesse found her with her head bloody lying dead inside the little house where they both slept.

He couldn’t take the carnage and the squealing and asked if it would be OK for me to take them back sooner. I agreed.

Back here, they calmed down. Jason took Scar to school and dealt with him there. The mother hamster became a model of motherhood, caring for the little ones well (even if she did try to spin them in the wheel occasionally). But the squealing and mewling never stopped and that did get sort of annoying.

Soon the newborns opened their eyes, grew some fuzz and began to walk around. The squealing, however, still never stopped. And that was driving me nuts. I also had to help the mother keep track of them because they were beginning to get into everything. One of them even climbed into the water dish and drowned. (After that I placed it on a sort of platform which made it impossible for that to happen again but the dish was still accessible for drinking.)

Soon they were self sufficient. And I began to notice the mother attacking another hamster. But this one was attacking back and attacking others. So I had to isolate him. Which I didn’t like. I made attempts to return him to the cage but he went on the rampage again and again.

Then, in what seemed an incredible turn of events, a second litter was delivered. To the same mother. She popped them out before my eyes and sat in the wheel afterward cleaning herself. (I found out that hamsters can be impregnated more than once at the same time and that the second litter will wait its turn, so to speak, until the first litter is self sufficient. So, now I had another squealing bunch of just-a-little-better-than-rats in the cage. There were already about eight of them. This new batch made it sixteen or more. I was not a happy camper.

I fretted just about every day about what to do with this group – I didn’t want to drown them, though that was tempting. And I felt obligated to care for them. So there I was watching as the mother, more experienced this time, cared for her new brood. The first bunch, still trying to get her attention but no longer trying to suckle, was making progress every day. The newborns seemed to grow even faster than the first litter. I guess all those weeks of waiting in darkness made them a little impatient.

Inevitably the mother insisted on spinning them in the wheel. She also moved them about the cage from one impromptu nest to another. She ended up drowning one of them – and I began to think this was some sort of survival thing. Either she couldn’t handle feeding all of them and knew one would die, so she chose the weakest. Or, knowing it was the weakest and had a small chance of survival, she killed it. Probably both theories are full of hot air – maybe being a hamster is no different than being human, and this hamster was an abusive parent. Or a serial killer. Though she seemed to limit her kills to one per litter.

Now I was beginning to envision this tank filled to overflowing with hamsters as more and more litters were delivered. I could see more of the new generation becoming pregnant and then having all these little Rubinowskis multiplying like tribbles. I couldn’t stand it.

Jason found a person to adopt one. OK, one out of sixteen or seventeen – not good. I tried an ad on Craig’s List – no takers. And I kind of felt that was not a bad thing because I wasn’t sure what a stranger would do with one of them. But it didn’t help the problem.

In the mean time I was still caring for them – changing bedding – more often because more hamsters made that necessary. And I’d become used to leaving the top open. However, one night as I was gong to bed I spotted something crawling on the floor – one of the hamsters! It had plotted and executed an escape. I managed to trap it – they aren’t all that bright. They can escape but what then? They have no clue. I trapped it and plunked it back into the crowded cage.

A few nights later, when I forgot to close the cage as I was changing the food and water, another escaped. Didn’t know that until I saw the little thing among my books on the floor. Trapped him easily and that was that.

The new ones were growing exponentially and I feared another pregnancy was imminent. So, I called Monster Pets and asked if they would buy them – no, but they would take them for free. OK, I thought. That’ll have to do.

Jason decided to take two and I kept two and the rest were going to the pet store, including Scar, whom Jason had grown tired of because he had become aggressive and awful. But when I took them out for transport I realized (after counting them) that during one of the earlier escapes, two others must have made a break for it and I hadn’t found those. They either squeezed out the front door or out onto the balcony. Either way it meant certain doom. Or, maybe they just wandered the house without my being able to see them and eventually starved. We’ll never know for sure, unless skeletal remains turn up.

Took them to the store where they were accepted with glee (sure, fifteen fucking dollars apiece when they got sold, the store made out royally).

Now I have two and they seem to get along. Neither seems pregnant but I wonder what I’ll do should that happen again.

Monday, August 13, 2007

BOMBASTIC Comcastic Comcast

After a running battle with Comcast over Internet services, the final skirmish was fought and though Comcrass-t may feel they have won, they’ve actually lost.

Internet service to this apartment has been abysmally slow for nearly two years (or, since I moved into this place). I have had a succession of tech guys out here to try and correct the situation. (I don’t seem to get the cute ones, by the way. Or, maybe there aren’t any cute ones.) They all take out the Comcast version of the Star Trek Tricorder and hook it up to the system. And, lo and behold, all of them say, “You’re connection is way slow. It shouldn’t be this bad.”

Okay, good first step. Then I ask can they fix it. No one has an answer. The problem is always “outside” the building. But getting the independent contractors to fix the outside problem seems to be a hurdle over which they can never make it. Consequently I’ve been paying HIGH SPEED prices and getting less than dial-up service.

Service seemed to marginally improve for a few weeks – “let’s throw the guy a bone” – I imagined them saying. Just to shut me up. Well, the improved speed and the fact that I had a lot to do, did keep me quiet for a little while. But then last week, the connection was back to the Speed of Sludge.

I made the obligatory call. The usual tech came out. Took a look, said he’d have to look in the utility closet where all the cable connections are for this floor. Went to get a key.

Turns out the building can’t give him a key because a tech who had been servicing another call by someone else the day before, took the key and never returned it.

And no one can find the guy or do anything about it! Nor, I suspect, do they really care.

I was screwed again. Or, was I?

It turns out that a few weeks ago a new ally in the battle against Comcast monopoly has joined the fray. Verizon FiOS!

So, Comcast loses another customer – as soon as I can arrange an installation, I’m getting Verizon to come to the rescue. After a nearly two year battle, my troops are depleted and badly in need of rescue – I’m hoping this will help.

Competition. It’s swell. And – ain’t that what capitalism is all about? The way companies like Comcast act, you’d think that competition was a communist plot to undermine the glories of capitalist money grabbing. The hogs at the trough are none too happy when another, leaner, meaner piglet comes to feed. Oh well, they are pigs after all, aren’t they?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Then it was back home for three weeks in January while I contemplated having to fly to Chicago. In February. Was I nuts? I'm no fan of cold weather and I questioned my sanity daily for deciding to accept the gracious invitation of Todd Stone (author of Novelist's Boot Camp) and the Love Is Murder folk to appear on several panels at the Midwest confab. But as much as I hate cold weather, I like getting together with other writers, publisher, and fans a lot more.
Jason drove me to the airport one chilly Philly morning and I went through the check-in and remove-your-shoes routine. Hey, I'm all for it. Security is best. If they want us to fly nude, I'm right there! Once all that was taken care of, I flew off to the Windy City.

It was gray, COLD, and snowy when I stepped out onto a drab walkway to wait for the hotel shuttle to pick me up. The February air was like ice and the wind was strong. I looked into the sky and saw a bird fighting against the draft in the gray-white sky. Not an easy task -- I wondered what the hell it was doing out on a day like that. But then it was a bird. As for me, I wasn't feeling bad at all -- I needed to be out in an open space. After being cramped in a coach-class seat for hours and breathing the stuffy air of the airline cabin, I stood out in the cold, gulping in the frozen air, not caring about the temperature. Just glad to be on solid ground and not sandwiched between other passengers and sucking in recycled air laden with who-knows-what. I thought the sub-zero temperature might kill off whatever germs the other passengers had managed to put into the air filtration system.

Eventually the hotel shuttle arrived – only my left ear was frostbitten and the doctor said the right ear was almost there. Just kidding. The nice Italian shuttle driver and I were the only two on the mini-bus. And he regaled me with tales of his family's coming to America . He's about the age of some of my aunts and uncles so it was familiar territory.

The day after I arrived, Love is Murder began in earnest and I was treated to a most wonderful conference. The people were warm and welcoming, the panels were interesting and informative, and the program overall was super.

I met a lot of fabulous people from here and there and made some new friends. More about some of them later on.

Morgan Mandel, author of Two Wrongs, took lots of video at LIM and here's one of them:


After the train ride from Hell, it was a pleasure more than a pleasure to spend time in Ft. Lauderdale.

Beautiful. Gay Gay Gay and with lots of choice.

We stayed one of the many gay resorts – this time it was the Worthington-Alcazar, which is a combo of two resorts, has quite a few rooms, two pools, and men. Lots of men. Most everyone is friendly and at the often-held cocktail parties, guys get even friendlier. Oh, and did I mention, it’s a clothing optional place – where most people opt for no clothing.

Best friend Jason and I spent the days lolling by the pool and doing the three Rs – reading, relaxing, resting. The water was delicious, the Jacuzzi was hot (in more ways than one), and the nights were filled with a mystery that made them special.

Jason is always on the lookout for the perfect guy. Well, so am I but he seems to find them a lot quicker. Maybe I’m too picky. The good thing is our tastes diverge here and there and we usually don’t squabble over anyone. There was this one exception but… Jason and I are still best friends.

Ft. Lauderdale is one of the best places a gay guy can vacation – it has everything. And lots of it all.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Amtrak Nightmare Part II

In Part II – The Nightmare Continues

When last we left the nightmare train, the Loudmouth from Grocery Row had gone to get something to eat. The silence was unbelievable, spoiled only by the thought that he would return. Unless, by some stroke of luck, he took a wrong turn and walked out the door as the train sped through the South.

No such luck. Before long, he returned. I glanced to the side and saw that the woman who was sitting next to him had fallen into a coma. Her head lolled like that of a doll abandoned by a thoughtless child. The Grocer stopped to look at her before he sat down and noticed that she was unresponsive.

“Oh, goin’ to sleep on me, huh?” His voice cut the silence like a dum-dum bullet through plate glass.

She, of course, could not or would not respond. Instead she continued dead possum routine.

The Grocer sat and tried for about a millisecond to contemplate the back of the seat in front of him. Nope, being alone with himself wasn’t an option. Instead he pulled out his cell phone, in a train car filled with people trying to get as much sleep as they could squeezed and squashed in their egg-carton seats. And he begins a series of calls to what must have been his wife and then co-workers. There were worries about aisles with carrots and cabbages. Concern over milk cartons and orange juice. Who was taking a vacation and how would they work out the schedule. Did that delivery of green peppers really get dumped all over Main Street? Was the supermarket owner really banging the check-out girls? And, yes, honey, the train arrives at 9 AM!

That was a piece of news I almost didn’t believe. He was actually going to leave the train. In just a few hours. There would be silence for the rest of the eight or nine hours to Ft. Lauderdale. I would only believe it when I saw him leave.

At some point, he began to get no answer to calls he was placing. At least some of his friends were smart.

Then he fell asleep. His head rolled back and forth, his mouth open as if inviting whatever flying creatures there were buzzing about the train.

And then it began.

The Grocer snored. Not a gentle, low buzzing that signified contented sleep. No, this man snored like a pig in shit. Happily, loudly, as if gulping and grinding the air to get every last bit of sustenance from it. As if the air were a dishrag to be wrung out and shredded.

Reading became impossible. I turned out the lights and tried to sleep – using earplugs and lots of fortitude. Sleep did not come, at least not full, rejuvenating, reinvigorating sleep. Fits and starts was more like it.

But the good thing was that as we stopped here and there in little Southern towns and dots on the map, I was able to see some Christmas sights. Like the one town that had a huge Christmas tree and light display around a building next to the station. The tree was brilliant with white lights, everything was silent and still. The red brick building seemed clean and neat and almost like a movie set. I stared at it a long time and realized that snoring or no, it was a sight that made me feel good. And, to my surprise, even the snoring ceased.

But the best part of the Nightmare Train was yet to come.

The Grocer left the train. All was silence and discomfort. The seats were still small, the train car still suffocating, but at leas there was peace.

The hours dragged by. There was no sign of the conductor or anyone else from Amtrak officialdom. The train made its stops. The public address system was not functional except for occasional muffled static. But no words, no announcements.

We all had to guess at the stations and use clocks and schedules to figure out where we were and when our stops would come.

Finally the man we’d encountered at the beginning of the trip showed up in the car. This was the harried looking guy with hollow eyes and the hair which had gone through electro-shock therapy and looked it. The self-same man who seemed never to know what was going on or what he was supposed to do.

But he was all there was. So I got his attention and asked exactly what time we’d be arriving in Ft. Lauderdale.

“Train will arrive at 6:35 PM,” he said with exactitude.

I glanced at my cell phone clock and saw that we had an hour or so. Jason and I decided that we’d get our bags down about half an hour before arrival.

So Six o’clock came and we the train made a stop. No one announced it, the PA system didn’t even crackle into it’s half-life state. There was no clear sign what station it was but a few people got on and a few people got off.

We were getting our bags down when at 6:11 PM, the train stopped again. This time it appeared that we were ion the middle of a highway. One older woman, sitting farther up the aisle said so everyone could hear her, “Why are we stopped in the middle of a highway? What is this?”

Jason looked out the window and sad, “This must be a stop.” I said it couldn’t be. He said, “There are people getting on with a lot of baggage.”

Somehow that sparked something in my mind. Some tiny distant claxon began to sound. I got up from my seat and began to look around. I wanted to ask someone what stop this was but there was no one. Then, I felt the tug of the train as it began to pull out of the station.

I saw the station sign: Ft. Lauderdale!

I was panicked and furious. No one had come to remind us. No one had said that the station was too small for the train. The PA system never made a sound. We’d been left high and dry.

In an instant my anger overtook me and I ran through the cars in search of Mr. Electroshock Hair. I found him two cars back in an empty car – one which he’d conveniently not seated anyone. But he was busy checking out the seats.
“We just pulled out of Ft. Lauderdale. You didn’t tell us it was coming up. You said 6:35,” I snapped. I was loud, stern and angry. “What do we do now?”

“You can get off at Hollywood. The next stop?”

“But why didn’t you tell us the stop was coming up?”

“I did. I came into the car and told everyone. I told you, you were gonna hafta walk up two cars to get out.”
“No you didn’t.”
He shrugged. As if to say ‘I don’t give a good goddamn.”

I ran back to our car. Jason and I got the bags down and then I questioned several other passengers. I asked them if anyone had been in the car to announce the Ft. Lauderdale station. All of them said no.

When Mr. Electroshock Hair ambled into our car, I brought him face to face with the other passengers and asked them to tell him that he had not alerted us to the station stop. At first no one would repeat what they’d told me, as if this guy was some authority figure they had to fear. And that only served to increase my anger.

“Tell him!” I snarled. “Tell him what you told me. Tell him he didn’t come into this car.”

Momentary silence. Then I snapped again, “Tell him!”

And they did.

He just shrugged again, not giving a rat’s ass for his dereliction of duty.

At that point, exhausted and disgusted, I just wanted to get out of the train. Jason and I took our bags and hurried up two cars to get out at the Hollywood station.

Fifty dollars, a constantly whining cab driver, and a short ride later we were in glorious Ft. Lauderdale.

I wanted to kiss the ground. But I figured, germs I didn’t need.

Amtrak Nightmare Part I

AMTRAK Nightmare! Part I

Ever think of taking the train for a leisurely trip to a distant location?

Think again! And Don’t Do It!

This year, best friend Jason (who grows more muscular and hot every day as he spends his time exercising away at the gym) and I decided to take the train to Florida. We had first entertained the idea because we thought we’d take Jason’s car to FL and save the cost of renting a car while there.

Nope. That wouldn’t work. It cost nearly a thousand dollars – depending on when you go – it could be more it could be less. Amtrak is worse than the airlines when it comes to screwing around with fares, raising them arbitrarily, lowering them when you’re not looking.

Even worse: if you live in Philly or anywhere north of Virginia, you have to drive your car down to Virginia to board it and yourself onto the Auto Train. That’s several hours right there. And then, it won’t leave you at your desired location. No, it leaves you somewhere north of Orlando. So, should you want to go anywhere else, you take your car and (after an tiring train trip) drive to that location.

But I went into “take the train” mode and, since flying isn’t one of my favorite things, I thought why not? Priced it out and made reservations. Jason misheard me when I said that it would take 24 (actually more) hours to get there. He thought I meant overnight and thought that wouldn’t be so bad.

I was looking forward to the trip but not relishing the long train ride. I’d taken a similar route before. Once, when researching material for a novel, I was invited to a WWII infantry reunion. In the South. I went by train and remembered somewhat more comfortable seats than they have in reality. But on that trip the other passengers included some little children whose parents were not familiar with the concepts of discipline, sleep-time, courtesy, concern for others, awareness that they are not the only people in the train, or awareness that not everyone likes screaming, dirty kids running up and down the aisles throughout the night.

Well, when vacation time arrived, we boarded the train in Philadelphia. I should have known right then that things were not right.

First: they could not get the down escalator to work. So all of us had to lug our bags down a very long staircase.

Then: the train eventually arrived in the station and there was little indication about where to board. When an attendant did emerge from the car, he looked as if he’d been subjected to a barrage of static electricity for hours before being allowed out. He was disoriented, gruff, and mush-mouthed.

Passengers crowded around him looking at him with hope for direction. He stared back, zombie-eyed, and looked at us as if we were supposed to tell him something. So people started boarding, ignoring him. When I got near enough I asked which car we should take and he pointed to one and said “Seat 12 and 13.” I lugged my bags (three heavy ones) into the car, made my way to seats 12 and 13 and lo and behold, they were taken. No surprise really. The attendant was an idiot.

So I lugged my stuff back and said that the seats were taken. He shrugged and pointed to the other car, saying nothing more. I figured zombies don’t talk much anyway.

We took our bags and found two unoccupied seats. After piling things where we could, we sat down and tried to get settled for the 25 hour trip.

It was then I noticed that the seats were nowhere near as comfortable as I remembered them to be. The space was small and cramped. There was a baseboard that was supposed to lift out and up to give your legs and feet a place to rest. Most of them were broken. And mine was one of the broken ones. But that wasn’t the worst thing about the trip out.

No, there was worse coming on that train. Amtrak Hell was just beginning.

Once we were seated and the train got underway, the guy across the aisle started talking. Not low and he didn’t have a nice voice. I glanced over at him and noticed that he was kind of like an uncooked ham hock. Large, pasty faced, with short cropped hair that was of a nondescript color. But his voice, now that was distinctive. Something between falsetto and baritone, with a Southern twang, and a whiney, grating, unappealing quality. And he rattled on to the woman next to him. I glanced over and noticed that she was an elderly black woman who was half interested in what he was saying, a quarter being polite, and a quarter in need of entertainment for the long train trip.

He was only too glad to provide thrilling tales of his work as a grocery store clerk. He threw in his marital life for kicks, his home renovation adventures, and odds and ends when tales of too many carrots, or too much cabbage weren’t enough.

Problem is that he enjoyed talking at the top of his lungs and never, I mean never, came up for a breath of air.

For FIVE hours straight, he talked and talked. The woman next to him would occasionally laugh or ask a brief question (which he talked over). And he’d barrel on.

I went for some food and tried to find the attendant so we could chage our seats (they were apparently nutsy about people changing seats). He was nowhere to be found. A second attendant laughed about the problem and said I should find the attendant assigned to that car. Which didn’t happen because he apparently perfectred the art of being invisible.

I returned to my seat and, after casting many a scowl toward the loudmouth green grocer, tried my best to ignore him. Jason gave me earplugs. Even they didn’t keep out the guy’s buzzsaw of a voice.

We tried getting something to eat. Since Jason didn’t want to go to the dining car we each went to the snack bar for something. Jason came back with some kind of sandwich which he found satisfactlry and gave me hope that maybe the snack bar would be cheaper, quicker, and just as good.

I went to the café car and looked over the menu. There was little that a normal human would want but I managed to find a bratwurst sandwich listed. I ordered that and waited while the guy popped it into the microwave and heated it up. Things didn’t look good and I wondered why I didn’t just go to the dining car – I didn’t want to sit at a table with strangers, that was one reason. The other reasons are more complicated.

When I and the bratwurst got back to my seat, I squeezed myself into the oddly shaped space (the space was cramped because the leg rest was stuck in a half-way position, one of my bags had to be wedged under my seat(since all the overhead racks were taken) causing less space to stretch my legs, and various other little inconveniences.

Once seated I tore open the wrapping and bit hungrily into the sandwich. To my surprise, I came up with a mouthful of rubber! The microwave had rubberized the sandwich bun making it damp, far too chewy, and inedible. The bratwurst was marginally better but I figured I needed some protein and ate it without the bread. Didn’t need the carbs but wouldn’t have minded not paying for them.

I choked that sausage down with bottled water for a chaser and went back to trying to read a novel while the Grocer rambled on. Occasionally I’d hear him say, “Are you still with me? You awake? I’m putting you to sleep, ain’t? Just tell me when you want me to shut up.”

Well, no person in their right mind is going to tell someone to shut up who just told them to do just that. Because they never mean it and to tell them to shut up would mean disaster. So, the poor woman just mumbled something which allowed Grocer Man to keep talking (not that he ever really shut up to hear what she had to say).

I’d have battered him with the bratwurst well before he got the chance to as me anything.

Jason was trying to stay busy with books and other things. His earplugs kept him buffered from most of the Grocer’s monologue.

The lights of whatever burg we were passing through created a yellow-red blur in the window and I wished that there was an eject button on the Grocer’s seat. The darkness and gloom were thickening and my mood grew ever more dark. It was getting late and I should have been tired. Just the tension of travel sometimes lets me sleep while on a trip. But the Grocer’s voice was so annoying it kept sleep at bay.

Then, he announced to the woman, dazed in the seat next to him, that he was going to the café car before it closed to get something to eat.

Next: The Nightmare Continues Down the Track

Saturday, January 27, 2007


I had to travel to New York again (in December) for a reading from a new book in which I have an essay. Paws and Reflect explores the bond between gay men and their dogs. And before you yell at me because I don’t currently have a dog, I did have a dog. Several in fact. And the one I chose to write about is the one that lasted the longest and grew up along with me. Caesar. A noble name for a noble dog.

My essay, “The Little Emperor” details life with Caesar and the lessons he taught me.

The reading was an experience I won’t soon forget. I’ve done readings before – in NY even – but this one was star-studded! Sharon Sakson, one of the co-creators of this book, was in attendance and did a great job of coordinating the reading. In attendance also was Ron Nyswaner (wrote the screenplay for the movie Philadelphia) who told a very affecting story, and David Mizejewski (of Animal Planet fame) whose story was a lot of fun, and a number of others.

Of course, there were lots of dogs in attendance. They were all cute and all well behaved. But one of my favorites -- probably my favorite -- was Miss Kitty. Cute, loveable, and perky, Miss Kitty won me over completely. She looks you in the eye and makes a quick connection that you feel lucky to have. Sharon is Miss Kitty's companion.

The reading went well. Everyone in turn told their stories, some spoke extemporaneously, some, like me, read their stories. Whatever way each person did his job, the audience was pleased. Then there was the signing -- lots of autographs and lots of fun.

The reading was held at the Chelsea Barnes & Noble and I’d wanted to stay overnight afterwards so as not to have to drag myself home late at night. But nooooo, New York hotels were not to be had for anything less than $395.

I don’t care what William Shatner says, not even Priceline was able to find me something in Manhattan for under $395 – no lie. Not the first week in December when apparently everybody in the universe flocks to New York to shop.

One small chain I called said they had rooms available at two properties – can’t remember the names of the places but I remember the prices. The first the room would have socked me for $600. So I asked her to tell me what the other property cost. “That will be $1975 per night.” There was no inflection in her voice. Didn’t seem to faze her that a room, any room, could cost that much.

When I was able to speak again, I told her that it was a little more than I was looking to spend.
For $1900 I hope they have the bellboys coming in and out doing blow jobs and whatever else you want because no hotel room is worth that kind of money unless there’s lots of sex involved and I mean lots!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mr. Rubber Title, Oh My!

Brian Wins Mr. Rubber Montreal Title

Good friend Brian who lives in Montréal won the Mr. Rubber title there recently. I couldn’t get there quickly so I missed all the fun. And it had to be fun.

Brian is a hot man. Piercing eyes, a salt and pepper goatee, and a body that calls attention to him wherever he goes – that’s Brian. He lives in the Gai Village in Montréal – right in the middle of things. This year he decided, almost at the last moment, to enter the Mr. Rubber competition. He ran around getting his outfit together and planning a presentation that would ultimately wow the judges.

All the contestants had to come up with a “fantasy” scene. Brian’s scene was well documented by a photographer. He enters as an unassuming, albeit hot, man dressed in long polyester running pants and a cotton tee. Captured by two hunky men in leather (and hunky doesn’t even begin to describe them – I nearly fainted when I saw their pics), Brian is hung by a chain in some contraption. As he dangles there, the two latex hunks place a rubber gas mask over Brian’s head as he writhes in agony. The next phase is wrapping Brian in a rubber cocoon and let him twist slowly like a leaf until the metamorphosis is complete and Brian emerges as a rubber hunk. Shiny black skin-tight latex, his gas-maks head, a stiff dick contraption which cannot be missed, and a tail. A little rubber doggie tail.

It doesn’t end there – for now Brian’s training has to take place. An sever older gent, with various implements to train the new pup, takes charge and Brian is made to submit.
It must have been a real crowd pleaser because Brian won hands down. And reigns as Montréal’s Mr Rubber 2007.