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.