A Trans Deity

Suddenly I’ve found something dramatic and significant to add to the burgeoning trans phenomenon. As a plain old faggot I haven’t been involved, but I’ve always welcomed the T in our LGBT acronym.  The QA+ETC simply go without saying…

Anyhow, this goes back to that book I mentioned in an earlier post called Chinese Myths and Legends, edited by Jake Jackson. Sorry I can’t give a full citation or authoritative quotes because I gave the book to the library at my grandson’s high school.  After some horrific legends of dragons, monsters, vengeance and murderous arbitrary fury, I was pleased to come upon a very curious legend of the goddess Kwan Yin.

Some may not be familiar with this goddess, who is known and venerated all across the orient and even India. I’ve been collecting her statues/figurines for lo these many and gathering her lore.  Kwan Yin is a complex deity:  goddess of compassion, travellers, sailors, children, motherhood, wisdom and enlightenment.  She’s the female Buddha—who achieved nirvana but declined to go “there” until all humanity can accompany her.  In that respect, I think we should also call her the goddess of patience.  She’ll need it!

Back to the curious legend. It struck me on the reading, but only now have I realized what an important piece of LGBT cultural history it is.  At some time way back in ancient history among the imperial BC dynasties, a virtuous young prince took to the spiritual/religious life and became a nun, who eventually got deified.  That’s right:  The young man became a young woman.  As I recall, the legend didn’t go into any detail about this primordial transsexual process, but he became the goddess.

Representations of Kwan Yin (unless heretical), always show her dressed as a beautiful woman without breasts. Many show her bare-chested, and there are no mammaries there.  Here are six such figures of the legendary trans deity:

The Trans Deity Kwan Yin

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Fictional Truth About Gay History

I’ve been trying to control my urge to blather about whatever, mostly focusing on things Aztec, but occasionally—out of desperation?—holding forth on things political. Of course, the latter is just more hot air.  But this time I’m going to indulge in things literary.  (In the distant past I had some experience in critiquing various classic works of Russian literature.)

Recently, my old friend Don turned me on to a novel by an Irish writer, “A Long Long Way” by Sebastian Barry, about a young man from Dublin in the trench warfare in Flanders during WWI. With little exposure to contemporary literature, I was stunned by both the writer’s ability to render that horrendous time rather long before his own birth—and the character of a youth in a situation unlike anything he could have personally experienced.  Without exaggeration, it was a tour de force.

Just as I finished reading the novel, Don and I went to a lecture (one of a long series sponsored by the Lannan Foundation) featuring none other than Sebastian Barry. It was an inspiring presentation including readings from both “A Long Long Way” and Barry’s newer novel “Days Without End.”  The author explained that he’d written that in honor of his son who had courageously come out as gay.

Don quickly bought us a copy of “Days Without End,” and I read it with scarcely a pause for breath. The story of two young men experiencing America in the mid-19th century, it’s even more stunning in its reality, in its humanity, and in the finesse of its narrative technique.  I can only concur with one of its cover blurbs that the work is a ‘masterpiece.’  Elsewhere someone has astutely remarked that it is the ‘great American novel’—written by an Irishman!

Above and beyond those kudos, I have to say that Barry’s novel opens an entire chapter in gay history with the truth only fiction can achieve. It should be put at the top of any LGBT+ reading list!  And at the risk of sounding politically stupid (but with a lot more justification than certain recent claimants), I think it should be nominated for a Nobel Prize!

Corroboration of my opinion has also come from a different quarter. While I’m not so sure about the predictive nature of horoscopes, I’ve found that the weekly sign-based messages in Rob Brezsny’s “Free Will Astrology”  are often right on as insightful interpretations of the immediate past.  For the week after I finished “Days Without End,” the astrologist suggested that I (as a Taurus) seek out stories that have the power to heal.  If ever a story has had that power, it’s “Days Without End.”

Please forgive me now for a brief vanity break: About 30 years ago I wrote a story called “Traveling Men”.  I can’t claim that it has the power to heal but do believe it’s fictionally true about gay history.  I’d be honored if you’d care to read it and agree.

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Souvenirs of Logan Circle

On reading my most recent blog about gay life in Washington DC in the Neolithic (the 1970’s) in our faerie castle the Four Belles (1320 Rhode Island Ave NW), a friend suggested that I write more about the Centennial chandelier. I’m happy to do so, but actually I want to write more in general about memories of Logan Circle and my salvage activities.

(At that time, DC was in the throes of urban renewal and tearing down entire blocks of abandoned Victorian houses. Our most urgent battle around Logan Circle was to keep that from happening to the mansions and apartment buildings there.)

Four Belles carving and 1 & 2 Logan Circle

The photo on the left is a close-up of the carving of four hands with bells from which we took the name of our house. In fact, I found out several years ago from the current owner that the original builder had indeed named it the Four Belles—for his wife and three daughters.  The Second Empire wedding cake house on the right was owned by Lewis Kleiman, the guy who took my publicity shot mentioned before.  I occasionally helped him work on restoring the place, like stripping woodwork and such—but it was like spitting in the sea.

Copper Peak, 1320 RI Ave NW

Lewis also helped me in my salvaging. Early one morning we went in my old blue van (Lavenia Van Dodge) to a ruinous house on Sixth Street and rescued its copper peak to put on the Four Belles.  To get to it, we had to climb the bannister of the collapsed staircase and scramble through a rotten hole in the roof!  The peak is 4 or 5 ft. tall and maybe 6 ft. across the base.

 

 

 

But to return to that Centennial chandelier: As remarked before, it was a gift from France along with the Statue of Liberty.  My housemate Charles, being a historic preservation bigwig, got inside on the renovation of an area in Independence Hall where the Centennial chandelier had been hung and nabbed it for our castle.

Victorian Elegance at the Four Belles

In the photo, the huge Eastlake mirror behind the chandelier was rescued from a doomed house on M Street, along with two fabulous mantles and another mirror in black lacquer. When found, it and its beveled glass had been painted white! It now lives in the Library at Santa Fe’s posh inn and spa at La Posada. So I can occasionally visit my old friend.

In the middle is one of the Baccarat prisms (about 18 in. long) hanging on my porch.  On the right is a lamp (purchased in an antique shop), which is also here in my apartment.  By the French sculptor Auguste Moreau, it sat on the newel post of the tiger-eye oak staircase in our grand reception hall.  A few shadows of the Victorian elegance of the Four Belles.

And to return to my salvage activities: Another piece I still have is a trunk I found in 1974 on like the sixth floor of the wracked-out Iowa building also previously mentioned.  I had to remove its shredded canvas covering and live with the raw wood, but after all these decades, it still holds my blankets and linens.  Like that beautiful building, it has survived!

Trunk Found in the Iowa, 1974

There are naturally many stories to be told about salvaging, but I’ll only impose on you with a few. The first was an adventure of saving a plaster ceiling medallion like the one shown below, though I recalling it being a bit more ornate, if you can imagine that:

Victorian Ceiling Medallion

The derelict house was just a few doors down M Street from the one with the mirrors and mantles. I hauled my ladder into its crumbling dining room and proceeded to the cautious work of removing the ceiling medallion.  In the middle of the job, the entire ceiling of plaster and lathe let go of the joists.  There I was standing at the top of the ladder like Atlas holding up a very heavy sky!  With extreme trepidation and caution I tilted the slab to rest one edge on the floor, and with the other side propped on the ladder, I climbed down.  Then it was a fairly simple job to remove the prize and haul it away in trusty old Lavenia Van Dodge.

After untold hours of cleaning and restoration, I gave the medallion to one of the new urban pioneer neighbors around the Circle. Can’t recall who…  That’s what I did with the mantles, fancy woodwork, and such that I salvaged as welcome-wagon gifts.

A major salvage accomplishment was getting into a gorgeous Greek Revival building at, I believe, 12th and O (former home of DC’s black Masonic Lodge), the day before it came down.  They’d abandoned their library, and my friends and I loaded it out of the back window into Lavenia.  In the horde I found among other fascinating volumes a huge tome called “Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley” by Squier and Davis, which led to my 1992 book “Remember Native America.”  (I’d just seen the old public library on Maryland Avenue get knocked down with all the books still in it!)

And one more anecdote: After salvaging some mantles and sets of fabulous glazed tiles from the fireplace surrounds from another house, I went to a dinner party with the family of a lady friend in Alexandria.  Her aged grandmother was our hostess and was fascinated to hear about all my salvaging activity.  When I mentioned the address of that day’s rescues, the grandmother almost had a cardiac:  It was the house where she’d been a little girl, and the room with the green tiles had been her bedroom.  I came back the next day and gave her one of them as a souvenir.

Victorian Glazed Tile from Fireplace Surround

Later, in 1982, I installed several of the tiles around the kitchen sink in my next Victorian, a little Queen Anne in Denver, with this one left over.

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Neolithic Gay History

Some months ago I started reading a book by Jim Downs called “STAND BY ME, The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation,” Basic Books, 2016. I was touched that a guy probably born around 1980 found it important in 2005 to research gay history from the 1970’s—and was amused that he considered that decade “ancient” gay history.

Of course, I’m even older than ancient, having come out for the first time in the Stone Age (1961). I wrote about that period in my second novel, DIVINE DEBAUCH. When I came out for the second time in 1970, which is the subject of my second memoir (in progress), it was essentially the Neolithic epoch.  The 1980’s were actually our “ancient” history.

Now that I’ve finished the book, I have to say that for me the 1970’s were hardly as wild, sordid, intellectual, political, or stylish as what the author described, largely in New York, Toronto, and San Francisco. In Washington DC where I lived, things were almost conventionally civilized.  Since Downs wrote, “I wanted to show how the 1970s was more than a night in a bathhouse,” I really hoped he would describe the kind of gay culture and community that I experienced.

He didn’t. Not a word.  But then I suppose that’s because there was no documentation of our liberated lifestyle in newspapers or magazines.  To make up for that deficiency, I’ll point out the rather detailed outline of those years in this site’s Life section (Courtesan). It’s going to be the basis for my planned third memoir, which I’m now thinking of as “The Faerie Castle.”

That memoir will center on a splendid Victorian house at Logan Circle:

Logan Circle in the 21st Century

In this picture, the little red arrow indicates where the house sits at 1320 Rhode Island Ave NW. When I lived in it in the 1970’s there were many fewer and smaller trees. We called the house the Four Belles for the stone carving of four hands ringing bells over the front door—and for us several gay belles who lived there.  In our time, the corner with 14th Street was the epicenter of the slum, but nowadays it’s turned into the epicenter of the chic area of upscale shops and fancy restaurants. Sic transit gloria!

1320 Rhode Island Avenue NW and the Centennial chandelier

In the photo there’s a copper ball on the peak of the roof which I salvaged from a house the city tore down on 6th Street for “urban renewal.”  The drawing (by famous architectural artist Robert Miles Parker), was done before I snagged that detail.  My friends and I lived there in splendor, as shown by our chandelier in the dining room—which was Baccarat crystal and came from Independence Hall in Philadelphia, a Centennial gift to the US from France (along with the Statue of Liberty)!  I still have two of the crystal prisms hanging on my porch here in Santa Fe.

The Four Belles was an almost infamous center of DC’s gay society in that decade. Virtually daily we held sumptuous dinners in our grand dining room with perhaps a dozen guests and frequently hosted parties and costume balls.  Gay people of all artistic, political, and social persuasions passed through our “salon.”  A few years ago I ran into a fellow who well recalled having gone to a spectacular dinner party there.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember him…

My best friend and “sister” from the early 60’s at Tulane, Charles Herrington, was the true Queen in our faerie castle who presided over the banquets and salons. A major official with the National Register of Historic Places and an incomparable raconteur, Charles was a force of nature who attracted crowds of gay men into our circle (and bedded many of them).

Charles Herrington, 1976

Meanwhile, I was a sluttish Princess, or courtesan if you will, entertaining admirers in my sky-lit jungle suite on the third floor. Apart from such romantic activities, I also worked in an opera organization, salvaged architectural details from doomed Victorian houses, and was very active in the Circle’s community association. In the latter respect, I’m most proud of having saved a beautiful beaux artes apartment building, the Iowa, from the wrecking ball.

The Iowa, designed by T. F. Schneider

My other major accomplishment was translating Tchaikovsky’s opera “Maid of Orleans” for the Canadian Opera Company to sing in English. (See:  Another rather large whoop.)  A neighbor from the big white house on the Circle, Lewis Kleiman, took my press photo for that occasion:

poster art for Canadian’s “Joan of Arc” and translator Richard Balthazar

But to return to my courtesan activities, besides a parade of short-term suitors, I entertained a series of long-time admirers, most of whom were married or otherwise partnered. I was quite comfortable with always being “the other woman.”  There was the Panamanian mulatto Giovanni Gonzales (who had both a lover and a wife); the Vietnamese soldier and war hero Lai Minh Chi (who left me to marry a woman); the Arts Endowment official Jim Ireland (whose friendly lover apparently never suspected); and the museum administrator Guy McElroy (whose lover probably knew all about me).

Guy McElroy, 1979

As an epilogue to this tale of gay life in the Neolithic, for all I know, Giovanni and Chi may still be alive in DC. But I lost contact with Jim, who went “into the field” to work with opera companies and recently deceased.  While visiting me in New Mexico in 1985, Guy had an auto accident which paralyzed him; in that condition, he curated a show at the now-defunct Corcoran Gallery and then passed away.  In 1979, on the other hand, my alter-ego Charles lost his magnificent mind (went manic-depressive in that era of unmanageable lithium), and brought the fabulous world of the Four Belles to an end; after many years of suffering, he succumbed to AIDS in 1992.  And I’m now an unbelievably old man in comfortable retirement in Santa Fe.

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Stone Age Gay History

It’s always bittersweet to gaze down the deep well of the past and spy ancient moments still fresh and vivid after many decades. That happened just now as I started reading a book by Jim Downs called “STAND BY ME, The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation,” Basic Books, 2016.

So far I’ve read only up to page 7 of the Introduction. In those first pages I was touched that a guy probably born around 1980 found it important in 2005 to research gay history from the 70’s—and amused how the author considered that decade “ancient” gay history.  Taking that view, I guess I came out in the Stone Age (1961).

In the next couple pages Downs immediately placed the libertine gay lifestyle of the 70’s in the context of the ensuing plague of the 80’s. My memories of the 70’s aren’t distorted by knowing what was to come.  I saw a future promising ever more joyful liberation.

My experience of that decade was hardly as wild—or sordid—as what the author read about, largely in New York. In DC where I lived, things were more civilized:  We lived exactly the kind of gay culture and community that Downs will probably describe in pages to come.  He wrote, “I wanted to show how the 1970s was more than a night in a bathhouse.” So I look forward to reading his view of the history I lived.

He included New Orleans in his research, which pleased me much, and after another paragraph hit me over the head with “the fire in New Orleans that killed 32 people on June 24, 1973.” I then noted that the Up Stairs Lounge is to be the subject of Chapter I:  The Largest Massacre of Gay People in American History.  Tragically, scarcely a year after his book came out, that was no longer true.  There was that horrific slaughter at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

I haven’t yet read beyond that mention of the Up Stairs Lounge because I’ve found myself once again staring down that well. Living in New Orleans in 1972, I hung out in the Up Stairs Lounge, but a year before the atrocity, I moved to DC…  I’m almost afraid to read Chapter I.

Already on page two, Downs had remarked that “…gay people across the country had a responsibility to document the past and to tell our own history.” For more than 30 years I’ve taken that responsibility quite seriously in two novels.  First drafted in 1985, one was rewritten a number of times and eventually became “Bat in a Whirlwind.”  About an unconsciously gay teenager in the backwoods in the 50’s, you might say it was set in the Jurassic era of gay history.

My second novel, “Divine Debauch,” is about the gay Stone Age, that decade before Stonewall, in the fairyland of the French Quarter. There was definitely some gay history going on even then.  I’m a veteran victim of the infamous raid on the Quorum Club in June, 1964.  Just like the episode in my recent post “Got Laid,” I marginally fictionalized that raid in the novel.

Briefly, my Quorum experience happened like this: A female friend Linda and I shared a horoscope, and that day in the newspaper we were stringently warned to stay at home.  We usually went out dancing in La Casa de los Marinos but decided to do as we were told and sat around my apartment listening to records and reading.

Getting rather bored later that evening, Linda convinced me to walk her over to the Quorum Club on Esplanade to look for our friend Gia. The club was a small, low-key coffee-house which scandalously also served black folks.  As a matter of fact, that evening a black musician named Babe Stovall was playing on his guitar.

Because of defying our horoscope, Linda and I walked in a bit apprehensively and looked around for Gia. She wasn’t there, but a (black) friend of mine mentioned that she might be upstairs at George’s party.  So we trudged up the stairs and mingled our way through those also racially mixed festivities without finding our friend.

We were standing out on the rear balcony when folks in the front room started yelling, “Police!” I made to escape by climbing down into the neighbor’s patio, but Linda was too scared.  So I gallantly stayed with her, and we nervously awaited our fate.

The cops herded us all out of the apartment (past poor George lying on the carpet with blood all over his face) and downstairs to the Club, where they separated the men and women and loaded about 75 of us into various paddy-wagons. At the jail they put the sexes and races into separate cells, whites on one side of the aisle and blacks on the other.

In my white guys’ cell I got into a bridge game with some others, including a drug dealer who was awaiting transfer to Leavenworth. Meanwhile, the girls started singing “We Shall Overcome!” and the black guys all stripped butt-naked and started swinging on the bars.

The cops kept yelling at us to shut up, to no avail, and then with a fire hose they washed us up against the bars. That ruined our bridge game and swept away most of the black guys’ clothes.  The pile of glistening black bodies was better than a wet dream.

Finally they let us each make our one phone call. I called my apartment and asked my lover Eric to get my stash of money and come bail us out.  When he got there, he said, “I can’t believe you hide your money in your bedpost!”

The next day the story was on the front page of the newspaper. It began:  “Last night the New Orleans Police raided a noted center of communist, homosexual, integrationist activity…” and reported that we were ridiculously charged with “being loud and boisterous.”  Ironically, at the time I was a student (and teacher) of Russian at Tulane, and so the cops figured me for the translator for the local communist cell.

For the next couple weeks till our hearing I lived under police surveillance as a suspected commie. They apparently didn’t care that I was a flaming faggot.  Cop cars tailed me down the streets of the Quarter, but I’d walk on the wrong-way streets to evade them.  And they didn’t dare follow me into my sailor dives on the “Wild Side” of Decatur Street.

Just before our hearing, miraculously, the Civil Rights Act passed, and the DA Jim Garrison (remember him?), quickly got the charges against us dropped. Apropos of Jim Garrison, in the summer of 1963 when my then lover Alphonse got thrown in jail, I had to call up his father’s friend Clay Shaw to spring him from the clink.  That was only about three months before the Kennedy assassination, another of my close brushes with fame, or infamy as the case may be.

While maybe not strictly gay history, this tale was definitely the historical experience of a gay boy in the Stone Age. You’ll find another, the story of my getting finessed back into the closet, in my first memoir “There Was a Ship.”  The second, set in the fabled 70’s, will be the story of my second coming-out into that newly liberated world.

I guess I’m now ready to read on in Jim Downs’ history book.

Got Laid

My new online friend Walter recently posted about his basically traumatic “coming out” experience and made me realize that I had sunken that piece of my history in my novel and memoir, which so few folks will ever read. So I’m going to follow his suit and give you the following brief narrative of my deflowering.

GOT LAID

            In the upside down year of 1961, there I was:  19 years young and a student at wonderful Tulane University in incredible New Orleans, but—to my immense regret—with my cherry still intact.  In fact, my cherry was not only intact but immaculate and overly ripe.  I was getting sick and tired of the whole boring condition.

During my freshman year I’d gotten to know a guy down the hall in my dorm.  David was a good-looking blond kid from Houston, who let me in on the secret that he was “gay” and introduced me to his lover Paul, a florist.  Once they invited me to dinner at Paul’s apartment in the Garden District along with some other gay guys.  They all seemed so normal except for calling each other ‘dear’ and ‘sweetheart’ a lot.

The concept of two guys loving each other was utterly new to me, though not particularly disturbing.  Telling myself to be open-minded about it, I recalled the confusing love I’d felt for my best friend in high school.  After the party, reasoning it through as logically as I could, I came to the inescapable conclusion that I too must be gay.  Suddenly I appreciated all the cute guys around campus with different eyes.

After some months of waiting impatiently for true love to find me, my newly awakened longings soon became torments. Soon, I told myself, soon I will meet a beautiful boy, fall in love, and kiss him. The fantasy played like a rock and roll romance.  Many were the imagined scenarios I spun around naked guys in the showers and infatuations with angelic classmates, but all spring semester and into summer school, no beautiful boy ever showed up to love me.

One Wednesday evening late in sweltering June, I went with my roommate Roger and a couple other dorm guys to see Ingmar Bergman’s movie “Virgin Spring.”  It was traumatic for a sensitive college student like me, and the brutal images of the rape of that young girl haunted me on the sidewalk back to our dorm.  My friends were all quiet too.  Riding up in the elevator with them, I finally decided emphatically that I didn’t want to be a virgin anymore.

Once back in our double dorm room, Roger immediately went about his mathematical studies, which consisted of playing solitaire.  I showered, shaved, and put on my green corduroy jeans and fancy blue nylon shirt.  This was as fashionable as a country boy could manage.  Without looking up from his cards, Roger asked, “Got a date?”

“Maybe,” I replied mysteriously and left.

I already knew where to meet somebody.  David and Paul had once taken me into the wicked French Quarter to a dark little bar on St. Peter St. called the Gaslight Inn.  (One of the most marvelous things about New Orleans back then was that the legal drinking age was 18!)  So I hopped on the Freret bus to Canal Street, intent on finding a guy to cure my acute virginity problem.  Walking into the Quarter down noisy Bourbon Street through the jostling crowds and ignoring brief glimpses of bare, gyrating dancers in the strip joints, I felt my whole world turning upside down.  I was stepping off into the unknown, and it was exhilarating.

The Gaslight Inn was nestled right next door to the bustling collegiate bar Pat O’Brien’s.  When there before with David and Paul, I was nervous at first, but it turned out to be not at all intimidating.  The strangest thing had been a Hawaiian boy called Pineapple, who looked and talked just like a girl.  After a moment’s trepidation, I walked alone into the bar.

It was dark and full of smoke with men milling about.  No Pineapple.  How very dashing I felt walking right up to the bar and ordering a vodka and tonic.  Without looking directly at anyone, I took my drink over to a stool along the wall under the window—with no idea of what to do next.  Even though I was a nice looking kid with a good build and big blue eyes, no one seemed to be paying any attention to me.

Maybe I should just watch for someone attractive, I reasoned, and go up and introduce myself. No, that’s too forward—and too embarrassing.  It’s not very easy to see anyone in the dimness anyway.  By the time I’d finished my drink, my courage was definitely flagging, and I thought sadly of heading on back home to the dorm.

“Need another drink?” a voice asked from my blind side.  I turned to find a young man in the shadows, smiling at me.  “What was it?” the fellow asked, taking my glass.

“Vodka and tonic,” I managed to remember.  He went off to the bar before I could really make out what he looked like. Probably just a waiter pushing drinks, I figured.

Soon he returned with a drink in each hand.  Apparently he wasn’t a waiter.  Now I could see that he was pleasantly good looking, with dark hair in a crew cut.  After a polite thanks for the drink, I hadn’t a clue what to say.

In my silence, he said, “My name is Harry.”

Actually, I hadn’t thought about having to identify myself.  Not to give out my name in a gay bar, I lied, “I’m Roger.”  Meanwhile, I looked Harry over some more:  fairly tall, grey-green eyes, older—at least in his mid-20’s.  My next lie was that I was visiting my aunt here in New Orleans and lived out in the woods in Mississippi.  With that basic adjustment, I told him about things from back when I was a kid in Arkansas.  Harry told me he worked in an insurance office and used to live in Pensacola on the beach.

At his insistence, we each had another drink.  I was already feeling a buzz.  We engaged in further pleasant conversation, but it didn’t look to me like Harry was interested in me romantically.  And while I liked his company, there wasn’t that crazy kind of desire I’d felt for certain gorgeous guys at school.  I started to feel a little put out.  All this talking had kept me from watching out for a pretty boy.  I began to have more disconsolate thoughts about going home. Can’t catch a fish every time you go fishing.

Then Harry asked, “Can I take you home with me, Roger?”

Taken aback by the strange name and surprised to have come so suddenly upon this Rubicon, I forced back the fear and said, “Yeah, that would be nice.”

“Then let’s go!” Harry left his half-finished drink on the windowsill and pulled me by the hand.  I followed him out the door onto crowded St. Peter, not even checking if anybody at Pat O’Brien’s might have seen me coming out of that shady little place.

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            Amidst the slumber of the late-night city, all was quiet, candlelit amber and cool in Harry’s apartment at the Claiborne Towers.  The room was full of plants with only a low light in one corner.  I lay naked on the sheets beside Harry, by no means asleep.  He was definitely dozing, draped over my arm.  I couldn’t fall asleep because I felt I really had to go home to the dorm—it must have been 3 or 4 o’clock, but I had no desire to move.  The warmth of Harry touching my shoulder and thigh was so new and delicious.  Finally, I’d tasted a man’s body, smelled his cinnamon fragrance, and it was far better than I could ever have imagined.

It had been nothing at all like the struggle and violence in that disturbing movie.  Funny how easy everything was when I’d worried so much about what to do.  Like a bumpkin at a banquet, I’d simply done whatever Harry did—which meant a lot of incredible caresses on tender, secret places I’d never touched before.  All that symmetry naturally led to the infamous sixty-nine position.  I must have done it right because we came together, and I didn’t even choke.  Stunning, the sheer reality of sucking on a guy’s cock.

I was glad, too, that there hadn’t been any kissing. Kissing is something for being in love, I figured, and all this with Harry was simply sex.  Still, he’d been tender, and so I was too.  Now I felt so amazingly happy having this wonderful connection with another guy and holding him close.  After a bit, Harry awoke, and I said, “I’ve got to go home.  My aunt expects me back.”

Harry didn’t protest, probably used to strange boys leaving in the night.  I got up on the window side of the bed.  The man still lay there, lithe in the shadows and amber light, the plants vague, soft masses of light and dark around him.  There was a tiny glint in his eye as I stood there naked—oddly without shyness.  “Roger, you sure are hot!” he sighed.

Embarrassed by his compliment, I dressed while Harry watched me from the bed with appreciative smiles.  I wondered about telling him that this was my very first time.  Tying my second shoe, I decided not to. Better just a pleasant goodbye, I decided, and drift out into the night like all the other boys who must have been hot in his bed before me.

While Harry still lay there naked, I gave him a friendly handshake and let myself out the door.  Out in the hallway, I chortled to myself, Well, that was that—another virginity nicely disposed of in the Claiborne Towers.

After Harry’s great air-conditioning, outside on the street the New Orleans night startled me with its sultriness.  On the empty early-morning bus I dozed contentedly in the heat until my stop at school.  Only when stumbling down McAlister Drive did the full import of it strike me right between the eyes with a blow of wonder and happiness. No longer a virgin! I rejoiced.  That painful, troublesome barrier is now behind me!”

As I tiptoed into our dorm room, the real Roger rolled over on his side in his narrow bed, waking enough to mumble, “What you been doing?”

Walking out of my clothes on the way from the door, I answered, “Got laid.”  Then I crawled into the sack, and there wasn’t another peep from the miserable virgin.

I never saw Harry again, nor did I ever go back to the Gaslight Inn—largely because it closed down soon after.  Instead I went out to Dixie’s Bar of Music on the opposite corner of Bourbon and St. Peter or hung out in the Latin and Greek sailor dives on Decatur Street, where my carousing was a depraved combination of Fellini’s movie “La Dolce Vita” and the novels of Jean Genet.

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Still Dancing

 

Aztec God of Dance – The Old Coyote

When I started this multi-faceted blog back in early 2014, I wrote the first couple posts about my life-long OCD (obsessive-compulsive dancing). First was the one explaining my personal motto: There’s dance in the old dame yet. The second was about nightlife and my history of dancing in dives and jive-joints.  Then I got distracted by subjects in history, politics, and art.  Now it’s high time to catch up on public dancing in Santa Fe (NM—not CA, FL, TX, or elsewhere).

I last wrote on the subject four years ago when we actually had two dance clubs in town: the gay bar Blue Rooster (successor to the Rouge Cat) and a new straight nightclub called the Skylight.  To my dismay, within a few months the Blue Rooster closed down (cold-cocked?), and I had no choice but to dance among the straight young things at the Skylight to considerably less danceable music.  Any port in a storm.

Happily, the SCOTUS decision legalizing gay marriage soon caused a sea-change in social attitudes about gays, and we became much more accepted in straight venues like the Skylight. It wasn’t uncommon to see guys and gals dancing with each other, respectively—or even sharing PDAs (public displays of affection).  In this newly comfortable environment, I’d go out to dance almost weekly (whenever the old man has the energy) for many wonderful carouses.

The only fly in the ointment at the Skylight was the music. In my adolescence I’d been an avid American Bandstand rock’n’roll-er and then switched to Latin wildness for a few years in college.  Only much later, I got hooked on disco, and that was my main style for some decades.  However, disco music at the Skylight was only painfully occasional.

The more frequent music there was hip-hop, rap, and metal, which didn’t particularly ring my bell. Fortunately, at times they played Latin (called Hispanic here), which took me back to my debauched youth in frenetic cumbias and exuberant merengues.  And with an effort of sheer will, I tried to get into the new EDM (electronic dance music), which only sometimes was danceable.  Like the little girl with the curl, when it was good, it was excellent, but when it was bad, it was perfectly horrid—and way too loud.

All my life dancing has been a philosophical thing (I dance, therefore I am!)  Or maybe better, a spiritual practice (To dance is to live!).  Spiritually speaking, I’m a dervish.  As I’ve explained in my second memoir (in process), “…unlike ball-room and folk dancing, both Apollonian in their structure, synchronization, and impeccability of movement, my dance is free-form and unrestrained, responding on a visceral level to rhythms and melodies and surrendering to the divine frenzy of Dionysius.”  Call me a maenad!

Then came that Saturday night in early December last when I ambled down Don Gaspar happily anticipating another divine frenzy. Only to find the Skylight’s big iron gates closed up with a huge chain and padlock!  Stunned, I staggered up San Francisco Street to the Plaza (with its outrageous holiday lights), and ran into Brandi, Santa Fe’s prima donna drag celebrity, who confirmed that our nightclub was indeed closed down totally.  Nowhere to go but home, bereft.

After a few weeks of complaining to all and sundry about the loss of the Skylight and dancing at home in solitary splendor to reggae and Salsa Sabrosa (on KUNM), a dear friend mentioned a group called Embody Dance that meets weekly on Thursdays at the Railyard Performance Space. Their website sounded very like a group I’d visited back last spring for a splendid ecstatic experience.  Though I’d put myself on their mailing list, I never heard from them again.

The last Thursday of 2017 I showed up for a session of Embody Dance and was thrilled to find the perfect venue for my OCD: shoeless, unspeaking, and idiosyncratically undisciplined, with adventurous and dance-inspiring music.  In the delightfully diverse company of some sixty folks, for two non-stop hours I surrendered to the divine frenzy and left feeling perfectly fulfilled.

The next Thursday, the first in 2018, I went back to Embody Dance and jubilated again with an even larger crowd, some of whom were maybe even as old as I! After sixty years of dancing, I finally feel like I’ve come home.  Tonight I’ll be doing the mad maenad thing again.

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