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.

#

            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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BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, Chapter 10. Sin City

In this next chapter of the backwoods novella BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, the country boy Ben goes to New Orleans to visit Tulane and see the sights of the city.  After going to a movie (“South Pacific”) and riding the ferry back and forth across the Mississippi River, he’s tempted to go into the French Quarter, which his Daddy had expressly forbidden.

To read BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, Chapter 10.  SIN CITY, right click here and select “Open,” or to download as a free pdf file to read at your leisure whenever, select “Save Target (or Link) As.”  You can access the previous 9 chapters for reading or download from the chapter list on the book page.

BAT IN A WHIRLWIND

Excerpt from Chapter 10. – Sin City

            Walking back up Canal Street, when I came to Bourbon again, I wondered what kind of trouble I could get into simply walking down the street and taking a gander at goings-on.  At the end of the second block at Bienville Street was a bar with a crowd milling around, and you could see into the back where a band of black men was playing some awful loud Dixieland jazz, good as the stuff on the Lawrence Welk Show.

Farther along was a dark, falling-down place called the Old Absinthe House.  The rickety roof looked like any minute it’d fall on your head.  Meanwhile the sidewalks were fairly full of mostly white folks, and everybody with drinks in their hands and acting drunk.  I’d dodge out of their way to be polite and often step down into the street with the constant stream of cars.

On the corner of Conti Street was a place called Madame Francine’s that sounded like a whorehouse, but the pictures along the walls showed dancing ladies covered in feathers and glitter and not much else.  One poster was for Jada, an almost naked lady wrapped up in a huge boa constrictor.  I’d never thought of dancing with a snake before.

A man in a dark vest with a pointy beard was on the steps of Madame Francine’s, and as I passed, he called, “Hey, stud!  Come on in and see some fine ass.”  I hurried on but glanced in the open door at a lady up on a stage dancing with bare breasts and rubbing her thighs lewdly.  If that was a strip-tease, I definitely preferred Joe Ray’s version.

In the next blocks with more bars and loud jazz bands, there were still folks staggering around everywhere.  I reckoned business was pretty good for a Tuesday night.  Passing a house across the street with a pretty lacey iron balcony, through the tall windows upstairs I was impressed to see glittery crystal chandeliers and big gold-framed pictures on the walls.  The smell of beer was almost overwhelming, and it was hotter than blazes for being so late in the evening.  I figured this must be what a sweat bath feels like.

At St. Peter Street I stopped to lean against a wall and watch the flood of folks of all sorts and shapes.  I’d never seen so many in one place before.  Across Bourbon on the other corner was a big bar with a sign for Dixie’s Bar of Music.  While I was looking at it, two very stylishly dressed, handsome young men came out, followed by a girl in tight black slacks and a silky yellow blouse.  Her black hair was teased out full, and she walked with her hips moving slinky.  She was incredibly beautiful.

They crossed Bourbon and then came across St. Peter toward me.  Coming near, the girl looked straight at me with a smile that made my knees go weak.  Like lightning, I recognized the Sno-Cone boy, sure as shooting!  He had the same exquisite eyes.  The two fancy boys looked me over like maybe sizing me up for a fight, and he, (or was it she?), called brightly to me, “Hi there, handsome.”

I stood there gawking, dumbfounded, and as they passed, one of the boys said, “Oh, Mary, don’t go wrecking butch numbers on the street.”

“But it’s so easy,” she-he, Mary, replied with another flirtatious look at me and walked away as sexily as Marilyn Monroe.  Frankly, I did feel wrecked.  Mary was absolutely, positively gorgeous, prettier than Annette by a long shot.  I wondered if he-she was maybe one of those “morphodites” Danny once told me about.  I couldn’t wait to tell him about seeing one.

Panting in the crazy heat, I continued up the street past St. Ann Street, and the bars and foot traffic thinned way out.  It was mostly just houses now with front steps sticking out on the sidewalk.  I picked somebody’s stoop near the corner of Dumaine to plop down and cool off.  Kitty-corner across from me was a dark bar with a sign saying Lafitte’s, like the pirate.

There were still folks walking up and down the sidewalk, but lots fewer.  If anybody looked at me, I’d smile at them and say hi.  But it got no cooler.  Like doing a striptease myself, I took off my T-shirt and dried my face off with it.  Shortly a guy who’d passed by a while before came back and nodded again at my hi.  He stopped and asked, “Got a light?”

“Sorry,” I said, “don’t smoke.”

The young crew-cut guy smiled curiously at my hairy chest and asked, “Busy tonight?”

The way I was draped over those front steps, I couldn’t imagine why he’d think I might be.  “Not so as I’ve noticed,” I replied.

When he said he was Harry, I told him my name.  Meanwhile he looked again at my chest with a suspicious expression that made me think I ought to put my shirt back on.  Next thing he asked if I was looking for some fun.  “I already had lots of fun today,” I said.  “I went to the Zoo and to a movie and on a ferry ride.”

Harry leaned up against the house beside me and asked, “And what about tonight?”

“I’m about ready to hit the sack,” I said.  Wiping my face with my shirt again, I groaned, “I don’t think I’ve ever been this hot.”

“You do look really hot,” he chuckled and with a nudge, asked, “How’d you like to come over to my place?  It’s air-conditioned.”

I couldn’t get over all this southern hospitality, two perfect strangers inviting me to their place.  “Thanks anyway,” I replied, “but I got me a place to sleep.”

“How about I buy you a drink then?” Harry asked, eyeing my pants now like looking for something in my pockets.

Finally realizing he was a pickpocket, I hopped up from the stoop and said, “Thanks kindly, but I best be going.  Nice to meet you, Harry.”

Before you go, Ben,” he said, “how much you want for a trick?”

I laughed that I didn’t know any tricks and headed off down the street putting my damp shirt back on.  Did I look like I was in a circus?  Or a magician?  He seemed normal enough, but he must have been a tad touched in the head.  Good thing Joe Ray warned me about this kind of stuff.

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The Gin Mill, a Greek Sailor Bar

Once an elegy gets going, it’s not easy to shut off.  I can’t help but reminisce about another sailor bat in New Orleans.  I danced for years in the early 60’s in the Gin Mill, a supremely dissolute Greek sailor bar on the second block of Decatur across from the monumental Customs house.  For a change of tone, we carousers would stagger nightly up the street from La Casa de los Marinos to this Dionysian temple of dance.  The ancient place won’t be found anymore, even on the Internet.  If you remember, upstairs was the Acropolis Restaurant.  Maybe that’s still there.

You entered the Gin Mill between a long bar and a row of booths, past a bellowing juke box, and then came to the larger room with more booths and tables around the dance floor.  Only ghostly traces of a former grid of tiles remained on the worn concrete floor.  The place was generally overflowing—if a ship was in port, and there usually was one—with swarthy sailors, friendly ladies of the night, and at least one equally friendly faerie.  Yours truly.

The landmark of the Gin Mill was its barmaid (and bouncer), Jackie, who weighed in at well over 300 pounds and had a lover on every Greek ship.  (Greek sailors loved fat women—and skinny boys.)  Jackie kept a motherly eye out for the safety of my skinny Tulane student body, but I still managed to put it in many delicious positions of jeopardy.

The great attraction of the Gin Mill, besides the seafood offerings, was the fact that Greek sailors would dance alone—or with each other.  Even before the incredible “Zorba the Greek”  hit the big screen, I was doing those fantastic Greek dances  and feeling like a gay Melina Mercouri , but I’d do it on Sunday too.

The song I found most poignant for some reason was “Thessaloniki mou, but just those first evocative notes of Mikis Theodorakis’ Zorba suite can bring me to tears.  (I’d give a link to it, but the computer god won’t let me.)

I learned so long ago in the Gin Mill to cut that rope and soar free.  In La Casa I was initiated into the ecstasy of dance, but it was in the Gin Mill that I learned its philosophy and experienced its liberation.

This seems to have turned into an elegy for the fantastic New Orleans that once was, that bawdy old river port with its international culture of sailor dives along waterfront Decatur.  In my own time, the river still ran right behind the levee at the front of Jackson Square, and there were wharves along behind the French Market.  The beautiful Jax Brewery was in full, fragrant brew right across from my beloved La Casa de los Marinos.  The Gin Mill just up the street…

How terrifically blessed I was to carouse then in those legendary dives, how privileged to know the joy of pristine debauchery worthy of a novel by Jean Genet Back then I felt just like Our Lady of the Flowers.  But that wild world has been swept off away down the eternal river.  Sigh.  During the 70’s the glorious old city finally got transmogrified by twentieth century commerce, and the historic waterfront became one huge shopping mall.

A few years ago, for old times’ sake, I escaped from the cold New Mexico winter and spent a few warm months in a slave quarter apartment in the Vieux Carré.  It was just up St. Peter Street from what used to be Dixie’s Bar of Music, a legendary gay bar where I’d met a number of paramours (now a deafening karaoke palace).  Only later did I learn that while I was there, Miss Dixie herself passed on at 101.  [link]  The sentimental sojourn proved very graphically and painfully that the past only exists in my mind, and it’s uniquely my own.  That’s what makes it so precious.