I took my first "vacation" the Summer before my graduating year of college. I had two weeks to kill, so I just hopped in my Renault R12 and looked at the map to see where I had friends I could drop in on. I didn't plan more than a day in advance, and subsequently never gave more than 24 hours notice I was coming. Still, it worked out wonderfully. My friends were always happy to have me, and sleeping on couches and spare beds was an inexpensive way to travel.
As I got older I remained stuck in this paradigm of vacationing. I would plan a little more ahead of time, but my destinations were still largely limited to where I had friends living within driving distance. I would go on trips for work from time to time, so I was accustomed to airports and hotels, but I never seriously considered a trip of my own choosing and at my own expense. Eventually, at the ripe old age of 36, I finally decided to finally pry open my wallet and take a grown-up vacation.
The first task was to choose a destination. I was thinking of either Amsterdam, Key West, or San Francisco. I seriously considered Amsterdam. The air fare was surprisingly low, but I quickly decided that international travel was just a little too ambitious for my first time on my own. Key West was also very tempting. It turned out that Monté and his young friends were going down there around the first of the year. The problem was I found out like the day before they were to leave, and they were driving there and back in Stinky's magic bus. Not only was I afraid the vintage motor coach might suffer multiple breakdowns on the way, but I figured the bus would be a major cop-magnet whizzing through the Bible Belt with NY plates. Although they wound up making it down and back without incident, I would have been stressing out every mile of the way.
Then one day I got an email in response to a series of photos I'd just released:
His note seemed rather sweet, despite the raunchy undertones. I went back through my email archives. I found that he had been emailing me every few months or so. In just about every email he'd stick in some sort of invitation to visit him in San Francisco. I would generally reply to his messages, but we'd never really struck up an internet friendship. I also realized that he had sent me some pix in the past. The tame ones revealed a nice-looking young man, and the explicit ones revealed someone I definitely wouldn't mind getting to know better.
I replied and said that this time he just might be able to talk me into coming. We exchanged a few more emails and I considered it more seriously. There was also Biron, a San Francisco-based photographer I'd been in contact with for quite some time. I asked if he'd be interested in photographing me, and he was enthusiastic about it.
I decided to go for it. I picked the dates (largely dictated by the F1 calendar so I wouldn't miss a race), and went down to AAA to buy my plane tix. I needed to tweak my desired departure and return dates a bit due to unavailability on my first choices, and I had to shell out some fairly major bucks, but it was pretty quick and painless. I got hotel advice from an acquaintance who used to work at Cornell but moved to San Francisco some years ago. He recommended a place right on Market St. It had tiny rooms and shared bath facilities, but was very inexpensive. I called and made reservations. That pretty much did it. In one fell swoop I had everything I needed for a grown-up vacation in San Francisco.
Now there was nothing to do but wait. I kept in contact with Kenny and made a specific appointment with Biron to do a photo shoot. Still, I had a lot of time to kill in San Francisco and not a lot of plans. I sent out a message to my email list giving notice that I was coming to town if anyone wanted to meet me or had any suggestions for things to do. A few people responded, but one really caught my attention. A guy named Andrew told me he participated in a gay men's drawing group. They got together once a week, and individuals within the group would take turns modeling for everyone else. This way they always were assured that there would be a model on hand. He invited me to attend the group that Wednesday to model and/or draw.
With these few contacts and the handful of activities planned, I was all set for my trip. In the weeks that passed I got a little unnerved at what I was up to. Not only was this my first time really striking out on my own in a strange city, but every single person I was to meet was someone I'd only known on email. I hadn't even had a phone conversation with any of them. I knew from the past that these email meetings can go very well, or they can go very badly. But it was too late to back out now, so I just hoped for the best and waited for the day to arrive.
Friday April 16
That morning I got dressed in my typical travel outfit, which consists of white sneaks, blue jeans, a white under shirt, and my black motorcycle jacket. I went to work and put in a half-day. After lunch I ran around to get some last minute junk like batteries and VHS-C tapes. I also picked up a pocket-sized note pad to use as a journal on the trip. Then it was off to the airport. I was over an hour early, which suited me just fine. I'm very paranoid about missing flights, and I'm willing to sit around bored for an hour or more if it means avoiding even the possibility of a panicked rush to get to the airport with seconds to spare. Still, once I'd checked in, I had to decide what to do with myself until my flight started boarding.
Something suddenly dawned on me. I've been on and off the wagon for many years, and by sheer coincidence every other time I'd ever flown anywhere was during a period of sobriety. Being off the wagon at the time, this was the first occasion in my life I could enjoy a few drinks while flying. I got a glass of white wine and sipped it in the hotel lounge while entering some notes to start my journal. Soon it was time to get on the plane
I used to be bored to tears on flights. The most significant change I made to deal with this was to take a CD player along. It's the most valuable piece of travel equipment I now take with me. As soon as I sat down I put on some Pink Floyd, and the tranquil, melodic strains eclipsed the pandemonium of other passengers boarding and cramming their over-sized luggage into the overhead compartments. I had requested aisle seats on all my flights. Someone was already sitting in the window seat when I arrived, but as more time went by it appeared that the middle seat between us would remain vacant. Finally I convinced myself that it was safe to put on my seat belt, and just a few *seconds* later the person with a ticket for the middle seat came by and made me get up.
Soon we were in the air. Flights from Ithaca generally land in Pittsburgh where people make connecting flights. This flight was so quick that the Captain instructed the flight attendants not to bother with the drink cart. We were on the ground in Pittsburgh before my first CD had even finished.
I didn't think to check the departure time of my San Francisco flight until I was off the plane. Much to my surprise I had over 2 hours to kill. I've never been a big fan of Pittsburgh. I consider Pennsylvania to be the arm pit of the Northeast, and Pittsburgh to be the crusty deodorant residue. But I must admit that they do have one hell of an airport. The central hub is set up like a shopping mall with a wide variety of stores. I made a bee-line for the Speedo shop, as I always do.
I walked in and immediately went to the men's swim suits. They had Speedo brand thongs, which I didn't even know existed. The guy behind the counter was quick to toss out unsolicited advice on sizes. I knew that any place I'd dare to wear a Speedo thong I'd just be skinny dipping anyway, so I checked out some of their other wares. They had some athletic shirts that actually looked really good for clubbing. The guy came from behind the counter and started giving me more unsolicited help. I think he was flirting with me. I decided to try on one of the shirts.
I went into the change room and wriggled into the shirt. It was jet black and felt like it was made out of wet-suit material. It was short-sleeved, and when I zipped up the collar it came right up around my neck. It was skin-tight and accentuated every contour of my shoulders, chest, and abs. The sales guy knocked on the door with some other sizes for me to try on. I told him to come on in. I took off the shirt with him standing there and wriggled into another one. It was a size bigger and didn't have the cling that the other one did. I told him I'd take the one I originally tried on. He suggested I try on some of the matching shorts. I knew that I was buying the shirt for clubbing and not exercising, and that I'd never wear any of those stupid-looking pants. With this in mind I told him that there was no need to try them on. Later I realized he probably wanted to watch me change into the skimpy, crotch-hugging garments. If I had thought about that at the time I would have given him a good show, but it was too late.
While he was ringing me up I made conversation by complaining about the length of my lay-over. He told me that there were work-out facilities right in the airport. All the times I'd been stuck here I never knew this. I went and scoped it out, and things looked good. I paid a nominal fee and went into the locker room. As soon as I walked in the door I saw a naked, well-proportioned, red-haired young man drying off. I would have loved to just stand and stare at him. Instead I got naked myself and put on the loaner workout clothes the guy at the desk gave me.
I ran on the treadmill for a while and went over to the weight machines. Some guy with a hulking upper-body and spindly little legs was there too. He had on some Harley Davidson biker shirt with a Nazi "SS" logo on it. So much for my theory that everyone in there was gay. After a little while I spent a few minutes on the rowing machine and called it quits. The locker room was empty. I walked naked to a shower stall, and left the curtain open a bit so that if anyone wanted to peek they would have a good line of sight. Unfortunately the place was empty. I got a little chubby in the shower, but no ragers or anything. After I dried off I lingered naked as long as I could. One guy came in and quickly changed, but he took no interest in me. Oh well. I got dressed, putting on my new shirt, and headed out.
I still had about an hour to kill. I popped into a TGIFridays and quaffed down a couple quick pints of beer and wrote in my journal. Some guy left the bartender some Susan B. Anthony sliver dollars for a tip. I traded him a paper dollar to keep one for a good luck charm. It's a good thing I did, too, because he thought they were quarters. When I got up to leave I realized that the pints had gone pretty quickly to my head. But this was just fine with me, as I had a long flight ahead of me. I took a leak, and went over to my gate.
They had actually already started boarding by the time I got there. This was a first for me. Usually I've been sitting there for the better part of an hour waiting. I was seated next to a young couple who had stashed a guitar in the overhead compartment. "Ahh," I thought to myself. "San Francisco here I come!" As soon as we were up in the air they came through with the drink car. I had a white wine. One of the flight attendants had practically a bee-hive hair do, and was wearing way too much perfume. One would think that there would be regulations against perfume on airplanes, since they're basically flying petrie dishes and many people are allergic. I don't have that problem, but I really, really hate perfume.
I plugged in the headphones and watched the movie. It was "Meet Joe Black." I didn't know much about the film, but I think Anthony Hopkins is one of the best actors working, and Brad Pitt makes for some good eye candy. It was certainly better than the films I get stuck watching on busses to New York City.
*** Spoiler Warning ***
Towards be beginning of the movie, Brad Pitt's character got nailed by a car while he was crossing the street. It was the gnarliest scene like that I'd ever witnessed. One car smashes into him, hurling him up in the air. Just as he's falling back to earth a van smashes into him sending him flying even further. It was visually striking, and extremely graphic. The couple sitting next to me both broke out laughing at the same time. I'm trying to come to grips with what I'd just saw, and they're both saying to each other, "That was funny, wasn't it?" Very strange.
*** End Spoiler***
They served dinner, which was my first experience with airline food in quite a while. Honestly I didn't think it was too bad. I ate every scrap because I was hungry and I knew it would be quite a while before I'd be able to eat again. They came by with the drink cart again and I had another wine. The movie ended and they played an episode of "Mad About You," which I loathe. I put on a CD and read from my XY magazine. All the alcohol caused me to have to get up and take a leak from time to time, which made me very glad that I had the foresight to get the aisle seat. The young woman next to me had to get up once. It was weird, because she didn't say "Excuse me" or anything. She just kind of turned towards me and started to get up. The guy by the window stayed in his seat the entire flight.
After another hour or so I started to get really antsy. Much to my relief the pilot announced that we were running ahead of schedule and should touch down early. They came by with the drink cart one last time and I got a Rum & Coke. I was pretty damn buzzed by this time. This still didn't keep me from being restless and really wanting to get off the plane, though. They were now playing some A&E program about the origin of Hot Dogs. I tried to watch it, but the mulch of meat that they were grinding ever-finer was too gross to bear.
I pondered all the unknowns that lay ahead of me on this free-form journey that was about to unfold. I used to fear this kind of unknown. Just a few years ago I would be anxious and agitated, even if I was going to see people I knew. Flying into a city where I'd never been and entrusting myself to the care of people I'd never met should have made me a basket-case. But I was surprisingly calm. I've come a long way in that regard. Before I knew it the plane was coming in on its final approach.
I tried to peak out the window and get a view of this dazzling geography from the air, but I couldn't really see anything. Before I knew it we were on our final approach and quickly touched down. I tried to get out of my seat right away, but the inevitable line of people in the aisle getting their stuff out of the overheads put a quick end to my hasty retreat. I didn't need to hurry because we landed earlier than Kenny expected us, but I was anxious to get out into some open space again. When I finally stepped out of the airplane onto the jetway, I was struck with a very pungent odor. It smelled like there was a vat of dead fish right under us. But I surmised that the salty, fishy smell was probably just the natural ambient aroma of this Pacific peninsula.
When I got inside the terminal I didn't see anyone fitting Kenny's description, so I popped in the mens' room and took a leak. When I came out I saw a tall, slender guy with short dark hair wandering around like he was looking for someone. I walked up behind him, and when he spun around we both knew we'd found each other. I had been a little leery of this meeting all along. Kenny and I had only communicated on email. We hadn't even spoken on the phone. These internet "blind dates" can go very well, and they can go very badly. But the very moment I laid eyes on his smiling face, I could tell instantly that he was a total sweetheart. We shook hands and he introduced me to his partner Richard, who was far more handsome in person than the one photo of him I'd seen.
We chatted politely as we walked down to the baggage claim area. Finally my bag came out and we were off. They led me off to the parking garage and I grabbed a quick smoke as soon as we were out of the building. We came upon a very nice BMW 323i. I didn't realize I'd be traveling in such style. I didn't know it at the time, but they had *just* gotten it. They picked it up from the dealer 3 hours before my plan landed. We climbed in and they drove me into town. They took me to my hotel which was right on Market Street just up from Van Ness. I checked in and dropped my stuff off in the room. The room was on the second floor. It was small, but not quite as tiny as I'd been led to expect. We took right off again and went to their apartment where they dropped off the car. We ran upstairs just long enough to do a couple bumps.
From there we went out on foot. We walked for quite some distance. Kenny and Richard apologized for it, but the truth was the walk suited me just fine (although everywhere we went I continued to notice that salty, fishy odor). Eventually we wound up at some restaurant where we met up with some guy named Andrew. He looked like he could have been the younger brother of Barenaked Ladies lead-singer Steve Page.
We sat at our table waiting for someone to take our order. By this time the chrystal was beginning to take effect and it kind of dawned on me that I was sitting in a strange restaurant in a strange down amidst a bunch of strangers. I suddenly felt somewhat claustrophobic. I had hoped that the crystal would wake me up, but I was becoming utterly exhausted from my long day, and all the crystal wound up doing was amplifying the edgy feeling I was already experiencing. I hadn't eaten in a long time and I desperately needed nourishment, but I was totally not in the mood for anything to eat at the time. What I really wanted was to be back outside walking in the fresh air. But I sat tight forced myself to chill out. Finally the waitress came by. I got a pint which I started taking generous gulps from. That helped. I browsed the menu but I just couldn't think of food at the moment. I told Kenny I might just nibble from his plate and he said that was fine. He really was a total sweetheart. I think he could tell that I was bugging out a little, but I told him I was fine and I was feeling more comfortable anyway. When the food arrived I did nibble a little bit, which brought back my appetite somewhat. By the time we left I had actually ingested a little food.
As soon as we were back outside we started walking again, which continued to work for me. They took me to a bar called "The Hole In The Wall." I think they had a reasonably good feel for my personality from my web site. No flashy dance club for Toaph! This was basically a gay biker bar. They had my tastes pegged, but this wasn't the best execution. It was small and dark and crowded. Someone got me a beer, which was served up in a mason jar. I stood around sipping it and trying to make conversation. I wasn't bugging out anymore, but I was really, really exhausted. At one point I felt like I was going to pass out. I wasn't feeling faint or anything. My knees were just giving me warning that they could buckle at any moment. Finally I told them I just had to get out of there. They were very amenable.
Once back on the street we decided to go to one more place and then call it a night. Kenny and Richard settled on the Powerhouse. Andrew didn't like that selection at all. He tried to talk us out of it, but we wound up abandoning him and going anyway. At this point my memory starts to get a little fuzzy. I don't particularly recall walking to the Powerhouse, and I definitely don't remember actually going inside. The one thing I do remember was Kenny introducing me to someone. He was about my height, had all his hair cut off, had a septum piercing with a hoop that went in one nostril and out the other like a bull, and was dressed in rubber from head to toe, which was being stretched out by his ample physique. About the only piercing I don't care for is anything in or around the nose, but somehow it was working on this guy. I was pretty hot for him, that's all I know.
I was drunk enough at this point that I had pretty much zero inhibitions. I started talking to him and gave him the "This is my first time in San Francisco; I'm just a country boy" routine. He seemed to be interested in me. He asked me if I wanted to go out on the patio. I asked him what that was all about. He said it was a space out back where people could kiss or do whatever they wanted. I followed him out there, and he immediately started kissing me. I wasn't really ready for it, but it was NOT like I minded. I was kissing him right back and we were both enjoying ourselves.
I started looking around and saw that some guys had their dicks out so that other people could stroke them or suck them or whatever. That seemed like a pretty good idea to me, so I dropped my pants. The rubber guy was stroking me and sucking me a little, if memory serves, and I started getting swept away in a fever of tactile sensations. Apparently I hit my second wind, because I was now rip rearin' and ready to go. I was also about 80% blacked out. I heard a story the next day that there was some guy from Dallas Texas standing right beside me saying, "We ain't got nothin' like this back home!" I was totally oblivious to him, standing there almost naked, practically writhing, and saying "Oooooh, touch me, touch me, touch me!"
After a while the rubber guy had to leave so I went back into the bar with him. I got his number, said good-bye, and went right back out on the patio again. I was really, really enjoying all the hands all over my body. Every so often someone would try to stick his finger where it didn't belong, but I'd just put my own finger in the way and that was that. No one was getting rough at all. It was just a lot of fun.
A little later some guy came in who had what looked like a white 8-ball logo on his shirt. He, like the rubber guy, had all his hair cut off and looked rather cute. I asked him about the logo. He said it was a symbol that he designed himself. He was a poet, and there was a certain degree of symbolism associated with it. I was practically falling-down drunk at this point, but frequently when I'm in this state I transition to a profound level of metaphor and symbolic understanding. I started talking to him about his art. He was very serious about things. He was quite the angst-ridden artist. I asked him deep, probing questions about his self-expression, and offered my own interpretations of his symbol.
At one point he had to shake his head and rest the bridge of his nose in his fingers. "I came here to get away from everything," he said. "I had no idea I'd meet someone here who could talk about the things you do." Eventually he said he had to go. I believe I remember him coming back to the bar a little later, but I definitely remember him licking my arm pit. He said he was really into arm pits, and although I didn't share this interest I was all too happy to let him lick mine. It was odd, because just a couple weeks before when I was home in Ithaca I met someone who wanted to lick my arm pit. That was a first for me, and here I was with a second just a couple weeks later.
When last call rolled around I ordered a double rum & coke. I stood around with Kenny and Richard until it got late enough that they started kicking everyone out. I frantically started gulping my drink in the few seconds I had left.
Richard came up to me and said, "You know you don't have to finish that drink."
"No, you don't understand," I countered. "I *do* have to. I can't leave a full drink in a bar. It's not in my nature." Okay, I was pretty loaded at this time.
I have absolutely no memory of our walk back to Kenny and Richard's apartment. As a matter of fact, the next thing I can remember is the three of us naked, standing around their computer, and looking at my pictures on the www. We were all trying to get it on, but I had Whiskey Dick really bad and could barely get it up. For a good deal of time I was babbling on and on about my art. Then all of a sudden I realized I had a big stiffy. I stopped talking and started getting busy with my hosts. Sometimes when I'm really drunk and am getting sexual, my character from G*I*J*O emerges. I can only imagine what they thought of that. But it couldn't have been too bad, because eventually Richard came. Then Kenny came. They tried to get me to come, but I was still amazed that I had a hard-on at all. But I amazed myself further by actually achieving orgasm, and without undue effort.
After they cleaned up and pulled out the sofa-bed for me, we all crashed. I glanced at my watch. It was 4:30AM. East coast time would put that at 7:30AM. This was the time I got up that morning to put in my half-day of work. I had been up for 24 hours. I passed out cold.
Saturday April 17
I woke up after only a few hours sleep. My body was still strongly on East Coast time, and I have difficulty sleeping late as it is, no matter how late I went to bed. I lingered in a state of pseudo-slumber until it was apparent that I was awake and nothing was going to get me back to sleep again. It was maybe 8AM Pacific time. I tried to keep my self occupied without waking up my hosts. I leafed through a couple books which happened to be right next to the sofa bed. Mostly I just lay there. Just as I was starting to drift back to sleep they both woke up.
We took turns in the shower. I was actually still totally horny. While I waited for the shower I stood naked before the enormous mirror they had in their entryway. I got a big fat stiffy which I desperately wanted someone to suck, but they just walked past saying, "My, my..."
They had a lot to do that day, so when we left the apartment they took me back to my hotel. The night before when we were walking around in the darkness, every block looked exactly like the last. Now that we were driving around in the daytime, every block still looked exactly like the last. But this early in my trip I wasn't concerned with finding my way around. I just wanted to get back to the hotel and climb back in bed.
They dropped me off and I was able to see the building in the daylight for the first time. I went in and scampered right up to my room. I discovered that I hadn't even locked it the night before. I went inside and checked it out. The window was on the front of the building and looked directly out onto Market St. I pulled the curtains closed, stripped naked, and got under the covers. My body wanted to sleep, but my dick was wide awake. As soon as I lay down it got as hard as a rock. I kidded myself for a while that I might actually be able to sleep like that, but it remained stiff as stiff can be. Finally I threw off the covers and pounded it until I came. Then I rolled over and dozed for a while.
When I awoke I was in desperate need of food. I decided to just walk up Market St. until I saw something good. The first place was some sit-down-and-be-waited-on kind of a place. That was way too involved. I walked further up the street, and realized how many homeless people there were around. Some of them were begging for money and some were just sitting around. It made me feel uncomfortable. I just kept my eyes straight forward and went right on walking. A few blocks up I saw a McDonalds across the street. I really hadn't found anything else yet, and McDonalds was something I was familiar with in an unfamiliar city. I ran across the street and went inside.
"A quarter pounder with cheese and a milk to go," I said.
The black kid behind the counter looked back at me and said, "We don't have quarter pounders with cheese."
I was flabbergasted. I absolutely couldn't imagine that this place would not have the most basic of all McDonalds menu items. He recommended an alternative. It was some specialty double cheese burger thing. Unequipped to deal with these unforeseen events in what I had assumed would be familiar territory, I said, "Whatever." The kid then proceeded to take a load of fries out of the fryer and package a couple orders for some other people. Apparently they had been waiting or something. It took the kid FOREVER. I was totally bugging out and really wanted to get back outside. I waited and waited and finally he came back to me. He had forgotten that I had already placed my order. I ordered it again, and this time he gave me the food promptly.
I went outside and looked for a place to sit down and eat. Every place I saw already had some dirty, greasy, sooty, unkempt, smelly homeless person in it. I decided to just walk back to my room. On the way in I picked up one of the local free papers. I leafed through it as I ate my McDonalds meal. It tasted like ass. But I really needed sustenance, so I ate it down. At least the milk was good. While looking through the paper I saw a picture that looked familiar. Sure enough it was by Biron. He was showing some photos at a local bookstore, which impressed me quite a bit.
After I ate I decided to turn on the TV. It was in the wardrobe that was at the foot of the bed. I had to string an extension cord across the room to plug it in. There was a little rabbit-ear antenna that barely picked anything up. I lay in bed and watched tripe on local TV until it was time to call Kenny and Richard. When I did call Kenny said they were just finishing up with their errands and were going back home to nap. He said they thought about taking me out to dinner in Chinatown when they got back up. In the mean time he suggested I walk up to the Castro. He gave me directions, which was turn right out of the hotel door and keep walking until I got there.
I took the quick walk up to the Castro. I didn't really know what was there, exactly. I kind of pictured a park with benches where guys could sit around and cruise each other. When I got there I realized it was just a part of the city. I walked into a shop or two, but I was feeling pretty hung-over and strung out. I really couldn't deal with being in cramped, enclosed spaces. After a little while I walked back to my room and napped until it was time for dinner.
The guys picked me up right outside my hotel. Andrew was with them. We drove to Chinatown. They took me to a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant. It was just down the street from another restaurant that was more expensive, had worse food, and required a long wait to be seated. We did the typical Chinese restaurant thing of everyone ordering a dish and we all share. We started out with egg rolls and soup. By the time that was done we were all full. Then the waiter brought out platter after platter of food. It totally filled our table, and we all only nibbled. Andrew wound up with a massive cache of take-home. We all agreed that we were far too beat to even consider doing anything else that night.
On the way home Andrew got a business call on his cell phone. I hadn't realized it, but he ran a male escort service. It was quite interesting to listen to him talk. "What kind of guy are you looking for? ...pause... Big in what way? ...pause... Look, this isn't a guessing game. You have to tell me what you want if you expect to get it. ...pause... I'll check to see who's available. Call back a little later. ...click... I really hate this job."
Soon we were back at my hotel. Before I went in I walked around the corner to a little grocery store. I realized that my walk to McDonalds earlier that day had been in vain, as there was a pizza shop and sandwich shop right there. I went in the little store and got myself a couple beers. I went up to the room and sipped beer. When I emptied my pockets before retiring I found the number of the rubber guy from the night before. His name was David. Before long I climbed under the covers and passed out.
Sunday April 18
I woke up that morning way before I figured it was safe to call Kenny and Richard. I was still largely on East Coast time. I went over to the little grocery store looking for some food. The only thing I could find that suited my needs at the time was a Lunchables™ package. I went back to the room and gobbled it down. Later on I called Kenny on his cell phone. He and Richard were just up the street at the Starbucks. I had walked right by it on my way to the Castro the day before. The plan was that we'd get some breakfast and they'd show me all the touristy places in town. I threw on a wife-beater t-shirt, grabbed some stuff, and headed out the door.
I arrived to find them sitting outdoors sipping coffee. I went inside to get a non-coffee drink. As soon as I stepped in the door I was almost brought to my knees by the overpowering smell of coffee beans and brewing coffee. I'm not a big coffee fan. This smell was more offensive to me than raw sewage. I grabbed some bogus fruit beverage and went right back outside. We hung out sipping our drinks until Andrew arrived. I started to wonder if Kenny and Richard ever did anything without Andrew. I took this opportunity to use Kenny's cell phone to call David, the rubber guy I'd met Friday night. He was home, and he said he was interested in getting together, but that he was going to Sacramento for the day. He told me to call him back later that evening.
Soon Kenny, Richard, Andrew and I got up to go find some breakfast. Andrew went into the nearby SafeWay (grocery store) to get some Motrin. Just as he was coming out I realized that would have been a perfect time to get some sun screen. But we were now ready to go so I blew it off. We walked down to the Castro and went into a little diner. Having just had the Lunchables™ an hour ago I wasn't all that hungry, so I just got an English muffin. While we ate I mentioned that I'd seen in the paper that my photographer Biron had some photographs on display at the Different Light Bookstore. They said it was just up the street. We decided to go over after we'd finished breakfast.
Once out of the diner we all headed for the corner to cross the street and go to the bookstore. All of us except Andrew, that is. He got distracted and didn't see where we'd gone. We could see him as we walked towards the corner, but he didn't know where we were and wandered about looking to and fro. In a few seconds Kenny's cell phone rang. We all laughed saying that's probably Andrew. Kenny picked up and said, "We're down at the corner, fool!" He walked over and met us at the bookstore.
We went in and I checked out the photos. They looked pretty much like the stuff I'd seen on his web site, only larger and better quality. One had a cute kid with a big fat erection in full view. I knew a lot of his photography to be like that, but was a little surprised that something that explicit was being displayed openly in a public, albeit gay, bookstore. I was impressed just with the fact that he was showing his work in public. It validated him in my eyes as a professional photographer, and made me feel more legitimate as a "model" in the eyes of my new friends
We left the bookstore and headed back towards the car. Andrew had an appointment later in the day and decided not to join us on our tourism excursion. After a quick walk we were in the car and driving through the city. We found ourselves on Haight Street. Since we were so close I asked if they would take me right past the Haight Ashbury. I felt like a total tourist dork as I leaned out the window of the moving car with palmcorder in hand, but today was my day to be a tourist dork. I knew I would soon return to the Haight Ashbury on my own as one of the indigenous residents. I was a hippie long before I was an out homosexual, and I still felt a strong affinity to the "Earth people."
From there we went up to the Cliff House. We got there and I wasn't really sure what was so special about this place. I mean, it was nice, but not one of the well-known San Francisco icons I was expecting to see. But as we walked towards the building, I looked off to my right towards the sea, and I immediately recognized the view. My favorite movie of all time is Harold And Maude, and one of the scenes was filmed in this exact spot. I was suddenly very excited. We hung out there for quite a while as I stood agog, thinking of Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort running around the terrace and up and down the steps.
From there we drove through the Presidio for a while and then up and over the Golden Gate bridge. I grew up very near the 1000 Islands Bridge which crosses the Saint Lawrence River (no small body of water), and I always had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about the Golden Gate bridge. But I had to confess that it was much, much larger, and constructed to be a more aesthetically pleasing structure.
I knew that the Golden Gate bridge was constructed to connect San Francisco with Marin County, but I had always assumed that there was another densely populated metropolitan area on the other side. I was very surprised to see raw, relatively undisturbed coastal land. And it was quite striking in appearance, too. The craggy cliffs jutted straight out of the water and rose very high up into the sky, with everything coated in a layer of lush greenery. We drove up and around on the hillside to get the quintessential view looking back down to the bridge with the city of San Francisco in the background.
We drove around the peninsula for a while and then headed back to the city. We went to the site of the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915 (aka World's Fair). On the site was a visually interesting complex of columns, cornices, and a very impressive dome. Known as the Palace of Fine Arts, it was intended to be a temporary structure for the exposition. Yet here, over 80 years later, it still stood.
After we got back in the car they said they were going to take me down Lombard St. "Whatever," I thought. I didn't know where anything was. What did it matter to me what street we were going down. Then we went over the crest of a hill and started down that famous zig-zag street that I'd seen on TV. "Oh!" I exclaimed. "This is *this*!" It was pretty cool. It's a street just like any other, albeit one-way. We zigged and zagged down as I shot video with my palmcorder.
From here we went to Fisherman's Wharf. It was the most touristy of all the tourist places we'd been so far. We checked out a couple of street performers and then went up into Pier 39. We had a quick bite to eat and a couple beers, and then it was back home. Kenny and Richard both had to put in a full day's work the next day. They dropped me off at my hotel and I went up to my room. The first thing I did was take off my t-shirt, and I was aghast to see that I had unsightly tan lines on my shoulders. I had the photo shoot with Biron the next day, and this was not good. I was trying to present myself as a professional and here I'd gone and made a rookie mistake like this. If only I'd gotten the sun screen earlier that day. If only...
A little later on I called David back. He said he was a little worn out from his day in Sacramento, but that he'd be up for some dinner. He told me to meet him at La Med down by the Castro. I took right off and walked briskly to the restaurant. I couldn't remember exactly what David looked like since I was rather intoxicated when we had met, but there were no skinheads with septum piercings so I knew he wasn't there yet. I waited around out front, and in a couple minutes he came strolling up. He smiled as we greeted each other. He wasn't nearly as hot as he'd looked when I had my beer goggles on, but he was still pretty hot and definitely someone I would have asked out for dinner.
We had to wait for a table, so we sat down at the bar and had a beer. There were some uncomfortable silences as we struggled a bit with conversation. I had no shortage of words when I was all juiced on Friday, but I was a different person now. We started by reprising much of the conversation we had on Friday that I had been too drunk to remember. We talked a little bit about his motorcycle ride to Sacramento, and other motorcycle touring he'd done in California.
Finally our table was ready and we sat down. The menu was all Mediterranean cuisine. I got some kind of lamb kabobs or something. I think David ordered a vegetarian meal. Our conversation got a little more smooth as time went by, but I didn't really feel like we were connecting all that well. We seemed to have contradictory attitudes and opinions on just about everything we discussed. It wasn't unpleasant, but it wasn't like we were kindred spirits either.
When dinner was done I decided I was going to pay for dinner myself. David protested. "You can buy me drinks afterwards," I said. David had a look on his face that was less than enthusiastic. "This is if you're in the mood for drinks..." I said.
"Actually," David said, "it's been a long day and I'm really not up for the whole drinking thing."
"That's okay," I said. I was wondering if that meant our evening was over.
"But you're welcome to come over and see my place," he said.
I smiled. "I'd like that," I said. I settled up the bill and we were on our way. It was a short walk back to his place. I got to see his motorcycle that was parked in front of his building. We went up to his apartment. I hadn't been sure if he had a roommate or not, but once inside it was apparent that he lived alone. It was actually a pretty impressive apartment for San Francisco.
He started giving me a tour. We got as far as the kitchen before we were kissing. From there it didn't take long before we were on his bed getting it on. He got me naked first, and started giving me a pretty hot deep-throat blow job. He was able to do it without scraping his teeth up and down my shaft like everyone else who's ever given me a deep-throat always manages to do. Next I got him naked. I was impressed to see that this guy had about the biggest package I'd ever seen in real life. His dick was just a little longer and a little thicker than mine was, but his sack was like the size of a tennis ball. I could only imagine the bulge he must have when he wears a Speedo.
He also had a large gauge Prince Albert piercing. I'd never seen one of those in real life before, at least not up close. I was very intrigued by it. I looked at it and played with it a little before I started sucking on him. I was really into it, but I had to admit that for oral sex it really got in the way. It kept on knocking against my teeth, and it made it difficult to slip my lips over the end of his dick. Still I was enjoying the novelty of it all.
Then he met my eyes with a piercing gaze and said, "Have you ever been fucked by a pierced dick before?"
"Can't say that I have," I replied. I'd never let anyone fuck me on the first date before. Actually it is a very rare occurrence, and if I do say so a privilege, that I let someone inside me at all. But this was San Francisco, and this guy was pretty impressive, so I decided to go for it. He donned a condom and lubed up. He tried to get inside me, but it just wouldn't go. Being rather inexperienced I'm pretty tight down there. He tried for a while, and I tried to guide it in, but it just wasn't going. Finally he gave up and decided to remove the ring. He made some remark about how he usually offers to let the other guy remove it just to freak them out. I wouldn't have been freaked out in the slightest. As a matter of fact I would have loved to do it. But it was a moot point because it was all lubed up and he was having a hard loosening the slick metal himself.
Soon he was out of it and had another condom on. He started fucking away. I took him better than I thought I would, but I got pretty sore pretty quickly. We stopped for a while so I could rest. He started fucking me again, but I got too sore really quickly. We tried one more time, but that was really all I could take. I jerked off until I came all over myself. Then he jerked off and came all over me too.
I was pretty incredibly messy by this time, so I hopped in the shower to clean up. David was still naked when I got out. I wanted to linger naked with him, but I also wanted to get back to my room and crash. One thing I really love about gay sex is that it's okay to just take off when it's done with no guilt or pretense that there should be some obligatory tenderness. David was just as happy to get his apartment back to himself so that he could prepare for his work week and get a good night's sleep. It was a quick walk back to my hotel and I was out like a light.
Monday April 19
By this time I was much better adjusted to West Coast time, but I had a restless morning worrying about my photo shoot and the problems my tan lines were going to cause. I got up around 9AM and called Biron. His phone was busy. I threw on some clothes and went down to have breakfast in the little deli behind my hotel. I got back to the room and tried Biron again, but his line was still busy. It dawned on me that he spent a lot of time online, and he probably had a modem that was tying up his phone. I sat around uneasily watching TV and trying him every half-hour or so.
I finally got through about an hour before the shoot was to start. It was the first we'd spoken to each other beyond email conversations. I explained what had happened with the tan lines. He sounded a little disappointed, but said that he's flexible and I shouldn't worry about it. He was a lot cooler than I expected him to be. We decided that I'd come over and he'd have a look at me and decide then whether to go ahead with the shoot or not. He gave me directions and I realized that he was only a few blocks away from my hotel.
I got ready and went out the door. I was to his building in a jiffy. It looked like an ordinary residence building. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but I had envisioned that this guy worked in a large loft space or something. His pictures had the look of being shot in a very broad, horizontal, open area. They were all well lit, so I figured he had those big umbrella-like lighting rigs that the pros have.
I rung his room and he buzzed me in. I went up to his floor, and it looked more and more like this was just an ordinary residence building. He met me at the top of the stairs. He was a little older, perhaps in his late 40's, and had a warm smile on his face. We shook hands and he invited me in. I was very surprised to see that he wasn't in a spacious loft space, but a very small apartment with a large background cloth hanging on the end wall. It was a very nice space, if a little cluttered, but absolutely nothing like what I was expecting. My first thought, after I got over the initial surprise, was that he was able to create an amazing illusion of space in his work, assuming all his pictures had been shot right in here.
I rather expected to disrobe right away and get down to business, but he wanted to show me examples of his work. We went through a lot of his stuff. What I had thought were photo enlargements turned out to be high quality color laser prints of scans from ordinary 4x6 prints. He spoke about his models and his experiences photographing them. He also spoke of how difficult it was to make a living at what he was doing. He got almost self-deprecating at times, as if he was fishing for reassurances from me. His personality was totally, absolutely not what I expected. But this was good. From his emails I perceived him as being a typical temperamental artist: dogmatic, self-assured, and even a touch overbearing. But he turned out to be very mild-mannered, sweet, and just a little insecure. I had expected that our interactions might be tense and strained, but I already felt very comfortable with him.
After looking over his work for quite some time we decided to take some pictures. I removed my shirt and he had a look at my tan lines. He wasn't too happy about it, but decided to try to work around it. I disrobed completely. I always love the moment when I first get naked in front of a new photographer. There's something very erotic about getting naked in an entirely non-sexual situation. The initial stimulation caused me to become semi-erect. He got his camera set up and I posed in front of the backdrop cloth.
We were both initially uncertain of what to do with the shoot. He had written me and said that he was a little uneasy about working with someone who had as large a portfolio as I have. At the time I couldn't imagine why, considering I'm about the most easy-going person on the planet. But it quickly became apparent. Biron didn't want to just recreate the same kind of photos that I take of myself, but he wasn't sure how to come up with a variation. I'm definitely not one for props and costumes, and I finally realized that a great many of Biron's photos employ those elements. We decided to just try some generic nude poses and see what happened.
I was immediately frustrated by the same thing that gets me whenever I work with another photographer. When I work alone, I'm using a QuickCam and I can see the image on the computer screen before I take the picture. That allows me to get into a pose that I'm happy with. But when I'm working with someone else I have no way to know what my pose looks like. This had nothing to do specifically with Biron. It's just the way it goes when you pose for someone else. I suggested that he prop up a mirror so I could see myself. He was resistant, but I talked him into it. But after a short while it proved to be more of a distraction than anything else and he took it away again. From then on I just relied on his judgment.
I was also frustrated by the fact that my dick was not cooperating. I had planned to abstain from sexual activity for a few days before the shoot, but that was not at all what happened. I had come very late Friday night (Saturday morning). I had come once, perhaps twice Saturday during the day. And I'd gotten it on with David just the night before. It took a lot of effort for me to get it hard. Biron was also very precise in his picture taking. He would tweak the lights and my pose many, many times before he would finally snap a picture. By the time he was ready my dick would invariably go soft. I would break my pose and get it up again, and when I got back into my pose it would take Biron so long to tweak it that I'd be soft again by the time he was ready.
Another complication was that Biron kept trying to get me to smile. People tell me that my self-photos have a very melancholy mood to them. The truth is that it's very difficult for me to do a fake smile that doesn't look totally fake, so I just leave a neutral expression on my face. My smiles were not working, which made me frustrated, which made it even more difficult to smile. I was starting to get pissed, and Biron decided to go with that instead of fight it. So we did some pictures where I tried to look pissed, and I'll just say that it was a lot more successful than when I tried to look happy.
At times I just had to take a break. I'd relax into some position, and a few times Biron would say, "Actually, you look really good just like that. Don't move." That would be fine with me, because I was only relaxing anyway. But then he'd look through his camera and start tweaking my position again with stuff like, "Lift your arm. Lean your head back. Turn your shoulders," and we'd be right back to posing again. Finally we finished one roll and I was actually a little glad to have it over with.
Finally it was all over and I could relax. But of course I didn't feel like getting dressed right away. As I sat there, my dick suddenly decided to get hard again, pretty much all by itself. And it stayed hard. Finally, rather than let this boner go to waste, Biron got out another camera that was loaded with film and started clicking a few. As so often seems to be the case, as soon as we decided to stop doing serious work we finally started getting some results. We decided that since we were just fooling around that we'd really fool around. Biron got out some ropes and rigged up this fake bondage setting. While it was very difficult for me to fake a smile, it wasn't all that hard for me to feign pain and discomfort. We shot quite a few pictures before we called it quits.
We both felt a lot more satisfied after we'd done the second shoot. It all came a lot easier than the first one did, and we were both intrigued to see the results. I felt a little funny because I'd never done anything like that before, but it was Biron's mission to do something different with me than I'd done with myself, and we surely achieved that. I reluctantly got dressed, and after I'd hung out a little longer I went back to my room. I had a few beers, watched a little TV, and went to bed relatively early that night.
Tuesday April 20
The day started really well. I woke up feeling great, and I was ready to strike out on my own and explore the city. I stepped around the corner for a little breakfast. It was rather awful. I got scrambled eggs, which tasted like scrambled eggs, but I guess I wasn't really in the mood for it. I choked them down and was on my way.
The plan for the morning was to make my way to the Haight Ashbury. I'd had enough of the queer culture in town for the time being, and decided I was going to get back to my hippie roots. I was a Deadhead long before I was out as a homosexual. I walked up to the nearest subway station on Market St. and went down in. Now I'm no dummy, but my whole life I've had trouble with mass transit systems. It's ironic. I can look at an immensely complex data flow diagram or entity relationship diagram, and understand it at a glance. But mass transit maps have always perplexed me. I stood staring at this one for several minutes. There were different colored lines going all over the place, but I didn't know what was a bus, what was a subway, and what was a trolley.
Finally I decided to just go for it, pay my dollar, and figure out where to go once I got on the tracks. A voice would come over the loudspeaker whenever a train pulled into the station. They were either "inbound" or "outbound." I had no idea what that meant. I continued staring blankly at the map, but still nothing was making sense. Finally I got fed up with it and just walked back out again. I was in a pretty bad mood at this point due to my failure to figure out what hoards of other people seem to be able to understand without trouble.
The one thing I did get from the map was that Haight St intersected Market St pretty much right at my hotel. The distance didn't look that much farther than the Castro, so I decided to just walk there. I went right to Haight St and started hiking. All the way I was grumbling to myself about how things were not going as I planned and my mood got worse and worse. I got into one area that was mostly black. I later learned that it was the Lower Haight. I had wondered if I'd unwittingly walked into San Francisco's answer to Harlem. But I looked around and saw young white women walking alone, and figured it was probably perfectly safe.
The one productive thing I did at this time was to observe the busses that were going back and forth and note the numbers on them. I figured that any bus that was heading up Haight St would wind up going back down too.
As I walked along I was getting pretty fatigued. The walk to the Castro was all on level ground, and I was hiking up and down steep hills here. But I was determined to persevere to my destination. Finally I started to see some colorful shops with colorful people loitering outside, and I figured I was in the area. I kept walking past people who were looking at me and saying "Kind buds." There were even more of those than there were of people looking at me and saying, "Spare any change?"
Soon I got right into the heart of the Haight Ashbury. I didn't know what to do, but I knew I was very thirsty from my hike. I went into one little café and bought a Snapple™. I was the only one in there except for a young family who had a toddler in a stroller. As I rested my legs and drank my Snapple™, the toddler decided to just start shrieking at the top of his lungs. He didn't want or need anything. He was just shrieking for the sake of shrieking. His parents were doing absolutely nothing to stifle him and my ears were starting to hurt. I got fed up and walked back out on the street. With nowhere else to go I sat down on the sidewalk like some homeless person.
I was really getting in a pissy mood now. I thought to myself, "Okay, I'm in the Haight Ashbury. This is where I wanted to go. Now what?" The streets were lined with shops. I'm not much for shopping to begin with, and was definitely not in the mood for it now. I saw a pay phone and decided to call Monté at work. He picked up the phone, and when I told him where I was he was very touched that I chose to call him of all people. He tried to give me some encouragement and improve my mood, but I was in such a state that no one could have helped.
After I got off the phone I started walking back in the direction of Market St. After I'd only gone a couple blocks a bus pulled up practically right where I was standing. I decided to get on. It cost $0.50. I rode it all the way back to the vicinity of my hotel and got off. That was certainly a lot better than the long and arduous walk I had to get there.
I went up to my room and sat down on the bed. I sat there. And after I'd sat there for a long time, I sat there longer. I was wondering what the hell I was doing in this town. I considered all the things I'd done so far, and what among them I couldn't have done in any other city. Other than driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, there wasn't really anything. I'd gotten drunk in bars. I'd had meals in restaurants. So what? Kenny and Richard were great, and it was nice to have done some photos with Biron, but I could basically have been in Anytown USA. It was now Tuesday. I still had basically a whole week ahead of me before Kenny and Richard would be free to babysit me again.
I continued to sit in my room in silence. An hour went by. I contemplated changing my flights and just getting the hell back home. I actually contemplated that very seriously. The only thing that was stopping me was the dire fear of being stuck in an airport without a connecting flight or anywhere to stay. I continued to sit there. By the time an hour and a half had gone by, I just couldn't sit there any longer. With nowhere else to go I decided to walk back up to the Castro.
I went to the A Different Light bookstore and asked if they had any Muni transit maps. They didn't, but the guy directed me to a store that did. I went in and got one. It was like $3.00. That wasn't bad, but it was something that I thought should be free. I went up the street and got a slice of pizza. As I sat there I looked over the map. I looked at the lines that went up Haight St. I recognized some of the numbers from the busses I'd watch go by on my walk up to Haight Ashbury. At least I could ascertain now that these lines were busses. I didn't understand the Byzantine color-coding, but I knew that these lines were busses.
Finally a new paradigm of mass transit travel dawned on me. I had been at Point A and decided I wanted to go to Point B, and was frustrated to be unable to figure out how. I pondered that if I was at Point A, I could look at the lines that led away from there, and go to Point X, Y, or Z at whim. As long as I could find a bus stop that brandished the number of the line on the map, I knew that I could hop on and travel wherever that line went.
By this time I'd finished my slice and was ready to move on. David had told me about a good leather store in SOMA. With nothing better to do I decided to hoof it up there. It was on 7th between Folsom and Harrison. It was quite a hike, but I was no stranger to walking at this point. I walked and walked and walked up Market. Finally I got to 7th and turned right. The area looked really sketchy. It didn't really look dangerous, but there were ugly, warehouse-style building with dingy alleys and vacant lots. I just kept my eyes forward and kept walking. At one point I saw a beat up old Citroën Break (station wagon) parked at the curb. That was way cool. I wanted to go over and take a peak at it, but right at the same time this enormous black man who was heading my direction started to meander over in the direction of the car. Totally not wanting to get mixed up with him, I just headed to the other side of the walkway and kept right on going.
Folsom was a lot more blocks off Market than I realized. I kept walking and walking, and finally I saw a sign that said "Mr. S." That was the place. I went in and was sufficiently impressed. I saw similar stuff to that which I'd seen in the best Greenwitch Village leather shops. I'm normally a bit intimidated in shops like this, but now that I was off that scary street it felt familiar and comfortable by comparison.
I started to browse. They had lots of the cock restraint kinds of things that always catch my eye, but are too expensive and I know I'll never have a real opportunity to use anyway. The other night David had been wearing a sleeveless rubber shirt that I thought looked really nice. I went to the back and found similar garments. A sales lady came up and asked if I needed any help. Usually I'm way too shy to accept assistance in a store like this, but on this occasion I was feeling pretty self-assured and actually needed the help anyway. I pointed out what I was looking at and asked her for advice on a size. She recommended I start with the smallest size and go from there. She pulled on off the rack and directed me to the change room.
I went inside one and took off my shirt. I then put the rubber shirt over my head and commenced to struggle with it terribly. No matter what method I used to don it, I felt like I was going to asphyxiate myself before I had it down over my head. I think she heard me huffing and grunting, because she called in asking if I needed assistance. I invited her in, and she showed me the recommended technique. In a minute or two, with a lot of tugging on her part and a lot of wriggling on my part, I had the shirt on. It looked great. We agreed that I didn't need to try on any other sizes.
She took it to the front counter, and I looked at leather jocks. They had the ones with a circular hole in the front for your package to fit through with a snap-on codpiece. I took a small and medium into the change room with me. I stripped to the bone, and tried to get into one. I was already a little excited from trying on the rubber shirt, and this was getting me even more worked up. I was able to cram myself through the hole, however, and get the thing on. The hole was big enough, but the butt straps were way to tight and cut into my cheeks really badly. I tried on the medium, and it wasn't much better. I put on my jeans again and went out to get a large. This was also pretty snug under my butt, but I decided to go with it.
I brought it up to the counter and the lady put it in a bag with the rubber shirt and a bottle of latex polish. Those few items added up to$150! I whipped out my Visa card and didn't really care about the price because I was on vacation and I was emotionally prepared to be dropping some bucks. I went out of the store in a pretty good mood. I've never been one to use shopping as a mood-altering practice, but it had serendipitously worked quite well in this instance. I walked briskly up the SOMA streets, disappointed to see that the Citroën break was gone, but a bit relieved that the huge black man was gone too. I got back to Market St with all the hustle and bustle and went directly back to my room.
Once inside I tried on the rubber shirt and leather jock together. I was delighted to see that they made a pretty good combination. I had no idea where I'd ever wear such an outfit, but was still very happy with my purchases. I was in an infinitely better mood than I'd been just a couple hours before, but I still found myself sitting in my room with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Then it dawned on me. When I'd been in the Haight Ashbury that morning, I had been continuously accosted by people trying to sell me weed. I realized I could hop on a bus and be back there in minutes. I was really scared to buy drugs on the street, but it was a much better alternative than sitting bored in my room. I pondered it for a couple minutes, and then I was out the door.
I wasn't at the bus stop for long before a bus pulled up. $0.50 later I was on my way to the Haight Ashbury. I decided that I'd give my business to the first cute hippy boy I saw. Once off the bus I walked past a young girl staring up into space and singing "Kiiiiind Buuuud... Kiiiiiind Buuuuud..." No thanks. I went another half-block and a reasonably cute boy with bushy blond hair and a pubescent goatee walked past me saying, "Kind bud. Kind bud." I stopped. As I peered back over my shoulder I could tell that he instinctively sensed my desire and had turned back to me.
"What do you want?" he asked.
"What do you have?" I countered. I felt like kind of an idiot, but I'd never purchased weed other than from a familiar source.
"I've got eighths and quarters..." he said.
"How much for an eighth," I asked.
"Fifty," he said.
I got the feeling that I could have talked him down, but I just wanted to get this over with. "Sounds good," I said.
"Okay," he said. "I've gotta get it from my girlfriend. I'll meet you right up at the pizza shop."
I thought it odd that he didn't have it right on him, but I wasn't complaining. I strolled up to the pizza shop. Just before I got there he'd caught up to me. He really was a rather cute lad. We stepped over to a parked car. He pulled out a couple of bags and started showing them to me. At this point I was getting really paranoid.
"Do you see any you like?" he asked.
"Yeah, any one of them is fine," I said in a bit of a panic.
"Y'see," he went on, "they're all pretty good." He kept on sorting through the bags pretty much right out in the open.
"Whatever!" I said. "Just give me one."
He pulled one out and put the others away. I had balled the money up in my hand. He took my hand in his and made the exchange. That was actually kind of an intimate moment. He quickly exchanged my bills for the bag, and in a flash it was over. I gave him a smile and quickly stashed the bag in one of the secret vent pockets in my motorcycle jacket and zipped it up.
I made a bee line for the Haight Ashbury Tobacco Shop. I went inside expecting it to be a head shop, but it was a bona fide tobacco shop. But out of the corner of my eye I noticed the back room. I wandered in and sure enough they had all kinds of bongs and pipes. I got a small black and gold pipe, some screens, and was back out the door. I hopped on a bus and flashed the transfer pass I'd gotten before. That was it. In less than a half-hour I was on my way back to my room stocked up with exactly what I needed.
Before heading into the hotel I stopped at the corner store and got a beer. Then I was in my room getting out my goodies. "Kind bud" seemed to be an accurate description. It was sticky bud that smelled oh so sweet. I started out very light, because I was a little afraid that it could be laced or something. I put a few crumbs in the pipe, opened the window, took a hit, stuck my head out the window, and exhaled. It was like a breath of fresh air. I took another hit, and then a quick third. I sat back, opened my beer, and waited for the effects. It didn't take long. That's one thing I like so much about weed. In a minute or two my mind was off in a distant land and a soft feeling of tranquillity enveloped my body. I lay on the bed and watched TV with a big grin on my face.
That night I grabbed a little dinner at the pizza shop beside the micro mart. I went back to my room, smoked some more weed, drank some more beer, and went to bed very happy.
Wednesday April 21
I got up this morning with new-found confidence that I'd be able to explore the city on my own. I immediately hopped a bus to the Haight Ashbury. I found a little restaurant and went in for breakfast. I wanted something light, but when I saw biscuits and gravy I couldn't resist. I got a half-order, and some scrambled eggs. The eggs were as nasty as the morning before, but the biscuits were quite good. As I ate I looked at the map. There was a bus that went right from here up through the Presidio, and over towards Fisherman's Wharf. I'd already been to Fisherman's Wharf, but it looked like a nice ride.
After breakfast I went to the proper corner, and after just a minute or two the bus came by. I hopped on, using the transfer pass I'd gotten on the bus to the Haight Ashbury, and I was on my way. I traced our progress on the map, and the trip went much more quickly than I'd anticipated. I got off the bus with intentions to transfer to one that would take me right to the wharf, but I decided to find a store that sold film. Once I'd scored that, I realized how close I was to Lombard St. I hoofed it up a steep hill. The biscuits and gravy were sitting in my stomach like a brick at this point. I got to the top of Lombard St just as a cable car was coming to a stop. This big, tall black guy got out. He was apparently the tour guide, and he had a herd of tiny Asian kids running around his ankles. They took some pictures while the cable car stayed parked right in the middle of the street. After several minutes they all got back on and were on their way. I hung out for a while and took some pictures of my own. The first thing that I realized was that all the post card pictures I'd seen had been taken from above, because the floral embankments that line the street are too high to even be able to see the street surface from this level. But I took some pictures nonetheless and was on my way.
From there it was a short walk to Fisherman's Wharf. I walked through some parts of it that I hadn't seen on Sunday. It was all very touristy. There were shops with cedar model cable cars and snow globes with the bridge in them. I was tempted to buy one just for the bad-taste factor, but I eventually rejected the idea. Soon I got back up into the section I'd been in the other day. I stopped briefly to check out some of the street performers. I gave a dollar to one guy who was doing a robot-style mime routine, and he performed briefly as I took video and a couple still pictures.
I got up in the main open area, and from a distance I saw a couple guys wearing cow costumes. It reminded me of some punk rockers who used to do a public access show back in Ithaca. The guitar player wore a cow costume that was very similar. I was going to go check them out, but one of them grabbed a couple bucks from their till and headed away. He walked right past me, and in the wink of an eye I caught a glimpse of part of his profile hidden inside the hood that made up his cow costume. He looked a little like the tall, slender ringleader of the punk band. The guy had a really obnoxious attitude, but he also had a huge, spiked green Mohawk haircut, and was someone I wanted to capture on video tape. As soon as I was ready to start a new project and made inquiries about him, however, I discovered that he had left town to head "out west" somewhere.
I only caught the most cursory glance of this fellow, but he looked similar enough that I decided to follow him. I kept a discrete distance at first. He went into a Subway sandwich shop, and I waited outside. In a minute he was back out again and walking up the street. I followed more closely now. When we got under a protective construction zone walkway he turned around and started heading back. I got a good look at his face, and I was sure it was him. I stood in the middle of the enclosed walkway and blocked his path.
"Excuse me," I said demurely. "Are you Raf?"
"Yeah," he said hesitantly.
"My name's Toaph," I said. "I used to see you around the Ithaca Public Access station."
He got a big smile on his face. "Oh, yeah?," he said.
I turned and walked with him back to his buddy as we chatted about Ithaca and San Francisco. He claimed to have been to London and Amsterdam since he'd left New York. I wondered how he could travel like that on a street performer's salary, but I didn't question him. We got back to his buddy, who I then recognized as the technical director of their TV show. The kid has the strangest voice I've ever heard. It sounds like he's broadcasting on a radio station that isn't properly tuned in.
We chatted for a while as I took some video and still pictures. They did their performance, which was the most absurd thing I'd ever seen. They just screamed "Moooo" over and over again, and pretended to hit and kick each other, occasionally putting one or the other in a head lock. Occasionally tourists would wander by.
"What will you do if I give you money?" one woman asked.
"Anything you want us to," they replied.
She put some change in their bucket. They started screaming "Mooooo!!!!" and fake hitting each other. The woman hurried off rather frightened.
I stayed around for a little while. Despite the amazing, astronomical coincidence of me bumping into these two on a Wednesday morning in the most populated tourist trap in all of San Francisco, I'd had about enough. I pulled out a $10 bill, folded it up tightly, and slipped it into Raf's hand. As I turned my back and walked away, I heard Raf scream, "Mooooooooooooooo!" Moments later I heard his friend yell, "Moo! Moo! Moo! Moo! Moo!" I had to laugh to myself. Despite what these guys were or weren't making out of their lives, they were enjoying themselves tremendously. And when I heard them revel in the windfall they'd just received, I pondered how they'd developed their own form of communication comprised only of the word "moo."
From here I wandered onto Pier 39. This was apparently one of the largest of the old piers, and it had been done up with shops and restaurants in a "salty dog" motif. It was half-way between a theme park and a strip mall. Off to one side was an area where sea lions just naturally hung out. The slips on which they lay were originally designed for boats, but when they decided to start sunning themselves there the California Aquatic Wildlife Act gave them priority over humans. I darted into a restaurant, had an exorbitantly expensive glass of white wine, and looked at my transit map. I saw that there was a bus right around the corner that would take me all the way down Van Ness to my hotel. It was still early, but I decided to wrap things up for now.
I got back to my hotel room and took a nap. When I awoke, I figured it was time to call Andrew to make plans to meet for the gay men's drawing group. He picked up the phone and was happy to hear from me. He said that he'd almost given up on me because it was so late. I'm not sure what he meant, since there were still a couple hours before the group met, unless he thought I was going to call earlier in the week. At any rate, we set up a rendez-vous at the Different Light Bookstore in the Castro.
I grabbed a bite to eat and when it was time I hoofed it back to the Castro. Within minutes of entering the store a curly-haired guy walked up to me and introduced himself as Andrew. We made the quick walk to the house where the group met. Once inside, Andrew pointed to the front room.
"This is where we disrobe," he said, "and we draw back there in the living room."
"Cool," I said. I started to walk back into the living room, confident that I knew where to remove my clothes when it was time for me to model.
"This is where we disrobe," Andrew said again, as if I hadn't understood. I realized he was taking his clothes off, and indeed another individual in the room was getting naked. Andrew seemed to perceive my confusion, and explained, "We all get undressed at the beginning of the session and draw while we're nude." When he mentioned that it started coming back to me that he had explained that some time ago, but I had completely forgotten. Not that it made any difference to me. Within a few seconds I was stark naked.
I went into the living room and sat on the sofa with Andrew as more people arrived. The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea of a group of men who get nude and draw the nude male figure. I wished I had something like that back home. After about a dozen guys were present they decided to begin. The host called the group to order and asked if anyone was willing to model.
I waited for just a moment, not wanting to be presumptuous, and not seeing any other volunteers I said, "I'd be happy to model."
A gray-haired older fellow said, "I was hoping you would."
They had a light source set up at one end of the room. I stepped over and got into position. "We'll start with 2 minutes," the host said as he set a timer. I struck a pose and they all started sketching away. Before I knew it the timer went off. I'm accustomed to posing for art classes, which require significantly longer posing times. "How about another 2 minute pose?" the host asked.
"Fine with me," I replied. I struck another pose and they all started sketching away. Again, it was over before I knew it.
"You've done this before, haven't you?" the host asked.
"I've posed for art classes at Cornell a couple times," I said. I got the impression that it could be somewhat of a hassle for these guys to get whoever is modeling to achieve an interesting pose, and perhaps even difficult for that person to hold it properly for the duration.
"How about a 5 minute pose this time?" the host asked.
"Sure," I said. I struck another pose and their pencils started scratching away. Although this one went on for some time longer, five minutes is still nothing for me. The timer started beeping very quickly by my perception.
"Why don't we go right into a 10 minute pose," the host said.
I struck another pose and they started drawing again. Ten minutes was approaching a significant amount of time for me to hold one pose, but I was enjoying it. There is an ephemeral meditative quality associated with holding a pose, at least for me, and although it can be a bit taxing I greatly value the experience. I let my mind wander as they drew until time was up again.
I was prepared to pose for the entire session, but I was still self-conscious that I was hogging the position. I was under the impression that some arm-twisting is usually involved in coercing someone into posing, but I was the new kid that night and I still didn't want to be presumptuous.
"I'm willing to keep on posing," I said, "but I don't want to deny anyone else the opportunity." I was met with utter silence. That worked for me. I went right on posing.
After another couple poses, I found myself in a seated position. I had one let up under the chair and the other leg outstretched. I put one hand on the seat of the chair by my hip, and the other resting on my stomach. I positioned my head so that I was glancing down at myself. After they had been drawing for just a minute or so, I felt a little tingle down in my loins. The reality of the situation suddenly dawned on me, that I was bare naked in front of a whole room of people who were studying my nakedness. It is this realization that I have to avoid at all costs when I model for art classes. It is an incredibly arousing notion to me. Usually when it happens in class I just think about something else, and any stirring between my legs quickly subsides. But on this occasion it was not subsiding at all. As a matter of fact my dick was definitely starting to grow. However, for the first time in my life I was modeling in a situation other than a formal academic setting. While I didn't have much control over the matter, I decided to let things go their own course. I fully expected that my dick would achieve some level of erection, and then settle right back down again.
Sure enough my dick kept growing and growing. I never once flexed my pubic muscle, and yet I found myself with a full raging boner. If anyone was put off by this, no one was saying so. Once it had been up for a while I expected it to start deflating, but it remained fully erect. Indeed, it was utterly hard for the duration of the pose.
When the ten minutes was over I stood up with my fat dick still pointing to the sky. I wanted to squeeze it and stroke it, but I kept my hands off. I still had not even flexed my pubic muscle. I struck another pose where I leaned against the doorway with my hands behind my back. My dick remained rock hard, and stayed that way for the full pose. When it was over I'd been fully erect for twenty minutes without any tactile stimulation of any kind. It was a stark contrast to posing for Biron on Monday when I couldn't sustain an erection to save my life.
While I was pondering my next pose, Andrew asked if I'd mind if he posed with me. I said it was okay. He got down on the floor, put his cheek against my thigh and put his hands around my leg. I wasn't expecting quite that intimate of a pose, but after the initial surprise it was okay. After a few minutes my dick finally started to lose its full firmness. Andrew stroked my balls ever so slightly and it went right back to being stiff again. This cycle was repeated a few times until the time was up.
From here Andrew did another pose with me. I sat in the chair while he stood beside me and sort of cradled my head. I leaned my head back against his body and closed my eyes. It had a very Pietá kind of a feel to it. As a matter of fact I heard someone in the group say that it seemed a very Biblical pose. By this time my dick was starting to go down. I could feel the early signs of blue balls. I wasn't really surprised, since I'd been hard for over a half an hour without any kind of stimulation or relief.
After this Andre and I did another pose together. I don't even remember what positions we were in. When it was over Andrew asked if a third person would like to join us. There was a bit of a revolt from the group. I heard someone say, "Drawing just one person is hard enough." Someone asked me if I would like to take a break and try my hand at drawing for a while. I was actually getting a bit fatigued, so I decided I would. Andrew had brought an extra pad for me, and he let me choose from his pencils. I sat on the floor in front of another guy in a chair, and got ready to draw.
Two other guys got up and struggled to come up with a pose. My suspicions were supported that my natural posing style was something missing from the group. The guys tried a few things and finally wound up with something that looked like a couple of dead bodies tossed off in a corner. I started making some vain attempts at capturing them on paper. I hadn't drawn seriously in years and years, and it showed. I found myself utterly unable to capture even the most simple contours. I wanted to just set down my pencil and sit there until the session was over. But instead I persevered. I know that drawing is like playing the piano or doing sports. The more you practice the better you'll get. No matter how badly a drawing is coming out it's important to keep going with it. When time had expired I had mustered up some semblance of a drawing, but it was really, really bad. The two guys did one more pose and I put forth another miserable effort to capture it. Finally time was up for the pose and for the group.
It was now time for everyone to share his work with the group. Each took turns showing his various drawings while others made comments. This was very interesting for me because I finally got to see what people had been doing with my poses. I got the distinct impression that the guys really liked this activity as well. Not only did it giv e them the opportunity to show their own work to an audience, they were able to get feedback as well. One thing that struck me that I hadn't noticed earlier on was that every individual was using a different medium.
When this was done the host suggested that anyone who was willing should let me take home a drawing in thanks for posing practically the whole time. I wasn't expecting this, but I thought it was fantastic. I went through every one's stuff and picked out one or even two drawings. I was really surprised that they were so generous to let me walk away with their original drawings, but I wasn't going to question it!
Click on images to see full-sized files (average 130K)
I liked many of the drawings very much. Bill in particular had a simple but visually appealing style. His work looked particularly good for graphics to accompany magazine articles. I also liked the way he graciously exaggerated my endowment. But Roger's drawing was far and away my favorite. His drawings were kind of hit and miss, but he nailed it on this particular one. I also liked it because of the story it told. He drew this while I was sitting in front of him drawing the other models. He decided that he was more interested in drawing me than in drawing the other guys. Beyond the fact that I thought he captured a nice, simple pose, it portrayed me not as a posing body, but as a man in the process of creating. It was a drawing of a man drawing. Finally I liked it because it showed that I'm left-handed, with my right hand holding the pad and my left hand extended and working the pencil. I intend to frame this and display it proudly.
After the session I suggested we go out for drinks. I wasn't really ready to go back to my room yet, and I thought it would be nice to sit around and chat about art. About a five or six guys expressed interest. We went to the copy center first because Bill, the gray-haired older guy, wanted to keep his originals of the drawings that I had selected. His medium was simple ink on xerox paper anyway, so it leant itself perfectly to photocopy reproduction. We got there just before the copy center closed. The girl behind the counter was initially shocked that so many people walked in just as she was getting ready to close up, until she realized we were all together. Bill copied his drawings. He gave me my choice of which to keep, defying me to tell which was the original and which was the xerox copy.
We walked up the street to the bar. They had selected Detour. It was some dimly lit club with loud, throbbing dance music. Andrew declined to go in, saying he didn't like bars. I couldn't blame him. I was envisioning some quiet little cafe where we could sip drinks and talk. I went inside with the others and really wanted to just walk right back out again. One of the guys bought me a pint of something. He mentioned to me how this bar had the second-best music in all of San Francisco. I didn't want to know what the best music was. As a gay man I know I'm in the minority on this one, but I hate that techno dance stuff. I tried to carry on a conversation with him, but I couldn't hear a goddam word he was saying. There was also nowhere to sit down. To top it off, these sketchy guys were wandering around staring at everyone. I basically chugged my beer and left.
When I got back to my room I spread out my drawings and had another look at them again. I was so unbelievably appreciative to come away with them. Just that morning I was contemplating buying a snow globe to take home as a souvenir. But now I had a number of one-of-a-kind momentos to remind me of my experiences on my trip. Everything was going so incredibly well I wondered if there was any way it could get any better.
Thursday April 22
That morning I got up a little after 9:00. I called Biron right away, because I knew he had a tendency to get on the modem in the mornings and keep his phone tied up for a couple hours. He was a little groggy when he answered because he was still in bed, but he was also rather excited.
"I was speaking to Peter Berlin," he said. "I mentioned you to him, and he said he might like to meet you. Is that something you'd be interested in?"
I knew from previous email conversations with Biron that he was friends with Peter Berlin. I had thought of asking Biron ahead of time if he thought there was a chance I might get to meet Peter, but somehow I felt funny about it. I decided to just go with the flow once I got there, and it if happened it happened. And here it was happening!
"I would be DELIGHTED to meet Peter Berlin," I said.
From here things got a little frantic. Biron was still trying to shake off sleep-inertia, and he had a tendency to be a bit indecisive as it was. He started proposing options to me. I would choose an option, and he would start to say why another option might be better. I would agree with him, and he'd second-guess himself and reconsider the first option. Finally we decided that I'd just head over to his place where he'd call Peter and arrange our rendez-vous. I hopped in the shower, threw on some clothes, and went directly to Biron's place.
When I got there Biron called Peter. We set up a place to meet and decided on a half-hour from that moment. That gave Biron and me a chance to grab a little breakfast on the way, since neither of us had eaten.
As we walked along I thought about how nervous I should be. I mean, Peter Berlin was never a *huge* star, but he was more of a celebrity than anyone *I'd* ever met, considering I've never met any. Yet I wasn't really nervous at all. I was a little anxious about what I'd say. I started to think of things about myself that he might be interested in. But then I completely reconsidered. I decided that I wasn't meeting Peter Berlin so that I could try to impress him with who *I* was. I was meeting Peter Berlin so that I could listen to whatever *he* had to say. I wanted to absorb every moment I spent in his presence.
Soon we arrived at the meeting place. I saw someone from a ways away who looked about like what I would expect Peter Berlin to look like in person, but Biron was wandering around, glancing here and there. Finally Biron saw him and away we went. Biron introduced us and we shook hands. He had a good, firm grip. He turned to Biron and commented on the beautiful, sunny day.
"You know," Peter said, "the sun is like a lover to me. I've had lovers come and go, but the sun is always there. And when I lie on the beach and feel the sun's rays envelop my body, I think to myself, this is the best lover I've ever had."
If there's something to be said for first impressions, Peter made a pretty damn good one on me.
From here we walked and talked. We didn't walk anywhere in particular nor talk about anything specific. Peter had his little dog with him. It looked to be rather old, but it was sprightly and well-behaved. Still, we strolled very slowly so that we didn't get too far ahead of it as it meandered along behind us. Peter had a leash with him, but allowed the dog to roam freely.
I understood Peter to be in his mid 50's. He looked about like he was in his mid 50's, but he also looked like he was in great shape for his age. He was very slender, and the skin under his jaw was firm and tight.
Conversation was generally about art in the Information Age. For the most part I kept my mouth shut. I pretty much had to, as Peter proved to be quite talkative. If there was a pause in conversation I would try to say something germane and intelligent. The more time that went on the more bold I became about trying to weasel in comments, but only if I had a specific thought that I thought was important to the discussion.
We wandered around for quite some time until we found ourselves back where we'd first met. On Biron's recommendation, I had a video tape of my work with me. Peter was interested in viewing it, and had brought along a compact video player so he could watch it right there. Unfortunately it was an 8mm player, and I had a VHS tape with me. For a moment I feared that Peter would just bag it and go home, but Biron offered that we walk to his apartment and view it there. Peter seemed very agreeable. We strolled along, slowly at first, but then Peter picked up his dog and we picked up the pace a bit. I continued to listen intently to the conversation as we walked.
Soon we were at Biron's place. We chatted for another few minutes, and then I put in the tape. I gave a brief introduction to each short subject, but as soon as each started I kept quiet. The tape contained Pard' Me, Further, G*I*J*O, and Network News 2000. When the extreme male genital torture scenes came up I was a little worried, but they seemed to take it in stride. Peter never made any remarks specifically about my work, but it did inspire him to speak of art in general, and independent video in particular. When the tape was done, I thought that would be it and Peter would leave. But he stayed in his seat and we continued chatting.
Biron booted up his computer and brought up my site so that Peter could see some of my homoerotic self-portraiture. At this point I became a little nervous, because this was Peter's territory. Peter Berlin practically invented homoerotic self-portraiture, and he was breaking new ground when I was eating popcycles and watching Gilligan's Island after school. Again, he never commented specifically on my work, but he did seem interested in it. He asked me about the process I go through to shoot these pictures. I described how I get the computer set up and hide the mouse under my foot or elbow to click off a picture. He smiled and lightly touched my arm. He explained how he had to do the same thing with a shutter-release back in the 70's when he was doing his own self-photography. That was an incredible moment. I had been aware of Peter Berlin and his work since long before I started doing work of my own, but I never really thought about him when I was shooting my own pictures, and I certainly never set out to copy him. Although had been doing essentially the same thing he'd done years before, we were using totally different media and had markedly different styles. Yet here we were, swapping stories about the difficulties of taking pictures of one's self, and finding a lot in common.
We continued to sit and chat for some time, until finally Peter had to leave for an appointment. We said our polite good-byes and he was gone. All told we had spent over three hours together.
I took Biron out to lunch where we continued the conversation. I asked Biron if he thought Peter had liked my work, since Peter had never really commented directly on any of it.
Biron looked square at me. "If Peter hadn't liked your work he would have gotten up and left. That's the kind of person he is."
Biron and I continued to chat as we walked along. We were getting to know each other better by this time, and my comfort level was growing. I had felt comfortable around Biron from the first moment, but now we were relating more as friends than as photographer and model. We had a nice lunch and then walked back to his apartment.
Biron got out the pictures we'd taken two days before, which I hadn't had a chance to see yet. I was very impressed. Although I didn't find the process of taking the pictures to be an entirely positive one, I couldn't argue with the results. The poses looked quite good, and even my forced smile was okay in many of the shots. Biron and I each picked out our favorite ones. Photographers tend to look more at the technical merits of each photo, whereas I tend to look at my pose and how my body appears in each one. Still, there was a lot of overlap in our choices. It was rather difficult, actually, because so many of the pictures turned out so well.
Eventually it was time for me to move on. We made plans to take more pictures the following day. I excused myself and went back to my hotel. I called Kenny at his office. He was excited to hear from me, since we hadn't spoken since the previous Sunday when they took me out touring. We made plans to get together for dinner that evening so I could tell him and Richard stories of my adventures during the week.
Finally having a moment to myself, I smoked a little pot and reflected on my experiences of the morning. This was the first time I'd ever met an established artist. I do know many artists and I'm in the company of artists every day. "Artist" is not a job title, but rather a state of mind and a way of looking at the world. Peter had this state of mind, in a big way, but he had also made a living at it and had achieved considerable notoriety doing so. This didn't make him any more of an artist than myself or my colleagues, but it caused me to bestow a considerable degree of legitimacy upon him in my own mind. He's had a lifetime of experiences that I dream of having, and he's known the kind of fame that I want to know myself. I had the mindset that I needed to achieve that kind of public recognition before I'd be an "established" or "legitimate" artist.
I now began to look at myself differently. I met Peter Berlin not as a fan showering adulation upon him, not as a sycophant seeking his favor, but simply as a fellow artist with mutual interests. It wasn't a brief, polite introduction in a public setting. We spent time together, we shared our thoughts and ideas, and we simply enjoyed each other's company. Learning more about Peter and what he'd done indirectly taught me about myself and what I'm doing.
The internet gave ma a global audience for my work from the day I started showing my pictures on the web. I always knew that, but I'd never really taken stock in what it meant. I had defined legitimacy as an artist in terms of public recognition. Beyond the praise I received from personal emails, I hadn't gotten any recognition at all. I found that very frustrating, because I felt like I was doing something special. I wasn't just putting hastily-composed dick shots on the web. I was creating beautiful, artistic pictures. I was sharing my image, my life, and my soul with the world. I was using the web in ways that I didn't see anyone else doing. All this and I still wasn't getting the kind of recognition that I felt I needed to be a legitimate artist.
As I was pondering this, something finally dawned on me. I was doing something special. I was breaking new ground. I did have a global audience, and I'd met with virtually universal acceptance. Peter had used the means available to him at the time to gain recognition. Those means were predominantly the gay erotica and gay art industries of the 70's and 80's. The success he achieved within these establishments was his recognition. In the 90's I was using the means available to me, namely the world wide web. I had perceived this as less legitimate, since it was basically by amateurs for amateurs. But what the internet really accomplished was removing the means of access from the establishment and placing it into the hands of ordinary people. Consequently, recognition came not from the establishment where I'd been seeking it, but from the ordinary people who had been showering me with it since the beginning. The recognition I'd been receiving from individuals was no less legitimate than magazine articles or radio interviews. I finally realized that I was a legitimate artist, and that I had been all along. I didn't need the blessings of the establishment to be an "established" artist.
This realization gave me a new confidence in myself and my work, and it led to a single conclusion. I'd been doing art for a few years. It was now time to start doing something with my art. I didn't entirely know what that meant, but my new mission was to figure it out.
Soon it was time for dinner. Kenny and Richard picked me up in front of my hotel. We went up into the hills to visit their friend Tony. He wasn't home, but we decided to wait around a bit and see if he showed up. Sure enough, he pulled up in just a few minutes. Being a BMW owner himself, he immediately started drooling over Kenny & Richard's brand new 323i. They then started comparing electronic gadgets. Tony's conclusion was that he needed a newer BMW himself.
We went inside and had some wine. Tony's back room had a spectacular view of the city. He's some big wig with Apple computer, so he had brand new fancy Macintosh's all over the place. He and Kenny started talking networking, operating systems, and interoperability issues. Being on vacation, I had absolutely no interest in sharing in this discussion. I turned to Richard and started telling him about my week. We all had another glass of wine, and soon it was time to move on.
We were devoid of ideas of what to do for dinner, so we finally decided to just go back to Kenny & Richard's and order a pizza. This worked well for everyone. I was a little tired of every meal having to be some big production, and they had to get to bed early anyway since they had to work the next day. While we were waiting for the delivery guy we watched a little Will & Grace. I'd never seen it because I lost my network TV access before it premiered. Then Frasier came on. Kenny & Richard were laughing themselves silly, but I found I'd grown weary of their whole schtick. When dinner arrived we shut off the TV anyway.
After we'd eaten I turned on the TV again to show them the video tape I'd shown Biron and Peter earlier that day. They enjoyed it very much. But then came the scenes of extreme male genital torture. I was chuckling away to myself, but when I turned around I saw that Kenny had his face buried in the sofa cushions, and Richard's jaw was in his lap.
After a brief silence, Richard, still stunned, said, "That shouldn't........... exist."
It was a while before Kenny could pull his face out of the cushions. I've gotten a wide variety of reactions from this video, but that was the most anyone had ever bugged over it. I apologized for not having warned them ahead of time, but Richard admitted that for art's sake it was important to leave the element of surprise.
By now it was time for them to go to bed anyway. Richard was ready to get the car back out and give me a ride, but I wouldn't hear of it. I told them to go to bed and I'd be fine. I put a CD in the player that I keep in my leather jacket, cranked up the volume, and away I went. I actually walked through the lower Haight where I'd been the previous Tuesday. I felt oddly comfortable and safe. Soon I was back in my own "neighborhood." I grabbed a beer from the corner store, went up to my room, watched a little TV, and was out like a light.
Friday April 23
I got up this morning and called Biron again about shooting some more pictures that day. We agreed that I'd come over around 1:00. In the mean time I went back up to the Haight Ashbury for breakfast. I went looking for the place with the biscuits and gravy. Oddly, I couldn't find it. I walked up and down the strip many times, and it was nowhere to be found. As odd as that was, I finally gave up and had breakfast somewhere else. This time I did a little shopping while I was there. I went into a store that had all sorts of bizarro magazines. Of all the stuff I could have gotten I walked out with a Radioactive Man comic.
I decided to take a bus to the Castro. I looked at my map and found a likely route. I had to walk a bit, but I found a bus stop with the appropriate number posted on it. I was getting better at this mass transit thing all the time. It was a quick ride and there I was. I went back into the A Different Light bookstore and bought Stephen Underhill's "Twins" book. I'd seen this particular set of twins in XY Magazine before. In addition to having a thing for twins in general, I was totally hot for those boys. I didn't even think about the price until the sales guy rang it up. It was practically fifty bucks! But hey, I was on vacation and it was okay to spend money that I probably wouldn't spend otherwise. On the way back to my hotel I stopped in a retro toy store I'd noticed before. They had lots of cool stuff, including a Pee Wee Herman talking doll still in the box. It had a price tag of $250! I wasn't necessarily opposed to spending that much for such a cool collectible, but I figured I'd come home and see what it was going for on eBay before making that kind of investment. In the end I bought an Avengers refrigerator magnet for 45 cents.
I went back to my room and leafed through my Twins book until it was time to go to Biron's. I was looking forward to seeing Biron again, but I wasn't really in the mood to take more pictures. It's not like getting naked and sitting still is terribly strenuous, but it does require energy, and after this long week I didn't have a lot of energy left.
When it was time I made the quick jaunt up to his building. He buzzed me in and I collapsed on his sofa. We chatted for a while. Finally he started talking about our shoot, and he mentioned he didn't really have any ideas of what to do. I confessed that I wasn't entirely in the mood, and it certainly wouldn't be a problem for me if we didn't do anything at all. I think he felt a little relieved, which made me feel more relieved, and oddly when we both felt relieved about not having to do any work we were both suddenly in the mood to do some. He set up his stuff and I got naked and mustered up an erection. We hacked around for a while and took some pictures. I don't think that the quality was as good as the first stuff we'd done, but some good pictures did come out of it.
After we wrapped everything up I said that I'd like to go out for a drink. I was enjoying his company and I'd love to have him come with me, but it was Friday afternoon and I was in the mood for some cocktails. Biron said he had some scotch there if I was interested. I don't normally drink liquor, but it made sense at the moment. Best of all, if I stayed there I could remain naked. Biron poured a couple glasses and I started sipping away.
Biron had possession of Peter Berlin's archives so that he could digitally preserve everything. He pulled a big box down from a shelf and started taking stuff out for me to look at. It was utterly fascinating. Much of the images were things I'd seen before, but to see old prints and even sometimes the original negatives was like seeing history. There were original prints over which Peter had hand-painted accents and embellishments. There were even some original drawings Peter had done. I never knew that he was so talented at drawing. I also learned that Peter had done all his outfits himself. He could have had his own line of fetish-wear, if that had interested him.
This went on for quite some time. Biron pulled out more stuff and I had more scotch. He put in Peter's video "Nights in Black Leather," but we were too buzzed and engrossed in conversation to pay attention to it. A couple hours went by before I called Kenny about dinner that night. We set a time for them to meet me in front of my hotel. I had just a little more scotch and then it was time for me to reluctantly put my clothes on again.
I stumbled back to my hotel room, changed my clothes, and went out front to wait. Kenny and Richard came by right on time, and of course they had Andrew in the back seat with them. I hopped in and away we went. There was a nice energy in the car. It was Friday evening in San Francisco, and we were all in the mood for fun. We drove to the Castro and looked for a parking space. Finding none, we looked a little longer. Still finding none, we looked longer still. By this time my alcohol buzz was starting to fade and I was getting impatient. We kept looking and looking and looking, until finally we parked at some funeral home. I didn't care where it was, just as long as I got out of that car!
We struck out on foot looking for someplace that would seat us. On a Friday night in the Castro, pretty much every place was full. So we kept walking around and around. And after we'd walked forever, we walked a little more. We walked past some dive that was practically empty. Someone pointed out that there was no wait there. Andrew's witty reply was, "You *never* have to wait for disintery..." With nowhere else to go we popped into a bar for a quick drink. The booth we were sitting in smelled like dead fish. Back out on the street we kept walking and walking.
Finally we selected a place. There was a short wait, but we could hang out the bar next door and they'd come and get us. We went into the bar and walked way to the back to an outdoor area. Kenny and Richard found someone they knew and started talking. I tried to strike up a conversation with Andrew. It turns out he was from Sweden, but he couldn't pinpoint the time when he actually emigrated to America. At last our table was ready. We all sat down and wound up ordering just salads. I was past the point where I had an appetite, and I didn't even finish mine. By the time we left the restaurant it was after 11:00.
We went back up into the hills to drop in on Aaron, another friend of theirs. We got to his place and he wasn't home. We waited for a while, but he didn't show up. We went off to some scenic outlook and hung for a while, then we headed back into town.
I very much wanted to go back to the Powerhouse to recreate the fun I had on my first night. Andrew wanted none of this, so we dropped him off at his place. We went back to Kenny & Richard's to drop off the car. We went up to their apartment, and they both totally died on me. They were really beat, and had no desire to go to the Powerhouse that night. They gave me directions and sent me walking.
I had somehow managed to maintain my alcohol buzz after all this time, and was actually a little trashed. I staggered along on the considerable walk to the Powerhouse. I finally got to the street it was on, and started walking along looking for it. I was a little blacked out the first night, and I had no recollection of what it looked like from the outside. I did recognize a large Scooby Do billboard perched high atop a SOMA rooftop, however. I walked quite a ways until I decided I had to have gone past it. I turned around and walked back. When I got almost back to the point where I got on this street, I saw a very dark, nondescript building with a small sign over the corner door reading "Powerhouse." It looked scary. Very scary. I stood there across the street looking at it, wondering if I should go in or not. I was drunk enough that I could overcome my fear, yet sober enough to know that if I did I'd wind up getting involved in something I might later wish I hadn't. Finally I decided that I'd fulfilled my mission for the night, which was finding the place, and that I should just go home and pass out. It was quite a walk. When I got back on Market St I stopped in a late-night donut shop and got some food to stuff my still-empty stomach. Once back in my room I chowed down the donuts and passed out cold.
Saturday April 24
I woke up this morning feeling far less hung-over than I would have expected. I called Kenny & Richard. Their plan for the day was to go to the nude beach. This was very exciting for me. Despite my strong exhibitionist proclivities, I'd never been to a nude beach before, or to any public place where nudity was allowed. It was something I'd always wanted to do, and now I finally had the opportunity.
Kenny & Richard came by and picked me up outside my hotel. We got a quick breakfast to go, and were on the road. It was actually a bit of a drive. The beach was located on the ocean shore some distance south of the city. As we rode along we watched the fog bank moving out to sea.
Finally we were there. We parked in a lesser-known spot just North of the official state park. We gathered our stuff, walked down to the beach, and hiked up to the clothing-optional section. There was a very strong wind blowing. Rather than blowing from the sea onto the shore, it was blowing North --> South along the shoreline. It was also a very cold wind. The sun was shining, but I was pretty damn chilly.
There were a number of temporary structures along the beach made of drift wood and designed to block the wind. Kenny and Richard called them "Drift wood Condos." Some were just piles of wood while others were quite elaborate. All of them were taken. We continued walking North deeper into the clothing-optional section. To this point I had yet to see anyone who had opted to take his clothes off. Actually, aside from the driftwood condo residents, there weren't a lot of people on this beach at all. This was probably due to the fact it was only April, and it was a rather chilly day.
Finally we came upon a pile of driftwood that didn't have anyone sitting behind it. I was surprised. I figured every single one would be taken. I sat down and chilled out while Kenny & Richard started enhancing the structure. It was looking like a pretty sorry excuse for a condo, but when I lay behind it I found that it actually did a really good job of blocking the wind. We spread out a blanket, took our clothes off, and lay in the sun. With the wind off us and the sun on us it now felt quite comfortably warm. The initial stimulation of the sun on our naked bodies caused us all to get erections, but they faded pretty quickly.
We lay in the sun for quite a while. Occasionally individuals or couples would walk past nude as they strolled the length of the beach. I wanted to get out in the open naked, but I didn't want to stray too far from our little fort. I was actually uncharacteristically shy about being seen naked. We were at the far edge of the beach by the hills that led up to the mainland. It was actually quite a distance from there to the water's edge. I decided that a walk straight to the water and straight back to the fort would be a low-risk venture. Kenny said he'd walk with me.
As soon as I got out walking I felt exhilarated. People all around could see my naked body . There was nowhere to hide, and I was getting further and further from our safe retreat. It was a little arousing, but I tried to keep my mind off it. Soon we were down to the water's edge. I let the water come up around my ankles. It was COLD! After a little bit Kenny headed back to the fort, but I remained. This was my first time in the ocean in many, many years, but I'm no stranger to cold water. I really hate prolonged exposure to cold conditions, but a brief, controlled exposure to extreme cold can be fun for me. I decided to wade in deeper.
At first the cold was painful, but my legs quickly adapted to it. I inched in deeper and deeper until it was up to my thighs. As waves rolled in they would splash up higher on my body. It started just touching my scrotum, but I ventured in deeper so that it would splash up over my groin and onto my stomach. I never had my nads continuously submerged, but the waves would totally wash over them and get everything completely wet.
The combination of the cold and the water on my naked body started getting me a little aroused. I was off where nobody could see me, so I decided to just let it happen. I got almost a full erection. It was fun and stimulating, but the cold was starting to get to me. Here I was 100 yards from our fort, and I was naked and erect. With no alternatives available to me, I turned towards the shore and just started walking. I wasn't completely stiff, but my dick was fat and long and wagging back and forth between my legs as I strode. I broke out into a trot at one point, but things started flopping all over the place. I tried to cover myself with my hand, but that was like grasping myself and it only made me harder. Finally I just let it go and walked unabashed in all my glory back to the fort.
Kenny and Richard found my fat dick to be far less interesting than the fact that I actually got into the freezing cold water. They immediately started interrogating me.
"Wasn't that cold???"
"How could you stand it???"
"It was invigorating!"
"You're an odd man, Toaph."
Within minutes a fairly cute hippie-boy wandered past. When he saw me smoking a butt he bummed one. I think it was just an excuse to stop and talk.
"So the cold water made you hard?" he inquired.
"Yup," I answered. "Extreme sensations tend to do that to me."
We chatted a bit and my dick got soft again. After a while I decided I wanted to get my naked body back out in the open again. I gave Kenny my palmcorder and told him to tape me all the way to the water, while I was splashing around, and all the way back again. The hippie-boy made some comment like, "Nothing wrong with exhibitionism," not knowing it's what I'm making my career out of. I repeated my earlier performance, but the water didn't make me hard this time and the cold got to me a little more quickly. I trotted back to the fort after just a couple of minutes.
The cute hippie-boy went to catch up to his friends. Kenny and Richard and I lay in the sun a little longer, but before long it was time to be going. I totally didn't want to get dressed yet. They started gathering our stuff and packing it back into the bags. As they were trying to fold up a blanket it became apparent how strong the wind was. I did a quick pose with a towel flowing over my head.
Finally when I could wait no longer I put my clothes back on. But I didn't put on my underwear and I left my jeans mostly unzipped, allowing them to hang off my bare hips. We hiked the long walk back to where we'd come down onto the beach. We got there just as the hippie-boy and his friends were getting there. As we got to the precarious trail that led back up to the car, I tried to pull my pants all the way up and fasten them around my waste. With only one free hand this was a challenge. I heard the hippie-boy, directly behind me, say, "Just leave 'em down, dude." I decided to take his advice.
We got back to the car, waved good-bye to the hippie-boy, and brushed as much sand off ourselves as possible. I loaded up their trunk-mounted CD player with some of my own disks, and away we went. On the ride back I treated them to some select DADA and Barenaked Ladies tunes. Finally I could listen to some non-gay music. We discussed the possibility of going to the Powerhouse that night, since Kenny & Richard were relaxed and not strung out from a long week of work. It sounded like a good plan. The ride back seemed to take less time than the ride out there.
We went back to Kenny & Richard's apartment and took turns showering off. Of course after I was out of the shower I didn't want to put my clothes back on again. They were getting all dressed up for dinner and I'm wandering around bare-ass naked. Finally someone buzzed their intercom. It was their friend Shane who came over to join us for dinner. Kenny said I might want to "cover up." I threw on a pair of jeans. When he came in he did a bit of a double-take at this mysterious, bare-chested man in Kenny & Richard's living room. Actually I thought he was quite handsome and he appeared to have a very nice build. I got the rest of the way dressed and we had a couple cocktails. We headed out for dinner and picked up Andrew. He and Shane and I had to sit all in the back seat.
We went straight to a parking garage so we didn't have to futz around with parking like we did the night before. We went to a sea food place in the Castro. While we were waiting outside for a seat, Aaron came by. He apologized for missing us the night before. We weren't sure what to do since we couldn't get a seat right away at our chosen place, but indecision kept us frozen in place. Finally a table opened up, but there had been people waiting at the counter. They took the table and we took their place at the counter. I really wanted to just get dinner out of the way this time, and suggested we all just eat at the counter. Of course this was way below Andrew's dining standards, and others were unsure about it, but for the first time all week I decided to get assertive. To me the ingestion of food is a necessary chore like filling the car with gas. The night before we had gotten so mired in the process that it wore everyone out for the rest of the evening. I didn't want that to happen again, so I made my case that we just get it over with and move on to socialize afterwards. Everyone capitulated and we ordered our dinners right there. It worked out fine as far as I was concerned.
After dinner Andrew went with Aaron and the rest of us went to the BMW. We dropped off Shane at his place and went to Aaron's. He had a really beautiful apartment. He had some drinks out and music playing on the stereo, and it was actually quite comfortable there. Of all the people I'd met so far this week, and that was quite a number, he was the first person who smoked cigarettes. Finally, I thought, finally I can just light up where I'm standing without having to apologize or be banished to the fire escape. But it turned out that he only smoked on his balcony to keep the smell out of his living quarters. Oh well. At least the view was very nice.
I started having more drinks and decided to play some more of my hetero music. I was playing more Barenaked Ladies, which I consider to be rather up-beat, but it was eventually rejected as "putting everyone to sleep." I guess normal fags have to have that 180 beats-per-minute minimum or their circadian rhythms begin to self-destruct. I gave in. Richard started explaining the differences between House and Trance (or some other such styles), but it all sounded the same to me. He actually did point out some differences I would never have noticed on my own. But it was moot to me. Awareness of subtle differences in two music styles I don't like didn't cause me to dislike them any less. But it wasn't really bothering me. Long ago I acquired the ability to block out this music which seems to be ubiquitous throughout the gay community from coast to coast.
Pretty soon Tony arrived with a handsome young man in tow. After a bit the young man came over and sat near me.
"Hi," I said. "My name's Toaph."
He said, "As in Christopher?"
"Yes!" I said. "Very good!"
He said, "My name's Train."
I said, "As in choo-choo?"
"No," he said, looking a little perturbed. "As in Coltrane. T-R-A-N-E."
"Oh," I said.
After an uncomfortable pause he got up and went over to another part of the room. I felt a little stupid and clod-like, but shrugged it off. I was pretty buzzed by this time, and still putting down the drinks. Much to my surprise he invited me over by him a little later. He was sitting in an armchair, and he invited me to sit on the floor between his knees. We chatted a little bit more. I found that he had spent some time in New York City. I felt a bit of a connection. I tried to talk to him about it, but I was getting drunk enough that my conversation skills were in the toilet.
After a while Tony and Trane took off. Richard asked me where I'd like to go. I said I was actually quite comfortable right were we were. He told me that Aaron was going to bed so that he could get up at 4AM and go to some after party. I said that in that case I'm ready to head out to the Powerhouse.
We said good-bye to Aaron and got in the car. We dropped Andrew off at home. Then Kenny told me that he and Richard were going to cop out again that night. I was a little disappointed, but they had been very patient with me all week and I didn't want to pressure them into anything the didn't really want to do. They said that at least this time they'd drop me off right at the door so I didn't have a long walk just to get there.
The dropped me off outside, and I went directly in before I could think twice about it. It was a lot darker than I had remembered it. I went to the bar in the back and got a stiff drink. I stood there drinking it with no one to talk to, but I was perfectly comfortable standing by myself. What I really wanted to do was go back out to the patio, but I couldn't remember how to get there. I was so blacked-out the last time that nothing was looking familiar. Finally I struck up a conversation with some meek guy standing nearby. I mentioned the patio, and he pointed out the entrance. It all came back to me.
I walked right out there and started looking for someone to touch me again. I was having a bit more trouble than I remembered having before, but finally someone started stroking me. That went on for a little while until I needed another drink. I told him not to go anywhere, but when I got back there was no sign of him. I decided to walk way into the back-most corner of the space. It was in these deep recesses that only the most brave would venture, but when I got back there I didn't find anything going on that wasn't going on everywhere else. I made my way back up about to the half-way point. Again I found someone to stroke me.
At one point I said something, and I saw a guy across the way repeat it and all the guys he was with started laughing.
"Have you guys been listening to what I'm saying?" I asked loudly. They all laughed again. "You shouldn't do that. I'm way too drunk to be making any kind of sense at all." Apparently I was being quite entertaining, but I have no recollection of anything I'd been saying at all. I had no idea of they'd been laughing with me or at me, but at that point I didn't care.
Finally it was last call, and soon they started kicking people out again. I wanted to keep the party going, but I soon found myself on the street. I saw one guy who had been stroking me in the patio. I started walking towards him, but he was walking away from me at a rapid pace. He was going in the direction of my hotel anyway, so I followed along at a distance. I think that I was pretending to call after him, or otherwise talking to myself, saying things like, "The party can't end, I still need people to touch me."
After several blocks some really ugly Asian guy came up to me.
"You wanna party?" he asked.
I stopped and spoke to him. "Yeah," I said.
"Come with me. We party," he said.
I had just enough presence of mind to make some inquiries before I walked off with him. I was asking him if he was taking me to a party where there would be Asian guys who would touch me. He was saying no, but I wasn't really getting the message. Finally I decided to walk with him. Considering we turned totally around and started walking right back towards the bar, I can tell now that he had been intentionally following me. For all I know he had been listening to my drunken mumblings about my need to be touched. He could even have been spying on my in the bar for some time.
We got back to his car. It was an Acura, I think. We got in and he drove off. I dropped my pants and let him fondle me as we drove. It wasn't terribly fulfilling. He was trying to get me to talk dirty, saying things like "You like to be touched, yeah?" But I was spouting off esoteric drunken gibberish. We eventually wound up in the Embarcadero. I took off my shirt, but he was afraid that the cops might hassle us. So I reclined my seat the whole way so I could lay back and not be seen. He was stroking my body and my dick. At this point it kind of dawned on me where I was and what I was doing. I realized that if he abandoned me out here that I was a long way from home and no way to get there.
"Okay, that's enough," I said as I pulled my pants back up. "Enough fun for one night. It's time to take me back to my hotel." I was a little worried at this point that the guy might become disagreeable, but I figured that he really had more to fear from me than I did from him. But it was all moot because he dutifully headed back towards my hotel. He dropped me off right out front. Ultimately I got a free ride home out of the deal with no harm done.
When I got up to my room I realized that I had on my leather jacket, but no shirt underneath. I honestly had no way of knowing if I'd left it in the bar of if it was in the back seat of this guy's car. If it was the latter I'm sure he kept it for a jerkoff toy. I fell into bed and passed out.
Sunday April 25
I woke up this morning feeling significantly hung-over. But that was okay. This was my last day in town. I had a very early flight home the next morning, I'd had a full week of fun and debauchery, and I was totally comfortable wasting an entire day. I just lay in bed for hours and hours. Some times I turned on the TV. Some times I just rolled over and dozed some more. I knew that Biron had been expecting to hear from me again before I left. I picked up the phone once or twice, but I just wasn't in the mood to get involved in a conversation with anyone at that point. When I get hung over like that I turn completely anti-social and reclusive.
The only thing I did accomplish that day was to call Super Shuttle to make reservations for a ride out to the airport the next morning. My flight was at 7:10AM. They said that they'd pick me up at 5:10AM. I was not looking forward to getting up that early the next morning, but I was definitely ready to get back home again.
The day before I had mentioned to Kenny & Richard that on my last night in town I wanted to take them to the Haight Ashbury for pizza. At this point I didn't really even want to leave the room. Kenny had figured out how to call me at my hotel room. When I got there I didn't even know if I could receive incoming calls or not. I assumed that I could, but I didn't even pursue it. My first boyfriend Darnell would sometimes play little games to control people. One time he moved and didn't give me his new phone number. I realized that withholding contact from people was a most effective way to gain an upper hand in the relationship. I'm about as far from being a control freak as someone can get, but in this strange town where I had little control over anything, maintaining contact with others was the one thing I could keep solidly in my own control. The whole time I was there I never gave out the hotel phone number to anyone.
By the end of the week, however, Kenny had broken into my fortress. That evening he called me in my room. It turned out that Andrew's office was right around the corner from my hotel, and he and Richard were there. He told me how to get there and said that Richard would be waiting out front. I got some shit together and walked out the door. I thought I knew how to get there and hadn't really listened to the directions. I started wandering around and realized I didn't really know where it was after all. I knew the name of the street, and I pulled out my trusty transit map. I'd gotten all over the city at this point, but somehow I was finding myself completely unable to pinpoint this one place only a block from my hotel. Finally I figured it out, and when I walked around the corner I saw Richard standing right there. He wondered what had taken me so long. In the time I was wandering around he had walked to my hotel, confirmed that the desk clerk saw me leave, and then he'd walked back to Andrew's office again.
I went upstairs with Richard and we all harassed Andrew until he finished what he was doing and we could go. We drove up Haight St. My plan was to take them to Cybelle's, a ratty little pizza joint right on the strip where I'd met up with the drug dealer earlier in the week. I wanted to sit there with them and watch the sketchy people as they came and went, tripped out on who-knows-what kind of drugs. As we drove past I said, "There, that one."
Andrew put his fingers up to his chest. "Oh, I couldn't possibly eat there," he said. "Keep going. There's a nicer place up a couple blocks."
The whole point had not been to go to a nicer place, but to immerse ourselves in the down-and-dirty world that is the Haight Ashbury. But I wasn't in the mood to make waves. We went up to the nicer place and sat down. Alcohol was anathema to me at this point, but I did decide to have a glass of wine. Kenny, Richard, and I ordered a pizza, but Andrew didn't want to share with us and got something from the menu. We had a nice chat over pizza and wine as we reflected on the past week. Once we got back to the car I had Kenny and Richard stop for a picture by their new car.
We said our good-bye's and they dropped me off at my room. I went up and packed all my shit back up. I watched some more TV until I thought I might be able to fall asleep. I fretted over setting the alarm to get me up at the crack of dawn the next morning. My watch has a world-time feature, which meant that I could dial in the West Coast without having to alter the actual time the watch was set for. But this meant that I had to set the alarm to East Coast time so that it would go off at the proper time here on the West Coast. I went over it again and again in my head. If this didn't wake me up in time, I could be stuck here for another day or more as I tried to change my flight. I'd had lots of fun, but it was time for me to get the hell out. Finally I convinced myself that all was well and I shut off the light. I fell right to sleep.
Monday April 26
My alarm did, indeed, go off at the proper time. It wasn't even light out yet. I said to myself, "Time to make the donuts," as I fell out of bed and walked zombie-like to the shower. It took about 5 minutes for the hot water to finally come on. I showered quickly and went back to my room. I put my last few stray items into my bags, grabbed everything, and went down to the lobby.
I went outside for my final smoke. I pulled out my bowl and what little weed remained and tossed them in the trash. I think that was the first time in my life I'd ever thrown pot into the garbage. But I wasn't going to even consider taking it on the plane with me.
I stood there having my smoke. New York is called the city that never sleeps, but there were plenty of sketchy people wandering around even at this odd hour. I was actually anxious to get my smoke over with so I could get back inside the locked hotel lobby.
The clock ticked over to 5:10AM. They had told me that the shuttle might be as late as 5:25, but that I should be ready on time. Just as I was starting to worry that my reservation may have been lost, the shuttle pulled up. It was like 30 seconds past 5:10. From the moment I saw the shuttle I abdicated my well-being to the travel industry and shut my brain off.
The flight leaving San Francisco was on time. We were served breakfast, which was a little on the nasty side but not too bad. The movie was "Step Mom," which was totally bad. It was like a chick-flick, but with tension instead of sappy romance.
The layover in Pittsburgh was short, and the final flight was on time. Within an hour I was back in the Ithaca airport. After they finally sent the luggage out the conveyer belt, I had my bags and was on my way out the building. My trusty Renault Encore was sitting right where I'd left it. It started right up, and I was on my way home.
What a beautiful sight it was to see my quiet little country home again. I'd had a wonderful time in San Francisco, but in the end it made me appreciate all the more what I have here in Ithaca. The first to greet me was my always-affectionate cat Coo-coo. She's not like those cats who give you the cold shoulder after you've left them alone for a while. She was rubbing up against me and meowing, as if saying, "Where have you been??? I've missed you so much!!!"
In the days and weeks that followed I thought about how my life had changed. I was on a creative high like I'd never experienced before. I had new-found confidence in myself and my art. People at work said that I had a glow that they'd never seen in me before. It wasn't so much that I'd been to "San Francisco," the gay Mecca of the West Coast. It was more the people that I'd met, the experiences I'd had with them, and what I'd learned from them. San Francisco just happens to be a place that attracts these kinds of people. New York City is similar in this way, but it's so immense and bustling that you can quickly get lost in it. Before I went to San Francisco, I'd made email contact with three individuals. I'm not good at meeting new people on my own, but by the time I'd left I had a long, long list of friends and acquaintances in the San Francisco area. It has a laid-back openness and accepting attitude that is very rare in this day and age. Ithaca is my home and it always will be, but I know that I'll be returning to the City by the Bay many, many times in the future...