Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Welcome to the Big City, Sailor

Joe-Henry's pipe dream reminded me of the fall and winter of 1991. I was out of my parents' house for the first time, living in the big city, and trying to redefine myself. I was also reading Moby Dick. I think the half adventure novel/half 19th century whaling manual had a powerful influence on my redefinition: I began wearing a black pea coat, a black felt cap with a braided brocade above the short visor, and I smoked cherry tobacco out of a carved meerschaum pipe. I liked to sit along the banks of the Charles and stare wistfully across the water with the cold, wet wind reddening my bearded cheeks.

It seems to me now a laughably pretentious way for a nineteen-year-old to behave, but at the time it felt artistic.

On one such occasion, sitting on a bench on the Esplanade near the Mass. Ave. Bridge and puffing contemplatively on my pipe, I was approached by a middle-aged man on a bicycle. He asked me what I was smoking, and I told him. Then he asked me if I wanted a blowjob. It was an unexpected turn in the conversation.

Once I'd assured him that I did not, in fact, want a blowjob, he sat down on the bench beside me and we chatted for about a half hour. He expressed surprise that I reacted as I did. In his experience, his proposition was usually answered either in the affirmative or with violence or threats of violence. He apologized for being presumptuous but pointed out that I was an unaccompanied young man sitting in what was traditionally a gay pick-up spot. The playground a few blocks away, or more specifically, the bushes around the playground, was apparently a notorious location for anonymous sex. This explained why, some nights before, when I was walking through that same playground, a dishevelled and rather pudgy older man had emerged from those bushes, wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, and asked me how I was doing. He maintained eye contact for, to me, an inappropriately long moment. I told him I was fine and kept walking.

As we sat on the bench talking, my new friend told me that he had, for ten years or more, taken nightly bike rides along the Esplanade, offering oral sex to mostly lonely Boston University students. He was married, with two children. He did not consider the students to be gay; they were just lonely and in need of a little release. He did not consider himself gay; he never asked for or expected reciprocation from the students. It was just something he liked to do. His family had no idea what his true hobby was; they just assumed he was out for the exercise.

So we chatted awhile. He pointed out the giant, erect penis of the Bunker Hill Monument, proudly overlooking the city. Eventually, he got back on his bicycle and prowled slowly along the riverbank towards B.U. I got up, too, but not too quickly. I strolled carelessly back up to the lights of the streets above. After that, I started doing my artistic brooding elsewhere.


anniemcq said...

When I started reading this, I thought, "Wow! Looks like JH inspired a good long tale from Rodius", but as I read, I thought, "hmmmmm... well, uh....".

We humans are so complex in our sexuality.

I, Rodius said...

Sorry. The inappropriateness of connecting this story to J-H did occur to me briefly. Not that his story in anyway leads to this, but in my mind, pipe smoking is now forever tied to this moment in time. Some mental connections are hard to break.

SUV mom said...

IR, you never fail to entertain. Great post!

suttonhoo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
suttonhoo said...

hi ya -- returned to self-edit -- realized that my comment was a little too racy for prime time.

but that's just me. ;)

I, Rodius said...

Oh, you were fine. It wasn't THAT racy. I'm just far too sensible a young man to meet those kind of expectations!

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