Sunday, January 30, 2011

My career as a stripper


every Wednesday 9 pm
$50 First Prize

12684 Central Ave, S.E.
(across from Quality Inn)

The above is a rough approximation of the flyers that just appeared one day, on light poles, walls, and bulletin boards all around the University of New Mexico campus, including the board in the pool hall next to Carraro's Pizza where I was Day Manager.
For the most part, it was an empty title. My job consisted primarily of calling in orders to suppliers, signing for deliveries, and mostly, making and portioning the pizza dough for the much busier night shift.
From where I stood, for hours every day, mixing, kneading, and doming the dough, I had a clear view of the bulletin board and the flyer stood out as a beacon of temptation. $50.00 went a long way in Albuquerque in 1975, where my rent was only $30 a month.
My ‘mistake’ was in pointing it out to my closest pals at work, Sandy and Patti. From then on my fate was sealed and was just a matter of time before I went.
Their kidding and teasing and challenging me was almost relentless. They ‘let it slip’ to the rest of my coworkers, adding to the schoolyard-like “Well, I DOUBLE dare you!” pressure.
I did do a lot of dancing in those disco days, I audited a jazz dance class taught by my friend Joselito at UNM and went, nearly every day after work, to Okie’s
Okie’s, short for Oklahoma Joe’s, was established as an Overland Stage stop in 1876. In the same location, at the corner of old Route 66 and University Ave., it had been a casino, a whorehouse, a roadhouse, a speakeasy, a heavy-duty biker bar, and, in its then-present configuration, was a college hang-out.
Sadly, I hear that there’s a Jack-in-the-Box there now.
But in its heyday...

Situated at the southwest corner of the UNM Main Campus, it was also at the northern boundary of the mixed light-industrial, moderate-to-low-income housing area that ran south along the eastern bank of the Rio Grande, and was one of the few places where people from these different worlds commingled.
Like many bars in the Southwest, it was laid out 'Plantation-style.' This style of tavern combines the elements of many different types of bar under one roof.
At the corner, it had a package store complete with that uniquely bizarre New Mexico institution, the drive-up liquor window.
It had, at the front of the bar, with exits to the liquor store as well as the street, a medium-sized conversational area with a free-standing steel fireplace in the middle and its music set at a soft enough level to hear someone talk across the table.
Behind and to one side of that area was a pool room with a pair of absurdly unlevel tables whose ancient cushions were far beyond the point of recoil.
A small, wide hallway, its recesses intentionally dark, offered a place of cozy, candle-lit booths where couples wrapped themselves in each other’s limbs and filled each other’s heads with sweet promises and lies.
At the back, with its own service bar, was the largest space, a dance floor with a low stage just large enough to accommodate a four piece band. Around the perimeter, rescued from what must have been an elegant supper club, were huge booths.
A bit frayed from decades worth of bottoms, the well-appointed ‘tuck and roll’ upholstery still reflected, if faintly, their original glory. Large enough to seat up to eight in comfort, they were frequently shared by a pair of smaller groups, offering unique opportunities for new acquaintances.
Its core of its music system, fed through the same amplified P.A. that the bands used, was one of the best juke boxes I’ve ever danced to.
Its selections covered everything from Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, through Glen Miller and Tommy Dorsey, to Dave Brubeck and Chuck Berry to Motown and that week’s latest disco hit (hey, it was the ‘70’s, we didn’t know any better).
Joselito Arrigones was a gifted teacher and a great dancer. Despite the infuriated glares we attracted from the Okie’s red-necked bouncers, we were regular partners. (Only my working at Carraro’s Pizza kept us, I am sure, from being 86’d)
In that way only a good teacher can, he taught me the Texas Two-Step and the Box Step in a way that had me leading even as I learned.
Combined with Sandy and Patti’s encouragement, Joselito helped me work out the moves for my amateur debut. We all agreed that if I was going to enter, it ought to be with intention of winning.
Left up to me, I’d never have felt I was ready. I let each Wednesday approach with nervous apprehension and then pass, un-acted-upon.
Finally, after watching this happen for two or three weeks, my coworkers, enlisting the aid of a guy named Jack (Daniels), kidnapped me.
They drove me by my rooming house where they followed me up to my room to stand guard, lest I flee, with their backs turned, as I changed into the ensemble I had, through extensive trial and error, decided upon. It consisted of a bright red silk shirt with snaps, a pair of hip-hugging, black, draw-string pants, a black athletic supporter, and black Capezio dance shoes.
While giving the impression of casual streetwear, they could all be removed with a minimum of fuss or awkwardness.
“Girls’ Night Out” was located on the top floor of a three story A-frame in the sprawling commercial strip that had grown up along old Route 66 to the east of Albuquerque in the direction of Sandia Crest, a huge, looming mountain whose name reflected its similar shape to that of a slice of watermelon. Tawdry motels, many of whose names made reference to what had been America’s first transcontinental highway, fought for business with promises of KING-SIZED WATERBEDS, XXX ADULT MOVIES, and HOURLY RATES, on their rusting, broken neon-signed marquees.
A Skelly’s Truck Stop was the neighbor on one side, a closed drive-in movie on the other, and across Central, a former roller skating rink had been turned into a country music dance hall whose customers, on an average night, wore more cotton gingham, in the form of shirts and dresses than...well, more than I ever wanted see.
Downstairs from Girls’ Night Out, on the first floor, was a bar that during daylight and early evening hours was your average red-neck bar, no different than many others in that part of down. What set it apart, and was no doubt the source of its popularity, were the female strippers that started at 6 pm.
All three establishments, the bar and both strip clubs, shared the same source of music, a jukebox.
Beside the fact that this was a red-neck bar in New Mexico, in 1975, with all that that meant in terms of popular music, it also meant that the dancers had no control over what they would dance to, it also meant that they had no way of knowing what songs, they would be expected to dance to or in what sequence those songs would play.
This led to some nimble readjustments when (as would once happen to me) the music went from David Rose's The Stripper, to Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On, to Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell.
The women dancers on the first floor were they only ones allowed to yell “Reject!” and have the bartender change the song by pushing a button on the back of the jukebox. For which they invariably incurred a torrent of disdainful comments on their dancing abilities from their male counterparts above.
The middle floor was restrooms and above that no men, except for the dancers, were allowed.

There were only three contestants that Wednesday night and the other two did not impress me as a threat.
One was obviously a refugee from the first floor bar, dressed in his cowboy best: boots, tight jeans, and a pearl-buttoned shirt. He looked good, and in good shape, but his choice of wardrobe, I knew from my own experimentation, would be his downfall.
The other guy had had the foresight to bring along a six person cheering section but they and he had clearly been drinking for hours before they got there and by the time of the contest, were downright sloppy.
The club’s regular dancers, a pair of very cute gay guys, spent the better part of an hour warming up the audience. My competition, to their loss, paid little attention. I sipped my beer and took advantage of the free lesson.
The first thing I noticed was that they wore loafers or untied shoes and kicked them off as soon as the music started.
I also noted that they did not go onto the floor with their shirts or pants completely buttoned up and that they made creative use of the few accessories commonly worn by men, such as a tie, a belt, or a bandanna.
The first to raise the courage, Dutch or otherwise, to actually get up and dance, was the wobbly drunk with the cheering section. Despite his near complete inability to walk, he did manage to keep time with the simple disco beat. He might have been real competition sober, but as it was, his merely managing to finish all three songs of his set without falling down was enough to earn him a smattering of polite applause.
I let the cowboy take his turn next and it was quickly apparent that his intent was to meet women, not win a dance contest. It took most of his first song, sitting on the bar that wrapped around the dance floor, to remove his snugly-fitting boots.
The rest of his clothing came off as much between the songs as during and what little dancing he did do, consisted primarily of grinding his white-jockey-shorts-covered loins in the face of some very embarrassed women.
Sandy and Patti’s threat to make me walk home if I didn’t win, wasn’t, in the face of that level of competition, really necessary, but it made me laugh and that helped me swallow my heart out of my throat and back into my chest.
I felt ready for anything. I’d worked out specific and general routines for all of the most popular dance tunes of the day, I struck a pose and...
... Nearly peed my pants! I recognized the opening notes, but in all my preparation, somehow, I’d left out the Tony Orlando classic: Tie a Yellow Ribbon.
I was frozen in place, unable to choose between trying to bluff my way through and just waiting it out for the next song.
Fortunately, seeing my dilemma, one of the regular dancers came to my aid. Putting his arm across my shoulders he leaned close and whispered, “That’s okay, hon', you wait for the next one.”
From somewhere in his scanty outfit he produced a yard or so of thin yellow ribbon and proceeded to put the audience in stitches with a very ribald interpretation of that pop standard.
Having mustered my courage and stepped out onto the stage, to have to now wait again, made that already long Tony Orlando and Dawn song downright interminable. (Though when the rest of America hears it and thinks of distant troops I hear it and think of Jamie and his ribbon. And I laugh.)
As the final words faded, I took a deep breath and traded places with my rescuer. All it took for me to know I’d won was two notes.
Kung-fu Fighting, a Top Ten hit by one-hit-wonder Carl Douglas, had been at the top of the charts for most of the last 8 to 10 months and was one of my routines.
I slipped off my sandals, opened my shirt to the waist and mixed spinning, shoulder-high side kicks with flurries of karate punches. All in perfect time with the music. I finished shirtless, my upper body shiny with my efforts, to the wild applause of the entire room. I felt unstoppable.
Even given a chance to choose, I couldn’t have picked any better song than the one which followed. A slow ballad by, I think, the BeeGees, it gave me a chance to catch my breath.
Turning my back to the largest part of the audience I bent low at the waist and slowly peeled the top of my pants down over the tightly clenched muscles of my distance-runner’s butt.
At the song’s final notes, I let gravity take over and dropped them in a heap, leaving them behind with a short leap to the side and a drop to one knee as if genuflecting before the crowd. (A move that was purely Joselito’s)
For the first time in my life, I was experiencing a ‘performer’s high.’ All I can remember about the last song was that it was fast and had a throbbing, yet joyous, beat. (For some reason, in my memory as I write this I keep hearing Disco Beethoven, but I really can’t be sure, and I sure wish it would stop.)
Sandy and Patti and I proceeded to drink up a good chunk of my prize money on the bar’s highly priced drinks but we were joined, before too long, by the club manager, a brassy, frosted-blonde whose thick make-up seemed to exhibit rather than hide her aged complexion.
Years of working the runways of smoke-filled strip clubs had not been kind to what had once been a clearly lovely face. I’m glad I was not asked her age, I’d have been off, I later found out, by almost two decades.
Estelle came out from behind the tiny cocktail bar where she sat and chain-smoked her way through at least a full pack of Lucky Strikes per 6-hour shift, with a round of drinks for the three of us.
It was easy to see, even beneath the many pounds that had been added over the years, the statuesque dancer that she once had been.
After exchanging the three mixed drinks for our empty glasses, she set the tray on a nearby table and asked, in a deep, throaty voice that seemed to cut through the blaring music like a knife, to join us.
Without really waiting for an answer, she slid a chair over next to mine and sat down. For a moment, I misunderstood her intentions, which were entirely professional.
She assumed I’d studied dance and asked where, and was surprised when I told her of my single class. When I told her I liked dancing in gay clubs, she and I commiserated laughingly over Albuquerque’s pitiful selection.
For a city of close to half a million, we could name only four gay bars, of which only one, the Winchester, was a disco. And which, after two unsuccessful attempts, would be finally burned down by rednecks about six months later.
Without prelude she asked me if I wanted a job. She’d lost her third dancer to the bright lights of Los Angeles a few weeks before and that had, in part, been why she’d introduced the Amateur Night.
Jamie and Guy, her two remaining dancers were working themselves to a frazzle trying to keep up.
The job paid the minimum of $3.20 an hour but with three dancers we’d only be working about 20 minutes out of every 60. In addition, we got to keep all our tips as well as getting $2.50 every time a customer bought us a drink.
The dancers were served special 'Mai Tais' that looked and tasted like the real thing but contained nearly no alcohol.
(For some arcane legal reasoning having to do with fraud or misrepresentation, even though they were served only to staff, they were required to contain some alcohol, however minimal.)
The customer paid $4.00 and for that amount, was entitled to our friendly and flirtatious company while we drank it.
If we hustled, we could make $60-$80 easily in a six hour shift.
Dazzled by what seemed to be an inordinately fabulous salary as well as the very tempting idea for a 22 year-old of being a paid sex-object, I eagerly accepted Estelle’s offer.

In addition to the usual legal employment paperwork, the job had its own set of unique requirements.
The rules which governed the employment of male strippers were the same as those for women with a few necessary adaptations.
For instance, women were prohibited from revealing any pubic hair. Which led to their shaving off all or all but a narrow strip, whereas men, whose curls might begin at their chests, were only proscribed from revealing hair at the sides of their G-strings or underwear.
But this meant, for a dark and hirsute Hispanic man like Jamie, shaving a strange looking line at the top of his thigh.
In the beginning, men were required, like the women, to wear pasties over their nipples but, since men were allowed to take off their shirts in a bar that did not serve food, this ordinance was dismissed.
The law restricted women from sitting on patron’s laps but said nothing about their sitting on ours.
But just because we were male did not mean we escaped the attention of those Guardians of Public Morality, the vice squad.
We were regularly asked if we’d like to “come to a ‘private’ party after work.”
Estelle, after so many years in the business, was quite attuned to spotting undercover cops and we were instructed to always tell them that she handled our outside bookings. This always seemed to deflect the ones who were out to bust us though we did actually work a few private parties.
Most of the time these were held at the club and occasionally in someone’s living room and rarely, we were asked to surprise someone at their job.
Only once was I asked to perform at someone’s place of employment. And one time was enough for me to decide that the $100.00 fee was not worth it.
It was at a realtor’s office, to mark the retirement of a senior secretary. All the men had been sent out of the office and the dozen or so women left were drinking Cold Duck out of plastic champagne glasses when I arrived.
I knew a couple of the women from the club, they were regulars and were the ones who had decided, for reasons known only to them, that a male stripper was just the thing to celebrate their coworker’s 30 years at the same job.
Even before I was introduced to her, I knew which woman was the guest of honor. She was short and plump and silver-haired (she reminded me of my aunt) and wore an expression that was equal parts horror and mortification.
I set up my tinny-sounding tape player and went to change into my outfit, a modified pirate’s costume with tear-away trousers and puff-sleeve shirt. I was pulling on the loose, knee-high boots when the ‘hostess’ knocked and came in with my fee, five $20 bills in an envelope.
“You’ll do six songs, right? And try to get her to dance with you, okay?” she asked, holding up a Kodak Instamatic, “I want to get a picture.”
I had only met the retiree for a second or two but even I could tell that this idea was a bad one. And a cruel one.
I danced my first two dances with my shirt open to the waist in the middle of a hooting and howling circle of women, turning and dancing suggestively with each in turn.
The poor victim did her best to stay in the back but was not able to escape being pushed to the front when I got to her. I felt her pain and stayed with her for a shorter time than any of the others and when I moved on I could see the relief in her face.
My third song I finished shirtless, waving my fake cutlass as if in victory.
For my fourth, I had planned to stand close to the guest of honor and tear my trousers off. I could not do that to this sweet, gray-haired woman.
Instead, I got as far away as the small circle would permit, turned my back to her, grabbed my baggy pants at the crotch and with a hard yank, was suddenly wearing only boots, an eye-patch, and a black, soft-leather G-string.
Slowly, in time to the Commodores’ Slippery When Wet, I turned on one toe, back around, just in time to see the poor woman slip into a back office.
I was apparently the only one to see her go.
I owed her, I felt, at the very least, that escape, and did everything I could to keep the crowd distracted, including rubbing my sweat-slick body against the woman who’d so mistreated her friend by employing me.

I lasted about another five months working there, ready to leave for most of the last two but unable to resist the easy money.
Besides earning enough money to allow me to escape the economic quagmire of Albuquerque and move to San Francisco, what I got most out of that career detour was a rare insight that most men never have access to.
The average guy, if given the opportunity, would eagerly accept the role of ‘sex object’ without any thought to the consequences. Most men, at their most visceral level, cannot understand why women find this idea so objectionable.
They have no way of knowing, as I did not, before that job, what this means.
That it means that the person you are talking to doesn’t care about your dreams or ambitions.
That she doesn’t care whether you are smart or foolish (and would generally prefer the latter).
She doesn’t want to hear what books you’ve read, what movies you’ve seen, or your opinion on the events of the day.
None of that matters.
In fact, you don’t matter.
All that matters is how closely you fit their image of physical perfection.
And as any woman can attest- that gets old really fast.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My jail rape

This is an account of my first incarceration, at age 17, and my subsequent rape. While it does have a positive conclusion it is explicit, very graphic, and may be disturbing to read.
It is NOT for the faint of heart!

However, it is one of the things that made me the person I am today and as such I am neither ashamed nor embarrassed by it. It just is.
It has already been posted online in a forum about jail and prison sexual violence though without my name attached.
Sadly, it is a tale no different than thousands of others in jails and prisons across the country and around the world.
It is a serious problem that is for the most part ignored by the authorities.
Since it is 'forbidden' they deny it exists at all and refuse to issue condoms to prisoners even though STDs are rampant throughout the system.

My story takes place in March 1970.
The setting is the gang section of the Washington, D.C. Juvenile Hall.


I remember thinking, even as the 14 year-old boy on my left kept kicking me in the temple, how strange it was that I should notice at that moment how different a black cock tastes.

After all, I was at that moment, truly in fear for my life. That I could or would be killed, or at the very least, seriously injured, was being made graphically clear by my fellow inmates with the punctuated emphasis of their fists and feet.

These 35 or so others and I were the temporary guests of the District of Columbia Youth Detention Facility and I was seriously out of my depth.

I had been charged with simultaneously with being a runaway and with harboring a runaway. Despite my numerous requests to have this apparent contradiction explained, I never did learn how this could be. I can only say that it would provide great insight when later I would study Kafka in college.

In February 1970, aged 17 years and 3 months, I had moved to attend The Hawthorne School, a progressive, non live-in, private high school. It was a last-ditch attempt to find an academic environment I could adapt to long enough to finish high school.

I had already traveled extensively on my own, (to Eire & Britain, across Canada to Alaska, to the West Indies) but this was my first time truly living on my own. And none of it, particularly growing up in the semi-rural Pine Barrens of New Jersey, had in any way prepared me for my first experience with the D.C. police.

It began a few weeks earlier at a benefit concert for the Quicksilver Times, one of the ‘60’s best underground papers. Mixing politics, music, youth culture, and graphic art with deliciously biting satire, its articles and illustrations were frequently plagiarized by other magazines across the country. In those free-wheeling, anti-custodial days, this was seen as ultimate compliment.

As an aficionado, admirer, and creator of psychedelic art whose works adorned many clothes an bedroom walls amongst my friends back in New Jersey, it

seemed to be just the outlet I was looking for.

Especially when I met the awesome Dawn.

A year older, with shimmering, golden, waist-length, she wore a long, diaphanous, Indian print skirt and a denim vest she had elaborately embroidered into a floral garden filled with all manner of mystical beasties.

She was a volunteer typist and seemed genuinely enthusiastic about showing my sketches to the art director.

Of course the art director was more than happy to take on even an inexperienced hand with layout and I was invited to come by the following week.

I still remember my first assignment, a test of my skills. I was asked to enlarge a single panel of a cartoon strip. The kind of thing the most primitive xerox machine can do in seconds, but back then, any photo work, enlargements, half-tones, reductions, photo copying, had to be done in the darkroom at the printer and cost at least $10 each.

On the tiny operating budget of an underground paper, where rub-on lettering was a luxury, photo work was a major expense, an artist who could turn photos into drawings and alter graphics to fit a particular space was a valuable commodity. At the end of the four-day-straight layout and paste-up I was offered a paying job as a contributor.

Contributors were paid, as was everyone, in papers. 100 copies per issue with the full-time staff receiving 400 copies. We could sell them out of the office for wholesale at 10 cents per copy or sell them on street corners for 25 cents.

It was during my second layout session that I got busted.

In those open days, by their very nature, underground papers were the de facto community switchboards and were frequently the first contact newcomers had in a new city.

Street people, as they were then known in a non-pejorative sense, were common hangers-out. Freaks and politicos, hippies and vets, used our offices as a meeting area during daylight hours.

One such person, a young woman about my age, was, innocently, to be my undoing.

She had appeared in the afternoon and just spent the day hanging around. Our lobby had several well worn couches and was a virtual reading room for all the other papers in the US (we all exchanged papers). It was common for people to be there for hours, though this woman’s youth and beauty did make her stand out.

As night fell it became apparent that she had nowhere to go.

Now to those who were not there, it is impossible to describe the intense level of paranoia which existed amongst the counter culture of those times. We were more than a little of afraid of being shut down over even the pettiest of crimes.

Even though we had no idea as to what extent, we assumed correctly that we were under close surveillance.

The person working the front desk called the few shelters but it was late and they were either not answering or had no beds available.

I was asked if I had any friends who might put her up for the night but my friends and classmates all lived at home and it was far too late to start calling around.

I was looking forward to spending the next three days straight doing layout so I suggested, with only slightly impure thoughts, “Why doesn’t she crash at my place?’

More fateful words, before or since, I have probably not ever spoken.

The young runaway was astounded, especially when I made it clear that she would be there alone, that I would make such an offer to a total stranger.

Even if my meager possessions had consisted of more than a few clothes, school books, and a beat up alarm clock, I’d have had no qualms. Such were those idealistic times.

I had to walk her over and let her in, it being a sort of rooming house. Once there, I’d leave her my extra keys and go back to work. We never made it. We had to cross Du Pont Circle, an always busy intersection of 3 broad Avenues and 2 major Streets. It was, and is, a major pick-up point for transvestite and young, gay male prostitutes. It is never empty.

And even at 3 a.m., a 16 year-old girl and a 17 year-old boy should not have normally attracted any attention.

But as we were leaving the circle to head south on New Hampshire Ave., a blue and white patrol car squealed to a stop in front of us, blocking our path.

It was followed by another and another, until, dangerous desperadoes that we were, we were hemmed in by five cars including 3 marked and 2 unmarked units.

Never being one to keep my mouth shut when I have an opportunity to put my foot in it, I laughed out loud and asked if these 11 or 12 guys thought they would be enough.

It was the last time I had to learn that cops really hate wise guys.

Even at that youthful age I was a seasoned traveler with no little experience in dealing with the police. In the past I’d had to explain to Mounties how a 14 year-old came to be hitchhiking across Canada, to East German Staats Polizei why a 13 year-old was taking pictures of a military convoy (though I lost the film), and to some very stern-faced Dutchmen in white uniforms why I was camped on the beach in St Maarten with no money at age 15.

So foolishly I assumed that in my own country, tact, a calm demeanor, logic, and the truth, would soon set things aright.

If we’d just been runaways, and they’d just been police, that might have worked. But they had an agenda and were not interested in anything as trivial as facts.

It wasn’t until much later and had become more informed of the ways of the police “Red Squads” and FBI (not to mention, NSA,CID,DIA, et al.) that I realized the elaborate trap which had been laid for me to blunder into.

Through the Freedom of Information Act I would later learn that the entire building, down to the bathrooms, that the Quicksilver Times occupied, was infested with recording and camera equipment. (a Google search will lead you to a description of it as a 'textbook example' of how to infiltrate and disrupt radical groups- they had no clue, trust me!)

Other staff members have since shown me transcribed conversations and copies of files filled with references to photos of people engaging in all sorts of activities which pose an obvious threat to National Security such as having sex (a very popular subject), smoking hashish, or taking a crap (second only to sex in its fascination for the Feds).

Knowing these facts, it seems an obvious conclusion that the powers behind the surveillance had me picked up for two tactical reasons.

First, to process and fingerprint me to establish my identity and start a file on me, to learn just who this new face at the paper belonged to.

And secondly, to feed me to the system with the intent of scaring me away from my involvement with those nefarious drug-using, sex-having, crap-taking, left-wing extremists of the underground newspaper scene.

They were way too late.

Before being pushed into the cars, my companion and I were given a more-than-usually-thorough frisking which included dropping my jeans and taking off my surplus-issue Vietnam jungle boots and the public raising of the young woman’s skirt and the emptying of her meager backpack onto the roadway.

Her tears did nothing if not encourage the torrent of locker room-crude comments and laughter.

I watched in frustration as she was unceremoniously cuffed and taken away. I never did discover her fate though the officers made it clear that it was her association with me that had gotten her in trouble and that whatever happened to her was undoubtedly my fault.

The cuffs they put on my wrists, I now know by later comparison, were more than a little extra tight. Just as I know that the next two-plus hours I was to spend in the back of their ‘unmarked’ 4-door Ford with black-walls and a whip antenna, was not the standard operating procedure.

My fingers were cold and blue and my wrists chafed to near-bloodiness by the time I was uncuffed and pushed into a small, mesh-screened holding cell with a very large and very foul smelling biker who roused from the single bed just long enough to make it very clear that I should not, under any circumstances, disturb his sleep.

Thus instructed, my requests to make a phone call were kept to a whisper whenever an officer came near.

I was told, variously, to be patient, to talk to my arresting officer, and most frequently, to shut up.

When my arresting officer did appear he told me I’d get my phone call at the next precinct, after I’d been booked. And in the mean time to shut up.

He finished his shift at sunrise and I was left in the cell for the rest of the day. My ursine cellmate sobered up and was let go before lunch.

Ah lunch! A bite-sized, cold, White Castle hamburger and slimy and cold french fries, all washed down with a half-pint carton of room temperature milk. M-mm!

I was at last allowed to call my mother in New Jersey. She was told that I could only be released into the custody of an adult and that she would have to come down the next day or send an adult in her stead. In any event, I was going to spend the night at the Hall.

I was fingerprinted and booked as a runaway.

We got to the hall just after dinner, too late for a hot meal and in its stead I was served a cold one. That is, a meal that was once hot had cooled and now occupied the sections of a divided plastic tray as unidentifiable pools of congealed, dull-colored, stuff.

I nibbled bit of each with the plastic spoon and drank the lukewarm milk, using the last of it to wash down the gaggingly-stale triangles of flavorless white bread. Considering what was to follow, it was probably best that my stomach was relatively empty.

The rest of the inmates eyed me with more than casual curiosity, sizing me up, taking my measure, in a way that made me feel like a stranger in an old west saloon,

My only thought was to be as friendly as possible. This, I would learn only after my release, was taken as a sign of weakness.

Even though my hometown in New Jersey had gerrymandered its African-American population into a separate township back in the 1920s, I was raised in a household where the word ‘nigger’ was literally as obscene, and unmentionable, as ‘shit’ or ‘fuck.’ (So much so that I would learn the meaning of the latter before the former.)

There were only a handful of African Americans in my school but we’d always gotten along and in the fourth grade, one of them, a girl named Victoria, was my only really close friend.

This was not the first time I’d been in an all-black environment and I was genuinely not worried. I should have been.

You see, this was not just an all-black environment, it was an all-prisoner environment and the familiar rules which governed behavior on the outside did not apply. I was in way over my head and the worst part was that I didn’t even know it.

Looking back, with the matured view of an observing naturalist, I see that it was not dissimilar to the dynamics of any number of clanning species.

The first thing they wanted to know was why I’d been busted.

I made my first serious mistake when I answered honestly. Within the ultra-macho hierarchy of prison society, every crime is the ‘display’ that instantly establishes a new prisoner’s place.

Being charged as a runaway put me way at the bottom, at about the level of jaywalking or spitting in public. I was dead meat before I started.

The Community Room where I was fed contained a few Formica tables, a small bookshelf whose meager contents consisted of some old magazines and a poor selection of books with many of the pages ripped out, and rows of hard plastic chairs against the walls.

When I finished eating I dumped the rest into a trash can and stacked the tray on top of a pile of others.

I selected a book without looking and retreated to the farthest corner, unable to decide whether to avoid or attempt to insinuate myself into one of the several small clusters of men who, from their glances, I presume were talking about me.

I am sure, upon reexamination, that there was no right choice.

I tried, after a few half-hearted smiles, to bury myself, ostrich-fashion, in my selection. Only an actual ostrich would have been more obvious.

Over the top of my book, a pair of very large, jean-covered legs appeared.

“You’re sittin’ in my seat.”

Sliding down a couple of chairs I muttered, “Sorry...”

“You’re sittin’ in my seat!!” This time louder and distinctly menacing.

I moved to the other side of the room, giving the large body atop the large legs a wide berth as I did, and took a seat. I do not know it but I have failed my second test.

“I thought I told you to get the fuck out of my chair!”

Looking up, meeting his eyes for the first time, I asked, “Why don’t you tell me which chair isn’t yours and I’ll sit there.”

I never saw the fist.

It knocked my head back into the concrete wall hard enough to stun and confuse me.

The words, “Get the fuck outta my chair!” might have meant something but at that moment I had no idea what that might be. My delay in moving bought me a flurry of punches to the face and several booted kicks to my legs, aimed at my groin but landing on my tightly crossed thighs.

Out of instinct more than anything, I covered my head, rolled onto the floor, and curled into a ball.

I have memories, broken glimpses really, of looking out through my arms to see numerous dark smiling faces and feeling kicks and blows all over my body.

Recalling and describing it here, my lower back, where my kidneys are, throbs with a dull and familiar ache.

If only I could explain, I thought, if only I could tell them that I wasn’t one of their racist oppressors, that my mother worked for the Division on Civil Rights, that if only they would stop and give me a chance...stop hitting and kicking me for a second, I could explain.

But of course they would not. To do so would be to recognize me as an individual, as a person. The kind of thinking that is exactly the opposite of what mobs are all about.

To them, I was the incarnation of every slight, every insult, every demeaning act of racism to which they had ever been subjected. And I knew it.

I have no idea how long that went on. All I can offer is the observation that the bruises, the swellings, and the sundry aches from that thorough ass-whipping took at least 5 or 6 weeks to fade completely.

But finally, with every inmate, down to the youngest 11 and 12 year-old having had their fill, it ended.

Unfortunately for me, the respite was only momentary.

I never lost consciousness (though that would have been welcome), but I remember that it took a while before I became aware that the beating had stopped. I lay there, afraid of attracting attention by moving, until I heard a voice offering me a hand up.

Uncurling from my fetal position was only accomplished in slow stages, one limb at a time. Moving my upper arm I looked up to see the face of my benefactor.

He was very handsome, with straight white teeth gleaming against his smooth olive skin. His bright brown eyes were solicitous and friendly.

His strong hand wrapped around my upper arm and lifted me to an upright posture and then from there to my feet over the silent and sharply painful protestations of my abused muscles.

“Come on, let’s get you a drink of water and then we’ll have a little talk,” he said, guiding me over to a cracked white drinking fountain hanging precariously from the wall. I made nothing of the hand placed gently at the nape of my neck as I

bent to take a sip.

His voice was soft beside my ear as he asked, “So, you like to play the boy-boy games?”

It took me a moment to realize what he was talking about and after I took a drink I shook my head and answered, “No thanks.”

The hand on my neck slammed my face into the fountain, cutting my lip on the chrome spigot. Clapping my hand on the bleeding cut, I stood upright and turned toward him.

Still speaking in a conversational tone, he asked, “Let’s try that again. Do you like a nice cock?”

In my own defense, let me remind you that my head was still ringing from its collision with the fountain and still throbbed with the memory of its encounter with numerous fists and boot and shoe tips.

I was not thinking with anything close to the concept of ‘clearheaded’ when I answered, “No man, I’m not into that...”

I didn’t see either of the blows, the first, which caught me in the gut and knocked all the air from my lungs or the second, which hit the corner of my left eye (and would later produce a magnificent shiner). Together, they dropped me to my knees, gasping for breath I could not acquire. A pair of slaps, one for each side of my face, seemed to clear my head, at least clear it enough to grasp what he wanted.

I was half-pulled, half-carried, to an alcove out of sight of the door beyond which the counselor/guard sat. Looking that way, I thought of crying out to him but as if reading my mind the handsome controller of my fate again slapped my face and warned, in a sinister tone, “Don’t even think about it.”

Pushed into a corner and onto my knees, I was surrounded and slapped repeatedly about the head and shoulders. Unlike the earlier attacks, these seemed less intended to injure than to keep me cowed.

When the abuse ceased I found myself facing the trim mid-body of the one I now realized was calling the shots.

His golden-brown hand opened the front of his jeans, reached in and fished out his semi-erect cock. Wrapped in his fingers, I watched transfixed as it grew just inches from my face.

Now, by this time in my life I was far from being a virgin and this was not going to be the first cock to cross my lips. That part did not worry me.

Right then, all I cared about and hoped for, was for the beating to stop and I figured it would, at least while my teeth were so close to his cock.

His hand did stay the guy on my left, though I am quite sure this had little to do with concern for my well being.

Cradling it gently in my hand, I sucked his long, fat cock as if my life depended on it since I was more than a little certain that it just might. Despite constant open and closed hand blows to my back and flanks, I concentrated on giving the best blow-job I knew how.

I knew then that this was my best hope of survival, that I must satisfy and thus attach myself to the leader.

His words, as I worked hard to please him, confirmed my thoughts, “You’re gonna be shackin’ w’me tonight, ain’t you, boy? You be spreadin’ those white cheeks for my fat dick, won’t you, boy?”

Afraid to stop, my answer was not immediately forthcoming and it earned me a sharp cuff upside my head to punctuate his question, “You’re mine, ain’t you?!”

I pulled back just long enough to answer. “Yes. Yes, I’ll do what ever you want. But can you keep these guys off me?

“I know I can do better if they’ll just lay off while I’m doin’ it,” I pleaded, my voice breaking.

This gambit seemed to work. He waved the others away and I went back to pleasuring him.

“Tha-a-a-t’s a good boy...that’s just how I like it,” he cooed softly.

“You know you like suckin’ that big, black cock, don’t you, boy?”

I didn’t know whether he wanted me to stop and answer but I figured, as long as he was happy, and as long as I wasn’t getting punched or kicked, I ought to not take any chances.

“Mm-hm,” was all I offered, instead choosing to increase the fervor of my oral worshipping of his cock, licking down its length and jamming its bulbous head against the opening of my throat.

He continued his soft reassurances but I found no comfort in them.

Though I worked hard at exciting him, I could not make myself, for even an instant, forget what he had done to me to make me comply. Despite that awareness, it would be years later before I could bring myself to describe this assault as what it was; a rape.

His fingers wrapped themselves in my long blonde hair and, securely entwined, held my head locked and fucked my mouth, I closed my eyes and concentrated on timing my breaths between his thrusts.

Leaning close, he warned me, in clearly menacing tones, “When I cum, you better swallow every drop or I’ll make you very, very, sorry..,” rapping me sharply upside the head as punctuation.

Though I’d played around in Boy Scouts and given head before, I’d never let them ejaculate in my mouth. I was afraid, no, terrified, of what he (and the others when he was through), would do if I gagged or spit his semen back up.

Fortunately, or not, depending on one’s view, I had no choice. At the moment of his eruption, he rammed himself to the back of my mouth and spurted his thick, slightly bitter, cream directly into the back of my throat and down my gullet. He held himself there, denying me air, until, completely spent, and much shrunken in size, his cock slipped its shiny purplish head from between my lips.

I could not have been less prepared for what happened next,

He shoved me back off my knees and told the surrounding throng, “Go ahead, he’s all yours.”

For the first time, amid sickening laughter, I began to lose hope.

What happened next is sequentially blurred. I remember being forced back against the intersection of the two walls and having my cry for help abbreviated with a kick that loosened my incisors.

I remember knees on my arms and my back holding me motionless and I remember a bit of wadded-up, sweaty, foul-tasting cloth being used to gag me.

I remember my corduroy bell-bottoms being used to yank me face down to the floor and then pulled down to my knees. I remember my legs being held open by hands too numerous to fight against.

And though I wish it were not so, I can vividly remember the horrible feeling, as though being literally ripped open, of a huge, unlubricated penis being forced into the tight ring of muscle guarding my bowels, just as I can still remember being unable to make myself scream over the fear which silenced me more than the disgusting cloth in my mouth.

And I recall as well the sensation of my guts being pulled out with every outward stroke and I remember begging God to make him climax soon.

I can vaguely remember the next cock, feeling tiny by comparison, and an endless stream of crude and disgusting descriptions of my plight.

But beyond that, such as just how many times my mouth and ass were used, and for how long it all went on, I cannot (and do not want), to recount exactly.

I was finally left, sore and messy at both ends, longing for sweet unconsciousness but unable to summon it. Every time footsteps vibrated the linoleum nearby I flinched inwardly but did not move, hoping my feigned coma would protect me.

Though it was tested from time to time with none-to-gentle kicks, it seemed to work.

Suddenly, by strong hands beneath each armpit, I was lifted to my feet and my pants were jerked up into place. Blinking my eyes against the bright lights I moaned in fear of what was going to happen next.

My ‘benefactors’, warning me to silence, pulled the soggy cloth, which I now

saw was someone’s underwear, from my mouth and explained that it was, “time for community meeting and that if I knew what was good for me, I’d keep my mouth shut...or I’d really be sorry.”

As an added reminder I was seated between the handsome leader and the largest of his cohort, their shoulders pressing firmly against mine in a way that shouted a silent and not-to-be-missed message of intimidation.

The guard was joined by a small, earnest-looking white guy who led the meeting. As the rookie I was called upon to stand and tell the group “something about myself that showed the ‘real’ me.”

The ‘real’ me? “Hell,” I thought,” these kids know the ‘real’ me better than this liberal asshole will ever know!”

I succeeded in resisting the temptation to sarcasm, rose, and told the group, in a long, run-on string, “My name is Kevin, I’m 17, I go to the Hawthorne School, and I got busted for being a runaway.

“And oh yeah, of course, I’m innocent,” adding the latter with a wry smile.

This brought forth long and loud gales of laughter and I have no doubts that the fact that that I’d managed to on to some small shred of my sense of humor earned me back at least a bit of the respect I’d lost by accepting the role of ‘bitch’ for the whole cell-block.

We went around the room, each youth standing and introducing themselves. It was quickly apparent the crimes these guys were in for were of a whole different level than my own: Assault, arson, armed robbery, manslaughter, these were common. Each recited his litany, adding, amid much laughter, “And oh yeah, of course, I’m innocent.”

I am quite sure, in retrospect, that it was no coincidence that I was placed into that lions’ den of crime. That the same powers that had had me arrested in the first place, wanted me to experience the full dimension of the criminal justice system.

We’d gotten about half-way around the circle when the meeting was abruptly disrupted by the arrival of my salvation.

The appearance in the door of my school’s principal brought tears to my eyes.

As I stood to leave, the loudest protestations came from my erstwhile protector, about the only prisoner who had held back from satisfying himself at my expense. He’d been saving me for his bed that night and was more than a little pissed-off.

“What about our games, boy? I was gonna show you a real good time.”

I wish I could have come up with a better parting shot than the shrug I gave, but by then I was just too spent to care.

I only discussed what I went through with two people. Dawn and the school nurse.

The latter was clearly very uncomfortable and her cursory examination of my abrasions was limited to just the areas revealed by my clothing. Other than a couple of ice packs and the standard warning signs of a concussion, she had little to offer.

The other was Dawn, who, with no formal training, had a much more effective response.

She listened as long as I wanted to talk and when I ran out of words, she wrapped her arms around me and let me fall asleep in the blissful serenity of her friendship.

She stayed close all during the rest of that layout, keeping the details of what I’d gone through to herself. She’d stop by and check on me, laying a gentle hand on my arm, or surprising me with a hug.

Her instinctive therapy, I am convinced, allowed those wounds to heal with little scarring.

(Wherever you are, Dawn, I hope that your life has been much blessed.)

A month or two later, I was able to take a giant-step in my own healing in a way that I could never have predicted.

It came in the guise of one of the many regular contributors to the Quicksilver Times.

A handsome African-American man named Will, a charter member of the then-nascent Gay Liberation Front. I had illustrated and drawn elaborate headlines for several pieces he had written.

We were both inveterate flirts and our conversations were well-peppered with the kind of casual insinuations and double entendres common to workplaces in those days. Until I was arrested.

I had let people know in general terms what had happened,figuring that that would be easier than having to ask a lot of questions.

I put on, I think, a brave face. I managed a few bad, macho, jokes and paid attention to the older men around me when they explained where I’d gone wrong.

Will was sweet and sympathetic and gave me a hug the first time he next saw me, but regarding all things sexual, he kept a gentle distance, as if waiting for me to be the one to restore what we’d once had.

I, for my part, quickly missed the banter and repartee, and became even more physical than before as my way of showing him that I in no way connected him with what had happened to me.

A few weeks later, maybe a month, at an acid party sponsored by the district’s largest dealer, we closed the circle.

The dealer was a big fan of Quicksilver and felt more than a little guilty at the absurd amount of money he was making. Whenever he received a new variety of Owsley Stanley's latest chemical genius, he’d offer us a chance to try it out.

We were eager and articulate guinea pigs and gave him very detailed reviews.

Our party room was high on the third floor in what had probably once been the servants’ quarters. The floor was wall-to-wall mattresses, their sheets dyed black to match the walls, both squirt-gunned with Day-Glo.

In addition, there were some original drawings by former house-guests, including Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton.

It was a guest room, a layout-decompression chamber, and a psychedelic transport station.

It was where I experienced my first group massage, a common post-layout reward.

We’d take turns lying naked between two rows of people, quickly losing track of which hands were attached to which human. Even when you’re not tripping your ass-off, it is a transcendent experience. Still, I never discussed what had happened to me.

After, in the usual humidity that marks D.C.’s climate, it was not our custom to concern ourselves with clothing and we’d sprawl across each others’ bodies atop the myriad textures that covered the mattresses.

It was, viewed from the door, like a scene of sensual massacre.

It was thus, in a scene unusual only in its commonness, that I found my legs across an unknown someone’s middle and my head on Will’s thigh, looking up into the dilated pupils of his deep brown eyes.

From those eyes I felt compassion and affection and his face seemed to radiate the beauty within.

I don’t remember who, or even if it was either of us, that initiated our first kiss but it seemed to last forever and when it ended I was surprised to discover that we were alone.

Later, as I pleasured him in reciprocation, I dragged my tongue along the sensitive underside of his glans and savored his musky saltiness, I had to stifle a laugh as I thought about how good a black cock could taste...


I don’t know for sure whether I was just using Will as a convenient way to supplant my bad memories of black male sexuality with positive one. It was the only time we ever made love, though that was probably due more to a lack of convenient circumstance than conscious intent.

He was strong and beautiful and gentle and I am ever grateful that our destinies intersected.

Like most of my compatriots, I have no idea what eventually happened to him but I hope that his life has been filled with joy. In my memory, he lives on, smiling, young and forever beautiful.

And I think I turned out okay.