Sunday, May 14, 2017

Ash Wednesday

I’m worried about my trip up to New York to attend a party.

I worry that I am not traveling with a young assistant who is far more skillful at pushing the buttons on my iPhone (or laptop, if I hadn’t drowned the keyboard in coffee and lost the damned thing even before I became that comfortable using it) than I am. I worry about the latest Theory of Everything (this decade it’s ADD) which does such a good job of holding people in their various social tracks, so that someone who is dyslexic (like me) is also said to have “a form of ADD.” My friend Bob Woof tells me a third of the people who will be at the party have it too. Our mutual friend Eric says Bob is practically a hoarder, which makes it likely he has a touch of it himself. But despite both of those worries, I’m on the bus and headed north.

Bob has invited me to one of his Prime Timers parties on Sunday evening, March 5, 2017. He’s been inviting me to these gatherings for more than a year, but this time I’ve decided to accept and write a few notes on it as well. (In a notebook. I can’t handle them any other way.)

I’m combining the trip with another visit I’ve been wanting to make for several years, to see my old fuck buddy, Maison, and his husband, Fred, who live further upstate near Poughkeepsie: I’ll continue by the Metro-North train and stay with him and Fred Monday night, March 6, and Tuesday night, March 7, before returning to New York City by train and, after a walk across town from Grand Central Station to Port Authority with my grey plastic rollaway and my grubby white Zabar’s bag, back to Philadelphia on the morning of Wednesday, March 8—on a Peter Pan bus.

But that’s getting ahead of things.

The Prime Timers is a group of older New York City–based gay men who have a sex party every month. This time it is at the DoubleTree hotel on the southeast corner of Forty-Seventh and Seventh. The party is in room 3905—two rooms actually, both given over to sex from 5:30 pretty much till midnight.

While I was not particularly nervous sexually about what would happen, there was my worsening ADD: the shattering of my self-confidence last year had left me with exactly the kind of uncertainties that Bob prided himself on being able to take care of in the elderly men who came to his parties. Would I arrive with phone and luggage intact? Would I be able to get back with everything I started out with? Would I be able to negotiate my medications, food? Sleep? With ADD wreaking havoc on logic and focus, would I be able to document the trip as I hoped?

About a year ago, Bob brought a car full of guys to have lunch with me out at a mall restaurant in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, where Dennis, my partner of twenty-seven years, and I were living with my daughter and son-in-law. The guys Bob brought were civilized, seemingly well off, and friendly. One big fellow in jeans and a jean jacket was driving the group back to New York City from somewhere.

One man, John, in a navy pea jacket remarked on what a nice guy I was. Bob sucked my fingertip at the restaurant table. Nobody else in the restaurant seemed particularly interested in us. Dennis didn’t come that day, I remember, for whatever reason.

I’d met Bob at an academic convention on gay comic art, at the CUNY Graduate Center, where he’d walked up to me, put his arms around me, and began to kiss me. He was fifty-six and I was seventy-two. He told me that he was really mad over “silver daddy bears.” He was a guy with glasses and a short white beard, who traveled in jeans and plaid shirts, as I did. My beard was notably longer, and white.

Through the rest of the program, he hung out with me even though I had come with three younger friends (Mia Wolff, Ann Matsuchi, and Alex Lozupone); it was the day I met Alison Bechdel, and we mentioned my part in the formation of “The Bechdel Test,” and met a number of other folks. While Bob verged on the annoying, his brazenly direct sexual come on was intriguing.

What has always interested me about gay male society is the way it seems to operate differently from what one might call normative heterosexual society.

I learned that Bob ran a group for men such as myself—the Prime Timers: gay and over fifty. (What this had to do with gay comic books, I never really understood; but, well, there was some connection. . . .) For better or worse, however, I felt I could learn something from him. He seemed naturally kind, concerned and caring.

I’m known as a “sex radical, Afrofuturist, and grand master of science fiction,” but the fact is, I am nowhere near as sexually radical as many, and for all my interest lots of things have passed me by. I felt there was a world of experience that had been slipping away. I wanted at least to know something about it, to write about it.

by Samuel R. Delaney, Boston Review |  Read more:
Image: Samuel R. Delaney