Category Archives: Alaskan Adventure

Gay Bashed, part 4

This is the fourth in a series of four stories from a 2002 drive up the Alaskan Highway. See Gay Bashed, part 3 for the story leading to this one.

I was not sure how to return from Alaska. I did want to see the Alaskan Highway headed south. I also wanted to experience the Alaskan Marine Highway, the ferry system that runs through the touted Inside Passage.

There was no way to avoid Watson Lake if I were to drive back, so the handsome lumberjack’s “and don’t come back” seemed the perfect invitation to enjoy the ferry ride instead.Kenicott at Haines

A comfortable lounge on the ship provided pleasant conversation. The second evening I enjoyed a chat with a fit, intense guy with the vocabulary and calm demeanor of an engineer. He’d been alone in Alaska for six years and was escaping, to use his word, to Hawaii. I bought him a beer. We were staying in different classes of cabins and, wanting to check out the ship, I picked up some beers from my stash and met him in his roomette.

How to describe the smallest cabin available on the M / V Kennicott? The aisle between the door and the two bunk beds is perhaps two feet across. The top bunk is about a yard above the bottom bed. A small porthole looks across the deck to barrels of inflatable life rafts. And that’s it. It’s economical and it beats pitching a tent on the deck.

We were both tall men so relaxing for conversation was a rather gangly affair, our necks bent to fit under the top bunk, our bodies curved so our butts would still be on the bottom bunk, our legs sprawled and tucked about the narrow aisle. We chatted about Alaska. We chatted about the ship. We chatted about his living in the North. We chatted about my trip. And now, I decided, was the time to reveal my intentions. I had the perfect introduction—I had a story.

I told a quick story of growing up gay in the 50s. Of being turned on to men so early I held it inside. Of being fearful and digging a coward’s hole ever deeper, ever more fearful. A story of hitch hiking around the country and traveling alone. And a story of my final confrontation with the most awful fear of all—the story of being bashed for being queer.

“And where was I finally bashed?” I concluded. “Not only was it in a bar parking lot (it had to be in a bar parking lot! It would not have been the all-American story any other way) — no, it was not only in a bar parking lot, but it was in a frozen bar parking lot in the Yukon!

“THE YUKON ! ! !

“How more perfect could it be?”

I paused for a bit of dramatic effect.

He was a young man having lived the Arctic adventure for six years. He understood my enthusiasm.

Within ten minutes my awkward posture under his upper bunk had changed to a much more comfortable position on my knees—the position I had learned from the neighborhood boy so many years before. The handsome shipboard buddy seemed most welcome to be back to the services of civilization.

During our conversation my shipboard buddy mentioned wondering what the staterooms on the ship were like. The next day I pestered the purser to upgrade my crowded room with a washbasin to one of the ship’s staterooms. The private bath, double bed with headroom, and cabin with a couch and big square window sure was nice.Inside Passage

That night the black shapes of the Canadian coastal mountains were slipping by as a full moon reflected on the smooth sea. There was plenty of room for my buddy to stand while I sat on the couch. The large window let in plenty of moon shine.

Soft and yellow, the moonlight set the beautiful smooth skin of his lower stomach in a warm, golden flush.

My first shipboard romance.

Gay Bashed, part 3

This is the third in a series of four stories from a 2002 drive up the Alaskan Highway. See Gay Bashed, part 2 for the story leading to this one.

As far as gay bashings go, I was lucky as a guy can get. A swollen right side of my head and a lost hat, but my glasses still fit and nothing was broken. I’m most thankful.

Even so, the real luck of my bashing had just begun.

In the Yukon, March is still winter. Folks speak of the temperature and never bother to use the word below. All the remote tourist cabins are closed tight so the only option for comfortable rest is staying in the far-flung towns. With hardly any employment, crime is a big concern in the towns of the far north and security lights make it so you cannot see the Northern Lights anywhere near habitation.

My swollen head convinced me it would not be fun carousing in the next town, Whitehorse, so I pressed on. I ended up in Carmacks, a remote outpost on the Yukon River. #3A clerk

The village’s only hotel featured the same security lighting I’d been frustrated with since getting to the far north. I expressed my desire to see the Northern Lights to the clerk at the hotel’s front desk and she said perhaps she could help. There was a room outside of town, built over a homeowner’s garage. They rented the room during the summer. It was closed for the winter, but perhaps they’d rent it for a night or two. The clerk made a phone call on the hotel’s phone and sure enough, the folks agreed to let me have the room for a couple of nights. They also agreed to turn off their outdoor lights. #3B road to cabin

So. A place to see the Northern Lights. And let my swollen head recover. A regular win-win situation.

The clerk was just ending her shift so she graciously led me through back roads to a lovely, modern room. For two glorious nights huge sheets of green light emerged and wafted across the sky, building to where they had bright maroon skirts edging the base of the emerald walls. I was up and enjoying it until the cold drove me in. Then out of bed and back outside every hour. Or less.

Civilization’s need for security made it so those were the only Northern Lights I saw on my trip. I would have missed them if it weren’t for verbally blindsiding a handsome lumberjack one drunken night in the Yukon.

Fortunate, indeed. But another great gift from my bashing was yet to come.

#3C cabin #3D warm clothes

Gay Bashed, part 2

This is the second in a series of four stories from a 2002 drive up the Alaskan Highway. See Gay Bashed, part 1 for an introduction.

I may have hitch hiked in my twenties, but my travels have taken on the comforts of an automobile and hotel rooms. Over the years I’ve crisscrossed many amazing places in this vast association of States, but the Alaskan Highway and a good dose of the Northern Lights remained. So I took off the month of March, 2002, and headed north. I was 56 years old, had a new Saturn and a trunk full of things to keep me warm.

Communities with hotels are few and far between in the far north country, especially before the summer travel season. On the 520 mile drive from Fort Nelson, British Columbia, to the Yukon boarder there was a herd of buffalo on the road. Although small, that herd far outnumbered the three vehicles I saw that day. So I was glad to pull into Watson Lake before dark. #2 Watson Lake

Barely over the Yukon border, Watson Lake is a lumber community with several hotels and an equal number of bars. Its claim to fame is the Sign Post Forest, a small roadside park crammed with sign posts supporting handwritten arrows with distances to about every habitation in the world.

Settled into a pleasant hotel and full of dinner, I walked across the large parking lot of a bar. It was early Friday evening so there were plenty of empty bar stools for bellying up. At the far end of the counter was a stud of a lumberjack, in his late 20s with strong arms and a quick smile and plenty of spunk to keep everyone laughing. I knew I’d kick myself all night if I didn’t get over there and be a jolly good fellow in return.

My hero of the timberlands, fresh from hauling logs, was drinking with his dad to get the weekend started. The beer flowed and the bullshit flew and everyone was glad to give me pointers on the roads and the attractions and their travel stories. But buying beer in a bar is pricey for an all night stint so this handsome young man and his dad went home to drink. I stayed and revved jolly up to party.

Hours later the handsome young man was back, sitting at a table with his dad since the stools were all taken. I was engaged in chat at the bar and stayed put until I needed to take a leak.

It was a tiny two-holer of a bathroom, the toilet and the urinal practically overlapping. I was just finishing up when who should stumble in?

Well, there are guys in the world who could have been cool and stuck around to check this guy out. But I’m too shy for that and I wouldn’t want to make a guy uncomfortable. So I zipped up and began heading for the door.

“Hey, hey — you’re back!” I acknowledged while rinsing my hands.

“Oh, yea. Just went home to drink some cheep beer. Had to come back and chase some women.”

“Hum. Well.” I made a decision. “I really love to suck dick.”

And that was that. I was headed out the door when I started to say it and out the door I went. The devil made me do it. I knew better.

I finished my beer and several more before deciding to check out another bar. I got up. Put on my scarf and coat and hat. Walked through the bar and out the door and half way across the parking lot. And there it happened. Some sounds behind me. Awareness I was being hit. I put up my arms to protect my head and began yelling, “Hey — Hey — Hey.” I knew I needed to stay on my feet. I kept walking. And it was over. I didn’t hear anyone behind me. I turned and the strong, young lumberjack was in the doorway of the building, “And don’t come back.”

I decided I’d probably had enough to drink and should just go to my room. The night clerk observed I was bleeding from my head. I said I didn’t know why the guy had hit me, but that wasn’t what I meant to say. What I meant to say was I didn’t know why the guy had blind sided me. I was disappointed in him for having hit a guy from behind.

But that was a lie, too. I knew he had physically blind sided me because I had verbally blind sided him.

Gay Bashed, part 1

This is the first of a four-part series. A shortened and greatly edited version of this story from my experiences first appeared in Scott Pasfield’s book of portraits, Gay In America, 2011, Welcome Books, an imprint of Random House. 

On the edge of a Western town in the ’50s, when time was not yet divided into school days, the game of Doctor captured my eager attention. The neighborhood girl and I seemed quite good doctors and our practice was always open. The neighborhood boy and I proved equally adept.

The neighbor boy’s grin and excitement remain vivid in my memory as he promised, pants around our ankles, “I’ll suck yours if you’ll suck mine.”

There is a memory of feeling and watching as he went first. And there is a stunning awareness—in high-definition and complete three-dimensional precision—of the moment I felt him in my mouth. There is the smooth texture, warmth, and light smell. There is the summer dryness and dust in the air. There is the light filtering through the blackberry bushes twisting through the logs of the shed we were in.

That night I discovered masturbation and, although years from ejaculation, I experience my first climax. Was I four? Five? Three?

We played until he started school a year ahead of me. He became the “big boy” and seemed filled with interests other than private playrooms. Little by little I convinced myself he wouldn’t want to play right now and before long the ability to ask was driven behind a wall of reasons to put it off.

The habit I started with him became my habit with all the guys. Not that I didn’t try, but at that early age interest in sex didn’t seem prevalent in the other kids and I took disinterest to be rejection.

Soon the more I wanted someone the more impossible it was for me to bring up the subject. Words like queer and ferry began entering sexual talk and they were not used in fun ways. I found myself afraid of the guys I lusted for the most. Afraid of being beat up. Of being bashed. Inside I was running frightened, a coward digging my hole, as addicted to talking myself into rejection as any heroin user watching himself cook up another pipe.

Making cowardly decisions is not something one walks away from. I carried it with me the day I graduated from high school and moved to Los Angeles to become a movie star. With a bag of clothes and a hundred dollars, I stayed at the downtown Y before moving to a seedy neighborhood and walking several miles to a job on Sunset Boulevard. Walking in my neighborhood during the mid-60s I didn’t think much about the sound of gunshots when the LA riots broke out. There were three years hitchhiking around the country, sleeping under bridges and taking rides from anyone who stopped. There were times in bars where it was so dark my only sense was feel and there were times walking the streets of lower Manhattan at four in the morning. Yet always I was a coward. Avoiding the crowd if I could. #1 hwy to Watson Lake

Why didn’t I talk with or proposition that man I was so attracted to? Always a coward. Always letting a fear of being bashed get in the way of my freedom.

My fear was to come true. Fate held my rodeo on a bar parking lot — Yukon Territory, Canada.