At the time, I didn’t really know what “gay” meant. In high school, my friend Bobby M. once spoke of “queers.” I asked Bobby what that meant, and he said they were very mean guys who wanted to hurt you, specifically by blowing air … well, this being a family-oriented autoblography, let’s just say that Bobby’s theory was wide of the mark.
So I met Jon and some of his friends, and they were kind of interesting, but I found it awkward. And embarassing.
For example, one day, sitting in a booth with friends, in the booth behind me were Jon and his friends. Jon was wearing a cologne, quite pleasant actually, but I couldn’t just say something like that, oh no.
Some comment was made, and he asked me if I liked the scent. I was embarassed, and gruffly replied, “You smell pretty.”
This was meant to be somewhat rude, so my friends wouldn’t think I was maybe light in the loafers, you know. But Jon never blinked an eyelash.
“That’s because I think pretty thoughts,” he said.
But later I was happy I knew him, because he was giving up his cool apartment, and he helped me to take it over. Across from the English Building was Voertmann’s, the bookstore. Beside Voertmann’s, a narrow alley ran to the parking lot behind the store. On the building next door, a beauty parlor filled the first floor, and two clunking metal stairs led to apartments above.
The apartment in front was huge; and down a catwalk at the back of the building, my new apartment was tiny.
It was great. First, it was dirt-cheap, always an attractive feature. It was one room, with a bath and tub, and two closets: one for clothes, and one with a tiny refrigerator where I built shelving for food and a crockpot to make soup and chili. Presto! Instant kitchen.
Going around the room, I’d added a console television, a cabinet on the wall with a collection of teas — very cosmopolitan for a boy from Henrietta — and a set of black shelves built like a pole light. On these I stacked white dishes and bowls.
Beside the door, a huge speaker cabinet covered in blue burlap atop of which a black formica counter-top supported an enormous copper pot with a brass faucet for water. Then my record turntable, suspended by a chain, and a free-form wooden thing suspended from the ceiling, through which passed a pottery lamp above my bed.
A home-made sofa beneath a wall panel of colored cloth, and some rattan, four lithographs matted in dark colors, from my ex-roommate Hardy. A drop-down drafting table suspended from the wall, and my conga drum in the corner, both stained teal blue, completed the scene.
Red and blue bulbs in a pole lamp shone upon a fake brick section of wall, and gay Jon had painted the walls and the hardwood floors white, so a bit of blue sisal carpet cheered things up. A hi-fi and foldaway cardtable beneath my bed provided an evening’s entertainment or a dinner party. I was all set.
It happened that my friend Lefevre was visiting in town, and because I was extremely proud of these several weeks work, mostly done over a Christmas vacation, I got my ex-roommate Pat to bring Jerry over to see my new place.
As it happened, they were very late, and I worked nights at the Holiday Inn, so I left the lights low and the door unlocked. They came and saw the place and left, and later I was so proud of my handiwork when Jerry told me, “I had no idea your tastes were so fine.”
Of course, this glow of approval was dimmed a little the next day when Pat dropped by. He came in, looked around.
“Nice decorating,” he said. “… Early Homosexual?”