of Yonge St & Balfour Park
of Georgian Bay
of The Turntable
of Kentucky
of Montreal
of Galiano
of The Pantyhose
of Pornography (& much more)
of The Dancefloor
of Los Angeles
of Trivia
of Cawthra Park
of The Underground
of Lourdes
of The Pooltable
of Colby's

of Remington's
of Newmarket
of Colby's & Remington's
of The Rock


Beyond  Angels: Twelve episodes

I have encountered not a few angels in my life, beyond the fifteen whose tales I told in Angels: Twelve episodes. In pondering those tales I avoided stories (but for one, and brief bits of others) that I had already told in my memoir, Promiscuous Affections: A Life in The Bar, 1969-2000.

But I wanted to let you in on those stories too. So here they are: in order more or less as these angels appeared, with links to related chapters in that memoir.

There are scores of people, perhaps hundreds there (it's huge, spanning more than thirty years): serendipitous finds; casual connections and close ones; bar buddies and tricks; street kids, hustlers, boyfriends, lovers, comrades in arms -- many dear to me. You'll find many of them there.

But few, even the dearest, are among those you'll find here. These are angels.

They fit the bill: appearing more or less by chance, offering inspiration, a particular pleasure, some revelation if even one small -- and then, more or less, flying away. Not all disappeared from my life entirely. A few in some way stayed in touch.

And two, as you'll see, stuck around much longer than angels are oft inclined. That might, by the Rule of Transience, seem to exclude them from my personal Choir of Angels. In fact, it put them in an Order all their own.

In some cases there's a longer story here, more details, more later reflections, than you'll find in Promiscuous Affections. I do go on. But these are tales I somehow want to keep telling.

Some notes:

This is a single document (and rather big: about 8,000 words, 19 images, two dozen angels). If you came here in search of specific angels, you can find them quickly via the links at the left. Or you can just read on, scrolling down from here.

There are no links in Promiscuous Affections to return you to this page. So if you want to see Other Angels again, use your browser's "Back" button. Or, if you're inclined to wander, note the full address of this page:


First met in 1970, here in 1976 (the story of this shot in 1975)

of Yonge Street (& Balfour Park)
1970 / 1975

Yonge Street is Toronto's main drag -- that term more true than "main street" for such an odd stretch of civic thoroughfare. It's not grand, at least not the parts I know best. More a bazaar, a midway, hangout and speedway for suburban kids in for the weekend; a trolling ground, a sleaze strip (if less so now than in years past), a locus of the city's "low life."

Which of course, for ages, has included the likes of us.

The young man on the left, now deceased, I found in 1970 as a wanderer on Yonge Street -- if one with more purpose than some: he was hawking an "underground" newspaper, not gay, if odd precursor to one that was. That encounter alone might have qualified him as an angel. But this picture caps his résumé. I took it some six years later, in David Balfour Park.

Balfour (among other parks) has been a famous cruising ground for decades. It's a place of wild exploration, Creatures of the Night (and day), marvellous serendipity and, if you want, quiet calm. I tell tales of it -- along with its natural and unnatural history -- in 1975.

Ken Huchinson was one of a few angels I encountered in the park (you'll also find a beatific pup leaning on a tree, and an elf splashing naked in a stream). But he's the only one I ever caught on film -- if alas not otherwise. Even without that picture, though, I doubt I'd have forgotten him.

Camp kids

Other boys at camp.
Right, Joe: Angel Unfallen

of Georgian Bay

Of the 86 school kids I, among others, accompanied as counsellors to a camp near Collingwood in May 1972, Rick, we'd been warned, was the one to watch out for. The boy had a bad rep, right away trying to live up to it. He was the kind of kid I'd been afraid of in high school. (Or wanted to have....)

An odd encounter one night in a bathroom ended his antics, and my fear; a Fallen Angel -- in underwear -- redeemed (for a while anyway) by mutual, if mostly unacknowledged, affection.

of The Turntable
1972 / 1985

Pug-faced handsome, shy at first, met at a party where he told me he didn't like to dance. He went on to become a noted community DJ. For a year or so before that we were -- as later called if maybe not then -- fuckbuddies. Donnie was wondrous.

He would also be the first person I knew at all well to die of AIDS. You'll find me at his funeral, with his mother and many friends, in 1985.

I've never found a picture of him. But if you've ever seen Jamie Oliver, BBC TV's The Naked Chef -- bouncy and succulent (if not naked, that's the food) -- well, you've seen Don Bell. Or nearly. His face, anyway, if not his calmer ease.

of Kentucky

In the years I worked at the University of Toronto Library, Bert, a graduate student from Kentucky, was among a regular lunch bunch in the Great Hall of Hart House.

He was a friend of my co-worker Bob. I found him a bit intimidating at first: fiery red hair shorn to a brute head; his body hard bulges of freckled alabaster. Bert was a body-builder -- long before clone was hot and the gym a gay shrine.

I did come to like him, his mind sharp, wit even sharper for its delivery in his refined Bluegrass drawl. But what made him an angel was a single surprising night in his bed: bulldog become pup.

That, and a letter he later wrote from Louisville -- one I thought I still had but, I see in the moment, may not. Lovely, I recall it; affectionate, flirtatious.

I do hope I answered. I can't be sure: in those days I didn't keep copies of letters. I have wished ever since that I did; imagine the stories I may now never get to tell. At least not as I knew them then.

of Montreal

Mark was a boy found in a Montreal bar, The Limelight I think. Truly a boy, still in high school. I was smitten, amazed at spending a night with him, quite fond of him by the end of the next day. Our only day; then he was gone. I still remember his last name (but I won't tell you).

You'll see in the memoir a bit of what we did. I don't recall much more but in odd hope -- and with odd inspiration: a porn video. He's not in it. A boy is who reminds me of him: not the face so much (though it's engaging, as Mark's was), but the body, the moves and what I take them to mean.

I've not watched it often, if ever going back to one scene: that boy, fucking another. It's shot from above as he leans back, down past his face or off to one side, showing the sweep of his torso: boy chest, flat waves of stomach, navel tucked neat, to a soft bush fanning untamed the root of his thighs. (It was before shaving; even before condoms.)

Those legs are set wide, the other's, on his back, wider. That boy guides his cock -- not porn "big" but substantial for a small body -- deep in, back out, his moves sure. Other shots show the action from behind, his behind and the small of his back in fluid, skillful flex.

I'm rarely turned on by porn. But here I sense that boy's energy, the essence of him coursing through his body, concentrating in his hips, flowing down that smooth thickness -- radiant, powerful, knowing.

And at that age: it's called 18 Candles, used on a birthday cake; he's not the party boy but looks the right age.

I suspect Mark had yet to see 18 candles. But I felt in him that radiant power, rising over me -- though I don't recall that he fucked me. The logistics don't jive: I doubt I'd have thought to bring lube on that trip, and can't imagine him packing any. (That would have been too striking to forget.) But... there was something....

An odd way to recall him, I suppose. I have no idea what life since has made him. I hope a man at least, his boyness outgrown. But I hope not his knowingness, his quest -- brave if tentative then -- for a sense of himself, who he might be. And what he could do.

Whatever power it was I sensed in him, I do hope it's one he kept.

Jane and Helen

Helen & Jane, his hosts & mine, in revelatory moments

of Galiano

On my first trip to Galiano, visiting Jane Rule and Helen Sonthoff, I encountered in their pool an angel. Not the only one: that pool splashed full of life every afternoon. But, of all those lovely creatures, he alone picked me to play with. I wasn't even in the pool -- if soon pretty wet.

Ki was skinny, straw-headed, radiant with energy. I liked him right off. And it was clear he liked me: He seduced me. It was magic, revealing a realm not often explored: between sensuality (mere if lovely exercise of the senses) and erotic engagement more richly charged.

Helen, on an earlier walk amidst fragrant florae, knowing them all by name, had offered a sensual delight. She introduced me to an arbutus. A limb was bare, bark peeled away. "Feel it," she said. "Like a baby's bottom." It was. I had no cause to wonder whether the tree enjoyed the touch of my hand; the pleasure was all mine.

Not with Ki. He was, as you'll see in 1984, five years old.

Five! As if a high school kid weren't plunder enough! To those suspecting plunder. Jane once said (in a film you can read about in 1995):

"I think we need greater openness with children, to acknowledge their own desires, to deal with them in talking about sexuality as a language you learn. You can do beautiful things with it. You can do mean things with it. You can do anything with it. You can communicate hatred. You can communicate love.

"Children have to learn their bodies are their own, taught to say no to what they don't want. Our silence about sex leaves them undefended. But that's only part of the teaching. You don't want to teach them simply to say no. You have to teach them also that it is a delight to be intimate."

Or, simply, to allow their intimacy. To cherish it, receive it not in fear but with care, "the affections of a five year old," I wrote Jane, reflecting on Ki, "a gift worthy of respect."

In Eden, Milton tells us, the Archangel Raphael said to Adam: "take heed lest Passion sway / Thy Judgment to do aught, which else free Will / Would not admit." This in Paradise, before the Fall -- Passion, Judgment and Will alive long before Sin, however "Original."

Passion didn't sway my judgment, my will acknowledging Ki's in an "engagement of mutual affection, desire, and will," as I'd later describe erotic encounters. His hair was fragrant as flora, an earthy dry grass scent; his skin was soft, if not quite a baby's anymore. His arms anyway; about his bottom I can't say.

The first touch was his, clambering onto me as I recall, not the least self-conscious. He wanted me to like him, told me so in the language he knew best: the language of his five-year-old body. It wasn't "sex." But it was, joyously, erotic -- not passion willed, but affection. Mine, and his own.

Jane, as is her wont, takes a gentle touch with erotophobes of all sorts -- among them "respectable" homosexuals cowering in "pedo panic." I am inclined to less tact.

Let them go read that tale of Ki. If they can bring to it no more than sanctimonious scorn, the high dudgeon of "moral" opprobrium (they wouldn't know true morality if it brushed their pinched lips with a kiss), well.... Let me lift a line from Good Witch Glinda of Oz, surely an angel, firm with that ranting Wicked Witch of the West:

"Rubbish! You have no powers here. Be gone!"


This one Madsen; the other Baio. Neither Steve (as neither was he)

of The Pantyhose

I was leaning on the bar at Cornelius, into my sixth beer. I didn't see him beside me until he spoke: "Hey, I gotta talk." Talk leading to revelations, his and my own.

His real name (I remembered it for some time, can't now) wasn't Steve. I called him that only in a story, "Sheer Fantasy," in The Body Politic, January 1985, "Fetish" and the photo here its cover promo.

I did sometimes call him Scott. A slip. That's who he looked like: TV teen idol Scott Baio. Later like model Scott Madsen, who gained (hidden) fame yanking his shirt off in an ad for Soloflex workout gear. In my bedroom, Steve would strip off his shirt with exactly the same move.

And stretch on a pair of pantyhose.

Much happened after that, if not what you might imagine. You'll find more details in that 1984 chapter, many more if you can get your hands on that issue of The Body Politic. But the essence of it, the revelation -- what it made me see -- comes only near the end.

I turned to look at him, a nervous boy named Steve sitting in a pair of Secret sheers, with his cock sinking between his legs [he'd torn open the crotch, freeing the swell I'd first seen stretching denim in the bar]. ...

Did I really want him to be real? Not Scott, but Steve? Whoever that was? Maybe I simply had to have my way -- my deadening tolerance the only response I could muster; my glibness a defence against a few ounces of nylon; my fantasies allowed because I didn't have to wear them.

I had seen just how unqueer my gayness (rational, confident, even smug) could be. How my condescending tolerance had chilled this boy's passion, a bit less "normal," less gay-respectable, than my own. Merely "allowing for" his desires like some decent liberal, I had dissed them. Disrespected them deeply. And him.

I hope I learned never to do it again. I shouldn't have then. Whatever he might have wanted to do -- I do, now, very much wish we had.


Alchemist of passion & intelligence

of Pornography
(& Oscar, Madame, Boy & O)

Foreword / 1985 / 1986 / 1989 / 1991
& between & beyond

Rather a lot of visitations for one angel, I admit, and those just on me. Neil Bartlett does get around, as do his effects. Actor, director, novelist, playwright -- you'll find a lot on him in those chapters. If hardly enough; I can't keep up with his career.

His impact on me will be more than apparent, his works in part inspiring my own (though they're nothing alike); his vision one that helped me truly see. In that alone he qualifies as an angel.

Here, I want to tell you a few things I said about him to Jane Rule, in letters of late 1991, after a visit to London. Neil and I had only an hour together then, lunch at the Drill Hall Arts Centre. He was busy scouting locations for a film.

Some say Neil tries too hard. I don't get that sense. What I sense is a creative imagination -- one of the most passionate and intelligent I've ever known -- happy to find expression in project after project. Neil gives voice to being gay in ways I never could (he's decadent, aesthetic England to my sober New England via sensible Canada; he said last time he was here that it's surprising we're friends) -- but always when I hear that voice I love it. He gets things in a way American gay writers simply don't.

People criticized Neil for not being topical enough in his novel, Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall, for leaving out the now obligatory, leadenly contemporary references to The Plague. It's there, of course, but in the way it really is in our lives: allusively, not the story, as if there had never been a story before AIDS. It's woven into the texture along with our much longer history of struggles and triumphs, grand risks and mundane lives.

Too many American gay writers love AIDS too much as the agent of final, tragic meaning in our lives, or the bogeyman scaring us into safe, if now achingly bittersweet, "respectability."

Neil would say: My dear, we have always faced adversity, we have survived through rage, wit, perversity, love -- our lives have always had meaning. You don't believe me? Well just look around. Really look -- you'll see it's true. And wondrous.

When I had finished Promiscuous Affections I wanted Neil to see it, but was no longer sure of his whereabouts. A London friend advised I check the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith, Neil artistic director there. But not there then: he had been unwell, awaiting a liver transplant. He was still, as I'd last known, living in Brighton.

I sent him my memoir (five pounds on paper) by transatlantic post. He wrote back with tales of frustration at not being able to work. But he was up and about, with better tales.

"This morning I walked the dog at Rodmell. I regularly park the car behind Woolf's house and walk across to the river. Accompanied by goldfinches, a hen kestrel, the downs immaculate in white sunshine. It is sometimes strange to know that this was her last walk."

Seeing what Virginia might have seen (and did: she wrote of the same Sussex wonders). Despite our differing styles, Neil and I have her in common (poet Frank O'Hara, too). I had been at Rodmell on that visit -- for the third time, a vertiable pilgrim. Jane had asked about the source of my passion for Virginia Woolf. Her works of course, I said, but more her life beyond.

I like her life, like the way she tossed it up to watch it spin, the life of the mind. I like that she shared this life with a circle of people for whom the most important things were intellectual rigour and passionate friendship. (That's what I said I valued in Neil, didn't I? Passion and intelligence.)

In April 2000 I got a card from Neil, in Cambridge recovering from his transplant a month before: "Some dark nights, many indignities and a long way to go. But ... this is one tough queen. Reading Proust, listening to Callas, watching a glorious English spring unfurl beyond the hospital windows."

I have said to Neil, more than once: "Go on and on. Never stop." He has since "crashed back" into work: "I didn't go through all that to burn out now, sweetie." And, be assured, he has not. Neil burns on. Ever bright.

Kevin in DPN

Magic presence; dancing vision; unrepentant bottom boy

of The Dancefloor
1985 / 1993 / 1994

The first time I saw Kevin Bryson, he was dancing. It was at a closing bash for The Body Politic's office at 24 Duncan Street in January 1984: a young man dynamic in a tanktop, head shaved. I'd later see him dance often, mostly at Cornelius. I told Jane about him there in a 1985 letter, on Christmas Day.

I told everyone of Kevin, dancing vision. A vision that has never left me.

I knew him just casually: parting kisses in the bar; hellos in passing; not much more. In 1993 I saw him in London, if in print, not person, in a little rag put out by people with HIV. Nervy ones, shunning "teddy bears, magic rocks and seronegative guilt." There he was, his face, his words. Words to live by: "Buttfucking saved my life!"

Kevin died in October 1994. I didn't find out for days. I was asked to write his obit. "No," I said, "I didn't really know him well enough." Pondering it later -- surprised at grief I didn't know I had left to spend -- I realized I did know him. As I knew many, in ways wondrous. The ways our gay lives grant us.

Too many deaths I've known only like this: a vision seen in bars and on dance floors; a few friends in common; easy nods and smiles on the street -- someone whose mere presence makes you, in some small way, simply feel good to be alive. That's the warp and weave of gay life, these casual, deeply pleasing connections.

And then you hear he died last Tuesday.

I have a small souvenir of Kevin, as you'll see after that obit (not a proper one) in 1994. Another of life's silly gifts, rich and odd. Gifts of odd lives, especially.

Barn door

Grim stereotypes; archetypal wonders

of Los Angeles

The Barn -- to me, archetypally and for years, The Bar -- could to novice eyes seem mere stereotype: dark, smoky, wandered by men's men; even a grope there could sometimes feel grim. But as I say of it in that 1986 chapter: "get to know it -- its clientele, its staff, its rhythms over the course of a week or even a single night -- and you could find something else entirely."

Wonders sometimes. Even angels. Andy was one, a dance company roadie (and much more), as I tell in that chapter. Jane Rule got details of our last moments before he flew away. Or rather, drove.

The company was due to leave the next morning at 9:00, Andy driving their big equipment truck to Witchita Kansas, then Lincoln Nebraska, then Ann Arbor Michigan. Then home to L.A., to his lover Paul (whom he told about me with great glee on the phone). That morning, to take my address, he pulled out of his company trunk a small ring binder packed, so I guessed, with production notes, technical information -- and people's cards. It seemed to me so him: everything quietly organized, no big deal made of anything.

I got to see him off in his truck and walked home. I'm never up at 9:30 on a Sunday morning. When I got home I expressed myself in the usual fashion: I wrote him a letter.

I'm notoriously a sucker for competence. Especially when applied to packing more than ring binders. Here's what I told Andy. (By then I was keeping copies.)

Boy, you were wonderful. I've been thinking back on little things that remind me of exactly how wonderful: the way your smooth round ass looked in your jeans and out of them; the look on your face when you were fucking me, open, possessed, vaguely questioning. (Now you've given me another hard-on.)

But mostly that small, packed notebook -- symbol of this quietly organized, competent, wonderfully casual man; strong in such an un-pushy way, so honestly passionate (in work as well as sex), so easy in his affections. Such a good fit, as you called it, doesn't happen every day.

As angels don't. That was the last, in my life, of Andy. At least in the flesh.

of Trivia

At one end of The Barn's main bar sat a trivia machine. On the sort of screen usually arrayed with cards for a game of solitaire, this one had questions. More than a sole player might give it try.

"That's my name: Barton" -- a lanky blond leaning in. "Barton" was among the options offered to a query on the American Civil War: Clara Barton.

"Well, Doug I mean. Doug Barton."

Doug and I, as you'll see near the end of 1986, became bar buddies. "What friends are to lovers," I told Jane, "tricks are to bar buddies" -- seen almost only in the bar and happily; you might never trick with them.

I didn't with Doug, if half wanting to, once dropping by his spare new apartment (he'd been in town just a while). The one thing I noticed was a tiny pair of red nylon running shorts. On him. The only thing on him, a confident, comfortable man.

A few bar visits later Doug told me he was flying away, moving back to Victoria. A few nights later, drunk, I wrote about him.

It would have been nothing to have you. It's all, in this madly fictionalizing brain, not having you and having you go so neatly. I'd never have loved you which must be a relief but I loved the fact and prospect of such loose and appetizing affection.

We've been bad at inventing the right words; affection is all I've got -- as if lust, lust I knew I'd never fulfill, had nothing to do with it. And -- who knows? Why do we like people? What do we want?

How silly. Goodbye, edible unhavable unhad Doug.

But, I realized (and you'll see), I had had him: "I know people scornful of beauty once they find it unattainable -- but I had attained it. I had basked in it. The thing itself, the person -- suddenly just there, imagine! -- was a miracle."

Edgar Friedenberg (he's in 1984) once wrote of basking in the radiance of lovely boymen, students he'd never bed. "Sublimation?" he asked himself. "Hell no. It was photosynthesis."

I would bask often among the unhad. It was Doug Barton who made me see, clearly, that I had them nonetheless.

Cawthra Park

Late night tryst / trust

of Cawthra Park

His briefs were sky blue; his looks fit for Blueboy, blond and very handsome. I never did find out his name. I'd seen him at The Barn, often, always drunk. There, he never saw me.

In Cawthra Park he did, the night of Thursday October 12, 1989 -- 2 am actually, so Friday the 13th. He was drunk there too, but did come back to my place. We talked. He kept saying he should leave. He didn't.

I did -- just out for five minutes to get a pack of cigs. When I came back he was astounded. "You dont know me! I could have walked off with anything!"

Jane heard about this man. So did my (sort of) boyfriend Barry in Japan, if as you'll see from a somewhat different angle. Jane once asked if I had ever been afraid of anyone I'd brought home. I hadn't. Blueboy, it seemed, expected me to be.

It was a test -- mine of him and his of me -- because trust was exactly, if implicitly, what we'd been talking about. I'd told him I was HIV+, he was afraid of that, and I'd said he could deal with it as he chose. He was terribly bothered by the notion of such trust. It confounded his sense of how people treat each other (he's in a couple! and he was cheating). He stayed. In fact he stayed most of the next day.

A risk, I admitted, one calculated minor. And worth it. As I told Jane: "I would hate to have been afraid of him, and with almost no thought I showed myself, and him, that I wasn't."

Kevin in tree

Kevin in uniform

Treed 1988 / tubed 1989

of The Underground

"You like that, donchyoo?"

It was porn star Jeff Stryker's trademark line -- if much more charming as parody, coming from Kevin Hunt. He'd say it as he rubbed my back in tense moments at work, at the AIDS Committee of Toronto. I liked it very much, could have liked more. Kevin was, as I wrote Barry:

a sweet, sexy butch stud, black crew cut, big smile and baby browns he can bat with knowing playfulness but -- miracle of miracles -- without attitude. ... I like his upfront, honest presence -- I'm me! I'm here! -- confident, generous of spirit; and because of that very sexy to me.

In truth Kevin was, as I say in that chapter, "less a butch stud than a boy, more tentative than his erotic persona" -- if sometimes feeling to me "the life saving St Bernard his bone structure suggests." And, at 28, HIV-positive. We sometimes shared drugs.

In October he took off to London for a holiday. He didn't come back. I was angry, felt abandoned, but then thought: he probably figured if he didn't do it now, he never would. In November he wrote.

"This letter is a long time coming because it was very difficult to write. Of all the people I felt I was letting down, you were at the top of my list. You always really encouraged me.

"I felt that maybe I was being irresponsible. Maybe I was running away -- but no I'm not. I'm living life and experiencing it to the fullest. I'm doing what I have always wanted to do, and not letting anything stop me."

Kevin got a job as a guard in the Underground, as he showed me (and I show you). A few years later he was back for a visit. I didn't look him up on my trips to England. We lost touch. Five years after he'd flown off to London, I'd learn he was gone for good: someone who'd not lost touch told me Kevin was dead.

That was October 1994, not long before I found Kevin Bryson gone too. I'd said that the piece I wrote for him wasn't an obituary: they're not usually for more than one person. I had written in memory of two Kevins. And a vision named Vincent. And too many visions unnamed.

of Lourdes

I've said that I hadn't 'til recently thought of humans as angels. But, in 1990, one nearly made me believe in gods. If not God. He did: often finding sanctuary under the Sherbourne Street dome crowning Our Lady of Lourdes. Mike Robért was, as I'd later write, "one of the gods' glorious fools, sent to Earth simply to make everyone happy he's here glowing among us."

I first encountered Mike at the AIDS Commitee, at 27 still a kid, newly diagnosed with HIV and a T-cell count depressingly low. I'd thought I was used to AIDS; its sudden grip on this big radiant boy made me feel I'd been slugged. His appearance in my life would turn out not an assault, but a blessing.

Mike was madly ebullient, his voice gamin, his presence huge, endearing. His ego was so vast it would have been insufferable had he not carried it with such joyous ease. He took for granted that people would love him. And they did. I did, if trying hard not to fall "in love" with him. We'd take off on silly jaunts, each a buoy to the other's spirit.

One night, I in a low moment, he said to me: "If you fall, I'll catch you." Days later I got in the mail, from Neil Bartlett, Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall.

I lost Mike, if to what I'm not sure -- but lack of nerve. My own. By 1991 we had drifted apart. After Michael Lynch's long dying finally ended that July, I didn't try again to find Mike Robért.

of The Pooltable

I love watching pool players. Not just the long stretch of bodies over the table but the light cast close on them, the sharp definition it gives veined arms, intent faces. I love it best when they're good. I don't play but have picked up some rules. I know when they're good. Ted was very good, ranking high in the Pool Bar League. And good to look at, as Jane heard.

Imagine the body of a swimmer, the laugh of a kid who likes his mother [she got all his trophies], his friends, and who likes being liked. The manners of someone who will give advice on shots to his opponent. ("It makes the game better -- and besides, if they get the shot it means I give good advice!") He's gloriously sexy.

Ted became another bar buddy. You'll find him at Badlands, later at Colby's amidst other players, their bodies, faces, their easy moves -- all in the moment a revelation. It was a time when I'd had to learn hard care of mortal bodies.

I wondered just why these faces should mean so much, or if I could ever say what they mean. That these mere bodies -- and how messy and fragile bodies are, how similar we are in that -- should be the source of such magical pleasure.

Those bodies, all finally the same, carry the history of each one -- all different. What years of living give Ted that laugh, André ["I'm not a slut, I'm French"] that quiet smile? I don't know. I know they're gay, and that anyone gay who can still offer the world real laughs, real smiles, has preserved something fundamentally good, generous, through a lot of confusion and pain that is often there to see too.

I love all that they give, all that they risk -- and finally what I love in being with them is the chance to discover exactly what's being risked: who is this person? Will he let me find out? Every word, every smile, is a door opened just a bit, a gift of trust and I love it.

I didn't see Ted again until the late '90s, in a line up outside Woody's on Church Street. My pleasure was apparent to Ted, more so to the man hard beside him -- not pleased. A lover, I suspected, guarding his property.

I didn't stay long, not even long enough to say, as I was tempted: "Cool it honey, I'm not here to abduct him." I never needed to.



Tony on a page of a magazine; Kelly on the floor of Colby's

of Colby's
1991 / 1992

I first knew these two as a pair. Not a couple, co-workers, both then dancers at Colby's. Spending time (and money) with one, I'd sometimes imagine the other jealous. But these boys were above that, more than just pros.

Tony was part native, part Russian. Or so tales had it, often no more true there than some of these boys' stage names. Sightlines, a local bar rag, would clarify in its October 1991 issue, Tony featured with lots of pics (the one here most engaging; I knew that smile): "His 38 inch inseam rises to a crotch that encases all the history of his Métis / Iroquois background."

Kelly I'd known longer, and would get to know more imtimately, as Jane did too in a letter of September 19, 1992.

One Sunday he came over to talk, said he was looking to do a private show (that's what he calls it, a show). The last time I got this offer -- he'd found me on the street and said, "So what are you doing tonight?" -- I'd thought, Honey, I can't afford it! But on that Sunday night I thought what the hell, this is worth it once. I gave him my number but he insisted we book a time: he likes to know what he'll be doing. We made a date for the following Friday at 7:00.

He called at 6:00 and we met at Colby's. We went home, he had one beer and talked. And talked and talked. I learned more about what it takes to paint a one bedroom flat than you might imagine there is to know. That's what he does for most of his money now.

His mother helps. She lives with him, sometimes at Colby's too, once a dancer herself and proud of him. She was 16 when he was born, left by his father. Kelly ran away at 13, did time (raped in jail; he's strong but small), got married. They're still friends.

We sat in bed talking more and over time he got his shorts unbuttoned, unzipped, down; I rubbed his smooth bum and he talked. The sex was perfunctory: this was no "show," just the minimum to make it the deal it was meant to be. [For all his forward sexiness, I sensed Kelly didn't much like sex. The thought of getting fucked, he said, was scary.]

But there was kissing I wasn't sure I could expect: "Not bad," he said, "-- for an amateur." What he likes, very much, is being liked. And I like him. So we had a great time.

Before he left he took our two empty beer bottles to the kitchen. He's fastidious, likes order. He laughed at my half painted kitchen, a laugh indulging someone more slothful than he would ever be. He was headed off for the weekend, up north. He likes to fish. If I ever want to go up north and go fishing, he said, I should give him a call. He'll drive.

I last saw Kelly in August 1995, by then at Remington's. What I got there was not a "private show," if in a private booth -- of which Kelly took full advantage. He'd once told me that, working customers at Colby's, he had come. Three times.

He didn't this time. But his final offering remains vivid in my head.


High times / hard work

& ALEX (aka SAM)

of Remington's

Being bar trade, hustling or performing, is hard work. "They're all available for your private dancing pleasure," the PA coos, "so gentlemen, get yourself a daancer." I can imagine it calling up quandaries: which gentleman, how available, whose pleasure.

In fact I don't have to imagine. I've seen it. And boys have told me... This customer looks alright. "No, not right now" -- not hot he means, at best not his "type." Please, not that one! But he is gawking. Gross. Well, the night's getting on and business hasn't been booming....

I once said of Tony: "It takes a certain grace to do it well, an ease with oneself that not all these boys have." Tony did. I told him one night: "You do your job well."

He looked hurt; I must have looked puzzled. "I don't like people thinking of me that way," he said, "that it's just a job." A friend on hearing of this said, "What does he think he is? A community service?" He was, in a way. But more. He liked people. Liked himself. And he knew who he was.

I first knew Aaron at Colby's: a smaller, softer version of big brother Chad -- as he was then, later Romeo -- neither name likely Slovak, which they were. Chad had a stern confidence, Aaron less so, if perhaps for that quite endearing. In private dances he'd rather snuggle than perform. He wanted someone to hold him. So I did.

Lesley (so called) was just two years out of Poland, a big boy, bigger than I usually find sexy. But with a gentle look, a surprise "hello" -- and a rub across the pole on stage not of his dick but his nose -- he won me over. On his first night there, and my last of him.

Oliver. Well, you'll see lots of Oliver in a 1995 letter to Jane. "A gift to the world, and with no attitude!" -- a boy who seemed to know himself very well. I said there:

They're mostly not gay. Oliver may or not be and it doesn't matter. What does is his comfort and ease, his beauty and smarts and, I judge, some basic strength that lets him be there and have a sense of himself there, whatever else he may know about himself.

I later saw him walking along Yonge Street, arm over a girl, and radiant.

Alex (stage name Sam) was Russian, a speedskater who'd defected at 19. That was in 1991. He seemed to me much older than his 23 years, a serious if approachable young man: a friend of mine dubbed him "Approachable Sam."

We became friends enough for him to be Alex. And to use me as cover against unwanted advances. And, for me to ponder taking this relationship beyond the bar. Maybe even off the cash nexus. I suppose he knew better.

Each, in his way, was a wonder. They were not, of course, the only boys I liked seeing at Remington's. You'll also find there in 1995 shy Carter; "cool" Cassidy; Eden, Hollywood handsome without Hollywood airs; Shane, who accompanied gymnastic routines in rich basso, a tune from The Righteous Brothers; roommates Andrew and Scott -- and "I'm Peter! From Moscow! Russia!"

But Aaron, Lesley, Oliver, Alex: they were the boys of Remington's who stayed with me. Among just a few others, as you'll see.

Remington's again

Not all, thankfully

of Newmarket
The Bar's & my own

I wasn't at Remington's much in the years between the boys above and this one. It rarely worked for me as mere spectator sport: a dick's a dick; only long absence makes me fond of the view. I want engagement: boys I could get to know; boys worth going back for.

In April 1999, I found one. He shows up briefly in a late chapter of Promiscuous Affections (as does Angel of Remington's), wrapping up my history and, locally, The Bar's. Here is more of his story than you'll find there. That tale, conflated, suggests I found him just once. It was twice.

Thursday, April 8, 1999, 7 pm (to Jane Rule):

A late afternoon beer at Remington's. I was there in the hope of seeing -- and in a quieter time than when I'd first seen him -- a boy named Lucas. I didn't.

I'd been there last Friday just on a whim, as ever not sure I wanted to stay until I saw a boy who looked engaging. This one was -- lovely, lean, his head straw-spiked, wandering around in silky green patterned running shorts. He sat with a man at the next table, mostly in profile to me: buck teeth -- that's nice, I thought -- and quite the yakker.

Nicer still was that I could smell him: mild sweat coming through a cologne I'd later learn had vanilla in its name.

He wandered off as they do (and must), came back and as he passed I smiled. So he stopped, talked and talked (into electronics; saving money to go to the Radio College of Canada) and then asked if he could dance for me some time.

I said: "I think you could right now."

So, two songs, caressing him a lot, getting that lovely smell all over my hands [and face: he chuckled deep when I licked his armpits]. He said I was a gentleman, customers sometimes rougher with him. I paid for those two, meaning to give him a $5 tip on top but accidentally giving him an extra $15 (the going rate $10 a song). "You want three?" he asked. I said yes.

He smiled, liked my caresses enough that he put his hand over mine on his chest and slid it down to his cock. I kissed his nipples and with a big smile he said, "You have no idea what you're doing to me!" I said back, "Oh, I think I have some idea" -- the barometer of his response rising in my hand.

Well, all so lovely -- and for years all too rare: I haven't touched a lovely boy's (or anyone's) cock since August 1995. It surprised me that this boy would let me, even lead me, on our first time together. Of course I hope for more times, for that -- but (as ever!) mostly for getting to find out who he might be. He's back on tomorrow night. We'll see.

May 14, 1999

I did find that boy Lucas at Remington's again, as before very sweet. We did only two songs together this time, he stroking himself near the end and I replaced his hand with mine and said, "I'm going to give your cock a kiss goodnight."

He giggled: "Oh, be careful!" The private booths are policed, a grim staffer sometimes wandering the hall. But he wasn't there in that brief moment, very brief, just a quick peck. Lucas smiled -- buck toothed, a bit goofy; such an engaging face the boy has -- and when I got up gave me a nice hug.

I went back twice on nights when he was scheduled to be there, but he wasn't. After that the impulse faded and hasn't come back since. But I may yet try again.

I did. I didn't find him.

But every time I've gone Remington's since it's been in small hope. As I say in that chapter, I'd barely got his story. From Newmarket he said, worked there in a chain "family" restaurant. Did he drive more than 40 kilometres for this other work? How often? Did he ever spend the night downtown? Did he, maybe, need a place to stay?

Well. Just a thought.

2 Raphael cherubs

Some angels break the rules. And blessedly: they fly away -- but reappear again and again, their revelations ever growing.

I have had two stay in my life longer than angels are wont, cherished not just for their messages, marvellous enough, but for the sheer magic of their presence.

Both, you'll not be surprised to hear, were hustlers. Or so they began.

Xmas Sightlines

Ricky (left) with George Hislop & fellow dancing boys

of Colby's, Remington's
(& Gravenhurst)

& beyond

Ricky ("Little Ricky" I called him; I big Ricky) was working, when I found him, his very first day at Colby's, August 6, 1992. A hesitant, skinny boy, his blue-striped spandex jumper filled out only, if nicely, at his trim little bottom. As you'll see, it took me a while to get his attention.

You'll find lots of Ricky in 1992, and beyond. My last encounter with him, quite funny, was in December 1993 (reported in 1994). Between, I'd see him often: at Colby's; at Remington's (there on its summer 1993 launch, if later let go for being too skinny); in my bed many nights, if just two for sex. And, one day, seeing him fly away: to Venezuela. To get married.

Clearly, I had taken this relationship beyond the bar, and off the cash nexus. If not without quandaries. I knew well with working boys that cash not only enabled our encounters, but contained them -- insulating them from life's ordinary obligations, mundane if still pressing.

Not that even such limited engagements are without responsibility.

October 25, 1992 (to Jane):

Ricky is doing fine and so am I with him, weaning myself (and him, if he needs weaning) slowly from a relationship I can't really afford. Financially, I mean. In every other way it is exactly what I can afford: a connection that asks nothing of me but money. I am far too busy and preoccupied for anything or anyone else.

But no -- he does ask for more than money, and what he asks I give gladly: affection, some care for who he is, and care on my part that he know I care. He's more comfortable now, not only smiles but laughs, jokes with me, tells me of messy bits with his boyfriends. And girlfriends.

When he dances for me now it's not so much dancing as lolling: I sit, he leans back on my shoulder so I can hold him; he stretches his neck out so I can kiss along the line of his jaw. It's very lazy and relaxed. He's not jaded, but I'm at least easy for him now and I like that immensely.

Ah, what a funny, beautiful little kid. I told him that last week, told him he was beautiful. "And I bet you almost believe that now," I said. He smiled. "Well, not quite."

I can sometimes feel a little odd about him. Not that it's prostitution, essentially -- I have no problem with that, wouldn't even if it were actually sex -- but that I'm evading a responsibility I expect to be part of caring about someone, loving him in a way.

But no: there's something too romantic in that, romantic in a sense that's not healthy. Given the nature of this, the deal we have, my responsibility to him is all tied up in how I am when I'm with him -- and I think we're fine with each other then, with our odd, momentary mutual responsibility -- and that I leave him to his life when I'm not. And he, me to mine.

Not a bad deal, I think, odd but humane.

Our mutual responsibility would become more than momentary, if to some still odd. I wrote Jane in September 1993:

Ricky grows in gentleness and affection and odd calm, touching my face at the door as he left tonight.

I rather like that this relationship makes no sense, can't ever be made into anything normal. Despite knowing I will sometimes want more conventional assurances, knowing there are kinds of love, kinds I can want, that must be an arranging -- I like and respect that this love seems one without aims.

Not an arrangement, not a plan, but a gift.


Shel on the wall

George's Townhouse, 1993; Shel on my wall, 1994 & still

of The Rock
(& George's Townhouse)

& well beyond

George Hislop, inveterate publican, opened a new place in 1993, just across St Joseph Street from Colby's. George's Townhouse, as he dubbed it, lasted just a year, if for me a magic year. You'll find the particular wonders of the place at the beginning of 1994.

It was there in early November 1993 that I first saw Shel. Nineteen I guessed; I'd learn 20. By Friday the 12th I'd found the nerve to ask if I could take him home. He asked if I was a cop. Assured not, he said yes.

It was paid sex that night, not later -- but then, later, not often sex. Just Shel. Not as hustler, not as boyfriend -- even if I did bring him along to a dear friend's Christmas dinner: I suspected he'd charm the assembled. He did.

He stayed with me on and off. Mostly off, his life ever unsettled: short-term sugar daddies, attempted roommates, when necessary (and useful) the baths. Sometimes he'd just drop by, to talk, to sleep off sleepless working nights, once to show me a new boyfriend. And show that boyfriend me; it wasn't the only time he'd do it.

When I moved in 1994 he helped, sometimes visiting there. When I moved again two years later he was on hand again, diligent, protective.

He was, I saw, my protector. Odd as that may seem for a boy elfin, poor, sometimes indigent. But he was decent: morally strong, hugely honourable; surprising qualities, to some, in a working boy. Of the working class.

In a chapter of Promiscuous Affections called "Citizenship," reflecting on the values it demands of us, I had occasion to reflect on Shel.

The world does not belong to people like Shel. They don't know its deepest rules: subtle, covert, middle-class. A mere glance from their "betters" is enough to call up a profound and resentful awareness: I am incompetent; I have no power short of my fists. And I know where my fists might get me. [Shel, to my knowledge, never used his.]

Yet Shel retained too a proud sense of honour. Given the life he'd seen, able to presume nothing, he might have been no more than a charming con artist. He had the skills, heaven knows the charm. But he wasn't: he was decent.

Shel taught me that simple decency ranks high on the scale of human values. Much higher than what may pass for values among those free to count as their due the presumptions of higher class.

That last place I moved to Shel lived in too, on another floor with another new boyfriend -- also on and off. He was often away, driving 18 wheel rigs he'd once just dreamed of but came to commandeer. For ages I'd not see him. In late 1999 he went back to The Rock. If, ever the wanderer, not quite for good.

I have seen him since, each time looking to me little older, just as charming, still his strong decent self. Each time, I realized I had never stopped loving him. And I have not, still.

Near the end of my history of myself, I looked back on "all my loves (so called: the most sustained, I mean; the sort most people call love)."

The most passionate (no: obsessive, hence unsustainable) was with Barry, who took me to The Rock. The deepest and most lasting: Michael Wade. You can find much of Michael, from our first serendipitous moment in November 1979 to his death, then just 29, in June 1990.

With Shel? The happiest. The least fraught, because least presumed.

The most a gift.


Go to Angels: Twelve episodes / Preface

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