I Live in a Gay Ghetto – Sort Of
For the past dozen or so years, I’ve called Fort Lauderdale home, and living only ten minutes from our gay ghetto, Wilton Manors is in sharp contrast to what I dealt with as a gay man in my prior life back in the Northeast.
Then I lived and worked in the burbs and every time I wanted to play in those pre-Manhunt days of the nineties and early two thousands, I had to drive to the local metro mecca, in my case Manhattan, buck the traffic, deal with mega-tolls, then find a place to park on the lower West Side and walk blocks, whatever the weather, to my favorite watering holes in the West Village to save a small fortune on a lot. And I was always afraid to overdo it on the booze since I knew I had at least an hour’s tough drive back at 1 or 2 in the morning when the cops were out like cockroaches.
If I was in a bath house mood, like, say, the East Side Club which had the kind of seasoned men I preferred versus the more convenient West Side Club which was frequented by the under thirties, I’d park my car downtown and take an expensive taxi ride or two subways to the Upper East Side to avoid traffic and parking terror.
And all of this trouble guaranteed me zilch.
Sure, I had my little coterie of fuck buddies, reliable sex with some grass or coke thrown in as icing on the cake, but again they were all in Manhattan (most were ex-bath house buddies) which still meant traffic, tolls and bullshit.
Again, I left NYC for Fort Lauderdale in 2002 just before the web got hot; otherwise I might have been able to stay on Staten Island, the most Italian-American county in the U.S., and enjoy some Italian sausage close to home. But for us pre-Millennial guys, it was a different world then.
Even today, up at my summer place in rural Pennsylvania, things are no better. Here the web is the ONLY way to meet men; there’s a bookstore somewhere I never checked out, and one gay bar thirty miles away on dark, winding country roads where there’s few men of my liking, usually with their bf’s, among the leather lesbians and RuPaul wannabes.
And while there are some very hot men here in PA and neighboring upstate NY (a few of which I’ve been lucky to have), a lot of guys, closeted by family (including wives) or job or just the fact we’re in redneck territory are understandably hesitant to go beyond texting hot cock shots. And when he does want to get down and dirty, distance is a big problem. Often the guy is twenty, thirty or forty miles away, and if we’re decide to meet halfway, the motels start at seventy bucks for ninety minutes of fun. Two guys asking for a room at two in the afternoon also generates some raised eyebrows.
For all my focus on sex, you can understand there’s no sense of any kind of cohesive gay sub-culture to put your arms in either the burbs or the boonies. The best you can hope for are some close knit friends and cyber-buddies.
Zip fifteen hundred miles south to “it’s always summer” Lauderdale where it’s all so easy. I don’t mean scoring, though your odds are better, because there are a hell of lot more of us, both townies and “new meat” out-of-towners, especially during Season which is November through May. Yea, you still got the mindfuckers and cockteasers and deceivers and meth heads, but it’s the potential – real or imagined – that keeps your cock in a perpetual semi-erect state. We’ve got one of the best gay beaches in the world open all year to case out prospects; the hookup sites are busting with hot dicks and butts; and any bar or sex club or bath house (we got two of ‘em) or gay toy store or clothing outlet with the latest see-through bikinis or gay-friendly gym are just ten or fifteen minutes away from me. If I lived in Wilton Manors, most are practically walking distance. Ditto with the guys. Hell, when I get hits from Miami, just thirty minutes away, I hesitate if the guy wants me to come to him. After all, why should I have to get on I95? Except maybe to check-out the nude beach at Haluover, minutes from Miami.
For all this immediacy, however, those of you used to the Castro or Hell’s Kitchen or West Hollywood or Chicago’s Halsted might not find quite the sense of community here in Lauderdale even with our men’s chorus, soccer and baseball teams or bowling leagues, maybe because we’re still a car town (pedestrians are an endangered species), and even Wilton Manors is more suburban sprawl than tight urban living. And making friends, while not impossible, is also harder when guys are on the make for the next hottie off the plane from NYC or LA or Chicago or Berlin and can’t see investing time in relationships.
Okay, what’s the downside you ask? Sorry to say, some gay businesses exploit rather than respect their customers because they have the misguided attitude,”where else you gonna go?” (not as true as it used to be), and forget us townies are the ones keeping their afloat when the vacationers aren’t around.
And, let’s face facts: gay ghettos are gay ghettos because they are magnets for those gay men who frankly eat, shit and sleep the gay lifestyle or feel understandably more secure and safe among their brothers, and would paranoid living almost anywhere else. Live and let live, but some are just not my kind of gay guy or the kind of men I want to be surrounded by 24/7. In the supermarket. In the gym. At the laundromat.
No, living near, not in a gay ghetto means I can conveniently go in, get what I want, and get the fuck out when I’ve had enough.