My Life as a Gay Man – 1985, Peter, Part I
The closest I came to being adopted by the Mafia, besides living and working on Staten Island, a borough of the Big Apple, and the most Italian American county in the U.S., was Peter, a short (like me), stocky, swarthy, hairy, Italian gorilla with a shaved head and thick black beard and a build that Tom of Finland would have used as a model.
Plus, looking back, he made me an offer I shouldn’t have refused.
It was 1985. George was still on Wall Street, doing well as a back office processor for a trading house called Rothschild; I was doing even better at St. Vincent’s Hospital on Staten Island where I had climbed the corporate ladder from an assistant to the director of community relations to vice president of public relations and marketing when my hospital took over another and several nursing homes and expanded into a system, giving my old boss a place to move up to as a senior vice president of operations..
But my six figure salary also meant heavy taxes (feds, NYC, NYS), and looking for tax write-offs, I figured buying a house – with George – in what was then the hinterlands of Staten Island’s West Shore just made good financial sense.
Financial sense, yes, but everything else about prolonging our twosome was crazy.
We fought like cats and dogs about the silliest shit, not, like most str8 and gay couples, about money and, sure as hell, not infidelity. I really think he had no one he was fucking around with on the side, and many times I wish he had. He also rarely wanted to go out to the Village or out at all – I was a Mets widower in the summer and a Jets widower in the fall. But I knew George too well, super conservative George who frowned upon almost every aspect of gay culture except for sex with men, and even mentioning a possible “open relationship” would have led to fire and brimstone. Maybe I should have, that would have been the end of things and both of us would have moved on. But I didn’t and neither did he. And Saturday nights on my own, plus his occasional Saturday days in the office, and my weekday evening “community meetings” as a PR guy gave me plenty of opportunities for discrete play.
So I played. Not just for the sexual pleasure but for the attention and adoration, something I didn’t get at home. With George, I could have my cake – dick – and eat it too – someone to share the bills and household chores with, and even an occasional argument. It beat talking to myself.
For me, there was the more seasoned crowd at the East Side Baths off Third Avenue in the 50s; the younger crowd at the West Side Baths in the 20th’s; and the no-nonsense, let’s-fucken-do-it crowd at Wally’s sex club, run by the same old man who would later open the country’s quiescent leather bar, The Lure. Then there was a trio of fuck buddies, two in Manhattan, Joe a cancer researcher for Sloane Kettering, and Mike, a chemist for Pfizer; and Rob in Jersey, who worked as a cameraman for NBC. All had significant others just like me; the difference is they didn’t live with them.
Mike gave me my first taste of Viagra which Pfizer had initially developed as a high blood pressure med until it discovered from its own guinea pig employees that it had other, more pleasurable side effects. And to Rob I owe my first taste of coke.
I continued to travel the world solo. George would later criticize “lovers” who would go off on these vacations just to fuck around. True, but at least they were together.
In the summer of 1989, we decided to take a vacation – together – and rented a small house in rural Pennsylvania just across the border from Jersey and New York in a no-nothing town called Dingmans Ferry. This way, we could take the dogs – we were on our second generation: Charlie, George’s beagle, an apartment dog all his life whom George had promised a big backyard in the country, passed away at 16 just before we moved to the house, like Moses never entering the Promised Land. Now we had Mollie, a beagle terrier mix, who we got at a local no-kill shelter, and Annie, a stray terrier who just showed up at our door one day in a storm, wet as a mop.
One rainy day while there that week in PA we went to a local retail estate agent purely out of curiosity and ended up buying a little bungalow of a house on three quarters of an acre, away from it all, all for fifteen thousand dollars. Now we would have a getaway place to take the dogs and maybe have a life together.
Instead, I can blame Dingmans Ferry for my first real “extra-marital” affair.
Wednesday -Peter, Part II