I got in the car and started heading back to the house... worried that if I told Larry what had happened that he'd never let me go to a party again and feeling slightly assaulted. I mean, if I'd been flirting with Alex, it would have been one thing -- still not quite appropriate --, but I'd told him the paler the better. He was far from pale and we'd even told each other the guys whom we found attractive. I couldn't figure it out, but when I got home, I told Larry of what had happened. He didn't seem surprised and when I said I was worried that he wouldn't let me go out to a party again, he said that he would, that I did the right thing by leaving. I wanted to write the diary right after it happened so that the words would have a little more power, but I actually felt bad about the situation... much more than I ever would have thought... strangely enough, I almost felt like to a lesser degree, I'd been raped.
April 27, 1997
On Thursday the 17th, Larry and I left with Peter, the guy who takes care of the day to day operations of Larry's coffee company, for the Specialty Coffee Association of America convention in New Orleans. I went last year went to the convention in Minneapolis and had a great time. We checked out Prince's recording studio and gambled at the casinos, but I managed to never actually go to the convention.
Anyway, due to my class schedule, we left LA to arrive in New Orleans at around midnight. When we got there, we checked into the hotel and went to our room. But before we could get up the stairs, we heard a loud drunk girl and laughed about her having "something" to drink. The hotel desk clerks said that we'd see a lot of that, but we didn't think that much about it.
A while later when we arrived on Bourbon Street for a late night snack, it was more than obvious that the ladies at the hotel were right. Drunks were everywhere, carrying their beers in one hand while stumbling down the street and holding on to their friends with the other.
Eventually we arrived at Pat O'Brien's. They were closing, but Larry did his "Can we still get something if we know exactly what we want?" (even though we hadn't a clue what they served) assertiveness and managed to get the three of us in after the manager said it was ok. Larry and Peter ordered a Cajun style dinner while I opted for the more traditional hamburger. What can I say, I'm a Kentucky boy through and through.
After a few drinks ourselves, we headed back to the hotel, saw Peter off at his room, then fell asleep in ours.
As the coffee convention didn't really start until Saturday, we had time to kill the next day. The three of us, along with Nancy of Oren and Nancy, went to check out the city. Unfortunately, there wasn't too much to see. Basically, there were just a lot of knick-knack shops and people offering to read palms and draw caricatures. (Have you figured out I wasn't that impressed yet? )
Before long, we'd walked around and around and around, not really stopping anywhere. If there's one thing I hate about sightseeing, it's walking around without a purpose or without stopping. Nonetheless, we did just that and ended up at the hotel a little later.
Friday evening, things took a turn for the better. Just before we left LA, Larry'd placed an ad on AOL asking if anyone in New Orleans wanted to show us around. One guy had written back and Friday night, before heading out to a dinner cruise, we talked with him to arrange a meeting the next day. At least if the city didn't entertain us, perhaps we'd meet someone koool.
Nonetheless, the cruise wasn't that bad. The three of us sat at a table with Oren and Nancy on the upper deck. There was a fair amount of shop talk, but I managed to keep myself entertained by people watching. There was no one there who caught my eye, and Oren didn't quite possess the cuteness that I'd thought he'd had before, but I still found him attractive in a quirky sort of way.
After a good while, the cruise was over and we went back to our respective hotels.
The next day I slept in while Larry met up with Peter to go to the convention. Around 1PM or so, he called and said that I should walk through Riverwalk to end up at a restaurant called the Mulane, where we were to meet Mike, the guy from AOL, and his friend.
When I got there, Peter left and a few minutes later, two guys walked around the corner of the building. Larry said something like "two guys... two guys" and we smiled that all knowing smile at each other.
Mike, the guy who'd written and who had the most amazing piercing blue eyes, introduced us to his friend Todd, who was younger and had a goatee. The four of us began walking and almost immediately, I paired off with Todd while Larry paired with Mike. I must admit, I thought Todd was extremely cute... he, too, possessed a quirky sort of attractiveness; he seemed almost like a playful kid, something... err, someone, I haven't experienced since my first days at Boston U. Perhaps I've "matured" too much myself. All I know was that I found Todd very attractive, both in physical and mental aspects.
After walking down a few streets, we arrived at a restaurant called Lucy's and ordered lunch. During the course of the meal, we got to know each other better and I asked them what they did for a living. It turned out they were in computers, and when it came time for us to answer the same question, Larry told them that I had a web site, Justin's Koool Page. They both knew of it and said something like, "You're the Justin?" It was the first time I'd ever met someone who knew of the page, who didn't meet me because of it. I was pretty dumbstruck.
Through further questioning, we found out that Todd hadn't read the diary, but that Mike even knew about Katie.
Once the web site/diary conversation had subsided, we began talking about them and it turned out that Todd and Mike were dating. As time went on, it became more and more obvious that my life paralleled Todd's and Larry's Mike's. I could completely identify with the duality felt by Todd, wanting to be free while loving Mike, and I know Larry could completely identify with the feelings of Mike, having had his share of imperfect relationships, having a family and kids of his own, and wanting to have a permanent married relationship with Todd. It was so koool just talking with someone who was on the same wavelength, who could identify with my feelings and who re-affirmed my thoughts as normal.
After lunch was done and when Mike needed to head off for another engagement, we went with the two of them to Todd's condo. It was too koool. The parallel between Todd and I was even more evident. I've never wanted a house of my own, but instead an apartment. I would have picked a place just like it.
Before long, Mike had to leave for real and so we parted ways. I only wish Todd and he were closer to LA : It would very koool to hang out with them on a regular basis.
After leaving Mike and Todd, Larry and I headed over to the convention center. He said we'd only walk through for a few minutes, but after about 15, I said I was heading back to the hotel. I did and he arrived there a while later.
Saturday night was the second night of foo-foo dinners thrown by coffee folk. This time it was at Antoine's, a restaurant full of "character" but lacking good food. I'm sure it was around $100 a person, but Pat O'Brien's burgers were better. Of course, I must admit that while my opinion was confirmed with Larry and Peter, I probably also found the night a major bore because it was non-stop coffee talk. Everything was somehow related to coffee. The only thing during the dinner that was half way amusing was the poor lady who hadn't a clue that her husband was gay.
From the restaurant, the plan was to go back to hotel then out to Bourbon Street. Todd had said that we might find Oz, with it's towel dancers, interesting, and so, we'd planned to go there to check out the sights.
Unfortunately, during the course of the dinner, Larry'd had a martini and more than a few glasses of wine. All that equated to a little too much to drink. When we were in the hotel room, he was a little too "high-spirited," so to speak and wouldn't stop harassing me. I played back in the same sort of way that I'd agreed with Erik the week before, but he pinched my ears, something I hate, and trapped me in the bathroom, throwing a cup of water on me when I opened the door. Soon after, Peter knocked on the room door and I opened it, saying that he probably didn't want to be there right then. Peter backed out into the hallway, then Larry pushed me outside and locked the door. After repeatedly trying to get him to let me back in, I finally got pissed. He was laughing the whole time, having a great 'ole gag, but I wasn't playing. I said enough was enough and left.
When I walked down the hallway, I didn't know where I was going. I just knew I wasn't staying around Larry until he'd calmed down. I passed Peter, who was waiting for us as he wanted to go to Bourbon Street himself, but he and I didn't really say anything. I simply got in the elevator and went to the lobby.
After looking around for a minute or two, trying to decide whether I should go to the sports bar in the lobby or on to Bourbon Street by myself, I decided on the latter and got a cab.
In our previous walks down the street, I'd noticed several places with scantilly- or non-clad people dancing around on stages. I admit I'm a voyeur as much as an exhibitionist --although more a physical voyeur and mental exhibitionist-- and so, I was curious to see just what exactly what shown in this city of sin. Nonetheless, I'd told myself that I wasn't going to pay any big ticket price to see something that probably wasn't even worth my time. The "No Admission Charge" sign on the front of "Love Acts" caught my eye.
The pictures outside showed male-female couples dancing around on a stage. For no admission charge, I figured I'd just go in, see what was there, and if it wasn't worthwhile I'd leave... Yet when I got to the door, the doorwoman quickly said something about $2 which would be taken off the price of my first drink. Figuring $2 was only $2, I gave her the money, took my ticket, then went on inside.
When I gave my ticket to the guy inside, he sat me in the front row and asked me what I wanted to drink. There was only a woman on stage, I wanted to leave. I tried to say something like "I really don't want anything to drink just yet," but the guy told me that I had to. I ordered the Coors normally $5.75 glass of beer that was still $3.75 as it was my first drink. I was in the den of corruption & deciet and I wanted to get out.
Yet while the guy was gone getting my beer and change, a lady in a sports coat came up to sit behind me. Although she looked perfectly normal, I knew why she was there. She began asking me where I was from and so forth and I talked, wishing the guy would hurry up with my change.
Eventually, the question came, "Wanna come have some fun with me in the back?" "No" I answered. "Why not?" she whined back. "Uhh... I don't know, but nah." (Normally I would have told her the real reason, but I figured that in a place as inherently evil as it was, I shouldn't give her any reason to not like me. "Hey, here's a fag!" I could see her yelling.) She said ok and was gone quicker than grease through a goose. The topless girl dancing on stage then came over and ran her hand across the top of my head. I pulled away and started to get up. Just then, the guy with the beer and change arrived. I got the change, left the beer untouched, and quickly walked outside.
From there I decided that I'd simply go to Oz, where I knew what I'd find. When I got there, I went inside the densely packed club and found just what I'd have found in West Hollywood. There were go-go boys dancing in underwear and guys hugging, nothing that abnormal, and certainly less evil than in the heterosexual "Love Acts."
After walking around for a while and dropping a couple dollars into a couple of the go-go boys' underwear, I decided that it was time to leave and go back to the hotel. On my way to the door, I was squeezing past people when the guy in front of me grabbed my crotch and squeezed. Ironically, that was way more than Alex had done the week before, but it was way less assaulting. The only thing that I can figure is that in the club I expected to be oggled, stared at, etc.. In Erik's apartment, I felt like I was in a secure environment. I felt like Alex was a friend and my guard was down. That was the reason his advances were so offensive.
On Sunday, I went shopping while Larry and Peter went to convention. After I'd picked up a personalized book for Katie and a sign which Larry'd said he wanted, I went on to the convention. After watching Larry and Peter cup some coffees, check out some machines, and so forth, the three of us once again went to Pat O'Brien's where I once again had a hamburger and a purple people eater.
A little later when we decided to go on the trolley, just to take a look at the rest of New Orleans, we got quite a look. The trolley operator was talking to a female passenger when she showed him a brown paper bag inside her purse. When he asked her what it was, she pulled some leaves out and said something about having fun. Even after we'd gotten to the end of the line, turned around, and arrived back to the area around the hotel, she was talking with him. She was not some tourist on a site seeing field trip; she was a lady riding around on the trolley so she could share her stash with the driver.
More importantly, on the trolley, Larry apologized for the night before. Neither he or I are ones to readily admit when we're wrong, so I really appreciated it.
Sunday night, we all went to dinner at a restaurant recommended by a fellow coffee colleague called Irene's Cuisine. After registering at the front desk, we were told we could be seated in 45 minutes, and so, we took a walk around the neighborhood to pass the time. When we got back to the restaurant a little later, we sat in the back and had drinks.
When it came time to move up front and order dinner, we were seated next to a very loud table. What was unusual was that one of the table members was almost certainly a drag queen or transexual. Of course, that in itself isn't that unusual, but the guy with her started talking about how he went to some bar to make fun of transvestites when he was younger. From the tone of the conversation, the guy hadn't a clue as to the true nature of his date. It's amazing how many people are in denial about their true selves.
During the very long time we waited for our dinner to arrive, Larry asked me what I thought of the bar room waiter whose name was Shawn. He seemed cute enough to me and Larry still wanted to go & check out Bourbon Street for himself. He wanted me to talk to Shawn to see if he wanted to go along.
Yet, I'm not really one who easily makes small talk, so I gave him "the eye" and although he smiled a couple times as he walked by, I could never tell if he was indeed gay. Meanwhile, we kept waiting for dinner to be served. Eventually we started getting pissed. It was nearly two hours after we'd ordered and dinner still hadn't been served. By midnight, Shawn had said that it would only be two minutes ten minutes ago. The manager came over to apologize and when Larry asked him what the problem was, he responded that it was just that the kitchen had been busy. Five minutes later, it still hadn't arrived and so we got up and left... without paying.
Larry and I went back to the hotel and ordered room service, which was guaranteed to arrive within 45 minutes. In the meantime, we called the restaurant and talked with Shawn. Larry gave him the phone numbers of the hotel and of back in LA for business purposes (so that the owner could call to apologize), but then he indicated that we wanted to know if he wanted to hang out. He said he was going out for a drink in the quarter a little later, but we didn't hear from him. I must admit, I was nervous, wondering if he'd call, but, oh well... room service was nice & there in 25 minutes. We fell asleep shortly thereafter while watching Mars Attacks! on TV.
Monday afternoon, we got back on a plane and headed back to LA, back from the city of Sodam and Gomorrah. I've never been so glad to get back from a trip.
This past week was the last week of school. Of course, I've still got finals, but on Thursday, when I walked out of that last class, it felt like I was finally free.
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© 1997 Justin Clouse