Saturday, March 1, 2014

a strange-but-true tale about the deep South.

In 1969 I hitched to Nashville. A year or so later I worked in Pompano Beach, Florida. Some weirdness happened that only happened to me when hitchhiking or living in the deep South, never in Texas, or in Illinois, California, Oregon, or Washington state where I also hitchhiked. There is no proof in my experience to draw sweeping conclusions, but it happened and I'm going to relate the story without padding.
That thing? More than once or twice in the South I was picked by men who, at some point, began to indicate they wanted a b***job. I was so f****** innocent and not at all confused about my sexuality. I'd just ask to be let out and they always did stop and let me out. No pressure. Kind of begging once.
In Pompano Beach I had a job as a groom at the race track. I had ridden with the horses in my stable from Chicago to Florida and I had a little motorcycle. I rode it to Miami Beach to hear the Band. People walked up and down the aisle selling popcorn and sodas during the show. WTF!
Another time I was stopped by a Pompano Beach cop. I couldn't show a title or a Florida drivers license. I told him I had proof of ownership back at the track. He made me park my bike and ride in the police car to the track, but he went by such a back-roads route that I decided he was going to beat me up. I kept my helmet within reach. 
Finally, we arrived at the track. I'll just let your imagination decide what he was after because I have no proof. What I have is a memory of a cop spending about an hour with me before taking me to the station. I used my call and, thank God, got my boss who came in and told my story.
Now, I'm grooming this tale in an obvious direction, leaving much out that does not pertain to that theme. Another time in Nashville I was staying in an old hotel. It still had elevators with operators (in 1969). The elevator operators could get you a hooker if you wanted. Over the course of several days eating in the hotel diner I observed the street scene. Looking out the window in the afternoons one could see lots of boys from, I'd say, junior high to high school age walking around. There were cars with men stopping and a boy would get in.
One day I asked a man at the counter, "Is that what I think it is?" Something like that. I mean I hardly had the language to think about what I was seeing. He answered, something like, "Yes, doesn't it make you sick?" "Why don't the police stop it?" "I don't know."
There goes my Nashville career. -)
Pretty weird for little 19-year-old Burl. The only other weird thing that blew my mind was seeing men drink beer in the morning. People drink beer in the morning? Men pick up boys on the streets of Nashville? I never saw that in San Francisco. Oh, I saw gay men, but not boy prostitutes.
Boy prostitution and cops aren't on patrol? I mean to tell you, people, that bad part of Nashville had a thriving prostitution scene. Car after car of mostly middle-aged men picking up boys. I didn't notice female hookers outside the hotel. Now there is no way in hell that I am the only person who saw this. I wonder if it was ever documented by journalists or written about in stories or novels?
So, whaddya know, the same part of the country that has led America into this Christian/Conservative pro-war, anti-gays politics had a bevy of active perverts. And I bet they were all married men and homo-haters. I guess the young boys didn't count.

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