Persona Press • San Francisco
memoir $ 19.95
This book was a joy to read
 
--Crystal Adkins
Book Reviews By Crystal
Following My Heart chronicles a life-journey of self-discovery that encompasses sex, spirituality, psychedelics, political activism and literature. It is an unconventional story of love and hope in difficult times.

1

George Stanley was a poet I met shortly after I returned to San Francisco in the fall of 1958. He not only invited me to the weekly poetry meetings at Joe and Carolyn Dunn's apartment on Jackson Street but also introduced me to Jack Spicer who nightly occupied what was referred to as the poets table at The Place, a bar on upper Grant Avenue in North Beach.

Several weeks later George informed me he was looking for a new roommate to share his Montgomery Street apartment on Telegraph Hill. I went over to his place to talk with him about it one evening after work. As we sat facing each other on the mattress in his bedroom, I felt both physical attraction toward him and also fear of what it might lead to. I called later to tell him no, threatened by his sexuality, not yet fully aware of my own.

I told myself I didn't mind being around homosexuals as long as they did not bother me but anything remotely sexual did. I was uncomfortable being alone in a room with Jack Spicer at a party. I was surprised to learn Robert Duncan found me attractive and appalled when I later realized he was interested in having sex with me.

You know, the only difference between fucking a man and fucking a woman, I overheard painter Russell FitzGerald remark one night at The Place, is that a man's ass is tighter than a woman's vagina.

Oh, it's just physical! I thought to myself. Up until then homosexuality seemed as bizarre to me as alien creatures from outer space. Hearing it described in such basic terms allowed me to admit to myself that I was sexually attracted to men rather than women.

After that I enjoyed the erections I got looking at some of the men I passed on the street during my lunch hours. Having gotten that far, I was eager to take the next step, to move from observer to participant, pursuing my sexual desire to physical satisfaction.

I went to The Black Cat, the most notorious gay bar in the city, hoping to find a sexual partner. It was a weeknight and when I arrived I found only one other customer seated at the bar. I ordered a beer and turned to stare at him several times but he ignored my presence. A couple of other men came into the bar while I was there. I stayed two, three hours at the most and left drunk and alone. A few days later I tried The Paper Doll, another North Beach bar, once again staggering home by myself in the early hours of the morning.

George recommended a gay bar in the Tenderloin called The Submarine. He suggested I remove my glasses and comb my hair across my forehead. I checked the listing in the white pages of the phone book for its location but when I arrived at the Eddy Street address one Sunday night in February the sign above the entrance said The Hideaway.

The place was packed with men of all ages, most of them casually dressed. I wore black tight-fitting cotton slacks and a boat neck sweater I bought at The Domino especially for the occasion. I ordered a beer and tried to make out the faces of the men closest to me in the dim-lit room.

After a second beer, I noticed a man in a striped shirt watching me. He wasn't someone I would have chosen, older than I was by several years and already bald. However, I imagined he must have been quite handsome when he still had a full head of hair.

A light rain was falling as we walked toward his car. It was pouring when we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge on the way to Sausalito. My whole body was shaking, partly from the cold, but mostly from fear, anticipating what would happen when we arrived at his house.

I trembled when Stan kissed me in the darkness, responding reluctantly at first, willingly accepting his caresses, grateful for his tenderness, overwhelmed by the generosity of his affection. Rain was falling hard and steady on the roof, the wind rattled the windows and my own emotions were as turbulent as the raging storm outside.

My body was soothed, warmed, aroused. My orgasm an explosion of physical ecstasy. After I caught my breath, I tried reciprocating, to give him the same pleasure he gave me, perhaps somewhat clumsily; but with persistence he came also. While he slept, I lay awake thinking about what happened and, overcome by guilt, vowed I would never do it again.

Eventually the shock of that first sexual encounter wore off. My loneliness increased, as did my desire for intimate contact with another man. I again went out in search of a sexual partner.

copyright © 2007 by N. A. Diaman