Rick Shory

Offering a little something you might not otherwise have

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gay guys marrying women

My nephew told me about a guy he grew up with, who he always thought was gay. That man had now married to a woman. “How can a gay guy get married to a woman?” my nephew mused.

I can offer this perspective from my own life. I never went down that road myself, but maybe it’s the path of least resistance.

All through college, I never figured out I was gay. Early on, I had, for a while, what I suppose could be construed as a girlfriend. I hung out with this girl, Annie Cater, and her friend Lisa “Tippie” Lopez.

One time, Annie smuggled me into the girls’ dorm and got me naked in bed with her. For me, the forbidden fun of sneaking into her room was about as far as it went. I did as instructed, but maybe she was puzzled when I didn’t respond how she’d heard a boy was supposed to.

I was vaguely aware there were emotional undercurrents on her side. One time, I planted her a pan of wild violets, for her windowsill. A long time later I asked about the violets. The answer was, they were no more. There was a hint from Tippie, the planter had gone down in a fit of temper.

Was Annie riding the tumult of the ups and downs of “our relationship”? If so, I was blissfully clueless we even had “a relationship”.

The point is, for me it was all easy. It was so easy because I was not bonding to Annie. I was happy to go along with whatever happened. I can see a guy going-along like this, even to the point of saying “yes” to the question of matrimony.

That same year, one evening in the college cafeteria I sat for dinner with a guy named Bob Birch. We talked and visited pleasantly. However, as if on a separate information track, he kept lightly kicking my foot under the table. I ignored this for a long time but finally found it mildly annoying and kicked back. That’s as far as anything ever went.

Years later, I heard that kicking under the table was a gay come-on. Somewhere in there, I heard a shred of rumor that Bob was gay. Maybe I had been on thin ice.  Bob was really quite handsome. One touch of his hand, a little less inhibition on my part, and maybe my body would have taken over. I might have been appalled afterwards, but things could have got really complicated.

Handsome as he was, Bob was subtly cracked. One night, in the drunken mayhem that was always going on in the dorms, he smashed his fist through a plate glass window. I have a memory, maybe woven from gossip. I picture him in the distant lamplight, being carried away on a stretcher, his striking face glazed, the gash in his arm gushing blood. I heard the surgeon could barely find the severed ends of the tendons, to stitch them back together.

For me, though, this happened mostly off stage. Bob was someone I barely knew.

It was far easier to let myself land in bed with a female. A little cuddling and skin contact might have been nice, even if not quite the right flavor. If there’s any truth to the cliché that wedding cake is a powerful female anti-aphrodisiac, her and my agendas might have dovetailed very well.

I think I instinctively knew not to go anywhere near the likes of Bob, no matter how handsome he was. Maybe a gay guy marrying a woman is crazy, but sometimes it’s the less crazy option. You get involved with a guy who puts his fist through plate glass windows, pretty soon you’re likely to be smashing your fists through some of your own.


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Wanted to be with her

Kelly had known she was a dyke since high school.

For Jill, gender didn’t matter, just the person.

It was very sweet to see them together, holding hands around camp and all. I talked to them a long time after dinner. I asked how they’d got together.

Jill said, “It got through to me, here was somebody who really wanted to be with me.”

Before, she’d only been in one relationship. Him saying one thing with his words, but something else with his actions.  Subtle control. No good. Not fun. I could relate. Enough said.

But. Could it be that’s all there is to it? Show a man I really want to be with him?

I can’t imagine. I think, if I tried it, I’d be sure to end up breaking my heart over a straight guy.

My current crush, I can’t even be normal around him. He is such a package of easy, unaffected masculinity that I get tongue tied every time I see him. I exchange casual greetings with everybody else around here, but I can’t do it with him. I get so stirred up, I just can’t. If he thinks about me at all, he may well think I’m unfriendly.

But could that be all there is to it? Show a man I want to be with him?

Could it be?

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The human condition

In the three weeks I’ve been on the North Slope, spring has come. When I arrived, this drive south from Deadhorse to the research station was through a wilderness of white. While I was at Toolik, the geese migrated through. They floated in half-thawed tundra ponds, then moved on north. Now they are here, on the vast, flat coastal plain that slopes imperceptibly northward to the Arctic Ocean.

The land is no longer white. There is still snow, in dirty gray patches, and ice on the Sagavanirktok River. The abruptly-revealed brown vegetation has scarcely started its sprint towards summer green. The brushy willows are barely budding, and there are only a few patches of flowers.

yellow tundra flowers, possibly anemone


Overhead, the sky is gray, and the wind is cold, but to the geese it’s the Promised Land.

Tundra swans on a thawing pond

Tundra swans

Wack, who is quite an ornithologist, points out raptors, owls, tundra swans. Occasionally there is a puff of white feathers among the gray twigs, crime scene of where a ptarmigan met its end back during the winter. But everywhere are the geese. They step, in twos and threes, between the tundra bushes. The birds carry shreds of wet vegetation, swinging from their beaks. Nesting material. All across the tundra, the geese are nesting.

Mile after mile, as we traverse the gravel highway, the geese are out there. Thousands, maybe millions. From an aerial perspective, they would seem endless.

Then an ecological perspective overlays. All the geese are doing exactly the same thing. Building nests. Eating grass. The same thing, multiplied a million times. I think of other species. The willows. The caribou. As species, they all do the same thing. Then I think of humans.

As soon as even a few humans get together, like an ice age hunting camp, they start to do different things. One is better at flintknapping. One is better at stitching the hides. So humans join together in groups, which can do more than the individuals alone.

The hide stitcher frees up the flintknapper to become even better at that job. There is a place for broken humans. A clan member who is blind can still chew the hides, to make them soft for mukluks. Thus, can free up the clan.

We admire animals. Each one is whole and complete. It must be. A broken goose is soon no more. But, as other humans are taking up the slack for us, each of us is incomplete. Broken, if you will. As individuals, that’s not very admirable. But together, it makes us more.

Other species specialize a little. When geese are flying in a “V”, the one at the head of the “V” tends to be a more experienced bird. But that’s about as far as it goes. Individual willow bushes are either male or female, so pollen or seeds. But that’s about it.

Social insects organize to a considerable degree, but it’s hardwired. They don’t come up with new things to do, only on evolutionary time scales. Geese fly in the “V”. They never try squares, or pentagrams.

On the other hand, humans are continually coming up with different things to do. Piling rocks on top of each other. Digging in the ground and sowing seeds. By and by, the things that work free up enough time that some humans can get by doing utterly bizarre things, like analyzing  mortgage-backed security derivatives. And, well, running research stations.

I think of how far this can go. This human innovation and specialization. I thought of it one time I went to the Portland bear bar, The Eagle.

That night it was advertised there were “dancers”. Well, they weren’t really dancing. There was a sheet of plywood laid down atop the pool table, and the two guys were up on that. They were standing, stepping sort of back and forth, side to side, keeping rhythm a little with their arms. I guess that’s about all they dared risk, or the plywood might go flying.

The two of them did look fine. They were big and muscular and hairy, just what the clientele liked. I don’t recall patrons coming up and tucking dollar bill tips in the dancers’ jockstraps, but it was that kind of scene.

I thought, how could you explain such a thing to any other species?

I daydream: On the long drive north to the airport in Deadhorse, we stop for a pee-break along the highway. We fan out across the tundra. I shoulder in amongst the taller willow bushes for some privacy.

Up ahead, what’s that? The branches thin, and I see a little clearing. Quietly, I crouch and peer inside. Two fine ganders are standing on a tussock, stepping back and forth on their big webbed feet. Around them, in the shadows of the brush, is an appreciative gaggle of other ganders. As I watch, one in the crowd occasionally tosses a tuft of edible grass towards the first two. These bob their necks in acknowledgement but for now leave the morsels lay. They flutter their wings a bit, as if for balance. They keep on stepping, back and forth, side to side, on their big webbed feet.

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Big Puppies

“I could give you guys a ride home,” I offered.

As soon as I said it, I thought better of it.  They were drunk.  What if they spilled stuff in the rental car?  What if they passed out, threw up?

Then I thought, no.  It’ll be fun.  It’ll be an adventure.  I can handle it.

Always before, I had breezed over the Sweet Party announcements in the weekly emails.  More gay BS, I thought.  More overblown claims to be something that never panned out.

Then, one night I went out dancing here in Fort Collins.  I remembered the magic.  Dancing somehow gets me out of myself.  It takes me to a really good place in my head.  Not to mention loosens up all my joints.

It was great.  The whirling, writhing energy.  The fun things they do with light shows nowadays; the lasers and the smoke.  The occasional nice looking man on the dance floor.

I had a really good time.  The only way it could be better, I thought, would be in a gay crowd.  So I made a mental note to check out the Sweet Party.

Finally, this weekend I was in Denver the night of the month when the Sweet Party happened.  Of course, on the way to the bar, I considered just canning it and going home.  But, no, I said to myself, if I don’t like it, I can just leave.  And then I’ll know.  And I won’t ever have to do it again.

Dancing is simple.  You just feel the rhythm in your neck, and let the rest of your body follow.  I stepped onto the dance floor and brought the music into me.  It happened.  It clicked.

The floor was crowded, but I’m adaptable.  I can swirl through a hundred feet of space, if I have it.  Or less, right down to body contact.  Far better, I considered, than what’s often happened.  Me, the only one gyrating, while everybody else stands around stiff with drinks in their hands.

This was a real dancing crowd, maybe twenty, forty men; one or two women.  My favorite light-show effect was the spaghetti swirls of laser light, knifing through the puffs of chocolate-scented smoke, so it looked like gouts of red, yellow, and green flame.

The little sandy haired guy with the moustache was first.  His hand brushed me.  His face was friendly, tipsy.  He danced with me, putting his arms around, from time to time.  After a song or two, “I’ve got to take a break,” he yelled over the music.  “That’s my partner,” he said, pointing into the darkness.

Gay men who are courteous are prompt to answer the unasked question: “How available are you?”

Then his partner, dark haired, with a sort of Fu-Manchu.  He was more drunk, and much more forward.  He bumped and ground against me.  I gave it right back, in the joy of the dance.

It was fun, through the evening, to have the two of them come and go.  Swirls of innocent carnality, playful lust.  Finally at 1:30 AM the DJ wound it up, and we were out in the main bar.

“I’m Tom,” said the sandy-haired one, “And this is Andy.”  They were about ten years younger than me, and adorable, though not really my type.  The bar was closing down.  They were talking about calling a cab.  I realized I had a perfectly serviceable car at my disposal, and made my offer.

They stumbled the two blocks up the sidewalk to my car.  I held one of them up under each arm.  They playfully groped me.

“We’re going to have sex with you, when we get to our house,” said dark-haired Andy.

“No, thanks,” I demurred, “I’ve got a long drive home.”

“Just an hour,” said Tom, “Then you can go.  Or you can spend the night.  In a bed alone, if you want.”

“No, I need to get home.”

It was a long two blocks.  I felt a mixture of self consciousness about what kind of spectacle we were making, and pleasure at all the attention.  “You’ve got a really nice ass,” said Andy, cupping his hand.

Am I going to be able to drive, I thought, with these guys all over me?  But it turned out to be fine.  They were like two big puppies.

You know, you could have two excited, friendly puppies in your car.  They’d try to lick you and nuzzle you, and get in your lap.  You’d pat them and scratch behind their ears, and gently parry their energy.  You’d still be able to drive, just fine.

So I piloted the car through the 2:00 AM streets of downtown Denver, Tom pointing to turn here and turn there.  As I dropped them off, “You sure you don’t want to come spend the night with us?” Andy slurred.

“You’re a hot man,” said Tom.

Now it’s next morning, and I am still tickled about it all.  I have a nice afterglow.  All that attention I guess.

It’s much better than if I’d actually tried to have sex with them!

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After the party I went with Jerry over to his house.
We rode our bikes.

Astride his bike, I found myself noticing his manly shape,
his straight legs inside his Carharts,
his ass.

I was just going there to look at a tree that had died.
That’s all that happened.
On the surface.

But I noticed him.
His nice smile.
His red beard.
His friendly eyes.

I stayed somewhat longer,
asking him about the grass,
the flowers,
his bicycle.

I noticed the way his hair came down on the back of his head.
It was only the way a man’s hair does.
But it’s like nothing else in the universe.

  I like his wife.
I would never hit on a man like that.
I would never mess with them.

  But I found myself following a train of thought
something like this:

  What a delightful creature.

I like to look at him.

I would like to look at him often,
and a lot.

It would feel so right.

  At the party where we just were.
The man, the woman, the two dogs.
They all live there.

  They are very different kinds of beings.
But they all live there and interact.
And they like it enough to keep doing it.
To be in each other’s presence a lot.

  This delightful creature in front of me now.

Wouldn’t he,
or someone like him,
want to be in my presence a lot?

Then I could look at him a lot.

It seems,
under some circumstance,
like that would be possible.

  Then the clouded confusion.

in all this wide world of realities,
does this never happen?

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Big back yard

I’ve been going up to Wyoming and back since the end of May.  Spring there is slow in coming.  This past week it was cold.  Frosty at night.  But then Pinedale is nearly 8,000 feet elevation.

I looked on the weather map, and to the south it was 70s, 80s, 90s (93F in Denver).  Color coded yellows, oranges, and reds.  But where we were, it was a patch of blue.  It was cool colors to the north too.

The sky spit sleety snow most days, and the cold wind was relentless.  Until Friday when it was suddenly sunny and still.  New snow was on the Wind River Range, to where it looked like January.

I had heard the Rainbow Gathering was going to be near Pinedale.  The rumor was at Boulder Lake.  So Friday a week ago, on the way back down to Colorado I went up there.  It was about 10 miles off the road I take home.

I found just 3 guys, camped out with a lean-to tarp and a campfire, in a drizzly rain that felt like Scotland, or winter in the Northwest.  They were nice-looking bearded hippie types, and very friendly.  The greeting, when you arrive, is “Welcome home!”.

I hung out with them awhile.  They said the final site was going to be decided in the next few days.

So, Thursday night I checked, and directions were online.  On the way home yesterday, I followed them and found the incipient gathering.  It had only “started” a day or two before but there were probably a couple hundred people already.

On the way in, I couldn’t imagine where a big gathering would camp. The landscape was all wide barren valleys, and steep slopes.  But when I got there, it was in the timber, a sort of broad bowl in the mountains.  There were lots of meadows and open woods.  Sighingly beautiful.

A lot of the men were really beautiful too.  Nice full beards.  But so many of them smoked.  If I were uncharitable, I would have thought, “just a bunch of derelicts”.

I don’t know how I would have enjoyed it if I had been free to stay and camp there.  I don’t know how I would have resonated with the vibe of smoke, drink, dope, and general debauchery in the woods.

Probably better than at the big gay gathering that happens in SE Wyoming every summer, called Rendezvous.  It’s a huge disco scene, transplanted to the woods.  The time I went, I had to camp about a mile away, to find enough quiet to sleep.  The mainstage tent blasted amped-up music till all hours.

As it was, I hung out with the guys at the Rainbow Gathering front gate, maybe 20 minutes.  I talked to them while I ate my lunch.  I was at the gathering only about an hour total.  I was antsy to get going.  It’s a good six-hour drive from Pinedale to Fort Collins, even without any detours.

It ended up being considerably longer than that.  Pinedale is to the east of the Wind River Range, which runs generally NW to SE.  Normally, I shoot south on the main highway, through the Green River basin, to the freeway east.  But detouring to the gathering site, I’d gone around to the southern toe of the range.  Driving out, I checked my map and saw it would not be a lot farther to continue on east around the Winds and take another highway.

So I ended up going home through the Sweetwater country.  It’s a beautiful, broad valley, the route of the old Oregon Trail.  The Sweetwater river winds slowly among sculptured granite hills, the tips of weathered and buried mountains.  For the pioneers, there was grass and water for livestock.  It’s the only easy wagon route across the Continental Divide north of New Mexico.  In fact, the dirt road I’d taken from the gathering site to highway 26 partly ran along top of the divide, which was just a low ridge.

I didn’t get home till nearly midnight, but it was worth it for the scenery.  It’s funny how Wyoming, which once seemed so huge and trackless, is now feeling so homey.  Partly, it’s from following my Roadside Geology book. Every little so often I see something know about.

But, strangely, it’s because the views are so vast, it gives the feel of just a big back yard.  For example the mountains I would see thirty miles to the north from the I-80 route, I now recognize as the same ranges to the south of the Sweetwater.  And there’s a gap through the hills near Tie Siding, not too far from Laramie, where you glimpse the lights of Fort Collins, nearly an hours drive before you drop down through the valleys to get there.

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“Fear”.  The word conjures up images of trembling and flight.  But that isn’t what most fear is. Fear is simply not knowing what to do with a situation.

Vedawoo (“VEE-da-voo”) is an area of intriguing rock formations.

Some are like six-foot-tall mushrooms made of knobbly granite, sprouting out of the wooded plain.

Some are like breaking waves, frozen in stone.

But some are as big as small hills, formed of shelves and folds, balanced boulders, channels and miniature canyons, with the occasional little arches and (after rain) pools of water cupped in the granite.

It invites you to scramble and clamber, explore, and wander out to a local high point for a promontory view.

I was picking my way along one of the ridges, towards one of these views.  Three guys were working towards me, having already had their time at the view.

As they came into my presence, the leading one leapt across a little crevice a few feet wide.  The second one said something about “the gay gazelle”.

There it was, some of the fear I am exploring this definition of.

The second guy was a little afraid he could not leap across so well.  So his comment came out sharp, a joking complement, with a teasing barb.

He was a little afraid of me too, coming towards them, burly and hairy.

What if I were straight?  What if I challenged them?  Or even asked them something?

Or remarked in a way they would not know how to reflect back?

The guy had to quickly, and insistently, post that they were gay.  Set the agenda.

I guess, by that definition, I was afraid too.  I didn’t know what to do with this.

I never know what to do with guys who are rambling along, snapping their necks and wrists.

Whose entire vocalization consists of muttered quotes (from show tunes?) I have never heard of.