July 8th, 1977, early morning, the San Francisco – New York Greyhound I’m riding pulls up to the bay. The door’s hydraulics do their call-response announcing a new batch of arrivals. I ignore the greetings and offers for help from the friendly strangers meeting the bus. Spotters looking for runaways. Fresh youth sells well.
Suitcase stored, I help some bus mates struggling with a locker’s instructions. I recognize them from their frequent trips to the bathroom. They laugh. One of them tells me I should have said something before: “We just finished splitting up the leftovers, almost an ounce.” Someone makes a joke about the bathroom problems only showing up once we had crossed into Nevada. Nostalgia for the paranoia free smoking in the back of the bus in laid-back California is shared. I am bluffing.
Port Authority smells of garbage. One of my acquaintances tells me I’m lucky there isn’t a garbage strike on.
We walk towards Times Square. Hustlers in front of the Skee ball, sex for sale in so many formats. Star Wars is playing at one the cinemas. He tells me I should go see it. It’s going to be the hit of the summer. He goes his way. Science Fiction is not my thing.
Signs announce LIVE sex shows. What is the thrill in watching people mechanically fucking?
Years later, a girlfriend wanted to go see the Amsterdam shows. “Research.” she said. Her latest get rich scheme, red light tours, is the excuse. I read reviews online. My curiosity did not extend to champagne scams run by performers that no longer qualify for video work.
Ricky is a few months older than me and, like me, passes for college age. He is a six foot tall Brazilian with dirty blond hair, light freckling, peach fuzz facial hair and who gave me the Chicken Pox. We spent the ’77 Christmas break taking bus and BART northwards. Meat market movies (Saturday Night Fever, Looking for Mr. Goodbar) followed by 17 & over clubs to try and live out the newly informed fantasies. We finish our evenings by door-shopping the dens in SF and Berkeley. Getting cheap thrills from the arm strokes, the incidental body contact that was part of the solicitation. We looked like easy marks, we couldn’t even afford the massage.
His father has money. The family supplies cuffs and collars for most of the men’s designer shirts. They’d had a scare when he lost a contract to a low-cost rival but quality won. Somehow that is related to his New York story. He shares advice from his trip. I gather the memories of my Times Square to create an image of Ricky’s massage parlor. Tells me the trick to getting your money’s worth is to jerk off before. I file the information away in the folder on how other people live.