Things had been going downhill for quite a while, and I say this not just because of my age (I was born in 1960), but also because of a historical trend: back when I got started being active, way back in 1980 just before AIDS when Greenwich Village was still at its peak, there used to be great bars and the Great American Baths; no one had heard about condoms; people like me would think nothing of finding ten partners a night. Now we are in 2019 (happy new year) and the trend that was all set to last forever in a perpetual delirium-bath of orgies, fizzled out, and it wasn’t just AIDS that did it; what finally killed off the old style was the Internet and especially the Smartphone. Now everyone is on an app called Grindr sending nude pictures to fifty potential partners a night in the hope of reeling in one of them. Some people under thirty spend most of their lives on Grindr.
And then one day I saw that the great Hollywood Spa had just shut down. It wasn’t a surprise. Business had been lousy and it was like a ghost-town. But that was a moment: when I walked up to the front door of the Hollywood Spa and saw a note: Closed For Business Please Try Our Other Facility in North Hollywood… I knew that was the end of an era. You’d think people would get the message and make the long trek from Hollywood to North Hollywood, but it didn’t happen. The crowd never moved anywhere except to oblivion. Then, three years later I noticed one of the world’s last remaining sex clubs, the Zone, had let all their valets go—it wasn’t worth it to keep them around because business was so slow. It’s just a matter of time now…
And the online thing, to which I was addicted for so long, that died too. How? After I got a dog who was not fooled by “Dog TV” (to entertain him while I was away) I realized that I myself was not fooled by screenfuls of youths from New Zealand who wouldn’t show their faces and just typed me messages. Yes, there was a camera, but after a while even the camera got old. Even the chat rooms started losing business and we (I) started living life as a sort of Incel.
The last remaining place (until last Saturday night) was the Midtowne Spa, located literally in the middle of Skid Row, outside downtown L.A. And not the Midtowne Spa any night of the week, but only once a month when they turned the lights out—literally, and the males partied in the dark. I could almost make believe it was 1980 again. Until I was assaulted.
It happened last Saturday. I got there late at night hoping there wouldn’t be a long line to get in, because who wants to wait for 30 minutes on Skid Row? I was right. There was no line, and I found parking safely in the structure next door. But: inside the bathhouse, the crowd had thinned out drastically compared to the other times I’d been there on lights-out night. After a shower I walked through the dark just in my towel, just like 1980. I walked into the darkest room. I approached two men doing the deed of darkness in the dark and hoped to join in (by this time my eyes had adapted a bit so I could make out something). One of the two seemed interested and motioned for me to join. The other one pushed me away. When I tried a second time, he pushed me away more forcefully, and in front of everyone in the almost dark, I fell down a small set of stairs within the room. A bit shaken and without any clothes I just sat there, hoping I hadn’t made too much a fool of myself. But I was naked, so I reached for my towel, which I’d left up the three steps where the couple was, and as I reached, one of them held on to the towel and wouldn’t let go. We had a tug of war for maybe five seconds, and then I felt it: unlike anything since the seventh grade. It was like a baseball bat hit me in the face, it was that hard, like bone-crushing strength. I didn’t know what hit me. I just sat there shaken. I was so shaken I said “Sorry” (for trying to reclaim my towel?). I sat there dazed and the two abruptly left. I never saw their faces. And: my towel lay there, so someone had realized “his mistake” after all.
Later, I looked in a mirror. Nothing. No blood, no bruising–on the outside. I could feel it though, and I still feel it, like when I kiss my dog on the nose I still feel where the fist or bat or foot slammed into my face.
For the first time in almost forty years I have nowhere to go. Except maybe Barcelona…
Or: an angel spoke? God did for me what I couldn’t do for myself? If I weren’t in the midst of reading all these Enlightenment philosophers, I might almost believe that.